alt.fan.pratchett ; The Vampire Threads of AFP

The Vampire Threads of AFP


Over the years, a.f.p. has been responsible for the development of many in-jokes and, whilst these may seem fresh and new to new subscribers, there is the potential for older afpers to find them boring after a while. Similarly, there are threads which appear with depressing regularity - some of which can be recognised as previously contentious and liable to provoke unfriendly reactions among posters.

This situation finally culminated in a document being posted on alt.fan.pratchett from which this version is taken. This document is commonly referred to, on a.f.p., as the "Vampire Threads FAQ". However, it should be noted that it is not officially recognised as an FAQ although it remains an highly useful set of guidelines and has been included here as a supporting document.


  1. A brief history and introduction
  2. What is a recurring thread?
    1. What are the hardy perennial threads of a.f.p.?
    2. What are the perennial weed threads of a.f.p.?
    3. What are the "Vampire Threads" of a.f.p.?
  3. But isn't (x) a recurring thread?
    1. The Temple
    2. The Cheese Wars
  4. How to cope with recurring threads
    1. General Tips
    2. Perennial weeds
    3. Vampire threads
  5. Notes in conclusion
  6. Acknowledgements and thanks

1. A Brief History and Introduction

AFP (alt.fan.pratchett) is a long-established newsgroup. It has a very large, wide and varied readership, and a certain number of in-jokes. One of the other things that a.f.p. appears to have is a very loyal membership, which can mean that some people have seen the same joke occur over and over... and over... and over. This document aims to bring to your attention some of these threads, and hopefully explain why the more seasoned posters on a.f.p. tend to groan at their inception.

2. What Is A Recurring Thread?

For the purposes of this document, a recurring thread is one in which a given topic is discussed repeatedly, with an interval between each discussion. There are three basic classes - the "hardy perennial", which is basically a fairly benign discussion, but one which recurs with some frequency; perennial weed threads, which are the type of thread which takes over the whole group; and the "vampire" thread, which is (usually) an [M] thread which can lead to rather acrimonious comments.

The reason for the name "vampire thread" is that the thread will occur, it will be thrashed out, staked down, have its head chopped off, its mouth stuffed with garlic, be exposed to the sun, the ashes gathered and scattered, and people will think that it's finally over. Then someone comes along with the newsgroup equivalent of a beetroot sandwich... and here we go again.

2a. What are the hardy perennial threads of a.f.p.?

There are several of these. The list below is not intended to be comprehensive.

  1. The Physics Thread: - a.f.p. has a lot of members who are scientifically inclined. This means that any discussion can get tilted off into a thread about the science involved, and these threads usually (for reasons unknown) devolve into physics.
  2. The Casting Thread: - A new poster asks "who would you cast as 'x' in a Discworld movie", and the latest casting thread is off! There is help at hand, however... The Ultimate Discworld Casting Page may be a better place for you to air your personal suggestions - or, at least, act as a check list so that you can ensure that your suggestion hasn't been mentioned a dozen times before.
  3. Afproposals/Afpamily: These are a part of the culture of a.f.p., and there appears to be a rash of them about once every year or so. The last recorded attack, if it can be described that way, occurred in October/November 1998. Whilst this is a rather nice tradition, there are times when it is abused.
  4. "What shall we tell the newbies?": A thread which crops up every so often about a.f.p.'s chronic FAQitis. It often starts when someone suggests a new FAQ, or when there's a lot of new posters who don't appear to have read all of the FAQs (or any of the FAQs, for that matter). The first incarnation of this document was inspired by the beginning, and the result of, one such thread.

Editor: In March 1999, a Welcome email, containing all relevant introductory information, was introduced. This is sent out automatically to all new posters to a.f.p., in an attempt to remove this particular burden on the group's regular posters.

A second resource was introduced shortly afterwards, namely The Clue Fairies, who exist to deal with all queries relating to alt.fan.pratchett and alt.books.pratchett, technical or otherwise.

The Clue Fairies can be contacted at afp-help@lspace.org.


2b. What are the perennial weed threads of a.f.p.?

Another list - once again, it's not that comprehensive. The thing to remember about all of these threads is that they're about topics where many people have strong opinions.

2c. What are the "Vampire Threads" of a.f.p.?

Again, this isn't meant to be a comprehensive list.

  1. The "Old a.f.p./New a.f.p." Thread: This is the worst of the vampire threads, because it truly causes acrimonious discussion. It seems to recur every year, generally between mid-late November, and mid-February - possibly due to the combination of winter in the Northern Hemisphere (where many afpers reside) and the Silly Season in the Southern Hemisphere (where the rest of 'em live). It tends to be sparked off by a posting/postings from one or more of the "old farts", and generally manifests as an [M] thread.
  2. The "What Is AFP For?" Thread: This is a thread which seems to crop up every now and then, and quickly morphs into the "Old a.f.p./New a.f.p." thread, or a mini-version thereof.
  3. The "Annotations/Nettiquette" Thread: This one tends to start out [M] from the beginning, starting as a polite reminder to everyone to remember some point of nettiquette (generally in response to annotations) such as "polite language" or "spoiler space". It tends to remain polite, in which case it's not a problem, but occasionally it can turn nasty.
  4. The "Gun control thread" Thread: This is a thread which rarely crops up and is often quickly stifled by common consensus. Past experience suggests that the topic is difficult to discuss without animosity creeping in and invariably leads to tempers being lost. Proceed with great caution and be willing to drop the subject quickly on request.

