Bureau42.com originally went live on October 18, 2000, at 19:33 (server time). Ten years later, the site authors take a moment to reflect on some highlights of that time.

Name:

David E. Smith

Former username (if applicable):

Dave

Day job:

Systems Administrator

How I founded Bureau 42:

The SF-NEWS list distributes “Mr. Data’s Data”, a news column by Jay Badenhoop originally written for two fans clubs in Milwaukee, WI -the Milwaukee Time Lords and Star Fleet Academy.

Jay’s mailing list, somewhere in the mid-1990s, needed a home, and I volunteered to host it. At the time, the mailing list was hosted on my home dial-up account, with mail queued up by UUCP on a more permanently-connected host (thanks to Dave Rand). As Jay’s career grew (last I heard, he was a college professor in West Virginia), and the still-young Web became more popular and prominent, I started collecting news snippets on my own. I eventually turned SF-NEWS into a news-only Web site, then a more discussion-oriented site, then eventually migrated the site to WordPress in 2009.

Why I became an author:

At the time, there wasn’t really very much writing involved – the early versions of the site had little commentary, just news articles and the occasional snarky aside. It was more linking to others’ writing than anything else. There weren’t too many sites already doing that sort of thing, and as a barely-employed recent college grad, I had the time and energy to do it.

First article:

While not the first article posted on the new site, the “welcome to the new site” post was written first. (Ignore the comment dates there; some ham-handed typing on my part in mid-2004 changed the dates on all earlier comments to be the date shown there. Whoops. I make better backups now.)

Favorite article written by me:

Probably my review of this episode of Battlestar Galactica, which, at 78 comments, is the second-most-commented article we’ve ever written.

Favorite article not written by me:

The (bogus, of course) review of the Bureau movie, based on the Bureau MMO, based on someone’s bad acid trip. So many little nerdy references in such a small space.

Biggest surprise:

The fact that a little site I first built ten years ago, vaguely related to something in which I started to participate in maybe 1997, and which really is even older than that (I’m not even sure how far back Jay’s mailing list goes) still is around and kicking. Or the small but amazing community that’s grown up around it.

Hopes and Dreams for the Future of the Site:

I’d love for the Bureau to be a “big-name” site, right up there with io9 and friends, and I’d love to get paid to spend more time working on it. (Heck, I’d love to break even on hosting fees.)


Name:

W. Blaine Dowler

Former username (if applicable):

Fiziko

Day job:

District manager for a well known private education firm

How I found Bureau 42:

I spent six months of the year 2000 working at CERN during my M.Sc. program, and did most of my reading online as my French skills weren’t strong enough to read locally acquired fiction. (At the time, I was learning Esperanto, as what I expected to be only the first European second language I’d become fluent in. “Fiziko,” pronounced “fee-ZEE-ko,” is the Esperanto word for physics.) Geek that I am, I read Slashdot regularly and turned on the “Sci-Fi News” slashbox that led to technopagan.org. One day Technopagan hung in the middle of loading, and when I hit “reload,” Bureau 42 was there in its place, with this article as the most recent entry.

Why I became an author:

On November 12, 2000, Dave put out a plea for help. By then, I realized I’m the kind of person who can allow my day job to consume my entire life. I voluteered to pitch in, despite having neither training nor any real experience in writing, to make partaking in the kinds of entertainment I enjoy feel like a responsibility on some level so I’d stay involved with it. Originally volunteering to review episodes of “The X-Files,” I’ve since written more.

First article:

There were some I submitted as a reader, but the first I submitted as an author was pointing to Oscar nominations, an article whose sole comment came from theangrymob.

Favorite article written by me:

In 2005, we planned a somewhat elaborate April Fool’s joke for 2006. April 1, 2006 was to be a Saturday, so we launched the “Saturday Movie Review” in November of 2005. If I reviewed one unreviewed movie from my collection every week in alphabetical order (making exceptions for seasonal content), then by what would appear to be a coincidence, we’d finally review “The Matrix” on April 1, 2006. That review is here. For the April Fool’s prank, I grossly overemphasized the movie’s flaws and gave it a score low enough to bother readers, but not so low as to be obvious. As you can tell by those comments and those in the real review, we got a LOT of people. (Some of this was in the setup. In the weeks prior, I mentioned I had an “atypical opinion” of the movie, and that readers would “finally understand why we’ve been reluctant to review it before now.” Those deliberately misleading comments, though accurate, were easily misinterpreted to support the joke.)

Favorite article not written by me:

JD DeLuzio’s review of The Watchmen, written while he still went by Timeshredder. That format was a stroke of sheer genius, with a great opening. Check it out if you haven’t already.

Biggest surprise:

The success of the math and physics lessons, particularly Summer School. The average views on a Bureau 42 article have increased by more than a full order of magnitude in the past few months, largely because of the influx of readers that found us through Slashdot and stayed. There will be more, but they may not come until the new year, as the projects I have in mind are rather huge.

