a_d_medievalist: a gift from ancarett (tea)
Over at Blogenspiel, talking about contingent faculty, etc.
a_d_medievalist: (fredegund)
I have returned to the writing of essays. If anyone who knows what has been going on lately reads the post and thinks I've not hit the right level of objectivity, please let me know! Otherwise, I give you Accounting for culture.
a_d_medievalist: (fredegund)
Oh, look! Men's Studies isn't enough. We need Male Studies, because...girls are MEEEEEAANNNIES!!!!M/i>

Seriously? What. the. fuck.


It's not that "it’s widespread in the United States that masculinity is politically incorrect."

It's certainly not that feminism is "a well-meaning, highly successful, very colorful denigration of maleness as a force, as a phenomenon.”

It's that some men (apparently far too many of them) can't hack the idea that other people are now playing on their turf, that they have to compete for the things to which they think they are entitled.

I would insert a cricket analogy, except for that it always seems to me that white Brits still see triumphs by teams from ex-colonies as a sort of extended triumph for the imperial ghost, and tend to blame white Brits for their own poor performance. So maybe that should be an appropriate reaction? hmmmm.
a_d_medievalist: a gift from ancarett (tea)
I have continued my post, mostly due to long comments that needed addressing, at Blogenspiel
a_d_medievalist: a gift for my birthday from gillo.  Please don't use it! (Default)
For those of you who don't read Whatever, you may have missed John Scalzi's recent post on the pay offered by Black Matrix Publishing, or his follow-up post that rounds up the responses of lots of pro writers and editors. Today, Scalzi points us to a very cranky response by MFA student and aspiring pro writer Jenn Brissett. The comment thread is wonderful. It's useful. It makes clear that Brissett doesn't get it.

So why do I care? Scalzi is not my friend, although I would love to hang out with him some time. I do know some professional sf writers and editors, though, and have been on the fringes of fandom for a long time. I don't see myself writing professionally, because I think I'm not really imaginative enough to write something that isn't jejeune and embarrassingly full of the Mary-Sue-ness that, even though it can sell (I'm looking at YOU, Stephinie Meyer), is not really very good. And if I wrote sf or fantasy, I would want it to be good, because I don't want the people I respect as writers to laugh at me. So yeah. Don't look for fiction by ADM anytime soon.

Right -- so this is why it concerns me at all. There are really a couple of reasons. The first is that, well, I have friends who write, and I want them to be writing for markets that pay relatively well. The second is that, well, I do write. I mean, I write really slowly, and I don't get paid in anything but CV credit, but in some ways I think that's relevant to the larger conversation. One of Brissett's arguments is that publishing with businesses like Black Matrix is still better than not publishing, because it can give a writer pro credits. The counter-argument is that some publishers are better than others; while the publishers who pay well tend to be the best-known and have the big pro reputations (hence good publication credits), many of the smaller and badly paying venues are also not places where the credit will count as much. This is not true for all of them, and I can imagine that, given the right publisher and editor, it might be advantageous for a newbie author to publish for free.

That seems pretty sensible to me, because the same is true for academic publishing. We rank our venues. A peer-reviewed publication is the bottom line, and from there there is a hierarchy of journals and publishers. Oxford UP or Cambridge UP will publish your book? Gold standard for many of us. Non-academic publisher or publisher with no guarantee of peer review? Not so much. There is an assumption of quality based on venue.

The second issue that strikes me about all this, though, is the one of payment. Academics don't expect to make tons of money from their books (although some do bring in some good royalties). To the best of my knowledge, most sf/f authors also do not make ginormous profits. Brissett argues that, by calling publishers like Black Matrix on their sweat-shop like wages, pro authors are acting as gatekeepers who don't want the newbies to get a fair shot. I call shenanigans on that. I may be a medievalist, but dammit, I teach the modern survey, too, and passed macroeconomics. I am familiar with Ricardo and his Iron Law of Wages. It's not about gatekeeping as much as it is looking around us and noting that, when we live in a society that undervalues labor, everybody's wages suck. This is true whether we look at people working at places like Walmart or in the kitchens of restaurants, or at humanities faculty. When people undersell themselves, they make it possible for employers to underpay them. Not only does it drag the wages of everyone else down, but it also encourages people to see what we do as having little worth. Unions can sometimes mitigate that, but honestly, they can't prevent state budget cuts and furloughs, which would not pass if people were properly infuriated and placed a high value on what we do.

Yeah -- that's getting a little close to blaming the victim, and I don't mean to do that. But this also connects back to our discussion of Bennett's History Matters, in terms of women and their occasionally willing participation in the perpetuation of the patriarchal equilibrium. Actually, it just connects back to feminism, plain and simple. If we aren't part of the solution, we are part of the problem -- and Brissett not only is part of the problem, but her arguments are so self-interested that she seems unable to see the same problem the rest of us do, i.e., that a poor wage structure, especially coupled with a venue that does not supply any particular cachet to its writers, is a sucker's game.

