I don't even remember the post in the DC Freaks forum that Damion put up in late 2001, talking about his idea to start a zine. At the time, my interest in the DC Goth/Industrial scene focused entirely on the bands that came through town, the weekly club nights, the afterparties, and all the rituals of excess that came with those things.
For me, The Goth/Industrial scene wasn't so much a “community” at first, so much as it was a hedonistic sanctuary from the mundane world. As it was for many, especially in the recent wake of 9/11. Maybe this is just my experience from the more nihilistic, Nine-Inch Nails '90s, but the Goth scene for me had always been more of a tribe than a community. A tribe wholly uninterested in your personal hurts and fears, and one in which you didn't survive long without thick skin. But also a tribe that gave everyone permission to explore their pleasures without shame or guilt, and gave you permission to appreciate the darker side of things, including yourself. And gave you permission to go a little insane for a while if you needed to get out of your head, particularly on the dance floor.
What I do remember is feeling very supportive of, and even inspired by, Damion's idea to start a magazine. A collaborative, artistic, fun project like that felt like a great idea for any time, but especially for right then, with images of the collapsing Twin Towers and the demolished section of the Pentagon still fresh in our minds. Plus, the DC Goth scene overflowed with all kinds of creative talent. A platform to shine a spotlight on and celebrate that aspect of us felt long overdue. And suddenly, the tribe felt just a little more like a tribe AND a community.
I'd been cooking the idea for a serial horror fiction story, so I offered to join on as a staff writer. I don't remember the exact words or who said them after that, but the conversation boiled down to someone saying “Well, we need a fiction editor, so why not just join on as that and still write your story?”, and I basically replied “I have no experience as a fiction editor, but then, I suppose none of us have any experience with any of it. So, okay.” So it started with the five of us: Damion, Kris, Josh, Carrie, and myself, though as Damion says in his pinned post, we had regular contributors and volunteer help from the tribe/community as proofreaders, gophers, and assembly line folks during production time.
I don't indulge in regrets, but if I did, I might regret the friction I caused between myself and the other four staff members by sometimes not showing up for the hands-on labor. None of them knew, but back then I drank nearly every day, and I regularly used several different substances—mostly uppers, downers, and X. When I didn't show up for things, it wasn't because I thought I was too good to roll up my sleeves like everyone else, but rather because I'd fallen into a headspace where it was extremely difficult for me to be around people. That happened a lot. Or, I was just too drunk/high to drive, or do anything that required being mentally present.
Doing research for and writing my serial story, which takes place in a Nazi extermination camp in Poland, sometimes took a very heavy emotional toll. As a horror writer, I've researched and written about a lot of disturbing subjects, but the Holocaust used to be the one that could completely wreck me. Even today when reading or writing about it, I sometimes have to come up for air. In retrospect, The better way would have been to be open with the other editors—if not about my habits, then at least about what I knew I could and couldn't be counted on to deliver for the zine.
Fortunately, I started to get it together before too long, during the crew's trip to Convergence 8 in 2002, I think. A lot of things dawned on me in Montreal that weekend. That I was dating a woman worth getting it together for. That my preferred methods of writing (binge-writing all day on X, or on coffee, clove cigs, and amphetamine, then hitting the brakes at 3AM with Klonopin chased by scotch) wasn't sustainable. That I might accidentally kill Damion if I honestly thought he could drink like I could. (That last one's a joke. Mostly.)
TCM played a part in helping me find the happy medium between abstinence and oblivion. TCM also gave me the opportunity to put talented writers' work in print, in front of a readership, and gave me the opportunity to interview artists, photographers, film producers, and other creatives. TCM forced me to find the discipline and courage to keep writing on a project I might not have completed otherwise. I can only imagine what we might have done with today's web technology and if Brian and Victor had come on board with us sooner, sharp and professional individuals that they are, but either way I'm grateful and proud to have played a part in Damion's vision, and the exquisite corpse that we all crafted from it.
Wow, Christophe, thank you for sharing so much. I had no idea, but I am really grateful that you felt comfortable enough to open up to us. You are a brother, and always part of the fold here. I love you, man, and I wish we had been able to stay closer after the magazine had to close its doors. A huge part of that is my fault, as my life had kind of unraveled a bit, so I just fell out of touch with everyone. And we all had on and off times at the morgue, but we all helped support and prop each other up. Family, man. On the lighter side of things, convergence was an absolute blast, and yeah, you definitely almost killed me. Or so I am told. I really don't remember, but I think it was "orange juice" that you had brought along in our wild van ride up to Canada. I am still surprised we got through customs so quickly with that thing (the van, not the "orange juice"). And yeah, to be fair, my original seed of the magazine was selfish, I wanted to see my artwork published, but it quickly became so much bigger than me and more noble than that. I am proud that The City Morgue gave you a platform to write and the courage, persistence (and deadlines) to finish up the Sobibor Retrievers. I keep toying with the idea of making a new section of this website for submissions - Art, stories and the like, but there are much bigger and more focused platforms to help artists and writers be more successful. But it is nice to have those little wisps of daring.