Scenial - The Advocate of the Imphobia Phobia

Written by Adok

After the historical overviews about Imphobia and Daskmig in Hugi #13 and Hugi #15 respectively, I felt every Hugi issue with an odd number should feature a review of an old diskmag summing up its entire rise and fall. Yet it was quite hard for me to choose a diskmag for this issue; after all Imphobia and Daskmig are the only mags of the past that caught much attention and held high position in the charts for a long time. Then, remembering that I mentioned the Imphobia dissident fake zine v.O.L.V.o by Rectum Cauda in my retrospective about Daskmig, Imphobia's arch-enemy came back into my mind: Scenial.

Actually it started out quite harmless. In September 1994, the Flemish group Access Denied released the premier issue of their new scenzine Scenial, subtitle: "The Real Thing". As we could read in the mag, the main persons behind the new diskmag, namely the coder Lord Cyrix and the chief editor Venior, had already had the idea to make a PC diskmag before Imphobia's first issue came out, in 1991. Now their dream had come true: Scenial was born.

Already this issue featured quite a lot of articles and contributions by well-known people, including the Future Crew stars Pixel and Purple Motion. Yet the quality of the graphics was pretty low, the texts were hard to read since the background colours had influence on the foreground colour (like in old Daskmig issues), and there was an annoying intro consisting of a logo, some colour effects, the credits and a couple of blurred 3d objects that was always played after starting the magazine without any way to stop it.

Apart from these nasty little details, Scenial #1 seems to be pretty bug-free. It still works on nowadays' PCs. I managed to start it even from Windows 95 DOS box. However, you will hear Purple Motion's soundtrack only if you have a Gravis UltraSound card.

Content-wise, Scenial is slightly different from the other diskmags of that time. A serious, objective writing style was deliberately avoided. The magazine contained lots of polemics, brutal flames, and arrogant elite talk crowded with four-letter-words. There was even an anarchist corner with subjects like how to get food for free or how to commit suicide. Venior's arguments against democracy should, however, not be taken entirely seriously; the whole magazine is, as the staff keeps emphasizing all the time, for pure entertainment only.

"Pure Entertainment" is also the name of one of the sections in Scenial issue one. This one is a non-scene corner deadling with topics like how to get to fuck a girl easily. The other sections are "Home Base" (the editor's ramblings), "Scene Hall" (the more serious scene-related texts), "The Lobby" (place for all kinds of rants about the demo scene), "Serious Computainment", "Fun Computainment" (general computer related), "Technical Warp", "Interview Torturing", "Charts", the already mentioned "Anarchy Class" and "Greetings".

Scenial versus Imphobia

Scenial #1 also featured a review of the Imphobia disk magazine. This one was actually the most objective article in the whole zine; the author, Venior, behaved with reserve. You can agree with most of the points listed in the review no matter what your opinion about Imphobia is. While obvious flaws were criticised, the good points about Imphobia got the praise they deserved. For that reason, it may appear strange to most readers that it was Scenial who would later turn out to be Imphobia's greatest enemy - and which would lead to one of the few big magwars in the history of the PC Scene.

If you look behind the scenes, you can notice a remarkable personal fight between Darkness, the Imphobia main editor, and Venior that had been going on for a longer time. In one of the first Imphobia issues you can spot an interview with the group Access Denied. Their half-childish elitist behaviour, such as sending not only greetings but also "fuckings" to other demo groups in their prods, was then heavily criticised by the Imphobia editors. And it remained a reason for occasional arguments for a long time. Even in Imphobia #10 Darkness still refered to that old interview, stating that as Scenial showed, their attitude had not changed at all.

There are two main reasons for Scenial's disdain of Imphobia. One is political. While Darkness' native language is French, the Scenial staff members come from the Dutch part of Belgium. Like about 10% of the Flemish people, Venior does not like the French-speaking people.

The second is that Scenial wanted to start a "war" with Imphobia to get attention in the scene and in this way gain new readers. For this reason, Imphobia tried to ignore Scenial as long as possible. However, this was not possible for ever.

In the beginning of 1995, a fake bugfix for Imphobia #9 suddenly appeared in the scene. The file_id.diz said it had been made by an unknown group called "Templar" and would fix a cursor bug. Not suspecting any danger, many people executed it. Suddenly a new, fake title picture appeared in Imphobia #9, and some additional typos appeared in the mag. For instance, Imphobia's coder "Wizard" became a "Lizard".

Darkness/Imphobia immediately spread a newsletter warning from the "bugfix". He also stated that the fix might do some more harm than just modifying some words; perhaps even a virus was included in the code.

As it later turned out, the bugfix was harmless - fortunately. What also turned out: The creator of this fake bugfix was Lord Cyrix, the coder of Scenial and then member of the Belgian division of Surprise!Production.

Because of the S!P organizers' request who did not want any damage to the reputation of their group solely because of a stupid action of one of their Belgian members, Imphobia did not immediately publish this information. However, when Venior started spreading "fake rumours" around the scene about Imphobia having published a letter he had not written under his name, Darkness felt forced to publish a second clarification newsletter with several BBS logs which should prove that the published letter had really been written by Venior.

Scenial #2 - The Anti-Imphobia Injection?

