Science Fiction & Fantasy Award Winning Book Group discussion

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message 1: by Joe (new)

Joe (finalblowjoe) | 264 comments Mod
Another self explanatory topic. If there's anything that could make the group more interesting or fun say so here. Also if there's any errors or problems give a shout.


message 2: by Nick (new)

Nick Imrie (nickimrie) | 338 comments Mod
Some thoughts on the group going forward:

It looks like all three of us: Jon, Joe, and me, are interested in keeping the group afloat and doing regular monthly group reads! This is awesome!

Joe, this group is your baby, so you get veto on any of our plans going forward. Let us know how you'd like to proceed. I suggest making it easy to manage by each of us taking it in turns to lead a month: i.e. Joe takes January, Jon February, Me March, Joe April etc. etc. etc.

Leading the group read will just mean

1. making sure the book is properly listed in advance and sending out the odd group message to let members know what's coming up
2. creating the thread for the talk
3. keeping an eye on the thread and respond to people
4. marking it finished at the end of the month.

So long as we are a small group I guess we won't need much more in the way of moderating.

What do you think?


message 3: by Nick (new)

Nick Imrie (nickimrie) | 338 comments Mod
More thoughts on group activites and increasing participation:

(I know both of you have thoughts on this too, so dump them here)

1. Group Reads
I personally find the monthly group read the most interesting part of any group and I like that we all seem to be interested in continuing this.

2. Challenges, Buddy Reads, and Events
For some reason people seem to like these a lot on GR, but I have never done any of them. Do either of you do this kind of stuff, would you be interested in continuing it?

3. Polls, Off-topic threads, side discussions
One side discussion that I think would be interesting would be following the awards that we read. Every year the Hugo, Nebula, Tiptree, etc. have nomination periods and some have voting periods. Would it be interesting to have discussion threads on these as they occur?
I am a bit too lazy to keep an eye on these usually, but if we were interested, I could imagine taking responibility for one or two of the awards, making sure to keep and eye on it, and reporting any interesting developments in the group to stimulate discussion?

I have mixed feelings about whether polls and extra conversations stimulate participation. My feeling is that when a group has enough regular participants then these things are good for the group because they keep people engaged. But when the group is too small, they don't really encourage participation because they're obvious reminders of the group silence. It's quite off-putting to vote in a poll and to find that after a month only two people have voted. You know that if only two people can be bothered to vote then there's not going to be many people in the discussion! Likewise, there's something a bit bleak about a group with multiple discussion threads where the only person commenting is the group moderator and the rest is tumbleweed!

What do you think? And if my theory is correct, what's the minimum number of people to make polls and discussions viable? Or is it better to just start posting polls and hope for further engagement? Start as you mean to go on; fake it til you make it; etc. etc.

4. Increasing Participation and Engagement
I think that most people don't bother to check in regularly on quiet groups, so the most important way to increase participation is to regularly remind the silent members that something is happenening. The two best ways I know to do this are:
a. Making sure the group reads are listed long in advance so that people have lots of time to source a book.
b. Regular group messages so that people can be certain that the group is active.
Any other ideas?

I'm also tentatively against spoiler tags. I'm a big believer in reducing barriers to engagement to the absolute minimum and a thread of text and discussion is just more inviting that a thread of links and clicks. I could be wrong.
In larger groups the best method I have seen for managing discussions is to simulatanteously run *spoiler* and *non-spoiler* threads so that people can post as they go and have an open discussion at the end. But again - that's a tactic for a busier group.

Sorry for the essay! Looking forward to hearing your ideas.


message 4: by Joe (new)

Joe (finalblowjoe) | 264 comments Mod
Nick, regarding your first post that looks completely fine. A loose rotating lead for each month's discussion, with sequels also winning awards following on from each other for example, is ideal and should keep things.

Regarding group activities and participation.

1. Group reads I've always enjoyed so continuing them with a boosted input and the rotating leads as mentioned should help out enormously.

2. As I'm a booktuber I do these sorts of things on my channel in video format but have never taken part in a written format; on here or anywhere else. We could get them to work in various ways although numbers of people, as you mentioned further in that post, is an important factor for that aspect to work well I believe.

3. Off topic threads and side discussions is something I've been thinking about for some time. Discussing the nominations and shortlist for the various awards is something I do, in particular for the Hugo award. I went to the WorldCon in San Jose only a few months ago in August and saw the Hugo ceremony in person and will be going again in 2019 (this time in Dublin). I think it could provide some interesting conversations both before and afterwards. There's always something happening with them just due to the number of people, and their related egos, being involved.

As far as number of people to make things more viable is concerned; I think we could start with some more well known subjects which is easier to discuss due to their history and such. The Hugo award and related subjects immediately springs to mind as as soon as January starts I will begin thinking about and compiling list of possible nominations.

4. Listing books more in advanced is something I haven't managed to do in awhile due to real life things but things have calmed down and the group itself feels like it has a more defined purpose and focus.

As was apparent, I was a fan of using spoiler tags all the time but recently have reconsidered thinking how they just look off-putting quite often in other group environments. I'm thinking of only using spoiler tags when there's a massive plot twist involved in some way that makes you reconsider events earlier in the book.


message 5: by Nick (new)

Nick Imrie (nickimrie) | 338 comments Mod
Joe wrote: "1. Group reads I've always enjoyed so continuing them with a boosted input and the rotating leads as mentioned should help out enormously."

Excellent! I'm glad we've got something to act as our 'base activity' for the group.

Joe wrote: " think we could start with some more well known subjects which is easier to discuss due to their history and such. The Hugo award and related subjects immediately springs to mind as as soon as January starts I will begin thinking about and compiling list of possible nominations.."

