August Updates: Book and Articles

My American Novels to 1900 class for UC Davis started last week, and I’m finishing up some big projects before fully diving into that pool.

First, I’m doing final proofreading review for my “Science and Technology” chapter of Cambridge University Press’s Mark Twain in Context. The site says it’ll be out in January 2020.

I’ve also been working to get Gears and God into the hands of local booksellers. The good news is that the Hannibal History Museum in Hannibal, MO will be carrying copies soon, just in time for the Big River Steampunk Festival on Labor Day weekend. I’m hoping the convergence of Twain tourists and 19th-century retro-futurists will result in a few sales.

The first major paper for the summer class comes in next week, so reading/grading will overtake everything else for a bit at that point.

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New Gears and God Review

Last month’s issue of Nineteenth-Century Literature featured a review of Gears and God. It requires a subscription to read the whole thing, but I’m providing a link to the preview of the first page from University of California Press’ page.

Thanks to Thomas Allen of the University of Ottawa for his insightful review!

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New Editing Gig at Mark Twain Annual

Last week, I formally agreed to be the new Book Review Editor for the Mark Twain Annual.

The Annual is a fantastic journal–one that I look forward to each year. They publish Twain scholarship that takes risks, tries things, and digs deeply into the topic. It’s exactly what a single-author specific journal should be.

The outgoing Book Review Editor is Kerry Driscoll, former President of the Mark Twain Circle and author of the excellent, Mark Twain among the Indians and other Indigenous Peoples. It’s a little intimidating to follow her, but she has generously offered to help me get on board.

It’s worth noting that teach 8-9 classes a year (depending on summer schedule and whether I teach my first-year steampunk seminar) as a full-time lecturer whose job description is allotted 100% to teaching. Sabbaticals or decreased teaching load for national research aren’t possible. And I don’t get any research funds, unless I teach the first-year seminar.

But this position means a lot to me. The Mark Twain Circle means a lot to me. And there are several fantastic books on Twain being published in the near-future. This is worth working some extra-long days during the school year.

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Live at ConQuesT 50

I returned from Kansas City a few weeks back and thought I’d share some highlights from the annual science fiction convention (ConQuesT).

I appeared on two panels (one on American Gods, one on Doctor Who) and had reading that included parts of Gears and God and a short story called “Boomaland” that’s still under construction.

The highlight, however, was artist James Hollaman’s Room Con party, which featured Bland Lemon Denton and the Lemonades playing one of their marathon sets of blues classics, 60s singles, and deep cuts from Texas songwriting legends. Photographer and Guest of Honor Keith Stokes was there to document it (as he has many SF events). That’s yours truly on the second page of photos.

I should explain. I’ve jammed with Bland Lemon Denton exactly once (at one of KU’s summer writing workshops). Apparently, I was just not awful enough for him to trust me with his guitar temporarily, while he grabbed another guitar (with a wireless connection to the amp) and sauntered off into the hotel hallway to perform a solo. I was happy to add to the show for a minute or two.

Also, in their alter egos, Bland Lemon Denton and Caroline “Honey Badger” Spector wrote a killer short story in George R.R. Martin’s Wild Cards universe last year. Check it out. 

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Full ConQuesT 50 Schedule

My full schedule for Kansas City’s 50th Anniversary ConQuesT SF Convention is now available under Appearances.

Come by the Sheraton at Crown Center and see me talk about Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, Doctor Who, and read some of the stranger excerpts of my research on American sci-fi from Gears and God.

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ConQuesT 50th Anniversary

The Kansas City Science Fiction Convention (ConQuesT) has updated its list of panelists. I’ll be appearing there, along with some fine writers, artists, and fans, starting on Friday, May 24.

I’ll post more under the “Appearances” tab once I know what my actual schedule is.

This year is the 50th anniversary of the event. I think I attended my first one as a young Star Wars fan, accompanied by a nonplussed father, in the 1980s.

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Summer UC Davis Class: American Novel to 1900

This summer, I’ll be teaching the “American Novel to 1900” course for UC Davis English Department. The full information is on their course schedule page. The first three novels we’ll cover in the six-week class:

  • The Female American, Winkfield (1767)
  • The Coquette, Foster (1797)
  • The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym, Poe (1838)

My goal is to incorporate something I’ve wanted to do since I saw Trinity College Professor and Heath Anthology of American Literature general editor Paul Lauter lecture on U.S. literature over a decade ago: student input into the choice of readings. Because books from this time period are mostly out of copyright and available online, I can do it without putting undue burden on the students.

On the first day, they’ll take a poll (what American “classics” they’ve read, what authors they think we should read in a college class) and then I’ll introduce parts of American literature that they may not be familiar with, including sentimental/domestic fiction, sensation and serialized novels, utopian fiction, dime novel western/invention/detective serial narratives, and more. Then we’ll vote on what novels to cover in the 2nd half of class.

As we do this, I’ll challenge them (or they’ll challenge each other) to pick a variety of material based on what they think is important. We’ll address inclusiveness, historical importance, etc. We’ll also cover things like how these novels were published and how writers or publishers conceived of what a “novel” was. Some things I’m particularly curious about:

  • Will they gravitate toward “American Renaissance” antebellum works or toward Realist novels of the late 1800s?
  • Are the books that were standard U.S. high school curriculum 20 years ago still entrenched? Have they all read Red Badge of Courage or The Scarlet Letter, for example? If not, what works have ascended to that often-dubious honor?
  • Will anyone question the inclusion of a work (Female American) from before the U.S. was actually a nation?
  • What novels have they already covered at the university level, perhaps even more than once?

I’m very much looking forward to it.

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