Star Wars Fanworks (or StarWarsFanworks.com) is Nathan P. Butler's personal website that acts as the internet's central hub of the Star Wars fan audio community.
The Birth of Star Wars FanworksEdit
Star Wars Fanworks was launched on September 1, 2003, following several months of development. The concept of a website dedicated to the Star Wars fan audio genre had emerged in early summer 2003, following a series of events that led Butler to believe that not only was such a site necessary, but also that he was in the best position to create it.
Heading into mid-summer 2003, Butler's StarWarz.com area, which was initially created to host only his Star Wars Timeline Gold, had expanded to host all of Butler's Star Wars fan audio productions (which, at the time, included ChronoRadio and Second Strike, with the first episodes of Anthology coming during summer). It had also, however, grown to include two other fan audio drama projects that Butler had invited to join him for extra exposure: Ted Alderman's Resurrection (released in early summer) and Michael Mays' Smuggler's Run (which had not yet been released).
This phenomenon meant that, due to the small size of the fan audio community at the time, Butler was essentially hosting most of the English-language fan audio community, since only Rise of Nobility (not yet released, but with its own website), Digital Llama Radio (hosted on TheForce.Net Fan Films), Stormtrooper Bob (long over, but with archives hosted at TFN as well), and Jedi Talk (cancelled years before) were left unrepresented on Butler's StarWarz.com area. This put him in a unique position to bring the community together further.
Thus, when StarWarz.com founder Lou Tambone came to Butler in early 2003 with news that StarWarz.com was switching servers and offered to help Butler set up a new fan site about any topic he felt passionately about, it was only natural for fan audio to be the topic of choice.
There was, however, one other factor pushing for a new fan audio focused fan site . . .
With Second Strike, Anthology, and Resurrection gaining attention alongside two ongoing radio shows (ChronoRadio and Digital Llama Radio), the fan audio genre was developing nicely, but it was also becoming apparent that fan audio was not part of the fan film community, but instead something else in its own right.
On the one hand, this was wondefful, as it showed that fan audio was a viable fandom medium. On the other hand, this heralded an exodus (both voluntary and forced, depending upon whose point of view is being considered) from the fan film community.
Since 2001, the fan audio community had been simply a subgenre of fan films. News, casting calls, and even releases had been handled via that community, predominantly via TFN Fan Films. The notion existed that fan audio dramas might one day find a home on TFN Fan Films alongside Digital Llama Radio and Stormtrooper Bob, which were already on the site. This was not to be the case, as two decisions separated the fan audio community from TFN Fan Films and its community.
First, the TFN team had to make a decision as to how to use precious bandwidth and file storage resources. Given that they were beginning to branch into fan films from sources other than Star Wars, the space could not be spared for branching out into hosting audio productions. Thus, a new place for news, hosting, and promotion was necessary.
Second, several fan audio personalities (creators and voice actors), spearheaded by Rise of Nobility mixer Keith Abbott began a push to given fan audio its own message board on TFN. The hope was to give fan audio creators and fans a new place to discuss audio productions, as there was increasing hostility toward promoting audio on a film message board. The new message board was granted, but, unfortunately, without the thriving fan film community to keep up with discussion, the board quickly faded from view (and remains relatively sparsely used today). Thus, any new community would need a new place for discussion, given that the TFN board was effectively dead.
The time was right, for better or worse, for the emergence of Star Wars Fanworks.
Taking Lou "T-Bone" Tambone of StarWarz.com up on his offer to help create a new fandom website, Butler took the initiative to create a new website for the entire Star Wars fan audio genre. Dubbed "Star Wars Fanworks," the site was to be hosted on Tambone's StarWarz.com server account at Nexcess.Net.
Having only mediocre webmastering skills at the time, Butler turned to fellow Star Wars fan Sonja Nelson for help in designing the website. Using a dummy image of what the site might look like, provided by Butler using Photoshop, Nelson created the overall site template for Star Wars Fanworks, while Butler spent the summer of 2003 creating content for the website.
