Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Icarus Magazine

I recently subscribed to Icarus, a magazine of gay speculative fiction. It's published by Lethe Press and edited by Steve Berman, who owns Lethe. Subscriptions are $50US for a quarterly year, including shipping, or single issues can be ordered for $13US plus shipping. I got the magazine very promptly -- within about a week -- and it's well put together, with heavy, slick covers and good quality paper.

I was expecting a fiction magazine and there were only three stories in it, so that was a bit surprising. The other features and articles were interesting, though, so I'm not disappointed.

"Watching Dark Shadows" is an excerpt from Jeff Mann's autobiographical essay collection Edge, and was interesting even to me as someone who'd never watched the TV show. I'm planning to look for his book so I can read the rest; he's an engaging writer and this sample bit makes me want to get the whole thing. (Which was, of course, the point I'm sure. :D )

There's a collection of cartoons on one page by someone called Puss in Boots. The art's decent, and one bit about gay robots made me crack up. I showed it to my husband and he laughed too, which is the whole point, right?

There's an interview with Dan Stone which is chatty and interesting. He talks about his book The Rest of Our Lives and how it came from his "lifelong love affair with romance and magic," which makes it interesting to me as a reader.

There's another interview, this time with artist Peter Grahame, who talks about his book Contemplations of the Heart, A Book of Male Spirit. He says that he "got very interested in just photographing my naked friends -- perfectly ordinary and wonderful guys as they are -- just for it's [sic] own sake. I was realizing that Gay men, myself certainly included, so often get hooked on the impossibly idealized youthful well-built well-endowed male nude. I wanted to start showing that really, no matter what age, shape, size or color, everybody is in fact beautiful... and sexy, too. I wanted to move away from reducing men to body parts and sexual objects only." I have to say that as a woman, this makes me smirk and think, "Welcome to the club," you know? But again, the guy sounds interesting and it's great that he's doing this. The two example photos aren't terribly outside the norms, in that there's no one shown who's noticeably fat or old or whatever, but from what he says I'll assume that there are at least a few such photos in the book itself. (It sounds like there should be, at any rate.)

There are three reviews, one of which is absolutely scathing -- you can always trust Paul Bens to say exactly what he thinks -- so there's no fear that they'll only be doing puff pieces like a few other magazines I can think of.

There's also a "Forewords" section, with an alpha-by-name listing of what various people are doing in gay speculative fiction. Most of it is books coming out, or authors announcing that they're working on a sequel to such-and-such, with a couple of other notes. It looks like it could be a useful resource for people looking for book releases and other events in this subgenre, although if everyone who writes relevant books started submitting their release etc. info, the page could easily turn into quite a few pages; I imagine they'll have to implement some sort of filtering process if it becomes too popular?

A page entitled "Network'd" talks about The Gaylactic Network, its history and goals and current state. I don't know whether this is a one-time ad or whether the Network will have a regular page in the mag; we'll see with the next issue.

At this point, Icarus is a bit incestuous with Lethe Press, featuring enough Lethe books and associates that I noticed without having been looking for it. It's understandable for the first issue, and the contents were of high enough quality that it doesn't bother me. I'm looking forward to seeing them branch out, though, in the future. Posting some submission guidelines on their web page would also be nice; the focus on Lethe authors and books along with the lack of publicly posted guidelines makes it feel a bit clubbish. We'll see how it goes over the next few months.

On the whole I'm pleased with the magazine and don't regret my fifty dollars. It'll be interesting to see how the magazine develops as it goes along.


Sunday, June 28, 2009

Writer 1, Actor 0

I have to share this just because it made me snicker. :)

In the current issue of Smithsonian, July 2009, there's an article called "Nikita in Hollywood" about Nikita Kruschev's visit to the US in 1959. I wasn't born then so I'd heard only vague mentions of the event, and found the article interesting and entertaining both. Very historical as well as readable, good photos, etc.

