How The Circuit Archive came to be, and why "circuit"

Pros is one of the oldest slash fandoms around. It began in the Dark Ages before the Internet, and unlike many fandoms, it actually began as a slash fandom. Originally, fans wrote stories for each other and put them "on the circuit"; i.e., they circulated paper copies by snail mail. Eventually some particularly industrious fans gathered these circuit stories together and established "circuit libraries." Fans who joined a library would receive stories in the mail, which they could read and/or copy and then return for more stories. Eventually zines came to Pros, but only later, after the paper circuits were strongly established.

For over a decade the paper circuit and zines were the sole formats for disseminating Pros fanfic. But paper documents are subject to deterioration and are bulky and expensive to ship, and zines go out of print. Thus, in 1993, as fandom began to move into the computer era, a number of ambitious and hardworking fans undertook to convert all the circulating stories and many zine stories to electronic format in order to preserve them for posterity and make them more readily available to isolated or international fans.

Since that time volunteers have re-typed or scanned hundreds of circuit and zine stories, and the process is still ongoing. Old circuit and zine stories, as well as newly written stories, are steadily being added to the "electronic circuit library," which is available on CD for a nominal fee through the Proslib mailing list. Many fans believe that these efforts saved the fandom from obscurity, as fandom in general moved further and further into the electronic age and stories typed on paper became virtually obsolete.

Putting the electronic versions of Pros stories online, so that they could be immediately available to fans with Web access (virtually all fans these days), was the logical next step. The online Circuit Archive was begun by Meri in 1996, at a time when Pros fandom was still somewhat suspicious of the internet, and it was her tireless efforts to contact authors personally (often through snail mail!) and persuade them of the benefits of permitting their stories to be archived online that made the Archive possible.

Not all Pros fanfic is online; far from it, in fact - many stories have not yet been converted to electronic format, and some authors have declined to make their work available online (or in some cases, even on the Library CD). Nonetheless, happily for fans, an ever-increasing number of Pros authors have chosen to permit their stories to be archived.


The Circuit Archive manifesto

The Circuit Archive is proud to be the primary online repository for Pros fanfic (and more recently, fan art and songvideos), though we wholeheartedly support all Pros archives and encourage the creation of any and all online Pros resources.

In fact, we support and encourage the creation of all Pros resources, whether or not online. It probably goes without saying that we are strongly in favor of making all Pros fanfic available online, and we will continue to work toward this goal. We recognize, however, that there are other methods for disseminating fanfic, such as zines and the remaining circuit libraries, and all are important and contribute to keeping Pros fandom alive and thriving. In fact, the archive owners have extensive zine collections themselves and routinely purchase zines, even - or especially - those that we've already read online. Sometimes the artwork alone makes a zine worth purchasing.

Still, we are firmly of the belief that making the fandom - and the fanfic - as easily and widely accessible as possible inures to the benefit of the fandom as a whole and is in fact the best, perhaps the only, way to ensure the continued survival of a vibrant and active Pros fandom and to keep the fandom flourishing - particularly in this day and age, when fanfic has become routinely available online in most fandoms and fans increasingly expect to be able to participate in and experience fandom through the internet.


The Archive overhaul: new stories

The Circuit Archive was established by Meri in 1996. As of December 31, 2003, there were approximately 700 stories in the archive.

In 2004 the archivist, Justacat (see below), undertook the task of overhauling and expanding the Archive and implementing database search functions using the Automated Archive software described below. As part of this effort she also added close to 500 additional stories to the archive, some by authors whose work was already on The Circuit Archive and some by "new" (to the Archive, at least!) authors who generously gave permission for their stories to be archived. (She also began adding Pros fan art and songvideos to the archive - more about that below.) The overhauled Circuit Archive went "live" on November 8, 2004.

The archivist was aware that many Pros fans had read through the entire Circuit Archive prior to its overhaul and therefore would appreciate a way to distinguish and isolate the "new" stories and art; i.e., those added during and after the overhaul. This task has been facilitated in two ways.

First, all stories that were in the Archive prior to the overhaul have been assigned a "Date Archived" of 31 December 2003 (no stories were added to the archive between that date and the overhaul), and all "new" stories and art have a Date Archived on or after 27 September 2004. The Date Archived field appears when you select the Full or Limited Search Results format for your search (see below for more about the Search Results format). This way you can easily identify the items in your search results list that are new to the Archive since the overhaul.

