Tuesday, February 26, 2008
Monster Fandom Interview: Morgan
"Fandom is a term used to refer to a subculture composed of fans characterized by a feeling of sympathy and camaraderie with others who share a common interest. A fandom can grow up centered around any area of human interest or activity."
I interviewed Morgan about Jericho some time ago then decided it would be fun to interview her about fandoms in general. Thank you, Morgan, for this most insightful interview. You are an asset to any fandom and I'm happy you love Jericho.
1. What was the first fandom you were part of and why did you join?
I think the first fandom I joined was the "Uncle Walt Club." I was around 8 years old, nd the local CBS affiliate had a local kids' show called "Uncle Walt" every weekday afternoon. They aired "Astro Boy" on that show, and I fell in love with a drawing on celluloid. Uncle Walt had a "fan club," and I begged my Mom to give me the $1 it cost to join. Of course, the show eventually ended, but I was a faithful Uncle Walt Fan until I was 11 or so. Eventually, I moved on to other fandoms, like the Beatles, the Monkees and STAR TREK, but Astro Boy was my first "fandom" experience. Just as an FYI, Astro Boy is an old Japanese animation series, and is still popular in Japan today.
2. How many fandoms have you been part of in total?
Oh, goodness, let me think. As far as organized fandoms, probably around 15 to 20. Unorganized? -- many more. There have been numerous "official fan clubs" I joined, like those for various music groups, actors and TV shows. I was very active in STAR TREK fandom and STAR WARS fandom, but less so FIREFLY fandom (The Browncoats do rock, though). I also belonged to the "Robin of Sherwood" (Michael Praed) fan club at one time. I also belonged to fandoms for SF & Fantasy authors; specifically those of Anne McCaffrey ("The Dragonriders of Pern") and Mercedes Lackey ("The Heralds of Valdemar" books). I was a member of the Dracula Fan Club (yes, there really is a fan club for Dracula!) for several years, as well. I did get briefly involved with the original BATTLESTAR GALACTICA fandom, but that didn't last very long. I was also a big fan of Japanese Anime, and heavily involved with ELFQUEST fandom. I actually opened a branch of that club, complete with meetings and a quarterly newsletter.Oh, and I got involved with this JERICHO fandom, though I don't know if you've heard of it. ::grins::
3. Which was most enjoyable and why?
That's hard to say because each of them offered unique opportunities for learning new things and having new experiences. I can't really compare them to each other, but if I had to pick a favorite, I guess it would be a tie between STAR TREK and JERICHO. They are both very similar, in that we waged a campaign to bring the shows back. TREK fans had it a bit harder because of the time period, not necessarily the obstacles. And, if I had to give a reason why both JERICHO and TREK fans succeeded it was loyalty to one another and to the cause. Both groups were fighting against very high odds, but no one gave up, no one surrendered. Many TREK fans are still loyal to the original show, and that was a fight we fought over 40 years ago. So, the things I learned in that battle helped me fight for JERICHO. Both have been fun and agonizing, but both have been worth every moment of involvement.
4. How difficult was it to wage a campaign without the Internet?
Better ask how much easier it is to wage a campaign WITH the Internet! You young whipper-snappers don't know how easy you have it! Why, when we were fighting for TREK, we had to use pencils, pens and paper -- and dial phones! No push buttons for us. No, sir! Electric typewriters (if you were lucky your parents would let you go to their office and use their IBM Selectric!) and hand-cranked mimeograph machines were about the most advanced equipment we had. Phone calls had to be made one at a time, because we didn't even have 3-way calling!
I joke now, but that's about the way it was. Long distance calls were rare and expensive. TREK "cells" would designate one person to call the regional leaders to get news updates. The U.S. Postal Service was our best friend, and sometimes the Postal carrier cringed to see the amount of mail we sent and received. It took us days to do what JERICHO fans do in seconds, and months to win our victory. Primitive as it was, we succeeded in making our own TV history. We paved the way for the future in more ways than one. We may be old, now, but we're still working for shows like JERICHO.
5. How do you believe the Internet has impacted fan campaigns?
With near instant communication at our fingertips, how can it not impact any kind of campaign. Whether it's political or fannish, the Internet has opened doors we could only imagine and dream of in the 60s. Fiber-optic phone lines have improved the use of the ordinary telephone. Cell phone technology. All of that could have made one hell of an impact on the TREK campaign. But, like anything, fandom, too, had to walk before it could run, so I wouldn't trade my experiences in TREK fandom, fighting for a 3rd season of STAR TREK. From those humble beginnings, we have a lot of tecnology born of a TV show. STAR TREK (as other futuristic shows) opened our eyes and let us dream of a future without fear of nuclear holocaust. We learned to dream, and when we finished dreaming, we turned our thoughts to "making it so." And, so, yes, the Internet has impacted the world, not just fandom. It has opened doors we didn't even know existed at one time. It has made possible today, what we only dreamed of in the 60s.
6. What is the most important thing being in fandoms has taught you?
It's taught me to not be afraid to dream, and to believe in dreams coming true. I've learned some bitter lessons in fandom, especially when one person's agenda doesn't take into consideration the feelings, goals and needs of others. I've seen wonderful things accomplished in fandom -- like clubs raising money to save a child's life, or a town survive disaster. I've seen kindness and generosity above and beyond the call of anything remotely resembling duty. Fandom has taught me tolerance, respect and faith. It's taught me not to be afraid to reach out to people, even though I might get burned. It's taught me trust, and it's taught me caution. It's taught me how to not only talk the talk, but walk the walk, and to be content with who and what I am. It's not always fun to learn these lessons, but I've learned them over the past 40+ years, and I will take these lessons with me to the grave. Above all, it's taught me to try and find the good, even in the midst of negativity, and to believe in that good no matter how hard it gets.
