Word Hoarding, Not Just for English Profs

by Dr Davis on February 28, 2015

An article on “Rewilding our Language for Landscapes” from TheGuardian.com is about Robert Macfarlane’s “collecting unusual words for landscapes and natural phenomena.”

These include ammil, a Devon word for the film of ice that coats leaves and branches (and cactus prickles) after a partial thaw.

The image from the article:

by John Macfarlane

by John Macfarlane

The image from Facebook, that made this particular word more captivating to me:

by Texas Hill Country

ammil from Texas Hill Country on Facebook

I sought out the users, keepers and makers of place words.

I turned also to the archive, seeking place words as they were preserved in glossaries and dictionaries, gathered on the web, or embedded in the literature of earlier decades and centuries.

the terms I collected … recognisable in that they name something conceivable, if not instantly locatable…
I became fascinated by those scalpel-sharp words that are untranslatable without remainder. The need for precise discrimination of this kind has occurred most often where landscape is the venue of work.

I also relished synonyms – especially those that bring new energy to familiar entities. The variant English terms for icicle – aquabob (Kent), clinkerbell and daggler (Hampshire), cancervell (Exmoor), ickle (Yorkshire), tankle (Durham) and shuckle (Cumbria) – form a tinkling poem of their own. In Northamptonshire and East Anglia “to thaw” is to ungive. The beauty of this variant surely has to do with the paradox of thaw figured as restraint or retention, and the wintry notion that cold, frost and snow might themselves be a form of gift – an addition to the landscape that will in time be subtracted by warmth.

Some wonderful words and excellent writing in this essay.

All lovers of words should read it.


Writing a Good Complaint Letter

by Dr Davis on February 27, 2015

We’ve been reading on complaint and praise letters this week (despite the snow days). Then I saw this post from i09.com on a 1750 BC Customer Service Complaint.

That is so cool. I’m going to email it to my students.

“Take cognizance that (from now on) I will not accept here any copper from you that is not of fine quality. I shall (from now on) select and take the ingots individually in my own yard, and I shall exercise against you my right of rejection because you have treated me with contempt.”
1750 BC Babylonian tablet customer complaint letter
Note: He does owe the guy a mina of silver. But if that were the problem, he shouldn’t have said he’d give him good quality copper.


Waiting to Hear

by Dr Davis on February 27, 2015

One of the hardest things as a professor is waiting to hear whether or not someone is going to accept our work.

We’ve written it. We’ve wrestled with it, struggled with it, carried it up and down metaphorical (and sometimes actual) mountains, and then we’ve sent it off to someone else. After waiting hours, days, weeks, months, and sometimes years, we hear back.

With one chapter, which had a return deadline of Jan. 15, I was nervous. I spent the time I should have also been working on an R&R to get that chapter done on time. I didn’t hear anything by Jan. 15. Then by the end of January I was too nervous to wait. I wrote the editor and said, basically, “Well?” When I hadn’t heard anything in two weeks, I decided, this is awkward. Now when I see that wonderful woman, I’ll want to hide because my work was so poor that she is embarrassed to tell me it wasn’t accepted. (You’d think with dozens–two is dozens–of publications, I’d be a little more sure of myself, perhaps.) Then around Valentine’s Day the editor emailed that, like most of us, life had gotten ahead of her and her very ambitious–even I thought so and I can be the queen of turbo mode–schedule had broken down entirely. She told me it might be as much as another month before she is able to get back to me on my chapter. And I totally understand.

Tonight I went online to check on the status of a submission–a submission that took me two years to get up to doing, even though I’d done most of the work already; a submission that actually was even better than I thought it would be, by the time I finished filling out all the paperwork that went along with it. It’s still in review, though there is not a reviewer listed as reviewing it. In my profile, I’ve agreed to be a reviewer, though, of course, not of my own work. But they haven’t asked me to review anything and I wonder if they have submissions besides my own or if they’ve got so many that they don’t need reviews right now because they already have the texts for the next three or four issues.

