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Hephaistos

Though not among the most prolific nor longest-standing authors in the fandom, Hephaistos is unarguably a reader's favorite when it comes to The Sentinel fan fiction. Her works are often cited as outstanding examples of skilled humor and case dramas. She has also contributed greatly to the fandom's internet presence, designing and maintaining multiple author and other Sentinel-associated websites as well as playing a major role in the TS virtual seasons. The sheer enjoyment she derives from her writing comes through clearly in her well-loved presentation of The Sentinel characters and creative plots. Hephaistos' Cascade Library listing currently includes nine stories. Her stories are located at her website, Hephaistos' Forge.

Thanks for taking the time to chat with us, Hephaistos!

Tell us a little bit about yourself. What else do you enjoy doing besides writing TS fan fiction?

Well, I work as a graphics illustrator for the Army Corps of Engineers and I absolutely love my job. I'm only good at, like, three things, but this job encompasses all three. In my free time, I enjoy reading and writing (screenwriting is my serious pursuit). Actually, I figured out a long time ago that I don't really enjoy writing so much as I love reading. And I write to read, if that makes sense. The irony is that I can never enjoy my own work because I already know the story too well. No surprises.

I'm also a Rotarian (president-elect of our club this year), and I love spending time with my family (five nieces and nephews who are growing up far too fast).

How did you become a Sentinel fan?

Ha! My answer will sound like half the fandom's... Kristine Williams. Actually, I'll go back farther than that. When I first started using the Internet (like a kid in a candy store), I'd check out sites devoted to favorite TV shows. I was kind of surprised there were other people out there as devoted to television as I was (my closest friends either don't own a television, or only watch PBS). Anyway, I happened upon Gossamer, a huge X-Files fan fiction archive, and I can't even tell you how blown away I was. Hurt/comfort (a phrase I'd never known before) as far as the eye could read, and read I did. I just had no idea that other people were into hurt/comfort; I'd always assumed there was something horribly, sadistically wrong with me. Now I realize that I'm either in good company in my sadisticness or I'm actually fairly 'normal.'

Once I'd overdosed on Mulder-pain, my brain synapses started sparking again, and I thought, "Hey, if there's all this fan fiction stuff for The X-Files, maybe it exists for other shows, too." Kind of a no-brainer in retrospect. So I did a Yahoo search, noticed the listings for The Sentinel (a program I'd seen but never really thought much about), and clicked on the first listing -- Kris Williams'. I was overjoyed to discover that yes, hurt/comfort was just as prevelant in TS. Like many others have said, the fan fiction helped me to appreciate the television show so much more, and I was hooked. I think it's sad that, for whatever reason, so many of us couldn't see all the wonderful aspects of the show from the show itself. A good discussion topic, I suppose.

What is your favorite episode and why?

The Rig. Definitely. This episode offers everything: a vulnerable Jim, an injured Blair, a comforting Jim, an in-danger Jim, a rescuing Blair, a great BOTW (I really enjoyed her), a couple of spiffy nicknames for the guys, Jim angst, Blair angst, the bomb countdown, domesticity, and Bo Jackson (just kidding about Bo Jackson). This episode also marks a kind of turning point for the guys' relationship -- Jim is very territorial about the loft at the beginning, while at the end he's making fun of the house rules. Maybe I'm reading too much into these scenes (though I know others have reached the same conclusion), but it seems like the house rules are suddenly not so important to Jim. There's also a great moment of trust and openness when Jim tells Blair about his fear of deep water ("I've never told anyone this before..."). Finally, from a strictly shallow point of view, Jim and Blair look absolutely beautiful in this episode.

How did you start writing Sentinel fan fiction? Specifically, what was your first story, when did you write it, and what was it like to post your first story?

Like so many other writers here, I've been writing fanfiction for years and just didn't know it. When I became obsessed with The Sentinel and found myself knee-deep in such quality fiction, I wanted to be a part of it any way I could. Writing my own stories was a given, the question was whether I'd post them or not. I got my feet wet rather unexpectedly -- DawnC had started an interactive story, kind of a round robin, called Trauma. My very first posted TS writing was a part to that story. I was amazed when I received feedback in less than an hour (it was past midnight for heaven's sake). Once I felt like I had a handle on the characters, I decided to post my first story -- Into the Madding Crowd. I had just been on a simply dreadful business trip and, even as new as I was to the fandom, the experience just screamed "Blair."

