Lights, Camera, Community: Grailwolf

By Tim Surette

Nov 20, 2008

In Lights, Camera, Community, holds an unfiltered chat with some of our most active members and show editors about their favorite programs, experiences with, and divisive issues.

When you're the editor of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Joss Whedon here on, you had better be on your game--it's a daunting task. However, said game comes fairly easily to Grailwolf, a level 53 member of's community and self-professed sci-fi geek. Recently, Grailwolf took some time out from his busy schedule to chat with us about himself, Joss, and how to fix Heroes. Tell us a little something about yourself!

Grailwolf: Well, as my bio says I'm a 30-something living in the DC area. I'm Wiccan, and while I'm not terribly active in the local Pagan community anymore, I do still occasionally speak on the subject at a local college and (of course) online. I was married last year to a wonderful woman named Heather (Singingypsygrrl here on and we are expecting our first child in April. How did you choose the username Grailwolf?

Grailwolf: Actually, it's been my online name pretty much everywhere since I went back to the University of Maryland for a couple semesters in 1997. I was on campus going through the enrollment process, and I realized that I had to sign up for a network login ID *that day.* I ran through a few ideas and they were all taken, so I finally combined my love of Arthurian legend (the Grail) and my favorite animal (wolf) and found a name that was unusual enough that I've been able to use it everywhere ever since. So far it's never been taken by anyone else. What's your favorite emblem you've earned, and why?

Grailwolf: Oh, that's easy. I absolutely love the Buffyversary icon that I got last year. Partly because I love Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but also because I went to the staff with the idea of celebrating the 10th anniversary of the series premiere and they totally ran with it. There were essays by staff and users about the show, picture galleries, even an entire episode of the podcast was devoted to Buffy. I was really impressed to see how the staff pulled this event together, and was deeply honored to be a part of it. As a big-time contributor to, what do you consider your specialty?

Grailwolf: In true A.D.D. fashion, most of my contributions are a combination of grammar correction and creative writing with data mining and minutiae. I do a lot of rewriting when I find episode summaries or other blurbs that are confusing, incorrect, or just badly written. I also spend far too many hours scanning the credits of TV shows (thank the gods for TiVo and DVD sets) and trying to enter every crew member from the Executive Producer to the Caterer. This takes a long time, is immensely complicated (especially trying to make sure that the credits for Joe Smith the Location Manager don't get entered under Joe Smith the Set Decorator) and really doesn't give very many points for the amount of work done, but I honestly think that every single one of these people deserve as much of the spotlight as we can give them. Run down your typical routine when you visit for us.

Grailwolf: Well, unfortunately most of my online time happens during downtime at work. Generally, I'm on for 2-3 hours a day but it's broken into smaller bits of time. I start out by checking PMs, the moderator forum, and the moderation queue to see if anything big is brewing. This usually takes anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour. Then I tackle my submission queue which can take as long as two hours on a busy day. Then I'll scan over my forums and maybe a few other trouble spots, answering questions and dealing with problems. You are a big Joss Whedon fan. What is it about him that sets him apart from other people in the entertainment business, and what are your favorite Joss Whedon moments?

Grailwolf: That's a really tough question. There are just so many reasons to love Joss. :)
--He is amazingly funny. Even just seeing his interviews or reading his posts on sites like Whedonesque can be hysterical. His phrasing is so original that a lot of it has found its way into the mainstream media and even just everyday conversation.
--He never lets himself get nailed down by genre. Buffy is an action, comedy, horror, romantic, fantasy, feminist drama. Firefly is science fiction, but it's also a western, a drama, a love story, etc. This makes his shows less mainstream, certainly, but far more rich and satisfying than most of the fare on TV.
--Characters. Whether Joss creates them himself or just works with the creation of other writers, he has a way of making characters who transcend the limitation of their media and take on a life of their own. I defy anyone to watch Willow and Tara trying to get ready in the Buffy episode "The Body" without their heart aching.

As for favorite Joss moments, that will change every time you ask me (there are just so many). Here are some picks of the moment, in no meaningful order:

--Buffy the Vampire Slayer - "The Body." The entire episode. Some of the most powerful stuff ever on TV. Ever.
--Angel - "I Will Remember You" Yes, the episode has problems, but the scene when Buffy realizes that she is about to lose Angel again... it just flattens me every time.
--Firefly - "Out Of Gas" Mal's determination to save Serenity, the crew's loyalty. Words of love spoken... All so wonderful.
--Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog - The Doc's decision to fully cross over to the dark side in the number "Brand New Day." Great to see him gain confidence, but we know where this has to lead. We are cheering, laughing, and weeping all at once. How much are you anticipating Joss Whedon's new show Dollhouse, and what's your take on it getting the much-maligned Friday night slot?

