1. WHAT DOES "FAQ" MEAN?
It's an Acronym for "Frequently Asked Questions". Probably everyone online knows this, but there are still a few places in the Amaon basin where the internet has not yet come, making this technically count as a frequently asked question, in certain circles, at least.
2. WHAT IS CAPTIONING?
Everyone knows what captioning (or "capping") is, though maybe not by that name. See a picture of a coconut, write a sentence or two about the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow, and you've got a caption, albeit a pretty obvious one. Magazines, websites, and even books have done similar things for years. (Remember Trek or Treat? Or the old Who's In Charge Here? series?)
"Organized" capping (if you can call it that), seems to have begun with the now-defunct "MST3K's Caption This", formerly available at http://www.scifi.com. Twenty-four hours a day, the Sci-Fi Channel would broadcast a screen shot of whatever they happened to be broadcasting at that moment. The pictures were updated every 12-30 seconds (save during their frequent freezes and outages), allowing registered users to submit their efforts to a gallery for general viewing. The system had its drawbacks (If I had a dime for every time someone wrote a caption asking if the title Dark Shadows was redundant, I could BUY the Sci-Fi Channel), but on the whole, some great stuff was written there until it shut down around 2004-ish.
3. WITH CAPTION THIS GONE, ARE THERE STILL ANY SITES WHERE PEOPLE CAN DO THAT OLDE-STYLE CAPPING?
Try Inventing Situations. Public domain stuff only, but at least you never have to cap Lexx or Seaquest there.
4. IF THERE'S STILL A PLACE WHERE YOU CAN GET CAPTIONS LIKE GRANDMA USED TO MAKE, WHY PRESENT IT IN A FORMAT WHERE ONE GUY WRITES ALL THE CAPS IN ADVANCE?
Because the other format has its limitations, as well. Although it lends itself well to one-shot jokes and stream-of-consciousness musings, many of which are very funny (watch any episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000, for proof), what we're trying to do here is tell a complete, ongoing story in caption form. On MST3K, there was no need to tell the story that Joel (or Mike, depending on your loyalties) and the Bots were riffing on. The viewers could see it for themselves. Not so with captioning. All of the original story that viewers see here is a series of still photos, from which the story can't be determined unless they've already seen it independently. As a result, to tell a story in captions, it has to be both told and joked about at the same time. I tried doing it that way on Caption This. But with as many as a dozen people all capping at once, some talking about the plot, some doing generic one-shot jokes and others doing general chatting, it often came out sounding like a dozen radio stations bleeding into each other.
What we've done here is to discard the chatroom format, storyboard an entire episode in advance, watch the episode, then re-write it into the storyboard. No more chatroom, and no more timer. Since the nature of the format requires all, or almost all of the captions to have a punchline, some are left blank. But the blanks are left in, as they sometimes help the viewer follow the flow of action. For example, if it shows a character leaving a room. I might have tried to write a caption for that picture, but sometimes leaving a room just isn't all that funny. Especially when there isn't a bucket of water over the door.
5. WHAT IS DARK SHADOWS?One of the most amazing television series ever made. Viewers of Mystery Science Theater will have an appreciation of bad movies and how to enjoy them, but Dark Shadows was one of the most remarkable series ever made, both in concept and in execution. Was it good or was it bad? It was both. The acting was both great and terrible. Ditto with the writing. It could be compelling one day, cheesy and the next. Never before or since has such a marriage of quality and kitsch ever been assembled.
In concept, it was a daytime soap, just like General Hospital or All My Children. But, its theme was a Gothic Horror/Romance; another unlikely pairing. In a typical horror movie, a group of people may go to the haunted house, and start gettting bumped off one by one, until the last survivor manages to defeat or escape the menace. But, being a serialized story meant that the show had a group of core characters that were more or less untouchable, unless one of them left the series (a rare event). The result was an oddly cozy feeling for a horror show. People might get scared to death, kidnapped, maybe even killed, and yet you could feel that things would probably be more or less okay in the end.
These early episodes we're looking at now were more themed towards Gothic Romance than Gothic Horror. The plot involves a Jane Eyre-head type governess coming to our Gothic mansion looking for clues to her past, while remaining virtually oblivious to most of the skullduggery going on around her. After a while, supernatural elements began to be introduced gradually. A haunting here, a phantasm there. A few hundred episodes in this gave way to a vampire living next door, a doctor at the local hospital building a monster in his basement, and a werewolf unaccountably living in the one town that seemed to have a full moon every night.
6. WOULD I ENJOY READING THIS IF I'VE NEVER SEEN DARK SHADOWS?
How successful I've been remains to be seen, but these have been written to stand-alone, with the idea that someone who has never seen or heard of the show should be able to read the caps and follow the plot.
7. WHY DO YOU READ THESE THINGS RIGHT TO LEFT AND BOTTOM TO TOP? WAS IT WRITTEN FOR JEWISH READERS WHO LIKE TO STAND ON THEIR HEADS?
It's a holdover from the Caption This days. Their gallery consisted of the 12 most recent captions, arranged in four rows of three captions. For some reason, they thought that the most recent caption should be displayed first (cause, if it's newer, it's better, right?). As a new caption was added, it was put in the first position, pushing the others to the right and downwards, resulting in the reverse-chronological effect. I've tried re-doing a few files manually, but it's a heckuva lot of work. Maybe someday I'll get someone to write me a program that will reverse an the ordering of an HTML table, and so switch them around in one swell foop. It was never a high priority, because a) I don't know anyone who could do it, and b) After reading a few that way, it starts to feel natural.
