It’s another new year here at DargonZine, and the beginning of our twenty-second year of publishing fiction on the Internet. In addition, this issue also includes our 400th story to take place in the world of Dargon, an accomplishment that sets us apart from the plethora of shared-world projects both online and in print.
We’re rightfully proud of those milestone achievements, which is why I often mention them here, but longevity isn’t our primary reason for existence. Two and a half decades is pretty impressive, but what are we trying to achieve? Since we’ve got a goodly number of new readers, I’d like to step back and tell you what DargonZine is all about.
When I founded FSFnet, I was living in northern Maine, with no other writers to talk to. I longed for some kind of writing group, but there were none nearby. I wanted someone to share my ideas with, people with whom I could trade writing tips and techniques, and friends who would support me through my trials and understand my victories.
I guess I was lucky in that my isolation coincided with the very beginnings of the Internet. In a very literal sense, an entire new world of connections with highly literate people appeared at my fingertips! The marriage of the Internet and writing groups might seem completely obvious now, but back in 1984 there were no such groups. At a time when the Internet was little more than a list of email addresses, a network-based magazine and writing group was an innovative idea that captured people’s imagination.
Our most central goal is the same today as it was then: to create an Internet-based group for aspiring amateur writers. It’s interesting to trace how the element of “community” has evolved. During FSFnet’s first year, almost all our interaction was of the writer-to-editor variety, but it wasn’t long before we realized the value of a true community of writing peers. That coincided with the creation of the Dargon Project, the shared world that we write about today. However, we soon realized that we had strictly working relationships. We only interacted through the fairly anonymous and tepid medium of email, and we knew very little about one another as people. So we decided to bring our contributors together face-to-face by holding annual writers’ Summits. That helped us create strong, lasting friendships that have brought a new, vibrant dimension to our writing group.
Of course, all that could have been achieved without creating a magazine. However, one of the obvious benefits of writing for the Internet is that we can reach a lot of appreciative readers, and make it easy for readers to give feedback to our writers. That’s an important part of DargonZine’s mission, too; it’s great to write stories, but it’s even better to complete the circle by having people like you read and react to our stories. It’s a great model, because you — the readers — get to tell us what makes a story great, and we — the writers — do our best to provide you with a regular stream of the best stories we can produce. We get great feedback, you get great stories, and all of it is completely free!
DargonZine is a child of the Internet; the Internet is how we achieve our goal of bringing writers together, and sharing our art with our readers. Obviously, the Internet has changed a whole lot since 1984′s text-only terminals and email-only interaction. Over the years, DargonZine has tested and adopted various new technologies in order to further our mission. We began distributing issues through Listserv, then embraced the Web when it began taking off. We’ve added a tremendous database-driven Glossary of Dargon characters and places. We frequently look at current community-building technologies that might help us better serve our writers and readers.
As a case in point, over the holidays we made a very major change: we moved our Web site to a new hosting company. The previous company hadn’t updated their servers in years, and our new host has many new and improved services for a third the cost. You can look forward to a bunch of updates and improvements to our Web site, and we’re really excited about the new features that we’ll be able to bring you as a result of changing Internet service providers. With that as introduction, I’d like to announce the first two such changes.
For years we’ve maintained an ftp site where the public could download all our back issues. However, our readers had to go to an obscurely-named site and negotiate an unintuitive directory structure to find those back issues. Thanks to our new ISP, readers can now go directly to ftp.dargonzine.org and find our back issues easily. In addition to individual issues, we’ve also just made the entire back catalog available in one zipped-up archive for people who don’t want to have to manually download all 175 issues.
The other recent change is that we have finally acquired the dargonzine.com domain and pointed it at our Web site. No, having a dot-com address doesn’t mean we’re going commercial; we just want people to be able find our site even if someone is not aware that we — being a non-profit group — are actually dargonzine.org.
Those are overdue changes for us, and they herald much larger updates that will be unveiled later in 2006. It’s a new year, and we’re approaching it with renewed energy and an eye toward a number of new possibilities.
Last year at this time brought big changes, too, as we printed the very first story in our longstanding Black Idol story arc. We begin this year a little more than halfway through the arc, with stories from two of DargonZine’s most enduring writers: Dafydd Cyhoeddwr and Jon Evans. The Black Idol series is now in high gear, and we’ll be bringing you a lot of action in the coming months. It’s shaping up to be a really fun year, and I hope you enjoy the changes as much as we’ve enjoyed bringing them to you!