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Why THP Needs a Book Club Thread, Or: Stories Need Re-Telling

In my year-end post, I brought up the Site Events Discussion Thread that I started sometime last year. As you may well know by now, I have some mixed feelings about the efficacy of the thread itself. A few things have been brought up there that haven't particularly produced smooth or even continuous discussions. Three or four months ago, one of them was, as with the first bit of discussion, brought up by me. That hasn't really gone anywhere and some reflection has made me think that perhaps people haven't quite understood what I'm going for. At the very least, I'm not sure I've managed to give any sense of what such a community action might accomplish. You know, of course, by the title that I'm referring to the idea of a THP Book Club.

So, I should probably start from the point of: what in dinkum is a book club? At an organisational level, it's simply a circle of people who meet up at (ideally) regular intervals. They all read the same book, gather, and discuss what they've gleaned from it. How they go about that can vary, of course, but most tend to be simple informal discussion groups. In some ways, they're as much social groups as they are hobby gatherings. Still, a want for appreciating literature is needed to have some lasting tie to one, I'd think. The point is not simply reading but passing ideas through one's own filters, sharing them with others, and seeing in turn how others experience the same thing. This is in some ways how ongoing stories are theoretically supposed to be on THP, though they're hardly so focused in practise when it comes to discussion; in general, it's hard to tell if voters even acknowledge each other's comments much of the time. That's why I feel a bit of purposeful, guided dialogue could be a good thing for a THP story.

As to how such a thing would run on a practical level, I think simple is probably best. We pick a story that everybody can be reasonably happy with and pick a day to assemble. Before that day, we all read the same section of the story. On the appointed day, we discuss whatever's on our minds after reading the section, focusing on things we weren't expecting, things we found interesting, things we felt could have been better, things we noticed, and so on. The cycle continues until we reach the end of the story. I suppose we could propose and vote on another story if anyone feels like doing another one, but I won't consider this proposal more than a trial run at this point.

Now, a word on criteria for picking stories. I've already named this in the Site Events Discussion Thread, but I'll repeat here: I think that any story taken up should be a) complete, b) no more than a small handful of threads long, and c) not one of the immensely popular stories. Thus, that leaves out many oft-cited stories like The Game, Being Meiling, etc. Part of the reason for the last bit of criteria is because I think those stories have been discussed enough on THP and elsewhere. There's also the matter of many of them being fairly long, at least ten threads or more in a lot of cases. That's simply too long for something that we're essentially trying on. As for being complete, well, it's just easier to have something to say about a story that has gone from beginning to end, isn't it?

I did have a story in mind at one point, but the author has said they wouldn't participate if it was chosen, so I've scrapped that idea. At this point, I don't have anything in particular in mind. That's probably the biggest part of why I'd like some discussion on-site about this project. If nobody can agree on a story — to say nothing of even basic interest in the idea itself — then I don't think there's going to be much progress made, which would be disappointing.

What's the point of all this? Promotion. Yes, we're technically talking about promoting old stories, but what's wrong with that? If we're talking about stories, it gets them into the front of any casual observer's minds. Maybe that gets them reading, which could further inspire some other activity. There's no real telling, but there's also no sense in not trying it on. The key to getting others to read things has always been, by and large, talking about them. I know discussion isn't first-nature to a lot of THP, so a bit of a semi-formal framework to things ought to help, I feel. The real question is one of willingness.

At this point, this is all still in the early stages. What I would like people to do is to register their interest in the Site Events Discussion Thread. Let's set a modest goal of, say, five people. If any fewer deign to participate, then I suppose it's not worth doing. So, if you're interested, say so. Make proposals for stories while you're at it. This little venture is something I'd love to get off the ground for the sake of community activity, but the community needs to come out of the woodwork first.

By the way, if you've read this and still don't understand or have reservations, say so, either in the discussion thread for this blog, the Site Events Discussion Thread, or to me directly by my e-mail on the front page. I'd really love to hear some feedback on anything I could be doing better.