Media Fandom Oral History Project Interview with Charlotte Hill

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Interviews by Fans
Title: Media Fandom Oral History Project Interview with Charlotte Hill
Interviewer: Franzi Dickson
Interviewee: Charlotte Hill
Date(s): February 25, 2012
Medium: audio recording
Fandom(s):
External Links: Media Fandom Oral History Project Interview with Charlotte Hill
Click here for related articles on Fanlore.

In 2012, Charlotte Hill was interviewed at Escapade as part of the Media Fandom Oral History Project.

Length: it is 16:09.

For more information about the origins of this interview, where it is housed, contact information, suggestions regarding future interviewee candidates, and how to become volunteer interviewer, see the Media Fandom Oral History Project page.

Topics Discussed

Excerpts

[her gateway to fandom, and slash]:
So I got into fandom just accidentally through my mom, who's kind of a casual layperson fan but I was such a voracious reader and she was too. We sort of found out that big conventions and fantasy conventions existed near, within a couple of hours of our home. So I got into slash when I was 14 or 15 and we, mommy had driven me to science fiction and fantasy con in Atlanta, Atlanta science fiction and fantasy con. And somehow I found the zine "under the table" and the zine was, the Sensuous Vulcan. And, I bought it because it was a pretty pencil drawing of Spock and a woman on the cover. I read it and the first slash story in it was a brilliant introductory story where in a moment of drunken clarity Kirk looked across and realized – “Spock and me, it could happen.” And my whole body flushed! And I thought, not only could it happen, it should happen! (dramatic voice). And then there was really hot famous porn later in that same zine and that was that. And I've been pretty much a part of the slash community ever since. Breaks for college and marriage and such on occasion but that's it.
[fan pairs]:
...before there was a lot of online culture, when people came to the conventions, they had sisters in the fandom. They just had sisters of choice. Or partners of choice, because some people were lovers. Ehm, and they, and then there were a few couples, a few pairs of people who sold fanzines, and for fun started doing things to be similar at the dealers table. So one fan pair always dressed in formal business attire, every day behind the ... eh. Megan and I always dressed in identical clothing. Including earrings and colors of lipstick and nail polish. And, people starting saying, talking about "the pairs", because these were friends who sometimes would live on opposite sides of the country. And when they would see each other, they would see each other at the convention and would fall in each others arms, and be in arm in arm, catching up on life and fandom. In a way that they couldn't when the internet didn’t exist. So these girl couples that looked very much like high school, were very overt at conventions. And the term fan pair grew up out of it. And then in Escapade in 95, 96, we actually observed it as part of a meta of the culture. And had panels about fan pairs and the nature of it. And whether it was unique or not, or whether it was something we were making up for. You know, that we hadn't had that kind of a crazy intimacy with a girl pal in high school, and that was kind of how, how fan pairs existed. And I think the advent of the internet has sort of diluted that.
[Manacles Press]:
We published Manacles Press from 1991 until about 2000, when we made an agreement with a production company that we would not be publishing in order to do professional work for them. We started out with a Wiseguy slash zine, we then added a Professionals slash zine, a multimedia slash zine called Concupiscence... And then a one-off Highlander zine called Walking Distance. We also did some special things like peoples novels, we did Shoshanna’s "Chains of Being" which was a Space: Above and Beyond novel, some other Pros novels. The actual press, we were really straight-forward, we didn't like a bunch of white space, we didn't like feeling like people were cheating people. Or trying to live off of it. And we really had a commitment to quality. So our zines were always 15 dollars. Unless they had art covers, most of, all of our regular lines of zines, none of them had art covers, more than a black and white image to identify that particular fandom. They didn't have interior art and they were a minimum of 75000 words. If we couldn't get 75000 words of edited fiction into a zine, then we would not take it to press. And they ranged from about 75000 to about 110 000 words generally. And every single zine was 15 dollars. Unless it was a color cover, a specialty, novelty novel thing. And we were really committed to helping people be better writers. Like, if you were willing to submit to Manacles Press, you knew you would be edited. And you knew there was a possibility that we'd reject you. But you also knew that if you were willing to be mentored, we would be your champions. And we, we hope that's the way the press always appeared in the world. We had friends who were very, very affected, strong writers of years who, and we would say, you tell us the day you know the quality's slipping so we can slow down and re-asses. And they would, "that a B, that's not an A, that zine's a B". Ok, we'll back up a little.
[fandom and profit]:
...as much as we believed in the gift economy we also, I personally especially, of the two of us, took a great deal of offense at the idea that I should give everything. You know, everything should be a gift. So I was really, really committed to not. To... we were giving the words, we were giving the editing. But I wasn't gonna let it cost a dime. Like, we were giving everything. We weren't giving money too. So, at 15 dollars at the time, that covered all of our expenses of zine production and selling. And we were totally ok with that. And we told people that, and that was a shift at that time I think as well, there was a lot of pretense that people weren't making money. And if all you do is look at people's books and you'd know if they were really crappy businesswomen or they were making money and they thought they had to lie about it. And we didn't, we tried to correct for that. And say, nobody's making a big profit, but we're not walking away, you know, 0 either. And, that should be ok too. So that was what our press was about.
