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Medium Dawn Felagund of the Fountain

Lothlórien Leaves Fallen: On a Changing Fandom and HASA Closing

The (Cyber) Bag of Weasels

bread and puppet




"About as much fun as a bag of weasels"...when I first saw this Irish adage, it made me think of the life of a writer: sometimes perilous, sometimes painful, certainly interesting. My paper journal has always been called "The Bag of Weasels." This is the Bag of Weasels' online home.

Lothlórien Leaves Fallen: On a Changing Fandom and HASA Closing

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out of the light star
I have always understood why the Elves used their Rings of Power. I am a progressive person who works to change things for the better, yet there are places and things associated with joy for me that I would like to wave a magic ring over and leave unchanged.

For those who have not heard, HASA is closing at the end of the year. The SWG is coming up on ten years, which means that I've been involved in fandom to varying extents for longer than that, and as I look around, I see the landscape is changing. The idea of HASA being gone is like looking west to find one of the mountains missing. Maybe you went weeks without even noticing that mountain, but it was there and it has always been there, and the empty sky it once filled is not an improvement.

Within the past few years, we've seen changes great and small in the Tolkien fandom. The MEFAs ended. LotRFanfiction stands a shadow of its former self. Several smaller archives--the Last Ship and Quills and Ink come to mind--closed their doors. Activity on Yahoo! Groups has all but ceased, and LiveJournal is no longer the hub of activity that it once was.

Of course there have been good things too. Faerie opened its doors. Tolkien fandom activity on Tumblr and AO3 have increased. And many Tolkien groups that have been active for years remain active. But the landscape has changed nonetheless.

I think what stings for me the most, as an owner of one of those archives still holding strong, is that so much of what we're losing are things that we built. Yes, the Tolkien fandom, like all fandoms, has always relied on general archives and platforms built and maintained by other people, like Yahoo! Groups, LiveJournal, and Fanfiction.net. I do not mean to in any way diminish the value of groups that centered themselves on those platforms. I run projects myself that use them. But we also built a lot of our own things. We built archives and events and awards that answered to no one but their volunteers and the community they served. That meant that the sky--or often our tech skills--was the limit. It also meant that while other fandoms quickly ebbed and receded as their source texts grew and then fell in popularity, we in the Tolkien fandom stuck out flag in the earth and stated, "No. We will always be relevant, and there will always be a place for people who love Middle-earth to carry on its legacy." In fact, as over the years I've talked with people and read others' thoughts on why Tolkien fandom is different from other fandoms, our relative lack of reliance on general sites, fannish or otherwise, versus sites that we build and manage ourselves is almost always mentioned as a major difference between us and FandomTM.

So why the change? I think a major reason is better technology, which probably sounds weird, since one would assume that better technology would make it easier to set up a site of your own. In fact, it seems to have made it easier to use existing sites and tools to set something up, and speaking from experience, when that is a viable option, it is perhaps hard to justify the weeks and months that go into building a site from scratch. Then there is, of course, the fact that major sites like LiveJournal or AO3 have the resources to respond to rapid changes in how tech is used, i.e., HASA's problems with malicious attacks. It is simply beyond the resources of one or a few people to respond to that, especially when you know full well that three years down the road, what you just spent hundreds of hours on is now obsolete and you're facing the same kind of problem again.

Yet when we had fewer options, I feel like we also had to learn more on our own. I know I am not the only person who remembers when you had to know basic HTML in order to format posts on LiveJournal. It was that way on many archives as well. I remember learning BBCode because the Open Scrolls Archive used BBCode rather than HTML. That didn't seem unusual or onerous (it was a lot like HTML anyway). Likewise, I learned wiki markup to contribute on fannish wikis; again, the idea that one had to study and learn a bit before using a site to its fullest potential wasn't odd to me. It wasn't a huge step to begin learning HTML to make webpages, then CSS. I learned Photoshop in order to make graphics for my site. Lots of people did. I wonder how many people who joined the Tolkien fandom in the last year have had to learn HTML; I wonder how many new members of fandom could build a webpage from scratch. Many of us who have been around a while can, and of course, that empowers you to build your own spaces rather than use what already exists.

