Media Fandom Oral History Project Interview with Maygra
|Interviews by Fans|
|Title:||Media Fandom Oral History Project Interview with Maygra|
|Date(s):||February 23, 2013|
|Click here for related articles on Fanlore.|
Interview length: 1:09:24.
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
- much, much about Highlander
- Citizens Against Bad Slash
- SlashFic Hall of Shame
- purposely combative comments on the internet
- Balkanization and LiveJournal
Highlander was my gateway fandom, so I was watching the show. I had not been— I had been a, I guess a science fiction and fantasy fan, had gone to a lot of the conventions in Atlanta and worked them, the precursors to DragonCon, which was the Atlanta fantasy and science fiction convention before it was DragonCon, back in the early '80s. And my company at the time, where I was working, was actually getting internet access for the first time, so this was '94, '95. And a friend of mine — a real-life friend of mine and a co-worker — we were both watching Highlander. We really liked the show. And she actually was one of the first people in the company to have access at work on-line. And she stumbled over, I guess she was— I don't know what she was looking for, I guess she was looking for information on Highlander or information on the actors — and she stumbled over some Highlander fanfiction. She had been looking at it, I know, and she was kind of like— And she was a writer, too... So she was writing— She actually used to write in fandom. She, her name was— Her on-line name was Ivy. She wrote some really, really cute Highlander stories that were very fun. But she found these things, and she printed them off for us at work. And she said, "Did you know people were writing Highlander stories on-line?" Because we had been talking about it— "What I really want to see them do is do this in the series," and you know— But we were very, in today's parlance, very feral about it. 'Cause we weren't really writing or sharing or anything. We weren't exchanging stories. I writing some Highlander, but I was really just writing it for my own entertainment. Um, anyway, she printed off some stuff and gave it to me, and gave me, I don't know, three or four stories. And a couple of them, and I read them and I was reading them. And they were okay, and I liked the direction the stories were going, but basically I looked at them and I went, "I can write better than this." (laughter) And so I went on-line. And originally I got on-line under a variation of my own name, which was Valerian. My real first name is Valerie. So I was under Valerian, and I had gotten on-line because my roommate and best friend, Melissa, was doing some work for a guy that did— This is all kind of sideways, but— was doing some work for a guy that organized spelunking expeditions, caving. And so she was doing the newsletter for them, and so he had gotten her internet access, right? So she could have email and all this kind of stuff. So I got a tag on that account and was writing under Valerian, but I wasn't actually writing or posting anything, I was just participating in some newsgroup discussions and I was reading a lot, and I was— But it was very non-fiction. We were still discussing the show. This was like the alt.tv.news.highlander. So there wasn't fic there, there was just discussion about the show, and I was having a blast with that. That was a lot of fun. When I tripped over the then-hidden adult archive.
my first story was not an adult story. Well, it was adult, but it was not sexual. It was very violent, as Highlander tend to be, so I wrote this story called "The Abomination," that basically was a theory about Methos having been involved with and somehow getting on the bad side of the original Cain, of Cain and Abel. So that was the very first story that I wrote and actually posted on the alt.tv.highlander.fic list, I think that's what it was, and got lots of people mad. And then I was contacted by a woman named Ang [spelling not confirmed] who ran the Highlander fic n-drive [archive ?] , who was an artist. She was doing illustrations of Highlander fic that I didn't know anything about. And she invited me to post my stuff there. And at the time I was posting it under my real name. So when I posted it was under V. Watts. This early stuff that I posted in Highlander was under V. Watts. 'Cause I didn't know anything about anonymity. But what happened was, was that, and the reason that Maygra came along— What happened was, the company that I had my internet account with, went out of business. And so when I went to join— When I got my own account under Bell South— When I got my own account, my name and all the variations — 'cause I refused to put numbers behind my name — my real name — so what I did was I chose the name Maygra, which is a character in an original novel of mine. And that became my screen name, and I've pretty much been Maygra ever since.
