Media Fandom Oral History Project Interview with M. Fae Glasgow

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Interviews by Fans
Title: Media Fandom Oral History Project Interview with M. Fae Glasgow
Interviewer: Franzeska Dickson
Interviewee: M. Fae Glasgow
Date(s): February 28, 2014
Medium:
Fandom(s):
External Links:
Click here for related articles on Fanlore.

In 2015, M. Fae Glasgow was interviewed at Escapade as part of the Media Fandom Oral History Project.

Total time: 56:11.

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.

Some Topics Discussed

Excerpts

[I was born a slasher]. Oh, absolutely! [laughter] I was telling you that, you know my cousins were talking about how when I was like five or six I would get action, the two action man dolls and both my cousins would be all having battles, and I would put them in a little tent together, and make them share a sleeping bag, because it was cold. And then when I was ten I saw Trek for the first time, I was like, "I don't understand these feelings! But my heart is going fast, and my life is ruined if I can't watch it because someone wants to watch something else!"

And I made up a story where the Vulcan matriarch, who happened to be my name, with the vowels taken out, and the T' put in front, forced Kirk and Spock to get married, to prove that Vulcans and humans could work together, and form good bonds. And they had the altar set up, which was a kind of Vulcan anvil type thing, with red stone, I remember that very clearly, and some kind of bowl, with fire, because Vulcan was fire. And Kirk and Spock had to get married, at the altar, by this matriarch who made them get married, and then they kissed, and that was the end. And I remember writing "THE END"...it was a composition jotter from school that I had stolen for that purpose. [laughter] And I kept it in my drawer, where no one ever went.
I remember getting "The New Voyages" when it came out and I read those things until they fell apart. And then I bought new ones. But, yeah, I did that, and I knew other people had to like it. I knew I couldn't be the only one who watched. I was looking for my people. And all I could find were anoraks. You know? Which didn't go down very well; they tended to be focused on weapons, and blowing things up, and I was like, "But did you see the way he looked at him?" Or, in the case of Blake's 7, "Did you see the way he didn’t look at him?"

When I came to America, I knew there had to be people. So one day in read in the LA Weekly letters page, and there was a little girl "Fiver” drawing, tiny, like a 2-inch, what we call an "icon" now, and a letter from Robin Hood, and I was, "Uh! I must find this article!" Big long story; the guy who had done back issues had broke his leg; it took me weeks. I got the article and there was no contact information, and my heart was broken. They were my people, and I couldn't find them!

So I did the bold as brass thing: I contacted the local Star Trek Welcommittee. And I said, "Excuse me, can you point me to other slash fans?" Which, apparently, you're not supposed to do. [laughter] But the person who got my letter was fortunately very very kind, and very very sweet to me, and got me in touch with the Robin Hood, I'm not going to use names because I can't remember which ones were their fannish names and which were their professional published names. [laughter] And got in touch with them, and they, being fans, said, "Hey! We're having an [auto?]-con. We're going to have a bunch of people down here in Poway, do you want to come down?" I said "Sure!" So we met part way on the drive down, because it was a long way from where I lived. Met Nancy, immediately became fan pair, immediately pooled our resources to buy as many zines as we possibly could and shared them, and that was January 25, 1988.

[Franzeska]: And when your forty years of wandering in the desert were over, and you found your people?

I was like, "Oh my god. They understand!" [laughter] And, yeah, that was it. And then nine months later Nancy and I put out our first zine.

[Nancy and I at Oblique Press] didn't do beta reading, as it was called later. We did actual editing. So, regardless of who wrote it, we'd write it – and this was true for all the zines I was involved with – you wrote it, you sent it in, or gave it to our friend when you saw her the next night. It was edited, and you went back and you'd fix things and correct things, and it went back, and it was edited again, and went on from there. So it was really very much a process of having a different set of eyes. Sometimes more than one set of eyes on it. Because the idea was, not just to write, but to do it as well as you could. This was part of your sharing process with fandom. Other people gave you stuff to read; you gave them stuff to read. So you wanted it to be nice. You don't want to give someone a crappy present, you know?...

