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Sis began watching The Sentinel during second season, and Survival, one of the last episodes of second season, was the episode that prompted her to begin writing her own stories. This author has since become well-known for her insights on Jim and Blair as seen through the eyes of Simon. She particularly enjoys writing missing scenes and epilogues and her readers appreciate the skilled humor and drama she infuses into her stories. Sis's Cascade Library listing currently includes 28 stories. Her stories are located at Sis's TS Gen Fic (at Brothers in Arms).
Thanks for taking the time to chat with us, Sis!
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I've lived in North Carolina all my life, but generally like it here. I work at the local library where I order the audios, videos, and most of the fiction. I'm also the resident computer geek. I share my home with a cat named Figaro, who likes to think he runs the place.
What else do you enjoy doing besides writing TS fan fiction?
All kinds of things - I just wish I had time to do more of them. I like reading all kinds of literature, not just fanfiction. I love movies and television, even though there's usually only a couple of series I make sure to catch just about any time they're on - like TS, XFiles, and Stargate. I grew up watching and reading science fiction and horror, courtesy of my mom, who has always been a big fan. It was she who told me about The X-Files, and when I mentioned The Sentinel, she said 'oh, yeah. I watch that.'
And I'm a big fan of Kung Fu, both the original and the new one, as well as a few other fandoms, some of them kind of obscure.
I really like messing with computers and electronics. I enjoy surfing the web, and just fooling around with programs on my computer to see what I can do with them. I'm a list junkie and have joined way too many already.
I've been to several science fiction and media conventions, and think they're great. I've been both a convention goer and a dealer, and have had a blast either way. I'm big on collecting things, from comic books, to action figures, to Peanuts memorabilia. Expensive habits, all of them, as it turns out.
I've had some art, and like messing about with that occasionally too.
How did you become a Sentinel fan?
Surfing through the channels. One of those weird moments when you hit something that catches your attention. It was about the middle of the second season -- I watched that episode, then forgot about it a couple of weeks, caught it a couple more. For a while it stayed in that category of 'something I catch when I think about it.' Then I decided to tape it one week when I was gone, then I started taping when I was watching, and then I realized I'd been hooked completely.
What is your favorite episode and why?
I have lots of favorites. Sometimes it's almost down to the one I'm watching at the moment. If I had to pick a favorite, I'd have to go with Night Train. Since I'd missed the first run, I caught that one on tape, and watched it, oh, a couple of times. One right after the other. It had everything in it, clever dialogue, a few plot tricks, train footage, a Kung Fu flashback (while traveling *under* a train no less), and it was just so darn funny. The whole *Jim with a cold* subplot was priceless.
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?
I watch lots of shows, but I've only been compelled to write for a few. I was enjoying the heck out of the program, and it was pulling at me to write something. At that time, I wasn't sure there was really anything out there. I had looked at some XF and KF stuff on the web, but hadn't searched for much else. I was hoping Sentinel fiction existed and was pleasantly surprised. There was lots. I lurked on Senfic for a while, then finally saw Survival, the episode that really pushed me to want to write something. That was Musings written in Simon's voice. It was kind of scary to post my first story -- I had written for fanzines, but never been in a situation where I wrote something, then suddenly it was available -- for more than a limited print run. And you usually don't hear much from the stuff that comes out in fanzines -- this was instant -- it leaves your hands and appears on the llist within moments. Scary and thrilling. And very sobering -- you need to get it right the first time.
If you could see any of your stories made into a real episode, which one would you choose?
Well, this probably doesn't actually apply, but one of my favorites is Perspective which appeared in the fanzine Sentry Duty, edited by Mysti Frank. It was one of the first long Sentinel stories I ever wrote, and it dealt with a rival sentinel that was a nasty sort, but so beat up and victimized by so many problems, that I began to feel sorry for him. The story was hard to write, but at the same time, it was taking on a life of its own. The villain insisted on putting forth his own point of view -- Simon went from playing a stand by role to a bigger one -- it just went places it wasn't originally supposed to go. And I loved that about it. It also had more action that I generally have in my stories, and it seemed to move fast enough so that it might work in an hour or so time block. Maybe two hours.
Which story are you most proud of?
There's a couple I'm sort of proud of, but for different reasons. Perspective, which I mentioned above. Aftereffects was based on Prisoner X, and there was so much I wanted to do with that episode - I felt the source material in that case was so rich.
Which character do you most enjoy writing? Which character is the easiest for you to write? Who is your least favorite?
