Vulpes Libris

A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.

The Tuesday Alternative: A Fight Broke Out On the Way to the Forum

romanforumA side-ways look at everything Book, Blog and Word.

It used to be all you needed was a quill-pen, some paper and ink (possibly your own pile of bricks and mortar and a private income) and away you could go – penning a masterpiece for posterity.

Now, with writers  blogging, Twittering, Facebooking etc, the image of the solitary writer is not quite as it was.  It’s amazing most writers find the time and energy to write at all with all the distractions valid tools with which to gab on interface with readers.

One of the big rises in recent years has been the rise of the internet forum. There is the writing forum – where groups of writers – unpublished and published – congregate to try and negotiate the slings and arrows of the publishing industry. There are also reading forums – where readers obsessed with particular characters, books or periods of time get together to discuss their favourite books or characters. And there are mixtures of the two – where people avidly discuss their favourite books characters and then dash off a bit of fan fiction where they do various disgusting things to each other. (Those rumours about Spock and Kirk still haunt me.)

Whether your forum is 17th century literature or “John Donne 4 Eva”, the ebb and flow of your relationship with your forum will generally follow the same path. So, whether you are a forum novice or a bitter old hand, here are the stages your love affair will follow:

First Love

You encounter the forum for the first time. Where had it been all your life? You are soul-mates, lovers, you want to get married, have children. It’s only been three days but hell, you’ve never felt like this before. You walk around in a dream. No-one in real life understands you. They don’t care. You and your new forum can’t take your eyes off each other, or at least off the keyboard.

The Early Days

Things are still pretty hot between you. You and your forum are still full of energy and excitement. It’s the best thing ever. Your life will never be the same. You encourage everyone you know to join:  friends, relations, complete strangers on the street.

You move in

Did you ever meet more supportive people? People who seem to care about your progress, with whom you can share the highs and lows? Real soul-mates who understand the unique tortures of the writing or submitting process? (Or the reading about 17th century literature process…) The relationship seems more level, grown-up, mature. You all know where you are headed and sit down together to draw up lists, share advice, plan for the future…

The cracks begin to show

Small habits start to annoy you. People say the same old things, some have their own agendas, the same old conversations. Threads go round and round without end. Like a irritating partner, you find yourself irrationally irritated by the smallest of things: mentions of The Rules perhaps, someone correcting your grammar. Tiny things start flame-wars of ridiculous proportions. Everyone is being insensitive, unsupportive, uncaring of your aims. No one knows you at all! They don’t care. How can they say that??? Again??? When they KNOW how you’ve been feeling lately

And then

The Breakup Groups and allegiances form, a huge fight comes out of nowhere like a twister, leading half the populace to be carried off in the whirlwind. Several people storm off in a huff. Scared of being left out you figure you’d better storm off too…

Storming Off

There are few things more embarrassing than storming off a forum. (And I should know, having farcically stormed off one particular forum a ridiculous number of times.) How do you do it for a start – in the absense of satisfying doors to slam and the ability to crash around sulkily (but being heard) for the rest of the day? On a forum, once you’re gone, you’re just gone. There is no way to remind people you are still lurking, hurt and angry unless you start doing embarrassing things like nipping back under the name “Account Closed” to remind them …

Nipping back under the name “Account Closed” to remind them.

Ok, not the best plan. It doesn’t look good and where will it stop? This can go on … and on … and on … until some kind friend/partner/psychotherapist persuades you it’s not the best course of action and locks you off the internet.

On a break

You try flirting a bit with other websites, the odd one night stand with “Andrew Marvell Rocks” but it isn’t the same. Then, one day, whilst browsing about, you find you come across your old favourite, your eyes meet over the menu browser and you feel you heart go thud.

Slinking back

You feel a bit self-conscious, particularly when you  slink back through the backdoor trying to pretend that a couple of days before you weren’t flouncing off, slamming the metaphorical door behind you.

“Oh hello” you say, offering your views on plot structures and hoping no one will notice your low-key entrance as you slope in at the back and hang about with your hands in your pockets. What me? Storming off? Over, what was it again? Someone calling me a Literary Nazi, was it? Or was it low-brow populist commercial sell-out? Can’t remember now. Ha! Hey I’m cool, man, cool. Anyone want to discuss synopsi? No? Oh well then … What about a bit of Donne doing Marvell fanfic?

That’s more like it!


This will be the last Tuesday Alternative for a while.

*The beautiful picture of a Roman Forum is courtesey of Rickydavid on Flickr, reproduced under the Creative Commons license.

10 comments on “The Tuesday Alternative: A Fight Broke Out On the Way to the Forum

  1. Hilary
    March 17, 2009

    ! You’ve been spying on my life! Not that I’ve ever had the courage to Flounce, but I have been a ‘flounce-ee’ in my time. No, I have never called anyone a literary Nazi, but I’m sure I’ve been believed to have done. Ah, the power of ‘suggestio veri’. This is about the most perfect description I’ve ever seen of online life as I know it. Thank you for making me laugh!

  2. Moira
    March 17, 2009

    That is too entirely true to be funny. I’m not laughing. Really, I’m not.

    Signed: Bitter Old Hand.

  3. Jackie
    March 17, 2009

    This is embarrassingly accurate & as usual, amusing. Will miss your posts while you’re absent & await your return.
    What a striking photo, too!

  4. rosyb
    March 17, 2009

    I’m glad you pointed out the photo, Jackie. It’s just beautiful, isn’t it? Making me yearn for a holiday though.

    When it comes to forums I think we’ve all been here. Or there. And although they are idiosyncratic things – more and more writers seem to be on them. And more and more readers. They create a unique world of their own. Good and bad, as everything…

  5. Christine
    March 18, 2009

    I don’t do the writing ones, just the reading ones and you know of what you speak! Personally, it is the irritated “where did you come from and why are you posting in this (public) forum?” responses that nearly always tick me off. If you want a private club, form a private club! Don’t invite all and sundry and then get annoyed when they show up!

    Fortunately, in my favorite, the mod polishes a cactus pot . . .

  6. Christine
    March 18, 2009

    By the way, Rosyb, I hope your alternative to the Tuesday Alternative is an entertaining one! I’ve enjoyed your posts.

  7. rosyb
    March 18, 2009

    Ah Christine. Thank you so much. The Tuesday Alternative is taking a break, but it is not over yet…oh no! It will be back.

  8. Lisa
    March 18, 2009

    Scarily accurate, Rosy. *Shudders*

    And of course, there’s always those terrible occasions when you’re asked to leave a forum. The sort of slip-up when you’ve patiently endured natural enemies for months and you finally flip and advise people to ‘f***ing well f*** off.’ Those situation seems to result in pretty swift invitations to leave.

  9. Sam
    March 18, 2009

    Very funny!!

  10. Poppy
    April 25, 2009

    Oooh – just come across this. Mmmm. Yep. Very funny and very true. And then what Lisa said. I never actually got to that stage of being asked to leave, but would have done sooner or later. . .

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This entry was posted on March 17, 2009 by in Entries by Rosy, The Tuesday Alternative and tagged , , , , .



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  • (The header image is from Aesop's Fables, illustrated by Francis Barlow (1666), and appears courtesy of the Digital and Multimedia Center at the Michigan State University Libraries.)
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