A few weeks ago I was contacted by a freelance features writer who wanted to ask me a few questions about the new book club that I set up and about book clubs in general. The answers that made it into her piece can be viewed here but I enjoyed writing all of the answers so I thought I’d post all of the answers in full.
Hope you enjoy. Please let me know in the comments if you agree or disagree with any of my answers.
Q. Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg, has rather dramatically announced 2015 is “the year of books” and started a Facebook book club. What is your opinion of this?
A. Anything that encourages more reading and discussion can only be a good thing. Zuckerberg said he wants to move more from a “media diet towards reading books”. A book club is the best way of doing this as it causes you to engage more critically with what you’re reading because you know you’ll have to articulate your thoughts to others.
Q. What major differences do you think there are between online and in person book clubs?
A. I have tried both and there is something really magical about a meeting people face-to-face that is lacking from an online discussion. When meeting in person you express what you think, get immediate feedback and then hear from others who might have a completely different perspective. The debates, agreements and arguments that result create an amazing atmosphere that is really hard to replicate online.
Q. What do you think people get out of meeting and more specifically why should people sign up to the Horror Book club?
A. We have only held two meeting so far but we already have over a hundred people signed up as members. Whether it’s a love of Halloween, Tim Burton films or Zombie TV shows, lots of us are drawn to the dark and strange side of the world – we want provide a welcoming home for those people so we can explore weird and wonderful fiction together.
Q. Do you think simple pleasures like reading are becoming a bit of a lost art?
A. The technology of a hardcopy book might be relatively simple but the act of reading is far from a simple pleasure. There is nothing quite like reading to experience emotions, explore ideas and learn about ourselves and others, all from the comfort of an armchair. I don’t think this experience can be beaten by any other medium at the moment and things will remain this way for a very very long time.
Q. Why do you think people have such a fascination with the dark, disturbing and downright terrifying novels that make up the Horror Genre?
A. Horror is one of the oldest elements of fiction and this is probably because fear is one of the oldest emotions. It appears in different ways in all cultures – cautionary tales, folklore and monster legends all have elements of the strange, weird and scary. There are many things about Horror that means it endures so powerfully but I think the most important thing is that it confronts the fact that there are things in life can be dark, difficult and make us afraid. By acknowledging this and exploring its effects we gain a greater understanding of fear, the role it plays within society and how it’s an important part of being human.
Q. Do you think that for some people social media is replacing genuine human interaction?
A. I think that the panic around social media’s negative effect on the way we communicate is overhyped. As a rule, face-to-face communication is best but that doesn’t undermine the usefulness of the telephone, email or all of the different social media channels we now have. We even organise the Horror Book Club through a social network site called Meetup.com. Although we eventually meet face-to-face, Meetup.com is a tool that allows to do this incredibly easily.
When people worry about social media, I refer them to what Douglas Adams said: “There’s a set of rules that anything that was in the world when you were born is normal and natural. Anything invented between when you were 15 and 35 is new and revolutionary and exciting… Anything invented after you’re 35 is against the natural order of things.” Wise words as usual from Mr Adams.
Q. Where would you go if a Zombie Apocalypse hit?
A. I would go straight to find my girlfriend – if you have to go through an apocalypse it would be best to do so with the ones you love. After that I like to think I’d be calm, rational and really good at crafting weapons – in reality I’d probably be eaten quite quickly. One thing I know for certain is that if I was bitten I’d confess straight away – there is no one worse than those people in books or movies who cover up an infected wound until they change and murder half of their friends. Not cool guys.