There's one bit, though, describing a conversation at the banquet held in Hollywood for Kruschev and his party, along with as many Hollywood notables as could be shoehorned into the banquet room. The visitors were scattered among the tables, spreading the wealth, so everyone got a chance to talk to a couple of famous actors or directors or whatever. One conversational snippet:

As the waiters delivered lunch -- squab, wild rice, Parisian potatoes and peas with pearl onions -- Charlton Heston, who'd once played Moses, attempted to make small talk with Mikhail Sholokhov, the Soviet novelist who would win the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1965. "I have read excerpts from your works," Heston said.

"Thank you," Sholokhov replied. "When we get some of your films, I shall not fail to watch some excerpts from them."

I had to laugh, and give Sholokhov a fist-pump for that. I mean, it's clear Heston was trying to make polite conversation, so he gets a brownie point for good intentions, but seriously, would he have been flattered if someone said they'd watched his movies' trailers but not the movies themselves?

The primary reason for excerpts to be circulated, and certainly the only reason I can think of why they'd be put in the way of someone who's a reader but not in the business nor an academic, is as promo. You read the excerpt and then if you like it you read the entire work it was taken from. Telling a writer you've read excerpts is essentially saying that you weren't interested enough or impressed enough with said excerpts to actually read the books. That's not any kind of a compliment, and as someone who works in an analogous business, one might've expected Heston to twig to that.

Great come-back from Sholokhov, though. :D


Friday, June 26, 2009

Two Reviews

Hilcia over at Musings of a Bibliophile reviewed two of my short stories. She enjoyed them both and I'm delighted with what she had to say. :D


In the Driver's Seat

Brian Stokes is looking for a new bed mate after his latest bed-buddy leaves him for a permanent partner. Benedetti draws Brian as a good looking and arrogant male used to having his own way. He's not interested in serious relationships, but would like to have someone who at least knows his likes and dislikes. He knows it won't take him long to find someone new... but, the gym where he works has the same faces and bodies -- been there, done that.

Brian walks in the locker room and notices someone fresh and different. Val turns out to be an old acquaintance. He worked at the gym during summers as a teenager and Brian was a kind of mentor to him back then. Things have changed.

Val is now a grown up man with assets that won't quit and Brian wants him on the spot. He figures he can teach Val a thing or two between the sheets and is surprised when Val seems reluctant -- but a date is on. Brian is in for an unexpected, if ultimately, pleasant surprise. The question becomes; who will be giving the lesson and who will be receiving it? Who will give and who will take?

Benedetti did a terrific job with this short Torquere Sip. I enjoyed how she wrote Brian and Val's surprisingly hot and erotic encounter, as well as, the quick pacing and phrasing of the story. Brian's internal dialogue and personal ramblings became a personal favorite.

M/M Erotica, D/s: Hot B+


Candy Courage

Take an old gentleman who mixes magic into his yearly Halloween supply of home made peanut brittle. Stir in a single father who takes his boy trick-or-treating, and throw in a gorgeous co-worker who lives in the area. There you have the recipe for Candy Courage.

Our main character Glen Bellamy is a single father who recently moved to the neighborhood. He and his son Georgie are out trick-0r-treating when they come by Mr. Fiorentelli's old home. The peanut brittle Mr. Fiorentelli gives the kids smells wonderful, but it is not store bought, so Glen is not about to let Georgie eat it -- that doesn't mean he himself can't have it.

A couple of more blocks and they unexpectedly reach the home of Neal Sampson. He is Glen's hot and smart co-worker, and he has a bit of a lusty crush on him. To his own surprise, Glen flirts and aggressively makes a date with Neal for the following day. Will Glen continue to have the courage he needs to approach Neal once the magic wears off? Will his shyness allow it?

I found this short Torquere Halloween Sip by Ms. Benedetti to be a sweet, hot read. She captured a moment, the consequences and its possibilities quite well.

M/M Erotica: Quick, Enjoyable, Sweet B-


Thanks again to Hilcia!


