Saturday, August 08, 2009

When science fiction fans are interviewed for a lifestyle magazine

I don't talk about it here often, but I've been a co-editor of a science fiction fanzine for 15 years. It's called Dorado Raganos, which means Witches of Dorado in Lithuanian. Dorado is the name of a science fiction club in Vilnius, Lithuania, that has been the home base of our fanzine in its early days. And we'll get to the "witch" part in a moment.

I've been co-editing this fanzine with two of my friends -- we'll call them AVS and DL -- since 1994. Since then, both of my friends and I became expats, scattered thousands of miles apart across two contintents. Yet we keep it going, even though there were some years when the fanzine didn't come out.

This was the first time in 15 years when all three of us were able to meet in the same physical place. Funny, we didn't even plan it: it just happened that we were all visiting Lithuania at the same time. Our stay in Lithuania overlapped for exactly one day, July 13th. So of course we had to meet. We went to a restaurant and spent 5 hours catching up. Other 3 members of our team, who have contributed greatly to the fanzine over the years, also came to the meeting. One of them told about us to her friend, a journalist, who then decided to write an article about us. So she came to our meeting and interviewed us.

I was surprised that the journalist thought our little fanzine was of interest to anyone except those 50-70 people who read it. As much as our fanzine has a dubious honor of being the only speculative fiction magazine being published in Lithuania for the last decade (sad but true), it's not the kind of thing general public is interested in.

I was right: the interview wasn't primarily about the fanzine. The journalist was mostly curious about how we met our husbands. :-) That, and in our lives as expats. Of course, given that the publication she writes for is a lifestyle magazine for women, the focus of the interview wasn't too surprising. After all, we know from stereotypes that women don't care about "geeky stuff" like science fiction. ;-) So the journalist emphasized the "human interest" angle, such as the fact that two women in our trio met her husbands through science fiction. There were some soundbite-worthy details in their courtship stories. After meeting at a convention, AVS and her future husband, a Swede, communicated without a common language for a while (until she learned Swedish). At one point I translated his letters to her from English to Lithuanian, and helped her write a letter to him in English. DL and her husband met when he wrote her a letter praising her fantasy story, which he read... guess where? That's right -- in our fanzine! So, these heartwarming details made up the bulk of the interview. I guess journalists use stuff like that to show that geeks are human too, and even have something resembling love lives. So it wasn't a waste, even if the science fiction aspect of the interview was rather thin.

So why "witches"? Over the years I came to regret the "witch" part in the "Witches of Dorado". I had to explain multiple times that really, our fanzine has nothing to do with witchcraft, paganism, or paranormal, and it's not even biased towards fantasy. It's just a magazine for all kinds of speculative fiction. "Witches" made it into the name almost accidentally. It was a word AVS uttered in response to someone's teasing -- kind of "you better beware of witches like us!" And so the name stuck.

So of course, during the interview the reporter asked us with a completely straight face, if we practiced witchcraft. The question made my hair stand on end, as I was afraid that no matter how much we downplay the witchcraft angle, she'll find a way to put it in the story, and I'll go on record as a woo-woo loony. After all, New Age'y stories are extremely popular in lifestyle magazines in Lithuania (if the sample I've browsed is any indication). It didn't help that AVS, the chief editor, wanted to play it up a little bit. Instead of firmly stating we don't subscribe to mystical nonsense, she said, with her trademark mysterious semi-smile, that every woman has a bit of a sorceress in her. I, on the other hand, assured the reporter that the only thing we've done that could be remotely attributed to witchcraft, is the ability to keep the fanzine going across 15 years and two continents. Fortunately, my remark made it into the interview.

But maybe I'm taking this thing entirely too seriously.

Pictures from our meeting can be found in my photo gallery.

* To my Lithuanian friends who might want to know, it's a Sunday addition "Brigita" of a daily newspaper "Respublika". It came out 2 weeks ago.

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