Interview - BumblebeeTheta, Dec 2004

Kenneth: I'm here with Futurama fan fiction writer extrodinaire BumblebeeTheta, hailed as one of the best to have ever brought fresh lines and situations to our favourite characters. She is the author of such stories as A Helping Hand, My So-Called Best Friend's Wedding and I Dream of Leela. BumblebeeTheta, welcome.

BumblebeeTheta: Thank you very much.

Kenneth: How did you get into Futurama, as well as writing?

BumblebeeTheta: I've always been a very artistic person, I think. When I was little, I used to draw all the time and make up my own stories. In kindergarten, I missed my library period every week so I could dictate my adaptation of "Beauty and the Beast" to a teacher; it was a blend of the traditional story and the Disney version. I did all my own illustrations and had it bound and laminated.

BumblebeeTheta: I was very creative like that when I was a kid. I used to draw pictures on notebook paper in kindergarten and sell them for a dime each. I had my own fan club. It was very flattering to be able to create something that other appreciated. That year was when I really got into creating my own stories.

BumblebeeTheta: I'm a big fan of all types of animation. Stop-motion animation, like in "The Nightmare Before Christmas," is my favorite. I love the work of Henry Selick, Ray Harryhausen and the Brothers Quay. Animation helps me stay in touch with my child side- the kind that watched "Darkwing Duck" and "Gumby" all the time. I like all kinds, traditional cel animation, computer animation, anime.

BumblebeeTheta: I find animation to be a very pure art form. I was really big on it my sixth grade year. I saw Pixar's "A Bug's Life" four times in theaters, and I was amazed at the artistry involved. I remember hearing about "Futurama," but not thinking much of it. I had been watching "The Simpsons" since I was very little, and that was good enough for me. My younger sister convinced me to watch it.

BumblebeeTheta: I loved it, and the next day, after school, we decided to act it out with our friends. We didn't get all the jokes, of course, but we enjoyed it on our own level. I loved it even more after I saw the second episode. I was sick the day after it aired, and I spent the day rifling through old newspapers for the interviews with Matt Groening and the pictures The Oregonian had printed.

BumblebeeTheta: Matt Groening is from Oregon, you know.

Kenneth: Yes, I do know that

BumblebeeTheta: I guess after I started watching it more and more, I began to feel that even if I couldn't always relate my experience to the characters, that they were people I didn't mind seeing all the time. Writing my own stories, however poorly they were written, for them was the next step, naturally.

Kenneth: Cool. Sounds like you're a huge animation fan overall. What about voice acting? Do you have a deep respect for the likes of Billy West, Peter Cullen, Frank Welker, Jim Cummings, Mel Blanc, Jess Harnell, Corey Burton, etc?

BumblebeeTheta: The sad thing is that I hardly know any of those people by name. I love Billy West, Jim Cummings (He WAS Darkwing Duck, after all) and Mel Blanc, but I don't know anyone else by name, really. I respect all voice actors for their diligent work though. Whereas screen actors can bring their characters to life in many ways, voice actors can use only their vocal cords. That requires great talent.

BumblebeeTheta: The thing that really bothers me though is when A-list stars get paid millions to use their voices.

Kenneth: I was about to ask about that actually.

BumblebeeTheta: I mean, Cameron Diaz does "Shrek 2" and she can ask for millions of dollars for one day's work. If you listen to Princess Fiona though, there's no distinct personality in her voice. It's just Cameron Diaz; it's boring, really.

Kenneth: Exactly. Billy West has said the same thing. She's apparently the highest paid voice actress in history just because of that.

BumblebeeTheta: Dreamworks and Fox both seem to be relying on big name actors to sell their CGI films, and I personally find the films themselves to be very weak. I hated "Ice Age." I thought "Shrek" was funny, but not the "best movie ever" like so many people claimed. I wouldn't dare touch "Shark Tale," "Madagascar" or "Robots." They're just star vehicles without any real effort put into them story-wise.

Kenneth: I agree.

