Look, everyone, there’s no point feeling sorry about BTL. It’s a kindness. Like a blind old incontinent sheepdog, it’s had its day. Take it out to the barn with a double-barreled shot-gun and blow the mother away. And I’m only saying that because I’m so fond of it.

That’s right; after 52 issues the official Fan Club magazine, Better Than Life, is to be put out of its considerable misery and replaced with something just that little bit different.

But before I wade in with my size twelves and start spouting those pesky ‘opinions’ of mine, here’s what James has to say about the decision and the plans for the future.

Once again BTL has been slow to arrive, this has been down to quite a few issues and problems, too many to mention, but not too many to resolve.

So when BTL 52 finally arrives, this will be the last…BUT! No fear, as this was the end for Red Dwarf episodes, this won’t be the last for the Fan Club magazine. It will be re-invented smaller, faster and more whoooshes! And no! this won’t be remastered! It will be a total and completely new magazine! within the pages of the last issue of BTL it will contain your chance to contribute to this new magazine: From naming the beast to actually designing a brand new logo that will be used on every issue! And not only this giving us your opinions on how you would like it to look and feel. This is YOUR magazine, now you have the chance to make it for real.

It’s no secret that the mag has been going rapidly downhill for a number of years now. It’s always late (and when I say late, I mean lllllllllate), the content is often shoddy and unreadable, the layout is mostly awful and fan submissions have been relied on far too much – with fans even being *blamed* for the lateness of the mag, at times. As Fan Club renewal payments are taken after every four issues of the mag, the magazine must have been a big dent in the Fan Club’s budget, so it’s clear something had to be done.

So, this has prompted this drastic move from James and his Team. It’s undeniably saddening that a magazine once associated with quality has got into such a state that it actually *needed* a re-branding, but hey-ho, like it or not that’s the situation we’re in. And it’s a positive move forward by the club, I think. I just hope the necessary changes have been made behind the scenes to ensure that the mag is put together with the love, care and attention that it once was. After all, wasn’t it St. Francis of Assisi himself who said “Change, my dear, and it seems not a moment too soon”?

There’s no word as yet as to when we can expect the last issue of BTL to hit our doormats, but I assume it’ll be soon, so I hope the team get the support and fresh outlook from the rest of the fan community that they need (and we’ll certainly be offering all we can) off the back of their appeal for help. However, I also hope that they fully realise that in order for fans to be truly invested in this mag The Team need to be the driving forces behind the content and not fall into the past trap of relying on the community to write interesting stuff for them.

But, as I say, this is undoubtedly a positive and encouraging move and one that should be welcomed. It remains to be seen what will come of it all, but hopefully this time next year we’ll enjoying a renewed and high quality magazine that any fan club would be proud of. Hopefully.

45 comments on “BTL RIP

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  • Today is a day for both sadness and joy. Sadness for the passing away of BTL, and Joy because BTL will be back with us albeit with a whole new style. Like a pheasant rising from the ashes…

  • > Is the magazine team going to be looking for a proofreader?

    I can only assume so. I hope this call for contributions will mean a bit more welcoming approach when it comes to offers to help with some of the bigger jobs.

  • >After all, wasn?t it St. Francis of Assisi himself who said ?Change, my dear, and it seems not a moment too soon??

    Yeah but wasn’t he just petty minded sadist who went around maiming small animals?

    RIP BTL.


  • Just fixed your comment, Paul – you’d put a rogue < in there at the end, which confused the system.

  • WARNING! Sorry this is bloody long. I’ve just no where else to erm…stick it (insert your own gag here)

    Right, so as a paid up member of the fan club and Moderator on BTLi, the fan club’s official forum, the first place I read this news is… an unofficial Dwarf fansite, albeit a damn fine one.

    *Dramatic intake of breathe*

    “We’ll I can’t say I’m totally suprised.”

    Still purging the memory banks and embracing the fresh start. A regular fan club magazine eh? What a bloody fine idea! Given that Red Dwarf is a global-phenomenon, was regularly watched by millions of viewers and was spanned generations I’m suprised someone didn’t think of the idea sooner!