... if you're going to put that much effort in, and that much expense, because doing zines was expensive. Wasn't as bad when we came along, because at that point we had word processing. But prior to that it had been ruinously expensive. So you had to make sure that it was going to be good enough, and that people were going to be willing to pay that kind of money.

Now keep in mind it's fandom; this was before 24 hours a day, seven days a week, at your fingertips. Getting something fannish was an event. It happened occasionally. It happened if you knew of a con that you could afford to go to that was within reach for you when you had time off et cetera. It was getting, finding out about a zine, getting the contact information, finding out what was in it, writing a check, sending it away, waiting for it to come back. So it was all of this big buildup. You get it, and then – nothing. And then there's more! More! More! More! Run! Get it! And then there's nothing. So you had all these periods in between where you weren't being fed anything, you weren't being given anything, you didn't have access to anything. So I think in some ways you had to be more proactive yourself.

I don't think there's any real difference in quality [in fanworks today as opposed to in the past]; I think you still have the same percentages, probably, of good, great, mediocre, oh dear god in heaven what was she thinking. [laughter] I think there's still that. And I think one of the things we tend to forget, with everything being on the Internet, and everything the same, everything equal, is, when someone starts writing, they are not going to be producing as well as they will when they've got some more practice. And I think that makes a much harsher environment. I think it's – I think depending how you look at it, it's either easier or harder to do things that are controversial. Because in the zine days it was very personal. So people would kind of look at you funny, and also because they knew you, or they knew your friends, certain things would not be said in public. There was much less personally attack. Whereas I think now, because it's the Internet, and there's a certain amount more anonymity, people are more willing.

And I think too, for me one of the big differences is, doing a zine, I would write it, it would be edited, it would be printed, other people would read it. But that meant there was a distance between me, the person who did the story; the story; and people who read it. Whereas I think that kind of has broken down, kind of like the fourth wall; there used to be almost a fourth wall between the writing and the end product and people reacting to the end product. Although not always. I still shudder when I think about the people who come up to me and say, "Oh, my husband and I read that piece in your story, and we did it." And you're going, "Oh crap. I'm going to see him tomorrow."

I've withdrawn from the public face of fandom.

... I feel that I don't belong in the public face of fandom at all any more. I'm not interested in this public stuff, I’m not interested in having me out there. I'm not interested in the Social Patrols, or, as I call them, the Milk Monitors. Because if you think about the things I tend to like to write. They were controversial at the time, when I had that social buffer of people knowing me as a person. And I've seen someone writing something that I think, maybe it was mis-phrased, maybe it was badly worded, maybe it's objectionable, or maybe it's just a different perspective. And I see them being fanpiled. Or dogpiled. And I'm not nice enough to deal with that, because I would tear them all to shreds. [laughter] And plus, it's just not worth the time for me.

But one of my favorite things is that I see is the historical fandoms, like Pros. So I'll see people commenting on, "Well, she got that detail wrong in the story!", and I'm laughing my ass off because, "Well, actually, that story was written back when that actually was true, so no, we didn't have B-Tel back then, we had the GPO." And so we have this change where people know what things are now, but some fans now, when they read things, they're looking back at the stuff, and they're thinking it's inaccurate. And it's like, no, that's the way it was. You're talking about in the Eighties. You're talking about seventy-eight, seventy-nine, eighty, eighty-one, eighty-two. It was different back then, honest! You know? And you have that kind of, almost a historical thing, too. Which is really fascinating; see, one of the things that nice about that is, you'll see people saying, "I don't know why they put that in that story! That's awful! Nyeah nyeah nyeah nyeah." And you're like, "That's because that was thirty years ago. That was the social construction at the time. The fact that you now look at that now and think, 'That's awful,' is a wonderful thing, because it does show we have moved on." [Homophobia, racism, or all that kind of stuff] sexism, gender stuff, but even that it's, a lot of the stuff hasn't changed. You know, there’s still, "Oh, my god, this is so misogynistic," and you're like, "No, it's just..." Well, it's also though, I remember because I, one of the things was, oh: "You're so misogynist." I was called a lesbian foe, which amused me, and amused the lesbians I was with at the time, too. I was called a lesbian foe and a misogynist because I wrote men. And I was kind of like, "Well, no, I don't include the female characters. If you notice, I usually only do the two main characters anyway." I did a lot of stories where I called "cozies", even though they weren't always very nice. It would be the two of them in the car. The two of them trapped in a shuffle. The two of them trapped in a cave. The two protagonists, that was it. That was my thing.

