I visited a graveyard today. Unlike a
conventional graveyard, this one exists not as a piece of land,
subdivided into plots and a mausoleum or two. No, this graveyard
exists only in the virtual world of the Internet. It's not even
really a graveyard, in any classical sense. It's simply a virtual
world that no one really bothers with inhabiting any more, cast off
as the world moved on. It's easier to keep it running than to shut
it down, since common decency requires you to notify people of such
This graveyard was a formative part of my youth, a place that
helped make me the person that I am today. It was found through one
of the 'little things,' a euphemism I use for events in one's life
that take it down wholly different paths than those it would have
followed otherwise, those things that take you off of the
knife-edge and plummet you down a side you never expected.
But this story, this reminisce, begins in a time further back than
I was eleven or twelve, and I had just received a new computer, a
486dx33 with a 2400 baud modem included. The computer was nice--I
could run a graphical environment for the first time, Windows
3.1--but the modem ended up changing my life perhaps more than any
piece of technology other than the computer itself. The modem
opened me up to a world that I never knew existed, and while I've
shed it now for the snappier response of Cox Digital Cable, I still
have an external 56K modem. It is part of a legacy that I hope
never dies, at least not in the hearts of people of the world.
I was eleven or twelve, and I had just received a new computer. I
decided to try out the modem. I don't remember what program I used
that first time--perhaps Telix, copied from a friend at school, but
it's irrelevant--and I connected to my first BBS. What was it? I
think it was My Hiding Box, a local BBS primiarily used for files,
run by one Lajuana Bloodmensteil. [How I remember that name when I
can't remember much of anything of my youth is partly testament to
how formative this time as, and partly because, well, I thought her
name was really cool.] I had a friend who had a modem before I did,
and I hung out at his house a whole lot. He even showed me MUDs
back then, dialed into the local university's machine using a
I was eleven or twelve, and I had just received a new computer. The
modem that came with it opened up a whole new world. One of the
first places that I visited was entitled Silveril's Demesnes. It
ran a particular BBS program entitled Major BBS. Unlike most BBSes,
which had one line, Major BBSes were made for multi-user
interaction, with multiple lines and games that could be played by
more than one person at the same time. I still remember the 'MUDs'
that it had with a sense of trepidation, because they were really,
The games were not what was important, however. It was the people.
I met folks there that I still remember. I fell in love with a
girl, and although she dumped me on my birthday, ending that
relationship, it was my first real romance. We had been friends for
a long time before that.
Soon, me and a friend were running a BBS on our own, on a second
line at his house. I got a second line, since my parents got tired
of me taking over the phone every night at eight. I ran a few BBSes
myself, one named CyberWarez and one named The Circle. The Circle
actually became one of the most popular messageboards in the city,
which made me feel good. I met people there, exchanged ideas, and
had a good time. I actually met a number of the people that I
talked to on the BBSes--one of the advantages of the fact that no
one wanted to pay long distance fees was the fact that you were
generally in a fairly small radius, and user gatherings were quite
Indeed, one of my good friends today contacted me a couple of years
ago via eMail, with the subject header the name of the BBS that we
ran at my friend's house, The Dark Hideaway. Unfortunately, he is
the only person that I'm still in touch with from that period in my
Some digression here is necessary to explain just how different the
dynamic of BBSes were from the current MUD/talker/IRC world of the
Internet. Since only one person could be on at a time, there were
message boards where people would have extended conversations. The
best BBSes had a number of different message boards, catering to
different topics, and the really good regulars would read just
about all of them. The BBS software kept track of the messages that
you've already read, but you could always go back and read the old
ones. The religious debates were always hot and furious, but there
was often intelligent discourse on other topics, ranging from
poetry to politics to love. Of course, this intelligent discourse
was often from the point of view of people in their early teens.
Not Shakespeare or Kirkegaard, perhaps, but to us it was
At some point I started to log onto America OnLine, or AOL. This
was before it was connected to the Internet, and way before the
flat rates that they currently have. I was only on it for two
months--the free month, plus one more that cost so much my parents
cancelled the service. But during those two months I got a taste
for real live chat, more than the four people that Silveril's
allowed, that I would never get out of my system.
There were two channels that I hung out in. The OMNI channel,
centered around the magazine of the same name, was a great place to
be if you wanted to talk science fiction. And there was a
Wiccan/Pagan channel. There, I met one of the authors of a book I
very much admired, Silver RavenWolf, and she actually told me that
I seemed to have more wisdom than most elders. Patronizing a brash
kid? Perhaps so. But it was uplifting.
I had been messing around with Usenet and the like on a local ISP,
but it wasn't until 1996 or thereabouts that I really, really
started to get into a world which became an integral part of me for
many years to follow.
Bored one day, I started browsing the newsgroups. I read one or two
messages on alt.religion.wicca or alt.magick or something. I don't
remember what. But there was an advertisement for a brand new
'talker' called Silver Circle. I figured out how to use telnet and
connected to it.
The Silver Circle was a Wiccan/Pagan oriented talker, and the
starting room made that evident, with an ASCII ankh and
descriptions of incense and statues and an altar. I felt at
That same description stands there today, six years later. The
graveyard has not aged.
I met someone there. Her nickname was Morgana, and it turned out
that she was even younger than me, only fourteen years old, and she
was one of the two people who ran the Silver Circle. That amazed
me--someone that young running a piece of software like that? Of
course, she was an administrator, not a coder, but still. My first
impressions of her were that she wasn't terribly nice.