8. WHY ARE THE CAPPED PICTURES LABELED "BURKE DEVLIN"?
Another holdover from the Caption This days. With multiple users writing captions in the same gallery, some way of telling the users apart was needed, hence captions were preceded by Usernames. It doesn't make a lot of sense any more, since I'm the only one writing captions. In the early days of solo capping, I would occasionally stick in other people's captions, but as they tend to interrupt the narrative flow, such things, when they exist at all, tend to go in the Marquee at the top. BurkeDevlin was the username I used, just because I really liked Mitchell Ryan's Shatner-esque acting style. Unlike the bottom-to-top arrangement, THIS would be very easy to get rid of en masse, if I ever decide to do it.
9. WHAT'S WITH THE BLANK CAPTIONS?
NOT a holdover from Caption This, for a change. The Caption This gallery consisted of only 12 photos, but each one was chock full of captiony goodness. Pictures that no one captioned didn't show up in the gallery at all. In this case, since the storyboards are created in advance, there's no way of knowing what will be unused until after the fact, at which time a) It would be a lot of work to remove them, and b) even blank, they sommetimes help follow the flow of action.
10. WHY IS THIS STORY TITLED "DARK SHADOWS CAPTIONS 6" INSTEAD OF CAPTIONS 1?
Dark Shadows Captions I-V were, as Dr. Daystrom might put it "not entirely successful", for reasons discussed above. They begin with the early days of one-off jokes in a chatroom, slowly morph into a hybrid format, in which I wrote my own after the fact but blended others in, and ended up in the format presented here. Dark Shadows Captions V was actually very successful, but as it covers the end of the series, it didn't seem like a good place to start.
11. HOW COME THESE CAPS DON'T HAVE A LOT OF VULGARITY AND NUDITY AND OBSCENITY AND STUFF?
We like to get laughs the hard way.
12. WHERE ARE ALL THE VAMPIRES, WITCHES, WEREWOLVES, ZOMBIES AND THE REST OF THE TRICK-OR-TREAT CROWD THAT THIS SHOW WAS FAMOUS FOR (BACK WHEN IT WAS FAMOUS)?
They're coming... Eventually. Believe it or not, Dark Shadows was originally a turgid, 50's style melodrama, with only light Gothic flavouring. After capping the later episodes, I'd been afraid that Dark Shadows without Barnabas would be like... like The Three Stooges without eye pokes. But in its way it's just as funny without him as with him. With or without the supernatural, soap opera plotting is just plain funny. Even after Barnabas does arrive, he ends up as Julia Hoffman's straight man.
13. HOW MANY EPISODES ARE THERE?
In the entire series, 1,245, minus 20 episode numbers that were skipped due to pre-emptions, for a total of 1,225. This particular storyline has 126, minus 2, (Episodes 109 and 110, pre-empted for Thanksgiving). I don't know what we'll do for those numbers. Either skip them too, or fill in with some special feature.)
14. WHAT IF YOU RUN OUT OF IDEAS? I DON'T WANT TO READ HALFWAY INTO A STORY, GET INTERESTED, AND THEN HAVE IT NEVER GET FINISHED.
Not an issue in this case. This particular storyline was finished in 2005, and has just been languishing in the files. At the moment, I'm working on Episode 605.
15. ARE THE CHARACTERS IN THE CAPTIONS SUPPOSED TO BE THE CHARACTERS THEMSELVES OR THE ACTORS? SOMETIMES THEY MAKE REFERENCE TO THINGS AFTER THE 1960'S AND SEEM TO ACKNOLWEDGE THE FACT THAT THEY'RE ON A SHOW?
The best way to imagine it might be to think of a group of contemporary people going into virtual reality to act out the story, but not always managing to stay in character. Think of it as Dark Shadows: The Roleplaying Game.
16. WHY DIDN'T YOU TRY TO MARKET THIS AS AN ACTUAL BOOK?
I did. It was a classic Catch-22 situation ("Catch-22" is a reference to the Joseph Heller novel, not a description of what the Los Angeles Dodgers would do if you hit them 100 pop flies.) Dan Curtis Productions had no interest in even looking at it since I didn't have an agent, and no agent was interested in looking at it since I didn't own the rights to Dark Shadows.
17. WHAT ARE THOSE PICTURES THAT FLY BY AT THE BEGINNING OF EPISODE 1? THEY DON'T SEEM TO HAVE ANYTHING TO DO WITH THE STORY?
They're grey-scaled images of some of the people and situations at the end of the series. There was a hiatus of a year or two between the writing of Captions V and Captions VI. In Captions V, the series had ended differently than it did on TV, in a way that brought things full circle, making it reasonable to see pictures from the end at the beginning, but only if you had read Captions V. Which you haven't. So, just think of it as one of those mysteries of life.
18. HOW CAN THESE QUESTIONS BE FREQUENTLY ASKED IF THE FEATURE IS BRAND NEW?
I tried to anticipate what the frequently asked questions would be, and answer them in advance. It's false advertising.