The History of the Watchers' Council
February 25, 2011 12:30 PM   Subscribe

"The Watchers' Council of Great Britain prides itself on being the oldest known human organisation in existence. It has changed its name several times, been all but destroyed and then re-founded at least twice, and many of its older records are long lost and crumbled to dust; but it can still trace a continuous thread of existence back over eight thousand years. There are, of course, demon cults and secret societies which are older - in some cases, a billion years older - but as far as humans go, the Council holds the laurel. This is their story." posted by Zed (51 comments total) 32 users marked this as a favorite

 
i just want to make sure i understand what i am looking at here.

this appears to be someone's buffy fanfiction.

am i wrong? i would kind of like to be wrong.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 12:37 PM on February 25, 2011 [14 favorites]


Context?
posted by Avenger at 12:38 PM on February 25, 2011


Oh, Buffy.

Okay, but why?
posted by Avenger at 12:39 PM on February 25, 2011


I'm with The MONSTER, here. It's kinda like being rick-rolled, but... creepier. At least, as far as I could see from the title/intro page, there was non of this 'slash' I've been avoiding.
posted by LD Feral at 12:39 PM on February 25, 2011


this appears to be someone's buffy fanfiction.

So?
posted by muddgirl at 12:41 PM on February 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think they were complaining about lack of context more than anything else.
posted by synthetik at 12:42 PM on February 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Here's the first couple of paragraphs from the first chapter:
For hundreds of thousands of years, the human race wandered the Earth in tiny, scattered bands of hunter-gatherers. They lived off whatever food they could scavenge - and then moved on or starved. But then, in the lands of the Fertile Crescent that arcs from modern-day Egypt through Syria to Iraq around eight or nine thousand years ago, something remarkable happened. People discovered that instead of gathering edible plants growing wild, you could plant their seeds and make them grow wherever you wanted them. Instead of hunting animals across the plains, you could pen them in a field, breed them to order and slaughter them whenever you needed meat. This was the Neolithic Revolution: the invention of agriculture. No longer would mankind be content to accept whatever Nature's bounty offered them; instead they reached out to take control of the Earth and shape it to suit their requirements.

The results were both good and bad. Agriculture offered security; instead of living hand-to-mouth, a farming society could plan for the future. Since they made their food come to them instead of going out in search of it, they could establish permanent settlements - build houses and temples, and start accumulating possessions beyond what they could carry with them. Extensive fields and crops and vast herds of sheep or cattle provided far more food than a hunter-gatherer clan could dream of - and that allowed the population to grow by orders of magnitude. Rather than family groups of no more than a few dozen individuals at most, Neolithic people could establish large settlements: villages and towns of hundreds, even thousands of inhabitants. This large population in turn led to specialisation. Instead of everybody having to hunt for food, now a society could support craftsmen and priests and merchants and artists - not to mention kings and tax-collectors and soldiers, which would be the downside of the new large and more complex society.

This trend reached its peak in the muddy plains of lower Mesopotamia, between the rivers Tigris and Euphrates. The land here was richly fertile, but the climate was arid; too dry to grow crops. Until, that is, the inhabitants, who called themselves Unĝ Sanĝ Gígga - the black-headed people - discovered the secret of digging irrigation ditches, and turned the desert green. The task of organising public works on a massive scale boosted the development of laws and government and religion, and there in the land of Šumerû - Sumeria - the world's first civilisation took root.

Unfortunately, the concentration of tens of thousands of human beings all in one place proved an irresistible temptation to demons. The first cities such as Kish and Uruk offered them an all-you-can-eat buffet. Vampires, once the lowest and most despised form of demon, flourished in this new environment. They could take human form, mingle with the crowds undetected, and feed at their leisure.

