I hadn’t been online very long at all when I had my first twinges of wanting to contribute somehow to Star Wars fandom.
I remember what inspired me – browsing the file area at AOL’s Star Wars fan forum, which had several fan-produced newsletters. The most important of these was the HoloCroN, but instead of contributing, I decided to strike off on my own. My concept: A newsletter for fan fiction, with updates and reviews and the like. I called it ‘A Certain Point of View,’ aka CPoV. I was all of 17.
Because of the fanfic aspect, there wasn’t much I could do with it on the AOL forum, where talk of fan fiction was prohibited. But I posted it on rec.arts.sf.starwars.misc (RASSM) and maintained a mailing list. Eventually it became a website, hosted on the space provided by AOL. (The no-fanfic thing was a forum rule, not a blanket AOL thing.)
Deb, who ran what eventually became the big fanfic archive Fanfix, hooked me up with a guy called BrokeBlade, who was writing his own fanfic reviews. He became one of my regular reviewers, as did a member of Club Jade, Heather Lynn. I did a few myself, too.
It was my first real experience with web design, too – HTML, graphics, all that I learned working on and designing CPoV. I don’t have a copy of any of it, unless it’s buried on one of the old Zip discs gathering dust in my basement… But I used the last, archival version of the site to get my first college newspaper job. Granted, I was actually a graphic design major with PhotoShop by that point – the original CPoV graphics were done with some cheap-ass graphic software I bought at Best Buy. It didn’t even do layers.
It’s hard to say how popular CPoV was back in the days before decent hit counters, but I was on the links page at both Fanfix and CJ, so I hazard if you were into fanfic, you at least knew of it. This was a very small pool back then, mostly Expanded Universe readers – some of the zine folks were anti-EU and this was before the huge wave that came for Phantom Menace slash. (A fractured Star Wars fandom is nothing new.) I did know some zine people through CJ, including Sue D., who was very supportive and wrote about zines for me. She also told me that CPoV was actually discussed in the letterzine Southern Enclave. A few of those issues were eventually scanned and I found the discussion – it was pretty low-key, all things considered. And, through her and others in CJ, I learned that I share a name with a controversial figure of early fandom… (No relation, as far as I know, and I was like 2 at the time. Just a coincidence. A weird, weird coincidence. And I had no idea just how controversial she and her sister were until much later…)
When it came to the fic we reviewed, we weren’t always the nicest; In fact, the reviews I actually remember best are the negative. A particularly brutal review of mine actually helped make a certain story very popular: In some circles it was regarded as a classic. Lesson learned…
Then one day I jumped into a chatroom and met Prophet, who helped run Jedinet, which was one of the handful of big Star Wars sites at the time. (We’re still in the late 90′s – I want to say June ’97 – before the Episode I anticipation rocketed into high gear: back when TheForce.net was just the Star Wars page at A&M, best known – in my circle, anyway – for interviews.) I ended up dropping a link to CPoV in the chat, and Proph asked if they could host the site. I was starstruck and said HELLS YES. CPoV went live on Jedinet.com in August that year.
This turned out to be a mixed blessing: My first encounter with fanboy politics. It didn’t take long for the Jedinet book guy to get pissed off at me for breaking some sort of book news. (I don’t even remember what it was, but the Bantam editor at the time was on AOL and would often drop hints and such.) Then the site owner, known as Vader, had an attack of the paranoids and dropped Proph from the site; Since most of my interaction had been through Proph this didn’t exactly endear us to each other, although I was still officially part of Jedinet.
The era of huge Star Wars fan sites was starting thanks to Episode I and the founding of TheForce.net, Vader wanted in on it, and the entire site was going to be melded together. I didn’t really want any part of it: I gave him a (silly, dumb, very snot-faced teenager) ultimatum. He dropped me, and I was glad to leave.
(Sometime shortly before this, I was on the staff of Jedinet’s prequel site – and even did some designing on it – for about two seconds. Pretty sure that’s literal: It wasn’t very long at all, though my design work for it still lingered online for a couple of years. Given how nasty the fansite infighting over The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones spoilers became, I’m glad I didn’t last.)
CPoV was part of another site (NerfHerder dot something, I think; It was also run by teenagers and didn’t last long) but I really didn’t do much with it anymore: All the fanboy drama had soured my taste for it, plus I was in college and had other concerns, and eventually I gave it up, helping out with the Club Jade site and fanfic archive instead.
Jedinet itself was one of the many sites that didn’t really survive the spoiler wars of the prequel era, at least not as the powerhouse it once was. It’s still around, technically, but Vader – I honestly don’t remember the guy’s real name, sorry – is no longer involved. Or so I’ve been told. He was a jerk, but so was I: Water under the bridge.
In any case, I’m glad I did CPoV. It taught me several very important lessons. (First and foremost: Stay very far away from ego-driven fanboy sites, which has come in handy at least once.) I think if I hadn’t ended it, it would have eventually developed into what the Club Jade blog is today. Maybe.