Tag Archives: At the Circulation Desk

At The Circulation Desk

Serious About Serials

Tearing Staples And Cracking Spines:

Reader’s Advisory For The Horror Movie Magazine

By James Johnson

It should be prefaced that current readers of either title might actually consider Rue Morgue punching down and out of it’s weight with this month’s Versus instalment. I would agree with them on one point: these two titles are unique organisms. Either has contrasting characteristics, features, style, contributors, and even political ideologies. However, they both share a media landscape that we have culturally coined, and subsequently use to categorize, as Horror and compete in a market with truly forgiving consumers. I’m not recommending one over the other. Read both. Read more serials! Objectively, either of these titles can satisfy some fans of horror. The point of this versus series is to highlight titles of the same subject to expose new readers wishing to explore the options available to them. Too few library professionals advocate serial readers advisory, and that’s a shame in our opinion.

It becomes obvious as soon as you pick up this Halloween’s copy of Rue Morgue that there’s a level of authority assumed in the general quality. Perfect binding (a new feature I believe, since every prior issue I have is saddle stitched), heavier paper poundage, and custom cover art. Whereas SCREAM lends this reader a particular reminiscence – the fanzine wave (and decline), the slick pages of medium to low poundage, saddle stitch binding, and tacit Gonzo-Journo obsessive contributors, mark it as a true genre classic, even though it’s only 11 years in publication compared with Rue’s 24. Obviously, these thematic mags play at different speeds. I can easily see a Rue Morgue reader picking up a copy of SCREAM, and vice versa. Horror genre film critiques in print are not as common as general interest serials, such as US, Harper’s, or Cosmo. I think it’s fair to say that both titles are most likely bunk-mates on the toilet tank of the Horror movie fanatic and that’s why they’re in focus.

SCREAM Magazine #68

ISSN: 2045-2128
Audience: Adult

Boasting the title of “the world’s no. 1 horror magazine” (unverified!), SCREAM serializes bimonthly “100 bloody pages of content”. The words include surface to mid-depth analysis of modern and classic horror movies, often focusing on European and British Cinema, such as the Hammer and Giallo classics. Generally, the cover art or layout has an emphasis or theme which will be featured in the principal article. This cover (like every other so far) is a collage of iconic movie imagery arranged in such a way to inform the reader of the contents. It’s standard for this level of production value, though the colour choices, fonts, and arrangements are pleasant and engaging.

I have always had issue with magazines that boast the number of pages of content they’re selling. In my opinion, I think at best it’s misleading and at worse misinformation. The front and back cover should not be consider “pages of content” yet they are. Quarter, half, and even full page Ads are also not “content” in my opinion. If you’re trying to sell me something I can’t buy with my attention, but actual cash, I’m probably not going to refer to it warmly as “content”. So be warned, it’s more like 80-90 pages of content. Not bad. Other than the featured articles (#68 is a revisit of two Slashics, Freddy’s Revenge and Dream Warriors), readers can expect interviews, reviews of books and DVDs, retrospectives, and more. Standard genre fare.

The writing has a casual feel of an informed fan with experience in critiquing their favourite films. If you’re looking for a deep dive analysis, you’ll instead find an excellent though ultimately slim review of what the avid fan probably already knows. There’s no pandering, and the language meets the reader and the writer at eye level, increasing its accessibility and reach. SCREAM is a great title for explorers of the genre, eager to dip their toes in the world of horror cinema that’s not overbearingly esoteric. SCREAM wins with it’s gorgeous bright colours, full and rich border-less formatting, and clean presentation.

Pet Peeve: Recurring segments VHS Ate My Brain and Video Nasty are regrettably missing from this issue in favour of more retrospectives. These segments are often compelling and provide gritty insight for the casual consumer. Here is where SCREAM suffers from what most genre cinema zines suffer from at times: stale repetition. This issue continues a retrospective of the Nightmare On Elm Street franchise, where their competition in our spotlight has two solid features, Mexican Gothics and Folk Horror.

Kudos: The Halloween issue (Sept-Oct) could have been released at any season. There’s not a jack-o-lantern in sight. A horror movie magazine that keeps print’s version of click-bait out of its season of the witch issue? I’m impressed. Halloween is everyday in my world, and so it would seem at SCREAM.