    Fan Clubs are great, the chance to share your love of a subject with those of a like mind. So a fan club magazine full of such, episode analysis, latest news on cast & crew activities, hopefully a bit of exclusive content if a link with GNP could be tied up. I mean the internets all right but sometimes it can be a bit too much y’know, you blink and you miss something. So a club magazine which could act a a kind of quarterly or bi-monthly round up of the latest gossip backed up by some indepth featurettes about the show…wow it could be awesome!

    *Meanwhile somewhere in a parellel universe*

    FTW! (That’ll be a backwards universe)

    Okaaaay, Okaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay.

    Well I’m trying to be the person above, the gerbil faced optimist. It sounds very commendably that the severe and very harsh critism has hit home and been listened too. It sounds like someone somewhere gives a monkey’s ass and wants to make a difference. For this alone, I am both very glad and full of support. Having read Capps news this morning I took the Bus to work full of beautiful mental images about the re-launched magazine. The chance for new involvement, a new look, a time to give the series another complete analysis (yeah sure we’ve all gone through the shows a thousand times but sometimes it takes something like this to do it all over again and milk yet more love from Dwarf’s comedy sci-fi teats).

    I can remember various members of G&T stating they’d never write for BTL either again or at very least until it stopped being shit. Well hurrah, it’s not BTL anymore so I assume all statements are redundant and the new magazine will be embraced.

    Then there’s the flipside, the thoughts of that place near Uraguay. WHAT IF? What if all the “change” is merely superficial? A new magazine, a new plan. Well does it make any sodding difference if the people who killed the old one now have a fresh baby to blend? Or does it just this news simply fill up a few pages in BTL?

    Given that BTL essentially WAS the fan club, the heartbeat which should have given life to everything else club-wise (including Dimension Jump), can this in anyway be good news?

    My deepest darkest concern is that after hyping for months BTL52 as the launch of a fresh start for the club mag. We get this news, which smokescreens any shitness in BTL52 and potential buys another 12 months for thoe in charge to get it right.

    Finally my purest rantery. Why am I reading this here? The Rob Grant at DJ announcement I know I argued over but conceding it. It was about DJ and as that’s open to everyone and what with the official site and G&T being the main focal points for RD online it was fair enough to announce it as widely and loudly as possible.

    This however IS news of the club’s magazine – so am I alone in being very bloody pissed off that not the merest hint of this quite frankly BIG news was given on THE CLUB MAGAZINE’S OFFICIAL ONLINE FORUMS!

    Oh wait no, they’ve been closed without any prior warning for an indefinite period. I can only assume that the ‘temporary’ closure and this announcement have been linked. I mean what would I know, I’m only a moderator on the thing. I’ll reign myself back on this one in the hope someone somewhere has some clue as to what the blazing fuck is going.

  • Sorry for not mentioning this before, but we got James’ announcement from the WebBoard.

    Still, closing the official forum down on the same day as announcing something like this is bloody stupid, innit?

  • You know, part of me had hoped that the moderators on BTLi might at least be aware of the reasons for the unannounced closedown. Evidently not.

    Er… Starbug 1, anyone?

  • Not a dickie bird.

    We still have access to the boards, well I do, apparently Ian’s net is playing up so that’s him and Jo with only sporadic access.

    I really don’t want to come across completly like a git about all this. Part of me is hugely enthused at the opportunity for the club to be kickstarted back into something worthwhile. It’s just absolutely, diabolically ridiculous that the board has been shut this way. It’s illogical too, weren’t we just promised BTL52? So until BTL is finished why has the board been shut off?

    Also I don’t read the WebBoard. I found it badly set out and full of idiots. I like the smaller feel of BTLi combined with gleaning the latest news from the official site and G&T, this trio has served me fine for years but now It appears If I want to be kept aware of the latest news (firsthand)that I’m being forced to register on a board I don’t want to.

    I really hope there is a genuinely fantastic reason for closing the boards but based on the consistently shit history of events I don’t have a lot of confidence of this.

