Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Reading Patrick Rothfuss's The Kingkiller Chronicles

As part of quarantine, I've started Patrick Rothfuss's The Kingkiller Chronicles. For years, I've refused to read it because he just won't finish the damn thing, but it's good. Really good. Still, I continued to be annoyed that there's no book three yet.

Also, The Name of the Wind is 700 pages and The Wise Man's Fear is 1100 page. As a kid, I used to love super long books -- it was my version of extreme sports. I read not just once but twice both Stephen King's It and L. Ron Hubbard's Battlefield Earth. Now, though, as someone who reads books for a living, I firmly believe that writing long books is simple bad manners -- no matter how quickly the pages turn!

Thursday, March 26, 2020

My first Tolkien Reading Day!

It's true . . . this year, I participated in my first Tolkien Reading Day, which occurs every March 25th (the day Frodo threw the Ring into the Crack of Doom). Normally, even though I'm a member of the Tolkien Society, I don't do fannish things. Not that I object to them for any reason -- I've just never really done them. 

This year's participation, though, came about because someone I went to high school with, whom I'd only spoken with maybe twice in the last two decades, sent me a fb message asking if I'd like to do join in their yearly Tolkien meet-up to celebrate. Given the coronavirus, it was on Zoom, of course. I was a bit skeptical, but hey, I participated,, and it was surprisingly fun. There were four of us, including myself, and we chit-chatted about Tolkien and the T. Society's suggested theme, which this year was "nature and industrialization." It was kinda nice talking about literary things with people who weren't academics, and just goes to show (if there was ever any doubt) that you don't have to be an academic to have smart, interesting things to say about an author.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Coronavirus Madness

Well, the U of A has just officially moved in-person classes online due to Coronavirus, as many other campuses have already done. Won't affect me ( I teach online already), but it'll be a jarring transition -- however prudent -- to all my fellow colleagues and students.
UA is also saying, "International travel and out-of-state travel will be strongly restricted." My upcoming conference next week, ICFA 4, hasn't (and won't) be cancelled. I'm still planning on going. The money is a sunk cost, there's been no reported instances of coronavirus in the Orlando region, and I really am excited about going. Nonetheless, I'm feeling increasing guilty about the decision.

So far, about a quarter of the participants have already self-cancelled, and that'll probably increase significantly with the European travel ban announced yesterday.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Two Publications in One Day: Law & Lit and JTR

The hard thing about slowness in academic publishing is that I've had 7-8 articles "in process" for at least two years, more in some cases, which can be spiritually trying.

The plus side? Sometimes, you get a bonanza of riches, or two publications in one day!

For the first article, it's entitled "The Image of Law in Stephen R. Donaldson's 'Reave the Just': Agency, Blame, and Sexual Assault," and it comes from the journal Law & Literature. I wrote about the publication misadventures of this piece a few weeks ago. Basically, it's about the strengths and weakness of the liberal position on rape law. From what I gather, it'll appear in the print version shortly -- Taylor & Francis (the publisher) seems geared to the sciences model of publication, in which immediate publication is important for impact factor. 

The second article comes courtesy of The Journal of Tolkien Research. This one has the snazzy title of "On Ways of Studying Tolkien: Notes Toward a Better (Epic) Fantasy Criticism." In short, it defends a Straussian approach to literary studies and explains why certain models of critical theory are poor vehicles for studying Tolkien and genre fantasy. Perhaps more than any of my other publications, this one makes me feel a little more "naked" . . . rather than just a cool idea, it's the intellectual basis for my entire approach to literature. It'll be the foundation of my monograph, too, although this piece isn't a prospective chapter -- it's just the intellectual groundwork behind the monograph.

