Mutantville’s premier player – J.T.McRoberts aka Streebo aka Mr.Majic aka Streeborama – made the horror history books this year when it was announced that Hidden Horror won the Rondo Hatton Award for Best Book of 2013. The Rondo Awards were named for Rondo Hatton – a very obscure B-movie cult figure of the early 40’s. Each year, the Classic Horror Film Board presides over the voting process that involves almost 3,400 ballots covering 35 categories ranging from Best Movie to Best Convention to Best Book and many more. Past winners in the Best Book category include The Twilight Zone by Martin Grams, Heaven and Hell to Play With: The Filming of Night of the Hunter by Preston Neal Jones, and An Animated Life by Ray Harryhausen and Tony Dalton among many others.
To be perfectly honest, I wasn’t familiar with the Rondo Awards prior to 2007 when I was first heard about the voting ballots from the Deadpit podcast who were encouraging listeners to vote for them. I did in fact go on to vote for them that year and the next but to my knowledge they never won the award despite being nominated several years running. Once I began familiarizing myself with the Rondo Awards, I realized that everyone that is someone in our horror/filmmaking/watching community wants to get recognized for their achievements. One of my favorite artists from my childhood – Kerry Gammill – one time penciler for Power Man and Iron Fist from Marvel Comics – was responsible for co-founding the Rondos and designing the award itself.
In this transient world of blogging and podcasts, movies and self promotion, everything moves at a breakneck pace where today’s news is always better than yesterday’s news and whatever is on the shelf is not as good as what came before. We live in a bizarre cut throat world with websites and podcasts vying for listeners and web traffic with many being more than willing to spill some cyber blood along the way. I had become disenchanted with the particular corners of Internet fandom as I felt that it began to enable the worst representatives of fandom to have a voice that projected to every corner of the Internet. I felt that too many roaming the ethereal streets of the worldwideweb had lost the very reason as to why they had become fans – because they loved it.
Over the years, I’ve taken steps to distance myself from whatever negativity and internet nonsense that I encountered. I don’t have time to waste on negative individuals, forums or podcasts whose only concern is to tear down what we have all grown up loving. That’s why the Rondo Awards meant something to me because this was the one time of the year that the entirety of fandom could come together to celebrate that which they loved – the films, books, magazines and conventions that brought the fans together in the first place.
My focus has always been on the world of Mutantville and our work as storytellers. Everything I do is an end to promoting that. I grew up loving the great Universal monster movies of the 30’s and 40’s, Hammer films and everything in between all the way up to the days of the 80’s slashers. There was a time when fandom meant celebrating those works with everyone you knew. That was before the dark times – before the anonymity of the Internet arrived and gave voice to all the hatred spewing trolls from every corner of the world. People that never had a voice before suddenly discovered that they had the ability to share their message with the world – and unfortunately it was a message of anger.
The newly empowered fans used this gift not to share their love – but to promote their hatred of how current movies are nowhere near as good as anything made in the 40’s, 70’s or 80’s (take your pick). Along come the Rondo Hatton Awards to remind everyone in the community that there are plenty of great films, books and conventions being produced in the here and now and we should do what fans are supposed to do best – celebrate it! Every year, the Classic Horror Film Board hosts the awards and announces the winners to the industry.
When I first heard that Hidden Horror was nominated for a Rondo Award this year, my immediate thought was “that’s nice but we’ll never win.” I thought this because quite frankly, every time I’ve voted for someone – they failed to win. This year, I didn’t vote at all. Not out of any sort of master plan of reverse psychology on the universe – but because I was drowning in a sea of activity in my life working on everything from organizing the Mad Monster Party Film Festival to writing four new scripts for Tales from Mutantville vol. 2 as well as finishing my long gestating full feature project tentatively titled Blue Harvest XXIII: The Screw Everybody Edition (that’s not the real title of course but it’s all you get for now). It was during this flurry of chaotic activity that I was once again approached by editor in chief and co-contributor Dr. AC aka Aaron Christensen to contribute to this years book again.
I say “again” because believe it or not, this Rondo Award winning Best Book – Hidden Horror – was a long time coming and would not exist were it not for being the second volume following Horror 101: The A-List of Horror Films and Monster Movies. Basically – we had to write two books to win one award. It all started in late 2006 when I spent my time haunting the various message boards of the Internet trying to smarten up trolls to the error of their ways when I received a private message from the aforementioned Dr. AC. He asked if I would be interested in contributing to a book of horror film reviews and without thinking I said “yes.”