    A few of us have been regulars on BTLi for 5 years now. Through it the likes of Ian and myself have met some of our closest and best friends. Yes sure it’s quiet, it’s been quiet before – it peaks and troughs, always has. Only for the time being one of the first places I visit whenever I’m online has been taken away by people who haven’t anywhere near as much invested in that board without any prior regard for it’s users. It’s ignorant, it’s unprofessional and it’s down right rude. In summation, I’m VERY, VERY, F**CKED OFF.

  • Makes a mockery of everything that a moderator is supposed to be.

    And also, shutting down the forums (temporary or otherwise) means that, with no BTL in sight, that fan club members are getting absolutely NOTHING (save a DJ discount) for their subs. Given that said discount is less than the membership fee, that is an appalling ripoff, and an appalling state of affairs.

    In fact, let’s look at what the TORDFC website says :

    An annual club membership brings you a club badge, a plastic credit style membership card

    Okay, so you get those when you join. That’s not “annual”, though, is it?

    and 4 issues of the club Magazine Better Than Life (BTL)

    Well, we all know what a mockery this is, now.

    As well as this, subscription to BTL Magazine entitles you to free access to BTLi, a password-protected Internet version of BTL!

    Erm… no it doesn’t. Not when it’s closed.

    It all sounds rather impressive, doesn’t it?

    No, it fucking well doesn’t. Fourteen quid for a badge and a plastic card?

    (incidentally, to remind myself that it’s fourteen quid to join, I had to actually click the PayPal link – because nowhere else on the TORDFC site does it actually tell you how much a yearly subscription is)

    Also, the complete and total lack of ANY kind of warning for closing the forums down is COMPLETELY unacceptable. I’d initially assumed they were for technical reasons beyond the team’s control. Evidently, however, this is not the case – otherwise Karl, Ian and Jo would know about it. As such, there is NO justification for not warning loyal members of the fact that, all of a sudden, they have no access to the place.

  • To be fair to the team, Seb, ?14 isn’t for the year, it’s for 4 issues. You don’t pay a bean in renewal fees until you’ve taken delivery of those 4 issues.

  • Dwarf died in 1993, why does anyone still care? Er, I mean BTL has done OK considering Dwarf has been gone for a long time.

  • Are you suggesting that BTLi is merely resting after a long squawk!

    I’m keeping out of the politics of BTLi, perhaps there is a logical reason, time will tell.

    I’m certainly pleased that something is being done about BTL and this may be last chance saloon as far as the magazine goes. I guess we will all have a better idea when BTL52 arrives.

    In defence of the current team and James, lets not forget, he hasn’t been there that long and he’s already addressed a lot of problems reported regarding his first DJ. Those that attended last years were full of praise for the event and James has responded to suggestions and requests about it for this years.

    Just one sour point about this thread:
    I can fully understand Karls frustration at the way things seem to have panned out for BTLi though we’re not aware of the reasons yet. I do feel though that describing the webboard users as “idiots” isn’t altogether useful to anyone.
    Some of those ‘idiots’ are also fully paid up members of the fan club, to be honest having a BTLi moderator describing them as such isn’t exactly sending out a welcome message is it!

  • Yes apologies Steve I didn’t put that very well at all. I certainly did not mean to class everyone who used the webboard as an idiot. Infact I’m perfectly aware that a lot of very intelligent, charming and altogether wonderful people use that forum. I was referring more to the stupid comments or ignorance you get from any successful official site. Again this isn’t meant to suggest any BTLi snobbery, simply that BTLi in being both quieter and requiring a membership fee tended to reduce the number the amount of idiocy to more a managble level. Once again, my apologies for any offence cause “full of” was clearly the wrong choice of words.

    One further thing I would clarify is that my comments here are not related to my moderator position on BTli. I write here only as a fan (and with a lot more swear words).

  • No problem Karl, I wasn’t offended, just making a point..

    I think we all know that BTL needs drastic attention and has to appeal to everyone that buys into it by joining the fan club.
    I think James mentioned around 900 members, BTLi, The Webboard and G&T for that matter are just a small proportion of its readers. I guess it has to appeal to all ages and all mind sets. The fact that it has drifted into a pattern of lateness hasn’t helped but it seems very odd reading reports on events that happened 6 months ago. Hopefully, the team will sort this and a whole new approach seems to me a very good idea. Perhaps we have no choice, but I think we have to give them a chance and pull together on this one. Whilst the on-line community is maybe a small section of the readership, it does seem to be the front line for ideas, at least until it gets re-going.