But then, of course, you reach the point where what is available on a site like Tumblr or AO3 is so much cooler than what you have the ability to do in your own space. I periodically get emails from people asking, "Why can't we ...?" about the SWG or MPTT and often have to ask that that is simply beyond my technical know-how. I used to say I dreamed in HTML and CSS, and I can fumble my way through open-source software like eFiction but I'm emphatically not a coder or developer, and as the demise of first the MEFAs and now HASA--both for technical reasons--illustrate, I'm increasingly doubtful that my long-term goal to become proficient in PHP/MySQL is even really that wise; it feels a bit like opening Pandora's box.

Then, of course, there is the fact that running a site takes a lot of work. Your life changes (it usually becomes busier), but the responsibilities of running a site don't change that much. They are always there, always take time, and usually are pretty tedious. I remember well the thought process that led to the generation of the SWG almost ten years ago. I had insomnia. I was thinking about Tolkien fandom and Silmarillion fiction especially. I thought, "We don't have much for just Silmarillion authors. I should build something." (Silmfics existed but was a moderated discussion list, and I envisioned something more writing-oriented: initially a writers' workshop, but eventually a fiction archive.) I had no idea what I was doing. I wasn't even a person yet known in the fandom, although that would shortly change. One day, someone suggested the SWG setting up a website. I said, "Sounds good." My friend loaned me a book on HTML (which I still haven't given back!) and I bought a book on CSS. I started studying. I bought a domain name and downloaded eFiction, and suddenly, I was a website owner. I wasn't really qualified to be one, but that didn't seem to matter then. I figured things out. I flew along by the seat of my pants a lot. I leaned on Rhapsody a lot, who knew and knows so much more than I do. Most of all, I had a lot of love for what I was doing and the time to do it in.

When I took on that commitment, I didn't think of what life would be like in three, five, ten years. It's easy to imagine that it will be more or less the same: the same amount of time available to commit, the same technology, the same fandom. The same enthusiasm. Of course, none of those things come true. Time constricts, technology becomes more elaborate, new fans enter with new expectations, and priorities shift. Now I often get emails along the lines of, "This is outdated on the site," and I have to respond (shamefully) that I know and that I just haven't had time, but it's on my list.

All of this to say that it is not surprising that the things we built are beginning to fall. But it is sad to me nonetheless because they were ours, and I do not want our fandom to become just another section or another tag on a massive site where our creativity becomes subject to the whims of forces much larger than we are (often advertisers or the site's image, i.e., ability to make a profit).

I want to conclude by speaking on HASA itself. HASA was the first Tolkien fanfic site that I joined. I wasn't a dedicated member because I was building and then managing the SWG, and that took most of my time. But it was always a site that I admired and a site that I looked to when building the SWG as worthy in many regards of emulation. I enjoyed my time there, received thoughtful feedback on my work, and met people who became good friends (some of whom are still friends today).

The owner and admins of HASA gave such an immense gift to the Tolkien fandom. Fanlore says that HASA was founded in 2002. Twelve years is a lot of years to give. I often think that the best way to put into perspective what it means to be a site admin is to think that when everyone else is writing and drawing and squeeing and sharing, these are the people who skip that because they're doing the tedious work behind the scenes that makes all that possible. (There is a reason that site admins tend not to be very prolific authors themselves.) Very often, that work is thankless and overlooked for the sad fact of human nature that we often don't notice something until it breaks or goes wrong. I do not know all that went into making my years on HASA a joy and I know I didn't stop often enough to thank the people who made that possible, but before it's too late, and I want to give thanks to them now for all that they gave to the fandom. The mountain to the west will be missed.



This post was originally posted on Dreamwidth and, using my Felagundish Elf magic, crossposted to LiveJournal. You can comment here or there!

http://dawn-felagund.dreamwidth.org/347415.html
  • Thank you for all you do for the Tolkien fandom. The loss of HASA is very sad as I fear great stories being forever lost to the world as result.
    • You're welcome. :) On SWG and MPTT, we're going to try to do what we can to rescue as many as possible. The MPTT mods are talking about it currently; we already have the Library of Tirion on SWG, but I have some other things I'd like to float by my comods.