This article, too, has a fun publication history. After I was invited to a roundtable discussion at the IMC in Leeds for 2019, I wrote a 10-page conference paper for the corresponding panel, plus an 4-page spiel as my intro for the roundtable. Later that July, after a modest 2-weeks of revision, I lumped both pieces together and sent it off to JTR. It came back revise-and-submit . . . but the fall was a brutal time for me, so I didn't get a chance to make the deep revisions the article required. That took 5 weeks when I finally got around to it, but now I'm extremely happy with how the piece turned out. 

And I would never, I admit, have thought about writing an article about methodology in Tolkien Studies if Dr. Fimi hadn't kindly invited me to that initial roundtable, so she's owed a great debt of thanks.

An Exchange Between Editors Editing

So my good friend (and fellow editor at Fafnir) Laura E. Goodin agreed to look over an article I was currently laying out for publication in JTR, and she took exception to the following sentence:
"Since Strauss is best known for his thesis on esoteric writing, it cannot avoid mention."

This was her marginalia response: "[ the phrase] 'cannot avoid' assumes agency on the part of the thesis, which is a neat trick." That comment led to the following email exchange, formatted for clarity.

DENNIS: Wait, I'm going through your comments, and ARE YOU SAYING THAT MY THESIS CAN'T ASSUME AGENCY? I think you just made my poor widdle thesis start to tear up a little.

LAURA: Tell your thesis to grow a pair of ovaries and toughen up.
LAURA: Really, you coddle them, Dennis. You do.
LAURA: Also, I just spotted a typo in one of my comments ("implicity"). Oh, the mortification; oh, the irony.

DENNIS: I'm just saying, someday maybe you'll turn around, and my thesis will be right behind you.

LAURA: Also also, it's Strauss's thesis to which agency has been (in my scholarly opinion, inaccurately) imputed, not yours. I'm happy to accept in the absence of evidence to the contrary that your own various theses are as lively as little lambs.

DENNIS: Good! I'll let my theses know that they're tougher nuts to crack than Strauss's theses. It's a lie, of course, but the little darlings don't need to know that.

And that, boys and girls, is how professional editors interact in their spare time.

Later, after coming across another of Laura's corrections on my manuscript, I posted the following on facebook (tagging Laura):
I just fiercely googled "apostrophe in multiple plural possession" to try to win a grammar showdown. For example, I think it should be only one apostrophe: for example, "America and Canada's timber". This is in contrast to my opponent, who claims, crazily, that it should be "America's and Canada's timber."

However, I did not inform my opponent, Laura E. Goodin , about this fierce googling grammar showdown, just in case I lost.

I lost. *weeps*
LAURA'S RESPONSE: (Note: if it's two authors for one work – e.g., "Wise and Goodin's (2020) assertion" – THEN there's only one apostrophe.)

DENNIS: yeah, that's what my google sources -- without a trace of pity, mind you -- just told me. And for a second I tried pretending that's what I meant, but I . . . just . . . couldn't. *weeps again*

LAURA: there, there.

Friday, March 6, 2020

Do YOU have your Orc Identification Number yet?

Or, to use the more common abbreviation, the ORCID.

The journal Law & Literature recently asked me for mine following the acceptance of my Donaldson article, but I didn't have one. But then I also received a stern e-mail from the University of Arizona saying, basically, "All U of A scholars must get an ORCID, or else!"

I never thought this applied to me. After all, ORCIDs aren't that common in the humanities, plus research isn't part of my job description as a lecturer. Still, given the Law & Literature publication, I went out and became the proud new owner of an ORCID (0000-0002-3620-3972).

As a Tolkienist, though, I'm pretty sure that "ORCID" is an abbreviation of "Orc Identification Number." I honestly have no idea what else it could mean. A type of flower? God knows.

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Revision Dilemma

So, just got the outside reader's report back from a journal in which I really want to publish. Their verdict? The first three sections -- brilliant!  The final section -- well, let's just say it ranged from "meh" to outright dislike. So they strongly recommended I cut it.

Thing is, I'm really attached to that final section, and I think it truly adds something substantive to my main argument. So now I"m pondering what to do. 


