AARLand Revisited (like Brideshead Revisited but with less Catholicism)
by Iain Wilson
"Why do writers write? Because it isn't there." - Thomas Berger
Despite joining the Paradox fora way back in 2003 (when people still used steam power and horse drawn transport) it is only recently that I have begun my incursion into AARland proper. Actually, that's not strictly true - I dabbled back in 2005 (and my ink well has two abandoned AAR's to show for it) but never really got into the spirit of things until last year.
What do I mean by that? After all, surely the raison d'etre of the writAAR (as per my pretentious quote that began this article suggests) is to write. What could be more "in the spirit of things" than churning out tales to wow, amaze, entertain and (in my case) abandon?
I think the answer probably lies in what I've recently discovered about AARland - and that's the sense of community. Back in 2005 when I was feverishly producing (and abandoning) AARs I never too a look beyond the sub-fora that I was inhabiting. I read a few AARs, responded to my lovely readAARs but never bothered to take a look at the GD area and all the goodness that was taking place there. Something, which in hindsight, is a mighty shame, because had I known about all the fun stuff happening there like the ACAs, GtA and (to take a break from the acronyms) the weekly awards I would have been drawn much more fully into the community and would probably have ended up continuing those AARs which now lie dusty and unloved in the vault where all the abandoned tales end up.
Since returning last year and poking my head above the parapets of whichever forum I'm currently writing in I've found myself drawn-in and engaged by the various activities taking place in the wider community. In particular, I was delighted to find that the denizens of AARland give out awards to those they deem worthy. I believe this is important, because although those of us who write do so for fun, there's something very exciting about receiving recognition from your peers, and I see these awards as being a valuable incentive in encouraging writers - both new and old - to constantly seek to improve and better their work.
Sadly, the awards seem to suffer in two respects. As has been mentioned before (and I won't labour the point) the voting for the ACAs themselves appears to have dropped off in recent times. Being a newcomer, and not having taken part in previous ACA votes, I'm not sure what the reasons for this are (although doubtlessly you old timers will be willing to offer me all sorts of reasons why!), but one factor I have noticed is that a lot of the wider community (particularly new comers) are unaware of these awards - it wasn't until I put a link in my AAR and sig that some of my readers realised that the ACAs existed!
Although the "<blah> of the week" awards don't require wider community participation (after all, it is one man one vote) they serve a valuable purpose in highlighting the best that AARland has to offer. If we are to see more participation in the ACAs I think it's important that as many people as possible get involved in reading the works highlighted in these awards, if only to encourage readers who would be otherwise forum or AAR centric to widen their horizons and read more of the goodness that AARland has to offer.
Ego-stroking awards aside, to me the one thing that has kept me firmly rooted in AARland this time around is the sense of community, and the encouragement and camaraderie that it brings with it. The constant outpouring of enthusiasm from my readers has been instrumental in keeping my output the good side of prolific, and in a few cases I have been fortunate enough to strike up some genuine friendships. Whether this is because I'm more actively contributing to the community or because the community as a whole is friendlier now I don't know. Regardless, it's nice!
So, that's my tuppence worth - a (relative) newcomer's view of AARland. Doubtlessly it has enthralled and entertained, but if it hasn't, may I suggest one of my AARs? Shameless self-promotion? Of course - but if there's one thing that my recent exposure to AARland has taught me it's that all us writAARs share one thing in common, and that's that there's nothing more satisfying than finding a new readAAR on your AAR
Iain Wilson is the author of These Oranjes are Not for Eating