And so, you know, "But you have to do this!" So I thought, you know, they're right, I should include more women characters. So I did, and ? said, "even if they're just walk-on, even if they're just spear carriers, at least it'll be women in it. It's worth it." So I did. And then I was accused of misogyny for having, reducing women to spear carriers. [laughter] And then I had a female character in there, and I was accused of Mary-Sue because I had a female character in there. Because she was Irish. And I'm like, "I'm Scottish, they're different, but never mind." But, so, we had this all the way. And I look at it and I see, a lot of I'm seeing is essential retreads of what we've already had. And I think it's good in a way, because it shows we're still trying to grow, and make things better.
By the time we came along, we were doing [zines] on computers, so one of the great things about fandom is I'm much more up on technology than many people my age are, because I was in fandom. I got my first computer in 1989. It was the very original Mac SE, with the hard drive, and the guys at the store didn't understand. I actually got a Mac because my friend had rented a Mac. I actually finally bought a Mac, because when I went to the place that sold Windows, they didn't understand why a woman would want a computer.... And the guys at the Apple store were like, "You want a computer? Come on, let me show you one!"

Oh, I was writing [darkfic, controversial stories] back from the very beginning. I don't remember the years or dates, but I remember one of the first ones I did, people were extremely upset, because I did, a couple things I did, and it's not – I think I did one thing, and because of how it's expressed in everything I wrote, that's what disturbed people. I did not have external forces make people do it. So if one of my guys did something, it was because I could point to canon and say, "Don't forget, Doyle is the one who punched that guy in the stomach. Doyle is the one who did that violence." Don't give me this, sweet delicate airy-fairy little elf type person, who's so sweet and cuddly. [laughter] This is Ray Doyle.

I did uncomfortable things, like where it's canon in Blake's 7 that Blake doesn't remember what he did. Because in Blake's 7 the government, which, by the way, their symbol is an inverted Star Trek lapel symbol – pure coincidence, that - but the government, they're known for brainwashing, and they had brainwashed Blake. The question was, the charge against him were child molestation. And I wrote a story because, Blake doesn't know what his memories are. So I wrote a story where Blake doesn't know if he did or didn't. I then wrote another story where Blake realizes, "Yeah, I kind of did."

And so I did stories that were internal from the character. So if my characters did something, it wasn't because, you know, aliens made them do it. My character did it, because maybe not for the healthiest of reasons, but they wanted to do it. They felt forced by themselves, by their own nature. I tended to look at canon and say, "Yes, I like this bit, but did you notice this little bit here, when he said that? Now, that is an interesting thing to say."

And I think what also doesn't show up is, with the perspective of time, if you look at my work, I've got a huge amount of humor. And I've got a huge amount of, "Oh, my goodness, dear." The reason for that was, I was writing what I wanted to read. I figured, if I wanted to read this stuff, and I couldn't find it, other people wanted to read it, and they couldn't find it. So, why not do that sharing thing? So there was tons of other stuff there. If I wanted hurt/comfort, I could get stacks of it. Name your fandom, I could get hurt/comfort in it. I could get curtain-hanging fic. I could, including the ones where they painted the walls after they put up the decorations. I could get ones where they had children. I could get anything I wanted. But there was not very much humor, and I love humor.