Well, the interesting thing about, I think for Methos— I mean, the Highlander stories were all very much about, y'know, the life and trials of the Highlander. Right? Duncan MacLeod. And they had some interesting characters. I mean Amanda's a fascinating foil for him. Joe was a fascinating foil for him. Richie was really a good, you know, kind of sidekick, mentor-student relationship, which was awesome. And I think when they kinda like hit season 3, which I think is when Methos was introduced — I think it was season 3 — so they had run those gamuts. They had done the mentor-student thing and Richie had been turned. They had done the outsider thing, and Joe was kind of established. They had done, y'know, there was Amanda, who was lovely and fun, but obviously there was not gonna be any kind of long-term romance. So they had hit the point in the show where they needed some other foil, challenge. And to me it was an interesting flip, even from the first episode, to have— Duncan periodically ran into Immortals that were older than he was, right? But they were often of a very simplistic — I don't want to say simple as far as that, but the character motivations were very, y'know, cut and dried. They were older, they were looking for power, they wanted to win the Gathering, whatever they wanted to do. So his opponents in that were fairly predictable. Right? And you almost always met other Immortals — not always, but like Fitz was slightly different — but always met, who were really spoiling for a fight. So to introduce a character that was both older and not spoiling for a fight, who was hiding in plain sight— that kinda flipped that whole mentor-student thing on its ear, I thought was fascinating. And the idea of this Immortal that was over five thousand years old, which puts him pre-Christ, puts him back in Babylonia, basically. I mean so you're talking about the onset of human development— is fascinating, and it was fascinating to me then. About, oh my god, I mean, and I was never that much of an ancient history buff, I mean I liked certain things, like [unintelligible] all that tombs and pyramids and that, but just in a very general sense, but on the introduction of Methos, I actually got this really huge bug up my ass about really ancient history.
I'm not really active in anything. I've been out of actively writing or anything for a couple of years. Actually, probably going on three years at this point. I'm still watching Supernatural. I'm watching Haven. I'm not writing anything, although I did just stick a little bug in Killa's ear about Duke Crocker/Sam Winchester hook-up. So— (laughter) Just for the hell of it. So I'm not writing, but I still read a fair amount. Like I'm still keeping track of some of my favorite writers. I've been reading a fair amount of Hawaii 5-0 fic too. And I'm kind of feeling the urge to write again. This is like probably been the longest period. I've always said I never had writers' block and I really don't think I have writers' block now. I think I just kind of ran out of ideas and I wanted different things, and real life just kind of popped up. So I don't feel like I'm blocked to writing. I think I'm unmotivated, is the biggest thing. But I am still loving, and this season especially of Supernatural is really making me happy. So I'm really happy with that. And every now and then I still get the urge the write Highlander because there's something about those characters that I completely get, y'know, why so many of my friends are really have hung onto that fandom as their favorite.
I was there when we went from VHS vidding to computer vidding. I've gone from where people were working from billboards to using archives to using AO3 to using LiveJournal through the whole thing. And I think one of the problems that we're running into, not— I’d say it's a problem, but it's more a problem for older fans of that sort that are used to being able to go here and find what we want. Like the community felt smaller. But with the advent, with the explosion of social media — I think Anne Zo was the one who told me that. And I tend to agree with her just a little bit, that in a lot of ways LiveJournal kind of killed the fandom we knew. Because what it did was, it allowed people to set up their own salons. So instead of fandom all being, trying to find their own places whether it was the mailing list, whatever, everybody kind of had to— You had to like practice a little more tolerance, you know, when people disagreed with you. Because it was the only place to go. Well now, you don't have just that place to go. You have a zillion places to go. And so— You know, we used to call it the Balkanization of fandom. I think LiveJournal contributed a lot to that, because it allowed people to— not necessarily in a bad way, but it allowed people to establish boundaries for themselves and for their buy-in friends, that kept out conversations they didn't want to have.... So, I think in a lot of ways it's harder— I don't think it's harder for people to get into fandom. I think it's harder for people to get into fandom as a community. So I think what you find is— You find, and what you hear, y'know, even here, you hear some complaints about, is the fact that, "Well, that's not the way they do it," and "That's not the—” and they don't understand what this means, it's like, no, what they don't is they don't agree with what you think it means, and you guys need to get over it. Because it's not the same. The people that are coming into fandom now that are writing, whether they're writing Teen Wolf or they're writing Harry Potter or they're writing True Blood or Twilight or whatever they're writing, they came in, when all the tools that we've gotten used to, are as natural to them as a hand-held telephone was to us. I mean, seriously, it's the whole thing. It's the whole thing about a— having that conversation with my nieces and nephews, or with her kids or grandkids, it's the, you know, the idea that some kids can't read an analog clock any more.