Thursday, June 25, 2009

GLBT Bookshelf and Some Press Wierdness

The first publicity campaign is starting for the GLBT Bookshelf; we've got a press release out to a few sites, which is pretty cool. Hopefully the site will get a nice wave of people wandering through. (Here's my main page for anyone who missed it the last time I posted about this. [cough])

The weirdness, though, came just a few minutes ago. Mel Keegan, whose brainchild this project is, e-mailed all of us who've signed up on the site about the press release, which says in part:

Frustrated by the infamous "AmazonFail" fiasco of early 2009, in which the online retail giant was suspected of attempting to deny GLBT literature the benefits of its promotional systems, Keegan conceived of an online community in which all such systems were circumvented -- replaced by "community promotion" with direct links to authors’ and publishers’ pages.

There's another mention of "AmazonFail" later on as well. But Mel mentioned that one of the sites to which the press release was submitted, PR.com, would only run the story if the mentions of "AmazonFail" were removed. o_O Umm, excuse me? None of the other sites minded the mention at all; "AmazonFail" was big news a couple of months ago and mention of it will only bring more traffic. So one has to wonder whether Amazon might not own a chunk of PR.com, and be trying to squelch mentions in the news of their more embarassing moments. Only speculation of course, but it's definitely suspicious.


Saturday, June 20, 2009

Come Spend the Day

I'm driving the bus over on Torquere Social today, so come on over and hang out with me. I'll be posting a series of questions and contests, and collecting names of folks who participate into a hat (well, probably a bowl, but close enough) and drawing a name for a five dollar Torquere gift certificate. (You can get about half my backlist for five dollars, so if you've wanted to try my stories but haven't had the money, this'd be a great opportunity. :D )

I'll be posting throughout the day, so check in whenever you're around. [wave]


To the Person Posting as BUGCHICKLV on Demonoid

Thanks for expressing interest in my story, "Learning to Love Yourself," as well as a number of my colleague Mike Shade's stories. It's great to know there are people out there who want to read my stuff.

But seriously, dude, it costs $1.29. You can buy a copy right here for, like, a quarter of what a cup of coffee costs these days.

Now I'll admit that with the many, many stories which were passed around on that particular Demonoid thread, you ripped off saved quite a lot more money than that. I'm afraid I can't find it in my heart to admire your frugality, however, since it comes at the expense of my own earnings and those of other writers I know.

If you're really that strapped for cash, there are plenty of legitimately free stories around on the internet. There's some great stuff in fanfic fandom (look for rec lists) plus a lot of published writers have free stories on their web sites. Archives like Nifty are free and specialize in gay erotica. Oh, and there are also places called libraries where you can borrow books for free -- I'll bet there's one near you.

But you know, the pirated e-book thing? Please knock it the fuck off. Thank you.


Friday, June 19, 2009

LGBT Bookshelf Wiki

Well, I haven't been doing much writing over the last few days, but I have a chunk of a wiki now. (And I know a lot more HTML than I did a week ago.)

In response to April's Amazonfail, Mel Keegan started the GLBT Bookshelf, a community for writers, publishers, artists, editors, reviewers and readers of GLBT fiction based on a wiki. It's a communal project, and as soon as it's a bit more fleshed out, we'll start advertising to draw more traffic. Members are encourage to post buy-links to their fiction, and the idea is to be a central location where readers can come to find and buy GLBT books. You know, in case Amazon or anyone else eventually comes up with a way of actually getting away with turning us all invisible to the readers and customers.

It's a pretty cool project. The home page is here and my main author's page is here. I have a page for each of my stories, with summaries, good-size excerpts, buy-links, and links to my free stories. I'm on the writer's list and my stories are on the alphabetical book list and on my publisher's page. I still need to link each story up to the relevant category (genre, theme, etc.) pages, but my brain started frying in code about six hours ago so I'll finish up later.