  • Just wondering, Karl: since you’re a mod and so can still get into BTLi while it’s in maintenance mode, can you see actual changes happening on there behind the scenes? I’m not asking anyone to reveal details ahead of an official announcement, just curious if the current forums have truly been scrapped. I emailed the administrator, Wend, earlier this week to find out when BTLi will be up again but haven’t received a reply yet.

  • Sorry, Mick – your post got accidentally caught by our spam filter. I’ve published it now.

  • Well this is all very interesting isn’t it?

    I can confirm BTL is dead, BTL 52 will be the last issue. I know you’ve heard it all before, but there is a new magazine in pre-production with a new ‘editor’ or ‘compiler’ as it were. Isn’t this long overdue?! There has also been some team changes and some possible goodies is the offing.

    With regards to BTLi, it was put into maintenance mode by me. I rather hasty decision based on a small technical issue which couldn’t be resolved with people logging in all the time. Plus with a backlog of pending members, it needed a spring clean to merge, suspend and delete old accounts and generally tidy up to make admin life easier. The forums will be back online tomorrow morning (or as it is, a few hours time), although I still have much tidying up to do. I apologise to the mods for not stating the exact details about why it was in maintenance mode, however, until today no-one bloody asked (I was out, at work tonight so couldn’t reply to Jo’s text) and certainly nobody bloody confirmed anything with me or the team before posting lots of wild conspiracy theories. So thanks, Karl.

    The one thing I did mention was that there may be a new admin to replace me, but that isn’t definite yet. If such a thing is to happen, people would obviously be informed first.

    The fanclub would not shut up shop without notice or reimbursement, and BTLi would not close indefinitely without notice to all it’s members. Chill out.

  • Deary me…

    Anyway, all shall be good in the coming months. As Wend stated, there’s a new magazine in the pipeline which we’re planning on being a smaller size(A5 size we think, and about 25-30 pages at most)and jammed with Red Dwarf related information, as opposed to so-called personal blogs and pointless rubbish that people have pointed out in the past.

    But anyway, BTL and its successor and the politics surrounding it are nothing to do with me, at present at least. I’m mainly focusing on DJ and some extra special goodies that I’m preparing for it. Some ideas (Which I would like feedback on) include:

    Red Dwarf BBC2 idents – Based on an idea between Me, Wend and Danny Stephenson last year. I believe Danny’s already done some designs for this site which are rather tasty, I’m basically working on video versions of a few 90’s idents with a Red Dwarf twist. These will hopefully be shown before videos at DJ giving more of a television style presentation.

    An interactive flash ‘treasure hunt’ style game for the Fan Club Site – A concept at the moment, while at DJ I’m thinking about filming segments for a DJ flash game to be published online after DJ. Imagine ‘Attack of The Graske’ but set in a hotel. The good thing about this is that I will probably be getting people attending DJ to star in this little caper which could mean you!

    Possible DJ guest interviews – These would be similar to YouTube clips but hosted on the fan club site. A short (~5 mins) interview with some of the guests at DJ. Submissions for questions would be appreciated should this idea be approved.

    A new quiz – Last years quiz was done in a rush, it looked okay, Andrew moaned at me for it being on a par or better than Beat The Geek (Which wasn’t even previewed when I created the Quiz) but I wasn’t satisfied with it at all. I’m hoping to make this years much better.

    And obviously I’ll be doing my usual running around, trying to get talks and whatnot running smoothly and hoping I can sort out a camera for the live projector feed again (I was quite proud of that last year, thinking on my feet that was)

    Oh…. and there’s also the biggie… A project I’m currently planning out very carefully and hopefully if it comes together, looks well and works… Well, lets just say it’ll be Red Dwarf as you’ve never seen it before…

  • Liam, your new ideas sound very exciting indeed.

