Monday, May 21, 2018

Speculations, or, a day in the life of inside my head

(Dear friends, I need your help reminding me that I don't actually want to start a publishing house. I don't want to deal with finances. I don't want to deal with taxes. I don't want to deal with marketing. I don't want to deal with advertising. I don't want to deal with website hosting. Really. So tell me why/that the below is a bad idea, to help me remember this.)

Normally when I write on this blog, I try to frame things in a relatively linear narrative, even if I don't have an argument I'm trying to make. But this isn't really how the inside of my head looks. This post, you're going to get a only-very-lightly-editing transcript of things I've been thinking about the last few days.

  • Hunh, it's been like two months since I submitted that Plato paper to the emotions journal. I wonder when I'll hear back from them. Eh, probably not until the end of summer.
  • Gosh. If that had been one of my fiction submissions, I'd be checking the Grinder daily and calculating what it means when it's been 1, 4, 7, 20 days without rejection, or when someone else's story submitted after mine has already been rejected and mine hasn't.
    • I really wish there was such a thing as the Grinder for academic journals.
  • It's really strange how the norms differ between SFF mags and academic journals. With few exceptions, the response times for the former are so much quicker.
    • That's because there's no peer review.
    • But there are slush piles and slush readers.
    • But that isn't the same. Remember? You point to this as something you like about fiction, that it's judged on a subjective basis, that a rejection doesn't mean "your story sucks" but "it's not to our taste/doesn't fit our next issue/didn't grab us/wasn't right for us". And it's important we have peer review.
    • Wait, why is it? What would happen if we published papers because we thought they were interesting/had something useful to say/were enjoyable to read?
    • We'd be inundated with CRAP.
    • But I'm sure SFF journals are inundated with crap too.
    • Yes, but somehow they manage to extract non-crap and publish good stories. With a short turnaround time. AND they pay.
  • Oooh, that's right. There's another reason why things differ: They pay.
    • The thing about paying markets, is that they probably get even more crap than non-paying ones, because of the potential reward of submitting.
    • But somehow or other, the possibility of payment also attracts the high quality submissions, and SFF journals manage to weed out the crap and publish the "good stuff" (in the sense that what they publish is what people want to read and come back to read more of).
    • "Because they pay money for what they publish, they’re likely to publish better quality stuff" seems to get the causal order entirely wrong.
    • Yes, but it 'hurts' more to pay to publish something bad, so there's an onus to only publish good things.
    • Still. There does seem to be some connection between venues that pay and venues that publish high quality work.
  • Imagine what it would be like if academic journals paid people to publish their work.
    • Pro rate fiction markets pay $.06/word. For your typical 12,000 word journal article, that’s $720.
    • Gosh. That’s a lot. I wonder how SFF venues manage to fund that.
    • [pause to enumerate all the options I've seen/can think of:
      1. Subscription fees.
      2. Paid advertisements.
      3. Patreons.
      Ad (1): But what about the SFF journals that publish "open-access"? Ad (2): Hah, what kind of advertisements can you imagine an academic journal attracting?! Ad (3): Hmm, there's a thought. Would people seriously commit to supporting an open-access, paying-to-author philosophy journal?]
  • Suppose they would. Well, I'm pretty sure they wouldn't until it was well-established.
    • Well, I am in a financial position where I could probably fund $.01/word out of my own pocket, for a select number of articles/issue, maybe at 2 issues/year. At least to get things going.
  • Gosh, if I were to found such an open-access, paying-to-author philosophy journal, what would I want to publish?
    • Stuff I find interesting.
    • That's ad hoc. You can't market that.
    • Hmmm, what draws together everything I like to read and write? If it were fiction, that would be easy: It's broadly 'speculative'.
    • What would count as 'speculative' philosophy?
    • Well...philosophy that asks or answers a 'What if?' 'What if meaning were compositional?' ' 'What if we looked at medieval logical treatises to find out what kind of temporal operators they use?' 'What if we could axiomatise common knowledge?' 'What if we try to take seriously the practice of producing and consuming fandom and analyse it from a philosophical point of view?'
  • Hmm. You might be on to something.
  • I totally am. 'Cause you know what we could do? We could call it Speculations , and make everyone who submitted a paper also include the 'What if?' question they are trying to ask/answer as part of their abstract?
  • That would be one way of tying everything together to make it look like you had a coherent project.
  • And you know what would be even better? We wouldn't have to restrict ourselves to publishing nonfiction! We could indulge that other daydream we keep returning to, of making a venue for the publication of 'philosophical' fiction. We could publish BOTH.
  • And make the authors of the fiction pieces also tell us the 'What if' their story addresses.
  • See?! Isn't this a brilliant idea?! We can run both nonfic and fic through a 'slush pile' which will probably result in a lot of desk rejections with brief comments ('didn’t grab me', 'too much stereotyping', 'don't feel qualified to judge the results'), but since we're paying, we wouldn't publish anything without vetting it properly, e.g., double check the results ourselves, or find a willing referee to look over the paper, but only in a short turn around time, focusing on the question 'would you stake money on the results of this paper?' or 'would you stake someone else's money on the results of this paper?' Certainly if we're paying out of pocket, we'd want to have some reason to think the papers were good. Of course that might make the journal rather skewed towards my own interests...but this isn't really a problem with spec fic venues, so why should that be a problem with nonfic? And if we we could always eventually bring in slush readers who could at least read things from outside our area of specialisation and say 'this could be decent, look into it further' or 'definitely chuck this'. And if we published fiction in addition to nonfiction, we'd be eligible for a listing on the Grinder.
  • Well, that seals it.

So, peeps, tell me (why) this is a bad idea!

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

April Writing Wrap-Up

April was an odd month. First, there was Easter and the concomitant holiday. Then, the last of my four deadlines was April 6, which meant a furious week of nonfiction writing. After that it was one weekend conference followed by another conference the end of the next week, and another the weekend after that. Because I was going to be working two whole weekends as a result, I took three days off while G was still out of school. Then my term started up again, and so did all the admin work. So it was swings and roundabouts when it came to what I was writing and then; still, I managed an average of 846 words a day, and wrote at least 5 days out of every 7, which, considering all the conferences and childcare, I feel is damn good.

Overall, I wrote just over 25k, my 2nd most productive month of the year so far. I think what makes me happiest about the month was that I managed to complete short stories for two deadlines. Both of them I finished on the day, so in May my goal is to finish one BEFORE a deadline; but considering that one of them I only realised 6 days previously that I needed to rewrite it from the POV of a different character, and I wrote the bulk of it while on the train up to St Andrews the day before it was due (and the day it was due found me getting up early to bang away in my hotel room before the conference started -- AND staying up late after the conference dinner to finish it!), I'm just thrilled I finished it.

Looking at the bar chart, it feels strange that I wrote so little nonfiction; it felt like my Easter break was way more productive than that stat displays, but I think what's tripping me up is that most of my Easter term productivity happened in March!

I've got two more teaching days this week, and then exam season starts. I've already started concocting grand plans for my summer productivity...bring on May! In the next few days I intend to write up my grand plans, because there's nothing like public accountability to keep me going.