Preserving WoT Fandom Online
Author: Maibella Rhoiden
My experience with the Wheel of Time fandom online is limited to Dragonmount.com and TarValon.Net, but that isn’t the case for all of our members. Many of you have been a part of many online WoT communities through the years, places where you’ve made friends, shared stories, and had fun. Eniara Kisharad of the Brown Ajah is one of those who has a long history of involvement in WoT fandom, participating in groups such as Becky Kane’s WoT-List, the Tower of Hope, Wotmania, Dragonmount, The Great Hall, and TarValon.Net. She has made it her mission to preserve as much of that fandom as she can through a project called Annals of the Ages.
- Presenting Annals of the Ages: an Archive of The Wheel of Time Online
- Since the early 1990s, fans of The Wheel of Time have come together on the internet to share their mutual love of the series. Initially, this interaction happened in chat rooms, over e-mail, playing Multi-user Dungeon (MUD) games, and on a handful of fledgling website forums. By the turn of the 2000s, the number of associated groups had skyrocketed and the heyday of WoT online began.
- Thousands of fans have come and gone through the years, and it is the organizations they founded and participated in that shaped WoT online into the presence that it is. Very few of the original groups have stood the test of time. Among these legendary names are Dragonmount, TarValon.net, Encyclopaedia WoT, and WoTMUD. Others, such as Wotmania, lasted for a decade or more before closing their doors. The vast majority, though, existed only a short time and have long since been forgotten by all except their members. Unfortunately, as those members have drifted away so too have their memories of their former haunts. It is tragic to lose to obscurity the communities that shaped the lives of so many. And so, in an effort to preserve this history, Annals of the Ages was born.
- AotA is a massive archive project, launched at the end of 2015 by TheGreatHall.org, to document the history of The Wheel of Timefandom online. The intent is to record as many series-inspired forums, roleplays, e-mail rings, MUDs/games, art galleries, and chat rooms as possible, from the earliest presence of the fandom online to today. AotA is looking for any and all tidbits such as group names, dates of existence, and type of activities offered to help record each group's place in our history. Achieving this depends entirely on input from from fellow WoT fans, particularly those involved in communities of days gone by.
- Please visit www.thegreathall.org/aota for more information and to contribute to the project. No submission is too small and The Great Hall welcomes queries from all those interested in helping further this effort. Please spread the word and help us preserve for future fans the history of those who came before.
In real life, Eniara Sedai lives in Auckland, New Zealand with her wife, Ayendra Sedai (also of the Brown Ajah). She works for a university where her current project is digitizing New Zealand’s historic government maps. Eniara Sedai has “two adorable kitty fur-children, Asha’man and Egwene.” Originally from Michigan, she lived and worked in a variety of places in the US and also in the UK before settling in New Zealand. She says “WoT has been by far my longest lasting and most intense hobby, but I additionally enjoy camping and hiking, DIY projects, website design and administration, road trips, MMOs, the SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism), and studying medieval history.”
Eniara Sedai has been a WoT fan for a very long time. In 2000 she “founded the roleplay community The Great Hall” and in 2002 she attended Dragon*Con where she appeared on a panel about Wheel of Time communities online. Eniara Sedai says “We had three Amyrlin Seats presenting that year. I represented The Great Hall, Kathana spoke for Dragonmount, and Eleyan Sedai, who I’d never met, was there as founder of the up-and-coming TarValon.Net. Before that weekend I don’t believe I’d even heard of TarValon.Net, though the group had existed for more than a year. I was very impressed with its handful of members who attended, though, and most especially so by Eleyan Sedai. After talking to her over the weekend I decided I would join her site too and see for myself what it was like. I’ve never looked back.” While answering my many questions, Eniara Sedai throws out a tidbit of interesting information: “I somehow convinced my mother one summer to sew for me the flags of the 15 Westlands nations from the series. If you’ve been to the WoT track at Dragon*Con or JordanCon, you’ve probably seen those flags hanging on the walls. It tickles me to see them still getting so much love and use; definitely worth all the hours of effort!" We should all thank Eniara Sedai's mom for such amazing work!
TarValon.Net has many members who have been here for more than ten years. That kind of long-term commitment is one of the things that has helped our community thrive through the years. I ask Eniara Sedai what has kept her around since 2002 – that’s 14 years now! She tells me that although she’s been much less active at times, she’s never retired nor would she ever consider it. “I’m a busy person who has been known to stretch herself a bit too thin at times, but I love the people here and there’s no way I’d leave. My own community [The Great Hall] has gone through several incarnations, even being more or less dead for the last six or so years, and I’ve been a part of several other groups, but nothing compares to the community here. We’re a family. Sometimes a family with a few members you’d like to kick really hard, but what family doesn’t have that?”