That's very much a toss up. It depends on who the story is about. Sometimes if I start from a certain character's point of view, it's just easier to stay there. Sandburg was easier to write initially because he seemed like a more open and outgoing character, but the more I watched him the more complex he seemed. Jim started out seeming hard to understand, but the more I watched the program, the more fascinating he became. Sometimes still hard to understand, but a wonderfully done, deep personality. Simon was always easy for me. I don't think I have a least favorite, not even Cassie. She makes an appearance now and again, as an annoyance mostly, but I try to keep her human. She's a challenge. Except for Taggert and Megan, the bullpen gang is kind of wide open - we didn't get to see them enough to get a lot of canon, except that they seem like a nice and loyal bunch, and they have enough interesting things about them so that they're fun to work with too.
What genre(s) do you enjoy writing the most?
Humor really, and right after that, drama. In a lot of cases though, whatever I write takes the form of missing scenes. I love missing scenes, extra epilogues. I think I enjoy the humor so much because it conveys so much in the show. It reveals a lot about their relationship, and I like to think I can keep that kind of banter going. I'm not sure if I've even written smarm or not -- I have to admit it puzzles me. If they call it smarm and it's really good, it's what I'd call drama. Smarm is not a word I like, so I guess what I'm doing is just calling it something else.
Who are your beta readers and what do you appreciate most about them?
I have to admit I don't use betas nearly enough. TS was my first web writing experience, and I just wasn't too sure how the process worked. Every time I have used them though, they've given me great advice and done a sterling job. Becky, Jo Duffy, and Merry Lynne have all helped me tremendously. Under the heading of 'very bad things,' I lost some work done by Jo and Merry on some works in progress when my hard drive crashed, although I did save some of it. Those haven't seen the light of day yet, but they're coming.
Several of your stories include journal entries by Simon. How does this method help to explore Simon's as well as Jim and Blair's characters?
It's funny, but I actually didn't start out to explore Simon. In the episode Survival, I was fascinated by Jim and Blair, and their determination to find Simon, and to support each other. I think the whole thing took off from the scene in Simon's office where he suggests that Jim take Blair with him because Ellison seems to be having a hard time with the assignment. It began to dawn on me that this guy knew something. He was seeing a bigger picture, something that Blair and Jim couldn't see because they're just so close to it. I think to me, Simon just seems closer to the audience. He's kind of where we are -- he knows what's up with Jim and Blair, while the other characters are in the dark. He's involved, but he's watching them too, trying to make sense of it all. And yes, Simon is written and performed well enough, so that he's more than just the boss. He protects both Ellison and Sandburg - not only their well-being, but their situation, when no doubt that becomes very hard to explain at times.
I also think relationships divided into threes work well. Maybe it's my ST past, but I've seen the Spock-Kirk-McCoy relationship described as mind-passion-heart. I'm not sure how the sentinel thing works out, but I do know that Simon often seems a bridge between the other two when things become fragile. And the fact of him being the boss, and in charge, often makes him seem like an older brother to Jim and fatherly to Blair.
In the hilarious piece Fame, Blair is voted the best-looking professor on campus. What inspired this story?
Angie Harrison asked for a story to cheer her up, and specifically threw out the challenge idea of Sandburg winning a contest based on his looks. I don't always take up challenges, but that one hit me just right, and it seemed like a good idea that could work. I don't think it would have crossed my mind otherwise, and I had a blast writing it.
You've written quite a few missing scenes. What do you enjoy most about missing scenes, and do you have a favorite?
I think missing scenes are one of the most fundamental ways of extending the Sentinel universe. I love to read and write them. It's like taking an episode you like and giving it that extra 15 or 20 minutes. It's probably something the general audience never even misses, but if you're really into those characters and their universe, that hour is like a teaser. You know they went home afterward, you know things were said after the door closed, you know their life went on after the car drove off.
I really like Siege and a Half because it kind of dealt with Ellison and Sandburg discovering things about each other. I don't think either one knew what he was in for at the time, and I always thought Ellison would probably be surprised at the resourcefulness of his new-found partner. And that Blair would be impressed with Jim jumping onto the helicopter. I know I was. I think they both went into the deal with certain expectations about the other -- expectations that started to fall apart almost immediately.
Separated and its sequel are post-Warriors stories dealing with Blair's role as a shaman. How do you think this role changed or affected his character?
I'm not sure it's something we really had a chance to discover. The show was just shoved into limbo too soon. I think it's probably something that scared him to begin with, but then he kind of relaxed with it, and sort of forgot it. I notice that Jim does that sort of thing too with the panther visions. I think he gets lulled easily into thinking things are totally normal, mostly because he wants them to be. Sandburg seems more eager to embrace the unknown, but I'm not sure he likes it so up close and personal. I think he likes to help Jim recognize it, but it seems to me he kind of resists his own metaphysical hints, maybe because he's trying so hard to remain the scientist. I think there's been some fascinating ideas done with the shaman angle in fanfiction.