Rue Morgue #202

ISSN: 1481-1103
Audience: Adult

Toronto based Rue Morgue sells a different story for our would-be horror readers and that’s not a bad thing! Rue Morgue’s subtitle reads “Horror in Culture & Entertainment”. Where SCREAM highlights modern and obscure films alike, Rue Morgue delves deeper and examines the cycles that Horror sub-genres naturally birth and die throughout time. There’s most certainly a firm hand in editorialship, where editor Andrea Subissati often acts as contributor to many segments. SCREAM seems to have a nice balance of freedom and control that I felt lacking in Rue Morgue. That’s their prerogative, of course, and I can respect the vision and commitment Subissati and the controllers of Rue’s assets have.

The content (articles and interviews) are insightful and creative, informative, and thoughtful. While written in plain-speak, the topics of discussion are often viewed through a post-modernist lens. This could quickly become tiresome, but the richness of the topics covered make it informative, albeit far from a place of neutrality. That may be indeed be fair, as the movie viewer brings with them their own biases and lenses, so why not reviewers themselves? By that metric I can agree, however, that does not mean Rue Morgue wouldn’t benefit from a broader spectrum of ideas and voices.

The advertisements for Rue Morgue products and third party toys and merchandise can get a little loud. Many fans love the exposure to horror collectibles and the latest trends, so this may be a feature many enjoy. The culture and entertainment of horror today is saturated with bits and bobs for the collector, and Rue Morgue advertises plenty of options for the consumer.

Pet Peeve: Over-hyped subscriber mailbag section. Publishing letters from subscribers describing why they’re glad they subscribed is cringe. Perhaps there aren’t many fan mail complaints, but certainly there must be some.

Kudos: Accessible depth. A true challenge with zine word restrictions. Rue Morgue’s in depth analysis and excavation of lost or unexamined relics of cinema’s past puts them at the top of their peers.

At The Circulation Desk

Cancelled? Banned? Out of Print? The why behind a title’s demise

Estimated reading time of article: 4 mins

By James Johnson

The corporation responsible for preserving the legacy of the late Dr. Seuss’s books has come under fire for ending the print run of six controversial titles. Supporters of this decision celebrate the removal of what many consider to be offensive and racist depictions of minority groups, while critics have slammed this move as yet another overreach of progressive wokeism and cancel culture.

As library professionals, one of the most important jobs we have is collection development. This work usually goes on behind the scenes, and users generally remain blissfully ignorant of it. Developing a library’s collection requires a deep understanding of not only the needs of the reader, but also the needs of other departments and what considerations, if any, are requisite for policy adherence.

Depending on the size and type of library, there may be several departments that operate within the organization. Each of these department’s has there own requirements, budgets, and even users. Departments can work independently of one another in service of the whole. Take the children’s section of a public library. It’s not often an adult library user checks out the latest Diamond Willow winner. In some cases these departments share budgets with other departments. In smaller cases there is only one budget for the system, and each department allocated a limited set of funds, do with it what they can.

In every case, collection development policy is key. Within the idea of developing a collection is the concept of selecting new titles and removing damaged, irrelevant, or unused ones. This latter process is known as weeding, or de-selection.

Library staff have a difficult job on their hands in weeding. Such a crucial step in developing a collection requires a robust and clear policy so that, no matter the individual conducting the task, a specified path to success can be followed.

The elements of a library policy are unique to the system it serves, however, there are principles that generally guide library professionals in developing good policy. Depending on the particulars of a library’s mission statement or goals, providing access to resources for the purposes of learning, entertainment, and discovery is almost always the prime directive of a publicly accessible library system.

Publishers choose to stop printing their property for many reasons. I believe Dr. Seuss Enterprises actively believes their policy of encouraging inclusion and support of reading and seeks to meet and exceed the expectations it sets forth, but don’t for a minute think this act of removing “wrong or hurtful” titles is solely in response to a policy of inclusion and support of reading. Dr. Seuss Enterprises makes money. That will always be theirs and every other for-profit business’s primary motivator. Whether you agree or disagree with the move, Dr. Seuss Enterprise will benefit from this. Their image and bottom line.

When library’s weed it serves a few purposes. We look at the items use (has it circulated well), condition, whether it has remained relevant or has been superseded, and whether alternative copies can be acquired or accessed easily elsewhere (frees up much needed shelf space in tighter quarters.

What effect does a publisher’s decision, like Dr. Seuss Enterprises, have on a library? Hopefully very little. A library should not base their development criteria on any outside sway. A robust and clear policy created in-house represents their unique users better than any third party influencer could ever establish.

