Interview with Susan Batho

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Interviews by Fans
Title: Interview with Susan Batho
Interviewer: Joanne Kerr
Interviewee: Susan Batho
Date(s): June 9, 2002
Medium: online as PDF
Fandom(s): many
External Links: effect of commercialisation and direct intervention by the owners of intellectual copyright : a case study : the Australian Star Trek fan community by Susan Batho (2009)
Click here for related articles on Fanlore.
Susan Batho was interviewed by Joanne Kerr in Faulconbridge, NSW.

The interview was included in an academic paper by Susan P. Batho which addresses the effect of the Viacom Crackdown, TPTB, and Australian fandom.

Part of a Series

Excerpts

When I first joined the fan community, there was little in the way of a community in the true sense of the word, but there were a lot of people searching for a sense of belonging, wanting to join in and be part of the enthusiasm they felt, what we call the "Sense of Wonder". People were starting to organise clubs – local ones, international ones, penpal groups.
Mentoring at that time, was the effective way that you were introduced to the fan community and learned the way it was organised and functioned. You would be gently guided by an experienced fan who would recommend things for you to tackle, people to meet, and generally encourage your enthusiasms and talents. Shayne, herself, had already met and been introduced to science fiction fandom, being introduced through her own Mentor at the time. So she had an understanding of the community to start with. It was the way that you fitted in. You slip into an already recognised relationship - the neofan and their mentor - and into a community that had already worked out its boundaries of acceptable behaviour. And the activities, or fanac that everyone accepted as being fannish. This mentoring tradition remained in place until the past 10 – 15 years.
I wrote for the first issue of the newsletter of DUSK, Terran Times, the first independent Star Trek fiction zine, Beyond Antares, and many many more. In those days you got the fannish 'usual' which was copy of the zine that your story appeared in, or trade zine for zine, or a copy of the zine your letter of comment appeared in. Money was strictly a last resort.
And a number of the zines have reached over 10,000 copies sold. Joanne and I were putting out 14 fanzines a year from 46 to 300 pages each by the end of the 1980's. In fact we attended one MediaWest*Con in 1991 where we had shipped over 25 boxes of zines - all new issues - and only had four boxes left which we sold to a zine distributor [1]. At that con, we had people come up, check out our name tags and say "So you're Susan Clarke… you’re my favourite author" and "Joanne Keating - you're my favourite editor." We'd won several FanQ's before then, but getting them that year was a real buzz. We were even interviewed by the local television and radio stations.
Lots of good memories, lots of truly dreadful ones - especially associated with ones (conventions) you run yourself. Running them yourself becomes an addiction - no other con is as good as the one you can put together yourself as you are learning from others’ mistakes and building onto the last one with all the things you want to achieve at a convention.
I've never hidden the fact that I like Star Trek. Never saw the need to, although I have a host of pseudonyms for the naughty stories… When being introduced to my first class in MA Hons Creative Writing, I was introduced as a writer of homoerotic fiction - in other words, slash media fiction.
Along the way, something changed. The professional books became slick productions and introduced new story lines that weren't in the series and were suddenly canon because they were in the commercial books. Fewer and fewer people were writing stories and poetry. Fewer were drawing. Zine sales dropped off, and suddenly they were asking for big money for hucksters tables: $200 or more, where previously, they had been free, or just a few dollars. Instead of seeing fanzines as a free asset to a convention bringing in more people, they were seen as a money making exercise. I couldn't afford conventions whose rates to attend had trebled so that they were more expensive than attendance at a World Science Fiction Convention with its loads of authors and industry people.
I had a long look at the 30 plus years of fanzines collecting, and primarily my Australian Star Trek fanzines and newsletters and decided that they needed to be preserved. I joined a group called Timebinders that are recording the history of science fiction fandom so that the only record of it won't be

academic ones that didn't actually participate in its making. After all, history is the record of the ones who put pen to paper to write it, not necessarily those who made it. Interestingly enough, though, it was at a Popular Culture Conference held in Brisbane in 1999 that I met Richard Stone of the National Library in

Canberra and we started negotiating to have my collection housed in the Library for access and record. This way people could see the history unfold through the fanzines and have access to them. He probably didn't expect how much material there was, but accepted it to create the Susan Smith-Clarke Collection in the special collections section of the Library. With his encouragement, the Library put on a special display in their visitors center which ran for 9 months, making it one of the longest running exhibitions they have had there. The display was dedicated to fanzines and popular culture and generated constant interest.
I also still put out a Star Trek fanzine when there is enough material and interest to do so. It's my blatantly defiant stand. And I am the last one in Australia to do it.
How do I feel about fans and copyright owners? Like most fans I can be dispassionate about my fannish interests, until I'm told it’s not right that I do them. Biting the hand that feeds you seems to be the hackneyed phrase that comes to mind straight off. I came from a very naïve time when we saw our view of Paramount and now Paramount/Viacom go through different changes. First they threatened us by trying to take away the series. We retaliated with Deluge Monday and got it back for a third and final series. We learnt we had some power at least in numbers. So they were already the bad guys. Then they left us alone and our contact was with the creator of the show, and being naïve, we thought the authority to grant permission to our activities, was given by Gene Roddenberry. He fed us information; we gave him huge amounts of status in our eyes. There was a real love-love relationship going on. With each fannish milestone, we included him. He responded with letters, cards, and sometimes gifts. One of my nephews was named Gene after Gene Roddenberry and afterwards we would have an annual letter exchange as he wanted to know how his namesake was growing up. So, he was benevolence who allowed us to play in his universe. Paramount was in the background like a toothless tiger who growled but couldn't hurt us whilst Gene was around. We continued the voyages of the Starship Enterprise through our stories, our games, our artwork, and our activities. We got the first of the series of Star Trek movies because we, the fans, had actively sought it with continued letter-writing campaigns. Then the telelvision series. We thought we were almost invincible. We would start a letter campaign - our letter-writing campaign got the first space shuttle called The Enterprise and it was wheeled out to the sound of the theme of Star Trek. And we would win… or so we thought.
In the past few years I have been collecting information, conducting interviews and talking to people. All about Star Trek fans here in Australia. I was asked by someone, why was this so important to me, and it’s hard and easy at once to answer. As someone who is considered an academic now, I want it recorded properly: what happened when there was direct intervention between fans and the owners of intellectual property, what, if anything, happened to fans and how this was reflected in their activity. As a fan, it was something more personal. I have spoken to people at conventions and setting up interviews, all have said the same thing, please write down the story of this event. Please talk about us, the Australian Star Trek fans, and what happened to us. Things have changed and we want to know why. We want other people to know why.

References

  1. most likely Bill Hupe