Ashes explores how Jim and Blair react after dealing with Lash, and is rather unique among Cypher epilogues since Jim and Blair refuse to communicate with each other about the incident until Simon steps in. How does this story reflect your view of Simon's role in Jim and Blair's friendship?
This was a situation where Blair and Jim were essentially kind of separated by their own defense systems. In my view anyway, Jim tends to bury his feelings, Blair tends to act as if he can talk his way out of acknowledging them. I guess I saw Simon's role as someone who was emotionally involved, yet able to tell that Blair and Jim were damaging themselves and each other by refusing to acknowledge what was essentially a traumatic experience for both of them.
In the intriguing story Broken Glass, we read Simon's journal entries during Sentinel Too part 1 as he watches what happens between Jim and Blair. Do you think Simon's reaction in S2P1 was consistent with his character development up to that point? Would you have written him any differently?
Simon in S2P1 is great. He gives that emotional speech to Jim about going too far in cutting Blair off. Only at that point, I don't think it's something even he can stop, because Jim simply isn't listening. The bond between Jim and Blair is cracking, and even Simon, playing the part of negotiator, can't stop it. And yes, that was a very different Simon from the first season, who basically wanted to know as little as possible. I still don't think he's comfortable with any of the spiritual stuff, but I think he also knows he can't ignore it. And he's in it -- hip deep. I think in the fountain scene something happens to him too. When he panics and asks Jim if he can hear a heartbeat, it's almost like a surrender. He can't kid himself any longer that he's just standing on the sidelines keeping a secret. (Not that I think he ever was, but I'm not sure he realized it.) The distance he has been trying to maintain has been growing shorter and shorter with time, until it gets him to this point. No, I would not have written him differently.
What do you do when your muse takes a vacation?
When a real story won't come to me, I opt for writing a scene, any scene. A bit of dialogue -- a conversation over a doughnut. A 'what if?' Several of these have actually blown themselves up into stories.
What is the hardest part about writing for you?
Kind of finding the time to do it. Because when I sit down to open something I'm working on, or I start something new, I know I'm going to be there for a while. And, no kidding, naming the darn stories. I can write 20 lines of dialogue faster than I can think up a title. I rarely have a working title, and if I do it usually changes. Sometimes I'll sit around with a story after it's finished and try to find something, anything, to call it.
What is the most satisfying part of writing for you?
When a story really starts to take off. You can start out, and you're building, building, watching things develop and all that, and then suddenly things are happening in the story, and it gets a bit easier because the plot, the characters, everything seems to be working.
What are your feelings on story feedback?
I love feedback. Preferably the good kind, but I've received some nice advice too, and it's all been very polite and lovely. Feedback is like fuel, great inspiration, and it gives me motivation.
Do you have any advice for new TS fan fiction writers?
Write what you see. The show is where all fanfic comes from, and I know we all read fanfic, but it all comes from one place originally. What does the stuff taking place on the screen say to YOU? Aside from that, read everything. Fanfiction, real fiction, non fiction. I have never forgotten a quote by someone I can't remember that was something like 'if you want to write a book, read one.' Reading stuff acquaints you with how things flow, what works and what doesn't, and helps you develop your own voice.
What was the first piece of fan fiction you ever read?
Wow. I think it was some Star Trek that was published as a paperback years ago. Up to then, I had only heard of fanfiction, but this was the first time I was able to get my hands on some. I purchased some Star Trek fanzines after that, and was able to get into all kinds of things, because once you get into fandom and start networking, it's like falling down a rabbit hole. There's stuff lurking in corners everywhere.
What was the first piece of fan fiction you ever wrote?
I think it was Batman. Never published of course. When I was a kid I was writing fanfiction, although I didn't know that's what it was. But I was liberally lifting characters from books and television and playing with them.
What was the first piece of Sentinel fan fiction you ever read?
Can't remember exactly. It may have been Michalina's short Cypher aftermath. I'm pretty sure that's the first one I printed out. It sort of happened all at once because I kind of ran across Guide Posts, and got greedy. Some of the first stuff I remember grabbing me in a big way is work by Kristine Williams, Sharon, and Martha, and those constitute my first memories of really getting hooked.
Are there particular kinds of Sentinel fanfic stories that you especially enjoy reading?
Almost any kind of story really - I don't think it matters so much if it's humor, or drama, or action, so long as I feel like the characters and situations are not only well written, but that I'm really in the TS universe. Everyone sounds and behaves like they're supposed to even if the situation is bizarre. Some of the best stuff makes me feel like I've got extra episodes -- I can practically see it happening on the screen. If it's an AU, the actors should fit the parts -- it would be like another really cool show. Actually, I guess the best stuff seems to me like good novelizations of the series -- and that's saying something. I've purchased novelizations for series and been disappointed -- you want to write the publishers and ask if the writer actually watched the program first.