This is a good idea. When that thread opens up, I'll post a couple of the GR lists of 'eligible for Hugo nominations'. Those are well worth debating.

Joe wrote: " I went to the WorldCon in San Jose only a few months ago in August and saw the Hugo ceremony in person and will be going again in 2019 (this time in Dublin)."

Oh, I'm envious! I seriously considered going to Dublin; it's the closest Worldcon will get to me for a long time, but in the end I couldn't quite justify the expense to myself. Fingers crossed for London 2023. I hope you have a marvelous time and keep us updated!


message 6: by Jon (new)

Jon | 346 comments Mod
First off, rotating the lead works for me. I'm looking forward to doing it for the first time.

1. Group Reads - yes as previously mentioned this should remain our core activity.

2. Challenges, Buddy Reads, and Events - I agree that as a small group these aren't really productive but that could change if participation increases. On a personal level I like the idea of a challenge just because I like checking boxes and lists. I think the challenge might be useful in some way for reading the series on the lists. I'm thinking of Robinson's 'Mars' books and Vinge's 'Zones of Thought' books specifically but I know there are others. Not sure we would want to read the 'Mars' books in four consecutive months? I know Joe has already read these but... Not sure how a challenge would work with this but it might be something to think about.

3. Polls, Off-topic threads, side discussions - I'm hoping new threads and discussions will start to happen organically. I'm split on the poll - half of me thinks people like them and once they participate they might have some buy-in, the other half thinks people see them and just roll their eyes. I do think they increase participation when you already have participation, I just don't know how useful they are in creating/starting it.

4. Increasing Participation and Engagement -
a. - agreed
b. - agreed
Nick and I picking up some of the work here should make it easier for Joe so he doesn't have to do it all by himself.

Spoilers - I'm probably the last person who should talk about spoilers since they've never bothered me in the slightest. But I do know that people will die on this hill as the saying goes. I'm fine with just doing spoiler threads as long as we acknowledge that in the heading. And if it's your month to lead and you want both then just set up both. But just having a spoiler thread at this point is fine with me. There probably will be books that should have both though. I think that Nick's favorite read from this year, The Fifth Season, would have to have a non-spoiler thread as many readers thought there was a major twist in that book.

I'm really upset that I missed Worldcon this year as it was only a few hours drive from where I live but life got in the way. Dublin's on the table as a family vacation next year so who knows I might be able to meet Joe in person.


message 7: by Nick (new)

Nick Imrie (nickimrie) | 338 comments Mod
Jon wrote: "On a personal level I like the idea of a challenge just because I like checking boxes and lists. I think the challenge might be useful in some way for reading the series on the lists."

Cool, if you want to lead a challenge that I'd be happy to make sure that I join in - especially if it's Robinson's Mars trilogy, which I loved as a teenager and I haven't read in years. It's definitely time for a re-read.


message 8: by Joe (new)

Joe (finalblowjoe) | 264 comments Mod
Current thoughts are:
Start the year off with a few well known and liked book choices to get things going.
January's book - Perdido Street Station by China Mieville (I've been wanting to reread this for some time now)
February's book - Red Mars as Jon wants to read these, led by Jon him too
March - Nick's choice

Also a thought regarding series. Should be do a side monthly read occasionally when the current books warrant it? I'm thinking of, for example, Perdido Street Station and Iron Council which both won awards but the second Bas Lag book, The Scar, didn't. An accompanying group read for books like that, maybe even over a longer time period; say two months. Thoughts?


message 9: by Nick (new)

Nick Imrie (nickimrie) | 338 comments Mod
I'm definitely in favour of reading books that are part of a series, even if they didn't win any of our awards.

If the 2nd or 3rd book won an award, I'm happy to read them as part of the main monthly read. For example, I'd quite like to do Green Mars for March, since it also won a Hugo and comes right after Red Mars.


message 10: by Jon (new)

Jon | 346 comments Mod
I've been looking forward to getting to Perdido Street Station so starting the year with that sounds great. I'll happily do Red Mars in February and then if Nick wants to do Green Mars that works for me too!

I do think we should read all the books in a series as group reads. Whether we read the non-award winners as the main group read or as a secondary read doesn't matter to me. I can think of pros and cons for both. If we do decide to do them as secondary reads I do like the idea of doing them over a two month time period. For example, Joe starts with Perdido Street Station in Jan, he also starts The Scar in Feb and it runs through March, I pick Red Mars in Feb, Nick picks Green Mars in March, back to Joe who picks Iron Council for April, I follow up with Blue Mars in May and Nick starts something new in June. I'm not saying this is what we should do, this is just an example of how I could see it happening.

Since we're talking about series how quickly should we try to get through them? Play it by ear?


message 11: by Nick (new)

Nick Imrie (nickimrie) | 338 comments Mod
I like your suggested schedule, Jon, and I agree with it!

I'm impatient, so I always want to read the next one in the series as soon as I finished the one before - and I like to complete what I've started! E.g. After I read The Knife of Never Letting Go I immediately checked out the rest of the series and finished it.

Funnily enough though, I don't know if I'd recommend always reading the whole series in the group. I enjoyed The Knife of Never Letting Go - but it was pretty basic YA - worth reading to check it off the 'award winners' list, but the whole series wasn't really worth reading as group. There's not a lot there that's interesting to talk about.

That's maybe beside the point, but in general I think that's it's worth reading things fairly quickly. It's good to read the next book while the first book is fresh in your mind - if a book has a 3 month reading period, and you reads it in the first few days but no-one else reads it for 2 months, then there's a good chance you will have forgotten the details by the time everyone else reads it!


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