by Chris Tobias
On March 31, the UK Firefly and Serenity podcast Sending a Wave announced that it was coming to an end after twelve years of keeping Browncoats around the world up-to-date on all the latest conjurings in the Firefly fandom throughout the ‘verse. Sending a Wave will always be very special to all of us here at Take Back the Sky, because the podcast was the first media outlet to interview Jeff and me (way back in the 2012) about our efforts to convince Elon Musk and SpaceX to name their first Crew Dragon Serenity. Not only did our interview on Sending a Wave spread the news of what we were doing to a worldwide audience, it also gave our campaign a level of legitimacy in the Browncoat community that it hadn’t had previously. This was especially crucial to the success of our first online petition to SpaceX, which ended up with thousands of signatures from every continent except Antarctica, accompanied by comments in multiple languages.
About a year later we had the pleasure of meeting Wendy Scott, co-creator and host of Sending a Wave, in person at Wizard World Philadelphia Comic Con in June of 2013. At the con that weekend, Wendy interviewed me again about my work as the event coordinator of Pittsburgh’s Can’t Stop the Serenity charity screenings, and together we attended the Firefly panel that featured Adam Baldwin, Summer Glau, Jewel Staite and Gina Torres. Wendy is a lovely woman who is tremendously knowledgeable about science-fiction and the film industry and an absolutely fascinating person to talk to. One of my favorite things about Wendy, both as a podcast host and as a friend, is that her “BS-meter” is finely-tuned, and she’s not afraid to call anyone out if their story has the odor of a fabrication or a retcon. (If you don’t believe me, you can hear her give me a much-needed history lesson upon our first meeting in Sending a Wave Episode 93: The One with Dragons!)
When I heard about the end of Sending a Wave, I contacted Wendy to ask her if it would be okay if I achieved some closure of sorts by bringing things full circle and interviewing her about what had been great run of a groundbreaking Firefly and Serenity podcast. She graciously agreed, and on April 28 we spent nearly three hours on Skype talking about everything from the podcast itself to geek culture, science-fiction of all kinds, Joss Whedon, CSTS, the current state of the film industry and even American and European politics. As you can guess, that conversation meandered in many different directions. The following is a transcript of questions Wendy answered that were specific to Sending a Wave:
Take Back the Sky: How did the idea for Sending a Wave come about?
Wendy Scott: This is pretty awful of me, but I genuinely can’t remember how I found the Firefly Talk podcast, but I know I listened to that first and they kept mentioning The Signal and I listened to both of those for a while. Although, they were both interesting and fun; I felt they were also rather “limiting”. Neither of them talked to fans and the article segments all shared a similar point of view.
Firefly Talk did this segment where they did a “forum roundup” of popular topics and for a long time, because they never mentioned which forum, I really thought they were looking at all different Browncoat forums and it was quite a while before I realized that they were only looking at their own.
I understood that being able to speak with cast members, etc., was going to be a challenge so I was really happy for The Signal that they were able to be included as part of the press for the release of SERENITY. But I also felt it a shame that all the voices I heard were American with the American fan experience and it felt like the global fandom didn’t exist.
During the early part of 2006, fans from the UK site, Can’t Stop The Signal (CSTS), had a shindig one evening in a pub in London, a couple of us both listened to Firefly Talk and The Signal (at that time, the UK wasn’t a particularly huge podcast listeners or producers, unless it was neatly packaged BBC radio shows) and jokily I said we should do our own. I thought nothing more of it and then a post appeared on CSTS asking if anyone was interested in doing it. I offered to join to be a voice– really had no interest in doing any more as I was a long-distance commuter and had absolutely no idea of the skills required to put a podcast on the net and wasn’t particularly interested in learning. It went from there.
TBtS: Were there any particular challenges you encountered in production over the years?
WS: There’s always a learning curve. I suppose the big problem that continued with Sending a Wave to the very end was making the show known to the fans. It’s not a very British thing to want to push forward and it wasn’t something I felt particularly comfortable with so there has never been Sending a Wave t-shirts, etc. We never really received a lot of feedback from the fan community and so I eventually stopped posting new show information on sites like Fireflyfans.net, Serenitymovie.org which was probably rather silly.