What is it about The Sentinel that inspires you to write?
I think it's one of those chemistry things. I can watch 15 programs that I really like, but only a couple seem to make me want to stay after the lights go down. It's really this, that, and the other (to get technical). It's Jim's unique gift (and I do think that is a particularly original idea), and his patented resistance to it. It's Blair's position as resident scientist with his geek/nerd charm, and Simon's determination to be tough as nails, even when he's failing miserably at it. It's the quirkiness of the characters, and the hints of mysticism. And of course, it's the incredible relationship between the characters, and their deep love and respect for each other.
What do you believe are The Sentinel's greatest strengths and greatest weaknesses as a series?
I think the greatest strength, for me anyway, was that it worked. It just had good bones. Actors who fit the parts perfectly, and were able to bring them to life. Lots of quality action scenes, and a good sense of humor. It had some stand out episodes, exceptionally written, directed, and performed. One thing I thought it did well was stay consistent with the background characters, making the bullpen seem less like a revolving door and more like a place where you were likely to see a familiar face. For an action show it took some nice chances, and generally pulled them off. Dead End on Blank Street was amazing, and ground breaking for an action show stuck in a last place network.
As far as weaknesses, I think there were some individual episodes that didn't work as well for me as others, but honestly, there weren't any that I didn't enjoy. At times, some of the female characters didn't come off very well, but that's a flaw it shares with lots of other programs.
Do you find yourself identifying more with Jim or Blair?
Depends on the day I've had. Really. I identify more with Blair's determination to look on the best side of things, and I'm kind of upbeat most of the time. I'm also attracted to Blair's counter culture attitude, and healthy distrust for authority. So I guess fundamentally, he's the one I probably have more in common with - and he's certainly the first character I noticed. But Jim has such a satisfying relationship with his inner anger, and when I've had a bad day watching him relate to the bad guys is a real treat.
If you were given the opportunity to write an episode of The Sentinel, what story would you like to tell?
Oh boy. Maybe a road trip. I've always enjoyed the episodes where they're out in the wilderness. Of course they can't just stand around like normal guys and fish, something would have to happen, but it makes a nice set of bookends for an episode. It's already been used a couple of times, but you didn't say it had to be original. As to what could happen out in the wilderness -- take your pick, mental patients on the loose, a bit of bad weather, or the greatest indignity of all -- they get lost. Hey, they've done it before. Of course, Simon would come too.
And then the truly odd idea -- some hotshot gets to read Blair's thesis while it was out in the wild, and wants to make a movie. Of course Blair would never give permission, but the idea of sentinels is not copyrighted so technically he could produce a movie about a modern day sentinel, and his short and energetic sidekick...
What three specific things would you like to see on The Sentinel that we haven't seen yet? How about general changes?
Good question. I'm pretty satisfied with what I've seen, but that doesn't mean I don't want more. 1) Sandburg actually having some interaction with Jim's family. 2) One adventure with just Simon and Blair. 3) Jim ending up as Blair's sidekick in some capacity -- like on a dig, or in a museum helping to do something, or on a case where Sandburg's knowledge is crucial, or better yet, Ellison undercover at Rainier as a professor or something. Of course with the way he hangs around the anthropology department, it would have to be in another field, but gee, consider the possibilities.
As far as general changes...I'll have to admit I sort of liked the status quo with Blair in anthropology, but I would honestly like to see what happens in the real version with this latest wrinkle. For myself, I would of course want Sandburg to stay Jim's partner, but maybe as more of a consultant or something. And I'd like to see him keep his hand in his chosen field. Somehow I see Sandburg as someone who would end up doing something no one else would ever end up doing. He's just not the kind of guy to have a normal job. Maybe he could write a book on the side. Just not about sentinels.
What one story do you think people will always remember you for?
I'd be totally thrilled if they remembered me for any story at all.
Can you tell us what stories you have in the works right now?
Well, I'm not sure how right now it is. I've got a couple that have been taking up space on my hard drive that are threatening to turn into real fiction anytime now. There's one I've been working on like, forever, about a fishing trip of all things, and it's unusual in that it has an actual title that works for me. It's called Backwater. And one where Simon actually ends up buying the house he was trying to get a loan for when he got shot. Both of these suffered in one of my famous hard drive losses though so I don't have all the versions, and it's kind of a mess trying to figure out where I actually was. And there's one about the road rage guy showing up again. I'm hoping some of these actually pull themselves together.
Last updated 6/12/00 clc