Sixteen years ago I founded FSFnet, a general fantasy and science fiction ezine and DargonZine’s immediate predecessor, with a mass mailing to 100 friends. In that initial mailing as well as subsequent Editorials, I regularly found myself begging for submissions. At the same time, our readership dropped to an all-time low of about 35. In addition to pleading for submissions, I also spent most of FSFnet’s first year encouraging people to spread the word and drum up new readers.
Near the end of FSFnet’s first year several writers and I started kicking around the idea of setting all our stories in a common milieu, and in January of 1986 we printed our first stories set in a place called Dargon. That year we doubled our output and circulation, and things haven’t slacked off since. This year, our sixteenth, was our most productive ever. We distributed thirteen issues, featuring a record 37 stories from more than a dozen different writers, three of whom were new to DargonZine’s readers.
Once our collaborative writing group, which we called “the Dargon Project”, got off the ground, things really started to change. All of a sudden our focused writing group was attracting new writers and nurturing their productivity, and I found that I didn’t have to beg for submissions anymore. Furthermore, with stories that related to one another, and the improvement in quality that came with the peer-review process, readers who really enjoyed the zine weren’t so hard to find anymore, and they spread the word to their friends. It looked like we’d struck a magic formula: writers, attracted by the opportunity to interact with other writers and real readers, produced better stories, which in turn attracted more readers. And like a perpetual-motion machine, here we are fifteen years later with a writing group and magazine that are more vital than ever. But the thing that still makes me wonder is that this has come about with very little pushing for submissions and virtually no advertising; our success is entirely because of our writers and our readers. And seeing DargonZine prove interesting and useful to so many people really makes me proud of what we’ve accomplished.
And thing continue to get better. In the past year we introduced two significant new features for our readers. The Interactive Maps that are available in the “About Dargon” section of our Web site are a great way for people to familiarize themselves with the lands where our stories take place. But I think the biggest enhancement of the year is the function we’ve added to our Web site that allows you to rate each story you read. That feature is your direct line to the author of the story, and our writers eagerly want your feedback. While we’ve always done a great job getting our writers talking to one another and working together, there’s never been very much contact between them and our readers. The story ratings system is a great way for us to bridge that gap, giving our writers even more useful feedback, so that they can learn from you, not just from each other.
Other developments in 2000 may be less obvious, but do improve what we do. These include filling in more details in our Online Glossary, our writers’ Critiquing FAQ, and the work that has gone into continuing projects like our Dargon timeline, our new map of the city of Dargon, and our Web site redesign.
This year has been very productive, and I hope you’ve enjoyed the results of our work. Look for more great stories and new features as we continue into our 17th year online. And thanks for being with us.
This issue features three of our old guard: Brandon Haught, Jon Evans, and the unavoidable Dafydd.
“Rattler’s Imp” is Brandon’s third story for DargonZine. His work to date has consistently been in a darkly humorous, ironic vein, and I’m sure you’ll like this story if you enjoyed his previous efforts: DargonZine 11-3′s “The Gong Farmer”, and “The Sanity of Spirit” in DargonZine 12-8.
Returning for his second story in three years is Jon Evans, who joined the project back in 1989. Because all our writers have different points of view, stories about Dargon’s religions are usually somewhat contentious, and “Leave the Ocean to Cirrangill” is no exception. This short piece certainly won’t be the last word written on Dargon’s religions, you can be sure!
On the opposite end of the productivity spectrum from Jon is Dafydd, who finishes this issue with his 27th story in three years! Nearly all of those stories are contained within his huge (but episodic) “Talisman” series, which will continue well into 2001. Dafydd joined the group in 1986, just after the Dargon Project had begun, and he is without question one of the reasons why DargonZine has thrived over the years.
I hope you enjoy this issue, and look forward to our next issue, DargonZine 14-1, after our usual brief end-of-year break.