What the Blog Intends

“The intentions of a tool are what it does. A hammer intends to strike, a vise intends to hold fast, a lever intends to lift. They are what it is made for. But sometimes a tool may have other uses that you don’t know. Sometimes in doing what you intend, you also do what the knife intends, without knowing it.”

— Philip Pullman, The Amber Spyglass

I’m reminded of this passage when I think of this blog, surprisingly enough. Havealittletalk, I’ve discovered, has its own intentions.

Continue reading “What the Blog Intends”

In which I Have a Little Talk with Myself and Tour Two Libraries

Here I am, just a week into blogging, and I need to have a little talk with myself. I should know better by now than to leave anything to chance. Check and double check. Just because it is a blog and an informal mode of writing doesn’t mean mistakes are acceptable. And I made mistakes in a previous post.

I’m fortunate that Kirsten of  Into the Stacks commented about  “For Just $29.95 You Can Have Access to Your Own Article for 24 Hours!!!”. She began, “First off, as an academic librarian it worries me that your local state university doesn’t let local patrons have access to its resources” [see]. This started me thinking: I know I haven’t been able to access catalogs at both the University of Alabama’s main Tuscaloosa and its Huntsville campuses, but was I doing something wrong? Time to check.

Continue reading “In which I Have a Little Talk with Myself and Tour Two Libraries”

But Wait, There’s More: Just $3000 Buys Open Access to Your Article

I thought $29.95 was bad, but get this.

Listen to this deal from WileyInterScience:

Authors of accepted peer-reviewed articles have the choice to pay a fee in order for their published article to be made freely accessible to all. For 2008, the OnlineOpen fee is fixed at US$3000 for most journals.

I’m having a little trouble with that “freely accessible” coupled with a $3000 fee.

OnlineOpen is available to authors of primary research articles who wish to make their article available to non-subscribers on publication, or whose funding agency requires grantees to archive the final version of their article. With OnlineOpen the author, the author’s funding agency, or the author’s institution pays a fee to ensure that the article is made available to non-subscribers upon publication via Wiley InterScience, as well as deposited in the funding agency’s preferred archive.

This phrase is interesting: “funding agency requires grantees.” Many, many scientific studies reported in these journals are supported by state or Federal funding, that is, by taxpayer monies. I suppose what this means in practice is that a line item of $3000 must be added to each proposal for funding from such sources and then that $3000 goes into Wiley InterScience’s pockets. Out of yours, into theirs.

Continue reading “But Wait, There’s More: Just $3000 Buys Open Access to Your Article”

For Just $29.95 You Can Have Access to Your Own Article for 24 Hours!!!

Help! Is there someone out there who can save me hours of research by explaining how I allowed this to happen to myself? Or how this happened to me?

Here we go: Back in 1991 I submitted an article to the Journal of Popular Culture. To do so, I became a member of The Popular Culture Association and thus received a subscription to the journal.

My article, “Pets and Lovers: The Human-Companion Animal Bond in Contemporary Literary Prose” was published in 1991, the Summer issue, I think.

I wanted to check something in it the other day, and instead of rummaging through the piles, I thought, I’ll just look online.

I have no academic affiliation. If I did, I could log in through my university and read my own work. That isn’t an option.

Continue reading “For Just $29.95 You Can Have Access to Your Own Article for 24 Hours!!!”

How Rough Is It? Or, Philip Nicholas Pullman Has Always Been Philip Nicholas Pullman.

I understand the concept of the Rough Guides’ travel series. It is intended for those whose desire to travel is greater than their disposable income.  Rough then is used as an antonym for Luxury. Fine.

But why would anyone want their reference book rough? Rough as opposed to what? Fact-checked?

I haven’t ever used a Rough Guides travel book, and I never will. If the same fact-checking standards apply to the travel and reference series, I wouldn’t trust one to help me find my way out of a paper bag.

