Attack of the Spinning Plates

Deadlines have been circulating in the manner of sharks:

  • article on A Scanner Darkly — I have put this to one side whilst I focus on other work
  • book proposal for Sekrit TTTTTTTT project – why is this stalled?
  • revise bounced book manuscript – – why is this stalled?
  • three book reviews — two complete, one almost
  • turn EX_MACHINA, War of the Worlds and The War in the Air papers into articles
  • Chapter needing copyedit
  • continue beer research

I’ve also edited several articles by others. March was productive at its end.

The Spinning Plates of St Trinians

Another month on

I’m leaving out lectures (four a week on average this term) and if I’m circumspect about details, it’s just because I’m superstitious that way.

  • Paper for Lisbon – mid-November
  • turn Wyndham paper into article – 1 December 2016
  • book proposal for Sekrit TTTTTTTT project – asap
  • revise bounced book manuscript – asap
  • three book reviews
  • turn EX_MACHINA, War of the Worlds, The War in the Air and A Scanner Darkly papers into articles
  • Chapter on Star Wars – 22 February 2016
  • continue beer research

The Spinning Plates – Redux

It’s been a while since I updated my to do list. As we start the new academic year, I thought it might be worth dusting it off — not so much showing off as reminding myself that I have things to do and giving you insight as to what we academics do with our ridiculously short working weeks.

Not that you wanted to know.

You’re welcome.

I’m leaving out lectures (four a week on average this term) and if I’m circumspect about details, it’s just because I’m superstitious that way.

  • Notes on bad taste and comedy – tonight
  • Paper on A Scanner Darkly – 30 September
  • abstract on Star Wars – 1 October
  • notes on The Island of Doctor Moreau
  • Paper for Lisbon – mid-November
  • books proposal for Sekrit TTTTTTTT project – asap
  • revise bounced book manuscript – asap
  • three book reviews
  • turn War of the Worlds and The War in the Air papers into articles
  • continue beer research

I note, having read a PhD thesis, I have an idea for an article I will hide from and, having thought a bit about Chuck Tingle, I will move right along.

Labour Exchange

Academia depends an awful lot on goodwill. All those evenings and weekends and forty plus hour weeks. No, we don’t get long holidays.

I got an email out of the blue:

I wonder if you would be interested in evaluating an essay “Stuff and More Stuff in Someone and Somewhere Else” (abstract appended below), which has been submitted for possible publication in Stuff Studies.

Yes, sure, I do this kind of thing three or four times a year, and I’m reading stuff for Extrapolation, of course. I can be a little slow at it, I confess.

The email continues:

Unfortunately, we cannot offer payment or sample issues.

How vulgar! Of course, this is unpaid labour, it’s community service, it’s evidence of esteem. There’s a paying it forward … X reviews for journal editor Y who reviews for journal editor Z… It gets tricky when you approach an Independent Scholar who doesn’t have the same set of reasons for wanting to bank prestige. I can remember having a long phone conversation with someone who I asked to peer review who had left academia (or was forced out), who was upset for some reason. Fair enough, they’re free to say no. It’s part of the job if you’re in the job.

The only people who make money from journals are those who publish them.

The email concluded:

Part of our purpose in asking for your assistance is to draw your attention to Stuff Studies as a possible forum for your own scholarship.

This is kind of interesting… a salespitch? a sincere invitation? It just feels rather odd.

On the Chin… But Be Prepared to be Patronised

With submission for publication comes the possibility of rejection — and you learn to live with it.

Sometimes you get an explanation — “we wanted to balance the pre- and post twentieth century material” is one I recall from 1999 — and sometimes you don’t. You rewrite and submit elsewhere.

Take it on the chin.

Oddly — and this might sound like a brag — I’m been commissioned more than I’ve cold submitted. If someone asks me to write something, I will ponder whether I want to be in the venue, and more to the point work out if I’ve something to say.

I’m sufficiently instinctive that I often get this feeling that X and Y are connected — say that Mary Douglas’s Purity and Danger might be useful for thinking through The Sparrow. At that point, I hadn’t actually read Purity and Danger. It can be a high wire act — and it makes writing abstracts hard before there’s a chapter, although you don’t want to write something that’s going to be rejected.

So, there was a call for contributions, and I sat on it overnight, and applied the tests, and sent an abstract. Meanwhile, I was already thinking there would be other venues I could submit it to, but having written the damn thing.

Ten minutes ago I was rejected.

The editors were apologetic — lots of strong contributions — some hard decisions — consider the overall shape of the volume — it is with immense regret — and…

Well, whatever. That’s the job. You try not to publish rubbish, although that arguably rubs out most of my output…

And then:

“we want to persuade you to develop the proposed chapter into an academic article that will be well-suited to be submitted to any number of peer-review academic journals.”

OK.

I guess they were trying to be helpful. Maybe to soften the blow. Perhaps it was a standard rejection email sent to all.

But.

I’m certainly acquainted with these peer-reviewed journals of what they speak. I even had a list in my head of who to try first, if it was rejected. I co-edit a peer-reviewed journal — but it would be Bad Form to submit there.

Somehow, I think a simple no thanks would not have left me feeling … a little patronised and certainly amused.

Cogito Ego Operor

So… a couple of days ago I was going through the draft sent emails having realised I’d sent an important email to myself and wondering what else was stuck in the outbox. I found a message about a call for papers that I’d tried to send to myself but had somehow failed.

Doh!

I reread it, thinking, interesting, but who has the time? I forwarded it to a grad student, thinking it might be his mug of Earl Grey.

I looked again — abstract by then, chapters by then, neatly bracketing the autumn term. That’s going to be my heavy term.

Who has the time?

And there I left it, and there was no more, until I was thinking about a book I really have to read Real Soon Now to apply to the Sekrit TTTTTTTT Projekt (or at least the proposal).

A project which overlaps with the Call for Papers.

Uh huh.

I don’t have the time this autumn, but perhaps I should make a start this summer and that’ll have materials that can fit the Sekrit TTTTTTTT Projekt. And again I’m struck how often I chistel away at the block of marble to find the statue rather than build a statue from chickenwire and papier-mâché.

What Does Assume Make?

A little earlier, when looking at the latest to-do list, I thought to myself that I mustn’t forget to do that when I convert that conference paper into a chapter. What that is, I now have no idea, although it might have been something about the nature of adaptation or British cinema. I didn’t, of course, write it down, even though I’d thought about adding it to the PowerPoint slides.

Memory like … memory like … memory like one of those metal things with holes in it.

If there’s one thing I haven’t learnt, it’s that those insights are easily forgotten. If I write them down there’s a hope. I can take a note on the iPad or the phone, but that’s only as good as search software. I have moved from a one-fits-all note book to a Moleskin for each project (on the principle I risk losing only so much research at a time) but I am a bad note-taker and too often finish a project before a notebook. I think I need to think again about that.

As to the insight from three hours ago… lost I fear.