Soon after that, Lord Cyrix and Venior were kicked from S!P and decided to form their own group: Beans, which should only release diskmags. By about the same time the Polish division of S!P also left their mother group to form Pulse together with the French artists from Infiny. A great coup was pulled off by Beans when they got their ex-groupmates to stopping releasing their Polish/English magazine Bad News and contributing to the second issue of Scenial instead. With music by Scorpik and graphics by Niko and Teevaan, Scenial #2 looked much better than its ugly predecessor.

Also, the intro was skipped in favour of a good-looking title picture showing a woman's face and the logos of the two groups. Apparently, the Scenial staff had learned from their designing errors of the past.

Actually it was not all that simple. For many months, it looked like Scenial #1 would remain the only issue. The mag seemed to be dead. Then, Reebok/S!P from Austria stated in an interview that he would take over the job of the Scenial main editor. But this surprise announcement was a one-day wonder. The old staff of course did not intend to give their power away to other people, even if they were group members of theirs.

In the end it took almost two years until "Scenial 2: The Injection" was released. To be precise, the magazine saw the light of the scene world in May 1996, one month after the fourth and last issue of Bad News. For this reason it is no wonder that many articles were outdated. That is why the party report section, for instance, was named "Ancient Party Reviews". In general, not much about the writing style and the contents had changed after issue one. Apart from the party reports two new sections were introduced, "Culture" and "Music Corner".

Also a few articles by the pretty experienced writer Unreal brought some variety into the mag.

In the article "Hello from Unreal", we can read that Unreal had decided to stop writing for Imphobia as he was getting bored by the often repeating background graphics made by always the same graphic artist, the section structure that had been kept unchanged for a couple of issues, and the way too serious writing style. He enjoyed the freedom he had in the pure entertainment magazine Scenial.

According to reliable sources, however, this anti-Imphobia part had been added to the article by the Scenial staff. Unreal got quite upset about that and later decided to write for Imphobia again.

This issue looked fine, had good English and also got some positive feedback from the scene, but most readers were shocked by the anarchist corner and the dirty words that were used all over the mag.

I was able to run Scenial #2 only in Windows 95, not in MS-DOS mode. Even though Sound Blaster cards were supported, I had to disable music output. The screen flickered like hell due to the use of a weird tweaked video mode Windows did not support, but with some effort you could read the articles. Of course your eyes were heavily damaged afterwards, but who cares.

The Wired '97 Diskmag Compo Winner

A year later, in July 1997, a file called appeared on Hornet. The diskmag freaks of the scene were astonished: If this was the fourth issue of Scenial, what had happened to the third?

As the infofile of Scenial #4 claimed, the third issue of Scenial, with the subtitle "The Original", had been released six months before.

In fact Scenial #3 does not exist. The fact that the Scenial staff, which now consisted only of Beans members, spread wrong information in their infofile intentionally showed the change in the style of the magazine.

Even though Scenial had never been a serious magazine, the scene-related articles contained at least a bit of serious information in the older issues. Now Scenial almost entirely dealt with the scene in a satirical way.

A striking example was the advert section. The adverts had been taken from Imphobia and modified to fool the mentioned people. According to these fake adverts, various people, among them Scenial's former collaborator Unreal, lived in India, others were trading sexpics, and some who wrote "No warez please!" in their original adverts were looking for "warez only". The reader could also find instructions how to make decent "Orange" juice or a true "Melon Dezign" melon. Somebody announced the foundation of a group called "Europe" whom everybody could join; Future Crew, Orange, Nooon, and others would already be part of it. The invitation ended with an ominous Egyptian address. Obviously a parody to the European Union.

From an technical and artistic point of view, "Scenial 4: The Kick Off", the self-proclaimed winner of the Wired '97 diskmag competition, was very good. The DOS-based interface requires a clean boot and UniVBE but works all okay on my PC. Even the music, composed by Godhead, plays correctly.

The background graphics looked very much like in issue 2 but were more colorful. Some simple effects had been added to the zine. Also, coloured cliparts could be embedded into the articles; a pretty new feature, as the only PC diskmag that had featured cliparts before had been Daskmig.

Well designed and spiced with humour, this magazine got quite some attention in the PC demo scene.

Actually it is the only PC scenzine from 1997 in English language that can be considered worth seeing and reading.

The attached votesheet for Scenial #5 had been ripped off from Imphobia and included the poll question "What should be improved in Imphobia? Any suggestions?" The possible answers were: "I think the articles are way too serious", "Isn't that a music disk?", "I hate the spelling errors (twenty spelling errors per article)", "Less Clean & Cool, more Dirty & Bastard", "It should be more boring", "I can't make up my mind, I guess all of'm".

Also in the editorial, Venior continued his anti-Imphobia campaign. "There are only two diskmags - Imphobia and Scenial", was the essence of what he said. He concluded with an appeal to all sceners to start making new magazines and support every mag except Imphobia. To finally break the monopoly of Imphobia.

This appeal came pretty late. Imphobia had already stopped releasing a year before. With the end of Imphobia, also Scenial seems to have become obsolete. "Scenial 5: The Generator", promised to be released "soon" after Scenial #4, never came.

Or is it another "super-elite issue" like Scenial #3?