    Wend, I can see how you ended up closing BTLi, but given the fan club teams’ track record, perhaps you can see why no-one ‘bloody asked’ you why it was down. It does distress me that the general culture within the fan club team is to wield power without explanation, and then blame the fans for not asking for one! Hopefully this is a lesson learned for the future, as there have been problems with communication in the past.

    And it’s also worth mentioning that if people are getting this worried about the future of BTL and BTLi when the series is as old as it is, the fan club team should take it as a compliment!

  • Just to add… it’s back online now.

    I’m the one responsible for the forums, I’m sacrificing myself here so you can all throw stones at me. I’m the ignorant and irresponsible one, although it wasn’t all my decision.

    Once again, it’s so frustrating not being able to explain everything fully and just sit here and take all this shit. If my fan club resignation ever gets accepted (and I do keep handing it in) I might be able to shed some light on all the grey areas.

  • Wend, swivel on it.

    You can twist this anyway you like. You can make accusations that I’m being over-reactionary. Do you know what you may be right. What none of this changes is that it wouldn’t have took two minutes to post a thread in the Mods section and let us know your plans.

    How can any frustration at not being able to communicate with us when the actually section of the board which is meant to be used for such communication wasn’t utilised! Heck it was still operational during the ‘downtime’ as Ian and I exchanged a message.

    You don’t have to take any ‘shit’. I over-reacted because I gave a rat’s arse. I created that new forum – because I gave a rat’s arse. All Ian, Jo, myself and a couple of others wanted was a bit of prior warning.

    You happen to do a bloody great job as Admin, I’m sorry if this one incident hasn’t refelected that. Trouble was this one incident was a bit of flamengo-up. Not a huge one as it turns out, but one none the less.

  • Wend, I take what you’re saying, but… people shouldn’t have to ask why it’s down. There should have been an explanation, to the mods if no-one else. You wonder why people overreact when no explanation is given? Because usually, if the reason is harmless, one would have been. You can’t blame people for crying “conspiracy!” when there’s so little transparency. One simple message would have been enough to defuse the situation – but apparently, not a single fan club team member could be fucked to let anyone know what was happening. Consequently, we’re bound to speculate that there’s something more sinister going on.

    And usual protocol on a community or forum, when it needs to be taken down for any kind of maintenance and hasn’t failed without warning, is to warn users a little (even if it’s only a few hours) in ADVANCE of doing so. Whichever way you look at it, the manner in which it was taken down was simply bad form.

    Your comment about “nobody asked us” really is indicative of the team’s attitude at the moment, though. You’re all constantly shifting the onus onto club members, and that’s really not on. “We’ve got no material for the magazine, but it’s not our fault, no-one’s sent us something”. “Everyone’s wondering why the forum is down, but it’s not our fault, no-one asked”. Can someone please take some fucking responsibility for once? The members don’t owe the team anything – their obligation starts and ends with the subscription fees. The team have a duty to deliver – but at the moment the prevailing attitude (with the exception, I hasten to add, of DJ) seems to be to sit back and let the shit fly.

  • I did post a message, in the mods lounge straight after it went down as well as the message on the front page. Fair enough, I gave the generalisation that there were “issues” that needed sorting out and I wasn’t specific, but it’s unfair to say I took it down without a word or that we would be stupid enough to close it completely without warning. I admit I didn’t follow protocol, but this reaction is a bit OTT. It’s back up now and it won’t happen again, at least not by me, because as I’ve said (and I have already said months ago to James) I’m giving up the admin post – just need someone to replace me.

    Its hard sitting here and taking the flack for the team over and over again, I’m sick of it and the team members that actually do productive things are sick of it too. I’ve quit this team so many times because of this, because of stuff I thought I could fix within the fanclub team overnight, being a newbie on board, and that has taken what seems like years to actually get anywhere.

    We are now making progress, I hope. BTL has come to an end, if it will get sent out in the next week or so, and we can move on with something new, made by new people, and that actually gets to your door on time. And lets be fair, the only real bugbear with the club is BTL, the forum runs itself practically, and DJ is always good (less the venue, which I know we all have issues with).

