When I tell people about my involvement with DargonZine, I almost invariably lead with the statement that it’s the longest-running electronic magazine on the Internet. With the number of people using the Internet now measured in the billions, that’s an extremely powerful claim to make. And at least once or twice a year I also highlight our longevity in DargonZine’s Editorials.
While it’s great to share our pride in having been around so long, I think that by overemphasizing our history we’ve overlooked something far more important and worthy of note: that we’re achieving our goal of helping aspiring writers improve, and are highly valued by the people who write for us. Despite how often I use it as a differentiator, longevity is worthless if you’re not succeeding and doing something meaningful. So I’d like to take a moment and reflect on what we’re trying to do, and the evidence (other than longevity, of course) that I see of our success.
At our first big writers’ Summit we drafted DargonZine’s operative mission statement: to provide a way for aspiring fantasy writers on the Internet to meet and become better writers through mutual contact and collaboration as well as contact with a live readership via the Internet. Over the years we’ve brought hundreds of writers together from all over the world, and promoted collaboration and peer review. We’re continually learning from one another what good writing is and how to achieve it, and our readers have provided us with valuable feedback, as well. We’re not here to make money, or to have lots of readers, or even to see our names in print; DargonZine exists to help writers.
So perhaps the best way to gauge our success is from our writers’ attitudes toward the project. While DargonZine is in many ways like a traditional face-to-face writers’ workshop, it also requires a much greater commitment of time and energy. While it’s easy to critique a story face-to-face, it can take a lot of time to type all that information into an email. Receiving criticism always takes patience and humility, and it can often take as much as five major revisions over twelve months to get a story printed in DargonZine. Simply participating in the Dargon Project as a writer takes a whole lot of time and energy. Still, DargonZine’s writers take their craft very seriously, and each of them has decided that publication in these pages is worth that effort.
But an even better demonstration of how highly our writers value DargonZine is in the fact that just about all of them go beyond the effort of simply writing for the zine and undertake additional non-writing projects to help make DargonZine better. This includes large tasks such as creating Dargon’s maps, assembling a Dargon history and timeline, putting together materials to help new readers and writers get up to speed, fleshing out our database, and discussing the group’s direction for coming years. Those aren’t things that we require of our writers, yet it’s something they willingly do because they have a strong belief in what the Dargon Project can do for them and for other writers.
While it’s nice that DargonZine has been around so long, the things that we should be most proud about are that we have succeeded at helping lots of writers improve. And those writers, though the time, effort, and energy they devote to DargonZine, have demonstrated that they really believe in this project and the good that we do. And that’s something to be truly proud of.