Out of This World, Science Fiction Exhibition at British Library Opens Friday, May 20, 2011

Andy Sawyer, science fiction librarian and my former advisor at the University of Liverpool’s MA in Science Fiction Studies programme, is guest curating the upcoming exhibit, “Out of this World: Science Fiction But Not As You Know It” at the British Library in London. Opening this Friday, May 20 and running through September 25, it will be the first science fiction exhibition at the prestigious library. Y has entered many UK trip contests, so I hope to visit the exhibition. If you are in or around London, I guarantee you that Andy will have assembled an impressively kick-ass exposition for the uninitiated and aficionado alike. Visit the official site here, or read the library’s press release here.

Study Carrel at the Kent State Library

Y and I applied to share a study carrel at the Kent State University Library with a fellow English Literature PhD candidate.

When we first come up to the office in the library, we were surprised by how much dust and dirt was in the office. I don’t believe that it had ever been cleaned. Y and I returned with a mop, duster, and rags to give the office a good going over. Unfortunately, the grime was too much even for the heavy weapons we brought to contain the mess. We will need to clean it a second time at least.

The carrel has one window overlooking part of the library’s flat roof, one large desk with a tiny drawer, and a five shelf metal book case, which I have been populating with books from home. One side of the office is dominated by a concrete support column, which substantially detracts from the floor space and room volume as compared with other carrels. Nevertheless, I believe this will be a useful office for our dissertation research and writing.

It is an interesting experience having an office in the library. I enjoy not having to pack up my laptop every time that I want to search for a book or use the restroom. Now, I can leave my things at my desk and lock the door on my way out. It also feels like I have a place to go to at the library now. Before, I never liked staying in the library for extended periods of time. I would go, find resources that I needed, and take them home. Library theft and uncomfortable chairs turned me off of using the KSU library as a place to do serious work.

Looking out over the black tar infused with small rocks and bits of buildings sticking up circled by an expanse of trees, I wonder if I will see this same scene in the future when my dissertation is done.

Another Busy Day on Spring Break

Y and I had another busy day on Monday of our Spring Break.

I found an iPad 2 at Target in Streetsboro and brought Y home a special surprise.

In the afternoon, Y and I went to the Kent State Library and obtained a study carrel. We also found two books for our friend M, who turned them in to the library’s drop box but as we suspected, the library employees had not checked them. Luckily, both books, one an interlibrary loan and the other from KSU were placed back on the shelf. Lesson: always get a receipt when you return books.

I went on my third run since the weather improved, but it was cold outside.

Watching Star Wars Tech now, but more reading ahead after a call home to my folks.

Kathleen Ann Goonan Speaks at Georgia Tech on “Consciousness, Literature, and Science Fiction”, Oct 12, 2010

Lisa Yaszek sent the following announcement out about the upcoming talk by award winning science fiction author Kathleen Ann Goonan at Georgia Tech on “Consciousness, Literature, and Science Fiction.” The presentation will take place on October 12 at 11:00am in the Library East Commons. I wish that I could go, because I think this Ms. Goonan’s presentation would be useful for my dissertation. She’s also a kind person with amazing ideas. Unfortunately, I am far away in the environs of Northeast Ohio, and I have job applications to prepare and a dissertation to write. I highly recommend you go to the event if you live in or around Atlanta!

The School of Literature, Communication, and Culture presents

critically-acclaimed science fiction author

Kathleen Ann Goonan

“Consciousness, Literature, and Science Fiction”

Tuesday, October 12, 2010, 11:00 a.m.

Library East Commons

Meet Kathleen Ann Goonan at a reception and book signing to follow the reading.

The author’s works include:


British Science Fiction Award Finalist


Hall of Fame Darryl Award Winner


Arthur C. Clarke Award Finalist


Nebula Award Finalist


Nebula Award Finalist


Campbell Award Winner

ALA Winner, Best SF Novel


Forthcoming from Tor Books, 2011

Kathleen Ann Goonan, presently a Visiting Professor at the School of Literature, Communication, and Culture at Georgia Tech, is an award-winning science fiction writer.  The author of seven novels as well as myriad short stories, talks, essays, and commercial articles, she is interested in and writes about emergent trends in science and technology and their influence on culture.  Her web page is www.goonan.com.

