Sometimes I have the opportunity to help current or former Dargon writers grow their writing careers outside the structure of DargonZine and the Dargon Project. It’s always a pleasure to give back to the people who have put so much of their time and energy into making DargonZine a great zine and the Dargon Project such a successful community of writers. So I’d like to share with you some great news from two former contributors that you might enjoy hearing about.
Carlo Samson joined DargonZine way back in 1985, in the very early days of FSFnet. At first he just contributed stories, but over the years he became more involved in running the group. When the zine went online he did the website artwork, and he provided our story illustrations for many years. In fact, Carlo graciously offered to produce the illustrations we have in this issue, so you’ll see more of his artwork as you read this month’s stories.
Mark Murray came to us in 1995 and immediately became one of our most prolific contributors. In addition to writing, Mark instituted our first new writer mentoring program and assisted Carlo researching and developing Dargon’s maps.
Between the two of them, they published fifty stories in FSFnet and DargonZine before they each left the group to pursue other interests. Both Mark and Carlo felt constrained by the limitations placed upon them by the low-magic shared world of Dargon, and wanted to do something that required fewer compromises.
The years passed, and they stayed in contact with one another, talking about their respective writing and artistic projects. Eventually, their discussions turned in the direction of starting their own electronic magazine, and the first issue of their new zine — Arcane Twilight — appeared in February. Since then, they’ve also put out a second and third issue, and they’re looking for both interested readers as well as potential contributors.
I sat down and had a brief exchange with them, and thought you might find the discussion interesting.
DargonZine: I suppose the first question a reader might have is how Arcane Twilight differs from DargonZine.
Carlo: Arcane Twilight prints more than just fantasy — we’re also interested in science fiction, horror, even subgenres like steampunk. We primarily want standalone stories, but also have a shared-world setting called Hyzathra that others can write about.
Mark: DargonZine has a niche in the low-magic fantasy genre. So, instead of reinventing the wheel, Arcane Twilight was started with everything else in mind. If you’re going to write low-magic fantasy, DargonZine is the best place. But if you want to write horror or sci-fi or high fantasy, then Arcane Twilight prints those stories.
Mark: The one thing that I think makes Arcane Twilight stand out over other zines is that we’re looking to publish animation vids, flash, comics, art, and words. Rather than trying to equal the printed world, we’re attempting to utilize the tech to go beyond that. So, Arcane Twilight is opening the door to allow readers to not only read, but also to view and hear.
DargonZine: What has been the most fun part of running your own zine?
Carlo: It’s probably the aspect of having creative control over everything.
Mark: I think the most fun part is that there are very few boundaries. We can publish animation vids, comic formats, art, flash, audio, and words. Plus, the genre range is horror, sci-fi, and fantasy. It’s like having a ton of play dough and a super wild imagination.
DargonZine: And what’s been your biggest challenge?
Carlo: Right now, it’s getting submissions! The issues thus far have contained our own material, but we’d like stories from other folks as well. Authors will be paid $5.00 if their story is accepted. It’s not much, but one has to start somewhere, eh?
Mark: It’s weird, but you’d think that the immediate plan for an e-zine would be to get out there and get advertised somehow. But I’d have to agree with Carlo: the short-term need is to attract authors.
DargonZine: And what are you most proud of about Arcane Twilight so far?
Carlo: I really like the webcomic I’m doing called “Magic, Maiden and Mist”. I started it without any idea of how it’s going to end, which is unlike how I usually do things.
Mark: I’m proud that it has lasted this long!
DargonZine: It sounds like you guys are having fun with Arcane Twilight, and everyone here definitely wishes you all the success in the world. One last question about your experience with DargonZine: how would you describe DargonZine to a new writer thinking about joining?
Carlo: It’s a great place for the beginning writer to practice their writing skills. It has a ready-made setting, a built-in audience, and a group of supportive fellow authors who provide valuable feedback.
Mark: Wow. A tremendous opportunity. A rich writing environment that will sharpen and hone anyone’s writing skills while at the same time giving a writer the challenge of writing in a collaborative project. I attribute the biggest leaps in my writing to DargonZine. It has improved my writing tremendously.
So if you’d like to see some ambitious work by two former Dargon writers who slipped their leashes, go check out Arcane Twilight, and give them lots of feedback on what you’d like to see more of. And if you feel inspired to contribute something to it, by getting in at the ground level you might well have a major impact on its future direction. Keep up the good work, guys!
Meanwhile, this month’s issue of DargonZine features a trio of interesting stories. We begin with “A Cure for Hiccoughs”, a delightful first story from Trey Holliday, our first new writer to appear in DargonZine in three years. Trey’s been notably patient while his story was delayed until the big Black Idol story arc was finished, but we’re very pleased to finally be able to introduce you to him.
Our second story is the first three-way collaboration we’ve ever printed. “Tough Healing” is the result of an optional writing exercise that Jim Owens led during our 2004 Mt. Hood Writers’ Summit. It, too, is another story that has sat on the shelf for a few months while we churned through the immense volume of material produced by the Black Idol series.
And we end this issue with Nick Wansbutter’s second installment of his new Great Houses War storyline, which takes place about 200 years before DargonZine’s current time frame. The plot definitely thickens in this episode, and we look forward to bringing you more Great Houses War stories in our coming issues.