Meet the Failcrew – Rowan Bristol

This week we meet one of Made of Fail’s newest members, but one who has been influential on its development since far before it came to be. For those of you who don’t understand how such paradoxes work, you obviously haven’t yet met Rowan Bristol.

What is your role in Made of Fail Productions?

I am the writer and producer of both the Burnham Society podcast, and the upcoming Burnham Society audio plays. For those who are just tuning in, the Burnham Society is an urban fantasy comedy set in Chicago. The plays serve as the main story, while the podcasts provide additional material both factual and fictional. In the podcasts, I get to play my alter-ego, Rowan Bristol, the sullen proprietor of Bristol Books. In addition, I am Made of Fail’s official Dalek voice. That’s only come in handy once, but I’m told it will be useful later.

If you were to have Fandom Merit Badges, what would they be?

I have a complete Doctor Who Badge, with Sarah Jane, K-9, and Torchwood Stars.
I have an Anime Badge with multiple sub-badges.
I have the Whedon Star, Davies Crest, and Moffat Crescent
I’ve held an OBC (Order of British Comedy) since 1982. And the Steel Sapphire Medal for obscure British Science Fiction.
I have ranks in Moore, both Terry and Alan.
I am working on my Urban Fantasy badge, with electives.
I’m completing my DS-9 badge
I am a panda, with costume.
My YouTube rank is Fenton.

What fascinates you the most about your fandoms, or fandom as a whole?

I think I’m the oldest member of the MoF community, so I’ve had an opportunity to watch fanculture evolve over the years. When I was young, simply liking something that was remotely sci-fi or fantasy would put you firmly into this niche of fandom. As I grew up, there were things you could be into, but only for a certain amount of time. You were expected to grow out of a love for comic books or anime, or toys. Now, there are no barriers. Science fiction and fantasy are firmly in the mainstream. Comic book characters earn big numbers at the box office. The differentiation between people who simply like genre stuff, and the fans is passion. I’m pretty sure I have a transformers toy in my apartment somewhere, but my boyfriend is able to tell me what it is, when it was made, what variation it was, and the entire history of the character. That’s passion. And that passion and love for these things is fandom.

The upside of that passion for me is the wonderful things it can inspire. There’s so much creativity out there, and fandom’s passion provides that outlet. People want to create, but there’s something in the culture that says you have to be a specific kind of person to create content. Fandom provides a framework to begin breaking that belief. Fanfiction, cosplay, artwork, parody… Fandom is a launchpad for a creative spirit. Even cooler is when fandom is a stepping stone to creating the artwork that’s inside your soul. I began by writing fanfiction. I’m now in the next stage where my work is derivative. In time, I might produce something beautiful and inspiring. That journey began with writing Final Fantasy VIII fanfiction. And no, that’s not a typo. That’s an 8. I am truly that lame.

The downside of that passion for me is a religious zealotry involving the object of the fandom. Fandom is the haven of the cataloger and the statistician as well as the artist. And the hostility that comes from breaking what someone considers to be the ‘truth’ of their passion can be devastating. Folks like that also tend to end up being ‘gatekeepers’ of fandom, determining who is and isn’t a ‘true’ fan. I remember those gatekeepers back in my early anime days, back when the only anime available that wasn’t from Carl Macek came on dubbed and redubbed untranslated episodes on betamax. If you weren’t considered a true fan, you never got to participate in the fandom at all. Worse, some of that gatekeeping contains biases that have nothing to do with the fandom. Passion when mixed with misogyny, homophobia, or racism can be a real poison.

What is your proudest accomplishment or achievement?

This has been a crazy few years, and it’s been full of accomplishment. Can I do different categories? Of course I can. This is my post.

  • In 2010, I earned my BA from DePaul. 20 years ago, I was in school in KU, and the experience was so bad, not only did I drop out, but I labeled myself as a failure completely. I stopped writing, I stopped performing, I stopped trying. Over the years, I got creative again, but would always give up, because I had this story in my head that I was a failure. So, in 2008, I decided to break that story. Two years of work and panic later, I had a degree, and the belief that I could do anything…Including this show.
  • I have severe body issues. So in 2008 when I dressed up in stretch velvet and marched in the Halsted Halloween parade as LeiLei the Panda…Not too shabby. To have my body be an asset for a character, and to have the confidence to flirt with roughly 10,000 guys, was yet another launchpad which led to one of my favorite achievements.
  • As of this writing, I’ll have lived with my boyfriend for nearly a year. We’ve been together for three years total. It’s crazy, nerdy, geeky, and more than a little kinky, but I haven’t been happier. For the record, he’s also my sound director on the Burnham Society.
  • I have over 1,000 fashion coordinates posted on flickr of my secondlife avatar.
  • Paul Cornell retweeted my Inspector Spacetime tweets
  • Dalek Thay likes me, or at least I won’t be -first- on his obliteration lists.

What do you do when you’re not online?

A couple of things. I fundraise for the Optimist Theatre, which provides free Shakespeare every summer up in Milwaukee. I’m a haunted tour guide for CaperCompany in Milwaukee, showing off the grim, haunted hot spots of Wisconsin. I hike about 2,000 miles a year, do storytelling performances around town, tabletop roleplay with a bunch of Renfaire vets, and throw boomerangs.

What is your dream job?

Being paid to tell stories. It’s happened before, I’d love for it to be a regular thing again.

What is your greatest pet peeve?

The ALIN reflex. ALIN is short for ‘At Least I’m Not…’ It’s that moment when you realize you’re hip deep in whatever fandom it is, and you try to justify it by denigrating someone else. ‘I’m a Trekkie, but At Least I’m Not that chick who wore a uniform to jury duty.’ ‘I’m a furry but At Least I’m Not that guy on YouTube…You know, -that- guy’. It gets even worse when you diminish another fandom to make your fandom somehow look good. Have the balls to love your fandom, and accept that others love it differently. Accept that there are other fandoms out there, and they’re just as ‘worthy’ as yours. It may not be your thing, or your level of fandom, but it’s a big fucking world. You’re a fan. Nothing is going to make you ‘look better’. Denigrating someone else only makes you look worse.

What is your anti-zombie weapon?

Steel-toed boots.

Bond, or Bond Villain?

Villain. Better crashpad.

Favorite Fandom Moment?

Watching LOTR in the theaters, and thinking Peter Jackson got the whole thing wrong because Cate Blanchett’s performance of Galadriel was nowhere near as cool as my mom’s when she read me ‘Fellowship’ as a child.

Rowan can be followed on Twitter (@RowanBristol) and LiveJournal (rowandoll)

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