The Gossamer Project

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Archive
Name: The Gossamer Project
Date(s): 1995 - present
Archivist: Deirdre, Chael Hall, Vera Heinau
Founder: Vincent Juodvalkis
Type: Fan Fiction Archive
Fandom: The X-Files
URL: http://www.gossamer.org/
Gossamer Project 2.jpg
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The Gossamer Project is a group of specialty archives which, combined, contain the vast majority of X-Files fan fiction on the Internet.[1] The intent of the archive has always been to capture all stories available in the fandom regardless of quality, length, genre, or topic, depending only on the author's consent to archive.

In the mid to late 1990s, the Gossamer Archives/Project was one of the "big three" single media fandom-focused archives on the Internet, and remained the largest single fandom fan fiction archive until the emergence of various Harry Potter archives in the early 2000s.

Gossamer is generally credited as the first major attempt to centralize and categorize the entire breadth of fan fiction produced in a single fandom. This sensibility may explain why X-Files fandom developed an extremely detailed and coded format for story categorization. It was not, however, the first X-Files fanfiction archive. "There were at least four that preceded it -- Cybercow, John Ruchak's, Cort Dougan's, and Martin Small. Vincent took over Martin's archive in 1995, but it did not become known as Gossamer until some time that fall when he moved to a server known as Gossamer. [2]

See alt.tv.x-files.creative: The Gossamer Project FAQ; reference link for a detailed 1997 FAQ.

The Archivists

Vincent Juodvalkis opened the original "Gossamer Archive" on May 5, 1995 on the gossamer server in the Ohio State University engineering department. While he did not originally call his archive the "Gossamer Archive," it became known as Gossamer within the first several months of its existence due to the presence of "gossamer" in the URL. He began collecting/archiving all fan fiction posted to alt.tv.x-files.creative, and later, from the X-Files Fan Fiction mailing list located on the chaos.taylored.com (later, chaos.x-philes.com) list server.

On July 30, 1996, Vincent announced the projected shutdown of the Ohio State site, citing a lack of time and network saturation.[3] He retired from archiving and the X-Files community with the shutdown of his site.

Vera Heinau created the FTP mirror site at Freie Universität Berlin (Free University of Berlin) in early 1996. In 1998, she also volunteered the web space that was germany.gossamer.org for about two years, and fluky.gossamer.org from 1999 through today. Vera currently works on the Gossamer help desk and doing any technical work required on the fu-berlin server.

Adam Lee created an Australian site for Gossamer after the announcement of the shutdown of the archive at Ohio State during the summer of 1996. This site integrated into the Gossamer Project in late 1996. After several moves, his site closed on November 1, 1997 and he retired from archiving.

Harri Nyman created a Finnish site for Gossamer after the announcement of the shutdown of the archive at Ohio State during the summer of 1996. This site integrated into the Gossamer Project in late 1996. His site was never highly visited, and after several attempts at revival it disappeared during late 1997.

Stephanie Davis became known for maintaining archives focused on series fan fiction, episode-related fan fiction, and Mulder/Scully romance during 1995 and 1996. After the announcement of the shutdown of the Ohio State site during the summer of 1996, she copied and made available the files from that site on her site. She never managed to get a system set up for archiving new fiction, and did not integrate this site into the Gossamer Project.

When unfinished stories and series were separated from the main Gossamer Project archives in early 1997, Stephanie created and maintained a site for those files. This site was handed over to Michelle in mid-1997, and was eventually shut down in late 1999.

Natasha (Kelsey) began the "Gossamer Project," a project to database, categorize and summarize all the currently archived stories on August 12, 1996[4][5][6]. Originally, her site was only a collection of HTML links to the other archives, but when she found a US-based server (Simplenet) willing to host a site with the disk and bandwidth requirements of Gossamer, she launched a full US mirror site.[7] This site became Gossamer Simplenet.

Natasha created a flat file database and a series of HTML page creation scripts to generate the Gossamer Project web pages from those database entries, modernizing the Gossamer Project to a great extent and allowing several hundred stories to be easily archived per month. During late 1996 and early 1997, most of the other archive attempts consolidated under the Gossamer Project umbrella, using her database and page generation scripts.

On May 31, 1997, Natasha announced the closure of the Gossamer USA (Simplenet) site, and her retirement from archiving. Gossamer Simplenet was eventually handed over to Deirdre, and Natasha created then maintained the X-Files Novel Annex for several more years.

Amy created the Gossamer Specialty Archive for poems, filks, and non-fiction when these files were separated from the main Gossamer Project archives. She maintained this site until 2001.

