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SciFriday: A Dark Chapter In Fandom Finally Closes?

TrekUnited could finally be back in the hands of real fans

I debated whether or not I wanted to give Tim Brazeal one last bit of attention. But after reading some of the crap he wrote on the TrekUnited message boards over the weekend, I felt I couldn't simply let it go.

Brazeal, if you remember, was the brain cell behind the Save Enterprise campaign. It started out normal enough: Fans who really loved "Star Trek: Enterprise" wanted to see it continue on what was then known as UPN. They signed petitions, wrote letters, did the things fans would normally do to save a show. And they got it (even if it wasn't necessarily because of their efforts). UPN renewed "Enterprise" for a fourth season, mostly to help it achieve numbers more desirable for post-run syndication.

But it seemed almost obvious that the fourth season of the show would be the last, even with Manny Coto coming onboard to replace Brannon Braga as showrunner. That's when the Save Enterprise campaign went from cool grassroots fan action to something that borders on scam.

The campaign started to ask for money from the fans -- lots of it -- in an attempt to raise millions of dollars they said would help fund a fifth season of the show. They claimed they had pledges of $3 million (although they still have never revealed where that cash was coming from), and raised more than $100,000 from fans. They continued to ask for donations from people even when Paramount made it clear that they would never accept money from fans, and that they didn't think it was a good idea for anyone to be soliciting hard-earned cash from these fans.

But the "campaign" continued. It wasn't until sites like Airlock Alpha (then known as SyFy Portal), TrekWeb and even the Los Angeles Times unraveled the mess that Brazeal and his cohorts were finally forced to admit the mistake of collecting money, and claim to be returning every last dime.

Some of the money went back to the contributors, but not all of it.

Later, Brazeal tried yet another way to get money from fans. He started some lame-brained Sci-Fi Studios, where if you donated enough money, you could earn a producer credit on anything that this so-called studio would produce.

How did that work? The site now goes to an advertising aggregator, and it seems Sci-Fi Studios never really produced anything. They seemed to have some involvement with a Web series involving Thomas Dekker from "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles," but they were more a distributor than anything else.

Then a couple years ago, Brazeal and friends jumped into FedCon USA, some major convention that was supposed to be the new convention for fans. I was shocked and amazed that the popular German convention would trust an American entrance on a bunch of people who had barely even organized a group picnic before, but they did.

And it collapsed -- after the convention had started. People are still owed money from that fiasco.

Now Brazeal is finally letting go of the last thing he really had left: TrekUnited. Formerly Save Enterprise, the group renamed itself TrekUnited at the height of the campaign to save "Enterprise" and collect money from fans, and when anyone started to ask questions that Brazeal and his goons didn't like, they would shut you out and try to shut you down. Sorry, it didn't work ... and at the very least, we helped some people get their money back.

Brazeal says after a divorce and everything else, he needs money. He knows he made bad business decisions in the past, but they were all just bad business decisions. He didn't set out to deceive anyone, even if everything he did was an attempt to make a buck off of fandom. And I don't know ... maybe I was a little too harsh with him.

Because if he runs TrekUnited with the same business acumen (or lack thereof) that he ran any of these other things, no wonder he's having issues.

The biggest business boondoggle is how much Brazeal says he pays to keep TrekUnited up and running. He says he spends $100 a month on a dedicated server (while making a few thousand dollars a year in advertising). That's $1,200 a year for Web hosting?

I'm no expert on all of this, outside of the fact that I have run a pretty decent-sized Web site for the last 12 years that heavily outpaces TrekUnited in traffic even on its best days, but there's no need to pay $100 a month for Web hosting. How much bandwidth could they be using? We get a lot more traffic, but our Web expenses? They're $40 ... a year. Yeah, the site -- at least when it comes to paying our Web hosting -- pays for itself in the first week.

And how much downtime have you had on Airlock Alpha? Zero. GoDaddy has been very good, and why Brazeal feels the need to pay $100 either shows more stupidity when it comes to business, or yet another lie.

I have no lost love for this guy. Whether it was a bad business decision or really a scam, Brazeal convinced hundreds if not thousands of people to send him money multiple times. And here he tried to do it again, an attempt to convince the dozen people that still go to TrekUnited that he had offers for $5,000 and $10,000, and hoping that one of them would pay more. He adds to it by providing revenue numbers that are clearly outdated (the advertising industry has plunged for just about everyone, and if we aren't immune, neither is TrekUnited).

And he did get some schlub to pay for TrekUnited, with an eye on closing Monday. I hope they didn't pay anything more than $800 for the site, because really, that's all it's worth. With the revenue, and even potential revenue, I wouldn't pay a penny over $800 for TrekUnited.

It's not that it's a bad site. I think the fans there are really trying to be fans, and get out of the shadow of this Brazeal guy. But I hope none of them fell for this whole idea that he was getting offers upward of $10,000 for the site.

Well, that's their mistake ... and hopefully fandom can finally start to recover with Tim Brazeal completely out of the picture. Here's hoping he never comes back.

About the Author

Michael Hinman is the founder and editor-in-chief for Airlock Alpha and the entire GenreNexus. He owns Nexus Media Group Inc., the parent corporation of the GenreNexus and is a veteran print journalist. He lives in Tampa, Fla.
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