Interview: Supernatural: Jules Wilkinson (SuperWiki)

This entry is part 3 of 15 in the series Supernatural Interviews

Today in our Supernatural Week, we talk to Jules Wilkinson, one of the administrators of the online Supernatural fan encyclopedia Supernatural Wiki (SuperWiki):

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IFP: Tell us a little about the SuperWiki. What was the reason for founding it?

JW: Super-Wiki began life as the Super-canon – a simple single-author website. It was started by Hope in June 2006 just after season one of Supernatural had aired. Hope initially did everything herself but as the resource expanded Hope teamed up with fellow fan Leandra, and they decided together that the site would better function as a wiki. In August 2006, it was converted into wiki format, which allowed any fan to contribute to the project. It’s this which makes the site such a rich resource.

IFP: How did you become an admin at the SuperWiki? Why did you join?

JW: I’d done some transcribing of material for the Super-canon, and then got more involved when the project became a wiki. Every episode of Supernatural is so full of references to folklore and legends and popular culture, and it’s great to help decode all this and organize it in an accessible way. I’m more than a bit of a nerd! Eventually, the admin team asked me to join them in taking on a broader role in running the site.

IFP: What kind of role do you and the other admins want the SuperWiki to fill in the Supernatural fandom?

JW: The SuperWiki has two broad aims. Firstly, to document the show, the episodes and the ongoing story and characters, and all the urban legends and mythic and pop references, as well as the associated material like the comics and novels and other projects by the cast and crew. The SuperWiki also records the activities and works of fandom, and this is something that makes it quite unique. We document the major events in fandom, like conventions, as well as fan works from fanfic to fanvids, fan projects of all sorts and even fan crafts. We have a guide to the vernacular specific to the Supernatural fandom, like the origin and spread of terms like “Metallicar”, the fannish nickname for the boys’ Impala. There are many fan projects linked at the SuperWiki – such as the Plastic Winchesters, and the Laundry list, which documents all the clothes worn by Sam and Dean. We link to fansites, and media blogs and communities such as Television Without Pity, and Livejournal. And, of course, these two things overlap and interact – so, for example, you can read an entry about a character on the show, and also follow links to fanfic about them. So we’re a repository of both facts and culture.

It’s also a place where fans get to create things themselves. Nearly 2,000 fans are registered editors on the Wiki. They all add their own perspective and talent to it, whether that’s fact-checking or proofreading, or contributing their expertise on Wicca, Egyptian mythology or ’80s TV shows. The Wiki truly is a resource owned and made by fandom.

The site has become a well-used resource for those wanting info on the show – whether it’s untangling the mytharc, or reading up on their favourite character or monster, or reading the trivia about each episode. Keith DeCandido who has written two of the Supernatural ti-in novels, acknowledges the SuperWiki in his book as his source of facts about the show. The SuperWiki is also often linked to by major media blogs for our coverage of the conventions. We collate links to fan reports, videos and photos – it’s the only place where this is all gathered in one spot. Popular? The last convention was “Asylum” held in May this year and that page has had over 135,000 hits!

IFP: What plans do you have for the future of the SuperWiki?

JW: A big part of the Wiki‘s future will be determined by what fandom wants because they create and contribute to it. Our most popular pages at present are the episode and character pages, as well as the convention pages. We are on Twitter now, which has brought the SuperWiki to a new, broader audience.

IFP: Tell us about some of the challenges you have encountered in working on the SuperWiki.

JW: As a multi-authored site that anyone can contribute to, I thought one of the challenges would be monitoring and checking new edits and entries. But it’s rare that anyone contributes anything inaccurate or inappropriate (like spoilers). The biggest challenge is just keeping current with new content, whether it’s from the show or fandom. It never stops!

IFP: What other genre projects (fan or otherwise) have you done? Which was your favourite?

For a number of years, I was involved in organizing queer spoken word events, which were hugely rewarding as they gave many writers a space for the first time to make their stories heard. I have a great belief in the power of storytelling to be transformative for both the teller and the audience. Providing spaces for stories from those normally not heard – queer, disabled, indigenous, subversive – was exciting on both an individual and collective level.

IFP: What is your favourite character on Supernatural? Why?

JW: It has to be Sam and Dean, and no, don’t ask me to pick! Why I love them is the great writing, that they’re archetypes who could’ve easily been stereotypes, but the writers have created characters with an emotional continuity who also grow and change in response to what happens. They struggle – to do what’s right, to make sense of life and family, to find out who they are – which we all do in one way or another. Oh, and they’re funny and sexy and badass, too!

IFP: What is your favourite storyline on Supernatural? Why?