Michelle took over the Gossamer Unfinished Stories and Serial Archive from Stephanie Davis in June 1997 and maintained that site until June 1998. At that point, "series" stories (stories which were complete themselves but part of an overall series) were re-integrated into the main archives, and Gossamer stopped providing public access to unfinished stories.

Lisa Reeves began her work in the administrative side of the X-Files fan fiction community by forwarding stories from the X-Files Fan Fiction mailing list to alt.tv.x-files.creative, by author request, in 1996. During early 1997, she started helping Natasha with file collection and cleanup, and eventually opened and maintained the Gossamer Birdfeeder site. She retired from archiving and shut down Birdfeeder in late 1998.

Gem started her work with the Gossamer Project by helping Natasha during early 1997 with file collection and database work. During the re-organization of the Gossamer Project in June 1997, she became the Gossamer database administrator. She handed over responsibility of the Gossamer database to Chael and Deirdre in mid 1998 and took over some responsibility for the Gossamer Helpdesk. She retired from archiving in late 1999.

Chael Hall was the server administrator for the chaos.taylored.com (eventually, chaos.x-philes.com) server starting in 1993. He became involved with the X-Philes community when he created the main X-Files discussion list for refugees from the alt.tv.x-files flamewars in 1995, and with the fan fiction community when he began to host the X-Files Fan Fiction mailing list in 1996.

In Feburary 1997, with the knowledge that neither the existing page generation scripts nor the original Gossamer database were able to handle the ever-increasing size of the archive, he created a test site (Gossamer X-Philes) and new PERL-based page generation scripts. These scripts were deployed to all archives in June 1997.

He continues to help maintain Gossamer today, maintaining the Gossamer administration server and all back-end scripts required for file processing and page generation.

Deirdre became involved in the administrative side of the X-Files fan fiction community in August 1996, when she helped Natasha gather and database story categories and summaries for the original Gossamer Project. She took over from Lisa Reeves as the X-Files Fan Fiction mailing list forwarder until that function was automated, and was originally intended to be the Gossamer X-Philes archivist when that site was proposed in February 1997.

In June 1997, she took over Gossamer Simplenet from Natasha and maintained the site until it was shut down by Simplenet in May 1998. She set up and maintained the ill-fated Gossamer Interspeed for its two weeks of existence, and then set up and maintained Gossamer Germany.

She began collecting and cleaning up files from alt.tv.x-files.creative in August 1997, and took over collecting and cleaning up files from all sources, and maintaining the database in mid 1998. In late 1998, she revamped back-end databasing methods, allowing up to 1200 stories to be archived by a single person in a month versus 300-500 with the older methods.

Deirdre is still actively collecting and uploading files to the database and scheduling updates for Gossamer.

Archive Structure

Gossamer Project.jpg

Since the Gossamer Project came into being at a time when both disk size and bandwidth usage were of major concern, the archivists created and have maintained a structure that used mirroring and some isolation of particular types of files to spread access and storage across multiple servers.

  • Since 1996, the Gossamer Project has consisted of at least three main archive sites. These sites are mirrors of one another and contain the same set of story files. The main archive sites include all completed fictional stories that the authors desire to have archived at Gossamer.
  • From 1996 to 1999, the Gossamer Project maintained a separate works-in-progress archive. Due to the amount of work required to maintain a WIPs archive, the project was eventually abandoned. WIPs are stored and tracked by Gossamer archivists on the back-end of the archive, although no guarantee is offered that the story will be archived in the first update after completion. Authors are asked to make the archivists aware of the completion of the story and submit the finalized story in full via e-mail.
  • From 1996 to 2001, the Gossamer Project maintained a separate specialty archive. This archive included files that did not fall under the category of "fictional stories": poems, lists, articles, meta-fiction, etc.
  • Since 1998, the Gossamer Project has partnered with the Ephemeral archive. Due to server limitations, Gossamer has been unable to offer more than a simple html-and-text serving interface over the years. Ephemeral was set up as a separately owned and maintained archive that offered immediate access to stories collected (via robot) from alt.tv.x-files.creative, as well as the ability to upload files to Ephemeral for immediate reader access while submitting them to Gossamer.

Archive History

The original Gossamer Archive was opened on May 4, 1995, by Vincent Juodvalkis at http://gossamer.eng.ohio-state.edu/ and ftp://gossamer.eng.ohio-state.edu/pub/archive after mirroring files from all the older FTP sites which collected stories from alt.tv.x-files.creative (ATXC) usenet newsgroup.[8] He began collecting/archiving all fan fiction posted to ATXC, and later, from the X-Files Fan Fiction mailing list located on the chaos.taylored.com list server.

