Monday, August 31, 2009
It's not without some sadness that I see Wotmania enter its last day of existence. Tonight - after a long, fruitful life that began in 1998, the site will close for good. I wish to mark the day with this editorial, as a companion to the post made a few days ago by our friend and fellow blogger Larry, the mastermind behind the OF Blog of the Fallen, where the spirit of exploration of the center and barely walked fringes of the worlds of SF and Fantasy that characterized Wotmania's Other Fantasy section in its best years endures (and to which, in both it's OF MB and OF Blog incarnations, I owe the discovery of some great writers over the years, from China Miéville to Borges and Wolfe, to newcomers like Erikson and Bakker, and yes, even Brandon Sanderson).
Around the time of ACOS (I discovered WOT shortly before the publication of The Path of Daggers) I had gone hunting for WOT resources on the Net. These were still the days of the pioneers: Jason Denzel's Dragonmount, Leigh Butler's WOT FAQ, Bob's WOT encyclopedia, Matt's Theoryland and Mike Mackert's Wotmania - the people who built the WOT online community and, in many cases, are still the ones around which it revolves and thrives today.
In circumstances and for reasons that are a bit lost of the mists of time to me now, I ended up attaching myself gradually to Wotmania, going there from lurker or occasional Theory Post replier/debater 'till around the time of Winter's Heart when I've made my way from newbie to full time regular to becoming virtually a staple of the MB and finally I joined my friend Linda as admin in the last years. 9000 or so posts and many years later, here am I.
Wotmania has been for me a place for friendship, and a school in the series' subtleties and layers, a playground for debates and discussions. My knowledge, and even some of my enthusiasm for the series today I owe in part to those years of great discussions and exchanges with the likes of Bob, Mark, Peter, John, Benjamin, Nikky, Marcia, Danny, Brad, Chris - and our lovely grandmother Jo - our elder at 75 yo (who sadly vanished one day and we very much fear has passed) and all the others, too numerous to name here, but you know who you are. These people, that Message Board, have been a great motivator and help to deepen my understanding of the series over the years.
Wotmania is also the place where in 2004 Linda and me met over some discussion of the mythological sources for the character Lanfear, in a thread dealing with what no doubt goes down as the MB's most famous (and Longest) theory, by Light in The Night (it's still wrong though John, if you read this!) - and we discovered our kindred spirits in our approach and vision of Robert Jordan's work. The encounter with Linda, which sparked a flurry of messages between us, was a major turning point, the beginning of a great long distance friendship and an invaluable source of inspiration, a springboard for our ideas over the years. This blog still owes a lot to these private conversations about the series we've had since 2004 - not counting our public discussions, Linda was telling me we exchanged over 500 pages worth of 'private messages' about the series in 2006 alone (hard to believe she found the time to wrote most of the articles that form today the core of our Blog in those years, but productivity and quality, that's Linda in a nutshell :)). Linda, with Chris and others, was largely responsible for handling the reference/FAQ section which remained to the end one of the most valued and respected section of Wotmania - a section whose legacy endures quite a bit here today..
As the saying goes, those were the times. I wish to thank everyone, from Wotmania's creator Mike, to my one-time fellow admin Linda and all the posters from the Wotmania community for all these years of fun, and all their passion. To Jim Rigney, for his surprise appearances shortly before he launched his blog (and which caused quite the stir you imagine! Ah, more good memories) - and Brandon, who right away showed up on the boards with the openness and generosity that are trademarks of his relationship with WOT fans. We would not been here today without all of you.
Of course, it wasn't all fun all the time - and nothing can last forever. Wotmania's owner gradually had to shift his attention to his personal and professional life, and saw his interest in the series decline - the burden of keeping the site alive and kicking passed into the admins' hands (most of which were not involved with the WOT section of the site), which alas had the side-effect of gradually cutting us from Mike's ties to the other WOT webmasters and the creators and publishers of the Wheel of Time, and then the sad news of RJ' long disease and his passing that demotivated and saddened everyone and plunged the MB into an apathy that was a heavy and near impossible burden to try lifting as admins (which, I have to admit, was even a failure), the vicious circles in which some discussion topics have fell over the years and which have alas become way too much a trademark of the MB over time, tiring and finally driving away too many of the best posters. As the continuing efforts and dynamism of Jason and his team were turning Dragonmount into the powerhouse around which much of the Wot community gravitates today (with good cause), Wotmania alas gradually declined and all too often had to watch the train pass through greener pastures.. But let's not delve too much on that - Wotmania has been overall a terrific experience for me, leaving fond memories.
It's with a little sadness (and a tad of guilt) but no resentment, and tons of that rekindled passion and enthusiasm taking on new challenges bring that last winter - shortly before the announcement of the site's imminent end, I took the final decision to move on, joined from the start by Linda, and together we ended up preparing then opening and expanding this Blog (which genesis came about a year before, an idea we owe to our OF friend Larry, which we nurtured for a year before going forward), where we could invest all our energies and efforts into what we felt fed our passion for the Wheel of Time the best, where we thought we could make best make a contribution too. With the site closing, we also felt it was the perfect opportunity to expand our horizons beyond the gates of Wotmania to reach to the WOT community at large, while preserving somewhere the best of our efforts, articles and discussions over the years, try to ensure that our corner of Wotmania survived the closing of the site, and that we could also keep on expanding it to our hearts' content, with new tools and possibilities at our disposal. And it's a great experience so far, thanks a lot to all the support and encouragement we've received from you the readers who keep coming for our musings and ramblings, from various webmasters who've generously extended a hand to these newcomers, to Jen at Tor too - you all helped us promote the Thirteenth Depository in the WOT community, and make it a success we are very fond and proud of today. We're very proud to be part of "it" with such fellow WOT enthusiasts around, of making our own little contribution to keep alive on the online world Jim Rigney's legacy.
And as we know, there's no real ending or real beginning in the world of the Wheel. At the same time we mark the passing of Wotmania, we welcome its rebirth of a sort in ReadandFindOut.com, the new site now managed by former Wotmaniac Ben Murdoch-Smith. RAFO.com, so named in homage to its roots as a community of Robert Jordan enthusiasts, is a new site refocussed on the discussion and promotion of SF and Fantasy at large and a new home for the community of Wotmania's socialites from CMB (which over the years had become the center of the site, for good and sometimes for ill for the WMB and OF, the topical boards). While the vocation has changed, Ben has offered their own corner to the WOT board posters, with its familiar look and feel, where they will be able to continue Wotmania's legacy in the years to come - a gesture I salute, as despite having taken personally my distances from MB activities in the last months to devote myself to the Thirteenth Depository, and while knowing there are excellent and very active Message Boards around, from Dragonmount's to Theoryland, I'm all too aware how difficult it is for long time posters to scatter like this, lose contact with friends and join an existing big board, where you need to rebuild yourself a circle and a credibility as poster, get to know the people and their opinions. Not easy to be newbies again when you have 10 or 15 years of WOT discussion experience under your belt. So in the name of all my fellow Wotmaniacs, thank you Ben for the initiative - and I'll no doubt pay visits from time to time.
I also wish to salute the nomination of our own Dr. Saidin, Mark, as the new admin of the WOT board at RAFO. Mark is a friend and another WOT fanatic and an expert of One Power debates, with many years of knowledge and contributions to the WOT community at large under his belt. All the best to you, the RAFO Wot Board and your posters, Mark. Make that place thrive again as it deserves!