On May 25th, 2009, we celebrated the 10th Anniversary of the founding of the Original Darth Maul Estrogen Brigade! (WooHoo!!) So, less than a week after Episode I: The Phantom Menace was released in North America - Darth Maul had his own Estrogen Brigade!
Lucky for us, DarthCleo's background with computers and programming allowed the DMEB to be created. A few months after its founding, DarthCleo gave an interview to Kristiina about the founding of the DMEB. We thought you might enjoy looking back at that.
Nicole's interview by Kristiina
Kristiina: Tell us something about yourself.
Nicole: I'm 34, although in my mind I'll be 32 forever. Married, with one kid. I am a software engineer by trade, and struck gold by working for Microsoft for 4 years. With that "gold," my husband and I decided it would be best if I stayed home to raise the kid. We're hoping for a second kid soon. To keep my brain from going mushy, I do website development as a contractor. I handle the technical aspects of websites, not the graphical aspect. I was raised as a Catholic, but I think I have an open mind. I also think I should be wiccan but I have never taken any step towards that. It appeals to me in a way Christianity never did. Another noteworthy thing, English is not my first language. French is. I live in Montreal, Quebec, a province of Canada where French is the official language, not English. The internet is about the only place where I use English, and I do have a French accent when I speak English ;-)
Kristiina: Why did you choose to write a Sith Academy story?
Nicole: I saw the birth of Sith Academy, and I really loved those early stories, where we would simply take Phantom Menace characters and use them to vent our frustrations. At the time, I was struggling with a beta OS, and a service provider that wasn't very cooperative, so I wrote Darth Maul gets Internet Access. I wrote that using a pencil and paper, in less than three hours. It was fun to write, and it just felt good. I had all those frustrations inside me about technical glitches left and right, and laughing at them was good therapy ;-) SA has moved on since those early stories to become a full blown soap opera. It took me a while to appreciate the newer SA, but I realise it had to evolve to keep it interesting.
Kristiina: So, 'Darth Maul's Smell.' It's written rather poetic form. And you leave 'the outcome' of that fight for readers imagination. Do you prefer that kind of style rather than graphic style which leaves very little room for readers imagination?
Nicole: That was poetic? ;-) That was written extremely fast, almost stream of consciousness. Someone had asked on the mailing list about what Maul would smell like, and that was my answer. It's all a first draft and wasn't edited. I had some ideas as to where I wanted to take the story, but at the time I wrote Darth Maul's Smell, I didn't have the free time to write it all. I think I had enough in my mind to write a whole novel ;-) So what you have in Darth Maul's Smell is really just a first draft, and a teaser for something I never wrote, and never will either. Years ago, I used to write quite a few erotic stories, and I don't shy away from graphical details. For some reason, I no longer have the necessary drive to write them anymore. Maybe cause I got married ? ;-)
Kristiina: You are also the creator of DMEB. Where did the idea for DMEB came from?
Nicole: A group of women on Rec.Arts.SciFi.Starwars.Misc (also known as RASSM) were discussing how sexy and appealing Maul was. Someone by the name of AmidalaEp1 (yeah, the list aunt) mentioned she was looking for help in starting an Estrogen Brigade. I knew what Estrogen Brigades were, but I had never been interested in them till I saw those four words together: Darth Maul Estrogen Brigade. I told her I'd help, and I put together a few pages, based on her comments and the other founding members. There were six of us at the beginning. I've pretty much implemented everything they asked for except for one, which I regret not having done. They wanted a place so they could talk about themselves, presenting the members of the Brigade. Eventually I delegated this to ECircles. So the idea is not mine by far, I just helped in making it a reality.
Kristiina: When did you start it?
Nicole: The first webpage was online May 25th, not quite a week after the movie opened in North America.
Kristiina: How time consuming is it to keep it going? Do you have time for anything else nowdays?
Nicole: LOL! It was *very* time consuming over the summer. On average I was spending 8 hours a day on the site and mailing list, and email feedback. The site used to run on my private server, where I have lots of work related items, and I didn't feel comfortable sharing that password, so I was doing it all alone. Once the site moved to its own domain, I could share more easily. For a while I had someone help with the Fan Art section, and that allowed me to breathe a little. Right now, the site does not take much of my time anymore, apart from participating in chats and on the message board, so yes, I have time for more stuff. (contracts, paid jobs ;-)
Kristiina: Did the popularity of DMEB surprise you?