If you could see any of your stories made into a real episode, which one would you choose?

The Kindness of Strangers (co-written with Mackie). I would just love to see this on-screen. My most brilliant TS moment ever was asking Mackie if she'd co-write the story with me.

Which story are you most proud of?

Hmm. Truth be told, I'm neither proud nor ashamed of any of them. I believe the stories I wrote for the Virtual Seasons are perhaps the best written, but that's more testimony to the thorough editing/betaing the episodes get. Or to Mackie ~g~ (since she co-wrote them both with me).

Which character do you most enjoy writing?

I always call myself a 'Blairbabe,' but the truth is, I like the dynamic of all three main characters (I include Simon in this category). The 'team' is what I enjoy writing the most; these guys are just wonderful together.

Which character is the easiest for you to write?

I suppose Blair's the easiest to write because he has so many obvious physical traits and speaking characteristics. With Jim, it's hard to not rely on a lot of jaw clenching and glaring.

Which character is your least favorite?

Since I often include all the Major Crime guys in my stories, I'd have to say Rafe is the most difficult to write since he is the least defined (beyond the GQ look). Even what little we saw of Henri gave us bits to work with -- the beret, the easy smile, the use of "Babe" in his dialogue. Yup, Rafe is the toughie.

What genre(s) do you enjoy writing the most?

Light drama, or what I call light drama anyway: hurt/comfort within stories that are more amusing or frustrating than dire, stories preferably with some kind of plot. Don't get me wrong, I read and enjoy almost any genre if it's written well, but the light-hearted, Jim/Blair/Simon-in-trouble stories are my favorites to both read and write. In fact, I absolutely "suck" at writing anything serious, intense, or deeply emotional, which is why I'm having such trouble finishing the story One Defining Moment; it's way too serious for me. (Please note that I will finish the thing, somehow, some way, some day).

I love reading missing scenes as well, but oddly enough, I've only written one (an epilogue for The Sentinel by Blair Sandburg). They are relatively quick and very satisfying, so I just can't say why I've not been more inspired. Of course, recently I did get an idea for a completely pointless missing scene from Flight...

Who are your beta readers and what do you appreciate most about them?

DawnC and I came into the fandom about the same time (she beat me by a couple of months and three stories), and since she kept saying '"unbetaed" in her introductions, I wrote and asked if we could become each other's betas. She's very good at plot and overall story-judging ("For heaven's sake, Jane, Blair knows you don't bring a gun into the airport!") and I appreciate just about everything about her. And for those keeping track, she's about thirty stories ahead of me now ~g~.

Mackie is another beta I've used, mostly for my Virtual Season stories, but she's been a great sounding board for all my work. I appreciate the heck out of her as well.

The Great Escape is an extremely entertaining story often listed among the best Sentinel humor fanfics. What inspired this story and what was your favorite scene from it? And when are you going to write the sequel?

I have no idea where The Great Escape came from, other than the fanon notion that Blair is always escaping custody to go off and help Jim. I liked the idea of the little guy against the big, savvy detectives. What I didn't want to write is a story where Blair comes across as smarter than the others; Jim and Simon are highly intelligent men. Instead, I believe Blair's advantage is in his ability to think outside the box (the detectives are more linear and rigid in their thinking). If the story reflected that and was fun besides, I succeeded. My favorite scene is one of the first visuals I had when imagining the story in my head -- the moment when Blair takes off out the door a split second after Simon announces the contest has begun. I believe it's my esteemed interviewer's favorite scene as well ~g~.

As for the sequel... I was 'won' by the incredibly nice Margie at the Gen Fiction Auction a couple years ago, and the poor woman is still waiting patiently for her story. She requested a sequel to The Great Escape and thus, The Great Pursuit was born. I've had the entire story worked out except for one detail, albeit a very important detail. Happily, during a recent Sentinel get-together here in New England, I posed the problem to the other writers and received some great feedback. So, The Great Pursuit is back in production. I also have an idea for a third story (The Great Roundup) which I guess would turn this into a series.

