Last April, I announced the relaunching of The Mortuary, an online discussion forum where over 7,000 users can argue, altercate and occasionally agree on all things horror. Formerly under the domain of Rue Morgue magazine, The Mortuary has a new dark overlord: Stuart Feedback Andrews, horror erudite and host of the Rue Morgue Podcast.
Feedback kindly took the time to answer some questions on the hows, whys and wherefores of this massive undertaking. Of course, he couldn’t resist throwing in some personal antagonisms about the state of social media and its contribution to the decay of the human race but knowing Feedback as I do, I would have been concerned if he hadn’t. Play in his forum kids, but be sure to stay off of his yard.
First off, let’s talk about your motivation to pick up the forum and give it a new home. What inspired this move?
Well, initially, I was quite surprised by the emotional reaction many of the Rue Mortuary members had to the news that the forums were closing. But after thinking about it for a second, it made sense. There’s a lot of history on those boards and even though activity had slowed to a crawl in recent times (hence why Rue Morgue decided to retire them), the Mortuary still meant a lot to a large number of people who’d invested so much energy there over the years. But then it occurred to me that the message board system is really the best online venue for horror fans to mutually discuss their interest in the genre, or really, it’s the best venue for any group of like-minded souls to come together to share information on a particular topic.
Social networks like Facebook and Twitter have obviously taken a huge bite out of the format but it’s certainly not for the better. It’s very difficult to have an ongoing, meaningful discussion on those sites. First of all, Twitter has got to be one of the most Orwellian manifestations to have impacted human discourse in my adult life. The 140 character limit is almost a perfect realisation of 1984’s Newspeak. It reminds me of a great quote from the novel, ‘It’s a beautiful thing, the destruction of words.’
You see, the whole point of Newspeak was that by limiting the language you can inhibit a range of thought that allows for subversive or critical thinking. So Big Brother would’ve been very proud of Twitter! And even the name of the site alarmingly recalls the Orwellian concept of Duckspeak, a thought process that bypasses the higher brain functions in favour of an automatic, subconscious, fully indoctrinated mode of conversation.
And yes, Twitter has helped people organise some much-needed protests and revolts across the world, and that’s a great thing, but from my limited engagement with the site, I find the general level of discourse to be disturbing.
With this is mind, here’s a good drinking game I urge anyone at home to try: click on anyone’s profile – I don’t care who it is, your best friend, your Mum, your favourite Rock Star – and if you can read their various quacklings over the past year without at some point fantasizing about slashing your wrists or gouging out your eyeballs, then you win! As for how the drinking factors into the game, think of the alcohol as a form of much-needed medicine that’ll help dull the pain.
And as for Fakebook, Farcebook or whatever you wanna call it, the content is so fleeting that it’s impossible to sustain a meaningful discourse. In the rare instance that a discussion ensues, it’s forgotten about almost as quickly as it appears resulting in nothing but an endless stream of disposable, impulsive blurtings of information that slip into the cyber mist as quickly as they appear.
But that’s the beautiful thing about The Mortuary. You can pop onto the site, dig up a discussion on a particular film and add to a string of comments that may have started ten years ago. There’s so much history on the boards that some of the threads track some now classic films from their rumour phase, through to their development, production and theatrical releases all the way to their eventual manifestation on home video.
And finally, the main reason I took over The Mortuary was I had at my disposal both the necessary web space and the technical assistance to pull it off. But it was really down to the valiant efforts of Cinephobia Radio’s webmaster Craig Clark (with help of Rue Morgue’s web developer J.J. Mifsud) that made it possible. It was a serious technical challenge to export and reinstall the database to its new home but Craig persisted where ordinary mortals would’ve thrown in the towel.
I remember when the Rue Mortuary was canned, there was talk of forum members regrouping via Facebook (or “Chonebook”, as it is known to some). Did that ever take off?
It’s hard to say because I’m not sure what the expectations were. About 100 members who were still actively posting on the Rue Mortuary in its dying throes joined the group, myself included. Of course, even after we relaunched The Mortuary, a number of members have preferred to stay with the Chonebook group rather than come back to the messageboard because for many, Chonebook is their primary portal to the internet and they’re now terrified to leave the safety of its ‘information-mining,’ corporate clutches.
What will Rue Morgue’s involvement be in the new forum?
