It was very important for me to establish early on there was a problem in the industry. There are plenty of people who will line up to tell you there is nothing wrong and everything is running along just fine thank you very much. There are plenty more who have just never looked at it through this critical lens and to them everything appears in order. When deciding how to open up this blog I knew I only had so much time to make the case for something being rotten in Denmark and so I had to move swiftly and decisively. I had to shoot for the top.
From where we are now I hope it’s clear to most readers there is indeed a fetid stink in the air – decay and a just a hint of fecal matter. We watched two heroes of genre journalism reveal a side of themselves many of us had never seen before. We saw people we admired stumble and succumb to their weaknesses and to the machinations of business.
There are valuable lessons to be mined from all of this and my pickaxe is sharp but first I’d like to take a moment to meditate on something important that is perhaps lost in all the acrimony and outrage: Chris Alexander and Tim Lucas became targets of criticism in the wake of the Spiderbaby scandal not because they were the most egregious offenders or the biggest profiteers from her deception. They drew fire because they faced their audience and took a position, any position. Tim Lucas on an internet forum and to his readers in editorial form, Chris Alexander to his readers on Facebook.
No matter how out of step with the sentiments of readers, no matter how misguided or outright wrong their statements were let’s keep in mind that respecting their readers enough to say anything at all in a time of crisis represents a certain courage. Say what you will about their remarks, but you cannot take from them the fact that they took the time to face the public and offer their perspectives.
In sharp contrast, publications like Famous Monsters of Filmland and FEARnet used Spiderbaby’s work extensively. When the scandal hit both remained tight-lipped, no comment, no editorial, nothing. FEARnet quietly tipped all the work she’d contributed to them down the memory hole and then walked away whistling, casually meandering into the crowd and hoping to disappear. They cruelly left Fangoria and Video Watchdog holding the bag and by never commenting let Lucas and Alexander bear the brunt of the backlash. Even Spiderbaby’s publisher, St. Martin’s Press, avoided making any real public statement, they just quietly killed her book. Quentin Tarantino? Silence. The two editors who had the guts to speak up were left to twist in the wind.
It was an effective strategy. Who was talked about most when the story broke and readers were howling for blood? Who were the natural people to start digging into when we first suspected all might not be well in monster magazine land?
Lucas and Alexander jumped on the Spiderbaby grenade, knowingly or not. Both invited more scrutiny as a result and going over the post-mortem, picking over the viscera left at the scene we found that in at least in the case of one of the editors there was a whole lot more just below the surface, waiting for an explosive moment to break the tension and come bubbling up to the surface.
Which leads us all to this point we are at now. I think we’ve established very well that there is some disease in the system, what remains is to see how deep the rot goes. Is it a skin infection or is it right in the very marrow? The players who have so far escaped criticism may hold some answers for us. They’ve benefited from the blood of others being in the water to draw the frenzy. Tim Lucas got bit hard and Chris Alexander has been a 3 course meal but at least they cared enough to put themselves out there.
If anyone from Famous Monsters of Filmland, St. Martin’s Press or FEARnet wants to be in touch to offer their side of the story they can email me directly. Anyone with inside knowledge of what was going on with these outfits during the heyday of the crisis can contact me in full confidence: firstname.lastname@example.org