I wanted to read the story where, so what happens if, you know, you actually, instead of doing "The Game", for Bodie, what happens if you look at, what kind of a person are you that you run away from home to join the Navy, the Merchant Marine, at that age. And then you end up in Africa as, what he was. Who are you that you do that? And then you join the one force in Britain where you get to run around with a gun, and pretty much no checks on you. How do you get from being someone who joined the Met, nice little policeman with your nice little copper's helmet. How do you get from being that to being the person who joins the one force where you can run around with guns and shoot people? What does that say about you? And those were the things I wanted to look at.

And I was running across these where, you know, "Oooh, spank me! Spank me!" "You want me to spank you? I will sacrifice this, and I will spank -" And I'm like, have you looked at Avon? There's no way in hell Avon's would do that. If Avon's going to hit someone for sex, it's going to be because he likes it. [laughter] And I got really tired of this, almost, it was an almost guilt thing to it. Nice girls don't. This is why I adamantly rejected calling what we did "Erotica". I insisted that we call it porn, because erotica to me is sex with a nice lacy veil drawn over it. And I wasn't - Oh yeah! I'm sorry, no! Why should women have to write "erotica"? Dammit, I wasn't going to let anyone limit me that way. I didn't want "erotica".

[snipped]

...the difference between porn and erotica. It's a lot less so now, but even now, there's still an element of, "Nice girls don't." Back then – again, eight-eight, eighty-nine, ninety - we're talking about, nice girls just didn't. And so, you didn't write "porn". We weren't into "porn". Oh no. You had to be into "erotica" or whatever.

[Franzeska]: "Beautiful love stories."

Yes, exactly. And, honestly, I like a love story but I want to see some sex in it too. But I didn't want to be apologetic. And there was an awful lot of apologizing going on: to other people, to ourselves. Again, don't forget back then it would be hard to choose which was more shameful: being a media fan, or being a woman who likes pornography. Being both – oh, well, you know.

Something I should mention here is, at that time, there wasn't a lot of mixing of fandoms. So you could be a slash fan but we tended to be, most people tended to have one fandom. Sandy Herrold, long may she live, had this wonderful term called "Fannish Butterfly." Because back then she would gad about on everything. But she would have to explain to people why she didn't have just "a" fandom. And so back in those days, not having "a" fandom was something that was a bit unusual. And then it became more and more common. But anyways, this "Game" concept went through Pros like wildfire. And one thing is, it didn't work for me personally; I saw why people liked it, but it wasn't my thing. But one of the things that I noticed about it was, again, it was that, "forced on them from the outside." And I appreciate other people doing it, but that's not what I'm interested in. I like to look at, I look at characters as whole people. I'm fully aware they're fictional, but, you know, I pretend that here's a whole person – what do we have. So that's why I looked at that and said, let's not do "The Game", let's do, who would he be if he wanted to do that.

So I would look at very uncomfortable things, 'cause I was interested, and other people weren't giving it to me. So, dammit, I had to do it myself! It was all their fault! They should have just written it for me! [sigh] [laughter].
I went to MediaWest, and everyone's experiences of big cons, like MediaWest, is very different. But I remember feeling very uneasy, being on an elevator with fanboys who thought, because I was carrying slash, with non-explicit covers, they thought I was being sexually advertising. That was still that era back then. Any woman who wasn't going, "Oh my goodness! No! No! No! Not until I'm married!" was immediately perceived by many as being practically on the game. You know? And so I just, I refused to do the whole shame thing. But also, we did things that obviously, some people liked. And some people also liked it just so they could bitch about it, which was human nature. We still do that now.
I was basically just voracious [with my reading]. Whatever was available, I was there. But we had a lot of concerns back then, because, you know, you had, one of the things we were concerned about was, modern fandom is very expensive. In the old days, yes, zines were very expensive, but there weren't that many of them, and we always had a thriving lending system. "I'll buy this one, you buy that one, she'll buy that one," and then we've got three zines between the three of us that we can just trade back and forth. So your costs weren't that high. But if you look at the modern costs, you had to buy a computer. This was back in the days when online access was by the minute. And if you made the mistake, like I did, and joined one of them, the commands were only for PC's, so if you had a Mac you couldn't actually unlog, couldn't log off, and you couldn't get out, and you were stuck. This was back in the days of shell accounts and FTP, and all of those. So these things were all expensive. You had to have a second phone line, if you wanted, unless you wanted to tie up your phone, you had to buy your modem. I remember buying my top-of-the-line 2800 baud modem....