  1.  Say "Hell no!" and take my article elsewhere.
    1. This, of course, isn't  that viable an option. The article has been in circulation for almost four years due to various mishaps (none of them mine), and it's time to get things over with. Plus, I really do like the journal, Tolkien Studies, that's interested in it. After all, where else should a Tolkienist publish? And also! You can't discount the opinion of all four of their scholarly readers, including the editors, who were resolutely "meh" about the section on the chopping block.
  2. Say, grudgingly, "Yeah, I'll cut it, but maybe it can be reframed as an appendix to the main article?"
    1. This one, admittedly, seems a little desperate. . . . although I did use an appendix to good effect in my Mythlore article about Tolkien and his nomination of EM Forster for the 1954 Nobel prize. However, it's hard to describe my moment of eureka when I discovered the political / economic situation that surrounded the making of Peter Jackson's An Unexpected Journey, which directly concerns globalization, in an article about globalization. Frankly, I'm still a little surprised that so many different readers over the years have been unanimous about disliking that final section.
  3. Or, finally, just cut the damn thing, referring to that relevant political / economic situation only in a few lines (possibly the conclusion), and maybe publishing the excised section as a "note" somewhere else . . . Mythlore does those, I think, or maybe Journal of Tolkien Research or even Fafnir.
What to do, what to do. Of course, laying out my options like this kinda makes the decision obvious, but I'll have to do some more serious hand-wringing, methinks, before finally pulling the trigger.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

GoodReads and Poul Anderson's Time Patrol

Once again, GoodReads comes through. Browsing through Poul Anderson's Time Patrol series, not because I really need to, but just to get a sense of what it is for an article I'm writing.

Anyway, it's not that good as time travel fiction -- almost exactly the same, in fact, despite the nominally different genres (SF and fantasy, respectively), as Pratt and de Camp's Harold Shea short stories for Unknown. Well, reviewer John has some nuggets that are particularly accurate:

The Prose & the Characterization

  • "[A]a lot of the prose is pretty soporific, lurching haphazardly between a sort of relentless drab utilitarianism, an affected cod-epic poesy, and a clumsy impressionism. . . .Maybe part of the dullness is that, while Anderson gives us great slodges of political and military history, there's almost zero evocation of the various ages in which the stories are set. Since there's no real sensawunda either -- the time cops ride around on their sort-of-motorbikes in a very business-as-usual way -- and since it's difficult to care too much about the fates of characters who are, with very rare exceptions, little more than named cyphers . . . "
The "You know, this is kind of right" Category
  • "It's easy to get the impression that Anderson's initial aim was to make Everard a sort of time-travelling Holmes -- he gives him the pipe to go with the role -- but changed his mind. As it is, all through the series of tales there are offhand references to matters Holmesian." (Anderson, incidentally, was a huge fan of Holmes and a member of the Baker Street Irregulars.)
Overall, these stories seem like standard pulp fare . . . .just the sort of thing that gets an author's book count up, but not much else. Maybe an excuse to play around with history, which Anderson loves. Still, that's it.

Other tidbits:

  • Poul has a race of far-future Danellans set up the Time Patrol in order to protect their existence, which seems like a future ex machina here.
  • Agents like Manse Everard are conditioned / brain-washed to never go against certain Time Patrol rules. This is a handy device that prevents history-destroying paradoxes, but seems highly unusual for a crusty old anti-government libertarian like Anderson.

Friday, February 21, 2020

Taylor & Francis

So, another update about my recent acceptance to Law & Literature, especially now that I've gone through their publishing agreement.

The journal itself, as I mentioned, seems like a good venue for me -- reputable editors, a very professional and rigorous peer review process, and strong articles in prior issues of the journal. But the  publishing agreement for Taylor & Francis (the publishing house for Law & Literature) also raised some . . . . let's call them worries, or at least questions, about accessibility. Exacerbating my worries, too, is the fact that I'm a humanities person. As far as academic publishing for the sciences and social sciences goes, I know very few good things about it, and it's quite strange for me to publish in a journal I've never actually consulted for my own research.