In early 1996, an FTP mirror site ftp://ftp.fu-berlin.de/misc/sf/x-files/creative/ was set up at the Free University of Berlin, maintained by Vera.[9]

On July 3, 1996, Vincent announced the projected shutdown of the Ohio State site, citing a lack of time and network saturation.[10],

During the summer of 1996, several alternative sites were created, including Stef Davies's UK site, Adam Lee's Australian site, and Harri Nyman's Finnish site.[11]

On August 12 1996, Natasha (aka Kelsy) began the "Gossamer Project," a project to database, categorize and summarize all the currently archived stories. [12] [13] [14] Originally, her site was only a collection of HTML links to the other archives, but when she found a US-based server willing to host a site with the disk and bandwidth requirements of Gossamer, she launched a full US mirror site.[15]

By early 1997, most of the other archive attempts had consolidated under the Gossamer Project umbrella, generally using the database and HTML page generation scripts created by Natasha. Several types of files, including unfinished stories and specialty files (poems, filks, non-fiction) were separated to their own sites.[16]

In February 1997, the site on the X-Philes.com server was created as a test site for improvements to the Gossamer database and page generation scripts.

On May 31, 1997, Natasha announced the closure of the Gossamer USA (Simplenet) site, and her retirement from archiving.

In June 1997, following various kerfuffles on alt.tv.x-files.creative, the Gossamer Project was reorganized. Gossamer X-Philes was opened for public access, and Gossamer Simplenet was handed over to Deirdre from Natasha.

Lisa (Gossamer Birdfeeder/story cleanup), Adam (Gossamer Australia), Deirdre (Gossamer Simplenet/story cleanup), Chael (Gossamer X-Philes/technical), Harri (Gossamer Finland), Vera (Gossamer FTP), Amy (Specialty Archive), Michelle (Unfinished and Serial Archive), and Gem (Database Administrator) took over maintenance. The archives were fully integrated, using the same database of files, containing the same story files, and posting story updates at around the same time.

On November 1, 1997, Gossamer Australia closed and Adam Lee retired from archiving.

On February 10, 1998, the gossamer.org domain name was registered, although it was not fully used by the Gossamer Project for another year.

In May 1998, Gossamer was listed in an article in the Yahoo!Life print magazine, and experienced a traffic spike to over 60,000 hits per site, per day. Two weeks later, Gossamer Simplenet was forced to close by simplenet.com due to the excessive traffic. The site moved to Interspeed.net temporarily, but was shut down again due to excessive traffic within 14 days.

On July 12, 1998, Gossamer Germany (Germany.gossamer.org) was opened on the FU Berlin network that had hosted the Gossamer FTP archive since 1996. The name choice proved to be a bad decision, as many US-based fans refuse to use a site obviously located in Europe due to unfounded concerns about speed and access.

On April 1, 1999, all archive names based on networks or locations were retired. Fluky, Krycek, and Skinner archives were opened as subdomains under the primary gossamer.org domain name.

During late 1999 and early 2000, the Gossamer archives received, on average, 1,000 direct e-mail, newsgroup and mailing list submissions a month. The archiving team fell behind for many months, resulting in over 8,000 files being archived during 2000. From that high water point, the submissions rate has gradually fallen to a current rate of about 600 submissions per year.

From 2000-2007, there have been several archive moves, but few events that have had long term effects on the archive or readers. In 2001, the Gossamer Skinner name was retired and eventually replaced by Gossamer Tooms, due to the unreliability of the servers that had hosted Skinner over the years and to note the acquisition of a commercial dedicated server for Gossamer usage.

Archive Funding

The Gossamer servers have always been funded by the archivists or via donated disk space and bandwidth. Monetary donations have not been requested, and offered donations have been refused.

  • The original Gossamer site was hosted on a server in the engineering department at Ohio State.
  • Freie Universität Berlin (The Free University of Berlin) has donated disk space and bandwidth for a Gossamer site since 1996. From 1996-1998, the university hosted a FTP site for Gossamer. From 1998-today, the university has hosted both a FTP and web interface (first as Gossamer Germany, now as Gossamer Fluky).
  • From 1996 to 1998, Gossamer Simplenet was hosted on a site paid out of the archivist's pocket ($15/month). The site was shut down when the price was raised to over $150/month.
  • From 1997 to 1998, Gossamer X-Philes and the Gossamer administration server was hosted by taylored.com in exchange for technical services.
  • Since 1998, Gossamer X-Philes (now Krycek) has been hosted on various servers maintained by a person who does not participate in fandom, in exchange for technical advice and services.
  • From 1998 to 2003, the Gossamer administration server was hosted behind a residential ISDN line by Chael Hall, paid for out of his pocket. From 1998 to 2001, this line cost approx. $200/month, during 2002-2003, approx. $90/month. In 2003, the Gossamer administration server was moved to a commercial dedicated server ($90/month), and Gossamer Tooms was also created on that server. While he did take donations for maintenance of the list server at chaos.x-philes.com, the limited donations he received during that time were used to purchase/upgrade server hardware rather than to pay for the monthly cost of the ISDN connection.

