From the Editor-in-Chief: Whoosh! Anniversary, XWP, And Societal Change
From the Graphics Editor: The Night Of The Scary Fans
From the Editor in Chief: Whoosh! Anniversary, XWP, And Societal ChangeSeptember 17, 1998 will mark Whoosh!'s on-line 2nd anniversary. It has been an interesting project. Whoosh! has been and shall remain a non-commercial venture. We do not pay contributors or staff, and neither do we accept payment from other sources. Okay, we have received free stuff in the past (thanks for the dinner at the Con, Jill), individually and as an entity, which more often than not, usually winds up being disclosed on our Shameless Promotions area (we have a rudimentary understanding of quid pro quo, even though I have been waiting about a year for my mints!!!). Some staff have other semi-related projects and have lucked out and have received nominal compensation, but this was for their individual efforts and not WHOOSH association. Whoosh! is maintained and administered by rank and file fans. Volunteers run different areas of the website. IAXS members, who contribute the articles, do so out the goodness of their heart and create the distinctiveness of WHOOSH. By the way, all these people are hard core nutballs in the most literal meaning of the phrase.
I find it a testament to the enthusiasm and dedication of XWP fans that the last time I ever had to solicit members for articles was the third issue, back in November 1996. This illustrates the uniqueness of XWP fandom. No matter how controversial things get, the show still inspires professionals/ non-professionals, academics/non-academics, frequent writers/ infrequent writers, and the like, to share their thoughts with other fans. The topics hit upon philosophy, popular culture, sociology, history, mythology, psychology, humor, politics, business practices, biography, analyses, statistics, fan fiction, conventions, production -- basically, you name it and it is likely someone has touched upon the subject.
The authors' creativity, their respect and concern for the show, their unabashed joy in writing about the show, their loyalty to the ideas associated with the show, and their appreciation of having been touched (one way or another) by the show, leaves me many times in awe. Plain and simple, awe. I am proud to have been able to be a part of this community which formed when a diverse group of people arose when they realized that this show was more than just a campy, goofy, and quirky sword and sandal fantasy.
I would like to believe it is human nature that when an important positive paradigm shift happens in society, that many will desire to recognize it and to assimilate it into their own lives. XWP blew me away, figuratively and literally, because of its underlying support and exploration of ideas such as the equality of women and men; the eradication of prejudice; the healing nature of guilt, redemption, and friendship; and the paradoxical relationship between the individual and society. I am grateful for not only being part of a community which recognized these aspects in a TV show (of all places), but also for the added blessing of being able to help document, disseminate, and preserve the message that XWP can indeed be used to instigate thought, debate, and a deeper understanding of our society and what we want our society to be.
Each journey is begun by small steps. No matter how small the step, if it is going forward, it is still a critical part of the journey. Social change works slowly and from the grassroots up. Ideas such as the emancipation of women and the eradication of prejudice have to literary infect each individual, one at a time, before it can reach the critical mass required to change a society overtly. It is critical for our society to absorb these ideas in a more profound way than we have in the past. Isolated pockets of proto-cultural change are popping up all over. XWP is just one of many opportunities currently out there in the world.
The fans have noticed that XWP does have cultural value beyond that of a disposable culture. The fans have devoted time and energy and funds to the study and sharing of their ideas about the issues arising from the show. They have co-opted the Internet in order to disseminate the information in a hitherto unknown efficient and mass communication method. It is one thing to recognize an idea as important, but it is another thing to arise and create a culture of information and artistic expression around that idea. XWP has done that, and more. The presence of XWP fans on the Internet attest to this high degree of service to fellow fans and to society at large (not to mention the aid and abetting of creating a world culture -- the influence of the Internet is unprecedented and all pervasive).
Because the fans have recognized the value of XWP and have made a record of their valuation, the professional media, academia, and popular culture have become aware of the uniqueness and cultural importance of XWP, and consequently, has promoted further the ideas which are embedded and associated with XWP, of which the most important are: the fundamental flaws of prejudice based upon ethnicity, sexual or social identity, and political preference; the universality of the "human condition"; and the persistent need for personal and societal redemption in all of us.
To be sure, XWP for every step taken forward, has taken some steps backward, but from where I stand, the mere fact that they have taken these steps forward is so refreshing, so inspiring, and so powerful that it shines as a beacon. It is that beacon that attracts me to the show, like a moth to a light, although I hope it does not kill me. Yes, I am attracted by the humor, the quirkiness, the gorgeous scenery, and the ensemble acting (since they recycle so many New Zealand actors, I feel like I know many of the actors better than I do the people I live next too), but I also realize that those aspects I can find in other places -- it is the other "messages" which make me want to devote my discretionary time to making sure 60,000 plus people a month can visit yet one more XWP website. I suspect, especially after considering the 300 plus articles currently on-line on Whoosh!, that I am not alone.
So, the contributors to Whoosh! should be proud of their contributions. And not just the contributors, but the readers and visitors to this site should pat themselves on the shoulder as well, because research, ideas, and information are useless unless they pass through the community.
And now for something completely different.
