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John Howe
Artist: John Howe

The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.

— J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings

Like the eloquent hobbit who composed those verses, I am going on another adventure — and leaving something powerful behind.

After 13 years of working at the East Valley Tribune, and more than four years of writing and editing this blog, I am leaving to become head of online operations for the Pueblo Chieftain, a newspaper in southern Colorado.

Nerdvana is not going with me, but neither am I leaving it completely.

I created this blog because I wanted to add a dork side to the Tribune’s online entertainment coverage. As an Arizona native, I knew the East Valley — really, the whole Valley and state as well — has as geeky side that runs deep, a love for pop culture and the sci-fi and fantasy genres that has spawned a thriving convention circuit and cultivated a vast community of creative personalities who call it home.

Nerdvana attracted a cult following quickly, but I really knew it had connected with people when Wired magazine’s GeekDad blog named my Twitter persona one of  “100 geeks you should be following” on that social network. Similar honors followed, as well as awards from Arizona journalists. It encouraged me to continue.

So in my spare time, really, I covered all of it that I could, and even experienced the thrill of breaking a story or two. It wasn’t all fun and games: I watched a local company struggle to bring a globally anticipated Stargate video game adaptation to market and, ultimately, fail, and more recently covered the demise of a nationally known Valley institution, Atomic Comics — and the rise of a onetime competitor and, now, successor making its first foray into the East Valley. Stories like these prepared me to dabble in small-business reporting (I fear I may be forever known around the Tribune office now as “the doughnut reporter”) and a weekly column and editorial oversight for a time over the Tribune’s Money pages. It’s fun to stretch yourself by trying different things.

What the future holds for Nerdvana is unclear, yet I’m confident it will remain a hub for pop culture fanatics. There is a great cadre of core contributors, both on staff and in the community: international superspy couple Emily and Pax Whitmore, movie junkie Dustin Diehl, comics guru-emeritus Chris “KeL” Adams, Arizona convention insider Lee Whiteside and recent recruit Tom Kuipers. And I still live in hope of coaxing co-founder Scott Kirchhofer back into the fold one day … but I encourage anyone who wants to unleash their inner fanboy or -girl to join the team and become a contributor. Nerdvana needs you to keep the community alive.

I won’t be a stranger, either — they’ll have to pry this blog from my cold, undead hands. The Nerdvana Calendar will remain active, aggregating events from nerd hotspots around the Valley as well as events of my own curation. And I’ll continue to share interesting items from time to time, both on this blog and through the established Facebook, Twitter and YouTube channels — just try and stop me.

But the last few years have brought growing responsibilities that made it more difficult to devote the time to Nerdvana that I have in the past, and my little blog was joined in the blogosphere by powerful forces like Jonathan Simon’s Lightning Octopus, which energized the geek community like no one else had in years. Embrace them, and support them with contributions of your own. One of my only regrets is that I was only able to focus mostly on preview coverage of local events to bring them to your attention, rather than getting out there and enjoying more of them for myself.

Next August will be Nerdvana’s fifth anniversary, and before my new path materialized in front of me I had been in the early stages of planning a special event for the occasion that would celebrate the East Valley’s geek community. I had tentatively named this event NerdvanaCon — not to honor this blog, but to bring together many of the creative forces that inspired it and thank those who had supported it throughout the years. That’s still something I would like to see happen, if the community wants it to.

But even if that doesn’t come to pass, I expect Nerdvana to be a force to be reckoned with, and I’ll rest easy knowing that it will live on in various forms, in the partnerships it has formed and the people it has reached.

Jayson Peters

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