[conventions, organization, and hey, we could do that!]:
Megan had been on Cactus Con and other large cons. I had volunteered time at LosCon and other conventions and we had, we each had a facility with organizing. Something that we were good at. We were helping a friend who was doing the 15th anniversary reunion convention for Starsky and Hutch and we both lived in Santa Barbara. At the time. We were extraordinarily frustrated with how the staff for that convention would get in the weeds and couldn't maintain a perspective on how to prioritize things. So one moment they didn't know how they were gonna pay and they didn't know if they had people coming in and they didn't have a respective response for people, they spend the meeting focusing on what color and how big the sheet cake should be. And it was just, and I don't mean this as a criticism, I mean this as a, they didn't have the skill set to manage, in an over-arching way, and not get caught up on the small details that were really important too, and especially important to them personally. Because those were the parts of the gift of the event that were important to them. But they know, they didn't keep structure in mind. So we drove back up from LA complaining about this. And the way it came out was "we could do this better. OH, we could do this so much better! We really could do this better, because we know how to do this *excited voice*. We could do this, we could do this better!" So that was like on a Saturday and by the following Friday we had flyers out for Escapade 1 out and had booked the hotel. And that was the way the conventions started. It was in Santa Barbara for, I wanna say ten or eleven years, but I'd have to check. Then we moved it to cities further south. It was in Los Angeles one or two years, and then we settled at a hotel in Ventura that was beach side. Because we loved, Megan always wanted to be able to have the conventions at a hotel by the beach. And so that's why we have been at the hotel where we're at for a number of years now. That's the big history.
[on vidding and Vividcon]:
we were so grateful when Vividcon came along because [before] Vividcon, Escapade was the only show in town for vidding. And vidders were growing in volume and you know, community, and wanted more and more of Escapade programming and we were, and we are, and continue to be, more text-based consumers. So, we wanted to give them as much as we could give them, but there was a point at which we felt the struggle between the text and talk fans and the vid and watch fans. And that tension lasted here at Escapade for two or three years at least before Vividcon happened. And when Vividcon happened, everybody breathed a huge sigh of relief and then the next year they were still premiering vids at Escapade and there were two places then. And since that time, Vividcon has become even more of a focal point and then there are a few more vid specific games in town, but we have been, in the last couple three years, we've been really paying attention to the fact that it was never our intention to run vidding away. Vidding is as key a part of our community and should be as key a part of our con as it ever was in the beginning. And we are grateful that there is a vidding only environment, or vidding specific environment. But we're really trying to, we mind the vidding community, we love, we've always had a vid show. We’ve always loved premiering vid show. We've always looking forward to new technology and new ways of supporting vidshows and vidding and premiering vids and vidders get to at least hear the audience watch their vids, if they're not present.
[on running Escapade for over two decades, and its complicated relationship with technology]:
We have been at the forefront at the war against technology. We have been the resigned followers of technology. We have been the willing participants is technology while still mumbling about how the good old days were easier, and we have been making strides, especially in the last 5 years to find out how to be better connected. Both with the technology and the change in community. Because someone recently called Escapade our 22-year old adult child. Who was never gonna leave home. And it was such a wonderful contextualization of what it is for us. Escapade is a relationship... focal point in our world where we get to see people and create something that we hope people enjoy and we always want it to be something that people enjoy. And we always want it to be something that brings people to us who we would love. And those people are in those technologies that we are now trying to find our way into. And be more related to. Because for us, people have always been the heart of community. Not products, I mean, products is great, the gift economy is great, vids are great, fiction is great, the source material is great. But the true line, after having been fans for 25 years, is the people. And we've been really fortunate in that we've had friends we've known and kept for 20 years through similar fandoms and very different fandoms and coming back into fandoms. And so we want Escapade to be a place where the people always get like that opportunity to be honored and excited and vibrant and alive and together. In a way that is still different from the internet. As much as I personally, much more than Megan, I personally am on a number of different internet forums, and love them! The conveniency and the immediacy and the content on demand and oh my god, not having to wait for things. and there is still something that the internet can't give you, and that's me looking in your eyes when I’m talking to you about this or anything else that has happened or will happen, or people we've known and loved and lost and who may be back or who will never be back. And, that doesn't work the same way on the internet, and it won't until we have a live multiuser Skype. And it might still not be the same.