Next month Whoosh! will be celebrating our boffo 2nd anniversary with a theme issue on the phenomenon of XWP fan fiction. Our guest editor will be Bat Morda, that well-known and humble fan fiction author who (1) single-handedly created an unstoppable obsession with Janice Covington and Melinda Pappas; (2) turned THE XENA SCROLLS in the estimation of the fans from a mediocre episode into a highly revered concept; and (3) unwittingly planted a few seeds for the UberXena genre.
Fanfiction represents the most creative, most fertile, and most prolific aspect of Xena fandom. From the looks of the articles thus contributed, it looks like it will be one of the best WHOOSHes I have ever had the pleasure of being associated with. Be there or be square, October 1, 1998, to kick off Whoosh!'s 3rd season!
Also, before I sign off, I want to invite everyone to the Whoosh! BOFFO 2ND ANNIVERSARY party to be held in the Xena PALACE on Thursday, September 17, 1998. For more information go to the Palace Page on Whoosh!.
Kym Masera Taborn
August 20, 1998
From the Graphics Editor: The Night Of The Scary FansThey're out there.
Of course, we're all fans. We like the show, that makes us fans of the show. We like certain actors/actresses/production staff and that makes us their fans. Whether we consider ourselves casual observers, enthusiastic devotees, or ardent followers, we all, to some extent, enjoy chatting about the show we like, who we like on it best, and so forth. Sometimes we're lucky enough to see some of these people in real life at a convention or other event, and perhaps we also get to spend a second or two with them via an encounter at the autograph table.
For some, that experience alone is tremendously exciting and becomes a memory to cherish and talk about for some time. But with virtually every programme and those who star in it or help to make it, there are also a few people who cross the line from "fan" to "scary fan". A very few of these people have become stalkers, and in some tragic incidents (such as those involving Theresa Saldana, Rebecca Shaefer, or John Lennon, to name but three), people have been badly hurt or killed as a result of extreme obsessiveness and mental imbalance.
These scary fans are people who can be unhealthily obsessive. They are people who crave the attention of one or more individuals to the point where they disrupt the life of the person in question. In New Zealand, there have been attempted set crashings by such fans, and security has been tightened. Some of the stars or production people have been concerned by the behaviour of some fans, whether that is constant calling or letter writing (of an unduly personal nature), "stunts" pulled by fans at conventions, or general intrusion into personal life (trying to find out where someone lives, shops, holidays, etc.). Recently, there was posted online a plea from a source representing Hudson Leick's interests for fans not to intrude upon her personal space (such as touching her without being asked or grabbing her).
And again, we're talking about those people well and truly above and beyond the normal "fan level". Fortunately, and especially in the Xenaverse, these are few in number, but they have been enough of a concern to take notice of.
Part of that is simply the baggage that goes along with making a hit show -— a show that is becoming more widely exposed around the world. As the number of fans increases, the chances for more of the "scary" variety increases. As the fan base widens and fans become more and more separate and disjoint from one another, the fan community splits up into smaller groups and factions. When millions and millions of people see you or your work every week, it should come as no surprise that you will get noticed and people will express admiration, appreciation, or criticism. That is more or less a given.
But some of the "stronger" attitudes and expressions have taken many of the kiwis by surprise. In New Zealand, as I learned firsthand on a recent trip there, they don't have "fandom" as it exists in the States. People may or may not like a show, an actor/actress, or staffer, but the people associated with the shows are far more like "normal" people. They do their day-to-day life activities with little or no molestation. Very few kiwi actors have fan clubs or separate organisations to handle fan mail -— it simply doesn't happen much there to warrant it as a rule.
I was having lunch with a particular (and locally very well known) actress in a popular cafe on a trendy street in an Auckland suburb one day, and we were discussing this very topic. She affirmed what I have said above is true. Then, quite unexpectedly, a kiwi fan came up to us and said "I don't mean to intrude, but my daughter is a huge fan of yours and could I please have an autograph for her?" The fan was graciously accommodated, and when she left, my lunch companion turned to me and said "That NEVER happens here! I'm so amazed!" It wasn't that the autograph incident was alarming or scary in and of itself, but it was worth noting that even something at that level was remarkable by kiwi standards.
So, unusual though it may have been, try placing the above scene in the United States. I'm sure such interruptions would be commonplace here —- certainly much less rare. I have heard a number of actors complain that people actually follow them into the restroom here to ask for autographs or other favours.
It isn't too hard to see why some people are susceptible to this behaviour. We are constantly bombarded by media images, sights, sounds, urgencies, demands, and so forth. We see familiar faces constantly, hear jingles, see taglines, are led to believe our lives would be so much better if we listened to someone else. It's no wonder some people take that step from reality to fantasy. But when things get personal -— when people "have to know" where someone lives, where and when they will get married, who they are dating, where they shop, eat, or work, where their kids go to school, or how many kids they have and when were they born, it becomes scary. These are items of a very personal nature that should only be the concern of family and close friends. Some people need to make a short, sharp reality check.
Appreciation is one thing, obsession is quite another.
July 26, 1998