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.

Son of the Spinning Plates

So, let’s look at the to-do list based on 26 January  2015 and updated 15 March 2015:

  • a paper to write for the Sideways in Time conference needs turning into chapter
  • a keynote to write for the SF postgrad conference
  • a book to read for review
  • a book proposal to finish — I’ve had some ideas
  • a conference paper to convert to an article
  • a secondary bibliography to annotate
  • two chapters to write for companions — lots of ideas for one, no further than Christmas for the other
  • an overdue biographical piece to write — submitted 
  • an article that’s been bounced from a special issue but has been taken up and needs another thousand words adding
  • a book manuscript to rescue — I printed out chapter one…
  • a  submitted chapter that I’ve heard nothing back on chased
  • several reference book entries that are missing in actionchased
  • *new*: an appreciation of Pratchett — submitted

Spinning Plates Return

It is Sunday, it is 7.30, I am in the library. I have been here since 11.00, delayed getting here by an hour because I thought I’d lost a book I needed (I hadn’t and it turns out I didn’t).

So, let’s look at the to-do list based on 26 January  2015:

  • a paper to write for the Sideways in Time conference — next weekend Sunday
  • a keynote to write for the SF postgrad conference
  • a book to read for review
  • a book proposal to finish — I’ve had some ideas
  • a conference paper to convert to an article
  • a secondary bibliography to annotate not started
  • two chapters to write for companions — lots of ideas for one, no further than Christmas for the other
  • an overdue biographical piece to write — Tuesday afternoon, I hope
  • an overdue survey chapter
  • an article that’s been bounced from a special issue but has been taken up and needs another thousand words adding
  • a book manuscript to rescue — I printed out chapter one…
  • a  submitted chapter that I’ve heard nothing back on
  • several reference book entries that are missing in action
  • a submitted chapter that may well need a proofread
  • *new*: an appreciation of Pratchett

Hmmm. Let’s see what I can do for March 31st. I have written and published an obituary and written something like three lectures a week.

Spinning Plates

I meant to write this entry six months ago and it would have begun “Yesterday (Friday), I was sent the finalised version of a chapter with a request for proofreading by the end of the weekend. I was annoyed, because I wanted to work on a book proposal.”

I’m always spinning plates. At any one time I could be:

  1. having an idea for a piece
  2. putting in a proposal
  3. drafting a piece
  4. rewriting a piece
  5. proofreading a piece.

Let’s see, at the moment I have various ideas for pieces and …

  • a paper to write for the Sideways in Time conference
  • a keynote to write for the SF postgrad conference
  • a book to read for review
  • a book proposal to finish
  • a conference paper to convert to an article
  • a secondary bibliography to annotate
  • two chapters to write for companions
  • an overdue biographical piece to write
  • an overdue survey chapter
  • an article that’s been bounced from a special issue but has been taken up and needs another thousand words adding
  • a book manuscript to rescue
  • a  submitted chapter that I’ve heard nothing back on
  • several reference book entries that are missing in action
  • a submitted chapter that may well need a proofread.

Meanwhile, there’s an edited collection due out with a chapter in it.

And none of that includes my research on brewing and drinking, that I’ve spent more time talking about in relation to KE and Impact than actually researching. I need to go away and read some Habermas, which incidentally is the thing I need to do for the book proposal although it’s not the same Habermas.

Looking at the list, that’s not much spinning plates as watching them crash. I have three lectures to deliver this week, only one of which has material to hand. My research day is tomorrow, but I fear the morning may have to be writing lectures.

I also have a stealth book I’m planning to assemble, but I’m not sure I’ve written any of the chapters yet. As conferences come up, I should be giving papers that would fit into that or the book proposal mentioned above — but the one for Sideways in Time is 1970s and something I missed from Solar Flares. Having looked at a call for papers for werewolves, I was thinking about something from entirely the wrong period for that proposal — although it wouldn’t fit on the face of it — nor in the stealth book. But it is on film, which I should be writing on.

At this point, I should really be saying no to projects, but then it’s an interesting venue or a cool editor or a sufficient cheque… A collection recently came out that I don’t have a chapter in, and it is clearly “my” thing, but any annoyance is balanced by the realisation that I in no way had time to write for it. I’m still open for business, but don’t be upset if I say no.

ETA: If you think I’m writing something for you and it’s not listed here — I am deliberately coy about the actual projects here for reasons of plausible deniability — email me. I may have entirely forgotten I said yes… Send me a message?