Recovered Writing: A New Theme of Personal Digital Archive Rediscovery for 2014

Happy New Year!

In addition to writing about my research and teaching, I have decided to rummage through my archives of unpublished undergraduate and graduate school writing. It is my plan to post some of these artifacts to my blog in an unedited form (besides the accommodations of reformatting word processing documents for the web). Each posting will include a preface indicating the course, professor, and date of writing. The title will also clearly state, “Recovered Writing,” so as to distinguish these unedited posts of older writing from my up-to-date writing on

I have had to don a helmet and swing a pickaxe to uncover some of these unpolished gems from the dustbin of my digital archive. I hope that my efforts will excite and interest some readers for their nuggets of insight and glimmerings of research.

Some of the ideas that I will present here serve as signposts reaching into the past of my thinking and scholarly development. Some of the ideas that I will present here might provoke discussion or lead to new discoveries.

Unlike Smaug, I do not covet my hoard of gems. I would like to share them for others to see, because their dim light might help others see their own gems misplaced or not yet discovered.

New Venue for SF Scholarship: James Gunn’s Ad Astra

I received the following call for submissions for a new science fiction journal called James Gunn’s Ad Astra. It sounds very exciting, and I plan to submit work in the future. You should, too!

James Gunn’s Ad Astra is a new online publication dedicated to the study, advancement, and celebration of speculative fiction in the twenty-first century. Ad Astra will be edited by volunteers at the Center for the Study of Science fiction at the University of Kansas. Each issue will feature an assortment of stories, reviews, scholarly articles, and poems about science fiction, fantasy, horror and other genres of speculative art and literature.

The first issue of Ad Astra is scheduled for release on June 22nd, 2012.

The theme for Issue #1 will be Communication and Information.

We are looking for work from a wide variety of disciplines about how we speak with others, share information, and overcome obstacles to understanding. All submissions should have one eye cast toward the future, or one foot planted firmly in the world of the imagination. What would be the effect on human culture of ubiquitous mobile data streams? How might sapient colony organisms share information in the dark oceans beneath the ice of Europa? What conversation topics might be verboten on one’s first date with an artificial intelligence? Are orcs and goblins really as malevolent as they seem, or have they just been tragically misunderstood?

Papers up to 7,500 words in length should be e-mailed in .rtf or .doc format to Dr. Kathy Kitts at kittsscicoor at or Dr. Mark Silcox at msilcox at All submissions should be in APA format and prepared for blind review. Submit a separate cover page with name, word count and institutional affiliation. The tentative deadline for submissions to Issue #1 of Ad Astra is March 31, 2012. For more information, visit

Did You Know That Many Back Issues of SFRA Review Are Available Online?

Did you know that you can find many issues of the SFRA Review, the official publication of the Science Fiction Research Association, online for free?

There are two online repositories for back issues of the SFRA Review. First, all issues from 2001 (beginning with issue #250) to the present are available for download in PDF format from the SFRA’s official website here. This is also the primary place to find new issues as soon as they are published.

Second, you can find many of the earliest issues of the SFRA Review at the University of South Florida Library’s Special and Digital Collections website here. They provide scanning and hosting services for (currently) 118 Newsletter/SFRA Review issues from 1974-2008.

The SFRA Review is a leading source for original scholarship, conversation, and reviews in the field of science fiction and fantasy. In more recent years, it has expanded into other media in a big way including teaching guides, research, and reviews of genre film and video games.

The SFRA is the oldest professional organization for the study of science fiction and fantasy in all media. The SFRA promotes scholarship, teaching, and professional discourse through awards, publication, and its annual conference.

I Received a Kenneth R. Pringle Research Fellowship for 2011-2012

At last night’s Kent State English Department Awards Ceremony, I received a Kenneth R. Pringle Research Fellowship for the 2011-2012 school year. This fellowship gives me a service free semester to focus on research and writing. I plan to use this time, in part, to travel to several special collections to perform research related to my dissertation and a few unpublished articles.

The award ceremony was well attended by students and faculty in the English Department. Y and I represented the English Literature PhD students.

It was the last ceremony presided over by current Chair Ron Corthell, who is leaving the department after 30 years of service. Professor Donald “Mack” Hassler presented Professor Corthell with an Old English decree (and some good-natured ribbing) for his service to the department. I can attest to the good work of Professor Corthell, because he helped me deal with attacks on my blog publishing as a graduate student (here and here) and with professional issues relating to students. I wish Professor Corthell the best in his future work.

