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Versaphile is “officially an old timer, having been in online fandom since 1995: over the years I’ve been in X-Files, Due South, Stargate SG-1, Lord of the Rings, BTVS/ATS, Hornblower, Life on Mars, Doctor Who, and BBC Merlin fandoms. I used to do a lot of fannish infrastructure projects like recs and archives, as well as vids and manips, but now I’m happy writing ridiculously long and angsty Merlin epics.” Today, Versaphile talks about the experience of working with the OTW’s Open Doors project as the owner of archives they’re working to import into the AO3.
How did you first get into fandom and fanworks?
I inherited my parents’ Star Trek fannishness, but my own first proper fandom was X-Files. I came online in 1994/1995 and discovered Usenet and alt.tv.x-files and more importantly, a.t.x.creative. I got into fanfic and never looked back.
Could you tell us a bit about your archives and how you became involved with them?
I had five archives imported into AO3 via Open Doors, so I’ll start with the biggest, WesleyFanFiction.Net. I came into BTVS/ATS fandom rather late, just when ATS was ending. Wesley was my OTC, so of course I was delighted to discover a whole archive existed full of fic about him. And then one day in 2005 I went to the site and it was gone! I used Google Cache and contacted DJ, the archive admin. She told me that due to eFiction/mySQL vulnerabilities, the site got hacked three times in a month and someone maliciously deleted the database. I had experience with archives and fannish infrastructure and volunteered to resurrect the archive.
At first, neither DJ nor Liz Harris, the archive’s creator, were able to provide a backup of the database so I began recreating it by hand via the Google Cache. Thankfully a few weeks later a backup was found and while it wasn’t quite current, it saved me a lot of work. I got the site back up with all the stories intact and reopened it for new submissions. I also added a new sub-archive for RPS, Innocent Lies.
The next largest archive is The Prydonian, a Doctor Who archive for Doctor/Master. A bit of backstory first: In my previous time in DW fandom, I converted A Teaspoon And An Open Mind from a tiny flat HTML site run by Nostalgia into the central, inclusive eFiction archive it is today. I left the fandom and handed off the site, then returned a few years later with Tenth Doctor/Simm Master. By then Teaspoon had grown huge and rather unwieldy and I wanted to make a space for the Doctor/Master niche of the fandom. Prydonian was a success and I added an RPS subset for that as well, Human Nature.
My last eFiction archive, though not chronologically, is Hornblowerfic.com. I created this during my brief tenure in Horatio Hornblower fandom, mainly as a reaction to having an OTP that the majority of the fandom was hostile or indifferent to, due to a ship war. Though the archive isn’t themed, it was intended as a safe place for William Bush-centric stories.
I maintained all five archives over the years, updating to newer releases of eFiction and dealing with the occasional spam attack. Unfortunately, the spam attacks grew worse over the years and updates to eFiction grew fewer. I have always been a big believer in archiving and keeping old fandom works available, but having left all three fandoms quite some time ago, I was ready to find a permanent, safe place for the archives. Thankfully Open Doors took them in!
How did you hear about Open Doors and how did you come to work with them?
I must have heard about Open Doors from the OTW news blog, which I’ve followed on and off since it began. I came to work with Open Doors as I had several eFiction archives that were getting spam attacks and I didn’t have time to deal with the cleanup anymore. I wanted the archives to have a safe, permanent home and AO3 was perfect for that.
What was the process of working with Open Doors like for you?
The process with Open Doors was very smooth. At the outset I informed OD that I didn’t have the time or energy to spare helping with the import much, but they were able to create/update their import scripts to bring in everything directly from the provided database and site files. Obviously with so many archives and stories it took a while to bring everything in, but they did a fantastic job and I’m very happy with the result.
What advice would you give archive owners or mods that are having similar issues with their archives that you’ve had?
I think these days people are less inclined to create fandom or character-specific archives, as AO3 is such a wonderful resource. But there are a lot of old archives out there (especially eFiction based), many of them semi-abandoned as fandom activity tapered off or the archivist moved on to a new fandom. I would implore those archivists to bring their archives to Open Doors before all those stories are lost. Spam isn’t going to go away and unfortunately all development on eFiction is now glacial and near vaporware status. The same goes for author-only archives or LiveJournal-based fic. They all need to be saved! Fandom has to move into the future without leaving its past behind. As archivists, it’s our responsibility to save everything we can.
What fandom things have inspired you the most?
Fic is my main jam, especially as I’m a writer myself. And I have to say that the Tumblr-enabled flood of amazing fanart continues to impress me (and I think we need an AO3 equivalent for fanart because at some point Tumblr is going to die and we’re going to lose EVERYTHING). But the most inspiring part of any fandom is the discussions and meta that dig into the heart of the characters and the canon stories.