In addition, to make the process even easier, there is an option called "New Since Overhaul" in the Date Archived search field. If you select this option, your search results will be limited to those items added during and after the overhaul (i.e., with a Date Archived on or after 27 September 2004). There is also a "New Since Overhaul" link in the "Date Archived" section of the Quicksearch page, which will give you a list, sorted in reverse chronological order, of all such items.

Conversely, if you are looking for stories that were archived prior to the overhaul, there is an option called "Archived Before Overhaul" in the Date Archived search field, and an "Archived Before Overhaul" link on the Quicksearch page.

New stories and art will continue to be added to the Archive. These can be identified using the Date Archived field on the Search page and the Date Archived Quicksearch links.


Stories on the Archive: slash, gen, and pairings

Pros began as a slash fandom, and the vast majority of Pros fanfic is slash. But the gen Pros contingent has become larger with time, and these days there is a not-insignificant body of Pros gen fanfic. The Circuit Archive has always welcomed, and continues to welcome, all Pros fanfic, whatever the genre or classification.

Non-slash stories on The Circuit Archive can be identified by their pairing. Gen stories - that is, stories that, in the view of the archivist and/or the author, have no primary romantic pairing - are identified with a pairing of "none." If you would like to exclude gen stories from your story search, simply check "none" in the "Pairings to Exclude" section of the search page; if you would like to limit your story search to gen stories, check "none" in the "Pairings" section of the search page.

It must be emphasized that the line between gen and pre-slash is surprisingly unclear and often in the eye of the beholder. When the author has not provided a pairing, the archivist has done her best to determine one and has made every effort to suppress her own tendency to view all Pros fanfic through a slash lens, but she makes no guarantees that others will agree with her judgment. Feel free to contact the archivist with your thoughts; when presented with evidence or argument she will gladly reconsider her initial determination.

"Het" fanfic, in which the primary relationship is a male/female one, is even rarer in Pros fandom than gen. Nonetheless, there are some het stories, and there are more that include significant het relationships in addition to a slash relationship. Stories with significant het elements are identified with an "F" in the pairing - for example, "Bodie/F," "Doyle/F", or "Other M/F." You can exclude het stories from your search results by checking these "F" pairings in the "Pairings to Exclude" section of the search page - but keep in mind that this will also exclude stories that have both het and slash pairings. You might be better off doing a full search and then simply ignoring stories in the search results whose only listed pairing is a het pairing.


On ratings, warnings, and categories

These days authors in most fandoms provide ratings, warnings, and categories for their stories. Pros fans, however, have traditionally been somewhat averse to so labeling their fanfic, and the vast majority of fanfic on The Circuit Archive does not have author-provided ratings or warnings.

In an effort to accommodate those Pros fans who prefer to have some idea what they are getting into, the archivist has attempted to supply ratings, warnings, and categories where the author has not (unless the author requests otherwise). This could not have been accomplished without the remarkably thorough and utterly invaluable lists compiled by the owner of The Hatstand (for more about The Hatstand, go to RESOURCES).

Ratings, warnings, and categories that the author puts in the text of a story will always be visible when you open the story. But in deference to the Pros tradition and to those who prefer not to see them, The Circuit Archive's Ratings, Warnings, and Categories will be visible only if you explicitly choose to make them so. It is extremely easy to avoid seeing them; in fact, you need do nothing at all.

The very first item on the search page is the "Search Results Format." By default, the "Limited" option is selected (this is also the option that applies to the Quicksearch results). When Limited is selected, search results will not show ratings, warnings, and categories, but will show all other information about the story, including story title, story size and format, author, pairing, information about where the story was originally published, notes, prequels and sequels, and the date the story was archived.

To repeat, the Limited search results format, which is the default format that will apply if you do nothing at all, does not show story ratings, warnings, or categories. The Short search results format does not show ratings, warnings, or categories either; if you select this format you will see only the story title, story size and format, and author name/email.

If you would like to see ratings, warnings, and categories, select the "Full" search results format. This format shows all information about each story, including ratings, warnings, and categories.

Remember, though, that ratings, warnings, and categories that an author puts into the text of a story will always be visible when you open the story. The archivist will not remove these from the story if the author chooses to put them there. Remember also that if an author so requests, the archivist will not supply ratings, warnings, or categories; that author's stories therefore will not appear in the search results of searches using these criteria.

Here is some additional information about the ratings, warnings, and categories used in The Circuit Archive:

Ratings:  Ratings are based on the American movie system, because that is the one with which the archivist is most familiar. Ratings depend almost exclusively on the explicitness of sexual content; violence and general subject matter enter into the determination only to a very limited extent. There are three ratings: NC-17 applies to stories with explicit and graphic sexual content, PG applies to stories without explicit or graphic sexual content (including the vast majority of gen stories), and R applies to stories in between; ie, those with descriptions of sex that are not intensely graphic but are of an "adult" nature.