Grailwolf: I think the concept sounds fascinating, something that only a very few writers would be able to pull off, and I think it'll be great to see Eliza Dushku take on so many roles week after week.

As for the new time slot, I'm totally of two minds. On the one hand, it's terrible because shows almost never succeed on Friday nights. Just look at Joss's last network show Firefly. It died far too soon because it was on Fridays at 9 and no one turns on their TVs then.

On the other hand, Friday also means very little competition and much lower expectations. Fox has said that they have such strong shows on every other night of the week that they feel they can let their Friday shows take the time they need to find an audience. If they stick by this plan then the move to Friday could be a real blessing. Let's settle this once and for all: What's wrong with Heroes, and how would you fix it?

Grailwolf: Another tough question. But if I were to pick one thing, it would be this: The producers need to stop listening to the fans. Seriously.

Let's face it, if you read through the complaints here and elsewhere on the Web, you'll find a tremendous variation of opinion. Of course, every one of them is pronounced by someone who says "everyone thinks this" but that's just the Internet.

The problem is that they tried to change season two to respond to critics, and then tried to change season three to respond to critics of season two. They keep getting new characters, dropping them, changing them, speeding things up, slowing things down... They just need to stop listening to the complaints and tell the story they want to tell. Recommend a show that most people aren't watching, and tell us why they should.

Grailwolf: I'll give you two. Pushing Daisies and The Middleman. Both shows have a similar sense of magical realism to them. Pushing Daisies is like a Tim Burton film that's been rewritten by Dr. Seuss. The comedy is great, the drama is poignant, and the pies look delicious.

The Middleman is like one of the old pulp comics brought to life, but with a post-modern sense of irony and humor. The show constantly lampoons the super hero genre (especially the old school heroes like The Spirit and Doc Savage), but at the same time it is obvious that the writers and producers have a deep respect for the genre. The end result is that we are both amused and inspired by our hero in a way I don't think I've ever seen before. Now's your chance to give some props to all the friends you've made here in the community. Let's hear some names and how they've made your life better!

Grailwolf: Oh, I hate to get into name dropping because I'll invariably miss someone important and get them all mad at me.

Generally, the folks at the Angel forum have got to be my first shout out. They are the reason I started hanging out at TV Tome and moved here when it became When Angel was cancelled,tjaman and a few others started a "Farewell Angel Bash" that has morphed a bit over the years, but has not stopped yet. This actually was the inspiration for the "off topic" threads in various forums that are named after locations within the show.

I don't have enough time to hang out with these folks nearly as much as I'd like, but they really showed me what an online community can be. The amount of love, support, and belly laughter in that place has been legendary.

There are more than I will remember offhand, but here is a quick list of the Angel forum "old timers": tjaman, Aunt Arlene, Charisma69, PilotofSerenity,Tealbox, Rebel-Man, quantumcat2, Bango_Berryrush, NickSeng, and ___Mr_Nasty___. And, finally, I don't recall his name here, but the Angel forum would not be half of what it is without PyleansDontLeaveMe (who started an account here, but got so busy with lifestuff that I haven't seen him in many moons). If I try to list all who have come and gone in the intervening years, this will be far too long. But these folks are all amazing, and if I missed anyone it is due to A.D.D. and lack of sleep, and not lack of respect or affection. Where else do you get to flaunt your sci-fi expertise?

Grailwolf: [phony announcer voice] Why, I'm glad you asked! [/phony announcer voice]

I do an occasional podcast called "Grailwolf's Geek Life" in which I discuss entertainment news, give reviews, and generally delve into geek culture. I'm hoping to start a regular schedule soon, but I've been hoping that for two years and it hasn't happened yet. We'll have to see.

I have also appeared at two local conventions, Balticon and Farscape Convention, both in Baltimore.