I was the bee's knees when I got that. So, yeah, it was very expensive, and you had a lot of people who couldn't do it. They couldn't afford it, they couldn't access it, they didn't have the technology skills. We were not raised with using devices. I mean, I'm old enough to remember when we got "pocket computers" which you would now call a calculator, which could do adding, subtracting, and division. No, adding, subtraction, and multiplication, because division didn't come until later. [laughter] Yeah. So, when you start asking people to deal with shell accounts, and FTP, this was back in the day where we didn't even have, Mosaic was just starting as a browser. You didn't have websites; if you did have a website it was FTP, or in a couple of them, you couldn't access pictures and things. It was just, it required a lot more technological knowledge. So you had that.

The other thing that a lot of us had concerns about was privacy. When it was an in-person thing, or a by-mail thing, you really kind of had to know people. That meant you had a lot of protection. We had people where, they would lose jobs over slash. You're doing, you know, "You're writing pornography about fags."

One thing I think that has been detrimental; two things; maybe I'll come up with three, that I've noticed are detrimental are the fact, the fact that there is a certain amount of anonymity. So I think people are much more quick to take offense, cause offense, attack. If someone writes a story that you don't like, you're aware that they're a human being, and if you don't know her personally, you know someone who does. Whereas, if you're on the Internet, and someone writes a story, well, it's quite easy to turn around and call her a racist. Or it's quite easy to call her something else. Or accuse her of this -ism, or that -ist, or whatever. Much harder when her friends were going to say, "Ah, no!"

And another thing is, because it is so overwhelming all the time. There's always been a certain amount of conformity, because that's how society works. But if you're not willing to deal with the after-effects of that, then you don't try controversial things. So when I think about what I used to write, I knew it was controversial, I knew it was going to cause a lot of fuss. I knew I would get letters, and collect my favorite hate mail. I knew I was going to get them. It was okay, because there was a separation. Whereas, if I were to write some of the things I'm thinking about doing now, I would not put it on the Internet, because I cannot be bothered with what I know would be the backlash. And it takes too much damn time. I am not interested in dealing with this.

Also, there's been a shift, to some degree, of, "The writer owes me." There's always been an element of that, and you don't see it as much now, but for a long time there was a period where, if someone commented on your story, people would get really pissed off if the writer didn't respond back. And I'm like, "Oh, piss off.... I mean, if someone's written a story, and gone to all that effort, no, they are not then required to say, "Thank you so much for commenting on my story!" No! They've done their bit. Your job is now to say, "Thank you!" So there's that kind of thing. But basically I think it's just, people are people; we've always been the way we are; we always will be. Fans on the whole are wonderful people, and it's just, sometimes the public face is not the, it's not the kindest side of us."
I think the main difference is [between media fans and other kinds of fans], I can sum it up was, when I came in to fandom, you were a media fan, basically, if you were a female. That was basically what it boiled down to. Male fans would, the classic example is, you go to a Star Trek convention, or a Star Wars convention, and you're sitting talking about something, and you realize that the person you're talking to has watched an entirely different series from the one you did. 'Cause they're talking about the weapons development, and all those things, and you're sitting going, "Yes, but, did you see that conversation?" [laughter] That media fans were, again, with some, because I watched this actually about science fiction, so it would be the science fiction fans, the science fiction book fans, the guys who would dress up as Klingons, which were always fabulous, by the way. You know, you'd have all that, and they weren't considered media fans. Women, because we watched the episodes, we wrote about it, we did vids about it, we did filks – we were media fans. And I don't think it was probably intentional, but it seemed to be almost that split, where you didn't see men in media fanspace. And you saw very few women in the regular science-fictiony fanspace.... Media fan, to me, means people who are interested in an interactive experience with the media source. Were not interested in just watching. I don't think we can just watch. Our instinct is to watch, and then analyze, or extrapolate, or postulate, then create. And that creating – it doesn't have to be something like a story or a vid. It can be conversation. It can be editing. It can be running a website. It can be doing all of these things that may be invisible, but they are so integral to what we do. Something as simple as reading is an interactive experience. And so we were into the media. We were into the entirety of it.
I was on Usenet; I mean, I did alt.startrek, I did alt.startrek.creative, alt.x-files, alt.x-files.creative, Gossamer. I don't remember the names of them; it was back in the days when, "Oh my god, someone's just put up a new Geocities site! Woohoo!" [laughter] So I did all of that. I was on, we, I was actually on the, I think it was the very first slash mailing list, which was run by someone I won't mention by name, on a service I won't mention, but, yeah. We're very fond of Catholic universities, and people in Holland. [laughter] They ran them and they didn't ask questions.