      It will be a huge loss of fandom history in any case. The forums alone are a treasure trove of documentation of the early years of Tolkien online fandom and how it has evolved and changed. :(
  • I've had a very good experience with the three owner-run Tolkien sites I've joined. (LOTRFF.com, SWG and Faerie) and I have always been conscious that the people who own and run the sites are doing an amazing job. Before Adora sold LOTRFF.com I contacted her quite a few times and she was always very helpful and courteous. Obviously, SWG and Faerie have been (and are) wonderful, also.

    There has always been a friendliness and sense of community on these kind of sites that I never felt with the larger ones. I think AO3 is super, and use it as an archive, a back-up really, but I rarely read there; I still stick to the Tolkien specific sites unless a story is posted nowhere else.

    I didn't know HASA at all, only 'of' it, and was told by some-one a few years back that my work was too adult for it, so I forgot about it. But I knew it was 'there'.

    Both you and Esteliel did wonderful things for the fandom in creating your sites. I suppose I would only be posting on AO3 now if it were not for Faerie.

    I became aware of the SWG only a few months after joining fandom as a fanfic author, and it was one of Oshun's stories on LOTRFF that lead me to it.

    That meant that the sky--or often our tech skills--was the limit. It also meant that while other fandoms quickly ebbed and receded as their source texts grew and then fell in popularity, we in the Tolkien fandom stuck out flag in the earth and stated, "No. We will always be relevant, and there will always be a place for people who love Middle-earth to carry on its legacy." In fact, as over the years I've talked with people and read others' thoughts on why Tolkien fandom is different from other fandoms, our relative lack of reliance on general sites, fannish or otherwise, versus sites that we build and manage ourselves is almost always mentioned as a major difference between us and FandomTM

    Yes, wonderfully put. I think it is still relevant.
    • There has always been a friendliness and sense of community on these kind of sites that I never felt with the larger ones.

      I think this is true too, and it's definitely understandable. Even on a largish archive, you're still probably only getting a handful of emails a day from members in need of assistance. In the case of the SWG, since we mods all receive auto-forwards from the mod account and are spread across like seven or eight time zones, it is rare when someone doesn't reply within a few hours.

      And we care about our communities too. That's not to say that, for example, an admin on AO3 doesn't care (an admin on ff.net I'm almost certain doesn't care), but it's different, I think, when you're serving people who you're friends with or interact with outside of a mod-member relationship.

      was told by some-one a few years back that my work was too adult for it

      I don't recall any restrictions on content, but there was the review system for a while, which definitely served as a barrier to more explicit or slash stories making it onto the public archive.

      I think it is still relevant.

      Me too, and I think we will be for a long, long time yet. :)
    • (no subject) - heartofoshun - Expand
  • All things will end.. but HASA, yeah didn't see that one coming, somehow. I knew it was hand coded and a tougher cookie to crack, I suppose.

    To put things a wee bit in perspective though, Lotrfanfiction has been hacked at least twice this year and despite having the google fu/facebook background of Mr Manders, he somehow has not upgraded that site as he said he would. Twice I've notified him that the site has been hacked (and he reacted promptly), but still.. perhaps it is not that high on his list given what has happened. Things can wear you down, if it is not RL wank can also be a drainer. So in that sense I am glad to see that the site of Mr Manders is at least still up and I feel so sad that the HASA admins had to take this decision. A very responsible decision at that. But to see that HASA has been such a target of malicious attacks, that saddens me. Why? Don't these hacker guys have better things to do?

    My friend loaned me a book on HTML (which I still haven't given back!) and I bought a book on CSS. I started studying.

    That's me on php, basically. I know the basics but there is still so much to learn and to know that Russa knows her way around in it is such a blessing. :)

    As for Q&I: it became hard to pay the bills, it will be back in a few years, just differently. We haven't given up on that old' broad. :D

    oh and ... I also checked the efiction site this weekend, they are still steadily working on number 5, thank goodness.

