Independence Fleet celebrated its 19-year anniversary last week, capping off the celebrations by introducing the seven newest members of its Hall of Fame on Saturday, July 4th. Retired members Chameleon “Cam” Circuit, Gorath, Laria Jorel, Ena Robi, Jimmy Rogers, James Sullivan and Landon Wakeland were enshrined for their extraordinary contributions to the group. While Jorel, Robi, Rogers and Wakeland were all members within the last 10 years, Circuit, Gorath and Sullivan hail from the club’s earlier days.
The week started with a bang when Independence Fleet leader James D. West retired on Tuesday, June 30th, and named Charles Star as his replacement. Star then instituted some small structural changes within the group, including promoting Ken Gillis to Chief of Technology, and then presented career awards to West and West’s predecessor, A.J. Wheeler.
Independence Fleet is an online Star Trek creative writing and role-playing group that was founded on July 4th, 2001 by James D. West, Charles Star and Robert Seldon. It has received numerous honors over the years, including the prestigious Simming Prize in Memory of Seth Cotis and nine wins in the Tournament of Simulations. It has been repeatedly noted for its quality, excellence and sense of community. Independence Fleet is also credited as one of the progenitors of the open role-playing method of online simming.
Online role playing developed during the 1980’s and 1990’s on computer bulletin board systems (BBS’s), large computer networks like those found at colleges and universities, and online service providers to the Internet. It appealed to participants of other forms of role-playing and existing fan enterprises of the times—traditional tabletop role-playing games, multi-user dungeon computer programs (MUD’s) and science fiction & fantasy fan fiction.
Based off of earlier strategy games and wargaming models, tabletop role-playing exploded in popularity during the 1970’s, with Dungeons & Dragons being the most well-known. Although Dungeons & Dragons was considered controversial in its heyday, it eventually came to be accepted as simply another form of entertainment. Likewise, fan fiction saw a huge peak of popularity during the 1970’s and 1980’s, fueled in large part by the 1960’s Star Trek television series, fan conventions and other science fiction and fantasy media of the day. MUD’s were also in high use at the time. Many consider Roy Trubshaw’s and Richard Bartle’s 1978 MUD1 (Multi-User Dungeon) as the first true example of a MUD. It has since sparked endless spin-offs and variants.
Independence Fleet has seen thousands of players and dozens of games over the course of its history. Expanding from its original three games, the USS Sunfire, USS Avalon and USS Washington, the club has hosted Star Trek simulations from all eras of the Trek universe, with themes ranging from the hopeful voyages of The Original Series and The Next Generation to the darker Deep Space Nine to the postmodern visions of Discovery and Picard today. Independence Fleet has also previously hosted the SciWorld Online Convention and the Simming Fall Festival.
Regarding plans for their 20th anniversary in 2021, “We’ll have to wait and see, but right now we’re enjoying the moment,” said Charles Star.