BumblebeeTheta: I think that's why I love Pixar so much. Every film of theirs does have so common names, but the actors actually put effort into their parts.

BumblebeeTheta: I loved "The Incredibles," but no one goes to see it because Craig T. Nelson plays Mr. Incredible. Holly Hunter? Yeah, she's had Oscar noms, but the average filmgoer couldn't care less. The stars don't distract the viewer because they don't need to. Pixar can sell their movies for the great stories and multi-faceted characters.

Kenneth: Good point

Kenneth: Back to your writing, I think readers will like me to ask the obvious first: Where has BumblebeeTheta gone?!

BumblebeeTheta: I'm still here, but I don't write fanfiction anymore. I jumped around a bit. I did "Futurama," I did "Hey Arnold!," I tried "Lilo & Stitch." Eventually, I just felt boxed in by it. It might seem easier to write for someone else's characters, but I don't feel that same self-satisfaction as when I write a poem or work on a screenplay.

BumblebeeTheta: Writing something original, for me, anyway, is more rewarding because I know it all came from me. I hope that when someone reads an original, they see part of the writer's self in that piece. It's knowing that you're sharing what you have to say with the world that makes writing worthwhile for me.

BumblebeeTheta: I still write a lot. I'm an editor on my school paper, and I usually write opinion pieces and reviews of music or movies. I write haiku poetry whenever I feel inspired. I'm working on a screenplay that I'd like to eventually direct as a feature film.

BumblebeeTheta: I still do artsy things relating to fandoms; I've been doodling lots of "Teen Titans" fan art lately. But I feel much happier when I'm drawing or writing my own ideas than when I'm basing it on someone else's vision.

Kenneth: That's fair enough too, though I'm sure many fans will be sorry to hear that.

Kenneth: So chances of coming back for maybe another fic sometime then?

BumblebeeTheta: Maybe. I've been watching a lot of "Dead Like Me." That, and "Significant Others," is my favorite show du jour. I love the absurd and morbid comedy there, as well as the reflections upon life and life after life. I could do a short one-shot for that, but I'd feel that I wasn't following the creators vision. I know, once art is out there, the viewer is allowed individual interpretation.

BumblebeeTheta: However, I respect the creators and writers of this or that show so much, and I really don't feel I could improve on that.

BumblebeeTheta: I don't know. I guess if the somewhat contrived romance between Mason and Daisy gets too bad, I can write a "rebuttal" fic.

Kenneth: Do you have any favourite authors that inspire you?

BumblebeeTheta: Yes, there are several authors whose work I adore. I've always been a fan of Poe; it appeals to my dark side. I remember reading "The Tell-Tale Heart" when I was twelve and thinking it was the scariest story ever.

BumblebeeTheta: I read some of what might be called "depressing" works of literature. Sylvia Plath's poetry is so haunting. Her book "Ariel" is one of the greatest books of poetry I own. I also loved "The Bell Jar," which I just finished in September. I started reading it in the bathtub every night. I'd be sitting in the water for hours; my family worried that I'd drowned.

BumblebeeTheta: My favorite book of all time is Jeffrey Eugenides's "The Virgin Suicides." I think I've read it fifteen times in the past year. The story of the Lisbon sisters' suicides is so intense, darkly funny and maddening. The narrator talks about how whenever he sees his friends at a party, they find themselves going over the "evidence" in the corner one last time.

BumblebeeTheta: That is how I feel about the book as well. I want so badly to understand why the girls killed themselves. I feel that if I read it over and over, eventually I will understand. But, like in any tragedy, there is no precise why.

Kenneth: Wow! A lot of influences there. Who are, or were, any Futurama fanfic authors you admired, if any?

BumblebeeTheta: I loved Kryten's stories. He had a style of writing similiar to Groening's. Allan was very good too; they were much more dramatic, but I still appreciated them. I think the collaboration between the two of them was wonderful.

Kenneth: Cool. What do you consider your best Futurama story?

