How It All Began
Written by our Founder, Melissa Craib Dombrowski
I first heard about The Wheel of Time when I was a young teenager. A friend of my sister recommended it to me. But while I enjoy fantasy, I have never been one to browse the section looking for new titles the way I might in the History section of a book store. For me to invest in a Fantasy series, the book needs to be rather shoved into my hands.
This is more or less precisely what happened some years later while I attended college in London. Another American student handed me a copy and threatened me subsequent bodily harm if I did not immediately read the first 100 pages. She looked like Aviendha, and she was a Black Belt in Karate. I believed her. I read the first 100 pages.
I was, understandably, hooked from then on. My schedule soon revolved around getting through the series as quickly as I could. I'd go to school in the early afternoons. I'd come home, grab lunch, and read. Go work a few hours in the pub, drink my "tips" with my co-workers until about midnight, come right back home to read until around 5 or 6 am, and then sleep for a bit. Rinse, lather, and repeat until I had made my way through all currently available books.
When I reached the end I felt a strange gnawing hunger for more, and I felt exceptionally frustrated that I could not find it. When I came back to the US, I filled that hole in the ways many of us did: I spoke to anyone who had read it to compare notes, I recommended it incessantly, and I began to research the series and began my re-reads. If there was no more new information, clearly the only way to get "more" out of the series was to look at the existing cannon. I began to make notebooks. I learned to use the internet and search engines and came across the very earliest of web pages.
Then, in 2000, my very good friend Wendy moved in with me for a few months. Of all roommates I have ever had, Wendy and I got along unbelievably well. She may be the only person I could live with in a one bedroom house without going quickly insane. We both enjoy cooking, we stay to ourselves and enjoy our video games, and on some nights getting together we'd open up a bottle of adult beverage and get to a point where we felt comfortable contemplating things which are normally deemed impossible.
One evening, in the fall of 2000, we were in a particularly happy place. We had spent the evening watching X-Files, and were enjoying some shots of goldschlagger. By this time we had invented a tradition of toasting any time something on the show pleased us. That was a particularly good episode.
We'd had some great plots hatched before, really. Among my favorites was our long and involved plot to create completely pointless acting theories and see if publishers would actually carry them (we had met both studying Theatre in college). This time, though, The Wheel of Time was on our minds. She was just finishing the series for the first time, and we both fully believed that it would be a blast to be Aes Sedai.
Understand, the conversation was not about roleplaying Aes Sedai, or pretending to be one. The channeling thing never entered into it (we weren't quite *that* far gone), but oh my..... Why CAN'T someone be an Aes Sedai? Honestly? Why NOT make a real life organization of amazing women who secretly end up taking over the world? It's a GREAT idea. We were quite enthusiastic.
But then we ran into a hitch. "Ok. We can't channel. There is no White Tower. How in the world does one become Aes Sedai?" The answer became clear to us. "Well, someone has to make you Aes Sedai." This seemed a sensible conclusion. I then turned to her and said "Ok. I hereby make you Aes Sedai." Without missing a beat, she replied "And, as the first Aes Sedai, I hereby make you Aes Sedai."
We woke up the next morning and didn't think much about it.
I did some big searching for Great Serpent rings, though, so I could have one and give her one for Christmas. I eventually found one (there were not many on the market at all at that time, and there were no official reproductions). We exchanged gifts a few weeks before the holiday.
Around this time, Wendy decided she wanted to learn HTML. She did not know what subject to use to create content for a page. She eventually decided to create a "Blue Ajah Headquarters," which was meant to be a slightly satirical take on the Ajah. I thought the idea was grand, and I created the Green Ajah Headquarters.
Things started to really move from there. I began creating pages for all of the Ajahs. We saw how forums were being used at places like Stonedog's, and wanted one for ourselves. We recruited a couple of real life friends to play with us. We ended up being found by others we did not know, and many of those early members are still with us today. We welcomed them in. By early 2001 it was clear we should have a "Front Page", and so I created a "White Tower" page to link all of our Ajah pages. Who would be Amyrlin? I lost the "coin toss."
We continued to evolve. We allowed male members, we continued to develop our process for raising, wrote and re-wrote our Bylaws and Mission Statement, and redesigned our home many times. We created Companies for the men. We began meeting in real life. We look so incredibly different from what we looked like in those early years.
One thing, though, has stayed consistent.
A "real Aes Sedai," or a "real Gaidin," exists within our organization. Their "realness" comes from real life responsibility, real life service, and real life recognition by their peers that they are deserving of this title.
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