The main reason why I’ve had to stop the show is actually being able to find fan activity. During the early years, there was so much going on and people were actively posting on Fireflyfans and Serenitymovie and it was much, much easier. However as the years have progressed and there’s no new official content, the fandom has become so much more fragmented with many separate groups on FaceBook and Twitter– there isn’t a central forum anymore and outside of the Browncoat Ball and Can’t Stop The Serenity, no fan group appears to know what anyone else is doing anymore and that’s a huge shame. I don’t have the time to spend looking through social media as much any more and although there were a few people who asked about joining the show, the moment I made it clear that searching for/providing content was a prerequisite for joining, interest waned…
TBtS: Looking back on your 12 years of producing and hosting Sending a Wave, what was your favorite experience (or perhaps a few of your favorite experiences if you can’t choose just one)?
WS: The main joy has been meeting fans like you, Chris, who continue to be so passionate AND trying to influence the future with the likes of SpaceX.
The fandom has been pretty amazing even by SF fan standards. I think it’s mainly because for so long we HAD no choice but to create things like our own merchandise and take the show seriously, because it felt as if no one else was.
I always believed that supporting and highlighting the Browncoat community was the right path to take with Sending a Wave and I’m proud that that is what we continued to do.
Of course, prod me hard enough and the words “Nathan Fillion” will be said. (laughs)
TBtS: Is there a particular story or topic that you regret not having the chance to cover?
WS: I think I’m fairly sanguine about it all. We covered the elements that we wanted to or came our way. Of course, I would have loved to have had the opportunity to speak with more cast members– who wouldn’t?! But that wasn’t to be.
If there has to be one lost or missed (opportunity), I’d say the Creation Convention team. It would have been nice to talk about what they were doing, but I found their marketing team unfocused, rude and frankly unprofessional. I have no doubt that they felt I was being extremely pushy but that was because I felt I was being strung along by their marketing team with no one ever coming back to me with a definitive “thank you but we’re not interested.” At the time, that really annoyed me! Actually, it still annoys me off to a degree. (laughs)
TBtS: What was it about Firefly and Serenity that inspired you to create Sending a Wave?
WS: The fandom was GLOBAL. It wasn’t just in the US or Canada and for me it simply wasn’t being reflected in these vocal representations.
I subsequently learned that the creator of The Signal was in fact British and when I asked why it was only Americans on the show, I was told that it was only Americans who had shown interest when a notice had been posted. (shrugs)
TBtS: Sending a Wave was always a huge supporter of Can’t Stop the Serenity. Why did you feel it was important for you to promote CSTS on your podcast?
WS: The easy answer is content. Being a monthly release, we could get 3 or 4 shows a year out of it, as well as reminding the fandom how global Browncoats were.
As I have said earlier, as time has continued and the fandom has become more fragmented, it become obvious that Can’t Stop The Serenity has evolved into a sort of fandom “glue.” As I said before it is only one of 2 ongoing fandom events that remain “centralized.”
As much as the show has been rather critical of elements of CSTS, it needs to remain an important focus of the fandom to keep us together. One of the fabulous things that many CSTS Global Organizers attempted to achieve over the years is the assistance they have provided to continental European fans. There have never been that many on the Continent, but it is something to continue to hope for and strive towards.
TBtS: In 2012, you interviewed Jeff and me about Take Back the Sky and our campaign to convince SpaceX to name its first Crew Dragon after Serenity. Why do you think Serenity would be a fitting name for that space capsule? What would it mean to you as a Browncoat to have a real-life spaceship called Serenity?
WS: As we all know, there was a time when “Serenity” was on the NASA short-list for names for a part of the ISS which I believe won and was promptly ignored due to the fandom interest. (laughs)
I think Space X’s concept and use of Dragon dovetails with what our Serenity is– a working spaceship. Serenity wasn’t glamorous as the Enterprise, or a design aesthetic as the Discovery; but it was meant to conjure up the Millennium Falcon– beat up, used and, above all, WORKING.