Due to the limitations on donated server space (for both Germany/Fluky and X-Philes/Krycek), Gossamer has been unable to deploy more automated interface technology.

2005: A Ten Year Anniversary Post

The Gossamer archivists are proud to announce Gossamer's 10-year anniversary today. Born on May 4, 1995 out of the necessity to organize and maintain X-Files fan fiction for posterity, Gossamer reflects the ideals of Vincent Juodvalkis (its original founder) and alt.tv.x-files.creative (the community from which it sprang.) Despite the ever-changing world around it, Gossamer has only changed management twice--in August, 1996 and June, 1997. Its current administrators (Vera, Deirdre, and Chael) have been involved with the project since 1996.

Each archivist has made their mark on Gossamer... Natasha built the database, wrote WordPerfect macros to generate story listings, and established the site layout. Vera established the FTP site and has been a phenomenal resource behind the scenes. Steph, Michelle, and Amy split off WIP's, serials, and other specialty content into independently managed archives. Chael automated many aspects of story submissions and story listing generation. Gem and Lisa cleaned up and databased thousands of submissions, communicating with hundreds of authors along the way. Deirdre redesigned the site layout several times and has handled submissions and maintained the database for the past six years. Many, many other volunteers have aided Gossamer's development over the years.

Gossamer was nearly crushed under the weight of its own success when traffic exceeded 60,000 hits per site per day in the late 1990's. We scrambled to set up new sites as our providers became upset with the amount of traffic. We set up the Update archive to reduce the stress on the primary archives. Despite the gravity of the issues we faced, Gossamer has never requested or accepted donations or advertising.

Thankfully, since the end of the show traffic has slowed to a manageable 330,000 story hits per month. Total site traffic is about 760,000 hits per month. Gossamer transfers 13.4 GB per month in stories and 30.9 GB per month overall. Stories account for 43% of all site traffic. There are over 6,000 authors and 33,000 stories archived at Gossamer.

The face of fanfic online has changed dramatically during our tenure. Many waves of authors and archivists have hit the scene with different- -and perfectly valid--views on the way archiving should be done. We have been watching the other archives to see what works and what doesn't. We intend to improve the usability of Gossamer without sacrificing its practical, no-nonsense design. Over the coming months, we plan to roll out several small, but meaningful changes to Gossamer. Here is a summary of those changes:

INDIVIDUAL AUTHOR PAGES - The author listings will be re-organized. Each author will have a separate page listing only their stories. If you are archived under multiple names, the only way to group your stories together is to change them to the same author name. A beta test of the new listings is available on the Tooms archive:

NEW RATING SYSTEM - Due to concerns over rating systems in general and the inability of our current system to adequately describe story content, we will implement a new *optional* content keyword system. Authors will be able to describe the type and degree of content that exists in the story. For example, "Substantial Language. Mild Sexuality. Mild Violence."

NEW SEARCH ENGINE - We will begin work on a new, more effective search engine soon. There are no plans to provide full-text searching.

IMPROVE OTHER LISTINGS - We will review and tweak all of the other story listings as we get time. One thought is to break the episode listings into seasons for better navigation.

UPDATE HELP DESK - Deirdre did a fantastic job updating the help desk a couple of years ago. It needs a few minor updates. For example, the WIP, Specialty, and Update archives are all officially unmaintained at this point. The new content keyword system will need to be described as well.

SPECIALTY STORIES - We are considering re-integrating the specialty stories into the completed story archives since the Specialty archive is no longer maintained.

As always, Gossamer is dedicated to archiving the majority of X-Files fan fiction without favoritism or distraction. We strive to provide an appropriate balance between the needs of authors, readers, and archivists. We appreciate the community's support over the years and look forward to providing many more years of service.