    • I'm glad LotRFF is still up too. I would never wish for an archive to go away. My approval or disapproval of how a site is run doesn't mean it's without value for someone else. But you have a much more charitable view towards Keith Manders than I do! :) I think he thought he was getting something different than what he got, and he's stuck with it, for better or for worse. He has a professional reputation to uphold, so he's not going to let a site he owns languish while obviously hacked, but it does say something that he's clearly not visiting the site regularly or hasn't even appointed a moderator to do that. But that he hasn't done anything with the site says to me that it doesn't have the value he thought it did.

      Why? Don't these hacker guys have better things to do?

      Here's what the post says: "What hackers want from HASA is to hijack the system, make a zombie of the server, and use to power their attacks on more lucrative targets." On Ang's followup, she noted that the HASA server was already being blacklisted by ISPs because of this.

      I'm so glad Q&I will be back! \0/

      I also checked the efiction site this weekend, they are still steadily working on number 5, thank goodness.

      Ha! Great minds! I checked it too, earlier this afternoon. All this talk of out-of-date software made me think to check in and see if anything was being done. The forum is quiet, but it does look like the new developer is continuing to make progress. Definitely good news!
  • The news breaks my heart. As for most of us, HASA was one of my first gateways into Silmfics. It was also the place where I first met you. To see it gone, is very very sad. Luckily the LofT is up and running. Maybe I can contact the HASA admins to see if there is any way I can help reach authors and tell them about us?
    *sad*
    • I think I probably met more people through HASA than through any other Tolkien archives, my own sites excluded. That is always one of the most incredible parts of running an archive to me: All the friendships formed that might otherwise not have been. So it's also sad to see that potential go.

      Maybe I can contact the HASA admins to see if there is any way I can help reach authors and tell them about us?

      Great minds yet again! (Rhapsody and I just had a thought-share in the comment above yours! :D) This is why our SWG mod team runs so well. ;)

      Nath replied to my post on silwritersguild about HASA closing. She's planning to offer guidance to members about moving their stories and will mention our site is open to refugees and also willing to help people archive their work there, if they need it.

      I am going to post to our mod forum shortly about LofT in light of HASA closing. (First, I have a boatload of comments still to answer about the Tumblr issue ... *headdesk*)
  • The idea of HASA being gone is like looking west to find one of the mountains missing. Maybe you went weeks without even noticing that mountain, but it was there and it has always been there, and the empty sky it once filled is not an improvement.

    This is pretty much how I feel. I never spent much time on HASA (and only as a reader), but it closing feels like the foundation of the fandom has crumbled in a corner.

    But it is sad to me nonetheless because they were ours, and I do not want our fandom to become just another section or another tag on a massive site where our creativity becomes subject to the whims of forces much larger than we are

    This. I want our spaces, our subculture, our way of approaching canon and fanworks, and even to some extent, our writing style to remain-- not as something outdated but as something vibrant and relevant. I want the thoughtfulness toward canon (whether strict adherence or heretical) that I've found on dedicated archives, not the "everyone's here for the porn" that seems to predominate many mainstream fandoms. I don't want us drowned out.

    As much as I appreciate AO3 for basically accepting everything, I don't want Tolkien fandom to just be a tag. I want us to have our own spaces. That kind of archive doesn't form the community, or at least the sort of community I'd call a community. (I don't read Tolkien fic there, and pretty much the only Tolkien fic I have crossposted is my RAFA'verse. It's the archive for everything else.)

    I often think that the best way to put into perspective what it means to be a site admin is to think that when everyone else is writing and drawing and squeeing and sharing, these are the people who skip that because they're doing the tedious work behind the scenes that makes all that possible.

    Running the reread has given me a glimpse of that; I've told Lyra that it's not a coincidence that most of what I've written this year have been ficlets, and the one long Tolkien story I managed to complete was written in fits and starts (and suffers badly because of that). So thank you and your comods for everything you've done.

    And a multitude of thanks to HASA's owners and admins from me as well. I may not have visited often, but I still think it's valuable. And it will be missed.
    • not the "everyone's here for the porn"

      OMG yes. Hanging out in multifandom spaces, I have to grit my teeth when I hear this. I have no problem with people writing and enjoying erotica, of course, but I've also worked damned hard over the years to be able to work thoughtfully with Tolkien's canon, and seeing that work dismissed as "all about the porn" is annoying.