Finally, there’s another article out. Technically it’s in R&R. They got back to me in a miraculously short period of time, a month, but I was up to my neck in reading for the chapter two paragraphs above. They asked if I intended to do the R&R and I said yes. My plan was to do it over the Christmas break. That, of course, was before my life went topsy turvy and I ended up with four family members in town rather than three.

I’ve got to get out two abstracts this week–both of which I’ve worked on a bit. And I have a paper to finish in the next two weeks, for a presentation. But I also would like to get to that R&R because I’m not the only one waiting to hear on articles. The editor of that journal is also waiting to hear…

It may not all get done by Saturday, since I have two big projects culminating on Saturday, but I hope to finish the revision by Tuesday, March 3. That’s my goal anyway.

Even if I’m still waiting to hear on the others, I can get that one moving again.


Medieval Misconceptions

by Dr Davis on February 26, 2015

io9 has 10 Worst Misconceptions about Medieval Life You’d Get from Fantasy Books

What were inns?
“Once your neighbor opened up a fresh batch of ale, you might go to their house, pay a few pennies, and sit and drink with your fellow villagers.”

Equality in the Middle Ages?

In England, a widow could take up the trade of her dead husband — and Mortimer specifically cites tailor, armorer, and merchant as trades open to widows. Some female merchants were actually quite successful, managing international trading ventures with impressive capital.

Women engaged in criminal activity as well, including banditry. Many criminal gangs in Medieval England consisted of families, including wives with their husbands and sisters with their brothers.

Go on and read more. You know you want to.


CFP: The Sci Fi Project

by Dr Davis on February 25, 2015

Wednesday 5th August – Friday 7th August 2015
Mansfield College, Oxford, United Kingdom

Call for Presentations:
From the 10th century’s The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter, to 19th century classics like War of the Worlds, to the universe of superheroes that populated comic books of the 20th century, to post-war television series like Star Trek TOS, to contemporary multi-media franchises including the Harry Potter series, The Hunger Games series and the A Song of Ice and Fire series, science fiction and fantasy have been a cornerstone of culture. The enduring popularity of these genres as a source of entertainment among the general public and an object of academic scrutiny raises important questions about the significance and meanings of these types of narratives.

Films, television shows, short stories, novels, magazines, blogs and even university courses have become the terrain on which creative practitioners, scholars and laypeople engage with science fiction and fantasy. This dynamic interaction has produced an ongoing interest in questions about how these stories help us to navigate the world we live in; and whether or not utopias and dystopias can tell us anything about the world we inhabit – or how to interpret it. Because the worlds of science fiction and fantasy are the products of dreams and imagination, the ways in which they imagine the world and our place in it, including social structures and issues of race, gender, class and sexual orientation, acquire significant political, social and ideological implications worthy of closer consideration.

Steampunkers-2276This conference will explore how our present culture influences and is influenced by the fantastic elements we encounter in media such as books, movies, TV shows, plays, fan events, graphic novels, digital art and games. While including popular mass media, such as Hollywood blockbusters, we are also interested in niche and subcultural sci-fi products, such a multi user dungeons and vidding. We therefore welcome participants from all disciplines and fields, including but not limited to creative practitioners, fans, researchers, skilled professionals including teachers and clinicians who use sci-fi/fantasy creation/role playing in instructional or therapeutic contexts, tradespeople, representatives from the voluntary sector, and anyone with an interest in joining the inter-disciplinary dialogue. We hope that this conference will help others to learn more about this genre and its importance to global understanding of ourselves and others. By exploring the multitude of societies featured in the science fiction and fantasy world, this conference aims to foster greater understanding of these genres in their own right, heighten awareness of the genres’ implications for global and personal issues and inspire insights which can be used to pursue positive change and innovation in our own societies.