This is a neat idea and it's something any group of writers could do. If you're a writer I urge you to come over and poke around, even if you don't write GLBT. One of the primary benefits of this project, even assuming none of the major retailers ever tries to erase us again, is that we can do group marketing; with even one or two hundred people you can do a lot of high-quality advertising for just a buck or two per person. With more people you can start looking at advertising that's usually available only to the medium to large publishers. Any group of writers from any genre or non-fiction subject area could benefit from this sort of set-up.


Friday, June 12, 2009

RTB Column


I have a new column up at Romancing the Blog called Further Adventures? I'm looking at the relative flexibility and rigidity of the het romance publishers and the gay romance publishers regarding genre requirements, specifically focusing on the viability of writing a series of books about the same pair of main characters.

Pop over and let me know what you think. :)


Thursday, June 11, 2009

Challenge Update

I'm a little behind pace, but not by much; I should be a little over 8K, so that's less than two thousand words. And actually, I'm considering it a triumph that I'm not significantly more behind, since my copy of Sims3 showed up on Thursday, and I've lost three or four writing days to it. [duck]

I'm up to almost 58K on the novel, and I'm about 1200 words into my story for the Love Wide Open antho. I'm hoping I have a handle on what they want for the collection; either way, it's an interesting change writing something that's neither romantic nor erotic.

Angie, back to juggling writing and Sims now ;D

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Anthology Markets

More upcoming anthology deadlines. Just a few this time, but you can tell Halloween's coming. :) All romance and erotica this month, except for the first one.

[ETA NOTE: I've been getting a lot of hits on these posts, so if you've just wandered in off the internet, hi and welcome. :) I do these posts every month, so click here to make sure you're seeing the most recent one.]

Remember to follow the links for full requirements and submission info.

This is the third time I've done this and I've decided to keep on, since these pages get a nice number of hits. I've backed up a bit on the date; since I start listing with the first of the following month, the 10th should be a good posting date, leaving three weeks or so to write a short story if something catches your eye. And since I'll run the list through the 1st of the month after that, something with a deadline of the 1st will have shown up the previous month anyway, so that should work out.

Note that I'm not trying to be comprehensive here. I keep a file of info on anthologies I'm personally interested in maybe thinking about submitting to, and decided to post them here. So this is just what caught my attention; there's a lot more out there. Notes either in comments or e-mail about upcoming anthologies are welcome (including from the editors or publishers of said anthos) but I'll only add it to my list if it's something that I personally would at least think about subbing to. Although if you want to post a note in comments, I won't delete it so long as it's a call for an open, paying anthology. (Paying in money, even if only a little, not just trib copies.)

Questions or suggestions are always welcome.


1 July 2009 -- SHINE -- Solaris Books

Convincing and optimistic: Imagine that we are the biggest skeptics on the planet, then show us how things can change for the better, and persuade us.

Near-future: from now until 50 years later.

SF: we’re not going to define it. Write what you think is SF, and convince us with the story.

The Gritty:
Length: up to 10k words (not hard, but anything longer than 10k should be mind-blowingly superb).


1 July 2009 -- I Put a Spell on You -- a BBA Menage Anthology -- Torquere

Love spells? Magic in the air? You bet. All it takes is two boys, one girl and a magical romance, and you have the perfect story for I Put a Spell on You. We're looking for m/m/f romance and erotic romance with strong characters and great stories.

Stories are due July 1, 2009 for release in October 2009. Word count between 3000-8000 words, with a payment of $50.00, as well as a contributor copy in both electronic and paperback format. Since this is a direct to print anthology, we're asking exclusive electronic and paperback rights for 5 years. Please send a synopsis, author bio and your story to submissions@torquerepress.com with Spell in the subject line.


1 July 2009 -- The Care and Feeding of Demons -- Torquere

Demon romance! Demon hunter romance! Urban fantasy, kick-butt antiheroes. This one was requested by Torquere's authors, who asked and received! All demons, all the time! Stories should be gay male, and should be romance or erotic romance with a hopeful or happy ending.