So, I did some googling. Here's what I found:
  • Subscription services for Taylor & Francis tend to be very expensive, and thus many libraries don't carry their journals . . . especially as these journals general lack the impact factor of Elvesier journals. That explains my own U of A library has only a selection of issues from Law & Literature.
  • Likewise, T & F has relatively few humanities journals . . . which means that humanities scholars rarely consult these articles for their own research. That also explains why I'd never encountered L&L before.
  • And, while T & F journals do permit gold open access publishing, you have to pay an APC of almost $3000. Most social scientists can simply use grant money for this, but obviously that doesn't apply to me.
Still, L & L is indexed in the MLA International Bibliography, and I'm allowed to publish a postprint version of my article after an 18 month embargo. That partly alleviates issues of access. I'll also get 50 "free" online copies of my article to distribute to friends, colleagues, and whatnot. My enthusiasm, however, I admit is a bit dampened by all this . . . but still, given the previous publishing travails of my article, my hesitations aren't enough to make me seriously consider withdrawing the article. Also, I strongly believe in my ideas expressed by the piece, which helps. I'm just slightly less excited about the publication than before, is all.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

The Publication Mis-adventures of a Wayward Young Article


I'm very happy to report that an article of mine has just been accepted to the journal Law & Literature. The piece is “The Image of Law in Donaldson’s ‘Reave the Just’: Agency, Blame, and Sexual Assault," and it focuses on the problem of rape in the short story headlining Stephen R. Donaldson's collection, Reave the Just and Other Tales (1999), which won Donaldson a World Fantasy Award in 2000.

But yeah, this poor widdle guy had had quite the adventure. I first wrote the article in 2017 as part of my article on feminism and sexed violence in Donaldson's work (published eventually in Extrapolation), but I had to cut the "Reave" section because it turned the piece into a 13,000-word monstrosity. Then I re-vamped "Reave" as a conference paper for ICFA in March 2018 and, by December of that year, converted it into a stand-alone article. All in all, despite feeling rather iffy about the piece, so it goes -- like a sheep I sent it out among the wolves.

The problem was, while I knew JFA or Extrapolation would be a good fit for "Reave," I already had one article under review at JFA and, of course, Extrapolation had already published my other Donaldson article. So I spent most of 2019 just shopping "Reave" around. Three different journals rejected it -- two bench rejections, mostly due to fit it seems, and I think the third sent "Reave" through peer review. At least, they held onto the article for four months, but I never received any peer reviews, and the sub-editor was cagey about why. Well, at that point, I admit to being stymied. The article sat in my drawer (metaphorically) for a month . . . and then I woke up one morning, thinking, "Wait, isn't there a journal called Law & Literature?"

In retrospect, this journal does make sense -- the word "law" appears in my title, for Pete's sake. In actuality, I knew absolutely nothing about Law & Literature, either the journal or the topic. Where did I even hear about the "literature and law movement"? No idea. The tv show Law & Order is basically my entire previous exposure to the legal system. But what the hell, I thought. I sent off the article in August 2019, and you can imagine my surprise when a very positive peer review came back in November. I worked the revisions in January 2020 and received the acceptance just this morning.

What makes this adventure even more exciting (at least for me) is that, apparently, Law & Lit is quite fancy. I had no idea, initially, but according to MLA Directory of Periodicals the journal has a 10% acceptance rate, and it has published people like Jacques Derrida and Stanley Fish. Being such a mainstream venue, I was also surprised that they'd consider an article on a fantasy writer . . . although, after researching L&L in preparation for my revise and resubmit, I realize that they're actually highly open to speculative fiction, especially children's fantasy. At any rate, the journey has been a long and arduous one, but all's well that ends well.

** "Woo-hoo," by the way, is the way that all article blog posts should begin.