It was to counter the threat of vampires that a group of powerful sorcerers came together, some time around 6,000 BC, in the small coastal city of Ur. These men - and they were all men - were mostly drawn from the priesthood of the many fiercely independent city-states of Sumeria, who had devoted their lives and wealth to the study of magic. While some of them dabbled in politics, most of them saw it as a distraction from the pursuit of true power... and they worked in secret, knowing that both ordinary people and kings alike would react in fear and hatred if the nature of their work was discovered. For that reason they called themselves the Lú'ene Ğissu'ak - the Men of the Shadows, or Shadowmen.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:45 PM on February 25, 2011


I mean, to be fair I was not complaining about lack of context other than I guess maybe an explanation of what is so special about a person's fanfiction about a tv show that there's a compelling reason to make a front page post out of it and not out of the absolute mountains of other fanfiction about that tv show.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 12:46 PM on February 25, 2011 [10 favorites]


Wait! This isn't real? Expectations are not manifested. Disappointment sets in.
posted by doublesix at 12:49 PM on February 25, 2011 [6 favorites]


It's kind of an alternative history of mankind so far, absolutely not a typical fanfiction story. I'm diggin' it.

(Personally, I think there's a place for well-written fan fiction on Metafilter - we see it crop up in discussions all the time like 'What if Ferris Buehler was really part of Cameron's imagination?' and the like, but codified Fanfiction is still deprecated among even general fan communities).
posted by muddgirl at 12:50 PM on February 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


I only just finished season one... I'm assuming there are spoilers, so won't click the links. But thanks for posting this. Bookmarking it as reading material for when I'm done with the series.
posted by zarq at 12:52 PM on February 25, 2011


Damn. From the above the fold text, I expected this to be Highlander the Series fanfiction.
posted by adamdschneider at 12:52 PM on February 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Highlander crossed my mind too but then I thought Buffy. Either way, I'll give it a read.
posted by Ber at 12:55 PM on February 25, 2011


"The Watchers' Council of Great Britain prides itself on being the oldest known human organisation in existence

METHOS IS A WATCHER! METHOS IS A WATCHER!
posted by nathancaswell at 12:58 PM on February 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


You sheep! It's all real! Buffy was a biopic!
posted by clvrmnky at 1:00 PM on February 25, 2011


So?

Aw man post is a let-down. I thought we were gonna find this was some really sexy historical information :( :( :(
posted by the mad poster! at 1:10 PM on February 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


I expected this to be Highlander the Series fanfiction

If nobody's written secret history fanfic revealing that Buffy, Highlander and (possibly) the X-Files are all part of a common continuity, they totally should.
posted by hattifattener at 1:22 PM on February 25, 2011


Yes, this is Buffy fan fiction. I had originally included a 'fanfic' tag, but it didn't make the final cut.

I liked it and thought it would be of interest to Mefi's Buffy and alternate/secret history fans, so I posted it. I'm not planning to follow up with Giles/Oz slash and I don't think we're in serious danger of a slippery slope.
posted by Zed at 1:25 PM on February 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


I am not a fan of Buffy - saw the movie, liked it, just never had the chance to watch the TV show, to be honest. But I found this to be just totally and completely epic!
posted by Xoebe at 1:25 PM on February 25, 2011


I applaud people who write for their own pleasure rather than money. As a complete hack myself, I am continually amazed by the time people put into this kind of project, because I am so goddamned mercenary that this right here is about the only writing I do for free anymore. Go, this person!
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:29 PM on February 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


Metafilter: It was to counter the threat of vampires
posted by blue_beetle at 1:34 PM on February 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


While very well-done fanfiction has a place on the front page, I think, I *am* annoyed with the lack of context here.
posted by JHarris at 1:36 PM on February 25, 2011


Does this explain why the Watcher's Council never paid Buffy? Because that was some sick patriarchy going on there.
posted by yellowbinder at 1:37 PM on February 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


Bah, destroyed and refounded means you're a new organization building on the capital of a previous one. I cry hijinks upon your claims of descent!
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 1:40 PM on February 25, 2011


OK, sorry for lack of context. I thought the above-the-fold part with its reference to billion-year-old demon organizations made it clear it was a fictitious history with fantasy elements, which I thought was pretty much context enough to inform people's decision whether to click, and the Buffy and Whedonverse tags added enough context for people teetering on the edge.
posted by Zed at 1:42 PM on February 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Because that was some sick patriarchy going on there.

