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Further Thoughts on

Roughly three years ago this week I wrote a diatribe about Fangoria magazine and its uncertain new direction following a 2010 corporate shake-up. The piece resulted in a pissy email from editor Chris Alexander, which would seem to confirm the claim of a disgruntled Fango employee (see below) that “Competition and differing opinion (are) simply not welcome” at Fangoria. Nonetheless, I believe my September 2011 criticisms needed to be aired, and feel the same way about the following.

     My interest in Fangoria’s fortunes stretches back to my childhood years, when it was the premiere horror magazine. As I made clear in the previous article, I’ve been distressed by Fango’s recent upheavals, and the fact that it has yet to reclaim its former crown.

     The scandals that dogged Fango three years ago appear to have abated (aside from the Leanne Spiderbaby plagiarism outrage that erupted last year, which Fangoria, as one of her main sources of employment, found itself in the middle of). The focus here, then, will be on the mag itself, about which the news isn’t all good. True, the fact that it exists at all is laudable given the sorry state of print media, but things could definitely be better on the Fango front.

     Let’s take a look at Fangoria’s latest issue. The first thing that registers is of course the cover, which you might expect would promote THE PURGE: ANARCHY, INTO THE STORM or perhaps THE WALKING DEAD. You’d be wrong on all counts, as the latest Fango cover actually promotes…THE PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE???

     Yes, a still from the 40-year-old PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE graces Fangoria’s current cover, and inside you’ll find numerous reminisces about the film from several of its cast members. There’s also an interview with actress Viriginia Madsen about her work in the nineties horror flicks CANDYMAN and THE PROPHECY, and another with Sheila Keith, reminiscing about her roles in Peter Walker’s seventies-era chillers. Rounding things out are features on more current films like LIFE AFTER BETH, THE DEVIL’S MILE and CHILD OF GOD.

     Editor Chris Alexander is clearly being extremely selective about what Fangoria covers (although his selections could well be an example of the cronyism that Fangoria’s detractors claim has dogged it for decades, i.e. the practice of granting coverage to films made by certain “friends” of the magazine, but I’m willing to give Alexander the benefit of the doubt). I don’t entirely disapprove--I’m a longtime PHANTOM fan, and am not about to complain about the lack of sequels and remakes covered in the new Fangoria--but do sense a distinct resignation in Alexander’s everything-old-is-new-again stance. This is the magazine, let’s remember, that back in its heyday was on the cutting edge of the horror mainstream, adroitly covering films both good and not-so. My core problem with Fangoria was never what it chose to cover, but rather its lack of perspective.

     To elaborate: I understand the necessity for a periodical like Fangoria to forge and maintain relationships in the film industry, which can certainly be jeopardized by negative opinions (something I know well). Nonetheless, I believe a critical perspective is necessary, or at the very least an opinionated viewpoint of the type that Fangoria’s sister mag Gorezone once hosted in Chas. Balun’s iconic “Piece O’ Mind” column.

     Fango, it turns out, does contain just such an opinionated voice right now in John Skipp’s “Nightmare Royale” column, although to find it you’ll have to log onto Fangoria’s website--which, unfortunately enough, brings our attention to the ongoing disaster that is Fangoria.com.

     It’s a fact that since the dawn of the internet most periodicals have been afflicted by schisms, if not outright wars, between their print and online divisions, and nowhere has this been more evident than with Fangoria. I recall Fango’s former editor Tony Timpone bitching on the late Fangoria radio about “that guy who does our site,” and there’s a scathing online lament from a former Fangoria website editor in which he bitches at length about the experience, during which “The idea of the magazine and the website working together as a unified front became an increasingly distant pipedream as communication, ego, and personal differences continued to get in the way.”

     I can remember the early days of the internet, when Fangoria’s website existed only to remind us that the latest issue was available on newsstands. What followed was a decade’s worth of chaotic format changes that more often than not confronted readers with “Under Construction” banners, and culminated in a 2010 meltdown that saw the site disappear altogether for a few weeks, prompting widespread online posts about the “Death of Fangoria.”

     Yet the Fangoria website managed to keep going, albeit none-too-smoothly. Several more format changes followed until mid-2013, when the “new” Fangoria.com debuted. Unbelievably enough, the site has actually stayed constant for over a year, which has to be some kind of record for a Fango web presence. Even more unbelievable is the fact that the site at present is easy to navigate and not clogged with ads.

     But this being a Fangoria site, at least one major glitch is inevitable. This is to say that from what I’ve found, attempting to access any archived content that appeared prior to 2013 will get you a “Page not found…” banner. This, interestingly enough, is the opposite of my problem with Fangoria’s print incarnation: the mag seems tethered to the past while the website shuns it.

     In summation, Fangoria certainly deserves credit for soldiering on, and for fixing many (though certainly not all) of the problems that have dogged it over the years. Still, the fact remains that it’s no longer the world’s premiere horror mag, an honor I’d bestow on its longtime competitor Rue Morgue. Of course that victory isn’t necessarily due to any outstanding brilliance on Rue Morgue’s part, but rather to the fact that, simply, somebody had to pick up the ball Fango dropped.

     Will Fangoria ever reclaim its former glory? Nobody can predict the future, but right now I’d opine that all signs point to...

--9/25/14 

     

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