Introduction to the Sith Academy
The Sith Academy comes from rather humble origins. On June 1, 1999, the air conditioning broke at my place of employment just in time for a heat wave. As I inhabit a windowless office, my brain was slowly starting to bake. Finally, lunch time came around, and I trundled up to the cafeteria with my Intrepid Housemate MelissaTM to see if they had anything cool to eat. I also grabbed a chocolate chip brownie to ease the pain. As I sat munching on my brownie in the stifling heat of the cafeteria, I gazed out the windows and watched the cars whizzing by on the highway. The combination of the hypnotic whizzing of Boston drivers, the oppressive heat, and the really soulfully tasty brownie was too much for my poor brain to handle, and having seen The Phantom Menace three or four times by that point, my brain snapped and I came up with the idea for "Life Lessons at the Sith Academy" wherein Sidious teaches Maul how to drive. I wrote it in half an hour, immediately after getting back to my amazingly hot office.
Silly me, I thought that would be it. But my hatred was clearly not complete, so I wrote the menial jobs story with help from my housemates that very same day. Then after my cat pissed me off several times too many, I wrote a third story. I shared the stories with a few lists I was on, and even made a silly little Web page for them just for kicks.
Then Katherine the Art Chick sent me a Sith Academy story. She'd been having problems with her landlord and needed to vent.
Then Lilith Sedai sent me a Sith Academy story. She was in the process of writing her master's thesis and needed to vent.
Then my Intrepid Housemate Melissa TM came up with an idea for a story.
Next thing you know, I'm running a full-fledged Web site that's getting submissions from all corners of the globe. Ack! This wasn't part of the plan! Suddenly, I had to become an editor, set up submissions guidelines, learn the fine art of rejecting submissions without crushing the spirit of the author/artist (not very Sithly of me, I know), keep track of who was writing what so I didn't get multiple stories about the exact same thing, and set up a timeline so that folks could keep track of the soap-operaish plot.
Not that I'm complaining, mind you. The trade-off for all this work, of course, was that the site was becoming incredibly popular. I have an incredibly voracious ego, so the feedback I get makes it all worthwhile. Still, the submission process can be very awkward for me at times. I only want to put stories up on the site that I think are funny and that fit in the Sith Academy universe, and that means that I have to reject submissions. I hate doing it, but I decided early on that this wasn't going to be a public fanfic archive, and I'm sticking to my guns.
Somewhere along the line--story #29 to be exact--something happened that changed the Sith Academy radically. I wrote a silly little piece subtitled "Darth Maul Gets Laid" wherein we first heard the line "Oh shit, he'd slept with Obi-Wan Kenobi." I thought people would get a laugh out of it and move on, but suddenly I started getting flooded with Maul/Obi-Wan stories. Apparently, there are a lot of folks out there who like the idea of them as sex partners. There'd been male/male couples in the Sith Academy before--notably Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan--and Sidious/Palpatine was clearly established as being queeny pretty much from the start, but this was different. This really changed everything. After a while, the majority of the stories I received involved getting the two of them into bed together.
Did I mind? Hell, no! Did some of my readers mind? Well, yes. The majority of the feedback was still positive, but every now and then I'd get an email from someone who liked the site better before the two of them became sex partners. I even got one email from someone who called the stories "trash" and wanted me to "clean up the site." Sheesh! I can only post what I receive, and since the majority of the stories nowadays are sex stories, you do the math. I briefly considered putting together an alternate index of "sex-free stories" (m/m, f/m, and m/left hand) but my friends talked me out of it, pointing out that censoring for sex was hypocritical when I could just as easily censor for violence (for peacenik readers) or meat-eating/leather-wearing (for vegan readers).
My one regret about this change in the Sith Academy is that the site's audience has narrowed. It used to be suitable for young children, and now it's not, and it used to be suitable for folks who didn't like reading m/m scenes, and now it's not. I don't mind weeding out the homophobes--in fact, I'm glad to be rid of them--but I know plenty of people who are queer-friendly but whose personal kink doesn't involve reading about men together. None of the stories on the main page are explicit, mind you (there are some explicit versions hosted here, but they're linked off of the main story page), but some of them are still a little much for some people to read. Ah well. Life goes on.
And the Sith Academy goes on. As of today (7/21/99)*, the site contains 82 stories (three with R or NC-17 versions) written by 44 authors, and 13 pieces of art by 6 different artists. The main page has had over 22,000 unique visits, and averages over 800 hits a day. 178 people are subscribed to the updates list, and the unsubscribe rate from the list is extremely low. And 100 people responded to my inquiry about wanting "Sith Lords Kick Ass" shirts, which was more than I'd expected (to be more accurate, it was more than I feared since I had to pay for them in advance out of pocket). I continue to be astounded by how much this site has taken off, grown, and changed, and I really hope the enthusiasm lasts at least for a little while longer. I think The Sith Academy proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that George Lucas created an amazingly popular character in Darth Maul, and that if he's not going to develop him, then the fans are more than willing to step up to the plate and do it for him.
Now what are you waiting for? Go read the damn stories before my hatred becomes complete and I feel compelled to strike you down and take your place! Oh, wait, I am already the head of this little pack of Sith...
[* Updated stats, 12/13/00: The site now contains 171 canon stories and 13 non-canon stories, written by 77 authors. The art gallery pages have more submissions than I want to count. Plus there's a drinking game, a partially-illustrated Tarot deck, the Handbook... The flip side to this is that the site's hit count has been steadily decreasing and submissions are coming in slower and slower. But the email list is thriving, and we keep making more t-shirts!]
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