When did it all begin?


Today I was working from home, waiting for someone to come round and check my humble little flat for asbestos and to do the annual gas safety check. I’ve been in the flat for some twenty-five years so I was quite pleased when they announced that there was no asbestos in the building. As for my gas, that was fine as well!

One thing it allowed me to do was to look at the contents of a cupboard and start to sort things out. I’ve always wanted a better backdrop and knew that there was a wealth of AD&D books hiding in the cupboard so I thought I could get them out and display them. But while doing this I found my first ever attempt at content creation! My first fanzine – Animated Dead!

Animate Dead – the fanzine

What was Animate Dead?

I sometimes wonder what life would be like if I was a teenager now with the current level of technology. I wonder whether I would be making YouTube videos and streaming games live on Twitch or whether I would still be that poor, shy teenager, hiding in his bedroom.

Well, sorting out the cupboard actually shown me that I was actually creating content at the age of 15 in the form of a regular fanzine. If you are not sure, a fanzine is a magazine produced by amateurs.

a magazine, usually produced by amateurs, for fans of a particular performer, group, or form of entertainment.

Yes, at the age of 15 I was producing a magazine. I think probably a better description of it would be a series of white pieces of paper covered with text stapled together. There were no images or front cover and there was definitely no colour. However there was content and that content was created by myself, with ideas and/or questions sent into the editor.

Production Process

Animated Dead, the name of the fanzine which I was really proud of, was not produced using some wonderful word-processor. It produced in a similar fashion of the wonderful intro of “Murder she wrote”, with a manual typewriter.

Every month I would sit down at my desk with my mum’s manual typewriter and type out each page. My circulation was actually five people which was the limit of my processing capabilities. This was because that, in order to get multiple copies, I didn’t know anyone with a photocopier, I actually had to use carbon paper. Now you probably don’t know what carbon paper is so I will explain. Carbon paper was something which you placed between two sheets of paper and, if you pressed hard enough, anything which you wrote or type on the front page would actually go through to the other sheets. Using the manual typewriter I had to ‘pound’ the keys so hard in order to ensure that the person who had paid for the fifth copy could actually read the content!

Spelling mistakes were numerous and if I wanted to change anything I either had to retype the whole page or just go over with a pen and correct all the copies. As for images, well I couldn’t draw so I just had to do without. But the fanzine still had content!

In this month’s Animated Dead

Within the pages of Animate Dead, there was a column called Sage’s Column where I, as the DM, answered questions which the players sent into the magazine (usually by passing me a piece of paper at the gaming session) or areas of the game which I thought needed to be clarified. The Class Distinction was a section when I looked at a specific class in depth and Character Spotlight was when I featured one of the player’s characters! This was, I remember, such an honour even though we all knew each other’s characters very well to start off with.

The only other regular feature was some fiction – Marvo the Magician. Although I have started to write fiction again, even at the age of 15 I was writing, probably badly, but I was still trying to let those creative juices get out somehow! I remember even writing a bit of a love scene! Well I was 15 and the hormones were flowing!

All good things come to an end.

Unfortunately, I can only find four of the first five editions of Animate Dead. The first issue I can’t find which is quite sad, it would have made a fantastic first edition. But I do have the others and I am thinking of scanning them all into the computer so they will live on into the future.

I’m not sure where the original group of AD&D players are. One I still know (Chugawuga) and one I know is sadly dead. As is one of the people who first introduced me to Basic Dungeons and Dragons. Whether anyone else kept their copy of Animate Dead I will probably never know. But I like to think that they are out there somewhere and maybe they remember those times and issues as fondly as I do.

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