Cherry Bombs is a funny piece you co-wrote with DawnC. Was this an easy piece for you? Who came up with the line "10 and 4 is 14 -- That's a big 14!"? ~vbg~

My first collaboration! I couldn't imagine ever co-writing a story (I'm very picky and very selfish with my ideas), but this was a wonderful experience. Dawn and I were already cyber-friends and beta readers for each other. One night she sent me six or seven pages of a story that she was ready to throw in the trash, saying she liked the beginning but had no idea where to go with it. I loved what she'd written so far, so I asked if I could make some changes and add a few scenes. She said sure. I made the changes and sent the revised version back to her, and we just sort of round-robined it from there. The "Big 14" line was one I threw in because I love math and Dawn hates it... I thought she'd get a kick out of a tipsy Blair automatically adding the police codes together. (It's my thought that Blair has a math degree in his background, along with all the others ~g~).

A Thousand Words is a TSbyBS epilogue dealing with Blair having a dream about graduation. What were your opinions/feelings right after seeing the episode?

Right or wrong, realistic or not, TSbyBS was a devestatingly heartbreaking episode. I watched it with my best friend at home (a very rare chance for us to get together, but we made sure it happened), and we were both pretty speechless by the end. While I am not as vehemently opposed to Blair being a cop as others, I would prefer he not be.

Have your feeling about this episode changed since then? Would you have done anything differently to end the series?

My feelings haven't changed, really. It's still tough to watch the episode up until the press conference. And I have no idea how I would have ended the series... Actually, yes I do. I wouldn't have! I'd have signed Pet Fly up for another five years. So there.

If it were up to you, how would you continue The Sentinel after this episode?

Funny, this just came up on one of the lists I'm on. 'Fixing' TSbyBS was the subject, and I outlined how I would have fixed it. Now (with some less-than-subtle prompting) I think I might, perhaps, maybe, possibly write a story around it. In which case I think I'll plead the fifth here ~g~.

You've written stories for both the FPP and BPP virtual seasons, two of which you co-wrote with Mackie. Do you have a favorite?

Kindness again, which is probably obvious based on the earlier question. I just loved this story (thanks, Mackie!). I really enjoyed the idea behind The Baboon's Foot, but I was going through some major stress in real life when I wrote that one, and it was very rushed -- being time-sensitive to New Year's Eve, I couldn't even ask FPP to air the episode later. I wish I could have done better by that story... oops. I answered a question you didn't even ask.

What are the challenges of writing a virtual episode, and how is that different than writing a regular fanfic story?

Well, for one thing they're WAY longer than I usually write. I don't do 'long' very well. Virtual episodes also require (more or less) case stories which I do enjoy writing. We also (at both Virtual Seasons) try to stick with the four-act format which in some ways makes the writing easier. Regular stories have no such formats, which (and I'm being wishy-washy) makes writing them both easier and more difficult.

You've contributed to the Sentinel fandom in several ways besides writing fan fiction, including maintaining websites for other authors (K. Ryn, Tapu, Linda3), The Sentinel Ad Group, and Faux Paws Productions. You're also one of the hard-working CL Librarians. In your opinion, what features do you value most in a TS fanfic website? What tips would you give other people wanting to design their own fanfic websites?

Without getting into all the rules of thumb involved with creating websites, there are two basic suggestions I'd offer. First, please keep the graphics down to a minimum (both in individual image size and in overall number)... never have more than one animated image if you must have one at all. Many people (myself included) still use older computers and it takes quite a while to load in images. The other suggestion is, once you've created your website, turn off your images on your own browser and view the website again (you'll have to clear out your cache to keep the cached images from loading). It won't look as organized or as pretty, but it should be completely readable. Better yet, offer an alternate text-only site. Providing both choices (or having your site readable with the images turned off) will make your site accessible to everyone.

What do you do when your muse takes a vacation? (How do you deal with writer's block?)

I have no idea how to deal with writer's block. None. Basically I whine a lot on the SA List.

What is the hardest part about writing for you?

Motivating myself. I really do go full charge when I'm involved in the story, but forcing myself to transition from having the story worked out in my head to getting it down on paper is a major battle every time.

What is the most satisfying part of writing for you?

Hitting the SAVE key after the final version is, well, final. There is nothing more satisfying for me.

What are your feelings on story feedback?

I admit I love feedback, but I honestly would write without it (in fact, I have for years). But still, it's nice to know that people appreciate the effort, and I especially love it when people take the time to point out the specific parts that they liked and disliked. That kind of feedback is very helpful.

Do you have any advice for new TS fan fiction writers?

Man, this sounds so cliche, but here you go -- write what you want to read, and just don't worry about anyone else. Really.

What was the first piece of fan fiction you ever read?

