Whoosh! Issue 13 - September 1997


A Whoosh! Archive Project
By Diane Silver
Copyright © 1997 held by author
1678 words

Questions were asked in the summer of 1997.

(aka Robert Field, editor)
on his entry into online Xena Fandom

[85] How and why did you decide to involve yourself with online fandom?

[86] My first involvement with online Xena fandom began after I had been made aware of the MCA Netforum. I found it fascinating that I could go online and read people's thoughts, opinions, likes and dis-likes of episodes that were being broadcast almost as soon as they aired. It was a very definite form of "immediate" feedback.

[87] While I never posted to the Netforum (as did Steve Sears (Tyldus) and Rob Mellette (VCU), I was very interested in seeing what other people had to say about the shows. This was the first TV show I had edited, so I was very keen to to find out whether or not people liked the show -- and specifically what things did or did not work for them -- anything that I felt I might be able to utilize to help make the shows better. Not only that, it didn't hurt any to hear good things and realize that the show was hitting an audience and succeeding.

[88] I worked in movie advertising for many years and never had any interaction with anyone who saw material I had worked on (except for reading market research reports and by chance going to a theatre where a "trailer" I had edited was playing and see what the audience's reaction, if any, was) so this was of great interest to me.

[89] What did you first do? Did your involvement change over time, and why did it change?

[90] As you can see, my first online forays were on the Universal Web-site [MCA NetForum]. It was here that I first saw a post about someone starting a "Xena" chat on AOL (GONE GRA aka Laura) and I thought, "Cool. This should be interesting."

[91] In the early days of the AOL chats, I kept a low-profile and didn't reveal for the longest time that I worked on the show. I was more interested in seeing what people had to say without realizing that a "staffer" was in the chat room with them. I really wasn't trying to be sneaky, but I didn't want to appear to be someone who was looking for special attention or some kind of ego-gratification. I also wanted to preserve (to some degree) my privacy. So, I kept quiet and just observed - for the most part.

[92] Also, sometime early on, I decided upon the name "Avicus" to use as my internet persona while investigating various Xena related things on the net. It seemed like an obvious choice. Most of the names that Steve Sears, R.J. Stewart, Chris Manheim and the other writers were putting into the scripts seemed to end in "US" - Tyldus, Cycnus, Spheerus, Darius, etc. As Kym Taborn, I suspect, correctly concluded, the name did come about as a result of the computer editing system I work on -- AVID. I thought at first of Avidus -- but didn't like the sound of it so I decided on Avicus. And that is how I started going to the chat rooms and answering mail.

[93] For awhile, I was able to preserve my anonymity. However, after a period of time I started answering questions about specific things about the show and it became obvious to people that I must be working on the series in some capacity. In one particular AOL chat, Michael Levine -- director of CRADLE OF HOPE and ALTARED STATES, etc. -- caught me giving out some show-specific information about CHARIOTS OF WAR and asked me via IM [immediate messaging on AoL] who the he** I was.) So, eventually it got out that I was a film-editor on the show. Still, I didn't tell people who "I" was. I figured if they really wanted to find out, they could go and look at the end credits for the shows.

[94] The chats became a variety of things for me. One, I could get first-hand and immediate reactions to various episodes -- which was important to me. Two, I could satisfy people's thirst for information and satisfy their curiosity about things related to the production of the show -- how many days they shoot for an episode, how long does it take to edit an episode, etc. etc. Three, I had a lot of fun teasing with the fans online (and being teased right back) as well as throwing out "little" spoilers for upcoming episodes and describing some of the current "bloopers" I had seen. It was a lot of fun for me and I hope for the other chatters as well.

[95] I should mention also that, at some point or other, Steve Sears and I happened to go into the AOL chat at the same time. For those who don't know Steve personally he is quite funny and has an extremely vicious "sarcastic" side to him. For whatever reason, he started throwing pretty pointed "barbs" at me during the chat. So, I responded in kind and everyone went nuts -- they loved it! For awhile, it seemed that the online chatters were more interested in seeing Steve and I go at one another than discussing the shows -- but even though some people got worried that we really hated one another -- it was really just meant in good fun and not to be taken seriously at all.

[96] Over time, I have also gone to some of the IRC chats -- which have been variously on Dalnet, Undernet and Starlink -- to name a few. My visits there have been much the same as the AoL chats and for the same reasons.

[97] I also have subscribed to various mailing lists - including Herc/Xena, Chakram and Xenaverse. I decided to drop Herc/Xena at one point because I was not interested in Fan-Fic or Fluff - and the mail just got to be too heavy. I enjoyed Chakram a great deal because it was moderated and dealt mostly with the show itself -- which is where my primary interest was and is. I must have gotten dropped by their server somehow or other and just have not gotten back on. I do read posts from Xenaverse from time to time and will respond to specific things occasionally when I feel my input will be of interest or help settle a debate. Again, my interest in the mailing lists was to get feedback about the show, which was what started my interest in the Universal Netforum as I stated previously.

[98] As to the NetForum, I don't go there anymore. Not only is the server too slow and clunky to suit me, I seemed to feel that the quality of the letters diminished over time, there were fewer and fewer "show" specific posts, more and more personal greetings and so forth, more troll activity and special interest cliques that seemed to be forming. So, I just stopped going there.

[99] As to the AoL and IRC chats, I still go from time to time, but nowhere near as often as I used to. Why? Primarily my free time has gotten shorter somehow. Also, after working on the series continuously for the last two years and heading into third season (and, likely a fourth and fifth) I felt like I was getting a little "over-saturated" with the show. There are a lot of other things in my life that I like to do and I needed a better balance. However, I still go periodically and always enjoy my time online. Most of the people I meet are fun, bright and friendly and over time I have gotten to know many of them by name and, some, personally. I suspect I will be online a bit more often when new episodes start airing again.

[100] Has your involvement in online fandom been helpful to you in your work? At times has it made your work more difficult?

[101] My involvement with online Xena fandom has been helpful to me in my work in several ways. First, it let me know that we were doing something right, so I continued on with what I was doing and didn't vary it much - except for always trying to make my editing better. Second, it provided me with a better overall view of the show and I think this translates, for me, into making a better product. Also, I love working on this show and knowing there are people out there who also love it and with whom I can communicate directly has made the whole process enormously gratifying and a lot of fun. I can't say that it has ever made my work more difficult except, perhaps, that some of the people with whom I work are not as involved in the online experience and don't quite understand it -- and so they have a tendency to give me "the look". But, that's their business. On the whole, we are all grateful that the show has been successful and I, personally, enjoy and welcome all commentary from the Net fans - good or bad.

[102] The only time the oline experience has become less than enjoyable for me is when "some" people have taken it upon themselves to make assumptions about upcoming episodes and attack the motives and/or even the personal characters of people who work on the show. This is not only unkind, it is (some things I have read) seriously innacurate. Speaking for myself (and as such, my interpretation of the goal of Renaissance Pictures) is simply to make a good, entertaining, quality TV show that we enjoy and hope others will enjoy as well. So far, it seems to be working!

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