THE BIG ARCHIVE THAT COULDN'T (and How No One Was Very Surprised...)
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THE BIG ARCHIVE THAT COULDN'T (and How No One Was Very Surprised...) is a 1998 essay by CiCi Lean.
This essay was posted in the ninth issue of The Acid Desk in December 1998.
Some Topics Discussed
- The X-Files fanfic
- the ungainliness of a large archive being run by a handful of volunteers
- who "owns" the archive, and therefore who has power over the fic there?
- what happens when a fandom's "heritage" is at risk
- the follies of depending on a single archive
- the ebbs and flows of relevance of archives and competition
A scenario even Chicken Little refused to contemplate.
He looks up. *Gasp!* Good Lord! His dire predication has come true! The sky *has* fallen! It's a terrible, FRIGHTENING sight!
And, much to his shock, no one notices.
Yes, the inevitable has happened as that Bulging Bandwidth Behemoth, The Mighty Gossamer X-Philes USA is tossed from its server sometime in early February. That's right, Gossamer is down to, count 'em, -two- mirror sites, (Birdfeeder and Germany) both of them waiting like shivering dominos to follow in Big Boy's wake, straight down into Overload Hell.
It *is* a dire picture this time, especially after the news on the grapevine is that most server owners would rather eat a tube of Crest on a Saltine cracker than host an infamous bandwidth hog such as Gossamer no matter how prestigious it might be.
But, what's the *really* interesting story here?
No, it's not that Gossamer is in danger of collapse yet *again,* but the fandom's latest reaction to this possible disaster is what really intrigues me.
No screams of "Save Gossamer!" or long threads of possible solutions ranging from the ridiculous to the sensible are being heard anywhere. No mourning or sympathy cards for our harried archivists or offers of volunteering are coming in from any corner of Wonderland.
Barely a ripple has registered across the community, with only the odd, "Hey, I can't access X-Philes" responded to by a "Oh, for God's sake can't you just SHUT UP?" breaking through the daily monotony.
The relative silence is eerie and a far cry from the desperate panic of only a year ago.
Of course, there are reasons for this seemingly drastic change in attitude. And not least of which is the fact that Gossamer has long ago ceased to have a timely relevance to a community that used to depend upon it for nearly all its reading and storing needs.
Now a full six months behind on archiving, with only two working mirrors, creaky hardware and even creakier software, and twice the downtime versus up, Gossamer has finally and officially become the "tourist trap" of XFFanfic.
Sure, it's gotten the mainstream media attention via "The New York Times" and "The Telegraph" but like the Carnegie Deli in Manhattan only out-of-towners and new arrivals go anywhere near the place, not realizing it's living off decades-old fame and that any native with a working set of taste buds wouldn't be caught dead eating there. (Not unless five pounds of old, greasy pastrami piled ten thousand feet high on stale bread actually *appeals* to you, of course.)
In short, between authors' homepages and Ephemeral, regular readers and writers alike just can't be bothered anymore.
I mean, how seriously can you take a archive that offers this as a time line for its eventual return to the Web?
"It'll be up when it goes up."
Oh, okay. That says it all we suppose.
The sad fact is that most folks learned their lesson from the panic of a year back. Yes, there -are- folks who are willing to build mirrors, give obscene amounts of bandwidth and time and tech help in any way they can, and many of these folks are honest and legit in their willingness to give their all to the Gossamer cause.
So, will it happen? Nope, nope and nope.
Why, dare you ask? Simple.
Because even the casual observer has finally gotten the message that the Gossamer administration doesn't want anyone's help. I won't presume to know why they don't (although I have my theories,) they can explain it to you themselves, and I'll leave any guessing to my readers.
But the fact is, that without immediate intervention, overhauling, and complete restructuring, Gossamer is eventually going down for good. I'm not saying this will happen today, or even tomorrow, but it cannot go on this way. The fandom is too big, too busy, too prolific and there *is* only so much ceiling room left for a site as large, as overloaded and central as this one.
It's just a simple fact.
And with it are going down a ton of fics that are exclusive to the place, really old fics from '94 and '95 that can be found nowhere else, whose authors have long left 'net, and therefore cannot be reached to gain permission to re-archive these fics into smaller, safer havens (perhaps such as a "Golden Oldie" site or the like?)
What happens to those? Who *owns* them now? Who owns the "Gossamer" trademark? Is there, can there be such a thing? What about mirror sites? What about splitting up the archive into either old and new, romo and non-romo, date or alphabetically or anything resembling a manageable site and who will *allow* certain folks to run those sites and why should they be the ones who *grant* that permission?
And so on, and so on and so on.
So, while being being a fully functioning, up-to-date, *useful* archive and resource for the fanfiction community is no longer on Gossamer's list of immediate (or even long-term) priorities there are still serious implications of a complete Gossamer blow-out, not least of which is the loss of our "heritage."
One that can't be held hostage for very much longer.So, come out, come out wherever you are Chicken Little. You were right, the sky has fallen. And no, we aren't that scared anymore, but, then again, there is just something we might be forgetting.
CiCi Lean wrote an update to this essay sometime in early 1999: "Mirror, mirror from the past ... who's upgrading at last? Gossamer is, with the three main sites turned into perfect mirrors of one another and you are automatically forwarded to the one of the router's choice whether you want to end up there or not. Two main beefs: the new names are confusing (Gossamer "Skinner"? Krycek"? "Fluky"???)and any human element to the archive has now been removed, replaced by a fully automated E-mail response system. (Don't worry, you probably won't notice.) "Don't ask, don't tell and all will be well" seems to be the saying of the day and that's fine, just as long as the progress continues. Of course, we shall seeee..." 
- from The Acid Desk #10