10 years, 6,500 members, and their 50th Interview
Middletown, PA: Ten years ago, on July 6, 2010, John Grayshaw created the Science Fiction Book Club (SFBC) on Facebook.
Grayshaw is the Library Director of Middletown Public Library a small, independent library in Middletown, PA. The SFBC has been associated with the library since January of 2017.
Today the SFBC has more than 6,500 members from all over the world. There are members from the UK, Canada, Australia, Spain, France, Poland, Russia, Brazil, Japan, India, and many more. “It is incredibly encouraging to see people from so many cultures sharing ideas, arguing points politely, and getting along with each other. It gives me hope for the future,” said Grayshaw.
Grayshaw and his three moderators keep the conversation focused on literature. Movies or TV shows, promotional posts, and sales links are not permitted. The group is for many a welcome respite from the real world, so debates on real life politics, religion, and personal attacks are not allowed.
Like many libraries, the Middletown Public Library’s physical location was closed recently because of COVID-19 from March 15 to June 8, but the SFBC was thriving. People around the world were in social isolation and had more time to read and join book clubs. Normally the book club gets 50 new members a week, but recently the book club was routinely getting 150 new members a week. The book club hit 6,000 members in April and is already at over 6,500 today.
In the SFBC there are two monthly Group Read discussion that are voted on by members. A classic group read, and a modern group read (books published since 2000). The July group reads are “City” by Clifford Simak and “Children of Ruin” by Adrian Tchaikovsky. You can see the group read history
The book club also has a weekly short fiction group read.
In October of 2017, the book club began to interview science fiction authors; the first was David Brin. “Once we had the first interview with Brin it was easier to get the next one, and the next one,” said Grayshaw.
Science Fiction authors interviewed to date are: Neal Asher, David Brin, Lois McMaster Bujold, Jack Campbell, C.J. Cherryh, Samuel R. Delany, David Gerrold, James E. Gunn, Joe Haldeman, Hugh Howey, Nancy Kress, Jack McDevitt, Larry Niven, William F. Nolan, Kim Stanley Robinson, Robert Silverberg, Neal Stephenson, Bruce Sterling, Andy Weir and Connie Willis. Authors scheduled in the future are Peter F. Hamilton, Greg Bear, Alastair Reynolds, Robert J. Sawyer, Peter Watts and James S. A. Corey
“I feel so lucky that we’ve gotten to talk to so many fantastic Science Fiction authors because unfortunately the reality is that no one lives forever,” said Grayshaw. “And too many of the greats have already passed.”
The book club has interviewed biographers, historians, and other experts on subjects such as: Douglas Adams, Poul Anderson, Isaac Asimov, Iain M. Banks, Ray Bradbury, Arthur C. Clarke, Philip K. Dick, Edwardian/Pulp Era Science Fiction, Harlan Ellison, William Gibson, Robert A. Heinlein, Frank Herbert, C.M. Kornbluth, Henry Kuttner, C.L. Moore, Ursula K. Le Guin, James Tiptree Jr., Andre Norton, H. Beam Piper, Frederik Pohl, Clifford Simak, Theodore Sturgeon, Jack Vance, Victorian Era Science Fiction, Kurt Vonnegut, Women of Science Fiction, John Wyndham, and Roger Zelazny. Also scheduled in the future are discussions of Gene Wolfe, Jerry Pournelle, and Arkady and Boris Strugatsky.
“The other wonderful thing is when an author is interviewed and they then join the group and join the discussions,” said Grayshaw, “it’s like being able to chat with your heroes on a daily basis.” Neal Asher joined the group and has been posting about all sci-fi books he’s been reading the last few months. David Gerrold is a member and posts frequently. Larry Niven joined the group and participated in the Group Read discussion of his novel “Ringworld” this past January. Robert J. Sawyer has been a member since August of 2010 and will be interviewed next month.
This month the book club is interviewing Greg Bear and Alastair Reynolds. Reynolds will be the 50th interview. Access all the interviews.
Science Fiction Book Club timeline:
July 6, 2010– the Facebook group Science Fiction Book Club is created
Aug 2015– The book club hits 1,000 members and they have their first monthly Group Read discussion: “Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury
January 2017– The SFBC is associated with the Middletown Public Library
October 2017– The book club does it’s first Q and A interview with author David Brin.
Also, the SFBC started to have a Short Fiction discussion each week.
August 2019– The monthly Group Read discussion are split into a Classic Group Read and a Modern Group Read each month.
The Middletown Public Library is a small, independent library in Middletown, PA. The library was first formed in 1926. Middletown Public Library strives to meet the needs of a well-informed community by providing information and services that address multiple points of view and encourage life-long learning. The Library is a cultural and educational hub of the community.
John Grayshaw, Director
Middletown Public Library