      As much as I appreciate AO3 for basically accepting everything, I don't want Tolkien fandom to just be a tag. I want us to have our own spaces.

      That's me too. I like AO3, and I archive my work there. But there is something about having spaces that belong to you, like enjoying a public park or museum but having a comfortable chair and a cup of tea to go home to.

      Running the reread has given me a glimpse of that

      Yep, it's amazing how a project that seems reasonable can quickly dominate your fandom time! This is B2MeM like every year for me, even the years when I vow to "keep it simple." :D

      So thank you and your comods for everything you've done.

      You're very welcome! It is truly an honor and a joy. :) It may drive me crazy at times, but I would never change it ...
    • (no subject) - aliana1 - Expand
  • HASA was one of the first fandom sites I visited regularly and participated in. I never posted my own work there because at that time I was doing beta and review work only, but I supported HASA financially for several years and loved the quality of the work it attracted. It will be missed.

    There are touchstones within this community that I automatically think of when I think of Tolkien fan fiction - HASA, SOA, Fairie, SWG, MPTT, AO3 and of course, Live Journal, have managed to give substance to our dreams and provided safe playgrounds for our imaginations. Having one of those touchstones sink into oblivion is a very sad thing indeed.

    But this community is strong and the core is solid. We'll keep getting new contributions and authors, and we'll lose some as well, for a variety of reasons. It's those things that make it a growing, changing and mature community. I'll miss HASA, quite a lot. But I'm grateful every day for the stories I read there, the friends I made there, and the good fortune I had to be involved in this community while such amazing archive sites existed.

    I am one of those who is poor at thanking the admins of the various sites for all that they do. I know it's hard work - I run my business website and I'm constantly growling at it. But, better late than never.

    THANK YOU TO ALL OF YOU ADMINISTRATORS WHO HAVE GIVEN OF YOURSELVES AND THUS, ALLOWED US TO SOAR.

    - Erulisse (one L)
    • We'll keep getting new contributions and authors, and we'll lose some as well, for a variety of reasons.

      There's a pretty rapid turnover among people. I've come to accept that. Eight years ago, I had friends with whom I spent hours each week conversing and from whom I haven't heard in years now.

      The loss of HASA, to me, is such a sad loss of our fandom history. It is like losing the Library in Alexandria: it was the site of so many pivotal works, both fictional and historical. The two groups I mod with are both trying to come up with plans to salvage as many of the stories as possible, but so much of our fandom was built and documented in the forums and comments.
  • I am very sad to learn that HASA is closing. Losing any site is hard under the best of circumstances but to lose a 'landmark' site is even worse.

    I never posted there nor did I ever register but I enjoyed many of the stories. There were a few stories there that I did not find anywhere else (and still haven't), despite the fact that the authors posted in more than one place. I hope there is a way to salvage those stories.

    Except for some old fics (mostly from my XFiles days) and a few odd bits (and crossovers) that don't seem to fit anywhere else except for AO3, I post the bulk of my stories at Faerie and SWG. AO3 is a nice back-up site though and I wish I had posted more of my XF fics there. Oh well, live and learn.
    • There were a few stories there that I did not find anywhere else (and still haven't), despite the fact that the authors posted in more than one place. I hope there is a way to salvage those stories.

      If you know of or encounter any of them, please let me know! The SWG and MPTT are actively working on plans to rescue stories that are at a high risk of being lost completely when HASA closes. (I know Faerie is working on things too, but since I am not a mod there, I don't feel qualified to offer much more than that! :) Basically, we'll save the story, then try to contact the author for permission to archive it. If we manage to make contact and the author gives permission, then we'll archive the stories on whichever site fits it best (or both, if the author wants). There are only about 1,000 Silmfics on the site, based on my estimates, so it isn't impossible to sift through those to find the "at-risk" stories, but I am worried that many LotR and TH stories will fall through the cracks and be lost.
  • Nice post, Dawn. I'm also saddened to hear HASA is closing. It was one of my early fandom homes and I enjoyed participating in the birthday challenges. It's difficult to run these sites and you're right, we don't always appreciate them or thank those involved.