I mean, I feel like in a lot of ways that those fans are coming in— that these newer fans are coming in at a disadvantage. Not because they aren't finding communities, because they are. They have their own archives, they have their own spaces, whether it's Facebook, whether it's— wherever they want to deal. Whether it's on LiveJournal or further. But they're not aware that there's a broader community out there. And so trying to get people into the "media fandom" that we're all familiar with, which is really a kind of multi-media, multi-crossover that's based not— It’s, you know, it's based on somewhat on the fiction, but it's also based on the conversations that you have around the fiction. Right, it's based on the desire to know more, to see more, to actually meet people. Well, they don't necessarily want to meet anybody. You know, they, I assume, want the feedback that they get. It's like video esthetics that they were talking about in the interviews downstairs [at Escapade], where they were talking about the video esthetics for people that came up through analog vidding, with VHSs, is 'way different than what's being put out on YouTube, which has a lot of dialogue in it, because you know, anybody can do it and people all think that's the way it should be, that there should be dialogue as opposed to re-interpreting. You know, and so you look at that, and you have to kind of re-set your brain. Because that's not what I'm used to. It's not what I think of as a good vid. I hate— I don't want dialogue in a vid, I just want— And I want the music to say something and I want the image cuts to mean something, and I feel the same way about fiction. I want the— Y'know, I want people to tell good stories first, whether they have my kinks in them or whether they have my interests or even my characters, I want them to tell good stories first, and that's not necessarily what I've seen. And I can only go so far. What I've seen is the storytelling ability, whether because of the school systems or because people aren't as invested in making it good because they're so used to instant gratification it doesn't have to be perfect. Their story structures, to me, are weaker, they're much younger. They're what I would expect out of, y'know, middle-schoolers, even though the people that may be posting them are in their late teens or early twenties. The level of actual literary competence seems to me to be much lower. Now, granted, I'm looking at very small samples, because I'm— I don't know where their secret archives are, for whatever, for Teen Wolf or for Twilight and I don't read, other than— (laugh) It turns out, I [don’t] read Twilight fic. I didn't read the novels and I'm not that interested in them. You know, for the debates, the same reason they said in Teen Wolf is that— I’m fifty-three years old. There's only so much empathy I can have with a seventeen-year-old kid, regardless of how cute he is.
Citizens Against Bad Slash was— was basically a site that— See, I didn't have an antagonistic relationship with them, so I didn't actually— them, but they used to write comments and reviews of what they considered to be bad slash. Bad form, bad plotting, bad characterization, bad whatever. And they were not shy about it, but they also were— roughly, I mean it was run by people that nobody really knew. Like, the truth was is that I think we probably knew them, but we didn't know we knew. It was kind of like Sandy Herrold and Joanne's— her site]]. She ran a site called, oh, I can't— I want to say it was just Bad Slash, but she ran a site for a little while where she would critique slash under an anonymous name, which is one of the first things. And she tapped me on one, because I'd made some glaring mistakes in a story. But she would criticize them and point out the horribly bad wrong things about it, and people could respond. And I, y'know, responded to her the same way that I responded to the Citizens Against Bad Slash, was like, "Okay. I mean, you know, you're entitled to your opinion. I, y'know, think you're wrong, but, whatever." So I wasn't really antagonistic about it. And so when they talked to me about doing the interview, it really was kind of that, y'know— There’s bad slash and you're welcome to criticize it and it's fine, but yeah, you're gonna get flak over it. And you should not be afraid of that. I mean, y'know, we can point to any aspect of society and say that there's gonna be some people that are really over the top in their reactions. They're 'way, y'know, they could even become dangerous. But by and large, what you get is this emotional tantrum from people that get their feelings hurt. Yeah. They get their little feelings hurt and they have an emotional tantrum and they badmouth you to all your friends, and then it's like, "And? What?" You either have to have an opinion that you want to express, and are willing to take the heat from it, or you don't. The choice is yours. If you're gonna do it, then you need to not be afraid that there's gonna be flak. And, you know, if you are afraid of that, you need to not be a dick about it. (laughter) I mean, basically.... But Citizens Against Bad Slash was— They were kind of brutally honest, they weren't necessarily— You know, they were more pretentious, I think, about their aims than they actually were in practice, in a lot of ways. They were, y'know, they had high-minded goals, and that "We don't care what you think," but obviously they did care, or they had some anxiety about it, because they never revealed themselves, by anything that anyone would recognize. And it seemed highly unlikely to me, even when I was talking to them, that they would have come into this blind. They had obviously been in fandom, or some fandom, for a while. So they would not necessarily come in there blind, and just start this. So there was some history there somewhere, and they did a very good job of keeping themselves secret, and I to this day don't know who they were. Nor do I care. My comment to them originally was, "You're welcome to say this, and I'm not gonna— I don't actually care if you say it, but you know. Don't refuse to engage once you start it." And that was basically how we started up whatever relationship it was to have. And they wanted to do the interview and I said, "Sure. I'll be glad to answer whatever you want." And I said I have strong opinions and sometimes they're not popular, and I don't really care, y'know?