It goes without saying that except at the extremes, these judgments are incredibly subjective, and the ratings are intended only to be guidelines.

Warnings:  There are three story warnings on The Circuit Archive: Death, Rape/Non-Con, and BDSM. Death applies only to stories in which Bodie or Doyle dies or is dead. Rape/Non-Con applies to all stories in which rape or non-consensual sex has some significance. Non-Con and BDSM are obvious at the extremes but can be somewhat subjective toward the middle.

The Circuit Archive provides only a simple one-word warning. You can't tell, for example, whether a story with a Rape warning involves partner rape, or whether Bodie and Doyle both die in a story with a Death warning. If you would like more details, the archivist recommends that you consult the Death and Rape story lists on The Hatstand. The owner of that site has categorized death and rape stories based on the character who dies or is raped - including characters other than Bodie or Doyle.

Categories:  There are five categories of items that are specifically labeled on The Circuit Archive: Crossovers, AUs, Snippets/Poems, Art, and Vids.

To be categorized as a crossover a story must involve characters or situations from Pros and at least one other fandom; the other fandom is identified in the Notes section. Stories that involve only another fandom and include no Pros characters whatsoever - for example, a Facelift story, involving Zax and a Bodie look-alike - are categorized as AUs, and the fandom is identified in the Notes section.

There are many different types of AUs, but The Circuit Archive provides only a single AU category. The archivist recommends that you consult the AU story list on The Hatstand for more details. That list breaks AUs down by type - e.g., Historical, Fantasy, Elves, etc. The term "AU" means different things to different people; in particular, the determination whether a CI5-universe story is an AU is often very subjective. In an effort to make it easier to distinguish stories that the typical reader would call AUs, The Circuit Archive does not categorize as AUs some of the CI5-universe fics identified as AUs on The Hatstand list.

The Snippet/Poem category is used to identify drabbles, poems, filks, and extremely short pieces that, while not technically drabbles (that is, precisely 100 words), are, in the Archivist's entirely subjective opinion, something less than "short stories." In general, this includes fic of fewer than about 300-400 words and 1K or less in size. Poems and filks are labeled in the Notes section.

The Art and Vid categories are used to identify artwork and songvideos.

Feel free to contact the archivist with any questions or comments about story ratings, warnings, or categories.


Original publication information

Pros has an amazingly long and rich history, as well as an important place in the evolution of slash. The Original Publication information represents an attempt to preserve and pass on a bit of Pros history and give context to the archived stories by providing the reader with some background about them - namely, the zine and/or year in which they were originally published, as well as any other information the archivist was able to discover, in particular whether a story was on the original paper circuit.

When you do any search using the Full or Limited search results format, the search results will show the Original Publication information (if any) about each listed story. Also, you can search on the Original Publication field specifically by entering keywords in the Original Publication search field. This will return only those stories whose Original Publication information contains all the specified keywords. Thus, for example, you can search for all the stories on the archive originally published in a Chalk & Cheese zine by entering "Chalk" in the Original Publication search field, or you can search for all stories originally published in Chalk & Cheese 12 by entering "Chalk 12" - but you cannot search for all stories originally published in either Chalk & Cheese or No Holds Barred zines by entering "Chalk" and "Holds" simultaneously. Such a search would return only those stories whose Original Publication information included both terms. Instead, you would have to conduct each search separately.

Multi-volume zines, such as No Holds Barred and Chalk & Cheese, typically have numbers identifying the volume. These numbers are sometimes rendered as Arabic numerals and sometimes as Roman numerals. When in doubt, the archivist generally chose Arabic numerals - but if a search for, say, "Chalk 12" returns no results, try entering "Chalk XII".

Though archivist has done her best to make the Original Publication fields as accurate and complete as possible (and she could not have done this without the invaluable lists of Pros zines and their contents that can be found in the Files section of Proslib), there are sure to be omissions, and there may well be mistakes. If you notice any errors, or if you have information about a story's background that does not appear in its Original Publication information, please do not hesitate to contact the archivist with this information.


Fan art on the archive

There are many beautiful pieces of Pros fan art, some in zines, some not, and most are not available or accessible to the vast majority of fans. In an effort to preserve and make more widely known the efforts and talents of the artists, the archivist decided to include fan art in the revised Circuit Archive.