We invite the submission of proposals for presentations, panels, workshops, readings, performances, installations, screenings and round table discussions on any topic related to science fiction and fantasy. These include, but are not limited to:

Science Fiction and Fantasy as a Genre:
-Discussions of specific worlds such as Star Trek, Star Wars, Doctor Who, ….
-Discussions of author specific works such as Frank Herbert, Terry Goodkind, R.R. Martin, and J.R.R. Tolkien
-Mainstream Hollywood science fiction and fantasy cinema (Avengers, Justice League,The Hobbit, The Immortals….)
-Adaptations between different forms of media
-Global science fiction and fantasy cinema
-Broadcast and cable science fiction and fantasy television
-Science fiction and fantasy videogames
-Short-form science fiction and fantasy fil
-Science fiction and fantasy and cooking culture
-Science fiction and fantasy art and illustration
-Webisodes and TV games
-Science fiction and fantasy comics and manga

Science Fiction and Fantasy and Identities:
-Gender in the science fiction and fantasy worlds
-Race in science fiction and fantasy realms
-Other than human and/or more than human beings
-Class in science fiction and fantasy
-Science fiction and fantasy and sexuality
-The Body in science fiction and fantasy
-On being human in science fiction and fantasy

Science Fiction and Fantasy and Technology:
-Science fiction and fantasy, and the military (real life as well as war gaming and videogames
-Animation techniques
-The difference between “science fact” and “science fiction” as well as the reciprocal relationship between the two
-Science fiction and fantasy anime and animation
-Science fiction and fantasy on the internet
-Multimedia “dispersed” science fiction and fantasy narratives
-Magic in the science fiction and fantasy realms

Science Fiction and Fantasy and Economics and Politics:
-Political structures in the other universes
-Science fiction and fantasy and idiom and imagery in advertising
-Science fiction and fantasy games (board games, role-play games, etc…)
-Science fiction and fantasy and/in Music
-World’s Fairs, Theme Parks, and other “material” science fiction and fantasy media
-Science Fiction, Fantasy, and possible future worlds scenarios (climate change and environmental considerations, etc)

Science Fiction and Fantasy and Fan Studies:
-Fan power (The Fuck Cancer fundraiser, crowdfunding, etc.)
-Cosplay, Mashups, and Remixing
-Fandom continuations (fan productions and fan sequels)
-Fan fiction as performative or dramaturgical
-Fandom gatherings and events (conventions etc)
-Identity and community performance in specific franchise fandoms and in general
-Live-action role-playing games
-Design and performance in nonfranchise fandoms such as steampunk

The Steering Group welcomes the submission of proposals for short workshops, practitioner-based activities, performances, and pre-formed panels. We particularly welcome short film screenings; photographic essays; installations; interactive talks and alternative presentation styles that encourage engagement.

What to Send:
300 word abstracts should be submitted by Friday 1st May 2015. If an abstract is accepted for the conference, a full draft paper should be submitted by Friday 19th June 2015. Abstracts should be submitted simultaneously to both Organising Chairs; abstracts may be in Word or RTF formats with the following information and in this order:

a) author(s), b) affiliation as you would like it to appear in programme, c) email address, d) title of proposal, e) body of proposal, f) up to 10 keywords.
E-mails should be entitled: Sci-Fi1 Abstract Submission.

Please use plain text (Times Roman 12) and abstain from using footnotes and any special formatting, characters or emphasis (such as bold, italics or underline). We acknowledge receipt and answer to all paper proposals submitted. If you do not receive a reply from us in a week you should assume we did not receive your proposal; it might be lost in cyberspace! We suggest, then, to look for an alternative electronic route or resend.

Organising Chairs:
Nadine Farghaly: [email protected]
Rob Fisher: [email protected]

The conference is part of the ‘Ethos’ series of research projects, which in turn belong to the Critical Issues programmes of ID.Net. It aims to bring together people from different areas and interests to share ideas and explore various discussions which are innovative and challenging. All proposals accepted for and presented at the conference must be in English and will be eligible for publication in an ISBN eBook. Selected proposals may be developed for publication in a themed hard copy volume(s). All publications from the conference will require editors, to be chosen from interested delegates from the conference.

