A list of Frequently Asked Questions about Darkfriend Socials

Q: What is a Darkfriend Social?
A: The term originally comes from a scene in the prologue of The Great Hunt. A man calling himself Bors (Jaichim Carridin in disguise) attends a gathering of Darkfriends in a dark, mysterious place that's not quite Earth and not quite Shayol Ghul. While some of the people just stand there in frightened silence, others spend time mingling and chatting. For most, it is the first and perhaps only time they will see each other. A friend of mine, Judy Ghirardelli, dubbed this the "Darkfriend Social" (DFS) scene. We fans discussing Jordan's books on Usenet News liked it, and the name stuck.

Q: What does that have to do with real-life parties?
A: The Darkfriend Social scene was fairly similar to our daily experiences on the newsgroup. Although we were a tightly-knit community of contributors (as far as Usenet goes), few if any of us had ever met in person. "Knowing" each other through our writing on that ethereal medium called Usenet was like seeing each other with masks. We wondered, what was everyone else really like? Bors was able to judge people's true natures from how they held themselves and how they acted. We fancied ourselves to have some bit of similar skill and we discussed how we envisioned one another. The results were partly accurate and partly comical, and one thing we all agreed on was that we should try to meet in person -- to have a DFS of our own.

Q: When was the first Darkfriend Social?
A: In December of 1993 we planned two gatherings: one in San Francisco right before the new year, and one in Washington, D.C. in early January. Despite trying to schedule these socials during the winter holidays when college students (which most of us Internauts were at the time) would be home, the parties were lightly attended. Six people met in SF, and I think only three made it to DC. But those small turnouts didn't kill the idea; in fact, they acted as proof of concept. Remember that in 1993 the only stories you'd hear about people meeting face-to-face after becoming acquainted on the Internet involved axe murderers, child molesters, and other types of sociopaths. These two socials showed that we were normal people who were safe to hang out with in real life. And with the Great Hoax we perpetrated at the March 1994 social in Washington, DC (the first social I attended) we showed we lots of fun to hang out with, too. Socials quickly became an institution after that, with one scheduled somewhere virtually every month.

Q: What's this newsgroup you keep mentioning? Is it important?
A: Usenet newsgroups are an online discussion medium. There are tens of thousands of groups organized for discussion of all different kinds of topics. Fans of Robert Jordan's books began discussing them in the rec.arts.sf.written newsgroup in the early 1990s. In 1994 a group just for Robert Jordan's books (as opposed to all scifi and fantasy books in general), rec.arts.sf.written.robert-jordan, was created and the community moved there. If you're not familiar with newsgroups, don't sweat the details. Just think of them as online communities. Darkfriend Socials are a tradition that grew out of ours.

Q: Why do you call yourselves Darkfriends? Is it like an evil cult?
A: We started using the name as a friendly put-down. If a member of our group was acting oddly or espousing an unpopular opinion, we'd joke that s/he must be a Darkfriend. Eventually we all started referring to ourselves as Darkfriends. I suppose we all thought it was cool. As Robert Jordan said in an interview, "The Snake has all the good lines."

Q: What goes on at Darkfriend Socials?
A: Pretty much anything. It's up to the people who organize and attend the parties. We meet people in person for the first time as well as visit with old friends again. Many Darkfriend Socials are simple affairs arranged around meeting for lunch or dinner in a restaurant. Others gatherings have involved a day at the beach, weekend-long house parties, and hiking and camping trips in the mountains. One thing we usually don't do is spend a lot of time talking about the books. I know, that sounds odd because enjoying The Wheel of Time the one common interest that unites us all, but we can discuss that on the newsgroup. The main point of Darkfriend Socials is to spend time with each other in person, doing things it's hard to do online (ie, anything other than exchanging text messages).

Q: Where can I find a Darkfriend Social?
There have been a number of socials in or near San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington DC, Seattle, Austin, New York, and Boston, just to name places in the US. Abroad, there are Darkfriend groups in Great Britain and Sweden. I'm not aware of any socials in Central America, South America, continental Europe, Asia, or India. I think there may have been one or two in Australia. If you're a reader of the newsgroup you can watch for an announcement there. Or, regardless of what kind of online community you belong to, you can suggest a social of your own. It's as easy as saying (or typing) "Hey, let's all meet face-to-face. I know this great little place in the old city...."

by Bill Garrett, copyright 1996-2002
garrett (at)
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