The forums are no longer the official domain of the magazine but The Mortuary will definitely retain a strong Rue Morgue flavour. For instance, Rue Morgue’s managing editor Monica S. Kuebler has agreed to stay on as one of the moderators and will be treating members to many of the same features that were available on the old board, including monthly previews of upcoming editions of the magazine. Also, Rue Morgue’s ‘Cryptic Collectibles’ columnist James Burrell and former art director Gary Pullin are looking after the horror collectibles and art gallery sections respectively. And of course, as I’m the host of Rue Morgue’s weekly spoken word, online radio program, I’ll continue using the forums to engage with the listeners and promote upcoming episodes of the show. And to be honest, I was seriously missing the Rue Mortuary when it went offline. It’s always been a great way for me to discuss my various Rue Morgue radio-related misadventures so I’m glad to see it return for those reasons alone.
Would you call this a resurrection, a reincarnation, or a reanimation of the Rue Mortuary? In other words, what kind of changes can veteran forum members expect in the new Mortuary?
I’d say it’s definitely a ‘re-imagining’ to coin a popular term used by a plethora of cinematic hacks to justify some very ‘unimaginative’ remakes. But in this case, a ‘re-imagining’ is an appropriate expression because I spent a considerable amount of time thinking about how the board would need to be re-structured to gain some relevancy.
So the new Mortuary will differ from the old forums in three very distinct ways:
First, we’ve restructured the basic architecture of the site and added more sub-forums to facilitate a more comprehensive level of discussion. Also, veteran Rue Mortuary member and video games artist Mark Brown (a.k.a. Dark Mark) has given The Mortuary an aesthetic makeover, one more befitting of its name and subject matter.
Secondly, it strikes me as somewhat redundant that every horror website has almost the exact same messageboard system, with the genre broken down into all the same sub-genres and categories. This effectively divides the horror community and keeps the fans isolated to a particular website. To combat this problem, I’m bringing back another archaic notion, the concept of the web ring.
I’ve invited a number of websites and bloggers to manage the different forums of The Mortuary, individuals who would perhaps be reluctant to launch their own forums for the same reasons I was hesitant to start up one for Cinephobia Radio. Unless you have a strong community established around the site to begin with and a lot of traffic going in, the message boards will likely amount to little more than a collection of tumbleweeds. Even for a widely recognised horror brand like Rue Morgue, the forums were starting to look rather desolate so it makes sense that if a number of websites could theoretically share the same online forum, then it benefits everyone involved and leads to a stronger, more relevant community.
So along with the folks from Rue Morgue, we have Meli Hooker from DreadfulTales.com looking after the books section, Greg Baty from Cinesploitation.com looking after the upcoming movies, Jeremy Webster from Nightmare Revue looking after the music section, Mike Tank from Cinephobia Radio looking after the general release section, Mike Felsher from Red Shirt Pictures looking after the horror conventions section, Mike White from Cashiers du Cinemart looking after the non-horror movies section and of course, your good self looking after the video games section on behalf of LadyHellbat.com. Also, we have a few more guest moderators coming on board in the coming months that will substantially help raise the profile of the site.
But finally, one of the great features of The Mortuary and perhaps the greatest reason we needed to save the forum is an amazing section called The Resurrection Room which features discussions on hundreds of horror movies that have been immaculately organised over the years by the Mortuary’s long serving moderator Brett Daughenbaugh (a.k.a. KISS Fan). This section includes a master reference list that alphabetically links to hundreds of threads on specific films that have been discussed on the site since 2003.
So using this as a model and with the help of some of the new moderators, we’ve become a process of archiving all the content on The Mortuary into master lists relevant to each section. The goal is that in time, The Mortuary will function as a sort of online Encyclopedia of Horror that will be an indispensable resource for young people setting out to seriously explore the world of horror, for battle-hardened veterans to share their well-earned knowledge and for anyone interested in deepening their appreciation of the genre.
And if that doesn’t tickle your pickle, we’re also gonna do loads of contests and giveaways so at the very least, The Mortuary is a great source of something horror fans of all ages love – Free Stuff!
It’s a dilly. To me, The Mortuary represents that which I treasure most about the genre: the community of fandom and the sharing of ideas and interpretations that empower the films with thought-provoking and subversive content. Often, I care more about what the fans are saying about movies than the so-called critics, and The Mortuary offers a valuable reference library of movie discussions between fans.
If you haven’t already, take a gander at The Mortuary and do a shot of Jack for every interesting thread you find. You are guaranteed to be passed out on your keyboard in no time.