My philosophy has always been to accept any assignment that I am offered in the hopes that it will help bring Mutantville and our film works more attention. At the time, I was embroiled in the single most difficult project of my life – C for Chaos – a planned full length feature that took three years to shoot, and several more years of post production before it found its final form as a web series on Youtube. Regardless, I dug in like a tick and found the time to type up my assigned review on David Cronenberg’s directorial debut Shivers. Prior to that there was a voting process wherein Dr. AC polled the entire universe to find out which films were worthy of being part of Horror 101. That alone made the book worth picking up for any fan, young or old, new or seasoned. It offered insight and reviews of a cornucopia of fantastic films from amateur reviewers who in many instances went on to be professional reviewers working with Fangoria, Dread Central, Horrorhound and more.
We wrote our pieces and Dr. AC put it all together with the help of Susan Svehla of Midnight Marquee. Several contributors were able to gather for a publishers party at the 2007 Horrorfind convention where many of us met for the first time – but little did we know – it would not be the last. Horror 101 was released that year to little fanfare but a relatively warm reception from the community. MVP did our part by giving the book itself a cameo in our full length feature G.H.O.S.T., where one of the members of the G.H.O.S.T. Team, G.B., was shown to be a contributor to the book and was signing copies for fans at a media event. All in all it was a fun project to be a part of and it all ended as suddenly as it began.
Then I got the call from Dr. AC once more who stated, “We’re getting the band back together. We’re on a mission from God.” Actually, that’s a line from the Blues Brothers but he said something similar to it – just not as quotable. This time our mission would be to shine a light on the Hidden Horrors of the world that lay unappreciated and unrecognized in the depths of our Netflix queues. I sent in my list of nominations for this years book which included Panos Cosmatos’ Beyond the Black Rainbow, Stuart Gordon’s Dagon and Kairo aka Pulse. I lobbied hard to represent Beyond the Black Rainbow but was shot down by our editor in chief as the film was too new at the time to be considered under-appreciated. Instead, I was given the task of writing about Kairo so I set about doing just that. The next thing I know – I’m thumbing through my copy of the book and I receive a message from Dr. AC that we’ve been nominated for a Rondo Award. The rest, as they say, is horror history.
Technically, the award has Dr. AC’s human name on the plaque but believe me when I say it belongs to all those who contributed to make the book what it is – especially since as I stated above – this was the second in a series and we had to write that first book to get to this point on the second one. I was unable to make the trip out to Wonderfest in Kentucky this past month where Jon Kitley of Kitley’s Krypt accepted the award for us all. Dr. AC piped in a video acceptance speech during the ceremony which you can see in the embedded video below.
Since they’ve all had their say, I will now take a moment – yes a moment after some 1600 words to get to this point – and offer my own words of acceptance.
“When we started Mutantville in 2003, it was with the intention to create unique original stories that not only reminded us of why we loved horror and science fiction films in the past – but to hopefully point the genre in new directions. Of course, everything has been done and every story that can be told has been told but that should never prevent us from searching for those new avenues of expression. Our work on Horror 101 and now Hidden Horror will hopefully serve as inspiration to our fellow writers and artists to strike and on that journey of self-discovery, to never settle for mediocrity or simply rehashing the work of others. These two books represent a century of original storytelling and believe it or not – we as a collective have several centuries more of amazing new works waiting for us to make them real.
Thank you to Dr. AC for being the driving force behind this project. Thank you to my fellow contributors and writers who every day have helped remind me why I love talking to real fans and why I fell in love with movies in the first place. Thank you to the Classic Horror Film Board for hosting these awards and bringing the community together to celebrate the best of us all. And most of all thank you to my Mother, who put herself through college as a single mother. No matter how busy she was, she always found time to read to me, sparking my imagination. This spark would help guide me to become the man I am today.
Lastly, thank you to all the fans who voted. Thank you for taking a minute to remember why we’re here – because we all love monsters and magic and aliens that go bump in the night – now let’s get out there and make some more.”
You can pick up your copy of Hidden Horror and Horror 101 from Amazon.com.
Check out the complete list of winners for Rondo XII here:
If you’ve read this far then show your support for Mutantville by picking up your copy of Tales from Mutantville today!