Twenty-five years ago, University of Maine student Ornoth D.A. Liscomb had an idea: why not use his university’s BITNET academic network to solicit science-fiction and fantasy stories for distribution to other sci-fi enthusiasts?
“We were one of the first social media entities,” says current DargonZine president, Jon Evans. “Authors came to DargonZine because there was no concept of blogs back in 1984. Mass distribution of your work typically involved bulky and costly mailings and not many people had the time or funds for that. With an electronic mailing list and access to university networks, DargonZine reached an international audience which collaboratively built a rich, complex fantasy world.”
The world they created centered around a young duke named Clifton Dargon as he sought to rule a medieval backwoods city and trading port on the northern shore of a continent. As more and more writers engaged in the writing project, the Duchy of Dargon found itself with neighboring duchies, then as part of a kingdom, and eventually at odds with a neighboring empire bent on the conquest and assimilation of the land mass.
DargonZine also had to create world-building guidelines, methods to keep track of the ever-expanding people, places and things, and ways to resolve disputes between authors. None of the founding writers had had any publishing experience, nor were there any established electronic models to follow.
What resulted was a fantasy authoring environment, complete with a database tracking world objects to their stories, formalized critique guidelines, and yearly events that brought the writers together to trade story ideas and the occasional glass of scotch.
DargonZine is currently published in quarterly issues, reaching over 600 e-mail subscribers and thousands of web visitors. The current issue, volume 25 number 1, features stories by Liam Donahue and Dafydd Cyhoeddwr. Shattered Dreams, by Donahue, tells of the arrival of a strange group of visitors to the city of Dargon and how their plans are putting them at odds with the rest of the populace. Ol Tamboch Narhin, Thread 1: A Beginning is a coming-of-age tale about the wizard Qawm, and how he goes on to shape the events of the world around him.
For more information, visit http://dargonzine.org or contact marketing lead Victor Cardoso at email@example.com.
The Dargon Project, producers of DargonZine, is a noncommercial group of amateur fantasy authors looking to improve their writing skills through mutual collaboration and peer review.