|The Kai Monastery|
I created the Kai Monastery website in March 1997. You can read about the thoughts and motivations that went into it on the About Your Host page. Below you'll find a retrospective about the history of the Monastery and the Lone Wolf Online community.
When the site went online, I had a few goals in mind. One was to get a good response from fans around the world and let people share their experience of Lone Wolf. Another was to somehow gather information about the series and disseminate it to fans, and possibly even get the attention of the publisher or even Joe Dever himself (who would, of course, be the ultimate source of information). A third goal was to develop some fun web pages and play with this new medium.
So, first the facts: less than six months after the Monastery went online, I had been contacted by over one hundred people. No doubt even more had visited the site. I decided it would be a good idea to get these people talking, so about 20 of us started an informal e-mail mailing list, simply by keeping track of each other's addresses and sending mail to everyone on the list. Almost instantly, an e-mail role playing game started up with most of the same people from the mailing list (spearheaded by Kha Le). A few weeks later, one list participant, Chris Dingle, got us a real mailing list through an ISP. Around the same time other sites were appearing across the World Wide Web, including Jonathan Blake's Desert Lynx Oasis. Something big was happening.
This success was partly due to the fantastic effort and devotion of the people who were online then and spearheaded the new sites, made the mailing list interesting, tirelessly collected and shared details from the Lone Wolf stories. But this success was also partly due to the growth of the World Wide Web over the same period. That first year, 1997 to 1998, was the same time in which e-commerce became a household word, Microsoft became a real player in the browser war, the 'net truly became something for everyone and not just a technical marvel understood and used only by the technical elite at universities and corporations rich enough to have permanent connections. Because of the explosive growth of the 'net and the democratic nature of it, the furious efforts of a few dedicated fans were enough to create huge momentum, by reaching more and more fans each day and giving Lone Wolf a strong foothold in what was becoming the most important place to be: online.
The first goal I had for the Monastery had been fulfilled, without a doubt. Fans all over the world were connecting and sharing their love of Lone Wolf. It is perhaps because of that, that Joe Dever did the most touching thing he could do for any life long Lone Wolf fan: he dedicated book 27, Vampirium to me. It was a great honour, and it energized the entire online community. Before then, we had no idea if anyone else knew we even existed. The dedication meant our efforts were not going unnoticed, and they were valued by the series creator himself!
At around the same time, late 1997, I'd managed to contact Paul Barnett (aka John Grant), co-author of the Legends of Lone Wolf series with Joe Dever. The interview with Paul Barnett was put online shortly thereafter. It was our first contact with one of the creators of the Lone Wolf saga. Just weeks later, in early 1998, Jonathan Blake was contacted by Joe Dever himself! In less than a year, we had gone from no Lone Wolf presence online to a thriving community of dozens of readers and websites, in contact with the authors of the series we love so much. My second goal had miraculously been fulfilled as well.
But there was a disturbing message wraped up in the information the community had gathered up to this point. The future of Lone Wolf was uncertain. Shortly after the Monastery went online, I received word from a friend in the U.K. that the current publisher, Random House, had only signed contracts for books up to number 28. After that, we didn't know what would happen. When Joe contacted us, we sent him several questions which he graciously answered. The transcript is kept here at the Monastery. In his answers, the author himself confirmed that Random House had no plans for books past 28, and he said he was very displeased with Random's support for the series. However, there was light at the end of the tunnel. Joe felt a relaunch of Lone Wolf might be possible, with an entirely new publisher and new editions of all the books, after all the rights reverted to him following publication of book 28.
My third goal, make some neat webpages, proved the most ellusive, perhaps because it depended solely on my own effort and not the interaction effect of a community. From my own experiences online with sites I liked, I felt that the only way to really excite people about bringing Lone Wolf online was to have fun and neat things online that tapped into what was fun and neat about Lone Wolf and Magnamund. The Atlas pages from the original Monastery site were an attempt to do that (originally suggested before the launch of the Monastery by a fellow fan, Daniel, in Singapore). The Encyclopedia was supposed to be another.
The Encyclopedia was going to be a huge job. There are literally hundreds, thousands of details in the books that could be catalogued. I had originally wanted lengthy articles about each. It was an insane project. It gave way to Rumbold's trivia questions instead, which seemed to really engage people. My enthusiasm for the encyclopedia also waned after Jonathan Blake had somehow managed to compile a fantastic encyclopedic collection of information which he called the Magnamund Tome. I was thrilled, it was the first indication I had of the dynamism in the community.
I was also painfully slow at putting up new material about the books, delinquent in the last year. I have many excuses which I shan't recount. However, with the early 2000 update of the Monastery, which includes this page, I have added six books. The Monastery now has resources for books 1 to 13. I wanted this major update to include all that new material, since I don't plan on updating the Monastery again in the near future. Other commitments will keep me from being more attentive than I was in the prior year, so rather than let that continue, I've put the Monastery in a state where I'm happy to leave it for a while. I'm particularly pleased I was able to compress all the images sufficiently to allow all of them to appear online at once without breaking my 1MB space limit. That's right, the entire Kai Monastery, including images, can fit in less than 1MB of disk space.
In late 1999, Joe Dever contacted Jonathan Blake again with more news. No new publisher had been found. Although disappointing, Joe made a fabulous offer that far outshone the bad news: he would allow the text of all the books he holds copyright for, to be transcribed and placed online for all to enjoy. The books would be available only through a central site and downloaded copies would not be for redistribution. The community exploded with the news, work began almost immediately. You can find out more at The Aon Project website.
Gamebooks are a unique product of the early years of role-playing games. Their ability to mix a strong narrative storyline with player interaction is perhaps unmatched. Yet their essential linearity, which allows for their strong narrative, limits the amount of interaction they can provide. Today, the attention of those in search of imaginative, interactive stories is fragmented between more media than we could imagine back in 1984. It is unlikely Flight From the Dark could appear on bookstore shelves today and successfully compete for attention with computer games like Thief: The Dark Project or System Shock 2. Perhaps the end of Lone Wolf's publishing run was inevitable. But through Joe Dever's generosity, and the enthusiasm of Kai Lords the world over, a piece of interactive storytelling history, and the greatest gamebook series of all time, will live on forever.