The Positronic Brains

Book Selection Process

Book selection has been an evolutionary process. In the beginning, the first moderator, Jerome Conner, selected all the books with input from the members. The next step in book select was to allow the members to nominate books and all the members present would vote. Although this change in selection policy was a vast improvement, there were still problems to be worked out. The first major change was that each member was allowed to champion a single book. This brought the number of books recommended down to a manageable level.

The current moderator, Steven F. LeBrun, has made additional refinements to the book selection process. The most controversial change was the addition of the requirement that each member had to have read the book that they were nominating. This requirement was added due to the high number of books that were nominated solely on the book jacket and the fact that these book turned out to be hated by most of the group most of the time. This requirement was loosed after being used once to the requirement that the person nominating the book has to base that nomination on something other than its cover such as having read the book, having the book recommended by someone they know, in a published book review, or the book is by an author that they have already read. This has improved the quality of the books selected though each book read still runs the gambit of some members liking the book while others hate it.

Selection Process

  • Book Selection takes place at end of the January and July meetings.
  • Members must be present to nominate and vote for books. Books must meet the eligibility requirements listed below in order for the nomination to be accepted.
  • Six books are selected at a time for March to August at the January meeting and September to February at the July meeting.
  • Two months have been designated at "fluff" months; August and December. We have found that most of the members have less time for reading during these two times of the year due to vacations and the Holidays.
  • At the beginning of the of selection process, we go around the table and each member can nominate a book for the "fluff" month in that selection period.
  • When a book is nominated for "fluff" month or the other months, the member will describe the book and present a case on why they feel we should read this book. It is considered as good etiquette to not slam or put down a book being presented.
  • A hand vote is taken to select the book from the set nominated. In case of a tie, another hand vote is taken with just the winning books as options.
  • Once the "fluff" month book has been selected, we go around the table again and each member nominates a book for the remaining five months in the selection period. The member who nominated the "fluff" month book is allowed to nominate another book at this time. The members who nominated a book for "fluff" month are allowed to nominate another book. They can nominate the same book that they nominated for "fluff" month.
  • Once all the books have been nominated, the process of selecting a book for each of the five remaining months begins.
    • The moderator picks a month, normally starting at the beginning of the select period and working towards the end. Occasionally, a particular month may be selected out of order due to special reasons such as one or more books have a relation to that month; holidays like Valentine's Day and Halloween or a special event like relevant movie releases and anniversaries such as the first Moon landing.
    • Members will second a book for voting for that month with the stipulation that you cannot second the book that you are championing and that you can only second one book per month. A book can be seconded for multiple months if it has not been already selected.
    • A hand vote is taken from the set of seconded books. In the case of a tie, another vote is taken with just the winning books being voted on.

  • After the book selection meeting, the moderator updates the group's website with the new selections
  • If a selected book must be replaced for any reason, such as the book has gone out of print, it is the responsibility of the moderator to find a replacement. Time permitting, the moderator will consult the group for input either though email or at a meeting but it is the moderator who selects the replacement book. Selected books have only had to be replaced a couple of times. One time, the moderator with a couple of members selected a replacement at a meeting by finding a favorable review in Locus Magazine. That book was not well liked. The other time, the moderator was able to conduct a vote at another meeting.

Book Eligibility

  • The group's charter is science fiction, not fantasy, not horror, not murder mystery. This is stated on our website on the About Us page. Are all the books we select strictly science fiction? No. We do read fantasy. I am not sure if we have ever selected a science fiction or fantasy novel that could also be considered horror. We have selected one murder mystery novel, Bimbos of the Death Sun, that takes place at a science fiction convention. The moderator's personal preference is to limit the non-science fiction novels to no more than one per six month period. Remember, the further a field the book is from science fiction, the less likely it will get selected by the rest of the group. This makes the genre selection self-regulating.
  • NO MEDIA TIE-INS! This is the only hard and fast rule in our book selection process. Books that movies are based on are fine. We have done Planet of the Apes and War of the Worlds.
  • The book must be in print. Books that have been selected and then go out of print may be replaced with a different book. Books that we have selected have gone out of print after they were selected a couple of times with the group and was handled differently each time.
  • The book must be available in mass market paperback form. We have done a couple of books that were only available in trade paperback. If the book is not available in mass market paperback form, the group decides before the book can be nominated whether to accept the book as a candidate. After Bring Me the Head of Prince Charming, our last trade paperback as of this writing, it may be quite awhile before the group is ready to spend the money for another trade paperback.
  • If the book is part of a series, it must be the first book of the series. The only exception to this rule is when the book can be read without having read all the previous books in the series. In other words, the book must be able to stand alone. An example of this is Terry Pratchett's Disc world series. Most of the books in the series can be read without having read the rest of the series.
  • "Fluff" months, August and December, are months where most members find that they have less time for reading then during the rest of the year. Therefore, books eligible for "fluff" months need to be quick reads, either based on the number of pages or the complexity of the story. We still want to select quality books for "fluff" months. The goal is to reduce the quantity.