Friday, November 25, 2011

Welcome to Collinwood

A few years ago I bought a lot of Marilyn Ross' Dark Shadows novels from an Ebay seller. Stuffed between the pages of one of these yellowed pulp romances was something I found quite charming: an empty envelope mailed from the president of a fan club called United Fans for Jonathan Frid. It also included a note on the back reading "Jonathan Frid Rules" (you can get a closer look at both details by clicking the photo to your left.)

I've always been vaguely aware of "analog fandom," groups that had to communicate via telephone, letters and gatherings in the decades before the Internet. Many of these people communicated for years before ever meeting each other, if they ever met each other at all. They expressed themselves in stories, art, poems and essays which were usually circulated through inexpensive mimeographed newsletters. This kind of fandom kept alive the interest in everything from the stories of Robert E. Howard to Star Trek, and the passions of fandom might even be the reason we're still talking about these things today.

The cover of an issue of
Inside the Old House, a long-running
Dark Shadows fanzine.
By all rights, Dark Shadows fans are the folks that should have been building message boards and Angelfire pages back when the Internet began to really take hold in the '90s. Unfortunately, the fans who spent their time writing Dark Shadows fanfic, episode guides and poetry seemed to have disappeared as the digital outlet was beginning to blossom. There were a few DS fan pages here and there, but their content lacked the obsessive attention to detail of their analog ancestors (not to mention their imagination.)

Since I discovered the letter from Betty Patterson and the United Fans for Jonathan Frid I've asked around, very casually, about where these fans are today. I've also come across a few of the many, many fanzines produced by these men and women since Dark Shadows left the airwaves and will be sharing excerpts from them over the next few months. With luck, maybe some of the creators of these publications will take notice and share a few words about their work.

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