Friday, August 23, 2019

The Green Dragon Pub is closing

Sadly, I just heard the news: the Green Dragon, a Tolkien-themed pub in Murfreesboro, is closing.

For someone doing a dissertation on Tolkien at Middle Tennessee State University, one might expect me to have visited the Green Dragon oodles and oodles of times. In fact, it was only two. As a non-driver (and non-drinker) living on a grad student's stipend, I never went out, especially not to bars 4 to 5 miles away on foot. Hence, the first time I visited the Green Dragon was part of a day-long adventure just after Martina had permanently re-located to the U.S. We made the trek, had lunch, and then proceeded to the cinema, where I believed we saw Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and Star Wars: Rogue One. Since this was just before Thanksgiving, we bought two turkeys, saving one for our eventual Christmas meal (our first as a married couple). Then we Ubered home. All in all, a good, good day.

Our second time at the Green Dragon was much less memorable. We visited the pub on a Sunday, eager to have brunch before another cinema double-feature, except we didn't realize quite how meager their Sunday menu was. So this visit was mildly disappointing.

We did attempt a third visit, however. Appropriately enough, it was just after I defended my Tolkien dissertation. Unfortunately, this coincided with St. Patrick's Day. The parking lot outside the Green Dragon was so jam-packed that we didn't even bother going in, especially as one member of our party had limited mobility. As I recall, we went to a fancy Japanese restaurant instead.

Alas, alas. Green Dragon, I bid you adieu.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Book proposal review

Well! Out of the blue, I was contacted by a publisher a few days ago with a request to review a book proposal. Obviously, for reasons of anonymity, I can't give any details, but the mere request itself floored me -- someone, somewhere, must have given them my name -- someone competent to judge such things.**

As one might imagine, though, I had absolutely no idea how to do a competent book proposal review; they're not one of those genres of writing you ever encounter as a graduate student. Luckily, googling "How to do a book proposal reviews" brings up a ton of advice articles and whatnot, including this one put out by Cambridge UP.

Anyway, finished up the review over the weekend,and the publisher seems quite happy with it. I'm also surprised at how much fun doing this review was -- focused my attention on a number of things in the field I've only paid passing attention to before.

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**From what I'm gathering online, it's not unusual to give publishers the names of academics qualified to judge. This is usually either the writer of the proposal themself, or a suggest reviewer who's had to turn down the request for whatever reason.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Finding Monsters (a case of serendipity)

When hunting for books to be reviewed in Fafnir, I realized that the University of Minnesota Press has been doing some good work in weird fiction and monster studies. One of their forthcoming books is The Monster Theory Reader (2019), edited by Jeffrey Andrew Weinstock, incidentally the reviews editor for JFA, and one of the reader's notable inclusions, at least according to the advertising blurb, is "Jeffrey Jerome Cohen’s foundational essay 'Monster Theory (Seven Theses).'"

Well! I've been teaching that essay each of my two semesters for ENGL 160D: Nonhuman Subjects: Monsters, Ghosts, Aliens, and Others. You see, when I first got the class, I had no clue about anything in Monster Studies as a field, so I did a quick search in the library. Cohen's essay was basically the first thing I found -- and that's how I chose it for my course. Yes, I know, not a rigorous methodology . . . but, now that I know that, by pure luck of the draw, I've been teaching one of the field's foundational essays, I'm quite relieved!

Piers Anthony & the Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense

So, here's a memory that takes me back -- during my research trip to UC Riverside, I read many issues of Star*line, the official newsletter (and poetry publication) of the Science Fiction Poetry Association. This association was founded by Suzette Haden Elgin, so, as one might imagine, I saw her editorial work and poems everywhere. Quite an interesting figure, too -- after raising a family of 5 kids, she went back to school to get a PhD in linguistics, and her efforts in speculative poetry all came towards the latter part of her career. Also wrote a fair number of SF novels, too.

Anyway, one of her side projects was a book called The Gentle Art of Verbal Self-defense (1980). What makes that title interesting is that, amazingly enough, I remember hearing about that book back in high school.

The connection is the SFF writer Piers Anthony. I used to really like Anthony -- A Spell for Chameleon was the first fantasy novel I ever read. All told, I read about 30 or 40 of his books, at least until my senior year of high school, when I became sophisticated enough as a reader to realize how unreadable his prose was. Anyway, he'd always end his books with a chatty Author's Note, and I simply thought these things were the cat's meow. Read 'em all. Well, I specifically remember one Author's Note  in particular where -- you guessed it -- Anthony was talking about The Gentle Art of Verbal Self-defense, some mildly amusing & apologetic story about how he'd fallen asleep reading the book several nights in a row. Only now do I realize he must have bought the book because of Elgin's SF connections.

Always strange, the mental connections one forms, the ways and byways. In many ways, SFF is a small world.

Friday, August 9, 2019

Research Trip to the Eaton Collection of SFF -- A Mixed Success

Well, just returned home after a 10-day research trip to the Eaton Collection of Science Fiction and Fantasy at UC Riverside. All in all, results were something of a mixed bag. On one hand, I have a much better sense of the conversations that surrounded Poul Anderson's efforts in 20th-century alliterative versecraft -- formerly seen as only the province of Tolkien, Auden, Lewis, and a few other Brits. 

On the other hand, I had hoped to find vast secret treasures troves of alliterative verse lying forgotten in various poetry mags and fanzines. Alas, not so much. I did uncover a few such works that I hadn't before known about . . . maybe, maybe, enough to squeeze a second article out of my research trip. Nothing I found, however, will likely shatter the heavens in terms of breath-taking original finds. Oh well. Even no information is some information, as they say (or at least I do).

Still, the lack of success wasn't for lack of trying. Excluding dead time, overall I spent a solid 27 hours in those archives over those 10 days, and I pretty much exhausted all my leads. I still have some leads left, too, but these will require correspondence with various people and delving into non-archived book material, so we'll see how that goes.

All in all, it wasn't a wasted trip, not by any means. Not sure if it was worth the $2,000 being paid out by my postdoctoral fellowship, but at least they're going to get something for their money.