The New York Public library said it well. They’re not in the business of determining what people should read. Removing an item from the collection on the grounds it has been challenged (for accuracy, relevancy, or negative attributes) takes careful consideration. As part of a healthy library’s collection development policy, new titles must be selected on the basis of relevancy, accuracy, and user need. Old titles, equally, require reflection when considering their place (or not) in the collection.

A publisher’s decision to end a print run is their prerogative, however they choose to spin in. Take a closer look at the parent owner of this subsidiary and you’ll find they choose to print material many people find offensive, hurtful, and wrong. I may not agree with the decision Dr. Seuss Enterprises made with this move, but it was a business decision first and foremost. Sure they support reading, so does Chapters Indigo. That doesn’t make them a library, and they don’t have to follow the same democratic principles that guide them.

Alternatively, a library has no place in determining the right and wrong of an item based on someone’s feelings. There is plenty of stuff I can’t stomach, content I find offensive and demoralizing. What authority do library professionals possess in removing access to such works, particularly those of publicly funded societies? We may as well claim rightful mastery over the contents of peoples skulls.

Library professionals have politicized the field far longer than I’ve been alive. Whatever side of the “battle” you find yourself on, I hope the purpose of the fight remains relevant to you. That you think for yourself, read what you wish, and do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Happy reading/streaming.

At the Circulation Desk

Reader’s Advisory: serious about serials, a periodical in peril

Joe Kane, The Phantom of the Movies, has passed away. Will His Page Turning Pulp Continue as a Must Read Resource for Exploitation Film Fanatics?
The Phantom of the Movies’ VideosScope Issue #115

Estimated reading time for article: 3 mins

By James Johnson

In a 2018 interview with James Rolfe, long time drive-in critic Joe Bob Briggs of Monster Vision fame lamented the production rate of the film industry, saying the ease of access to equipment, software, and skilled labour in our modern world should bolster film production, not hamper it. We should, in fact, be seeing thousands of new guerilla-style, shoulder mounted shlock from maverick amateurs brave enough to carve a place for the next generation of exploitation reels waiting to be cherished, curated, and raised to the status of “cult”. Of course COVID-19 brought the industry to its knees, though Joe Bob couldn’t have predicted such a catastrophe.

Prior to COVID19, filmmakers coming out of the academy with five thousand dollars worth of Audio Visual equipment – the likes of which Corman, Cohen, and Adamson would have paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for in the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s – were better set for success than their early predecessors. If new filmmakers are emerging, they do so with the tools of the old masters. These titles, colloquially known as “B” movies and not quite suited for mainstream tastes, provide an interesting challenge for users in our modern world of polished studio block-busters released straight to digital download: how can they discover them?

I must admit, with my schedule the way it is, I can’t keep my finger on the pulse of indie horror like I wish I could. Thankfully, there are numerous resources available both digitally and in print. I like to support print as much as possible, to feel the ink and paper, and to smell the pages.

That’s why this installment from the Circulation Desk highlights the “Phantom of the Movies'” magazine Videoscope, 2020 marking its twenty seventh year in print. If you’re running out of movies to watch in isolation during the quarantine, I recommend picking up any issue of this magnificent pulp.

Inside you can find over eighty different genre reviews of classic and contemporary exploitation movies. It provides a best of both worlds. The Italian film aficionado can read up on the rarely reviewed 1970’S Euro-Horror flicks of Amando De Ossorio. The modern horror-hound can whet his appetite with a look at the up-and-coming bright directors highlighted in Joseph Perry’s always enlightening column, “Best of the Fests” – a thoughtful examination of the newest films from future movers and shakers. What is concerning is The editor-in-chief, Joe Kane, has died leaving the publication without a leader or clear future. This has not been a kind year for most of us. We offer our prayers to his Wife Nancy and their family.

There is certainly something for everyone when it comes to movies. If you manage your expectations, you can be entertained forever thanks to publications like Videoscope. I hope that Joe Kane’s memory and the work he did continues in the form of a renewed Phantom of the Movies Videoscope so that readers can continue to discover great films and read interesting articles. As Joe Bob Briggs likes to say, the only sin a movie can make is to be boring. Happy reading/streaming.

TitleThe Phantom of the Movies’ Videoscope
ISSN1083-2920
Publisher PhanMedia, Ocean Grove, NJ, 1993-
Format:   Journal, magazine : English
Audience Teen – Adult
Subjects Motion pictures — Periodicals. Video tapes — Periodicals. Video tapes — Catalogs. View all subjects