BumblebeeTheta: That's a hard question to answer. I think I'm my own worst critic; I reread the things I wrote and think, "That is atrocious." I know it wasn't, but all I can think about now is how my style has evolved. I think the last work I wrote, the first of what would have become a series of "What If" fics is my favorite, but I still correct things mentally when I read it.

Kenneth: And any favourite stories from other writers?

BumblebeeTheta: "The Frylight Chronicles" is the collaboration between Allan and Kryten I mentioned. It's very, very smart and funny. I like Officer 1BDI's trilogy of stories as well. They're very entertaining.

Kenneth: What are your general feelings towards Shipper stories, and what is your take on the Fry and Leela relationship in general?

BumblebeeTheta: I think so long as you don't write out of character, which I felt I did, you can write romance stories. Oftentimes, though, you risk making it sound more "Days of Our Lives" than anything.

BumblebeeTheta: I loved the relationship between Fry and Leela and I felt the creators were right in their decision not to rush into anything serious. As David X. Cohen said, it's very obvious why Fry would love Leela, but the challenge is in convincing her to return the feelings. I felt that their relationship advanced well over the course of the series.

BumblebeeTheta: I also think that if it had to be over, "The Devil's Hands are Idol Playthings" was a fitting conclusion. We know that Leela does care a great deal for Fry, but we don't have to see the -ahem- sappy moments.

Kenneth: Do you considering characterisation to be the most important thing when writing a fanfic?

BumblebeeTheta: Well, I prefer things to be character-driven, so I would say so.

BumblebeeTheta: Whether something doesn't sound like this character would be saying it or if that character is a vegan and is eating at a steak restaurant, you have to maintain a level of consistency.

Kenneth: Do you find it easier to write an established character like Fry, Leela, Bender, etc or to write an original one you create yourself, be they an OC in fanfiction or an original story?

BumblebeeTheta: Original characters in my own stories are easiest, I think, because I have creative control. If I want this girl to like strawberries, she can. If I want her to only watch films by Truffaut and Fellini, she can. I don't have to worry about someone saying, "she wouldn't do that." How would they know?

Kenneth: True. How do you feel about the dreaded Mary-Sue (or Gary-Stu) creeping in?

BumblebeeTheta: I don't like it. I really, really don't like it. If it's a minor character, sure, but Mary-Sue's for the sake of Mary-Sue's annoy me to no end.

Kenneth: Do you find it's easy to avoid writing a character like that?

BumblebeeTheta: For me, it was. I remember thinking when I read a Mary-Sue, "I hate this. I'm never going to do this." And I stick with my word generally.

Kenneth: Good to hear. I think the main policy is to make sure that a character has weaknesses too.

BumblebeeTheta: Most definitely. I hate movies about perfect people. They're so boring. That's probably why I hated "Lemony Snicket" and "Phantom of the Opera." The protagonists are so dull because they can do no wrong.

Kenneth: How do you go about writing a story, fanfic or otherwise? i.e. do you make notes and follow them, do you plan everything out and write in the gaps, etc?

BumblebeeTheta: I plan it all out in my head. I do some sketches. I've become very director-minded I think. I like to know exactly what music would be playing in this scene. I think I am like Wes Anderson in that respect. He writes entire scenes around one song.

BumblebeeTheta: I try to write in sequence, but for my current project, it's essentially a life story, so I write whatever scene I feel like.

Kenneth: Do you have any specific rules or guidelines you follow/stick to?

BumblebeeTheta: Not specifically. I want it to make sense in the end, but I've mainly been following the advice of one of my most intelligent teachers: "Speak your truth." As long as it's honest and real, that's all that matters.

Kenneth: That's good advice. While original works can be what you want, how strictly close do you think a fanfic has to be to it's source material? For example, Futurama is, essentially, a comedy show. Do you think comedy is neccessary when writing a story based on a comedy show?

BumblebeeTheta: I think so. It might sound strict, but I believe in keeping with the source material. Otherwise, it becomes a story about people who conviently have the names Fry, Leela and Bender.

