If you are unfamiliar with Mark Sieber or Horror Drive-in , He Who Types Between the Rows 2 is an excellent primer.
First of all, Mark Sieber is one of us. He has been a fan of all things horror for a long time. You don't need to meet him to know him. He holds dear his memories of friends, beers and Friday night double features at the local ozoner as much as he cherishes the times he spent roaming the hallowed shelves of his local video shops, taking an armful of tapes home for the weekend.
He read all the same magazines and novels. He knows what he's talking about because he was there. He walked the walk, which is a hell of a lot more difficult than just talking the talk.
Above all, he loves fiction. Yes, he loves horror fiction, but I believe he just loves fiction in general. He loves stories. He loves getting outside of real life and delving into a good book. You know he loves fiction because he is constantly finding new favorite authors and new favorite books. He is always looking for his next new favoirte.
Sieber was a part of early message boards which are now all but gone. He moderated several different boards and that is where he began sharing his passions and reaching other fans. He began meeting many of the authors whose work he admired. To hear Sieber talk about those times, it sounds like a mini fan convention every time he sat down at his keyboard.
I encountered Mark Sieber and Horror Drive-in when my wife Frances found a review of my novella The Drive-in That Dripped Blood posted there in 2007 or 2008. With a watery gut I read it and was thrilled to see that he seemed to enjoy my little slasher homage. I thanked him. I kicked around the message boards. I hung out for a couple of years and had many, many awesome conversations with people just like me.
It was like a mini fan convention every time I sat down at my keyboard.
Beyond the message boards Sieber kept a steady pace writing blogs for his site. These blogs celebrated books, movies, authors, filmmakers, the past, drive-ins, video stores, real life and everything in between. This is where Mark Sieber lays himself open and you begin considering him a friend.
That might sound weird. I've never met the man in real life. I've never spoken to him on the phone. But we've instant messaged. We've emailed. When my first wife passed away in 2010, he stayed in contacted, dropping a line now and again to check on me. If that's not a friend, I don't know what is.
This new book, He Who Types Between the Rows 2 picks up where the first book ended, collecting blogs beginning with a couple from 2006 to 2009, but really finding its stride in the years between 2010 and 2020.
If you want to know what was going on in horror fandom during this decade, this is the book for you. You could write an essay on that decade of horror and this would be the most important reference book you could find on the subject. It is not just about the movies and books and the people who made them, but also about the people who watched and read them and life in general while all this was going on.
Sieber laments the old days on the message boards. It was a fun time. As someone who joined them and was heavy into them for a while, I can say why I slowly dropped out of participating. It was exciting at first to have all these likeminded people a click of the keyboard away, but it took so much time away from your day. It almost got to be another job. What was the point in reading about new books and movies if you never had any time to read or watch them?
Then, after a while, it seemed like a smarmy attitude seeped into the boards. Not so much Horror Drive-in, because Sieber rarely tolerated that, but people changed when they could hide behind a user name and icon of Chucky. You could make a comment about a film or book you loved and it just took one smart ass to derail the conversation with a single comment. I'm sure I did it a time or two, but that's not who I want to be. No one has time for that kind of negativity.
But in my early years of visiting the Horror Drive-in boards, it was really a good time. Mark Sieber was responsible for turning me on to so many new movies and books and authors, "thank you" is hardly a big enough response. (I kept visiting for the blogs. I did try to rejoin the boards, but... too many things to do, too little time to do them in. Now the boards are gone.)
This collection goes through to the Pandemic and shut down of the world in 2020. It gets a little dark, even if Sieber didn't mean for it to get dark. He was just missing the world, like we all did. At times, it reads like the passages from a post-apocalyptic survivor's diary. I make it sound dismal but it's not. Sieber was Robert Neville, writing from his bunker.
To his credit, the flow of these short essays never wears the reader down. Regardless of all, Sieber throughout continued looking for his next favorite book, his next favorite author, and his next favorite movie. Keep on keeping on. When the entire world has shut down, you cannot be more optimistic than that.
I totally expect- demand even- He Who Types Between the Rows 3. Sieber keeps the blogs coming. Give them a read. Don't be surprised if you instantly identify with his voice. Don't be surprised if, after a while, you start considering Mark Sieber a friend.