Finally, Star Wars Fanworks launched on September 1, 2003, featuring the first episode of Rich Sigfrit's radio show Requiem of the Outcast as its first new premiere. This release was promoted that weekend at Dragon*Con 2003 in Atlanta, Georgia, during the convention's first Star Wars fan audio panel (originally developed for Rise of Nobility but expanded at the request of Michael Smith).
Launch Features (2003)Edit
At the time of its launch, Fanworks featured the following:
- News coverage and archvies for the Star Wars fan audio genre
- A comprehensive directory of Star Wars fan audio dramas
- A comprehensive directory of Star Wars fan audio parodies
- A comprehensive directory of Star Wars fan-made online radio shows
- A detailed section of profiles for fan audio community participants
- A section of features, including editorials, reviews, and more
- A "coming soon" listing
- A front page that would include quotes and oddball facts from the genre
- A message board via Lou Tambone's GalacticSenate.com
Site Expansion (2003 - 2007)Edit
Over time, Fanworks expanded to include:
- Many, many more productions of all three kinds
- TheStar Wars Fanworks Fan Audio Awards (beginning in 2004)
- A revised front page with new release and "coming soon" listings in the side columns
- Coverage of official Star Wars audio materials, such as the works of Brian Daley, the Hyperspace AudioCast, and others.
- Further reviews and editorials
Promotional Push and Expansion (2008)Edit
In January 2008, a substantial push began, spearheaded by Jeff Roney and Joe Harrison to help promote Star Wars Fanworks and bring the fan audio community "back on track" after a somewhat lackluster latter half of 2007. Organizing via a thread on the Fanworks message board, several community members emerged to help give Fanworks (and Butler) support and a promotional push to enhance and expand the site.
This push came to include several new features, including:
- The Star Wars Fanworks Audio Feed: an RSS feed via Libsyn.com designed to release and re-release Star Wars fan audio via podcasting (established by Nathan P. Butler)
- A MySpace group (established by Nathan P. Butler)
- A Facebook group (established by Eric Olp)
- The Star Wars Fanworks Wiki (established by Nathan P. Butler)
- A new page of promotional materials (including materials by Nathan P. Butler and Joe Harrison)
- Listings of non-Star Wars radio shows, audio dramas, and parodies by fan audio genre alumni (researched by Joe Harrison and Nathan P. Butler)
- A Frappr map for creators and listeners (established by Nathan P. Butler)
- An updated tutorial section, including a series of ScreenCasts by Jeff Roney (established by Jeff Roney)
Staff (Past and Present)Edit
Nathan P. Butler (2003 - Present)Edit
Nathan P. Butler is the founder and overall webmaster of the website. (See above.)
Sonja Nelson (2003)Edit
Sonja Nelson came aboard to create the original HTML template for the site during the summer of 2003. Once that work was complete, Nelson moved on to other projects.
Lou Tambone (2003 - 2005)Edit
Lou "T'Bone" Tambone is the founder and operator of StarWarz.com. Tambone hosted Star Wars Fanworks on his website's server account until mid-2005, acting as the site's primary patron.
Rich Sigfrit (2003 - 2007)Edit
Rich Sigfrit is the founder of Outcast Multimedia, which released its first project, Requiem of the Outcast via Star Wars Fanworks on the site's launch day (September 1, 2003). In the years since, Sigfrit has been a periodic assistant to the site, though that participation essentially concluded with the infusion of further projects into the Outcast Multimedia lineup.
Joe Harrison (2008 - Present)Edit
Joe Harrison is the founder of Lion's Mouth Entertainment. After producing several successful audio dramas (Conquest of the Empire being the most well-known), Harrison joined Fanworks during the January 2008 site update in order to help handle some of the workload in updating the website.
Over the years, the site has also utilized written reviews and editorials by various writers, including Jeff Roney, Jay Mustered, and others, though these individuals were never on any form of formal staff.