A final issue, which make it three for the promised two, is that ... WHAT? As I said above, I'm really sort of on the fringes of fandom. I don't drag myself to cons, even though I am starting to explore options there (Readercon, Sirens, and Wiscon are on my radar these days, although often they are not at convenient times for me to travel). But my overall impression, from being on those fringes for the past 30 or so years, is that the world of sf/f writing and editing is really not one of extraordinarily high, multi-bolted gates. There seem to be an awful lot of pros who got their start writing fanfic or editing fanzines. Smart people with something sensible to say seem to get put on con panels, and get worked into the system, although there does seem to be a flexible, but existing, frontier between the pros and the fans. But by and large, it seems to me to be a world where the talented can reinvent and establish themselves in ways that are not nearly as possible in many other professional areas.

You may wonder what all this is in service of. First, it's my blog and I had too much to say in a comment. Also? I've just successfully avoided marking essays for about 40 minutes! Guess it's time to get on that...

a_d_medievalist: a gift for my birthday from gillo.  Please don't use it! (Default)
NaNoBloPo/NaSchoWriMo 23

I have finished my teaching obligations for the week. I have finished my service obligations for the week. And all I can think is that I have several days in which I can actually get some damned work done. I have a big pile of marking to do -- essays for all classes, and catching up on all the online marking. The plus is that I will only have one set of papers to read the weekend before finals, and then the finals.

I am so looking forward to break, when I can ... ok, take a little break. I'm going home to visit The Kid and X and friends for five days, and there are a couple of parties and maybe some hiking, too. But mostly I will be looking forward to re-reading LDW's latest book, which I'm using for class, and at least one of his other books, and working on my damned book project (about which Superdean is nagging me) and also perhaps on my article for TenthMedieval. And going to the gym.

Maybe I'm just like this because I'm hopeless about time and balance. Maybe other academics spend their holidays actually having holidays. But I have this weird feeling that I'm not the only one who sees non-teaching time as a way to catch up.

On the other hand, I expect that it's a good thing that I've got to the point where I see these breaks now as real breaks, mental breaks, opportunities to do things I want to do, rather than as something I resent because I won't have a break. Still, I think I'd like to get more writing done in term time, and actually have a holiday, too.
a_d_medievalist: a gift for my birthday from gillo.  Please don't use it! (Default)
(NaNoBloPo/NaSchoWriMo 18)

One of the things that struck me today has to do with faculty privilege and how weird some of it seems to me. It's about communicating one's availability. I was feeling really grumpy today about people who don't communicate or pay attention. I'm talking about basic communication, nothing really work related. Just that I have colleagues and co-workers and student workers who just don't make sense to me. Some do. One of my colleagues never fails to pop hir head in and say hi when zie notices I've come in, and always says goodbye at night if zie leaves before me. Another always asks if I want the coffee left on when zie leaves, and I always know when zie is not going to be in, because zie mentions zie will be gone to a conference, for example. Some of my colleagues post their office hours clearly, and leave their doors ajar. If they are friends, we sort of know each other's schedules, more or less. Most of the students who work for my colleagues in our building pop their heads in when arriving or leaving, even though they don't work for me, just to say hi or bye. A couple even ask if I have work, if they have nothing assigned to them.

But then there are people who just don't communicate. The reason I started thinking about this was that I was by myself in the building for part of the afternoon, save one student. I don't know when the student left, but it was dark when zie did, and zie left the building door open. At night, after dark, with one female faculty member by herself in a building on the periphery of campus and adjacent to a busy road with not only lots of foot traffic, but a main thoroughfare for Dabbaville's homeless. It annoyed me. Part of it was the apparent lack of consideration, but then I realized that my expectations of communication just don't hold true for everybody.

This has happened before. I have a couple of friends who understand entirely when I ask them to text when they get home, if we've been out late, or if they have gone somewhere lonely by themselves to run, or some such thing. And we do that. They don't laugh when I post to facebook about illness or going for a run, because they were raised to check in, or know that single people can end up in all kinds of trouble and not be missed. Friends who thought it was a little silly have become a bit more understanding after I passed out for no identifiable reason last year. But anyway, I just think it's good to have an idea of where the people you care about are supposed to be, in case they end up somewhere else. Not everybody feels that way, and that's fine.

That was my reaction today. I reminded myself that my colleagues don't all have the same idea about communicating their whereabouts. And most of them are faculty. Faculty don't have to account for their time and where they spend it, except when required to be in a certain place for a class or meeting. So why should they communicate their schedules?