I also appear pretty regularly on the A.D.D. Cast, a general interest podcast with some Science Fiction leanings. I've recently gotten into voice acting with parts in Form Letter Rejection Theatre and the Metamor City Podcast and hopefully more to come. And finally, Free space (say whatever you like, draw a picture, or do whatever you want):

Grailwolf: How about a quote from my favorite author?
"Humanity isn't a physical description,
it's a spiritual goal.
It's not something you're given,
it's something you earn."
- Richard Bach
(chosen randomly from his book "The Messiah's Handbook: Reminders for the Advanced Soul")

High-fives in Grailwolf's direction for taking time to talk to us!

  • Comments (20)
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  • grailwolf Jan 22, 2009

    (Comment on what buffyTVSrox wrote below)
    Just to set the record straight, BuffyAnneLove did mention the idea of an icon, but so did several other people. In fact, it was on the initial list of ideas that I sent to the staff before the first PMs went out to users. BuffyAnneLove was the first person to suggest a chat, but unfortunately that didn't pan out. As for the RST issue, I recall the RSTs on TVTome, but didn't remember them being around (or having place names in the titles) until after the Angel forum started using "Caritas" (on June 24 of 2004). Your timeline below seems to say that the RST first began almost a year later, so I suspect I am right about this. I had always assumed a causal connection between the two, but it's very possible that I was wrong.

    I'm surprised to hear about the other stuff (you and BAL being suspended and such). I lobbied for allowing off-topic threads for months, starting as soon as I became a mod and I don't recall these events. I obviously can't talk about anyone's moderation history in a public forum, but if either of you have questions about any moderations (assuming they are still available on your history) I'd be happy to talk to you about them.

  • Adeir Jan 02, 2009

    Thanks for plugging the Middleman. Amusing as hell.

  • sattertv Dec 23, 2008


  • Adelette Dec 22, 2008

    You bigwig you. ;D

  • buffyTVSrox Dec 06, 2008

    Congratulations! While I am sure this was not done on purpose and rather forgotten in haste or in an attempt to keep it short & simple, I would like to add some credit where it is due. While grailwolf was the one who first proposed the Buffyversary, he PMed other Buffy fans on the site for ideas on what to do, and it was actually BuffyAnneLove who suggested the icon. Also, while it does seem easy to confuse, though tjaman did start the "Farewell Angel Bash", I do not believe this is what was the main "inspiration" for off-topic threads named after show locations. On the Buffy the Vampire Slayer forum in early/mid 2005 the RST (short for "Random Silliness Thread"), also an off-topic thread but with very different origins and thought of independently, was started by FrchTwst, BuffyAnneLove, and ilovedb. It was a month or two later when myself, BuffyAnneLove, and ilovedb, three users who rarely if ever visited the Angel forum (there's barely any crossover in users on those two forums, despite what one would assume), decided to make what started as a completely off-topic thread on the Buffy forum a little more Buffy-related by including the names of fan-known Buffy locations as titles in later incarnations (when threads locked at 500 posts and had to continue in new threads). When other off-topic threads first began to pop up on many shows' forums, most were started by members of the Buffy forum (who, as previously stated, mostly do not frequent the Angel forum), and included "RST" in the title, a clear pointer to the original "Random Silliness Thread" on the Buffy forum. It was just a little while later when one or more of the moderators noticed the growing number of threads labeled as "RST"s on various forums and began seeking out and deleting any topic with it in the title (While the Angel forum's "Bash" thread stayed safe, as it was off-topic but unrelated to the RST). During this deletion of RST threads, two users, myself and BuffyAnneLove, were suspended for having started supposed "secret home base off-topic threads" on other forums (a rule I couldn't find anywhere in the TOS except if meant as a pure violation of the then-rule against off-topic threads, though conveniently no other beginners of such threads were suspended). It was after a large handful of users rallied behind BuffyAnneLove for this seemingly ridiculous suspension that off-topic threads became allowed on show forums at the show editor's discretion. RST has largely remained out of off-topic threads' names nowadays due to the habit of adding RST to titles being broken to avoid frivolous deletion of threads.

  • NickSeng Nov 24, 2008


    Congrats Grail, and not just coz I got a mention. :D

  • fatfreeoreos Nov 23, 2008

    Congrats on the superspotlight!

  • efc91 Nov 22, 2008

    That was another great interview. Great job Grailwolf.

  • The_Phoenix89 Nov 22, 2008

    I was sitting here reading this and I was like: Hey, people I know! Good on you G.

  • skeeter291 Nov 22, 2008

    Congrats Grailwolf!

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