Nicole: Did it ever! At first, I thought we would attract about 10 women, and we'd have fun together for a couple of weeks then move apart after that. I guess that's why my initial design for the site didn't allow for growth. I had to discard it real fast. ;-) But what surprised me the most was the interest in the press, which started with the San Francisco article, but kept going for a couple of months. I even received a paper from Australia, and there was a mention in Empire magazine, a huge publication from the UK. It was the first time one of my sites was mentioned in print ... No, that's not quite true, my Due South site was mentioned in a book, but by the time the book got printed, the site no longer existed.
If you want a few numbers about the DMEB's popularity:
I was kicked off my hosting service and had to move the site to another host. At that point I came real close to shutting the whole thing down. I didn't want to pay for two hosting services (it's 20$-25$ per month each) and I had to keep the first one which was job related. I mentioned in chat that I was closing the site, and there was an uproar. People were telling me they would pay for the second host, so I got a postal box, and put that address on the site. Within a couple of weeks, I had enough money to host the DMEB for a whole year. I was really touched by that. I refuse to take money now, there's no publicity on the site, except for other sites or WickedCoolStuff (they sent me free tshirts ;-) and AllPosters.com cause they have good posters for sale. Come next August, we'll see how popular DMEB still is and I'll decide what to do then. Maybe we'll have another funding drive. It's also important that the site stays non-profit. LucasFilm tolerates fan sites if they don't make money. Look at TheForce.Net. They made a profit this year with the publicity on the site, and they gave it to charity.
Kristiina: How well you think that Maul fits in Vader's boot's? I mean he's a villain in Episode 1, while Vader was villain in previous movies.
Nicole: I'm not sure Maul was meant to fit in Vader's boots. First Vader was there for three whole movies (I don't consider Anakin as being Vader), and Maul was sadly a throwaway character, meant to keep us busy and averting our attention from the Phantom Menace that is Sidious/Palpatine. However, within those parameters, Maul stole the movie in my opinion. When I was a kid, I was a Luke gal. I was impressed by Vader, but Luke was my hero. I went into TPM, thinking I'd fall for Obi-Wan, but I left the theatre totally mesmerised by Maul.
Kristiina: Your first thoughts of Maul after seeing him in the movie?
Nicole: hee! Actually I'll start with my very first thoughts of Maul. The first time I was exposed to Maul was when the books came out, with 4 different covers. Maul was one. I had one look at him, and thought "bah.. throwaway villain, too obviously bad," and I bought the Amidala cover (female bonding, I guess). I was right about Maul, unfortunately, but wrong about Amidala. I hated her... As for Maul, he intrigued me the first time we get to see him, but when he started to fight, I was totally taken. I went to see the movie alone, because I am a much bigger SW fan than my husband, and I wanted to see it alone, almost like a religious experience. I was glad he wasn't there ;-) I was salivating during that fight. I do have a background in martial arts, and I can appreciate good fighting,even if I know it's rigged. I can pinpoint the exact scene where Maul convinced me. He's kicking Obi-Wan in the face (yeah, one of those times), but the kick is not cut by editing. A kick is finished not when the blow is delivered but when the leg is back on the ground. And this kick was finished... My immediate reaction was simply "wow, this guy can fight."
Kristiina: Pick up your crystal ball and tell us about the future of DMEB.
Nicole: Since Maul is not coming back, the DMEB will slow down ( it has already done so noticeably). It will reach a point where I can bring it back to the original server. I'll drop everything but the message board, the chat room and the fanfiction I think. The pictures, audio and video will be saved on a CD Rom. The mailing list will keep going as long as there's an interest. Attached to the DMEB are now the SPEB and the DVEB. Both of these should be able to strive through the next two movies, since their respective characters will be featured. We're slowly getting the BFEB off the ground too. Even if the DMEB dies, it will have offspring that will carry its memory ;-) It's kinda sad that so much work (and fun) will disappear, but the Internet is ever moving. Also I have never intended the DMEB to be a Ray Park display and it will not follow his career in great details. Darth Maul was more than just Ray Park, although he's the one who can fight the way I like it. I will most probably follow Ray's career, but I am just as interested in following Iain McCaig and Peter Serafinowicz .
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