Inter-Disciplinary.Net believes it is a mark of personal courtesy and professional respect to your colleagues that all delegates should attend for the full duration of the meeting. If you are unable to make this commitment, please do not submit an abstract for presentation.

For further details of the conference, please visit:


Please note: Inter-Disciplinary.Net is a not-for-profit network and we are not in a position to be able to assist with conference travel or subsistence.

From H-Net


CFP: Speculative Fiction

by Dr Davis on February 24, 2015

We seek articles that respond to the CFP below by April 30, 2015 for Vol 2 Issue 1 of Sanglap: Journal of Literary and Cultural Inquiry

The term speculation has, among others, two specific strands of meaning: thinking/narrating the realm of the possible and describing a form of economy that borders on the fluctuations in the material value of a marketable good. In both the strands, speculation is largely based on what constitutes the material. As Ursula K. Le Guin writes, Margaret Atwood’s fundamental resistance against terming her work ‘science fiction’ is the anticipated near-materialization of the nature of her imagined world: “In her recent, brilliant essay collection, Moving Targets, she (Atwood) says that everything that happens in her novels is possible and may even have already happened, so they can’t be science fiction, which is “fiction in which things happen that are not possible today” (Le Guin 2009).

Thinking the material then also calls for thinking the generic; if science fiction gathers meaning by a sense of the impossible, the materialization of many such incomprehensible things in today’s society has dismantled the values of generic difference. Speculative fiction then is marked by dissolute boundaries, overlapping territories, generic mutations. One can think of a number of genres routinely categorized these days under this broad term, like fantasy, supernatural fiction, teen fiction, horror and vampire fiction, science fiction, etc. In that sense, how does one approach the realm of the speculative, in thought as well as in fiction?

Weeping Angel Suanna b+w Shd-2076The other strand of meaning which is not entirely dissociated from the first advocates for a particular form of practising economy. Speculative finance, as Ritu Birla (2006) so efficiently shows, is linked with the rise and legitimation of gambling in colonial cities, the public enthusiasm for which could be historicised, following Ian Hacking’s brilliant study (1990), in the institutionalization of probability and chance in the Victorian navigational discourse. To put squarely then: speculation is an act of fiction where fiction is allotted the nature of something-not-being-there, and that speculation is linked with imperial strategies of governance. Is it why so many of the speculative novels involve the scientific-military-complex, the neo-regimes of imperialism, the ecological concerns, and the ethics of humanity – in short, the possibility of living? Could a study of speculative fiction then help us understand the complex interrelations in factors geographical, financial, and political in oil-rich areas? At the same time, could speculation always already entail the fiction of the fictive?

We would like to tap these potential gestures in this call for papers through topics that may not be limited to these:

Speculation and/as Thought
Speculative, Fantastic, Imaginary
Genres of Speculative Fiction
Speculation in Performance and Visual Art
Speculation and New Wave Cinema
Speculation and Political Economy
Chance, Probability, Logic, Speculation
Speculation, Hydrocarbon, Oil
Speculation and Ethics
Animal Studies and Speculation
Sciences of the Speculation
Speculation and Space/Topography

Prospective papers addressing the issue should be sent to [email protected] by April 30, 2015.
The decisions will be communicated to the authors by June 30, 2015. The papers should be between 4000 and 7000 words in length excluding notes and references, sent along with an abstract not exceeding 200 words and five or six keywords. For further information on style and guidelines, please log on to: http://sanglap-journal.in/

From H-Net


Working on the LMS

by Dr Davis on February 23, 2015

I was revising the calendar, trying to eliminate some daily grades and give the students spring break off. I figured out how to do it, uploaded all the assignments, and put in the new calendar.

Then I started getting panicky emails and text messages from students. At first, I simply responded and moved on. However, I started wondering after a while why they were all asking such odd (to me) questions.