Stories are due July 1, 2009 for release in October 2009. Word count between 3000-8000 words, with a payment of $35.00, as well as a contributor copy in electronic format. We're asking exclusive electronic 2 years. Please send a synopsis, author bio and your story to submissions@torquerepress.com with Demons Anthology in the subject line.


15 July 2009 -- Scared Stiff Taste Test -- Torquere

Publication date October 2009, subs due 7/15/2009 (Sexy spooks? Ghosts with something extra to stick to you? Heck yes!)

Taste Tests are mini-anthologies consisting of three or more stories ranging from 3000-7000 words each for a total of 10000-20000 words. Monthly themes are posted on the Taste Test submission page, along with deadlines and links to our general submission guidelines. Authors may submit a single story to any open theme, or submit a set of stories as single author collection, suggesting their own theme. Single-author collections will be published concurrently with a regularly scheduled monthly title.

Please send all submissions to submissions@torquerepress.com care of Lorna Hinson with Taste Test (theme title) in the subject line. This line pays our standard royalty rates, split equally among all authors (co-written stories receive a single payment divided between the co-authors). Please follow our general guidelines for formatting and cover letter information. If you have questions about the suitability of any story or need clarification on our guidelines, please email Lorna at ldoone@torquerepress.com


15 July 2009 -- Costumes Toybox -- Torquere

Toy Boxes are small collections of three to four stories ranging from 3000-7000 words each for a total of 10000-20000 words. We'll post themes that we'd like to see, and authors can submit one story or a whole collection. Entire collections must center around a single toy box item.

M/M stories are preferred.

Our standard submission requirements apply as far as formatting and cover letters. Please send all submissions to submissions@torquerepress.com care of M. Rode.


UNTIL FILLED -- MM and Menage Steampunk Antho -- Phaze

Call: M/M and Menage Steampunk Anthology, Title TBA
Edited by: Leigh Ellwood
Projected release date: late 2010
Format: eBook (with possible print release)
Publisher: Phaze Books
Payment: $50 for one-time electronic and print rights, plus copies

Hey, all you steampunk enthusiasts, grab your goggles and get to writing! Phaze Books is planning an M/M (and bi-M menage) steampunk collection for eBook publication in 2010. If you have a yen for 19th century history with a touch of good humor and technological innovation (and a whole lot of manlove!), we hope you’ll send us your hottest steampunk erotic romance of 10K - 20K words. If you’re not sure about the genre, check out this Wikipedia entry for steampunk (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steampunk) to get an idea of the style of stories we’re looking for. Think H.G. Wells or Wild Wild West, then turn up the steam factor with an incredible M/M or MMF/MMM match-up!

This call is open indefinitely until the spots are filled. Contributors will offer one-time electronic and print rights to their works and receive a one-time payment of $50 and contributors copies (eBook and/or print, if the book goes to print).

To submit to this anthology, please follow the Phaze Books structural guidelines at http://www.phaze.com/submissions.html and attach your RTF submission to Leigh Ellwood, c/o Phaze Books at submissions @ phaze (dot) com. Please use STEAMPUNK ANTHOLOGY is your subject header.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Two Reviews

Emily, who recently reviewed "A Spirit of Vengeance" and "In the Driver's Seat" for Rainbow Reviews, is working her way through my backlist and so far seems to like everything. I love seeing new reviews of my stories pop up; they make me want to dive back in and write more, to say nothing of putting a silly smile on my face. :D

Here's what she said about one of my Halloween stories, Candy Courage:

Book Blurb:
Glenn Bellamy, a divorced dad, is taking his son around trick-or-treating. He confiscates some homemade peanut brittle ~ and eats it himself of course ~ not knowing that the old man who made it is an alchemist who adds something special to his candy each year. This year it was Courage, so when Glenn and his son hit Neal Sampson's house, Glenn finds himself flirting and making a date for the next day. Will the candy courage wear off, or will Glenn find the guts to go after what he wants?

"'No prob.' Glenn winked at Sam while opening up the wax paper packet and snagging a piece. 'This ith good thtuff,' he added around a bite of peanut brittle. 'Way too good to wathte on the kidth.'"