(Note: Actually the name “Serenity” did win that poll to name the section of the ISS also known as Node 3– by a landslide– but by the time the installation of the module drew near, so did the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. As a result, NASA decided to ignore the results of the poll and name the module “Tranquility” instead in honor of Apollo 11. Thus, the Browncoats were double-crossed by the Feds yet again! Also, for them as need clarification– when Wendy refers to “Discovery,” she’s talking about the starship in the new Star Trek series, not the space shuttle of the same name. — Chris)
As a Browncoat, if you succeeded, it would certainly give me an enormous sense of both pride and vindication. We held the line, we’re still here and no corporate entity has been able to make us go away when I have no doubt they wished we would. On a jokey fan level– (it’d) be one in the eye to Trek fans, as although NASA gave in to public demands regarding Enterprise, they NEVER used the name for one of their operational crafts which personally, I felt was woefully short-sighted of them.
Please correct me if I’m wrong, but I understood that Musk, himself, has said that the Falcon was definitively named to honour the Millennium Falcon, so looks to me as if he could start a precedent.
TBtS: You’re not wrong. Speaking of the Falcon, we know you’re a huge Star Wars fan, but besides the new Star Wars films, what’s the latest thing in the sci-fi genre that’s piqued your interest?
WS: Oooh, not a lot to be honest. I thoroughly enjoyed The Leftovers and I finally made it through the first season of The Expanse and will watch the second, just haven’t yet got around to it. Westworld was OK until the show went down the now well-trod replicant/cylon storyline which annoyed me but I stuck with it. We’ll see if the creators have been able to come up with something more original for the second series. I’ve never read the book, but I thoroughly enjoyed The Handmaid’s Tale. I’ve heard good reports regarding the latest effort with Lost In Space, but again I have to get round to that. Enjoyed Star Trek: Discovery, but felt there was a massive creative shift with the last 5 or 6 episodes after the hiatus. Film-wise, I really, really liked A Quiet Place and felt that it was 99% totally thought through. Never got into The 100 and I’ve still yet to get round to Sense8. I did love BLADE RUNNER 2049— yes it was slow, yes there was too much Ryan Gosling staring into the distance, but I thought it was a very worthy continuation.
TBtS: What’s next for you now that Sending a Wave has gone dark? Do you have any new projects in the works?
WS: A friend and are doing a very periodical STAR WARS podcast called Going Solo and it’s pretty much us venting but highlighting business/creative elements that pretty much go over the collective head of a fandom that want to concentrate on character rather than maybe why. All rather unspectacular, I’m afraid. I also join in periodically with the Time Vault Podcast for their James Bond shows.
TBtS: Do you have anything else you’d like to say to those who listened over the years?
WS: Thank you. I hope you enjoyed what we had to say. I hope you enjoyed listening to the people we spoke with. Now, go listen to The Firefly Podcast! (laughs)
Thanks for asking me to do this, Chris, it’s really kind of you.
TBtS: The pleasure was all mine, Wendy. Thanks for taking the time to talk with me.
Throughout our conversation, one of the things that struck me was that Wendy genuinely had no idea what an impact Sending a Wave had made upon Browncoats outside the UK. I can only speak for my corner of the US, but I can personally say that in the eight years I have been involved with the Pennsylvania Browncoats, CSTS and Take Back the Sky, I have never once mentioned Sending a Wave at a con or a CSTS event and had someone say to me, “What’s that?” (I wish the same could be said about CSTS or Take Back the Sky!) The fact is, Sending a Wave became exactly the kind of “glue” for Browncoats of which Wendy spoke. Aside from Facebook and Twitter, it was the way to find out about Firefly-themed cons, fan films, games and other licensed merchandise, music, and of course CSTS screenings and events all over the world, and I know I speak for many when I say it will definitely be missed.
The good news is that all of the episodes in Sending a Wave’s twelve-year run are archived online, so if you missed any of them, or if you’re hearing about the podcast now for the first time, you can always go back and binge all 164 episodes on iTunes. And while you’re there, be sure to check out Wendy’s other podcast Going Solo, which provides a refreshing look at the Star Wars universe devoid of the retcons and fanboy worship that has become so prevalent on social media, as well as The Firefly Podcast, which is the show to which Sending a Wave has passed the Browncoat baton.
And if you’re looking for a proper way to say “thank you” to Wendy and the rest of her crew from Sending a Wave, don’t forget that you can always help achieve that pride and vindication Wendy spoke of by “sending a wave” to SpaceX in the form of a postcard or letter to Elon Musk and/or Gwynne Shotwell— asking them to name the Crew Dragon that is scheduled to launch at the end of this year after Serenity.
Peace, love and rockets…
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