Zander Greene, the Co-Captain of Fantasy Faire and the Founder of Fantasy Faire Radio is also one of the Founders of the Faire. He recounts how the Faire was born a decade ago, talks of how it has changed during these years and reveals the Heart of the Fairelands.
You were there when the Fairelands were first called into being, you are one of the Faire Founders. How did it all start?
The first Faire was 2009. Lauren Thibaud and I had been working with a Relay team called Friends Fighting Cancer (FFC) for a couple of years, building their team campsite for Relay Weekend and helping out with their events. It was all pretty standard stuff at that point. A dance party here and there, auctions, that sort of thing. But it was a lot of work and the events were spread out over the course of the whole RFL season.
Then in ’09, Ember Farina took over as Captain of FFC. Ember thought we could raise more money and make it easier on all of us if instead of a series of small events over four months we had one big event that ran for a week or so.
One night – this was in early May, 2009 – the three of us were talking about what to do. We loved the idea of trying to replicate the success of events like Fashion For Life so we started to talk about what area we could focus on. We all shared a love of fantasy literature and movies (and Ember’s inventory was packed with Elven and Fae fashion and accessories!) so we pretty quickly came to the conclusion that we should focus on some aspect of that.
We considered the idea of an Elven themed event, or a Fae theme, Mer. You name it! The problem was that we knew none of those individual genres were big enough to sustain the scale of the event we wanted. So Ember said, “We’ll invite ALL of them! They’re not a unified community yet, so that’s our challenge. We have to make them into one!”
One month – almost to the day! – later, the first Faire was born.
When you look at the development of the Faire from those days to a decade later, what has changed? Has anything stayed the same?
The biggest changes have been outward. The builds have kept getting bigger and better, and not just because of advances in tech. The first year, Lauren and I had to build it all ourselves. Nine sims, two builders, one month! Thankfully, Mayah Parx and a few other kind souls came in to help that first year or I doubt it would have ever happened at all. But each year, more and more of the best builders in SL took on the task of World Making.
In the second year, Marcus Inkpen and Sharni Azalee came on board to build a sim. Mayah stepped up and took on one. The next year, Alia Baroque joined us. Each year new designers joined the World Makers and the results have just kept getting better each year.
As far as what has stayed the same, I think that has more to do with the inner nature of the Faire. The core values were there from the start. We wanted to reflect the values of Relay and be a place where people would raise more than money. It was about the strength you find when you’re working as part of a positive community to accomplish a big task, a noble task.
Expand on that a bit. What do you consider the Core of the Faire to be, what is the Heart of the Fairelands, the center that stays the same within growth and improvements?
Like any good Faireland region itself, it all grows out of good narrative and the themes that are central to so much fantasy literature.
First, there is the idea that you as an individual have a lot more power to create positive change than you know. Any hero starts out unsure if they have the strength to get to the finish line. They discover that strength along the way, as the journey/quest unfolds. And that theme is magnified by the formation of ‘fellowships.’ Once you have a team of people who are discovering their true power together there really isn’t anything they can’t accomplish.
Will you try even though you don’t know for a fact that you can succeed? That’s always the true test of heroes. They are the ones who say yes to the adventure when saying no would be much easier.
I’ll tell you something. The Faire has been lucky in its leadership. Ember was the only person I know who could have gotten it off the ground to begin with, and when Elizabeth Tinsley took the helm (in 2012) she took it to the next level. She had been there as a merchant from the first year, and she saw that what was needed was a transformation of the Faire into the Fairelands.
Fantasy is all about building a grand mythos. Elizabeth knew that was what the Faire needed. An event that was at its core a celebration of great stories needed to have one of its own. So, again you have this idea that there is power in narrative. There is real magic. You can honestly move the world with a big enough lever and great stories can do that. Indeed, they have!
And it just keeps growing, spiraling out to a wider, grander circle of events. The Quest, the Dance and Particle performance series, the Role Play events, the DJs, Litfest. Each of these components is a huge thing on its own! And each is only possible because there are people who work incredibly hard to make them happen.
You are also the Founder of Fantasy Faire Radio. Tell us about that. Was it a part of the Faire from the beginning? How has it changed in all these years?
Fantasy Faire Radio (FFR) was something I wanted to be part of the Faire from the beginning, but it took me until the fourth year to make it happen. That was one of the many great things that happened as a result of having more talented people join the team. It freed me up to focus on adding that to the formula.
I spent the better part of twenty years working in radio as a producer. It’s a medium that I know for a fact can also be transformative. There is an intimacy to radio that is more like a novel than a film. A friend of mine once said, “The best movies I ever saw were on the radio.”
I love what FFR is able to do, the way it can enhance the visual experience of the Faire and the ability it gives us to amplify our central message which is that together we can do a great, big thing! We can beat cancer.
Having Radio Riel come on board as our official media partner has been as huge as having all these amazing World Makers join us. Gabi Riel and Elrik Merlin are such amazing people. What they have done to grow FFR into a now year-round stream is something I personally feel great gratitude for. They do so much work behind the curtain and much of it is unglamorous to say the least!
But that defines a Fairelander as much as anything I know. They do hard things. They do them well. And they do them graciously.
What is your favorite memory from the Faire? Is there any one thing that symbolizes the Faire to you, that always comes to you as your main association with the Fairelands?
A couple of years ago, I was on the deck of the Fairechylde right after the Faire had closed. That’s always a bittersweet time. You’re grateful that it’s done for another year and you’re grieving for the same reason!
So, I’m standing there being all reflective and a bit moody when an avatar flies up to me and says hello. I love that aspect of SL in general, the chance to strike up random conversations with total strangers. In the so called “Real” world we’re all so guarded but in a virtual world we can let go of a lot of our fear and suspicion of one another.
As we chatted, she told me that she loved the Faire and that it had been something that she discovered helped with her work. I asked what that was exactly, and what she said left me speechless.
She was a nurse in a cancer treatment center, and she had been carrying her laptop around to the survivors she was caring for to show them what people all around the world were doing to try to help. She said that there was one in particular, a little girl about ten years old who was battling cancer with the strength and courage of a lion, who had been very much inspired to keep fighting by what she saw us doing.
It had never even occurred to me that a health care professional would be able to use the Faire in a way that was actually therapeutic. But here she was, standing right in front of me. It was like seeing the Faire for the first time. It was six or seven years after the Faire started, and I was seeing it as if for the very first time.
That new found awareness revolutionized how I see everything. And not just in terms of what is possible in a virtual world. A “Faireland” is – as I have come to understand – any place in the worlds (including the physical one!) from which you depart with more hope than you had when you arrived.
The Fairelands provide. They give you what you need most. Sometimes it’s just a way to escape the ugliness of the world. Sometimes it’s just fun. And sometimes it’s the knowledge – not just the belief but the absolute certainty! – that what you’re doing is actually building a better world.
To quote a recent Fairelands Quest companion, “That’s big stuff, ya know? Heavy magic.”
Thank you, Zander, for sharing your view on the Faire, for letting us have a peek into the past and see the growth of the Fairelands. Thank you for your part in that moment in time that gave us our beloved fantasy continent, the Second Home for us all.