Yesterday, one of the admins replaced the listing of Modern Classics stories with a whole new slate, and added all of the former Modern Classics stories to the Classic Stories listing. Personally, I have a couple of problems with this:
- Although individual admins do have the authority to add stories to these lists without consulting the other admins—we routinely add stories to the Current Favorites listing without consultation—I don’t think that completely overhauling the list is a decision that anyone should make unilaterally. When we first set up the Modern Classics menu, Sprink hosted a blog-based discussion of the question before any stories were added..
- The Classic Stories menu is billed as “the most popular stories from the wiki’s early days”, and some of the stories that were moved onto it from the Modern Classics listing might not be particularly “early”, depending on how we define out terms.
For the Classic Stories list, we have to answer a simple question: How early should the cutoff be for “early days”? 2009? The end of the “Golden Age”? Something else? Note that this demarcation wouldn’t necessarily be inviolable, because Classic Stories is currently based entirely on popularity and age, whereas Modern Classics isn’t necessarily based on either. For example,TDIRM's one-shot, Back to Good, made a good Modern Classic, but probably isn’t well-known enough to belong on the Classic Stories listing.
For the Modern Classics listing, I don’t think there’s any question that we should add more stories. The original listing was only eight stories (one of which was later deleted at the author’s request) but there's no reason why it has to be that limited. Besides, a lot of good stories have been written since the advent of the Modern Classics menu, but there have been no additions since the list’s initial population.
So, which stories should we recognize as the new Modern Classics?
First, I submit that all of the stories on the home page sampler should also be on one of the library menus. After all, we put those stories on the front page for a reason. That means adding TD Revolution to the Modern Classics. All but one of the other home page stories are already either Classic Stories or in the original set of Modern Classics. The one exception is The Beasts of Wawanakwa, which is and should probably remain on the Current Favorites listing, “graduating” to Modern Classics when it’s finished.
Second, since we can enshrine as many stories as we please, within reason, we don’t need to restrict it to one story per author like we do with the home page sampler. Of course, recognizing multiple stories by the same author is also subject to the rule of reason. (Translation: we’re not going to put in every single Sprink story.)
Third, this decision should not be merely a popularity contest, like Featured Story has traditionally been. The Classic Stories menu is explicitly billed as the most popular of our early stories, and is really a time capsule of sorts; but for the Modern Classics listing, we’re really looking for the best and most distinctive stories, not just the most popular. We’ll certainly consider popularity, since that’s part of what makes classics classics, but it musn’t be the last word. What we really want are stories that seem likely to stand the test of time.
I suggest that we enshrine mainly stories that have something that sets them apart, so we don’t end up with just a collection of cookie-cutter competition stories. Uniqueness could come from exceptional writing quality, a unique premise, particularly memorable storylines, iconic characters, and so on.
Please note that it’s not enough just to say, “Story X was a Featured Story, so it should be on the list”. If the classics menus are to have a reason for existing, they can’t just duplicate the Featured Stories list.
To illustrate how nominees should ideally be justified, here are a couple of examples from my own oeuvre, both of which I hereby submit for consideration:
What sets it apart: The wiki has nothing else remotely like it. Indeed, the entire Total Drama fandom probably has nothing else remotely like it. It’s the wiki’s best-known crossover—probably the only significant finished crossover—and has influenced other writers, most notably Rhonda and the now-departed Spenny.
What sets it apart: By all accounts, this story handles with grace a particularly controversial subgenre. The Modern Classics list will need some noncompetition stories—more than just a token one-shot—and this wiki doesn’t have a lot of good short stories. Most of our noncompetition stories are either novels/novellas or one-shots.
I’ll also suggest someone else’s story:
What sets it apart: This one-shot is a trendsetter, inspiring several other stories that “look behind the mask” at a more human Heather.
Give us your suggestions, and state their cases, in the Comments section.