3. But isn't (x) a recurring thread?

There are some threads which can appear to the newer person to be rather like the perennial weed threads - they're widespread, they're taking over most of the group, and they seem to be provoking some strong reactions. A couple of examples are listed below, and these sorts of threads could be classed as "annual weeds". An "annual weed" thread is generally more lighthearted than the perennial version, and tends to peter out on its own.

3a. The Temple

The Temple, or to give its full name, The Temple of AFPdoration, was an annual-weed-type thread which was in full flight around June/July 1997. An archived version of this thread is available in the AFP Timelines Section.

3b. The Cheese Wars

"The Great Cheese Wars" began in mid-October 1998 as a response to a thread on politics which was beginning to turn nasty. One of the posters deliberately changed the subject in that thread from politics to cheese. Another poster took up an anti-cheese position, they each gathered their followers, and for a brief period, the Cheese Wars were in full flight on a.f.p.. The cheese wars ended when the two original posters discovered that they had a lot in common (a mutual liking for Nick Cave, for eg), and afproposed to each other, ending the wars.

4. How to Cope with Recurring Threads

a.f.p. being a.f.p., recurring threads are likely to be a part of the landscape for a long while now. This section aims to give just a few tips on how to deal with them.

4a. General Tips

  1. You don't have to read everything on a.f.p. If you enjoy a thread, read it. If you don't like it, don't read it. A killfile is generally your best tool.
  2. Before you post, think about what you're writing. Remember, people on Usenet aren't able to see the expression on your face, or hear the tone in your voice. Also, although you may have met a lot of afpers, you can't have met all of them, so this means that there will always be members of your audience who don't know that you have (for example) a tendency towards sarcasm, or a rather dry, caustic wit. Read your words again, and try to see if there's a way that someone could mis-interpret what you are saying.
  3. If you find that reading a.f.p. is causing your blood pressure to rise, and you're starting to find reading the group a strain and a stress, then take some time off. Reading and posting to a.f.p. should be a relaxation - not a stress. Go outside, have a rest, take a walk around the block, stop and eat some chocolate - do anything, but take a break from a.f.p.

4b. Perennial Weeds

With these, it's important to remember that, while you may have strong feelings or opinions on the particular subject, the feelings and opinions of others are likely to be equally as strong. Given that, remember that people can, and do, tend to lose their composure. Keep it civil, and always try to remember this advice:

"One should never, ever, state in public that one is offended by someone else's comments. Being offended is one of those things that, as the expression goes, takes two. One may, and should, of course, express concern about the direction of a thread, but offence is a very strong emotion indeed that simply doesn't belong in public."
(8' Flesh Eating Dragon
, in a.f.p., 3 December 1998).

4c. Vampire Threads

Vampire Threads, by their very nature, are going to come back. These pointers are mainly aimed at avoiding the flamewars, acrimony, anger, nastiness and general ill-feeling that seems to come with them.

  1. Remember, not everyone is going to share your opinion. Some people may agree, others may disagree, and everyone else has as much right as you do to state their opinion too.
  2. If you're a new poster - the threads listed in this document are ones which have led to flamewars and nastiness in the past. Think carefully before starting a new thread (or morphing an exisiting thread) on one of these topics, and have a look in Google as well. Check the Google's archive, for the alt.fan.pratchett newsgroup, and use the [I] and [M] tags to filter (replace [ and ] with * for older articles)). If you still wish to post, then that's your choice - this is merely a warning map - "Here be Dragns..."
  3. If you're a seasoned poster - remember, the new posters haven't seen these threads before (which is part of the reason for this document), and they may not know of the fuss and botheration which accompanied the previous incarnation of that particular thread. If possible, have a look on Google, and publish a URL to the leading post in the previous incarnation of that thread, so that people who may have forgotten it, as well as those who never knew it, can see what it was like, and judge objectively.
  4. The time of the year, and the season, do have an effect on the types of postings that you make. It's no real shock that the metaphorical "temperature" of a.f.p. starts to rise in late November, when the European Winter is closing in, and when people are being stressed out by exams, work, and the imminence of the "Festive Season". Take these things into account, and really watch your postings between about the end of October and the beginning of March.
  5. Above all, remember that the people on a.f.p. are just that: people. We all make mistakes, we all say things we shouldn't, we all say dumb things on occasion. A little bit of tolerance will go a long way towards avoiding a potentially nasty flamewar.

5. Notes in conclusion

In conclusion, there is just this to say: alt.fan.pratchett is a very well-established newsgroup. The majority of the threads mentioned above are part of the "group culture". As such, the comments here are meant purely in an advisory sense - "helpful hints on how to avoid a flamewar", if you will.

They are not, in any sense, prescriptive.

It is, above all, the forgiving nature of a.f.p. which keeps folks (and filks) coming back to the group, no matter how major the schism.

6. Acknowledgements and thanks

Many thanks to all of the denizens of a.f.p., but most especially to the following people:

Last updated: 23rd August 2005.


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