Not as sick as the Cruciamentum. I figure the Council specifically approved of high fatality among slayers so that no one of them could ever gain enough personal power to challenge their authority. That's why their support was so half-hearted as giving the slayer a single watcher, and they had the Cruciamentum to whittle down survival rates after 18.

So Buffy was their worst nightmare, and I wish they'd examined this conflict more after it was touched on in Season 5.
posted by Zed at 1:47 PM on February 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


I always wondered (since we're being a bit spoilery) how Giles managed to live between the time he loses his library job AND his Watcher job, and the time he starts the magic shop. It's not addressed at all AFAIK (I haven't seen the 7th season), and yet he was able to keep Buffy in stakes and crossbow bolts. Trust fund?
posted by muddgirl at 1:57 PM on February 25, 2011


muddgirl: in 1694, the Watcher's Council deposited £10 in the Bank of England, and has been riding high on interest ever since.
posted by absalom at 2:03 PM on February 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


It's not like Zed posted the Eighth Weasley, which surmises that Willow Rosenberg is a missing daughter of the Weasley clan and the Scoobies go to England. Giles, of course, is a Hogwarts graduate and Buffy treats Diagon Alley as a shopping mall. I hated myself for reading about half that one before I couldn't take anymore. Though Buffy beating the living shit out of Draco Malfoy was golden.
posted by Ber at 2:04 PM on February 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well sure, but Giles quits the Council. Does he qualify for their pension plan at the ripe old age of 44?
posted by muddgirl at 2:07 PM on February 25, 2011


Giles' unemployment was only a year. I was OK with just assuming he had personal savings enough to make do. He had been drawing two salaries for about two and a half of the previous three years, and doesn't seem to have much in the way of expensive habits.
posted by Zed at 2:08 PM on February 25, 2011


Yeah, it's not like he has to track down and purchase rare first-edition books or anything - he probably charged those to the school board budget.
posted by muddgirl at 2:14 PM on February 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


One thing that always annoyed me is in the famous "Once More With Feeling" episode.

******SPOLER ALERT********

It turns out in the end that Xander was the one who called the demon and that it wasn't accidental, that he actually intended to call it. Yet earlier, we see a man immolate, burning to his death because of the dancing and singing fever the demon unleashed on Sunnydale. Yet, Xander never speaks up until the very end and everyone seems nonplussed that at least one innocent citizen died because of Xander's willful negligence.
posted by Falconetti at 2:22 PM on February 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


I thought the Watchers Council was an organization of Nielsen Families.
posted by oneswellfoop at 2:22 PM on February 25, 2011


One thing that always annoyed me is in the famous "Once More With Feeling" episode.

Me, too. Both Buffy and Angel were very capricious in whose sins were forgiven.
posted by Zed at 2:24 PM on February 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


I figure the Council specifically approved of high fatality among slayers so that no one of them could ever gain enough personal power to challenge their authority. That's why their support was so half-hearted as giving the slayer a single watcher, and they had the Cruciamentum to whittle down survival rates after 18.

This explained something that always bothered me.

Why did Buffy have to get a job in addition to slaying? If I was saving the world on a weekly basis, damn if I'd work for nothing.
posted by winna at 2:28 PM on February 25, 2011


Heck, I always assumed that Giles wasn't paid by the Council - that it was a volunteer position. It's part of being in a Sick System - if he's paid, then he's grossly underpaid with the promises of future compensation.

Totally agree that I wish they had the room to explore the Council's Sick System more deeply.
posted by muddgirl at 2:35 PM on February 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


"So you see, $Boy from a farming village, only you can defeat the evil Tyrant. You must trust me, for I am old and wise."
"Well, hold on now. I'm going to need, at the very least, travel expenses. And what's your 401K matching look like?"
posted by khaibit at 2:40 PM on February 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


The encounter with the Council in season 5 makes explicit that Giles was salaried -- Buffy negotiated for him to be reinstated with back pay. (It might still be a pittance, though -- I don't recall that we get any hints as to how much it was.)
posted by Zed at 2:46 PM on February 25, 2011


Heck, I always assumed that Giles wasn't paid by the Council - that it was a volunteer position. It's part of being in a Sick System

Actually, in Season 5, once Buffy turns the table on the council (after they try to use information about Glory as leverage), she gets Giles re-instated to the council, with back pay. Otherwise still a sick system, though.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 2:47 PM on February 25, 2011


Or what Zed said.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 2:48 PM on February 25, 2011


Backpay was actually all the tea and crumpets he could eat in a year ;) Actually totally forgot about the backpay, and I just rewatched that episode last week.
posted by muddgirl at 2:51 PM on February 25, 2011


One thing that always annoyed me is in the famous "Once More With Feeling" episode.

