-The Red Badger
January 16th, 2000
A little while ago, my friend Martin asked me to help start off his upcoming editorial page by writing something about Redwall itself or the online Redwall community. Can't have a site without content. If you're reading this, then that means I finished it and the page is finally running.
As a long-time websurfer and Redwall fan, I've seen a lot of change in recent months. Back when I first started reading Redwall, there wasn't much online in terms of related sites. There was Redwall Abbey, back when it had a turquoise background and WASN'T official, and a few well-thought out sites. Nothing groundbreaking, mind you, but the webmasters each put thought and effort into them. Back then, Redwall was still "underground", I guess you'd call it, and fans were simply overjoyed to find someone who shared their interest. It was around this time that I first met Martin and saw the Long Patrol's site. Back then, Martin had almost every feature all on one page. Reviews, polls, applications- you name it. I watched as he tweaked the site around, took suggestions, and introduced new features. As a matter of fact, I'm probably one of the few people who has seen exactly how much work he puts into all of this. Sort of a "behind the scenes" look. And say what you will, the LP has grown into one impressive website.
Not that I want Martin to get too big a head, but the LP sort of ushered in a new breed of Redwall-sites, as well. I can remember when the WASR and FSR were created, followed by WOMPS. All three were extremely similar, but eventually grew to be unique. But, it started the invasion of the acronyms which has almost reached the point where I'll gag if I see another. Another thing the WASR introduced was the Mission System, which has also invaded the Redwall community. While it had extreme potential at first, something went wrong in the execution phase. Many new sites have adopted the aspect, though- some tailoring it to be unique and exclusive to their site, others simply using carbon copies- all the same, what could have been interesting became rather tedious and boring to me. Actually, I think it would be more fun to start a community fanfic to tackle these missions (which rarely seem to be devoid of vermin involvement and massacres).
While all this was happening, the afore-mentioned Redwall Abbey became official, ditched the turquoise and got the new background. Honestly, the site improved a ton. Eventually, though, the webmaster closed the club aspect (turning it once more into an unofficial club run by another member) and focused on the Brian Jacques Homepage. Through it all, it also got it's own domain, www.redwall.org. Redwall.org also inspired new sites, like The Redwall Encyclopedia, to name one. There was also the Redwall Art Page, which has since either changed to a URL I haven't found or shut down. Either one, it's out of main circulation (which is a shame).
This is kind of losing the editorial focus, so let me get back to where I was going with this. The Redwall community was changing. There were a lot of things happening that I didn't mention, so let me cut to the chase-- the Redwall community (as far as the 'net is concerned) has gone downhill. Sure, you may argue with me (actually, I'm sure Martin would appreciate it. What better to fill an editorial page with than editorials?) but, you won't change my mind. I can remember those early days, the good naturedness of everyone. And then we have now. Someone gets it in their mind to boycott the main site, which didn't need boycotting, so they do. Or they take it upon themselves to lord over all and start an awards program, saying it holds the prestige of an oscar-- what the heck?!? I hardly see where deciding to hand out website awards, no matter what system you use, automatically gives it prestige. It's just another website award (which are a dime a dozen). Very pretty, but not a crowd-drawer. We also have new faces suddenly declaring themselves figureheads of the Redwall community-- why? Because they say so! There's also an abundance of clubs. No more do webmasters put deep-thought into creating a wholly unique page: they just start up their very own club. Paste the pass-along, missions, chat/board up there, think up an acronym: instant club! Puh-leeze.
There's also been a lot of "online wars", I think they like to be called. Vermin clubs and woodlander clubs declare war on each other and hold out cyber battles, defame the others site, and so forth. That seems pretty childish to me. It's been the birthing ground to a whole slew of flamers. Real productive.
There have been some pretty interesting sites that debuted, though. For one, Terrouge was something new and is, for the most part, well executed. But, it is filled with a whole lotta ego. And I mean EGO. The staff is touting this and that, full of self-importance. Whatever happened to doing a site for fun? Terrouge is a good concept (not the first Redwall e-zine as they've said, but good) but they try to hold a place that they don't. The only person in the Redwall community who is above anyone else would be Brian Jacques, himself. Sure, webmasters can become respected, but don't flaunt and usurp that respect. If you've actually done enough to earn it, then be mature and don't try to make yourself seem more important than you are. More often than not, you'll simply lose some valued surfers.
Another aspect of today's community is stealing content. Naturally, the blossoming webmaster will download a bunch of Redwall images. They'll also see a bunch of features that they'd like to try their hand at. This is all okay, but there are a handful of people who decide to simply rip-off the original author. Redwall.org's background has appeared ALL over the net. So has the Long Patrol's. And countless others. Images are stolen, as well. That's usually not a major offense, but I know an awful lot of webmasters would appreciate being ASKED first. They'll more than likely say you can use them, so why not take the extra minute? There're also features. Pass-alongs are probably the most commonly used feature on a Redwall site. Anyone know where they originated? The Long Patrol (and I witnessed their birth firsthand). The first few sites to try their own were pretty respectful. Most asked Martin's permission and also provided a nice link back to the Sword of Martin. Then comes the onslaught of new Redwall sites and suddenly, pass-alongs are seen as standards. Part of the general make-up of a Redwall site. Martin may not mind, but I find it incredibly rude to not even mention it's origin. But, then, that's just me. A different generation altogether. More content stolen are actual reviews and bios. It just amazes me that idiots copy, WORD FOR WORD, reviews/bios/etc. and try to pass it off as original work. And that's becoming more and more common these days. It's incredible.
Someone needs to look at everything from the perspective that matters. Are these sites worthy of Redwall? Redwall itself is a spirit. I think that very few sites these days, with all the role-playing missions, online wars, stealing, egotists, etc. have the Redwall spirit. Somewhere the Redwall sites became less about the Redwall BOOKS and their author and more about who can have the most popular site, who is more important, and whose looks more "professional". To me, a site that a budding fan puts together with an awful lot of effort and originality is a lot better than one that is holding online wars and winning "awards". Because that budding fan still remembers the true spirit of Redwall.
-The Red Badger