Hopes and Dreams for the Future of the Site:

I’d like to finally hash out a way to consistently schedule all the math, physics and other topics I’d like to cover. I’ve been chipping away on weekends, and I think I’m almost there. (Finding the yEd graphic program was a huge boon to that one; expect a “Math From Scratch” plan to appear in the next few weeks.)


Name:

Brian Rollins

Former username (if applicable):

TheAngryMob

How I found Bureau 42:

Sci-Fi News box on Slashdot.org (Odd, I rarely, if ever visit Slashdot anymore).

Why I became an author:

Way back when, we only had reviews of X-Files and a few movies. Dave asked for suggestions and I said “You should totally have reviews of Voyager on the site.” His response: “You’ve now been upgraded to an ‘author.’ Good luck.” These were the carefree pre-9/11 days when loved freely and trusted often. And Dave had really, really, low standards.

First article:

Review of Star Trek: Voyager – “The Void”. Wow, that review takes be back. Back before we had the 42 point scale. February 16, 2001.

Favorite article written by me:

Great Moments in Star Trek

Favorite article not written by me:

Has to be a tie between the 19 out of 42 review of The Matrix and the Forty-Second Bureau review.

Biggest surprise:

That my review of Voyager: Endgame remained the most viewed article for years. Figured that would get trumped pretty fast.

Hopes and Dreams for the Future of the Site:

One of the thoughts behind the Word Press upgrade was to add more media to our site. I don’t think we’ve executed on this particularly well. While we have a devout core of “bureaucrats” I would love to see, not only more visitors, but more comments. Also, an inside track to upcoming media would be great, but none of us live in the LA area, so it makes it hard as industry “outsiders.”


Name:

JD DeLuzio

Former username (if applicable):

Timeshredder

Day job:

We do not discuss it with outsiders.

How I found Bureau 42:

Back in the early twenty-first century, Dave posted a link to the Unified Field Crossover History of the Universe, then at its original location. The timeline received a fair bit of traffic, and I followed the source of activity back to the Bureau. Sort of like how Elliot got E.T.

Why I became an author:

I’m still trying to figure that one out. Online writing keeps me doing some kind of ongoing writing, and has helped get me regular appearances as the obscure but witty panelist at conventions.

First article:

A review of American Gods, though it was published by Blaine, since I was not yet a site writer.

Favorite article written by me:

I like that I wrote, for our site, possibly the first complete sets of reviews for Charlie Jade online and received feedback from one of the show’s writers. The wikipedians are dolts for removing that link once more well-known sites got around to recognizing the show. I also like that I got to review the originally-unaired episodes of Firefly, since the Bureau piqued my interest in the show, and I was very much a come-lately. Then there’s The Forty-Second Bureau.

Favorite article not written by me:

Though I’m a fan of our print and movie reviews, I think it’s great that Fiz drew so much attention with his Summer School articles. I cannot think of a similar site doing anything remotely like this, and certainly not as well.

Biggest surprise:

Learning that Robert Charles Wilson enjoyed my reviews of his novels here. Noting that a certain female online writer of note became really busy at the same time that Technogirl disappeared from our site, and wondering, now that said writer has established one of the most successful similar sites online, if these events could be connected in any way. (I know, there’s a 9 out of io likelihood this amounts to mere coincidence. It’s fun to think otherwise).

Hopes and Dreams for the Future of the Site:

It would be great if we grew and made some real money, but I’d be happy if we at least returned to a state of actual, sizable discussions at our site in this now-crowded and review-saturated and banal social-networked web.


Name:

Chris Sanner

Former username (if applicable):

Hitch

Day job:

Linux System Administrator

How I found Bureau 42:

I don’t honestly remember. But for a while it was a Slashdot Infobox staple…back when I still thought of Slashdot as my “portal”…wow…that’s been a while.

Why I became an author:

Well, to be honest, at the time I just wanted to review the one book. “Hey, can I write a quick review of Sandman?” says I. “Congrats. You’re an author now,” says Dave. He’s more discerning now, thankfully. Meanwhile I trickle out a review of a book at a rate of about one per year, and for some reason they let me keep hanging on.

First article:

Sandman, Vol.1 review. It’s…well, it’s actually painful to go back and read it now.

Favorite article written by me:

I….wow….huh. I’ve actually written a lot more than I thought I had. Looking back, though, I have to say my favorite thing to do was my four-part “Hitchhiker’s Guide” set. Radio, Book, TV & Film. it was fun to follow the same story across mediums like that.

Favorite article not written by me:

My favorite articles are actually episodic series reviews. I like to watch the episodes of things like BSG or Doctor Who and then go back and see what everyone else thought, see if I missed something or maybe picked up on something new. (note: the fact that I’m usually watching these shows a minimum of a week behind – sometimes years – is why you’ll probably never see any TV reviews out of me.)

Biggest surprise:

That I’ve actually posted 44 articles of one kind or another. I’d like to drive that number higher – I’ve got a lot of things I’ve read or watched that I need to put down in electrons, but I never seem to have the time.

Hopes and Dreams for the Future of the Site:

Dreams? That someone will come along and go “wow, these guys are good, everyone come work for us!” and I get to tag along with the rest of the group. But that’s unlikely. My real hope is that the writers hit it big, the journalists make good, and everyone ends up happy. In the meantime…well, posting reviews can be fun. And I’m happy to keep doing so whenever I’m able.