I ask Eniara Sedai to tell me where the idea for Annals of the Ages came from. She shares this story with me: “I first encountered the internet during my junior year of high school. After a friend helped me set up a hotmail account, the very first thing I did was search for Wheel of Time. Delighted at uncovering fellow fans, I promptly joined Becky Kane’s WoT-List, a discussion and roleplay ring. That was late 1999 or early 2000. I’ve seen a heck of a lot of groups come and go in the years since. Back in the early days we had lots of e-mail based roleplay groups, which eventually followed the lead of sites like Dragonmount and either moved to forums or else lost their members to other forum-based groups. As the internet became more accessible and easier to design pages for, new sites began to pop up like mushrooms. Most of those didn’t last very long. Someone would start a group and all of their friends would rush to join, then after a few months when the next friend started a new group, everyone abandoned ship and moved on leaving the site to die. In some ways it became a running joke to see what new group would be the next flavor of the month. Not even the mega-groups were immune, though their demise has mainly been due to the founders wanting to step away and go on to the next stage in their lives. Wotmania and Netland come to mind as examples of this. In any case, as a Brown obsessed with archaeology and genealogy and all things historical, I find it really sad that these groups, which had such an impact on so many lives, are being lost to obscurity as their ex-members have moved away from the fandom. I came up with Annals of the Ages as a way to record and preserve the memory of those groups, not only for the past fans but for the future ones who without it would have absolutely no idea what the roots of our fandom are.”
Annals of the Ages is a big project but for the most part it is a one-woman show run by Eniara Sedai though she says that she intends to “turn [Ayendra Sedai] loose with a notepad at JordanCon this year” to interview people and solicit information. If you’ll be at JordanCon, be sure to keep find Ayendra Sedai and share your fandom experiences with her. Eniara Sedai tells me that most of effort to compile information for Annals of the Ages will “need to come from fellow fans who dig through their personal records and email to find the data that we need, and then submit that info [….] Mainly I need folks to spread the word and put in an effort to collect as much data as they can.”
Clearly this is a huge project. Why does Eniara Sedai want to take it on? What value does she see in compiling a history of WoT fandom online? I ask this question and receive a very touching response: “At the end of the day, WoT online has been my life for half of my life. I don’t want to lose the history of something that has been of such great importance to me. I think the same applies to many, if not most, other fans. We came together from all walks of life and formed this great big family because we all were in love with a book series. Many of us grew up together in this fandom. We’ve met our partners here, we’ve had our children here, we’ve loved and lost and learned how to be Servants of All. We’ve locked horns with obnoxious jerks, argued about politics, celebrated victories, eaten dinner with Robert Jordan (a lucky few of us anyway) and sat in his chair, played Magic: the Gathering with Brandon Sanderson, dressed up in costumes, and flown halfway – or all the way – around the world to broaden our horizons together in person. My best friends came out of these communities and those friends kept me going through the darkest hours of my life. I’m sure countless others can share similar testimonies. The WoT groups we’ve joined have impacted us all in ways we probably never will fully appreciate. Whether we came for the roleplays or just to have someone to talk to, the existence of these online groups offered us opportunities without which we never would have met. I want to preserve for posterity every site, email ring, or chatroom that played a part in that. I hope others do too.” So much of what she says rings true for me, as I’m sure it does for many of you.
Eniara Sedai tells me that many years after that first Dragon*Con, she and Eleyan Sedai became first sisters. She goes on to say “that first Dragon*Con was pretty important in the grand scheme of my life. Meeting the folks from TarValon.net was one of the best things that ever happened to me.” This is another point on which Eniara Sedai and I find common ground.
I ask Eniara Sedai if there is anything else she wants to share with our readers, and of course there is. “I encourage anyone wishing to submit information on past, present, or upcoming groups to visit www.thegreathall.org/aota. There is a FAQ for more information and a submission form to send in data. The latter also gives an idea of which primary bits of info we need, though any and all info is welcome and requested. In some cases, more than one person may submit different data on the same group, and piecing these together will give us a more complete record. I do not want anyone to think any tidbit is too small or insignificant. If you remember something and are willing to share, please do. I also encourage anyone interested to spread the word about this project. My personal involvement in the fandom has only scratched the surface of all of the groups that have come and gone, thus it will be fellow fans and their long memories who will determine if this effort is a success or failure. My door is always open for additional inquiries either via pm or email (email@example.com) and I am happy to chat about anything. We only make it stateside every two to three years, but this year Ayendra Sedai and I will be at both Anni Party and JordanCon, so if anyone wants to share information or have an in-person chat about Annals of the Ages at either of those venues, by all means track us down and ask/share away.”
Thank you Eniara Sedai for sharing your passion for WoT fandom with us, and for taking on such a huge preservation project. I hope that many of our readers are encouraged to search their old files for any information about the fandoms they participated in and submit what they find to Annals of the Ages.