    Thank you for the work you and all the mods do on the SWG. The fandom continues to remain alive and relevant thanks to people like you.
    • Thank you. :) I feel very lucky because I do feel appreciated ... but my site and community is relatively small. I know that attitudes toward HASA and its admins weren't always charitable. That can be tough to bear when you're donating your time and money to make something for other people.
  • Lovely post. I wish HSA was able to port itself over to AO3 like the Smallville Archive.
    • Thank you! :) They are looking into Open Doors but aren't sure yet if they are comfortable with the idea.

      Several other Tolkienfic archives are trying to develop plans to rescue as many of the stories as possible, especially those that don't exist elsewhere. It won't be perfect, but I hope we can save as much as we can. :)
  • Like I said in my reply to Pandë's post, I was never interested in HASA, I read the stories there occassionally -- during the MEFAs. But, I always thought it was one of the pillars of our fandom. It's sad to know it's going to be closed. One might think people come and go, but archives remain. Which is unfortunately untrue.
  • HASA's demise depresses me. I wasn't involved there - the old review system offended me as a slash writer and I never really gave it time after that except as an occasional reader. Having said that, it was still 'there', big and inclusive and central, one of the cornerstones of fandom. And now it's almost gone. I understand why, and lord knows 12 years is a lot of time and effort, but it has made me stop and think a bit.

    This fandom is ours. We were full of energy and love, and we built it. We gave it its own landscape and cultures and ways of interacting. And we have allowed it to decline. Archives close, awards reach their shelf life or get broken, and we are sad but accept it (the one exception was Esteliel starting Faerie). Instead of creating new things to replace the old, we withdraw into our little circles, and the places where those circles connect get smaller and fewer and we lose sight of one another. I've seen whole sub groups in fandom vanish because the places they hung out died and no one knew what to do next. Some moved on from lotr elves and pwps to hobbits or Silmfic, looked at different ages, new genres or whatever, but most stopped writing or went off in search of new, energetic fandoms.

    There have always been major venues where we run into each other - fans of elves, men, dwarves, hobbits, valar, all ages, all genres - and when they start failing, it's a warning sign. When people see places and events vanish one by one and nothing taking their place, they assume the writers they only ever saw there have also gone and sadly it's time to move on. We need to be more aware of that and reach out, not focus exclusively within our own circles and areas of interest. This fandom has always been big and diverse, and we need to make sure it stays that way.
  • HASA's one of the earliest archives in our fandom, and one of the largest. To hear it's shutting down breaks my heart.
  • Beautiful post. You hit the nail on the head, both in terms of the space, literal and metaphorical, that HASA has occupied in fandom, and the importance of having "our own" spaces.

    Thanks for all you do for the fandom, past, present, and future.
    • Thank you! (And you're welcome. :) I do think that having our own spaces in so important. Part of that, I know, is just my own personal mistrust of entities large enough to have their own gravitational field! :D I like AO3, for example, and archive my work there, but I don't believe that their decisions will ever be motivated by the needs of our fandom. They can't be, and that's understandable, but there's something to be said for running a site in the fandom you love and the difference in responsiveness that I feel that creates.
  • This hits home pretty hard for me because I've gone through it before. I wish I had something better to say; your fandom isn't dying, and your own archive is still going strong, and maybe that can be reassuring in a way. But that doesn't fill in the emptiness that'll be left by the departure of HASA. I haven't even been following Tolkien fandom very long, but I know who they are, and appreciate both the fics and the essays I've had the pleasure of reading over there. I'm sad to hear they're closing, and I'm sorry for the loss this is for the community.
  • Woderful post. Thank you for writing it. People have already said what I wanted to say, so there's really nothing I can add, unfortunately. When communities and websites slow down due to lack of activity, I get quite sad, so the prospect of a website like HASA shutting down is pretty painful for me. I hate to think of all those stories (and to me, personalities) getting wiped off the Internet. I suppose all good things come to an end. Either way, the creators and moderators did a wonderful job, and really deserve a standing ovation.
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