Benedict Anderson’s Imagined Communities and the SFRA Email List

This past weekend I read Benedict Anderson’s seminal work, Imagined Communities (1983, rev. 1991), and I immediately began drawing connections between Anderson’s thesis and the recent conflicts on the SFRA email listserv.  Anderson seeks to theorize the nation, and he argues that the nation is, “an imagined political community–and imagined as both inherently limited and sovereign” (6).  His definition for nation has utility in the theorization of SFRA and its online email community.

The Science Fiction Research Association is a professional organization for the promotion of SF scholarship and it is composed of a variety of SF scholars, but how do its members conceptualize the organization?  What is it that makes us a community, and what is viewed as divisive and community breaking?

Anderson’s thesis can be employed to answer the first question on the conception of SFRA community.  The SFRA email list and the SFRA’s quarterly publication, SFRA Review, promote a sense of “imagined political community.”  This is not to say that all SFRA members share a common political ideology in terms of the left or right.  However, it does mean that SFRA is a discursive community concerned with the politics of SF, and the discussion of SF inherently involves some political aspect whether it has to do with the politics within or brought to a particular work, or the political statement of speaking SF in a literary field that, at least in part, resists the inclusion of SF in literature with a capital “L.”  Furthermore, the list and SFRA Review promotes the discussion of a number of viewpoints and those viewpoints and individual voices are explicitly connected with persons in the field.  As a new academic just entering SF discourse, it was an eye-opening experience to first join the listserv and read my first SFRA Review.  At that moment, I realized that I was part of a community with a shared interest in SF scholarship that I could be a part of and contribute to as well.

Sometimes the SFRA “imagined community” gets caught up on personal politics and political attacks aimed at individuals.  This, of course, it not a pervasive syndrome or disease, but it is a localizable infection that recurs from time to time on the organic-like email list.  Also, this occurrence is not emblematic of the SFRA community at large, but rather a symptom of Internet anonymity and online discussion in general.  The common term for such disruption causing individuals is “troll.”  The troll was an instigator on message boards, whose purpose was to reveal “noobs” or new, inexperienced users with baited questions from the more experienced or “l33t” operators.  There is no place for the troll in a scholarly community that is devoted to the discussion of SF and the professionalization of its members.  We are not concerned with who’s a noob and who’s l33t.  We’re all a part of this community for the same reason, and we’re all in this together.  Ours is an exchange of ideas and not a hierarchization of members with hazing in mind. 

Now, the troll has devolved (a staid SF concept, particularly in the scientific romances of Wells) into a prankster or instigator who often fans the flames of personal politics with vicious attack rather than engaging in egalitarian, civil discourse.  The troll decries this normative civility–“where is it written, and who made the rules?”  The answer to this is simple–those who participate in the “imagined community” of SFRA.  There is an official statement concerning listserv behavior, as pointed our recently by SFRA President Adam Frisch (go to > Memberships > SFRA-L), but the conscientious and dutiful scholar can quickly ascertain the norms of the SFRA “imagined community” easily enough by observing what other members of the community do, and asking other members what they should do to be a part of the community, before selfishly assuming a community resource is their new toy open to their individualized reinterpretation of the scope and focus of that resource.

There are certainly compelling arguments for the free for all hijinks of the recent SFRA multiple persona troll.  I do feel that online listservs and such imagined communities and their resources that facilitate and construct those imagined communities should be anarchistic in nature.  However, anarchy does not mean anything goes.  Instead, anarchy is a form of mutual cooperation based on norms that individuals adhere to rather than pointed to the existing or non-existing explicit rule restraining their behavior.  Anarchy is about individual liberty, but that liberty cannot exceed the liberty of others.  Otherwise, the utopian anarchy shifts into other political realms.  Anarchy, in fact, relies on mutual respect in order not to become an omniarchy.  

Obviously, “imagined communities” are diachronic, and evolve over time.  SFRA and the SFRA listserv will likewise change with its membership and other social and cultural influences.  At almost forty years old, SFRA is relatively young, and the influence of technology is a powerful driving force in its further development, SF aside.  

In closing this post, I would like to share something with all of you that I shared with my first year college writing students the other day.  It’s the image of Earth taken from Voyager I out beyond the orbit of Saturn.  You may see our “pale blue dot” here.  The reason I showed this image to my class, and why I want to share it with you, is to remind us all to put things in perspective before attacking one another about anything.  Sometimes, we have to react, as I did in writing about the recent attacks on my blog.  However, I thought long and hard about this for two weeks before I decided to write what I did.  I think similar reflective practice by community members on the SFRA listserv will focus their arguments on the problem rather than on the person.

Many thanks to Ellen and everyone else who held the ship steady through the asteroid field.  Also, I’d like to remind everyone to keep their escape pods fueled and personal jetpacks handy, because these attacks are endemic to the Internet (and have a history outside electronic media as well) and are not likely to go away.