I fell in love with her, of course. She reciprocated, and soon we
were staying up every night, that summer before my freshman year of
high school, and we'd watch the Discovery Channel together. She was
in Kansas, I was in Louisiana, but the Discovery Channel played at
the same time in both places. We would talk back and forth about
the show, about life, about love. Whatever. Late at night, they
repeated all of the shows. They did it in three- or four-hour
blocks, and we would actually watch both sets of shows, making
snide comments the second time around since we knew what was coming
I think that was probably the happiest time in my life. I choke up
as I write that, but something in me knows that it's true.
Almost simultaneous to my discovery of the Silver Circle, I started
to frequent a MUD entitled Vortex. There were a lot of interesting
people there, and I befriended a number of them. By the time that I
was able to become a 'Wizard' on Vortex, I had already become part
of the staff of the Silver Circle. I noticed the politics there,
and tried to stay out of them, but didn't always succeed. Phoenix
had a set of quests that you had to complete to become a Wizard, so
I simply refused to do the last one.
Eventually, however, they convinced me to do it. I became a Wizard.
It was a fun time; I made many friends, had a lot of fun. Then
Vortex died and became Phoenix, and while most of the people were
the same, it just didn't have the same feeling, and I started to
come by less and less. I would do it in spurts--come back heavy for
a few months, disappear for months at a time. I had my character
'zapped'--deleted--a number of times, and got a good friend in
trouble once for having him do it for me. I'd always come back and
beg for reinstatement, and I usually got it. One last time,
however, I didn't.
By this time, my time on the Silver Circle had been waning. Many of
the original people had left. I ran a few chats on various
religious and magical topics, but that stopped. Fell in love again.
Fell out of love again. Drifted away.
Phoenix is still alive and well, although I don't recognize most of
the people who are there. There are still some who know me, though,
from one of my sporadic always-on-periods, and logging back on
today brought me together with a few of them. One of them
teleported me to the Hill of Contemplation, which used to be my
'home' as a Wizard. My 'wizquiz' was held there, given by a good
friend. That grilling was one of the most tense moments in my life.
In the virtual world, that room was left unchanged.
None of this is the point, though. It is not the things that I
remember that brought me to ramble here, that brings tears to my
eyes even as I type this. It's the things I've forgotten, the
things only half-remembered, the people that I'll never see again,
people who touched my life for a brief moment or for an extended
period but then disappeared into the mists.
I have a letter at my house from a Jarlytha. I don't remember her.
Was she from the Silver Circle, or Phoenix? I can't recall.
I remember, back on Vortex, hanging out with a woman. I just
recalled her nickname on there--Ngish. I was in love with her too,
at least some sort of puppy love. She disappeared once, and I got
some information from some people, and searched for her on some
Star Wars MUD. I never found her again.
I could make lists of people who I never see any more. On the
Silver Circle, there was ragaZZo, goldenseal, Katana, ShadowDancer,
and many more whose names do not sit on the tip of my tongue. A
look on Phoenix tells me that Bale, one of my best friends there,
has not logged on for two and a half years.
Vast portions of my virtual life, entire people and conversations
and life threads, are gone from my memory. They helped make me the
person I am, but they are not there for me to recall. I feel like
an old man, trying to remember his family but not quite succeeding,
vague shadows flitting in my mind, always escaping my grasp.
I remember periods where I would get depressed every single night
on the Silver Circle, and my friends would cheer me up. This wasn't
a once a week thing, or even twice a week. This was every night,
seven days a week, for many months. These people kept me sane, kept
me from doing something horrible to myself. Why did they do it?
Because we were friends. The fact that it was words on a computer
screen instead of a person holding you became irrelevent. We all
lived for each other, loved each other, helped each other, got mad,
People say that the Internet has no memory, has no permanence, that
people just don't care as much on the 'net as they do in real life.
These people have obviously never experienced what I have. We lived
together, as a separate whole. Those days may have passed, but I
doubt that most people involved in them have simply forgotten.
Moved on, perhaps, but we were all changed.
It doesn't end. I met a very important person in my life because
they eMailed me about a video game review I wrote. I still keep in
touch with some people from both the Silver Circle and Phoenix, but
for every person I can still contact there are ten or twenty that I
cannot. There are even more that I've simply forgotten. I wish that
I had an eidetic memory some time, so that I could honour the
memory of my friends. Instead, I write this.
It's hard to go to those places now. The memories they inevitably
bring back, of long-ago conversations and good times and bad times
and the eventual disintegration of whatever connections I had to
the places, depress me. I'm writing this partly because I'd like to
have at least some
record of this time, and partly because
it is cathartic. It is both awful and aweful to think of the lives
I touched, for good or bad, and how I have no idea how it all
turned out. I was the group shrink at the Silver Circle for a long
time, part of which caused my frequent sabbaticals, but I always
came back. Until I stopped coming back.
Everyone, everyone that was involved in that, those who I have
forgotten, those who I have lost--I apologize. I apologize deeply.
I should have tried harder, should have done more, should have
realized that at some point the tenuous present would become the
Past, and that if I didn't watch myself I would be past the Past
before I could get any decent hold on it. If you're reading this
and remember any of this, please get in contact with me. I regret
many things in my life, but the loss of friends, of memory, of
parts of my life--however virtual they may have been--is something
I regret more than almost anything else.
We all move on, but the graveyard still stands, a mute testament to
a greater time. The people it touched, the lives it changed, those
are the true testament. And while I was only a small part of the
whole, it shocks me to silence sometimes.
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