Turns out that (for whatever reason and I don’t think this was my weird computer magic, but who knows) Canvas switched all the dates and made them a week earlier than the ones that I very carefully put into each assignment.

I’d be panicked too if it turned out that a major paper that originally wasn’t due for three weeks became suddenly due in less than 12 hours.

Note: I did move it up, but not that much. I left time for peer reviews and in-class work on the bibliographies.


CFP: 19th-Century Science Fiction

by Dr Davis on February 23, 2015

CFP MLA 2016 (Austin, 01/07-01/10) Special Session: 19th-Century Science Fiction
full name / name of organization:
MLA / Jessica Kuskey
contact email:
[email protected]
Papers sought for a special session to be proposed for MLA 2016 on any aspect of nineteenth-century science fiction. Potential angles on this topic may include:

Coppo_di_Marcovaldo,_Inferno canto 34 c1301 mosaic Hell devil WC pd- proto-science fiction
- texts traditionally not viewed as science fiction, reconsidered as aligned with the emergence of the genre
- historical/cultural influences on the emergence of the genre
- literary/cultural impacts of the emergence of the genre

300-word abstract and 1-page CV by 15 March 2015, sent to Jessica Kuskey ([email protected])

From UPenn


CFP: Religion in Science Fiction MLA

by Dr Davis on February 22, 2015

Heavens Above: Envisioning Religion in Science Fiction (MLA 2016 in Austin, TX, 7-10 January)
MLA Forum on Religion and Literature

alien ship with yellow lightsAlien religions, post-secular numinous experience, evolutionary religious developments, neo-religious epiphanies–science fiction rarely leaves religion behind as it leaps to the stars. Papers addressing teleologies of transcendence, apocalyptic religious fulfillments, and other intersections of religion and science fiction welcome. Panel sponsored by MLA Forum on Religion and Literature.
Abstract/CV by 15 March 2015 to Liam Corley, [email protected]

from UPenn


CFP: Science Fiction Conference

by Dr Davis on February 21, 2015

Science Fiction Conference – April 17-18, 2015
Oral Roberts University
contact email: [email protected]
We are pleased to announce our keynote speaker: Orson Scott Card.


spaceship2cThis two-day interdisciplinary conference – sponsored by the colleges of Arts and Cultural Studies and Science and Engineering at Oral Roberts University – will examine the relationships between science and science fiction, social science and science fiction, and theology and science fiction in all forms of science and science fiction, including science fiction stories, film, television, radio, graphic novels, and theoretical physics.

Potential contributors are invited to submit an abstract or paper for this conference on themes related to any of the following conference tracks:

Science Fiction and Theology. Investigating the relationship between and metaphors in science fiction and theology.
Science in Science Fiction. Discussing the plausibility of fantastical science fiction concepts such as time travel, warp drives, cloaking devices, and (quantum) teleportation.
Hard Science Fiction. Examining scientific rigor in science fiction.
Social Sciences in Science Fiction. Investigating psychological, sociological, and cultural issues in science fiction.
The Relationship between Science and Science Fiction. Exploring how science drives science fiction and/or how science fiction drives science.
Original Science Fiction Short Stories. Submitting creative and original short stories (8-10 pages) over various science fiction themes and subjects.
Papers on the above themes are invited. However, papers on other subjects related to the above topics will also be considered.

Please submit an abstract or a full paper by February 28, 2015. Presentations are welcome in any format and style, including PowerPoint, and will depend upon the traditions of your discipline, but if you submit a paper to be read, it should be 8-10 pages (double-spaced, 12 point font) and needs to be an original work that has not been read at any previous conferences. Regardless of the presentation format, participants will be held to a twenty minute presentation limit.

Boy in RocketshipE-mail all abstracts/papers to the following individual:
Dr. Andrew S.I.D. Lang, Conference Director
[email protected]
Phone: 918-495-6692
To insure prompt notification, please include your e-mail address on your submission. If you are willing to chair a section, please note this at the top of your abstract/paper.

from CFPs at UPenn

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