Trying something a little bit different this week, rambling on with fellow pop culture rambler Sam McPherson!
Sam McPherson is a contributing editor for the entertainment news website TVOvermind. He’s also an administrator for the fansite Lostpedia, and considers Fringe, Game of Thrones, and Doctor Who to be his areas of expertise. Sam also created the fansite Knowing Lost, which is the home to several original fan fictions and works of fan art related to the television show Lost. You can follow Sam on Twitter, where he is known as the McPhersonator.
ANTHONY: Hi, Sam, thanks for taking the time to chat!
SAM: No problem. Thanks for helping out my ego!
A: I’m primarily familiar with you as a reviewer/commentator on TV Overmind. How did you get started with the site?
S: I discovered the site a few months after it started up, and filled out the little application. A little while later, Jon Lachonis, who owns the site, dropped me an email back and said that he’d love to have me on the staff. That was back in July 2009, and I’ve been writing for the site ever since.
A: I first became aware of you through your LOST posts, and now I follow your Game of Thrones posts as well. Do you and the other writers for TV Overmind have specific “beats” you work, or is it pretty much “write about what you want to write about?”
S: Well, we cover the news on a first-come-first serve basis. More in-depth pieces, though, are usually written by the folks who are experts on the show. That’s not to say that a show can’t have several experts — we have four people on the staff who are very knowledgeable about Fringe, for instance.
A: You are also a Lostpedia Administrator. How did that come about?
S: I started editing the site as a normal user in February 2007, right around the time the second half of season three started up. I really loved the community and worked to become a part of it over a few years. Around late 2008, I was part of a small group of users who did “Lostpedia Interviews” with various members of the cast and crew. I got to interview Rebecca Mader, Francois Chau, and a lot of background extras/guest actors. I was ‘promoted’ to administrator in March 2009.
A: I’ll admit I don’t tend to visit Lostpedia as much now that the show is over. I find that as much as I say I want to go back and watch the whole series from start to end again, I seem to be reticent to do it and a number of my friends who loved the show feel the same way. Do you think there’s a kind of “post-series letdown” that genre fans feel after a series ends?
S: Well, with LOST at least, certainly. The finale was hugely polarizing, and I don’t think a lot of people really wanted a lot to do with the show for a while after that. There are a little bit of a surge in interest with the one year anniversary of the finale a few months ago, but I think for the most part, there won’t be a lot of interest in LOST again for a few years until we hit the five- or ten-year anniversary.
A: We could talk about LOST for hours, so I’m going to play a little word-association. How did you feel about the following topics that Lost fans seem to be pretty divided on:
S: Loved it. There are a few seeds of disappointment because it wasn’t what I’d expected through my long time of watching the show — but the same can be said for the entirety of season six, really.
A: The whole “Flash-Sideways” concept?
S: Again, it was a bit of a letdown because it felt like a giant red herring since they drew it out across the entire season. If they’d only had it pop up sporadically, I think it would have had greater effect.
A: The tie-in paperback novels?
S: Have them, but haven’t read them. I’m more of a fan of the unofficial analysis books, like Sarah Clarke-Stuart’s Literary LOST.
A: Last LOST question: you started an online “fan-fic” that places fans of the tv show into the action of the show, with full knowledge of what is going to happen to the characters — how has that been received? Any feedback from the Lost creators on the concept or execution?
S: Knowing Lost started off well, with lots of readers. Then, as it became more and more of a chore to have a ten-page episode out every week, I started to get exhausted and just stopped for a while. I mishandled it and lost a lot of readers, but I’ve now started it back up. I’m currently working on an idea that will make the site the base for LOST fan-fiction and fan-art.
A: Okay, on to Game of Thrones. I had a conversation recently with a friend who has never read the Harry Potter books nor George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, and yet he loves (and has managed to avoid being spoiled on plot points for) the movie franchise and the tv series adapted from those books. As someone who is reporting on the GoT tv series but who has also read the source material, do you ever find yourself having to back up and reword things because you know stuff some of your readers may not know?