Sebastiano Fiorentelli likes to participate in the Halloween traditions by making homemade candy for all the kids. After being around the neighborhood for so many years, no one questions letting their kids eat the special candy but they really have no idea quite how special it is. Each year Mr. Fiorentelli adds something extra to the candy, and this year he has decided to make courage. Anyone that eats the candy gets a small burst of extra courage, that lil push they need to face their greatest fears. For Glenn Bellamy, when he hits co-worker Neal Sampson's house after eating the peanut brittle o' plenty, the candy helps him to openly flirt and make a date with the man he has been admiring from afar. The next day his fears start to break down his confidence, and Glenn struggles to hang onto the courage from his night of throwing caution to the wind by grabbing life, or someone else, by the balls.

The thing I love most about reviewing for Rainbow Reviews is that I get introduced to new authors that I otherwise might have missed and in the case of Angela Benedetti I feel that I've hit a gold mine. After reviewing In the Driver's Seat and A Spirit of Vengeance I knew I had to get the rest of her backlist and read every story. I now realize that I missed one but I will most definitely be rectifying that as soon as possible! I have loved each and every story I've read and look forward to reading more. Angela possesses a unique brand of storytelling that flows so easily and introduces characters that are engaging in just a few short pages. Each story I have read is fresh and thoroughly enjoyable, so much so that I read them more than once.

Candy Courage is a fun Halloween tale with an interesting quirk. I loved how Angela sets up the affect the candy has on people who consume it through eight-year-old Robbie who is afraid of the trampoline cage in his backyard and six-year-old Graciela who is frightened of her brothers' dog Lito. Children are so open with their feelings and the affect the candy has on their lives is touching and adorable. The story then focuses on Glenn as he is taking his son Georgie trick-or-treating. Glenn's relationship with his son is wonderful, and they have quite a bit of fun for Halloween. Eating the peanut brittle with a kick gives Glenn just the hint of courage he needs to throw caution to the wind and go after what he wants. What results, thankfully for readers, is what can only be referred to as "sextastic" which I have to say is one of my new favorite words. Unfortunately for Glenn, his insecurities start to creap back in and following along as he tries not to wimp out is capitavating and a joy to read. The two men geek out together a bit, something I always love being a fellow geek, and you just know they will hit it off quite well if Glenn can hang onto the newfound burst to his courage. Overall this is a phenomenal tale and a great Halloween story that I enjoyed immensely. Fans of Angela's writing will most definitely enjoy this story and anyone who hasn't had the chance to read any of Angela's stories must drop everything and read one immediately! You won't be disappointed!

And here's what she had to say about my other Halloween story, Chasing Fear:

Book Blurb:
Emilio loves Martin with everything he has, but he's still scared to go out and be openly gay, especially with the way his family reacted to the news. Martin just wants to go out and have a good time, so he pushes Emilio's limits to the breaking point. Emilio figures having greenman for a lover has its dangers, especially when it comes to going on a date in the great outdoors. Can he and Martin learn to see eye to eye?

"Sometimes having a Greenman for a lover was a pain in the culo."

Emilio knows he should be heading home to his partner Martin but he just can't bring himself to go, finding any excuse he can to stay outdoors. When he finds a tree that was felled by loosened soil after a heavy rain, he spends time clearing it by himself. Anything to have an excuse not to have to go out with Martin as he agreed to do, to be out in the open and not hiding the fact that he is gay. When Emilio doesn't show up like he's promise to, Martin seeks him out and decides to a change of plans. If Emilio can't bring himself to go out and have a good time, Martin will make his own good time, and the nature in the forest is on his side.