Best Regards, Deirdre, Vera, and Chael

The Gossamer Project [17]

A 2008 View of Gossamer, Live Journal, and of Central Archives

I've been an LJ user for years, so I'm very familiar with the technology; when I got into fandom, I was really excited to learn that I could join the community by using a format I already understood. LJ makes feedback really easy (and it's part of an accepted community practice already); it makes publishing your work really easy, and formatting is a snap; you don't have to worry about hosting or any of that drama. At the same time, it puts you immediately in touch with a community. I literally spend most of my days that I'm working at home on LJ; I comment back and forth with friends, I laugh at whatever's on the_caps_files, I read fic from communities and squee about Battlestar Galactica and whatever. Because it's a social space as much as a place to post, it really draws me in, as a participant, and I feel more connected to the fannish community because of it. (For example, I'd read everything Dasha K had ever written, but I never said anything to her, because it was too weird to email someone out of the blue and say, hi, you write good. But we met on LJ, and not only have I told her how much I like her work, we've also become actually friendly... See? LJ makes people talk to each other! MAGIC.) I love Gossamer a lot; honestly, I've spent days of my life on there. But I hate the idea of reformatting my work in plain text, and I also keep forgetting when to upload things. Ephemeral confuses me every time I try to read the posting guidelines, so I don't think I'd ever both to submit over there. At some point, I'll probably sit down and submit everything I've got to Gossamer, because I like the idea of a central archive. But I wish there were some way to submit formatted text, or to submit more simply, to make communication between those of us on LJ and the older archetecture we already have. I'd hate to lose Gossamer as an archive for future generations of Philes. [18]

Fan Comments

My stories will continue to be available on gossamer until... the suns grow cold and the heavens dark... [19]
Thank you, Deirdre, Vera, and Chael for all you are doing! Thank you to all the people who have contributed in the past and who will come forward in the future. Happy tenth birthday, Gossamer! I hope to some day celebrate your coming of age at twenty one! [20]
I only discovered Gossamer and the related sites almost two years ago, so there's still lots of reading I haven't done. It's also an excellent place to refer fellow Philes to whatever type of story they're looking for. [21]
Bravo! I would like to thank you for the hours and hours of enjoyment I've derived from reading the fics in Gossamer. It is also one of the easiest site to navigate. You did a tremendous job making it user friendly. [22]
Gossamer is great. :) You can read for ages and still not get close to reading everything... even in a limited genre or pairing. [23]

Meta/Further Reading/Discussion

Notes

  1. The Gossamer Project Help Desk - History of Gossamer (Last accessed November 16, 2008.)
  2. comment by Katie Redshoes at alt.startrek.creative, September 2000
  3. Gossamer is closing (projected date in October), Jul 29 1996 (Last accessed November 16, 2008.)
  4. New archive attempt - Story Summaries, Aug 6 1996 (Last accessed November 16, 2008.)
  5. The Gossamer Project - AUTHORS Please read!, Aug 16 1996 (Last accessed November 16, 2008.)
  6. ATTENTION all Archivists! (Please, Please Read) - The Gossamer Project, Aug 18 1996 (Last accessed November 16, 2008.)
  7. New Archive Site and FAQ, Sep 13 1996 (Last accessed November 16, 2008.)
  8. The Gossamer Archive: Quick Notes, May 5 1996 (Last accessed November 16, 2008.)
  9. The GOSSAMER Archive Introduction (v2.2 01 MAY 1996), Apr 30 1996 (Last accessed November 16, 2008.)
  10. Gossamer is closing (projected date in October), Jul 29 1996 (Last accessed November 16, 2008.)
  11. Another Creative archive is open!, Aug 2 1996 (Last accessed November 16, 2008.)
  12. New archive attempt - Story Summaries, Aug 6 1996 (Last accessed November 16, 2008.)
  13. The Gossamer Project - AUTHORS Please read!, Aug 16 1996(Last accessed November 16, 2008.)
  14. ATTENTION all Archivists! (Please, Please Read) - The Gossame Project, Aug 18 1996 (Last accessed November 16, 2008.)
  15. New Archive Site and FAQ, Sep 13 1996 (Last accessed November 16, 2008.)
  16. The Gossamer Project Help Desk - History of Gossamer (Last accessed November 16, 2008.)
  17. Gossamer, post at alt.tv.x-files.creative, May, 4, 2005
  18. from How Will It End? Interview with Amal Nahurriyeh
  19. post at alt.tv.x-files.creative by Brandon at Blast from the Past, April 18, 2006
  20. comment by Ursula at Gossamer, post at alt.tv.x-files.creative, May, 4, 2005
  21. comment by Pattie at Gossamer, post at alt.tv.x-files.creative, May, 4, 2005
  22. comment by dee at Gossamer, post at alt.tv.x-files.creative, May, 4, 2005
  23. comment by Laura Hale at Gossamer, post at alt.tv.x-files.creative, May, 5, 2005