The History of JamesAxler.com
So first of all, who am I? My name is Ron Miles, and I am the proprietor of this website. I oversee every aspect of the domain, from running the website and moderating the forums to writing the software modules and database back end design to keep it up and running. How did I end up in this position? Well, as they say, therein lies a tale...
Back in the mid- 1990's there were basically three websites on the 'net of any substance dedicated to Deathlands and James Axler. First and foremost, there was the Deathlands Web Survival Guide created by Chris Van Deelen . It contained a comprehensive guide to all of the characters, locations, and other information related to the Deathlands series. Then there was the Deathlands Chronology created by Alex Madison. It featured a complete timeline of all the events described in the Deathlands (and later Outlanders) series of books. Finally, there was my original website - Overproject Whisper.
Overproject Whisper began as a final project in a college HTML class I was taking. I cast about looking for some kind of topic to build a website around, and I realized that while Chris' site was a great resource for the world of James Axler (or the Axlerverse, as many like to call it), and Alex' site had a fantastic timeline, neither of those sites contained complete information about the actual publication history of the books. I started reading Deathlands with the 19th book in the series, Deep Empire. The first thing I did was try to find the first 18 books, but while the titles were listed in the front of the book there was no other information. Thus, Overproject Whisper was born. It was designed to be detailed bibliography of all the books in the series, with information on publication dates, ISBN numbers, cover prices, etc. It is worth noting that I got an A in that college class I was building it for.
Around a year after I put up the website, on a whim I checked to see if anybody owned the jamesaxler.com domain. As it turns out, it was available. I went ahead and registered the domain, figuring that if Gold Eagle sent me a Cease and Desist order I would only be out a few bucks for the cost of the registration. That letter never came. I then sent emails to both Chris and Alex and suggested to them that the contents of our sites were very complimentary, in that none of us had much in the way of overlapping content. I suggested that we combine forces under the JamesAxler.com domain, and they both agreed.
I don't know what ever happened to Alex, but Chris continued to update his section of the website for several years. He also created a new website, the Outlander Archives, in support of the then-new Outlanders series and also set up a message board that went through several incarnations before eventually landing here under the JamesAxler.com umbrella.
In 2003 version 3 of JamesAxler.com appeared. Where previously the entire website was a set of individual html files that all had to be maintained by hand, JA.com v3 was built using the PHP-Nuke framework. The book section was maintained using a database back end that I built from scratch and run by a PHP module that I also built from the ground up. Shortly after that I also added the Reviews feature that allowed registered users to post reviews for all of the books. JamesAxler.com went from being an amatuer website to being a reasonbly professional looking site with much more interactive content for the users.
Still, after time that original database structure began to show some weaknesses. When GraphicAudio started publishing audio versions of the books I had a very difficult time integrating them into the website. I also had problems with cases where multiple authors were associated to a single book (the Deathlands "collector's edition" of Encounter being a strong case in point). Combined with that was the fact that in my day job I program entirely in C# and ASP.Net, and making the context switch to PHP in order to work on the website was, at the very least, inconvenient. By the end of 2006 I made the decision to move the website to the DotNetNuke platform, which would allow me to work in my preferred programming language.
I spent most of 2007 working on the new website design, starting with a completely redesigned database structure. I spent several months just working on a method to migrate all of the existing users, forum posts, books, and book reviews over to the new website. Then I spent several more months working on the new module to display all of the book data. The new design would allow me to associate any number of contributors to a book, with the flexibility of creating any contributor type I wanted. In addition to authors, the new version would let me associate the cover artist, the voice actors and production crew who worked on the audio books, and any other contributor who comes along.
In the summer of 2011 version 5 of JamesAxler.com appeared. This was primarily a redesign of site's look and feel, moving to a wider content area and a little bit cleaner look overall. I also debuted a new weekly blog called PostApocalyptica, dedicated to the Apocalyptic genre in film, television, and literature.
The possibilites for growth are endless, and I am very excited. Of course, over time I am sure I will discover new limitations of my current design, and I suppose that somewhere around 2015 I will begin pondering JamesAxler.com v6. In the meantime, thank you for visiting my website. I hope you enjoy it, and I welcome any feedback you may have to offer.
- Ron Miles (a.k.a. Lokheed)