And then, I realised that I just don't buy it -- or not completely. If I need to talk to Superdean, or the Provost, or the President of SLAC, I may not be able to, but someone will know where they are and when they will be available. I don't account for every minute of the day, but I put a schedule for the week on my door, so that if people are looking for me, they can at least see if I'm definitely supposed to be somewhere else. And normally I shoot an email to folks if I'm coming in after about 10 on a non-teaching day (I like to go to the gym in the mornings sometimes, and often work till 7 ish). Hey, I'm department chair and have 25 advisees: people occasionally look for me. And if I'm home or working in a coffee shop, it's likely I'm checking email, anyway. Why? because it seems to me that, despite the freedom we have as faculty, people still normally keep something resembling bankers' hours, and part of the job is to be available to students and colleagues.

I've worked on a flex schedule before, by the way. I've worked jobs where I had a home office and only had to see my boss once a week. But if he was looking for me, he could usually find me, even if sometimes I was at a conference call in my pajamas. I've worked for places where every minute was jealously guarded as well. There's a difference in those atmospheres. Working from home on salary feels different from punching a clock. I never felt that I was obligated to call my boss and ask him if I could go to the gym at lunch, and he didn't care, as long as my work was done, and I returned calls and emails in a timely manner. But if I knew I'd be out of cell phone or internet range for more than a couple of hours, I'd usually let people know, because it's best not to have customers calling the boss to complain that you didn't pick up on the second ring.

I guess my point is that we work in a world where lots of people are accountable for their time, and there are lots of good reasons to communicate where we are, if only for simple courtesy and to make sure that, if our students need to see us, someone knows what to tell them about how to get hold of us. I'm just not sure how not having to account for one's movements got to be a faculty privilege, nor how that privilege seems more and more to be something assumed by staff and students, as well. Seems a little weird to me.
a_d_medievalist: a gift for my birthday from gillo.  Please don't use it! (Default)
(NaSchoWriMo/NaBloPoMo 12)

I haven't written anything in ages. I have been trapped, even though I'm only teaching three courses (and two preps), between teaching, advising, and administering. If nothing else, the past 12 days have reminded me that, when I want to, I can carve out time to write. If I can carve out time to blog, I should be able to carve out time to work on my research. Of course, it took actually sitting down and committing to blogging to remind myself of that. Ok, a couple of other things happened, too. I have to admit that blogging is not the same as research, even when it is thoughtful blogging. I don't worry about getting the facts straight, for example. But much of what I should be working on is also not the sort of thing where I have to carve out research time. Much of it could be done (after some revising) in smaller chunks, here and there.

Recently, Notorious, PhD posted about why we write (a couple of other people did, too, but at the moment, I can't brain. I used to write because it was a way to get and keep a job. Now that I have got to the point that I see research and writing as really important parts of my job, and things that I really like to do, I have a much harder time finding the time. Part of it is real. I teach in a demanding way. I should probably just write lectures, but you all know by now that I don't. I will also admit that I don't prep enough when my students aren't keeping up. But my time always seems to be eaten up with chairing, assessment work, advising (I've only got 25 advisees at the moment, which is not horrible compared to some of my College colleagues, but is about eight times more than any of my departmental colleagues), and committees. Only one search committee, but I've got to read some apps ...

And, as a friend pointed out the other day, I could actually do something useful in the morning rather than get on facebook and read blogs! The thing is, I *do* like to write. I like to read. But somehow, I get caught up in the semester and it always seems that I have no time free in substantial chunks. OH! It was Jonathan Jarrett who wrote about carving out time for writing. I need to go back and look at what he said, although I disagree with the tidying up. I do work better when I tidy up, perhaps because the action of tidying up means that I've moved away from the computer and the internet and am just focusing on what needs doing.

But mostly, I just need to do it. After all, I'm doing this, aren't I?

a_d_medievalist: a gift for my birthday from gillo.  Please don't use it! (Default)
I've posted something research-y on charters at Blogenspiel. You can comment here if you like. If you comment there, I'd appreciate not mentioning you saw it here first! Thanks!

In other news, I went to a spinning (the kind at the gym with bicycles) class tonight and am exhausted.
a_d_medievalist: a gift for my birthday from gillo.  Please don't use it! (Default)
cross-posted from Blogenspiel

As the semester crawls ever nearer, I'm starting to get into the usual panic of not having accomplished enough with my summer and worrying about not being able to get any writing done during the academic year. It would probably not surprise any of you that one of the things that I see as getting in my way is service.

Like many small colleges and universities, SLAC counts service in a big way. Although this is changing, many 'teaching' colleges and universities often used to count service and teaching as important -- or even more important -- than research and scholarly publication. This seems perfectly reasonable to me, to a point. After all, I have colleagues at SLAC, and know people who have taught at similar institutions, not to mention friends at community colleges, who were hired to teach 5-5 loads (that is, 15 lecture/seminar hours a week). Often that includes 2-4 different preps. It's a lot of work. Add to that service, and really there's not time for anything else.

That was then. cut for pity on the flist )


a_d_medievalist: a gift for my birthday from gillo.  Please don't use it! (Default)

January 2014



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