Artwork is archived on the Circuit Archive in the same manner as fanfiction, but it is labeled with the "Art" category and the word "Artwork" is always included after the title, in parentheses, to identify the archived item as a piece of artwork. You can therefore search for all art by putting the term "artwork" in the title search field or by doing a "Full" search and checking "Art" in the "Categories" search field. Of course, you can also search for a piece of art using the same criteria used to search for fanfiction, including, for example, artist name, original publication date or zine, and title of the piece. If the piece has no title, or if the archivist did not know the title, the zine name, if any, is used in the title along with a plate number assigned by the archivist.

In some (but not all) cases the archivist has assigned ratings to the fan art so that explicit artwork can be excluded (or included) in a search; as in the case of fanfiction, however, these ratings will be visible in the search results only if you select the "Full" search results format.

In many cases artwork is associated with a specific story that is also on the archive; for example, Suzan Lovett's gorgeous illustrations of Harlequin Airs. The art from stories like this is separately archived and can be searched for and viewed independently. In addition, however, to maintain the integrity of the story and to enable readers to see how the story is enhanced by the art, the artwork is also included in the story itself. In an effort to minimize loading times, thumbnails for each piece of art are inserted in the text of the story; these thumbnails are links, and clicking them will open the full-size version of the artwork.


Vids on the archive

These days, songvids are produced digitally, and more and more are appearing online. The Circuit Archive will host Pros vids upon request.

Vids are archived in a similar manner as fanfiction and fan art, but they are labeled with the "Vid" category and the word "Vid" is always included after the title, in parentheses, to identify the archived item as a songvid. You can therefore search for all vids by putting the term "vid" in the title search field or by doing a "Full" search and checking "Vid" in the "Categories" search field. You can also use the search form to search for vids by criteria such as vidder or title. Pairings, ratings, and warnings are not assigned to vids.

Alternatively, you can bypass the entire search process and simply click the "Vids" link in the main navigation bar at the top of the screen, in the gray area immediately below the Circuit Archive logo. This will take you to a page listing all vidders and vids hosted on the Archive.

You cannot actually watch vids on the Circuit Archive. Vids are archived in "zipped" format; you must download them to your own computer and unzip them in order to watch them. Clicking on a vid name in the search results or on the main Vids page will take you to the download page for that vid, where you will find a link that you can click to save the vid to your hard drive. The vid download page lists the format of the vid, so you know which media player you can use to play it, and the size, so you know how long it will take to download. The page also lists the name of the song artist and any vidder notes.


Archive layout and design

The Circuit Archive uses the Automated Archive software. Automated Archive is a group of Perl scripts developed by a fan and designed to handle creation, maintenance, and searching of an online archive. The archivist has customized the AA software for The Circuit Archive, added some major functions, and extensively modified and supplemented many of the scripts to better suit the needs of Pros fandom, but the AA scripts remain the foundation of the Archive's database functions.

The layout and design of The Circuit Archive, on the other hand, are entirely the work of the archivist. The design is very simple and uses only a single small image, the Circuit Archive logo, which was designed by the archivist. The design and layout are entirely CSS-based, with no javascripts or other effects. The pure CSS horizontal navigation bar was implemented using techniques derived from a variety of sources, but is most closely based on Keith Burgin's horizontal list navigation bar example described here.

The Archive design was tested for compatibility on a wide variety of browsers and operating systems. The CSS is hidden from Netscape and Internet Explorer browsers versions 4x and earlier; on these browsers the code should degrade relatively gracefully, and though the site won't be pretty, it should be perfectly functional and navigable. If you encounter problems attempting to view or use the Archive, please contact the archivist.


The archivist

Justacat, the Archive owner and archivist, was introduced to Pros fandom by Meri, who created the Archive in 1996 (and who remains a Pros fan though she is now more active in other fandoms). She is a new Pros fan by relative standards, but like many before her, the eternal appeal of Bodie and Doyle have lured her ever deeper, and these days she lives, breathes, eats, and sleeps Pros, at least or so it sometimes seems. In addition to her Pros obsession, she has a passion for details, a lot of technical experience, endless (and probably endlessly annoying!) enthusiasm, and a willingness to beg, borrow, steal, or prostitute herself to keep the fandom thriving; thus, she was an ideal candidate to undertake the sometimes daunting task of overhauling and automating The Circuit Archive and expanding its contents.

Justacat is "the archivist" referred to on these pages. She is responsible for the design and implementation of the archive and is the author of the text; all errors, oversights, exaggerations, and bad judgments are entirely hers.

You can reach her by contacting the archivist.

If you have problems using this site, please contact the archivist at archivist@thecircuitarchive.com