Kenneth: So, dramatic stories are fine as long as the characters still act like themselves and there's the odd bit of humour scattered around too?

BumblebeeTheta: Precisely.

Kenneth: Do you think the show could, or should, return?

BumblebeeTheta: I think it would be hard for it to come back. It costs more than the average animated show. However, Adult Swim has proven that there is a fan base who will watch it. If it was brought back, I'm sure it would get better ratings than "Father of the Pride."

BumblebeeTheta: I would be ecstatic if more episodes were produced. I know David X. Cohen and Matt Groening had many more ideas they wanted to use. It's also the kind of show that has virtually unlimited possibilities. Show me another comedy that features a robotic Lucy Liu. Well, besides "Joey."

Kenneth: Do you read the comics?

BumblebeeTheta: Yes, I collect them. I think they're hilarious. It's like watching TV without the risk of burning my eyeballs. I don't really read a lot of comics though. I used to read manga, but I think it's kind of boring now. The only comics I read are based on cartoons: "Futurama" and "Teen Titans Go!"

Kenneth: Do you still enjoy The Simpsons 16 Seasons on?

BumblebeeTheta: I haven't really watched "The Simpsons" lately. The last new episode I really remember is when they went to England and met Tony Blair and J. K. Rowling. I think the scene when Rowling gets upset with Lisa is one of the funniest I've seen on the show.

BumblebeeTheta: I watch "upper crust" comedy now, I guess.

BumblebeeTheta: "Arrested Development" is my favorite straight comedy, but I love "Significant Others," "Sex and the City" and "Scrubs."

BumblebeeTheta: They're all critics' favorites.

BumblebeeTheta: Still, I have to say I was very happy to get "Kids in the Hall" and "Home Movies" on DVD for Christmas.

Kenneth: Do you still read Futurama fan fiction, or did your reading move on with your writing?

BumblebeeTheta: I haven't read it in ages. The last fan fiction I remember reading was Kryten's "Rhondagenesis," a "Hey Arnold!" fic. I liked it though. I don't like risking fanfiction.net anymore though. It seems like anyone and everyone is uploading whatever they write, and most people really need editors.

Kenneth: Hehehe. I've boycotted that place myself.

Kenneth: What people and/or websites would you say have helped keep the Futurama online community so alive even over a year since the final episode?

BumblebeeTheta: Definitely CGEF and PEEL. If it weren't for them, I think most Futurama fans would be lost. Oh, and I have to make a TLZ plug, don't I?

Kenneth: LOL. If you think it deserves it.

BumblebeeTheta: It's definitely the best character-oriented site. And I'm amazed that it has lasted for so long. You guys put in so much effort. To quote one of the featured segments of "Best Week Ever," "Upgrade!" And yes, I am addicted to VH1.

Kenneth: Well, we're no longer a character based site anyway :)

BumblebeeTheta:: I *have* been away too long!

Kenneth: Hehehe, yep. You need to come back ;)

Kenneth: How do you think we can help keep the community alive now that the show no longer is?

BumblebeeTheta: That's a tough question. I guess everyone has to work on an individual level, introducing other people to the show. Discussion of it should be encouraged, of course. I hate to sound pessimistic, but I think that eventually, we are going to dwindle to old folks in nursing homes who say, "Back in my day, we had good TV, with flying cars and social commentary!" during our weekly sponge baths.

Kenneth: Hehehe.

Kenneth: Well, that about wraps it up. Before we do, do you have any final words of advice for authors out there, or any fans in general?

BumblebeeTheta: For everyone, I must enforce this quote: "Speak your truth." Don't be afraid to make yourself known and share yourself with the world. And to fans in general, I advise the same thing the creators of "Mystery Science Theater 3000": keep circulating the tapes!

Kenneth: Hehehe, cool. Thanks for doing this, BumblebeeTheta. It was very informative, and I think I speak for everybody when I say, good luck with your writing and don't be a stranger :)

BumblebeeTheta: Thanks again. You were a wonderful interviewer.