7. Do you believe networks are too quick to cancel shows? Why or why not?
Only when it's a show I like! No, seriously. I think networks need to find new ways of counting their numbers. They need to catch up with technology and learn how to keep their finger on the pulse of their viewing audience. They need to remember there are many different demographics out here, and to try and offer something for us all. There needs to be ways of measuring reaction to shows without Nielsen box; and start thinking outside the box. They need to listen to the feedback they get from email and online, and take it to heart. People don't take time to write long, involved letters these days. They have email, feedback, etc. So, yes, if networks only use the hidebound traditional ways to count shows, they cancel them before they should be. Times have changed. The family doesn't crowd around the TV together anymore. The TV isn't the main focus of the home anymore, and the networks need to realize this. In other words, fan protests aren't just about enjoyable programs, it's about changing attitudes, and getting more quality for our time.
8. What have you enjoyed most as a fandom member? Least?
I think what I've most enjoyed about being part of fandom is meeting people. When I was younger, I was shy, withdrawn, introverted and thus didn't make friends easily. It wasn't until I got involved in STAR TREK fandom that I began to meet others who were like me, and it gave me a sense of "belonging." I could relate to what these other fans were saying; I'd been left out of teams, ridiculed for being smart, and had exactly ONE date in high school (and it wasn't to the Prom, either!). Many of us were alike in that respect, and in others. We could discuss Science Fiction written by Andre Norton (one of the most highly respected women writers of the 20th Century), and talk about TV shows we liked, and speculate about the future. It was scary back in the 60s; there was the Cold War, Vietnam, the Bay of Pigs and the Cuban Missile Crisis. Times were changing, and STAR TREK actually gave many of us hope that the future might just turn out all right after all. So, the part I like best about fandom will always be the people one can meet and relate to, and come to care about. It's the same in JERICHO fandom; amidst all the scary stuff there are people who are kind, and who aren't afraid to reach out to one another and share the hope that tomorrow will be a better day.
As for what I like least about fandom? The in-fighting. Fandom, unfortunately, builds on an infrastructure that can easily lead to back-biting, insults, egotism and all uselessly. There is no such thing as "real" power in fandom; it's all pretence. Posturing is so childish, but there will always be some involved in fandom who cannot see the forest for the trees, and insist they "control" fandom. No one does. Fandom is a phenomenon, not a controllable element. It can be pointed to positive ends, and it can be used to hurt people. It's so much better when the phenomenon is used for the right purposes.
9. Do you believe a person who joins a fandom is somehow different from one who is simply a fan who watches the show and doesn't get involved?
Yes, and no. Everyone is different, one from the other. Everyone is unique, and they may have similarities, but they will all be different, and get involved in different ways and for different reasons. This is a difficult question. In many cases, something inside a person just makes them get more involved than others. Chances are, they're also involved with other causes, not just fandom. Fandom is something in which a person can put as much, or as little, time as they wish, and still be involved. Some folks will automatically jump in with both feet. They're the ones who create forums, write blogs and build online communities. Others will enjoy what those people build, but won't be inclined to create it themselves. Fandom needs ALL those people, not just "movers & shakers." It needs people to be vocal and creative, and it needs the silent supporters. Everyone is valuable in a fandom, and no one is any more important than anyone else. Different? Yes, in that most people who get heavily involved in fandom want to make a difference in the world. Fandom isn't always frivolous; fandom can be motivational and dedicated to making the world a better place.
10. How important is leadership to a fandom?
It depends upon the type of leadership. A true leader doesn't walk over everyone else and think they know best. Leadership is knowing how to help everyone in a fandom find their niche, and be a guide, not a dictator. Most people who WANT to be leaders shouldn't be. Guidance is important to fandom, far more than individual leaders. Most fandoms have core groups who helped start the fandom; some see them as leaders, but if they're truly interested in the good of the fandom, they will be more inspirations and examples than leaders. Tacitus said it well: "Reason and judment are the qualities of a leader." There is no true power in fandom, just prestige and preception. A fan only has the power that other fans hand to them, and most people who want the forefront in fandom should really not have it. The best leaders are those who walk the walk, not just talk the talk. Real professional people have a dim view of fandom and fans mostly because many fans have a crushing need to be "important." True leaders have no need to be important, and would rather have respect. Having the respect of a fandom is far more important than being seen as a leader.
Anything else you'd like to add?
These were some of the most interesting, thought-provoking questions I've ever been asked, and I greatly appreciate the honor you've done me. As you know, I rarely have difficulty expressing myself or giving my opinion, but these questions made me sit and think about my answers. I was flattered and truly enjoyed being a part of your blog. Fandom has helped me through some very difficult times in my life, and fans can be the most generous, kind, loving people on earth. They can also be a formidable force, and should never be taken lightly. As April Parker so eloquently said, fandom is "power to the people, power OF the people." Fans should recognize this, and accept responsibility for their actions. Fandom should always be altruistic, not self-glorifying. Peace.