Round Tables and Discussions
by Don Webb
Rachel Parsons asks a good question about an occasional Department of ours. The particular reference was to the Discussion in issue 345 about Mark Twain’s article. Rachel had posted comments in the Forum and wondered how one gets invited to a “round table.” My explanation tried to touch all the bases, and we agreed it might be of interest to readers generally.
I don’t lift anything verbatim from the Forum unless the writer asks me to. It’s something of a rule: for example, on rare occasions contributors have suggested I take material from their personal websites. I’ll take photos, once I have permission, but I’m very reluctant to copy text. Who knows: the author may want to make updates. E-mailing me text saves a lot of steps.
A round table and a discussion are two different things:
A round table is an organized, prearranged conversation. The participants are all invited, and they reply to each others’ e-mails.
We have had two or three true “round tables” in years past. We didn’t organize them, they were volunteered from outside. The participants were unknown to BwS, but the topics seemed interesting.
Come to think of it, we did try to have a round table on poetry a few years ago. I don’t recall offhand what happened to it. Round tables are often hard to follow, and they may need a surprising amount of editing.
Discussions are not planned; they occur spontaneously when two or more people send in an opinion on the same subject at the same time. There are no invitations, and participation is open-ended.
The participants address the same topic independently rather than reply to each other. The only interaction is mine, if I participate, because I try to tie everything up in a conclusion.
What happens if someone sends in a commentary that happens to be the only one on a particular topic? It may appear in The Challenge, The Critics’ Corner or the Letters department. As long as the message meets our guidelines, stays on topic, and adds something interesting, it stands a good chance.
But I can’t make any promises: the Forum is automatic and moderated; Departments are edited, like the rest of the issue. A message that’s well-suited to the Forum may be of less interest in a regular issue. Or maybe it’ll be the other way around; a lot depends on circumstances.
Remember that anything in Bewildering Stories — from issue 1 on — is open to discussion. To round tables? If anyone would like to organize one and it seems successful, we’d probably be interested.
Copyright © 2009 by Don Webb for Bewildering Stories