From the late 1980s (1988) to the early 90s (1991) Newsfield Publications Ltd published a truly great magazine of horror, fantasy and science fiction named Fear.
Edited by John Gilbert, with cover art usually by Oliver Frey, Fear provided up-to-the-minute coverage of what was going on in the world of horror, fantasy and science fiction.
The magazine focused on horror/fantasy/science fiction films, books and art, but it also included interviews with genre authors, film directors and producers, actors, artists, and special effects experts, as well as anyone associated with the specific genres of its remit.
Clive Barker featured in Fear a lot, as did Shaun Hutson. James Herbert, Ramsey Campbell, John Carpenter, Sam Raimi, Ray Bradbury and other such horror/fantasy/science fiction luminaries also put in appearances.
The editorial staff didn’t always get it right – possibly the most disturbingly mistake they made was the time Fear published a reader’s letter that told of how the English writer of the letter (name withheld) had flown to Maine, hung around for hours outside Stephen King’s house, and called out to ‘the big man’ as he entered his house, after which he’d ‘knocked up’ a story and left it at King’s office, where he again hung around until asked to leave. He had then flown back to the UK and written of his adventure in a letter. It was bizarre and unsettling reading – in short, it was a casual description of obsessive behaviour (masquerading as fandom) that was almost chillingly stalker-ish in its intensity.
Despite the odd lapse in judgement, Fear genuinely seemed to be trying to provide its readers with interesting and entertaining genre information. For a while it was more than just a very good magazine – it was the best of its kind. Then the quality declined: the ubiquitous Clive Barker in nearly every issue; the obvious lack of awareness of/interest in Fear by Stephen King; the reliance on more and more substandard fiction from Fear readers; poorer quality paper on which the magazine was printed – and then, ultimately, perhaps inevitably, it was over – Fear folded.
Here’s the Wikipedia entry for Fear in its Newsfield Publications entry:
‘Fear began life as a full-colour newsstand magazine edited by former deputy editor of Sinclair User John Gilbert. Newsfield, keen to find publishing ventures outside the volatile computer game market, agreed to publish Fear with Gilbert as managing editor. The first issue of the magazine, which would be dedicated to horror book/film reviews and original horror, fantasy and science fiction, was published in June 1988. Despite relatively low sales it managed to survive for the duration of Newsfield’s business operations, seeing off rivals such as Skeleton Crew and Phantasmagoria, which entered the market midway through its run. Fear achieved recognition from many international writers, and is still quoted today on back-cover blurbs by novelists whose work it first championed.’
Although it was very much a product of its time, I enjoyed reading Fear immensely. I found the book and film reviews useful and insightful. I liked the author interviews, as they sometimes contained very useful hints for writers.
For a while, John Gilbert (and Newsfield Publications) provided horror, fantasy and science fiction aficionados with a good quality magazine.
So thank you Roger Kean, Franco Frey, Oliver Frey and John Gilbert – for a while you burned so very brightly.
Fear – the magazine of fantasy, horror, and science fiction
© R J Dent (2009)