Make It So: The Abandonment Archive

Awhile ago I confronted the citizen/ethical issue of what fans should do with our historical, and perhaps even relevant yet ultimately really awful works. What to do with bad fan art, embarrassing fan fiction, and so on? Hiding and never speaking of it is appealing, but let’s face it some of that is rather relevant to our culture, our development, and the historical record.

Awful, but relevant. Indeed I still wish someone had saved a copy of the delightfully named “Final Pottermon VII” from a decade ago just so I had proof it existed.

Jokes aside, I don’t want stuff saved to find the next Eye of Argon. Really some fanfic, fan art, embarrassing websites, half-baked games and the like are pieces of geek history. They say something about people, time, and technology.

It’s just some people don’t want it said about them. But these are history.

Come to think of it, there’s also a lot of great work out there that’s just abandoned, left on rotting sites and old hard drives. There’s things we’ve forgotten or overlooked from our years and decades of geeky participation. There’s half-finished or unpublished novels. That too is out there, not being analyzed, understood, or applied, and it too is part of our history.

I have a theory. We need an Abandonment Archive.

The Abandonment Archive

My idea would be an archive where people could leave complete works very, very anonymously. So left, with relevant information, they’d be archived and accessible. The emphasis would not just be on access per se, but for research, understanding, and historical record.

So people would leave:

  • The work in question.
  • Comments on where the work was posted, time, etc.
  • Historical reference and information – “This was inspired by Battle of the Planets before I knew about Gatchaman.”
  • Any relevant critique, information, or notes.

It would also not focus on things that are “bad” but things that people sort of want to wash their hands of or want to preserve and make public. It may be written during “a phase,” is out of date, or is just not something they care for any more. The Abandonment Archive lets them put it to rest for whatever reasons – and let people find it anew.

Some works that are original could even be made public domain or put up for “adoption” in some cases.

Of course such an archive would then have to be curated. There’s a chance people would leave things out of vengeance, spite, mockery, or troublemaking. There’s a chance of people leaving a few minor pieces that might not be worth curating. There’s also just people who won’t fill the forms out.

I have the feeling the right group of fans, writers, acafen, and so forth would find this an ideal job.

Done properly, you’d get an archive of history of fannish activities. Some may be old, distant, obscure, or embarrassing, but history is history – and a little anonymity would be quite helpful.

From here you could add even more features:

  • An anonymous 3rd party email correspondence system for people to coordinate archival information about what they’re abandoning.
  • “Triage” contests to salvage or improve works.
  • Newsletters or even physical books when appropriate, or other releases to help pay for the thing.
  • Historical research and analysis posts on culture.
  • Posts to share memories.

Will it work? I have no idea. But I’m throwing it out there to see what you think . . .

– Steven Savage