Science Fiction

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Choosing Meeting Topics

We have experimented with a variety of ways of choosing meeting topics over the years. Our objective is to make the process both fair and efficient. We tinker with the process regularly so if you have suggestions to improve it, please say so.

When Are Topics Chosen?

At present, topics for the regularly scheduled SFL meetings are chosen by means of regular planning meetings, which take place during the Club Business portion of our June and December monthly meetings. At the June meeting, we choose the topics which will be presented from the following September through February, inclusive. At the December meeting, we choose the topics which will be presented from the following March through August, inclusive.

What Topics Can Be Chosen?

The topics which we discuss are typically books or movies from the Science Fiction or Fantasy genres. We also have "theme" meetings on occasion: instead of discussing a specific book, we discuss a theme like "The Future of Space Travel" or "The Writing of Olaf Stapledon". One past meeting involved a science fiction quiz. On another occasion, we played a game of Dungeons and Dragons. We like to think that we are flexible enough to try something different so we will entertain suggestions for other forms of meetings and other ways to look at a topic.

Many of our members take our meetings very seriously and consider the meeting a highlight of their month. As a result, they are quite unhappy when a bad topic is chosen. We've all had the experience of trying a book or film or TV series simply on the basis of favourable comments, perhaps from a critic or an acquaintance, and then being deeply disappointed. By the same token, we've probably all revisited a book, film or TV series that we enjoyed as a child or teen only to find it disappointing (or worse) as an adult. Therefore, rather than relying on the recommendations of others or our own distant memories, we now require that people proposing a meeting topic have some recent familiarity with the topic that they are proposing. Therefore, if you want to propose a book, we insist that you have read it (or some major portion of it) recently. If you want to propose a film, we insist that you've actually seen the film yourself, recently. If you want to propose a TV series, we insist that you have seen some significant number of episodes of the series recently. If you want to propose a look back at a given author, we insist that you've recently read at least some of the books by that author. To put it another way, it's fine to propose something you enjoyed as a child but be sure to read or view your proposed topic again BEFORE proposing it as a Science Fiction London meeting topic. This is to ensure that you still think it is a worthy topic and that it offers good scope for discussion.

How Are Proposals Made?

Topic proposals should be submitted at least several days in advance of the topic selection meeting. This enables everyone to get familiar with the proposals before the topic selection meeting. It also ensures that we don't need to verify the availability of the book, film or series during the meeting itself. The forms used to submit the topic proposals are elsewhere on this page and are available all day, every day of the year, so there is no reason for not using them to make proposals. If you have trouble using the forms for some reason, contact our webmaster or ask any other member of the club for assistance with the forms.

We will only accept topic proposals during the topic selection meeting itself if there are not at least six proposals submitted via the forms.

Club members can submit as many proposals as they like but the proposer should prioritize them in their own mind so that their favourite suggestions can be considered first. Our goal is to get as many people proposing topics as possible so that everyone has a chance to get some of their favourite books, films, and TV series considered.

What Is the Selection Process?

When the topic selection meeting begins, the number of proposals from the forms are counted. If there are at least six proposals, those proposals are written on the whiteboard and nominations are closed. If there are fewer than six proposals, we go around the room requesting additional proposals from those who haven't yet made a proposal. We go around the room as many times as necessary to get at least six proposals, always completing each circuit of the room to ensure that everyone gets an equal chance to make a proposal. At that point, the list is complete and nominations are closed.

The people who have proposed a topic each deliver a brief synopsis of the topic they are proposing so that everyone has some basis for deciding if they think that it would make an interesting topic. In each case, the topic should satisfy all of the following criteria:

  • Someone in the club must be willing and able to present the topic. The presenter and the proposer can be different people. Either an individual or a group of individuals can present the topic. The presenter(s) can make the presentation "in person" or remotely.
  • The work (book, movie, or whatever) is "readily available". The criteria necessary to be considered "readily available" are covered in some detail on these pages: Availability of Books and Availability of Films. For proposals made via the forms, the proposer must verify the availability of the work prior to the planning session and indicate they have done so on the form. For proposals made at the meeting, availability must be verified at the meeting itself. Verifying the availability of books and films takes at least a few minutes per topic, which really slows down the topic selection process, so we strongly prefer proposals that are made in advance of the meeting.
  • The topic should be one which has not been presented recently at SFL, where "recently" is defined as within the past 24 months. Exceptions to this rule may be made if the presenter can convince the members that he or she has a new and different approach to the work than that which was seen in the last SFL discussion of the work in question.

After the list has been pared down by means of the conditions above, members decide which of the topics on the list will be presented in the coming meetings. Typically, we vote with a show of hands to determine the most appealing topics and then schedule the most popular topics into the available meeting slots. Each person can cast a single vote for each of the topics that they think are most worthwhile. The six topics with the most votes are selected to be presented. In the event of ties, runoff votes are held.

How Can Topics Be Proposed Prior to Planning Sessions?

Any active member of the club wishing to propose meeting topics prior to the semi-annual planning sessions can do so via the following forms:

Please note that if you want to do two related topics, such as the book and movie versions of a given story, you will need to complete one form for each of the related topics. In that case, please put a check in the box that asks whether you have a related topic on both of the forms that you complete. That will help us remember that there are two related topics to be considered together.

You can see a list of all topic proposals which are pending for discussion at the next topic selection session.