Kathleen Ann Goonan’s lecture is part of the 2010-2011 LCC Distinguished Speaker Series. Visit www.lcc.gatech.edu for more information about Goonan and other Speaker Series events.

Interlibrary Loan Blues

I may be mistaken about this, but I would think that if you request a serialized article via ILL with two separate requests (one for each issue in which the serialized article appears), you should, given a reasonable amount of time, eventually receive the article. Instead, you only receive a portion of the first installment, and nothing of the second. Granted, I did get about 90% of the first installment, which is just enough to get you good and mad that you didn’t receive the whole thing.

If only my Dad still had his Air Classics magazine collection so that I could get this dang article on the making of The Right Stuff.

Neil Gaiman in Cleveland, October 4

James just gave me a heads-up on Neil Gaiman’s visit to Cleveland on October 4, 2009 as part of the Cleveland Public Library’s Writer and Reader series. Here are the details from Gaiman’s website:

Cleveland Public Library’s Writers & Readers series presents Neil Gaiman

Sunday, 2:00pm



Cleveland Public Library’s Main Library Building

Louis Stokes Wing Auditorium

According to the Writers and Readers Series website, Neil will be joining a number of other authors in the series. Read the full list of authors here.

See you there!

Cleveland Public Library’s Writers & Readers series presents Neil Gaiman
Sunday, 2:00pm
Cleveland Public Library’s Main Library Building

Louis Stokes Wing Auditori

eBooks and Librarys

I know that there has been a lot more interest in eBooks following Amazon’s introduction of the Kindle and Kindle DX, but I was surprised to hear that ebooks, while only making up 3% of the book “publishing” market, represent the fastest growing segment of the book market according to this New York Times article.  I wonder if ebooks are beginning the logarithmic rise that mp3s did not too long ago to (almost) replace CDs.  MP3s were around for awhile before the firebrand RIO PMP300, and the style-and-function conscious Apple iPod took the stage and catapulted the digital audio file technology into something more than just a new technologically mediated way to listen to music.  The iPod with iTunes added a streamlined system for selling, distribution, and portable playback of purchased songs.  This, combined with rampant file sharing and a proliferation of inexpensive portable mp3 players, catapaulted mp3s over the walls of the compact disc stronghold.  Now, the rows of CDs for sale in big brick-and-mortar stores are dwindling.  Will the same be true in the near future for books and bookstores?

Amazon and Interead have reading devices and online ebook stores.  Many folks are scanning books and making them available online.  It seems like history may be repeating itself with books following the music model of going online–bits and tech replacing words on a published pulp page.  I’m weary of this transition, because I like controlling the bits that I own.  However, Amazon’s ability to remotely change the way a Kindle works (as in the case of the text-to-speech feature that was killed) leaves me concerned about who controls the device after it is purchased.  

Those concerns aside, what does the ebook mean for libraries?  Ebooks are much cheaper than books, which would give a library the ability to purchase more of them to satisfy their readers.  But, I don’t think the big ebook companies (like Amazon) or publishers want ebooks to follow a lending/reselling model that we’ve enjoyed with real books.  With a real book, I can lend it to a buddy, or sell it to someone else.  Additionally, lending and reselling may take place indefinitely for the life of the book.  This is not possible with the current offering of ebooks.  Amazon prohibits lending, and Interead allows you to trade books four times (kind of like Apple’s iTunes model of sharing songs–read more here). Additionally, there is the initial cost of a reader.  Electronic paper displays on ebook readers are much easier on the eye than traditional, backlit LCD, but this is a new and apparently costly (I wonder how much of this is licensing and not materials production) technology.  The point of libraries is to make reading available to a wide audience, but a greater shift to ebooks may marginalize libraries and their patrons.  What solution might the publishing industry offer libraries?  What should folks like us demand of the publishing and tech companies in the long term as books transition to the digital realm?  This seems like another case of the haves-vs-the-have-nots, and those persons with access to technology will make off with the spoils.  However, according to the Wall Street Journal, the homeless (this is not to say that all homeless experiences are the same) have computers and get online (read more here).

Robert Jackson on The Future of the Book and the Future of Academic Libraries

On October 28, Robert H. Jackson visited Kent State to give a talk in the Read Special Collections Classroom on the 10th floor of the Library on “The Future of the Book and the Future of Academic Libraries.”  Mr. Jackson is a lawyer by trade, and a recognized collector of books and tribal art.