S: Oh yes. A lot of my articles over this hiatus are referencing the second book, from which season two will be adapted. I’m working on a series of articles now that reveal my fantasy casting for key new characters, and I’ve finally taken to putting a mild spoiler warning at the top of every article, because I’m so afraid I’ll spoil someone who accidentally clicks on to the article.
A: There’s been a lot of hate mail directed at George RR Martin by readers who feel betrayed that he’s not churning out ASOIAF books faster. Neil Gaiman famously weighed in a while back saying that essentially authors (and other creative types) don’t owe their fans anything on a set time-line (what people have paraphrased as “George RR Martin is not your bitch.”) I think the truth is somewhere in the middle: if you promise a series with a continuing storyline that will eventually conclude, you should commit to finishing it (leaving aside for now issues of writer’s block and other such roadblocks) or don’t write series fiction. As an obvious fan of series-type storytelling, what’s your take on this?
S: Well, I didn’t start reading the books until a few months ago, so I don’t know anything about the long, agonizing wait that fans have been put through recently. What I do know, though, is that Martin’s put himself on a very short time frame by having the HBO series premiere in 2011. He’s going to have to finish the series before the show catches up to him. So saying that “George RR Martin is not your bitch” is entirely accurate. He’s playing to HBO’s timeline now.
A: Do you think, if push came to shove, HBO would go ahead and create a series ending for GoT if Martin falls behind their production schedule? Or do you think they’ll space out production on future seasons to accommodate his slower writing habits?
S: I’ve thought about it, but I don’t know how that would turn out. I’m thinking that Martin will just narrowly meet the deadline, but if he doesn’t, we’ll probably be looking at some postponed seasons while HBO puts pressure on him to get it done. I don’t think that there will be an ending created only for the TV show. Martin’s pretty meticulous, and I think the story’s all going in one very specific direction.
A: On a somewhat related topic (in terms of delayed story continuations): what’s your feeling about the “split season” for Doctor Who this year? Do the producers of shows like LOST and Doctor Who owe it to viewers to tell a complete story straight through rather than splitting the season up to build tension?
S: The split season doesn’t bother me. The first half of the series ended on a pretty good cliffhanger, and I’m willing to wait to see where it goes. What does bother me, though, is the discrepancy in scheduling between the UK and the US. That sort of thing results in a lot of people getting spoiled. BBC America was doing great with same-day airings until they skipped Memorial Day, screwing it all up and putting the US a week behind the UK. I was spoiled for River Song’s identity because of that break. It’s even worse this summer for British Torchwood fans, who have to wait six days after the US to see what started out as their show, all because Starz got world premiere rights to the series. I expect that’ll cause a plummet in viewership.
A: I still don’t know River Song’s identity, so thanks for not spoiling that here! Do you think Torchwood will survive this switch to Starz having primacy over BBC, or could this move spell the end for the show?
S: I don’t know if it’ll survive or not. I’m afraid it’s going to be a lose-lose situation, to be honest. I’m not sure that Starz has enough subscribers who would watch the show, and over the six day wait I’m pretty sure UK fans will get the show through other means. I think the fact that Starz through in a “world premiere rights” clause in their contract might hurt the show where it counts.
A: You’re on Twitter, you’re a regular on TV Overmind, you’ve got your own occasional blog, and you recently graduated from high school. So what’s in the future for Sam McPherson?
S: I’m heading off to college next month, but for my online presence I hope it’ll be like nothing’s changed. I’ll keep writing for TVOvermind when I’m not living the college life. You guys aren’t getting rid of me that easily!
A: And my usual last question: What is your favorite book, and what would you say to recommend it to someone who has never read it?
S: House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski. Absolutely brilliant book that’s been begging for me to read it again as soon as I get through my ever lengthening to-read list. It’s perhaps the only book I’ve ever read that can never work in any other medium, because it’s so brilliant in this one. It’s the most rewarding book experience I’ve ever had.
A: Thanks, Sam!