And so, we were on that one, and one of the things that happened is when mailing lists were started, they tended to be for the fandom, and you'd have us weird slashers over here going, "Oh! Can we talk about this?" and other people going, "No! No you can't!" Or, "You can only talk about it if you don't mention penises."

[snipped]

So you'd have things split off, and then Yahoo groups came along, which was fabulous, because if you're on the Usenet mailing list, well, you always had the trolls. The minute someone would mention something slashy, well, you'd have like five hundred guys piling on about how disgusting it was, and how you girls all needed to be raped. And then it would just continue from there. So we would start having our own private mailing lists, and, again, you had to be vetted. You had to be vouched for by someone who knew you to let you in. Because, real names. Real opinions. Women being open about sex without putting themselves on offer. Not an easy thing to do back then, and quite risky. Still is today, but more so then.

Then, of course, you started getting into LiveJournal, and Insane Journal, and Dreamwidth, and then Tumblr, and I'm like, "Oh, talk to meeee."

...when we saw Babylon 5, and we had Londo's penis, the stalk with the little petal thing on the end. We laughed hysterically, because way back in early days of K/S, because it was a science fiction fandom, while it was being K/S we speculated about what Vulcan genitalia would look like. And so some of them had triple ridges, and some others had tentacle things with all these little petals and all little things on them. And one of the descriptions of it I remember was that it kind of unfurled, with stalks that had almost like these flat leaf shapes on them. And I remember it so clearly because, being Spock, it was green! And there was some speculation about whether it would be green or not, you know, because his gums weren't green, even though his skin was supposedly green. Hmmm. So there was all this speculation about Spock's genitalia.

And, so, when Londo's came out, I looked at it and thought, "Oh my God, that is old K/S!" [laughter] That was one of the descriptions of Spock's penis that stuck with me, because I remember thinking about practicalities with it. [laughter] I mean, for insertion, would you just roll the leaf up? You know? What would you do? And where would you ejaculate from? I mean, you know? But these were the things we thought of in an era where many women had never seen a penis other than their husband's.
Please keep on re-inventing the wheel. [laughter] Because every generation of fandom, every fan reinvents the wheel. And every time one of us reinvents that wheel, it's a unique creation. Even if all the components are exactly the same, the fact that it was created by this person, in their space, for their people, that makes it worth reinventing. I often hear people say, "Oh, I wanted to write this story, but somebody else has written something similar, I'm not going to do it." And I want to take them and shake them, and sit them down and say, "Stop being a princess. Write it." Because, the truth is, every single thing is valuable. We have all written the same story. I mean, I personally have written the same story at least forty times. And every time I do it, I enjoy it. That, for me, is one of the things. It's so much about pleasure. So much about enjoyment. So much about self-satisfaction. Not that kind, but that kind, too. It's about all the things that you get from it, all the things that you can give with it, it's a joyful thing. And it's so much fun. "Squee" was invented by us, for us, for that reason. So I want people to keep on reinventing the wheel. I don't care if that story has been written five hundred times or five million times. You want to write it? You want to see it? You want to create it in a media I can't even think of yet? Go for it. Because that's what it's all about. It comes from us. It's an expansion of what we already have, and that's always a good thing. Even if I hate it.