...my opinions were never personal, like I'm not— You know, not that everybody knew that, but I— People say stuff to me, it's like the woman who kind of dinged me on LiveJournal a year or two ago about— that my warnings were condescending. Which anybody who knows me for ten seconds in fandom knows that I've been a huge advocate of warnings forever. Like we were just talking about that downstairs [at Escapade]. I've been an advocate of warnings for 18 years. I've been the one that's been posting saying, "I don't think, y'know, if you want to get on your high horse about not posting warnings, feel free, but then you have to take what you get when you upset somebody."
I'm a huge advocate, fan writer of rape and issues of consent. I always have been. I mean, since early on. I mean— And violent. And fairly violent and dark fic. I also write fluffy fic. But, y'know, my first, the first fiction I even published was, like I said, "The Abomination" in Highlander, in which Methos got killed, over and over again, in a particularly gory, ugly way. In the name of a misunderstanding. So, y'know, I wrote a historic piece for Methos about his very earliest life, like from childhood forward, that I never quite finished, but that I wrote about him being in that kind of early slave situation, becoming a slave of choice, a partner of choice, who was completely a slave. I mean, mentally was completely a slave, who was used and abused and accepted it as his lot in life, and later was discovered to be Immortal and then was killed for the pleasure of his master. Just because it made him happy. To, like you know, fuck him and kill him, or fuck him to death, basically. But so there was this whole thing that I was working toward about how Methos became the person he was, and I started it from when he was about four. I mean, literally it was like an entire thing. So a lot of my fiction— So it's like I don't read a lot of underage fic, and I don't write a lot of it, because like I said it was very specific and I can justify it all I want to, but it is. And I warned extensively for what it was.
I am a huge vid fan. I wish I could vid, I really do. I don't have— One, I don't have the technical skills, which I could probably learn. But I've been a fan of vids— I’m trying to remember, 'cause I think the— I’d seen a few vids on-line, early on. I remember a vid was really almost is what— It would have gotten me into Sentinel if I'd been able to write anything. And I only wrote like one little tiny story in Sentinel. But it was— But seeing the vids at the first Escapade that I came to was like, "Ohh! I love that! I love that." And then they started showing up where you could, y'know, where people were streaming, where people would send me tapes, and I fell in love with the whole idea of it. It's such a— I think of myself as a visual writer. So when I write something, I tend to describe a lot of what the camera would see. In other words, so I tend to describe the location, and I describe the expressions on their faces, I describe, y'know, the grain of the woodwork. I'm very tactile about what I do when I write. But I'm not as good with actually doing it in a pacing way that goes with vidding. But so when I see vids, they immediately connect with how I feel I write. So it's like, I want to tell this story. So I've commissioned vids before, or won vids at auction, where I've said, "This is— Here’s the lyrics and here's the story I want to tell, and I can't do this, so please do it for me." And people have done it, and it's been fabulous and I love it. I'm definitely a West Coast, Media Cannibals esthetic person. I'm all about the quick, clean cuts and the making sure there's no dialogue, and there's a whole bunch of things that are the esthetics of that. But there's— But you know, the one thing I need is, I need a good story to go with the lyrics. And they are. And it's like, honestly, I think if I could vid, I'd give up writing entirely. Because really, that's what I want to do. I want to— I, like, want to re-shoot my favorite series and my favorite actors and my favorite characters, and with my scripts, and my— That’s what I want when I write, that's what I'm doing, is, I'm really just re-casting those.