Name:

Matthew Walton

Former username (if applicable):

Eldhrin

Day job:

Software Engineer

How I found Bureau 42:

Via the Slashdot box titled ‘Sci-Fi news’, back when I used to go there every day. I even used to get involved in the comment wars.

Why I became an author:

I felt I could fill in a hole, but I also felt that I wanted to go and write about what I thought about things, partly as a way to solidify them in my own mind. There was also always the thought that it might be cool to get to do a few paid reviews somewhere at some point, but I’ve never pursued that at all. It’s not like I’m looking for a change of career.

First article:

A review of the very first episode of the revived Doctor Who: Rose. I sent in a query asking if they’d like one, and suddenly I was an author and people were expecting me to do the whole series. That’s actually harder than you might think it is.

Favorite article written by me:

I don’t have one. When this question came up I thought about it a lot, and then I thought actually… they’re just reviews. Some of them I don’t even agree with anymore. I write what I think at the time, and maybe that’s a bad thing, but I can’t really sit on something for six months before I post it just in case my opinion changes.

Favorite article not written by me:

It would be impossible to pick one, but my favourites are usually reviews of movies, and often the best ones are reviews of old movies, the kind of thing we do for Halloween. And then there was the Matrix one, no matter the attitude in which it was written, I was nodding along with it at every line thinking ‘yes, that’s actually true’. Sometimes I think I nitpick too much.

Biggest surprise:

That people were reading and commenting on my reviews, although I’m not very good at keeping up with them and replying and defending why I thought something was as it was. Sometimes I’ve read a comment and actually changed my mind, and then thought I should’ve given it a different score, and I just end up very confused.

Hopes and Dreams for the Future of the Site:

I want to do more content. I intend to keep on doing Doctor Who reviews, but I’d like to have more editorial content where we talk about why we think certain things. I liked the idea of the podcast we did for Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, no matter how poor the execution turned out to be. That’s something we have to learn how to do better. I think a good addition to series reviews would be an article at the end looking back and considering how the season went overall, including perhaps any alterations of opinion of earlier episodes after having a few weeks to think about it. I’m also still due a rant on why I stopped reviewing Doctor Who toward the end of Russell T Davies’ tenure as producer.


Name:

Alexander Case

Former username (if applicable):

AceCaseOR

How I found Bureau 42:

I had it as one of my infoboxes on Slashdot.org before I knew what an RSS feed was

First article:

That’s tricky. First article with my byline, or first article I wrote for the site in general? My first article I wrote for the site was a submitted review of the Hellboy Animated film Sword of Storms. Basically, after seeing several submitted articles, and after deciding
that at some point in my life I wanted to get paid for writing reviews of stuff, I decided I just needed to start writing, and in someplace more visible than LiveJournal, even if it was for free. So, I submitted this review, and hoped it would get accepted. It was. I did a few more animated reviews, before finally getting my first byline with my review of Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu! I’ve been writing for the site (particularly about genre anime) ever since. I’ve also slipped in TVTropes.org references in my reviews ever since. ;-)

Favorite article written by me:

As much as I like my review of In The Mouth of Madness, my review of Impact takes the cake, as it’s the worst film ever reviewed on the site. I… kinda had to look into the abyss kinda deep for that review, and I feel slightly impressed that I managed to pull off an Angry Video Game Nerd reference while keeping it psudo-family friendly.

Favorite article not written by me:

I really like Blaine’s Eva Review. Usually, when it comes to discussion of anime, and particular Evangelion, online, the participants are, basically anime fans, coming in with degree of background knowledge of people who know a lot about anime. Consequently, discussion tends to go over the same general points (how it’s a deconstruction of super robot and tokusatsu shows, with an added side of “Shinji is a whiny bitch.”) It was nice to see someone come in with out all that baggage and preconceptions, and it lead to what was for me (as an anime fan) a much more informative review then one I would have gotten from, say, Daryl Surat (Anime World Order/Otaku USA Magazine).

At some point in the future, I wouldn’t mind seeins a review from Blaine of either the Eva Rebuild films (once they’re all out) or Death & Rebirth/End of Evangelion.

Biggest surprise:

That my review of X/1999 Vol. 3 has the most views of any article in the comic category – including our review of Iron Man 2 review.

Hopes and Dreams for the Future of the Site:

I’d love to be able to write for this site full-time and get paid for it. For those who don’t already know, basically all of us who write for the site have day-jobs. This, and the lack of contacts with industry insiders is why we’re not able to provide the same level of coverage as a johnny-come-lately like Io9*. We thus don’t have the resources to pay everyone enough to quit our jobs and move to nameOfCity where we’d have our centralized offices, unless we were got attached to an organization that could pay that kind of money, like, say, Whiskey Media. (hint, hint ;-))

*Friendly teasing


Now, let’s open it up to our readers: how did you first find Bureau 42? What have your favorite articles been? Where would you like to see the site go in the future?