  • I did post a message, in the mods lounge straight after it went down as well as the message on the front page. Fair enough, I gave the generalisation that there were ?issues? that needed sorting out and I wasn?t specific, but it?s unfair to say I took it down without a word or that we would be stupid enough to close it completely without warning.

    That’s not my point. My point was that the site did not crash, or the database fail, or anything else that meant that a closedown was beyond the power of the mods/admin. It was voluntarily taken down to perform maintenance. Fine. But there was NO advance warning of the fact. That’s just bad etiquette. And the “message on the front page” offered no explanation whatsoever, it was the standard Proboards “maintenance mode” message.

    Wend, I know you’re copping some flak here that you feel you shouldn’t have done, and I’m sorry about that. And I know that, in isolation, it would seem like the likes of Karl and myself are making a mountain out of a molehill over this incident. But when you add it to everything that’s gone on in the last year or so, it’s hard to shake the perception that there’s a lot wrong at admin level in the fan club at the moment, and the members are being shortchanged without ever really getting enough information about what’s going on, or indication that their opinions and suggestions are getting due consideration. I know that you yourself have your own concerns about the way things are run, so this isn’t me getting at you – and I’m sorry that you appear to have borne the brunt of the brunt of the ranting that’s gone on. But if someone in the fan club was actually willing to stand up and take responsibility, and address the fans’ criticisms, just for once, then maybe this wouldn’t happen quite so often.

  • > Wend, swivel on it.
    > You can twist this anyway you like…

    Bloody hell. That was awful of me. Seriously I can’t take that back but I was bang out of order with that.

    Anyhow hopefully the matter is now at a close. Anything else I have to say to Wend I’m conducting via email, which would have been wiser in the first place really)

  • Basically, I’m delighted at Wend and Liam’s further clarification of what changes are being made with the mag. A fresh start indeed.

  • The BBC 2 Red Dwarf idents are a really good idea. you should definetely do them.

    I’m bound to say that aren’t i?

    DJ is sounding like it’s gonna be the best one yet. The new BTL (or whatever it’s going to be called) is promising. The DJ discount and BTL are probably the only reason I join the fan club every year. I can’t say I’m not miffed about the lack of BTL lately, but I just see it as an extended membership. I’ve never been a forum user much anyways, just look at my appalling track record on Rd.co.uk, and BTLi for details…

    Good luck with the Reboot of the fan club.

    That is all.

  • I look quite a bit like Mick in my new avatar, don’t I? What a pair of handsome devils we are.

  • > and jammed with Red Dwarf related information, as opposed to so-called personal blogs and pointless rubbish that people have pointed out in the past

    I suppose the problem lies in that Dwarf is effectively dead and now that the end of the DVDs is coming there’s only going to be scraps of news and info, much of it relating to DJ I’m sure, and the odd piece that someone can be arsed to write (and then probably wished they’d just saved it for their own site). ‘Pointless rubbish’ will still be needed to fill out the mag because I just can’t see a Dwarf-only approach sustaining it for very long. Of course, that’s a pretty negative outlook. A new Dwarf project would help get things off to a good start, there’d be plenty to talk about.

  • I look quite a bit like Mick in my new avatar, don?t I? What a pair of handsome devils we are.


  • Good grief! I can’t really be the only person who emailed Wend about BTLi being in maintenance mode? Her contact email address was right there on the screen with the maintenance mode message. Glad to hear it’s back up.

  • Yes, Leelu – but again, as I said above, the onus should not be on users to ask the admins individually (how annoying would it have been for Wend if twenty or thirty people had all emailed her with the same question?). It should be on the admins to preemptively provide the answer to a question that a lot of people will obviously want to know.

  • God, Leelu, I’m so glad you’re around to point out what silly billys we’ve been.

  • TOS article, although I’m sure you’ve all read it now. What a lovely picture of all those covers.

    Some interesting stuff from James, too.

  • I’ve got all of them! Shame Andrew didn’t go for the *excellent* cover for issue one – a tiny, tiny picture of Hattie, jammed in the middle of the page with nothing else other than a speech bubble pointing out how shit the picture is.

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