Mr. Jackson argues that there is something special about the physicality of books, and what books mean to us that will help keep them around for at least another hundred years.  However, he admits that books are part of a technological process for the presentation and maintenance of words via text.  He charted his way through scrolls, codex, printed word, and the electronic revolution.  It’s the latter that he has some concerns about regarding the conservation of our textual archive in the future.

He bills himself as a collector of information–information that is inherently unstable and fleeting.  He catches concrete pieces of information before it’s lost and left to deteriorate.  The electronic revolution has problematized the collection of information for book collectors as well as library special collections.  First, there’s no longer manuscripts of creative works.  He noted that even John Updike has given up the typewriter for the computer word processor.  Obviously, writers draft their work in word processors, but the author has to be mindful of the writing process to produce files that would resemble what we consider manuscripts.  I imagine, more often than not, authors draft their work in one file or in chapter files, but the act of word processor writing lends itself to continual revision–subtle changes that are skewered for meaning by scholars but lost in the digital age.  Then, if special collections or a collector is presented with digital manuscripts, how should these be preserved?  What if they are on 320K 5 1/4″ floppy disks, or another difficult to read medium?  What about the rate at which computer storage changes–anything cutting edge now will be difficult to read in 5 or 10 years.  Another problem involves author letters and correspondence.  Most communication today is done by email, but there is often no special care taken in the preservation of these emails.  Furthermore, how should emails and other digital communications (think:  myspace, facebook, twitter, aim, etc.) be preserved?  

This problem of preservation is primarily one presented to library special collections.  Mr. Jackson has some canny observations about the trends in libraries and their special collections.  He views the library as the core or heart of a campus.  The library has its own gravitational field about which the rest of campus rotates.  It’s a place of learning–students and professors go there to work, study, and interact.  However, a shift occurred beginning in the 1990s where computers were used more in the library setting than books.  Now, we get the majority of our research from what he calls indexes, or perhaps more appropriately, databases.  However, I get his point that there has been a shift from the content to the proliferation of content indexing, and the use of finding where content is stored rather than delving right into the content itself.  

Coupled to this indexing is the recent move by Google to digitally store books online.  He believes that it’s healthy to make things available to a wider audience at all times.  What does this mean for the future of books and libraries?  He admits that books are only a stage in a progression of textual technologies, and he sees libraries as becoming even more dedicated to being places of learning.  He sees books falling to the wayside with the growing popularity of serials, which he admits has been a form since the 1500s, but they are undeniably growing in popularity, he says, because they don’t give you all the information at once.  At this point he gave TV programs and Star Wars as examples, but I would add to that the Web, YouTube, etc. He talks of books as having a reliability and authenticity, especially in uncertain times, that other media do not have, or I might suggest haven’t yet attained.  Also, he says that special collections will continue to grow and accrete more library space for the preservation of books.  With this being the case, he argues that special collections should assume a museum-like approach in which books are made available and the collections are displayed for people to easily see.  He wants to see libraries become a destination for people and families in the same way that museums and zoos are today–a destination of rare and valuable books with a “less rarified audience.”  He believes this will happen, because people want to see the real thing rather than a representation of the real thing such as on Google Books.  

This was an enjoyable presentation, and it helped me think more about some recent conversations that I’ve had with Mack Hassler regarding my own marriage/affair with books and technology.  I wish more literature grad students had attended, because this is important stuff for us to think about not only in terms of the shifting academic culture and job market, but with the very artifacts that we hold dear as objects of study.  As it was, I believe most of the folks in attendance were from the Classical Studies Department.  

After the presentation, I was beat and wanted to get home after a long day at the office, but I stuck around a few minutes to talk to Mr. Jackson.  While I was waiting, he told one well wisher that he was going to CERN this week for a private tour.  Apparently, Mr. Jackson has another hobby–quantum mechanics.  He talked about having a tutor so he would be up to speed on things before his trip.  I imagine he’s in Switzerland as I’m writing this–the lucky bastard.  Anyways, I did get the chance to talk to him on my way toward the elevator.  I told him about Vernor Vinge’s Rainbows End, which I thought was a critique of some of the very things that he said about the digitalization of books.  He said that he had read some of Vinge’s other stuff, so he would add Vinge’s most recent Hugo Award winner to his reading list.  I think he’ll get a kick out of it.