If you mean overall, I'm not sure. I just know it was in the X-Files fandom; I still have all those stories I downloaded at the time. Most of them are pretty dreadful, but they sure didn't seem dreadful when the discovery of fan fiction was so new. We are very fortunate here in TS to have such quality writers.

What was the first piece of fan fiction you ever wrote?

Again, if you mean overall, it was an Hawaii Five-O script I wrote in the 7th grade (I still have it and it's hilarious). I also used to write mini-plays based on TV shows and then force my little cousins to take parts and act them out on my tape recorder (kind of a Jane's Radio Theater). I still have the tape of the one I wrote for Chopper One -- anyone remember that show? My cousins wouuld probably kill me if they knew. Great blackmail material...

What was the first piece of Sentinel fan fiction you ever read?

Avalanche by Kristine Williams. I was hooked on TS fan fiction immediately.

Are there particular kinds of Sentinel fanfic stories that you especially enjoy reading?

Same as I enjoy writing (see above). My favorites are always the lighter dramas; I prefer more humorous traditional-guy-like hurt/comfort over the serious stuff (not that the cradling scene wasn't nice in Blind Man's Bluff). My favorite hospital scene ever, for instance, is from Sandra McDonald's In the Midst of Winter. Jim's eating popcorn and watching a Bruins' game, and when Blair wakes up they have a very typical but affectionate Jim-Blair conversation. It's a fun scene.

What is it about The Sentinel and Jim/Blair/Simon that inspires you to write?

Friendship, chemistry, and three diversities in four combinations (to paraphrase an old Vulcan saying). I love channeling Jim/Blair/Simon.

What do you believe are The Sentinel's greatest strengths, and greatest weaknesses, as a series?

Well, the greatest strengths ain't the car chases and the femme fatales. I think the original casting director (or whoever made the final decisions) deserves a bouquet from all of us; the chemistry and diversity and similarities among the main characters are just wonderful. Inspiring. Fun! The weaknesses I perceive to be, perhaps unfairly, when the writing or directing is not 'careful' with the characters or the canon. The best example I can think of is during Sweet Science when Jim discovers the body of Blair's friend Roy. "Gee, sorry Chief," Jim says and then leaves the poor guy to discover the body himself, still not knowing its identity.

If you were given the opportunity to write an episode of The Sentinel, what story would you like to tell?

Just to be completely boring and predictable, I'd have to point to Kindness again. Choosing any of the buddy-buddy shows I've loved through the years (Big Valley, Bonanza, The Mod Squad, The Rookies, Simon and Simon, The Streets of San Francisco, etc.) they've all had enjoyable 'good guys together on the run' episodes. I wouldn't want every episode to be like that, but it is a plot device I enjoy. Survivor is one of my favorites.

What three specific things would you like to see on The Sentinel that we haven't seen yet?

  1. More episodes with Steven and/or William Ellison.
  2. More glimpses into Blair's childhood.
  3. Simon to the rescue.

How about general changes?

I'll admit that I do like action and car chases and explosions as much as the next guy, but I would have liked maybe 55% character-driven stories and 45% action, instead of the other way around. You know, cut five minutes of action out of most of the episodes, and add one quality scene between any combination of Jim, Blair, and Simon.

What one story do you think people will always remember you for?

Right now, I suppose, based on feedback, it would be The Great Escape. But I'd like to think there's some exceptional story in me that I just haven't written yet...

Can you tell us what stories you have in the works right now?

About a million. I have outlines for several Theme Fics which I have started for the SentinelAngst List (but they will be publicly posted). I have two upcoming episodes for Faux Paws Productions' Virtual Season 6 (one is another collaboration with Mackie). I'm co-writing a Black Panther Production Virtual Season 6 episode with Alberte (CJ). And at the very top of my non-deadline list is the sequel to The Great Escape. Finally, as a guilty pleasure just for me, I'm working on an AU Sentinel Western. It will be completely Bonanza-like, unrealistic (the horses will not urinate in the streets), and I will borrow on every western cliche ever created and not apologize for a single one ~g~. I plan to just have fun.

I've also, admittedly, fallen in love with another fandom, Stargate SG-1. I have at least five Stargate stories in the works and it's nice to have a whole new universe to write in. Having new episodes to discuss every week is a joy, too -- I've missed being able to do that with TS.

But The Sentinel is my first fandom and remains very special to me; I have no plans whatsoever to leave or become less active.

Thanks, Hephaistos!


Last updated 8/2/01 moh