Lament for the Castle
So, there was this group. The Castle. If you're reading this, you're probably from there as well – most of my LJ friends are ex-Castle-ites.
For those who aren't, the Castle started as an offshoot of the Stephen King newsgroup – somewhere for people to go and talk about off-topic stuff. (Emms, since you're probably the only non-Castle-ite who'll read this: it was the equivalent of abp branching off into afp.) It wasn't really about anything, and it was about everything. It was a place where you could find long rambling conversations, virtual food fights, virtual naked (make that nekkid) Twister games, heated debates, vents, people pouring their hearts out about the best and the worst things in their life, and the occasional knock-down drag-out fight. It was about friendship.
The Castle changed my life. I don't know a way of saying that without sounding hyperbolic or overdramatic, but it's the truth. It was thanks to the acceptance and friendship that I found on the Castle that I was able – via a long hard road – to leave my insecurities behind and become confident and self-assured. It was also thanks to the Castle that I thought of looking for other, similar, groups, and thus found alt.fan.pratchett, and hence the man who, five and a half years ago, became my husband. If it hadn't been for my chance stumble onto absk just before the Castle branched off from it, I wouldn't now be married to Barry or have my two beautiful children or be the person I am now. My life would have been completely different, and a lot worse.
And, over the years, it just... dwindled. And dwindled. And dwindled. Some of it was more dramatic than dwindling – there was, of course, the Great Schism of 2000, when half the group went off after a huge fight and founded the Shield, and there were people now and again who would storm out over differences of opinion. It wasn't all sweetness and light. But other people just drifted away. I can remember the last long multi-person thread on the Castle – a very heated discussion over the Bush/Gore election in 2004, seguing off into differences of opinion over Michael Moore and 'Bowling For Columbine'. And since then – next to nothing. The occasional 'Happy Birthday' post, pretty much the equivalent of a form letter. One person still posts there regularly about her life. A few old regulars post something occasionally. The Castle is a cobwebby ruin with a few people wandering in and out.
It's fair to say that I haven't been doing a lot to keep it going, these past few years. I've had the kids, I've been busy, and what reading and posting time I have had has been spent much more on the pregnancy and parenthood newsgroups. The absence of activity on the Castle didn't actually bother me that much – I moved my time to other newsgroups with a feeling of growing up and putting away childish things. I am not, in retrospect, very proud of that – abandoning your old friends just because you now have someone new in your life, whether that someone new is a new friend, a new romance, or, as in my case, a new baby, is not pretty behaviour. But the loss of interest in the Castle certainly wasn't just me. There was so little left there to be interested in.
The events of the past couple of weeks brought that home to me. Or rather, the non-events.
OK, that was me cutting the beginnings of an explanation which was becoming increasingly lengthy. Shorter version: For years, I've been struggling with whether or not to post regarding some issues I had with another Castle member lying about me. Posting about that sort of thing can backfire badly, making you look paranoid or vindictive. Not posting might mean that this person would go on lying about me behind my back.
So, after years of back-and-forthing on the issue, I finally decided to post. I was damn well telling the true story, whatever happened. I put a lot of work and thought into what I wrote on the subject, and I stood up and told my story good and hard. I explained what had really happened, ripped a few holes in the other person's story while I was at it, and told the Castle just exactly what I thought of it all. Hot damn, but I was *good*.
And what happened was, well, nothing very much. I had one person supporting me publicly and one through e-mail, and a few posts in response, and that was it. The thread fizzled out. Which is pretty darned annoying – I mean, picture the lawyer for the prosecution in the best of courtroom dramas coming up with the most damning of speeches and delivering it superbly, only to find out that the few people left in the courtroom are yawning and ignoring her. Talk about a bloody Pyrrhic victory - there's a major sense of anti-climax. But, more than that, it brought home to me once and for all that the Castle is *gone*. The Castle as we knew it, I mean. It is no more. It has ceased to be. It has run down the curtains and joined the choir invisible. Because, you see, this thread would have been an absolute bombshell in the Castle's midst back when there still was a Castle to speak of – the furore would have gone on for days, maybe weeks, with people yelling about it and having their say and taking sides. But that just doesn't happen any more, because no-one's around who cares enough to say anything. This is an ex-Castle.
I miss it. It'll pass, but, right now, I miss it all so damn much. I miss the days when people cared enough to *have* arguments. I miss the conversations that'll never come again. I miss the people who used to be there. Maybe I could track a lot of them down, maybe I should do that, but even then... it just wouldn't be the same. When we were the Castle, we were more than just the sum of our parts. Damn, I wish it was still like that. But it isn't, and it's never going to be again. Current Mood: depressed