JW: I was really blown away by the Ruby arc that’s just concluded. For two seasons, this character, portrayed by two great actresses, was central to the mytharc, yet her motivations and agenda were hidden from both the audience and the other characters. There was a strong fan reaction to the character – often negative – which I think is a tribute to a risk in storytelling that really paid off.

We know now Ruby was a very unreliable narrator, and one of the joys of how she was written is that we can now go back and rewatch episodes through a very different lens and try and unpick what she was really up to. This is one of the things Supernatural does so well, building a story with such layers that each season gives us something new to bring to the viewings of past episodes.

IFP: Who is your favourite writer on Supernatural? Why?

JW: The strength of the writing lies in the synergy between the writers, who each bring different things to the show. Eric Kripke, of course, has the central vision of the characters and the mytharc. I love that he’s stayed true to his original central premise – it’s a scary horror show that’s about family. It’s hard to put any of the writers in a box. Ben Edlund writes cracked-out, playful episodes like “Ghostfacers” and “Wishful Thinking”, but also “On the Head of a Pin” which is one of the darkest episodes of the last season. Sera Gamble writes some of the scariest episodes, which usually have something in them that also gets under your skin and also makes you think. She writes really scary little kids, and I think she writes great Sam. Kripke, I think of as Dean’s voice. Jeremy Carver has particularly created some great backstories for the characters – young Sam and Dean, young Mary Winchester, and the story of Castiel’s vessel Jimmy Novak. Cathryn Humphris writes episodes that tend to look at the dark side of ourselves and our subconscious.

I have to add, it’s a show where the contribution of parts of production are important in producing the end product – and valued by the fans. The show has great directors, particularly the late Kim Manners, who put his mark on the show in many ways, as he ran the production side of things in Vancouver. It’s a visually sophisticated show, thanks to the amazing Art Department, a great DP and wonderful post-production effects. With the low budget they have, they manage to create something that is filmic in quality. And they’ve also managed to find some pretty awesome actors, too.

IFP: What is your favourite episode on Supernatural? Why?

JW: Stop asking impossible questions!!!! Okay, it’ll be different tomorrow, but the season four premier episode, “Lazarus Rising”, is pretty magnificent. It starts with a four-minute sequence without dialogue, and then manages to set up the major themes and plot points for the whole season – what happened to Dean in Hell, Sam using his powers and working with Ruby, the estrangement between the brothers. And, of course, it introduces our first, and favourite, angel in Castiel, in magnificent fashion. It showcases what makes this show great.

IFP: What are you anticipating the most about the upcoming season? Why?

JW: It’s the Apocalypse! Lucifer’s risen! Plus, Sam and Dean have more than a few issues to sort out. I love that the show doesn’t resile from making the central relationship a complex and tough one. It would be easy for this to be pretty much a standard buddy-genre show with the boys riding around in the car having fun and killing monsters, but it’s much more challenging than that.

IFP: If you could be a Lovecraft/Mythos monster, which one would you be? Why?

JW: Cthulhu, of course. It’s a tentacle thing.

IFP: Do you have a favourite Lovecraft/Mythos story? If so, which one is it?

JW: Having established I suck at picking favourites… “The Rats in the Walls” was probably the first Lovecraft story I read, and made a huge impression on me because of how it takes what seems, at first, a standard horror trope and layers it with things even darker and grander. One of the reasons I remain a great fan of short stories.

IFP: Please tell us about your upcoming projects.

JW: The one I am just finishing up is the “Supernatural Scrapbook” on the SuperWiki. Its a bit of a mini-Wiki based around a timeline and a collection of events both important and trivial in the life of the show and its cast and crew. Interviews, photoshoots, as well as production-related things. It’s a place to keep all the little snippets of stuff – Jared and Jensen sharing a house; Kripke talking about the development of the script; how did the Writers’ Strike affect the show, and many, many more fascinating, useless facts!

IFP: What is your dream project?

JW: Getting paid to watch movies, TV, and read books – and write about them!

Jules Wilkinson

Bio: Raised by television in suburbian Australia, her childhood companions were Doctor Who, the crew of the Enterprise, and the denizens of the Twilight Zone. Her love of the macabre and bizarre, and of science fiction, has continued into the 21st century, where she is disappointed not to be living on the moon, wearing a silver pullover. Aside from being an administrator of the Supernatural Wiki, she has co-edited a book of essays on the show called Some of Us Really Do Watch for the Plot, and was a contributor to In The Hunt, published by BenBella. She lives with a cocker spaniel called Jack and, when not watching TV or annoying people on the Internet, she works in women’s health by day and stand-up comedy by night.

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IFPInterview: Supernatural: Jules Wilkinson (SuperWiki)