Sunday, March 30, 2008

Monster Interview: Gwen Part II

Gwen On Fandoms: Part II

4. If you lived in a town like Jericho how would what you've learned in the SCA be a benefit to survival?

I was at a large SCA event, when we had a disaster, which actually was rather Jericho-like. The event was the Twenty Year Celebration of the SCA, which had an attendance of 6000-8000. It was held from April 25 to May 4, 1986 in Magnolia, Texas.

Most of us had no access to the outside world, since only a few areas had electricity and most people did not have radios in their camp. The news spread via word of mouth. The Chernobyl Disaster in Russia happened right at the beginning of the event, so some of us wondered if we would be able to get back to our home states. Gradually the news filtered down that the US was in no danger.

Near the end of the event, we had a very heavy storm that dropped nine inches of rain in 24 hours with 60 mph winds. That evening, we braced the tent really well on the side the wind was coming from, and parked the van in front for a wind break. In the middle of the night, the wind switched and we and the neighbors we were sheltering (whose camp was flooded) had to collapse the tent and sleep in the van.

The next morning, as I walked to my staff meeting, I wondered if we should pack up and leave. I knew we were not going to be able to set the camp back up. The kitchen was still fully functional, but the tent around it wasn’t.

I got to my staff meeting and found out that many had lost their tents, and had no dry clothing or bedding. The top staff members were considering calling in the Red Cross, but instead decided to open up the large circus tent for those who had lost their shelter. They were concerned about how to feed everyone, so I volunteered to move our kitchen into the tent. I thought it was a good trade, our kitchen and camp members, in exchange for a nice dry area to sleep.

The heralds were sent out with the camp shouts telling all to come to the circus tent if they needed shelter and for others that had fared better to donate dry bedding, clothing, and any extra food.

All day long people dropped off ice chests full of food, dry sleeping bags and extra clothing. We had soup of the hour (ingredients changed very hour) all day long and served hot drinks too. The food merchants (who were in stone booths) donated their extras when they closed up shop, so there was always food available. That was a day much like the day depicted at the Jericho town BBQ, where everyone pitched together and helped one another. All of us were really proud, when it was announced the next day, that there was no need to call in the Red Cross.

What I learned: ALWAYS brace your tent on both sides, hot liquids are best to combat hypothermia, a lot of ingredients can go in a soup together and still taste good, soup can feed a LOT of people, and that the collective SCA skills and generosity might someday save my life.

5. What led you to become involved in the Jericho fandom?

I watched Jericho from the first episode and was hoping it would not be canceled. The day CBS announced their new line-up, I saw Jericho had been canceled. I quickly googled “Save Jericho” and went to the first link and started reading messages and sending letters and nuts. I kept seeing a lot of links to the CBS message board, so I eventually went there a few days before the news was announced that Jericho had been saved.

6. What do you see as the benefits of belonging to any fanbase?

There is an article about the SCA by Leanne Tibiatowski of Vision Magazine (3/06). Her premise is that the SCA had become the participant’s village and that we all search for a “village” to belong to. Any fandom or fanbase can become your village, and our inner need for a village has increased with modern day families being so spread out.

I think the inner need for a village also increases the problems within fandoms. Participants crave peer acceptance in their fandom, and this need for peer acceptance is often the root cause of fandom disputes. It’s also the reason why most fandoms end up with some appreciation recognition (i.e. Monster Fan of the Week).

7. You helped out with Timecon in the 1990's. What was Timecon?

Timecon was a medium sized Dr. Who/Star Trek convention in San Jose in the early 90’s. It was run by my brother-in-law and my sister and I both worked at the convention. It ran for 4 years and I mainly worked security. When that convention folded many of the security people went on to form a security group that still works at different conventions in California.

8. Do you feel the Internet has led to more people being involved in fandoms?

Yes, because it makes finding fandom groups so much easier. I had heard of the SCA before I finally stumbled upon the group several years later. Today I would just have to google SCA to find information.

9. You're also involved in the Jericho Kansas Inc. fan club. Do you think an Internet based fan club can be successful?

Yes, any fan club would have no problem being internet based.

However, an internet based non-profit is more difficult. Jericho Kansas Inc is a non-profit and it’s been an interesting experience trying to adapt what I’m familiar with to an internet non-profit.

Fortunately, California (where Jericho Kansas incorporated) had already adapted their non-profit laws to include internet communication and board meetings. The most intense research I did was finding rules of order that would work for internet meetings, since Robert’s Rules of Order is NOT recommended. After three days of intense internet research, I came across a study which helped me figure out what would work.

10. What is the most important lesson you have learned after all these years of involvement in assorted fandoms?

Develop a thick skin and don’t take critical comments too personally. Since fandoms are so diverse and the participants are not the same age group, of similar background, of similar faiths, from the same country, etc.; misunderstandings are going to occur.

How we all deal with those misunderstandings is what will define the Jericho fandom. The mindset of “you’ve attacked my friend, therefore I must attack you” is one of the most harmful things that can happen to any fandom. Once this tactic is taken, it is hard for the original participants to work things out and the small problems magnify into large ones.

The SCA has a culture of work things out in private and do not make the problems public. Although this doesn’t always solve the problems, it does limit the innocent bystanders who are affected.

11.Anything you'd like to add?

I love Jericho and I’ve enjoyed meeting the various Jericho fans I’ve had contact with. Please come by and say hello at Jericho-Kansas.com.


Balceroregontr said...

Gwen's comments are very insightful. I have thought of the smaller forums as small groups in a large organization. I know in big churches they say that if people don't find a small group to belong to they usually leave or only participate on a limited basis and I believe that applies to fandoms too. You need a local level as well as the large overall fandom. I think her most important statement is that you attacked my friend I will attack you hurts fandoms. It has been a major problem in this fandom. Over the internet it is easier to attack people because you do not have to face the person you are attacking. People need to learn to disagree with each respectfully. There is no need for a win/lose mentality and actually functioning that way makes the whole fandom lose.

Jericho Returns said...

Debby, I agree with you. Not only is attacking in retaliation a problem; so is telling other people who they should/shouldn't be friends with. The whole fandom does lose in such a situation.

terocious said...

Outstanding Interview! Thank you Gwen for letting us get to know you a little better and for all of your hardwork on behalf of Jericho and us fans. You are a super Ranger!