Back in the early days of the Internet, I’m talking late-90s/early 00s, message boards were a thing — the evolutionary stage between the prehistoric Usenet and and the now archaic MySpace. This was a time of dial up modems and Internet service via CDs that AOL sent you in the mail like advertising circulars. If you were a fan of the horror genre, you had a handful of forums to choose from — Horrornet (which morphed into Shocklines), Masters of Terror (which morphed into Horror World), Gorezone, Gothic Net, and a few others. Later, around the time that MySpace became a thing, there were a few next-generation forums — places like The Red Light District and The Other Dark Place and Fangoria (who used to have a great message board).
But during that later phase, there were two genre-related boards that got especially high traffic and participation. If you were into comics — be it as a fan or a professional — you were probably hanging out on Warren Ellis’s old forum. And if you were into horror fiction — be it as a fan or a professional — you were probably hanging out on mine. Both had thousands of users, both had a team of tireless moderators, both were places where professionals and the readers who loved their stuff rubbed shoulders and had conversations and shared wisdom and knowledge. Both forums were responsible for a few marriages, a few births, and more than a few divorces. Both went through several incarnations. Both forums served as impromptu training grounds for aspiring artists who would go on to become some of today’s biggest names in comics and horror fiction.
Both forums shut down at roughly the same time. In the case of mine, it just became too big. I didn’t have the time or energy to devote to it, and by then, new things like Facebook and Twitter were starting to attract people. And so, I killed it.
A few years ago, I tried to launch a new one, and it went well for a few months. But I did something idiotic. I set myself up as the only Administrator, and one day, I wasn’t able to log in. I was, effectively, locked out of my own forum. Sure, I could create a new log-in, but one without any admin privileges like approving new members and banning trolls and all the other things a message board needs. The forum trickled on for a while, even without me there. Then, one morning, the moderators woke up and it was gone. Apparently, the hosting company killed it, due to the fact that no Admin had logged in in over a year.
Earlier this week on my podcast, Dave and I were talking about how The Horror Drive-In — one of the last old-school message boards still standing — had just celebrated a decade of existence. And that got us to reminiscing on the air about other forums, including mine. After we were done recording, I thought about it more, and realized that I really miss the message board experience. It’s still the best method of communicating online. Twitter is okay, yes. But Facebook is impossible. If I want to tell the 10,000 people who have Liked my Facebook page that I have a new book out, Facebook’s algorithms will actually only let me tell about 200 of those 10,000 people. If I want to reach more people than that, I have to pay for advertising. So, while Facebook might be a necessary evil, it’s also useless when it comes to real interaction and communication. Tumblr and Reddit are cesspools. Google+ is a ghost town. Instagram is hopping, but it’s hard to have a conversation when you’re only posting photographs.
So over the last week, we’ve been secretly building a new forum. (And I made long-time moderator Val a second Admin, just in case I get locked out this time).
Maybe you’re old, like me, and have fond memories of the message board days. Or maybe you’re young, and want to see how your parents used to interact with people on the internet. Whatever the case, there’s a new forum. Maybe I’ll be the only person who uses it. Maybe not. Consider it an experiment, if you like — fueled partly by nostalgia, partly for a yearning to scale back on social media and downsize and reconnect with the people who put me where I am today, and partly out of a desire to have a real community of friends and fans again, rather than strangers on Facebook and Twitter, half of whom I’m not sure should even be allowed to read books. All are welcome regardless of race, religion, gender, sexual persuasion, nationality, or political affiliation. There is only one rule: Don’t be a douche-bag. If you can follow that simple rule, if you can respect your moderators and your fellow board members, regardless of whether or not you agree with them, then you’re welcome here. If you can’t, then you are, in fact, being a douche-bag, and you will be cast back out to the social media wastelands from whence you came.
JOIN THE CONVERSATION HERE. Please note: Some Safari users report having trouble logging in. You may need to use a different browser.
If it turns out I’m not in there talking to myself, I expect you’ll see more of me there and less of me on social media in 2016 (except for Twitter, of course).