Challenging times for UK genre magazines

November 28, 2009 by
Filed under: News 

ApocalypseThere’s something afoot this side of Christmas: dark skies over real-world book retailing, and a black vein of change for UK genre magazines.

Maybe this change can be referred to as evolution, or as some might say, a devolution. But would anyone go so far as to think of the developing situation as an opportunity?

The future of the Borders book chain is looking less than rosy. This affects me on both a professional and a personal level. I for one will miss that particular quirky retail experience. There was always the possibility of finding something new and interesting on the genre shelves, and the magazine section, well, I’d regularly hotfoot it down to pick up the latest issues of HorrorHound, Fangoria, The Darkside, Rue Morgue and Death Ray, have a flick through Interzone (as I’m a horror boy and subscribe to Black Static), and generally nose about the imported titles until I sniffed out something new. That small high street pleasure is denied to me now, (and I’m sure there are others out there like me).

Will Waterstones start stocking imported magazines? I think not. Although, in some stores that I’ve visited, (Exeter and Kingston), there are encouraging stocks of imported genre books.

How will we obtain copies of Canada’s excellent Rue Morgue now? There’s the subscription option, which is actually great value, but the delivery has always been plagued by delays in my experience, with some titles arriving three months late. Maybe that has changed now. I hope so as I need my RM fix on a monthly basis.

HorrorHound is another favourite, a fanboygeek collector’s magazine of all things horror merchandise, plus some great articles on the 80s video invasion, classic films, and the like – a thoroughly modern magazine with a nostalgic editorial bent. No delivery issues here at all as far as I remember.

I stopped subscribing to these magazines a year or so ago – not because I had lost faith in them, far from it – but because I wanted to pop into a shop to buy them, (despite the high import prices). I enjoy that experience and Borders could pretty much guarantee they’d be there, all in one place.

There are other options for us paper-collecting genre geeks, at least in London. Forbidden Planet stocks all these titles, but not consistently as far as I can tell, and you can’t purchase magazines on their website. The Cinema Store stocks these titles and loads of others too. Outside London? Fab Press’ website stocks issues of Rue Morgue, but again it’s unlikely you’ll be able to pick up the latest RM there, as they have to wait to receive them, just like the rest of us. Although looking at their website today, they’re up to date with the November 2009 issue.

I think it might be time to return to the subscription option. But, will there be any (UK) magazines left for us to subscribe to?

Shivers died a year or so ago, and the inevitable demise of Borders has coincided with what are most likely to be the final death-throes of several magazines: The Darkside has not been seen since September. A wiki entry states it might return. Let’s hope so. A thread on the Frightfest Forum has a little more information. Although maligned by some, the magazine appealed to the pulp in me. In its lastest editorial Gorezone rather tastelessly claims some credit for the end of The Darkside, but as the discussion on Monster Kids Classic Horror Forum shows, other non-genre titles are dropping like flies too.

Black Fish, the publisher of Death Ray and newly-launched sister title, Filmstar, appears to be in trouble as both titles are on hold by the looks of things:

As some of you may have heard, and others who popped along the shops to pick up the latest issue of Filmstar may have feared, Blackfish’s two magazines, Filmstar and Death Ray, are currently ‘on hold’. What this means is that there will not be another issue of either of them along for a number of weeks – or, likely, months. Indeed, whether there will ever be another issue of either is a moot point, and at this moment in time impossible to answer. But we hope so.

Quite what the future holds for Filmstar, Death Ray – and, indeed, Blackfish – remains unclear, but we hope to have more definite news over the next week or so. Keep watching this space, because as of now quite literally anything (or nothing) could happen.

Who’s to say what the future holds for genre magazines in the UK, but I think there’s always been an element of uncertainty hovering around such titles, as finding the niche audience on the high street can be challenging regardless of which shop you can get yourself in.

What reassures me about this situation, and the worlds of genre in general, is that the brains behind these magazines have it in their blood, they must give life to their visions, and I genuinely hope they are able to resurrect their titles in one form or another in 2010.

And as John Gilbert’s comment here on The Great White Space states, there might well be life in an old dog yet…


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