The tale of two literary forums

If you were out on the Internet in the 1980s, you probably remember that CompuServe was a major ISP, providing e-mail and forums for millions of users. In those days, almost every hi-tech company, whether hardware or software, had a forum staffed in part by representatives of the company to help people with bugs, usage issues, and other information. In addition to these forums, CompuServe also maintained forums for pets, religion, political discussions, hobbies, and literature.

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The forums all provided discussions in threads–originally in a DOS/non-graphic mode–that looked sort of like the outline-style comments on many blogs as well as on Facebook posts. As CompuServe (which became part of AOL) lost market share over time, these forums dwindled in number so that on December 14th when the remaining forums were shut down by CompuServe’s parent (a Verizon subsidiary), there were relatively few forums left compared to the old lineup.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, I was a regular participant on CompuServe’s Literary Forum. That name was later changed to Books and Writers. Those who participated in the forum in those days had a rare treat, seeing the birth of now-bestselling author Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series. In those days, she was a very active participant and helped many of us get our start in the writing business. She answered questions from everything from craft issues to publication and promotion issues. While her active participation seemed reduced to me due to her busier schedule, she was still on the forum when CompuServe pulled the plug this month.

Like many early participants, I was lured away from the forum by the more cutting-edge software at MySpace and then Facebook. Also, the software at CompuServe’s forums changed so that when you replied to a comment, your reply was no longer posted beneath the message you were responding to, but at the end of the thread. For me, that made navigation a punishing task. Plus, many of the people I knew there when I was a regular had drifted away, and so I had less incentive to go there as fewer and fewer people knew me. My personal opinion was that the staff had become a bit heavy handed, though others didn’t see it that way.

Now, there are two forums to choose from

  1. The management of the former CompuServe forum, that is to say, the forum’s contract holder and the staff members (called Sysops and Section Leaders) changed the name back to Literary Forum. You can find it here: http://www.thelitforum.com/
  2. Meanwhile, a group of former-participants at the CompuServe forum who disagreed with various of the forum’s policies, started its own Literary Forum. You can find it here: https://forumania.com/      This screen is a landing page for multiple forums, one of which is Literary Forum with a button to click on to go to the forum.

Both forums are new. So there are probably software issues still to be worked out. The first forum listed here has more posts because they apparently were able to bring over posts from CompuServe. The Forumania Literary Forum doesn’t have a fan base and has fewer discussions to involve yourself with. I am a participant in both forums, but have a strong preference for the new Literary forum on Forumania.

Both forums require you to create an account if you want to respond to posts or start your own threads. Both are free. Both forums offer sections (groupings of threads) that will appeal to many readers and writers. There are discussions of current books, genres, the writing craft, and promotional matters.

I invite you to look at each of them, learn how they are organized, and see if you can find a niche there that fits your preferences for talking about the books you’re reading and/or the books you’re writing and promoting. Unfortunately, neither forum has been able for afford software that places responses to threads in the order they’re posted. I figure that if Facebook and WordPress can display responses in an outline form, everyone ought to be able to do it–and CompuServe knew how to do it decades ago. So navigation isn’t as user friendly at either place as it is at other websites.

However, I received a lot of writing help and inspiration at the original Literary Forum when I was starting out. Perhaps you’ll find this kind of help at one of these literary forums as well. They are worth the time and effort and a good place to make some new online friends.

–Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of magical realism, paranormal, and contemporary fantasy novels and short stories, many from Thomas-Jacob Publishing.

 

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7 thoughts on “The tale of two literary forums

      1. My husband had had a Compuserve account since the 80s, but I wasn’t interested in computers at all. After reading Dragonfly In Amber, I asked John if it was possible to find Diana’s email address there, and he did. I wrote her a fan email and was delighted by her response later the very same day. It was that that found me browsing the Literary forum and eventually giving the exercises a try. I remember hitting the send key and wondering what the heck had I done, since I’d never written much prose. I panicked. But then I started to get some wonderful responses and constructive criticism… the rest, as they say is history. Without that forum, I would’ve missed out on some amazing friendships and I wouldn’t have the poetry books out in the world.

  1. “The first forum listed here has more posts because they apparently were able to bring over posts from CompuServe.”

    Actually no. Every post is new. There are still some copyright issues at large and so although many of us copied some of our posts from the old forum it is for personal use. We can’t publish them on the new forum.

    ” Unfortunately, neither forum has been able for afford software that places responses to threads in the order they’re posted.”

    I’m not sure what this means. http://www.thelitforum.com/ are all in the order they are posted. Clicking view new posts gives you the most recent posts in the threads in chronological order.

    I think having two places to discuss writing and literature is never a bad thing. Hopefully it will draw more people in to the wonderful world that is literary forums. Yes, it was sad to lose thirty years of history, though. I weep, but hooray for all the people who worked so hard to make these forums happen.

    1. Thanks for the update, Julie. I had read about copyright issues and didn’t know if individuals had copied and pasted posts (which they own) into the new forum or not. I do know they can’t copy entire threads.

      Yes, the posts appear in the order they’re posted on both forms. However, I think you were around on CompuServe’s forum years ago. If so, you probably remember that every reply appeared beneath the post it replied to so that the thread ended up like an outline. Comments on WordPress and Facebook display this way (up to a point). It’s much easier to navigate than putting all the replies at the end of the thread.

      I always wondered why the CompuServe forums years ago had the technical ability to place posts and replies next to each other in the thread and then suddenly they changed the software to something harder to use. Today, I guess, WordPress and Facebook can afford the programming which still does that, while neither of the new literary forums have the money to make that happen.

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