I was just thinking about that episode this morning, and how different it would be these days with the horrible curse of auto-tune. I liked hearing their crap voices, by god.
posted by elizardbits at 3:06 PM on February 25, 2011


Been enjoying reading the AV Club's Buffy recaps, though I stopped watching at the end of season 5. The fact that Buffy even address a question like 'does Giles get paid?' is part of what makes it great
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 3:57 PM on February 25, 2011


"I only just finished season one... I'm assuming there are spoilers, so won't click the links. But thanks for posting this. Bookmarking it as reading material for when I'm done with the series."

The first and last chapters have some spoilers (mostly the last one), with some stuff in the middle that probably came from non TV sources like comics. Haven't read those so I'm not really sure.

Anyway, this was a fun read. I love this kind of retroactive world-building by fans, especially when its done with reference to real history. It's hard to believe that any large organization could keep itself secret for a hundred years, much less eight thousand, but for the duration of the article the author makes you suspend your skepticism. Maybe the Watchers suppressed the existence of vampires too, which is why so few people seem to know about them in the series.
posted by Kevin Street at 4:17 PM on February 25, 2011


So I scanned the front page while waiting for the bus tonight and saw this post, believing for the moment it was about a real organization of some sort. I didn't click into the links or the thread, but I did get an immediate idea for a documentary series on mortality.

The five-part series would explore death through the Kübler-Ross stages of grief:

"Denial" (subtitle: "Whistling past the graveyard"), the first episode, would explore ways to avoid death or its consideration: cryonics, cultures in which talk of death is a taboo, and interesting ways in which people have tried to promote their legacy;

"Anger (Rage against the dying of the light)" would have the filmmaker join a black metal band, and visit the graves of Dylan Thomas or perhaps Edna St. Vincent Millay;

In "Bargaining (All that a man hath will he give for his life)", we reach out into the eternity behind us by joining the world's oldest organization (which I'm now sad to see doesn't exist — but we'll find the actual oldest organization and join it), and we explore how various religions and cultures deal with death through concepts of afterlife and rebirth;

The controversial-from-inception "Depression (I hate myself and want to die)" follows a physically healthy young man determined to end his life, basically a single plot but with contrasting vignettes highlighting the works of Nietzsche;

And "Acceptance (It ain't no sin to be glad you're alive)" is a shamelessly cathartic coda in which it is decided that life is for the living, life is a gift, and everyone should make the best of it while they can.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 5:48 PM on February 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


I actually wonder what the oldest maintained human institution is, then. The Catholic Church?
posted by effugas at 4:36 AM on February 26, 2011


effugas, there is an old temple or something along those lines in the far east where they've been keeping a flame alive for a long time.. I have no idea how to dig up this info now though, you may be right that the catholic church has a stronger claim
posted by the mad poster! at 6:10 AM on February 26, 2011


Sigh, this is as close as I'm gonna get to a Ripper series, isn't it?
posted by The Whelk at 8:55 AM on February 26, 2011


I was just thinking about that episode this morning, and how different it would be these days with the horrible curse of auto-tune. I liked hearing their crap voices, by god.


Sarah Michelle Gellar's voice was autotuned for Once More With Feeling! I can't find a cite, but

a) You can hear it
b) Alyson Hannigan mentions it in a making-of (which is on the series disc, I think.)
posted by Jon Mitchell at 10:37 PM on February 26, 2011


I liked hearing their crap voices, by god.

I thought Gellar was passable and Brendon was the only one who was outright not good; everyone else turned in a wholly creditable performance. (That soundtrack is one of my most-listened albums.)
posted by Zed at 1:48 PM on February 28, 2011


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