Yet another Halloween story that I enjoyed from a writer that has quickly moved to the top of my favorites list. The interaction between Emilio and Martin is quite fascinating for many reasons, not the least of which being that he is a Greenman. When Martin faces off with Emilio in the forest, Emilio is at a slight disadvantage as he can't control the vines and leaves and trees like Martin can. Emilio gets trapped, victim to Martin's desires, but despite everything, Martin loves Emilio deeply and is willing to stand by his side while Emilio battles his fears. This is a wonderful story with a paranormal twist that is unique and characters that are engaging and complex. Definitely check out this story!

Thanks so much to Emily for her wonderful reviews. :D


Thursday, June 4, 2009

Plagiarism Again -- This Time by a University President

As you might have heard, it seems the doctoral dissertation of William Meehan, who was granted his Doctor of Education degree by the University of Alabama in 1999, and is currently president of Jacksonville State University, contains a significant amount of plagiarized material. Check out the graphic in Michael Leddy's blog -- the verbage copied word-for-word from the 1997 dissertation of Carl Boening, is hilighted in yellow.

Leddy's been reporting on this for a while -- also see his posts on 23 April and 9 May.

Backing up a bit, this all started when Prof. David Whetstone sued Meehan over some plant specimens which Meehan claimed belonged to the university and Whetstone claimed belonged to him. Whetstone pointed out the plagiarism in Meehan's dissertation as a way of establishing "a pattern of behavior of him stealing others’ work." Most people commenting on the situation seem to be more concerned with the plagiarism than the plants, which is probably understandable to everyone but Prof. Whetstone. I think we're still grateful to him for bringing this up, though.

According to the Tuscaloosa News story linked just above, two UA administrators are fighting subpoenas to testify regarding the plagiarism of Meehan's dissertation, on the grounds that "it will subject them to annoyance, embarrassment and undue burden." Umm, right. The great burden of being called to testify in a matter as trivial as a plagiarized doctoral dissertation (especially when the accused is, on the strength of that dissertation, currently the president of a university) is just too onerous. Clearly someone should have sympathy for these poor people. [/sarcasm]

Sandy Gordon, a lawyer for the University of Alabama, claims that the two administrators shouldn't be called to testify because the plagiarism issue has nothing at all to do with the dispute over the plant specimens, and besides there's this other guy you should talk to about it 'cause he's on our side.

That being Mike Miller, who chaired Meehan's dissertation committee. And, interestingly enough, also chaired Boening's dissertation committee. That makes him a not-disinterested participant, since if it's officially decided that Meehan did plagiarize Boening's dissertation, the obvious question will be, why didn't Miller spot it? Or Harold Bishop, who was also on both committees?

Interestingly enough:

Miller, a former UA professor, said in an interview last week he was never contacted by anyone at the university to discuss Meehan’s dissertation, contradicting Meehan’s statement that Miller was called upon by UA to investigate the accusation two years ago.

Miller told The Tuscaloosa News that he doesn’t believe Meehan plagiarized.

So either Meehan or Miller is lying about whether anyone talked to Miller about this two years ago. And Miller's statement to the press doesn't carry much weight either; if he wasn't called on to investigate the plagiarism accusation two years ago, then can we really believe he remembers enough details about two dissertations he read ten and twelve years ago to be able to say with any assurance that there was no plagiarism? If he had investigated the matter two years ago then I'd be slightly more likely to believe at least that he believes there was no wrongdoing (although I still wouldn't take his word for it without a lot more supporting evidence than his bare assertion) but he says he did no investigation and was never asked to. One might suspect that his assertion that there was no plagiarism rests more on the fact that his own academic reputation is on the line here, than on the likelihood of him remembering specifics of two papers he read a decade or more ago.

Patty Hobbs, PR Director at Jacksonville State (where Meehan is president) said in a press release [link to PDF] on 23 April that:

Litigation is currently pending in a lawsuit filed by a JSU professor against the University claiming the professor owns plant specimens located in the JSU herbarium. Unrelated to this case, attorneys for the professor have leveled unfounded plagiarism claims against the university president. These claims have been investigated not only by the university, but by third parties and the university is completely satisfied that there is no substance to the allegations. President Meehan has been clear from the beginning that he used Mr. Boening’s dissertation as a spring board for his own, and Meehan’s dissertation duly credits his predecessor’s work. It appears these false charges have been made in an unfair attempt to pressure the university to pay money to resolve a questionable claim regarding ownership of the plant specimens. The two matters are totally unrelated.

