There's a lot of things coming up to celebrate. It's Christmas! It's Hanukkah! It's Kwanzaa! It's New Year! It's the end of 2020 at last! It's the tenth birthday of SFF.SE! It's ... time to start topic challenges?
What's a topic challenge?
A regular (I suggest monthly), friendly, opt-in competition with a specific theme that changes each time period (month). We can choose each theme on meta, by keeping a curated list of suggested topics and letting the votes send one suggestion to the top each month. The theme might be a specific book, film, TV series, author, etc. - preferably, but not necessarily, something with its own tag, so that we can easily keep track of all the posts made as part of the topic challenge. We can keep a list on meta of all the questions asked and answers posted on that theme during the relevant month. At the end of the month we can assess the statistics and maybe announce some "winners" (top-voted question and answer, most viewed question, and so on).1
Why should we do this?
Topic challenges were the most popular suggestion in the "Ways to improve and promote Science Fiction and Fantasy" thread earlier this year. It's something that a few of us have talked about on and off for years but never got done. It was done back in 2012, run officially by SE with real prizes. (We won't be offering real cash or Amazon vouchers this time, unfortunately.) A lot of other sites run regular challenges, including sites with topics similar to ours. (The main meta post says weekly, but I think monthly is better given our site's subject matter. People need some time to read a book or watch a TV series.) We have a big active community but a relatively small spectrum of really popular topics like HP, SW, ST, LotR, Marvel, DC, GoT/aSoIaF, DW. Topic challenges would be a perfect way to encourage some less popular tags and get the community involved.
How should we choose topics?
Technically, by a poll on meta. We'll have a new meta question (this one can be for meta-discussion about topic challenges in general) where each answer will be a proposed topic, and people can vote on the answers to send them up or down. Each month we'll choose the highest-voted answer as the next month's topic, and delete that answer to stop it hogging the top of the list.
Ideally, topics should be something underrepresented on the site - something that people wouldn't normally be asking about, otherwise there's not much point. As well as improving the range of topics on our site, this can also help people to broaden their personal range of reading/watching material, so it's a win-win for everyone. (Promoting underappreciated tags is something I tried to do back in 2016, but my efforts kind of fizzled out - it'll be great to try again as a group effort.)2
When should we start?
I propose January 2021. Since it's the start of a new year, and the site's 10th birthday will come on 11 January, it's an auspicious time to kick this off.
Unfortunately, it doesn't leave us much time to choose a topic for the first month, since it's now mid-December already. Especially in this particular month: the Christmas holiday period is a terrible time to try to hold a representative meta poll. My proposal is that, for this one and only time, just while the upcoming suggestions thread is finding its feet, we choose the inaugural proposal by royal decree. Since Isaac Asimov has his 101st birthday on 2 January 2021, he'd be a topical pick for the January 2021 topic challenge. I know he's not exactly an obscure SF/F author, nor unrepresented on this site, but this proposal was heartfelt and carried weight, and it's an easy topic to get involved with, even for people who never read his stuff before, because he has a lot of short stories so it's not a big time commitment to read a few.
1 Remember it's a friendly competition, so don't fight too hard to win :-)
2 TL;DR: suggest a Harry Potter topic challenge and it'll be downvoted to the basement.