So the two matters are completely unrelated, have nothing to do with one another, and besides he didn't do anything wrong.

Except the statement that "third parties" have satisfied the university that Meehan is in the clear is questionable. Leddy references an AP article in which

Jonathan Bailey of Plagiarism Today examined the dissertations and "concluded that 'extensive portions' of Meehan's dissertation were plagiarism of Boening's work." In other words, the third-party investigation supports, not discredits, the allegation of plagiarism.

One has to wonder just which third parties gave Meehan's dissertation a thumbs-up? It would've been nice if the press release had been more specific on just who was supporting Meehan.

The main argument in favor of Meehan seems to be that he acknowledged Boening. In his abstract, he says: [link to PDF]

Using a case study and content analysis design, this study replicated at a regional comprehensive institution a study of sabbatical leave patterns that had first been conducted at The University of Alabama in 1996 by Carl Boening.

That's fine so far as it goes, but that's an acknowledgement that the original idea for the study, and perhaps the method, came from Boening. This very general acknowledgement doesn't give Meehan wholesale leave to lift extensive phrasing and passages from Boening's dissertation without further, line-level citation. Boening's dissertation is included in Meehan's References list, and Boening's name is mentioned ten times in the body of the document. That's not nearly enough to account for all the lifted passages.

The fact that Meehan duplicated Boening's study, but at a different institution, isn't the problem. An editor's note in the Tuscaloosa News describes the situation, then says:

So far, so good. I can't see anything wrong with extending one line of research in new directions. In fact, that's what the scientific method is all about. We do similar things with news stories. If one newspaper looks at an issue in their hometown, we may look at the same issue here.

This is common practice in both academia and journalism; whether or not a thesis applies in a larger context or a different setting is a completely legitimate question for research. The problem isn't with what Meehan chose to study, or even how he conducted his research, but rather with the extensive verbage lifted directly from someone else's paper.

What's really outrageous about this isn't that, unless there's a fairly huge chunk of mitigating data hiding somewhere, an extremely prominent (and well paid) academic plagiarized large chunks of his dissertation, although that's bad enough. No, what's really outrageous is that neither the institution which granted his doctorate nor the one which currently employs him seem at all interested in pursuing the matter.

DRMT, commenting on BoingBoing's post on the subject, [Comment #108] says:

When a university president is found to have plagiarized, it's the alumni and donors who need to raise their voices and force the board of regents to fire him or her. It's unfortunate, but that's the only way these things get done. Plagiarism is an increasing problem in our classes and students need to understand how serious it is.

I'd say that the alumni and donors of both Jacksonville State University and the University of Alabama need to call for a thorough, independent and transparent investigation of the matter, followed by a firing if the results go against Meehan rather than dismissal without some sort of due process, but otherwise I agree. It's hard enough to convince other people -- writers, readers, students, teachers -- that plagiarism is a serious violation and not to be tolerated when someone as prominent as a university president seems to be getting away with it, and profiting handsomely from his stealing and cheating, even after the matter has been made so public. This is outrageous, and I wouldn't expect anyone to want to be associated with any institution which condones or overlooks such behavior, much less support them with funding.


Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Writers Rule!

Check out this comic to see the true power of The Author. :D


Tuesday, June 2, 2009

June Challenge -- First Day

No, I'm not planning to do this every day this month. :) There's something about starting a new challenge that gets the words flowing, though, or at least it does for me; challenge pace is 834 words per day, and this is almost twice that. Maybe that's the trick of it -- start a new challenge every day? [wry smile]

Heck, if I thought it'd work....

Does that happen with anyone else? You start a new challenge and you're writing gangbusters, then the shiny wears off and the energy leaves and the struggle comes later on?