I’ve been blogging about Paul Simpson’s The Rough Guide to Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials this week. Simpson is identified as the author and he owns the copyright (in my American edition). But he had help, so to speak. There’s a masthead on the copyright page. Let’s look at this:

  • Text Editor: Paul Simpson
  • [designers]
  • Proofreading: Lesley Turner, Martin Rosser, Ian Cranna
  • Writing: Paul Simpson, Tom Bullough

First of all, I  know from painful experience that a writer should not be his or her own editor.  We’ll leave that for now and look at the other list: 

  • Series Editor: Mark Ellingham [not any longer: Andrew Lockett is the Man] 
  • Editors: Peter Buckley, Duncan Clark, Tracy Hopkins, Sean Mahoney, Matt Milton, Joe Staines, Ruth Tidball
  • Director: Andrew Lockett

Now I know we all make mistakes. But couldn’t one of these 13 people have checked the name of the author of their book’s subject? Is that expecting too much?

From page 14 of The Rough Guide:

On his website (www.philippullman.com [sic]), Philip Nicholas Outram (as he was born–he became Pullman later in honour of his stepfather) sums up his early life with the dry observation that “I was born in Norwich…”

In pages 14 to 17, Pullman’s father is identified four times as Alfred Outram.

Boy, do we need to have a little talk.  Philip Pullman is Philip Pullman. He was never Philip Outram.His father’s name was Alfred Outram Pullman. The story about Philip abandoning his father’s name to honor his step-father is balderdash, poppycock, or whatever you want to call it. It just plain isn’t true.

Continue reading “How Rough Is It? Or, Philip Nicholas Pullman Has Always Been Philip Nicholas Pullman.”

Not All Balloons Come from Oz…Rough Guide Saga continued

Back in the late summer of 2007, before the release of The Rough Guide to Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials and the movie The Golden Compass, I remarked to Pullman in an email note that I thought the best cinematic portrayl of the bond between a dæmon and its person was the relationship between Toto and Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz.

I was flabbergasted when he responded that although he knew some of the songs from the movie, he had not seen it, nor had he read Baum’s novel. I had assumed that every child in the English-speaking world during the 1960s watched The Wizard of Oz annually, just as so many American kids did, that it was as much a shared cultural experience as Beatlemania.

But a little research revealed that the BBC aired the movie infrequently at best (which raises all kinds of questions about The Dark Side of the Moon).

Imagine my surprise the first time I picked up  The Rough Guide to flip through to a half-page still from The Wizard of Oz and then to read:

The story of Oz–in celluloid and literary form–has had a significant influence on Pullman’s imagination. As the fantasy writer J.L. Bell has shown, Pullman’s The Scarecrow And The [sic] Servant is directly influenced by Oz, paying homage to specific scenes and character names. 92

Oh really? I tracked down the Bell essay, a post on his blog ozandends from May 2006. In fact, Bell stops far short of claiming that Pullman was directly influenced by movie or book.

Continue reading “Not All Balloons Come from Oz…Rough Guide Saga continued”

When Stealing is Not a Crime, or My Rough Guide Ordeal Continued

If Paul Simpson had been my student, I know just what I would have done: taken out a great big fat red marker and covered his title page with a blazing O-F. Then, depending on if he were a middle school or high school student, or a college freshman or upperclassman, or a graduate student, I would have stopped there, failed him for the course, sent him to the dean or VP for Academic Affairs, filed an Academic Misconduct notice with Student Judicial Affairs, or whatever other route was appropriate. Our little talk would have been the first in a long line of unpleasantries for Paul.

But he’s not my student or anyone else’s. He is a professional writer and I have yet to find a direct route to the man. “Paul Simpson” is a fairly common name, and for all I know could be a pseudonym. He’s quite the Renaissance man; his other Rough Guides include titles on Cult Pop, Kids’ Movies, Westerns, Elvis, Muhammed Ali, and Superheroes.

Publishers are the ones who usually deal with this, anyway. First I started with Elements’ publisher and was unsurprised to find that Fell Press wouldn’t pursue it. It is tiny. Rough Guides is a division of Penguin, and in the US Penguin is a division of Pearson. In other words,  if you don’t have a stable of idle lawyers and very deep pockets, forget it. I thought I might fare better with Scholastic UK, but there were some other problems there. Scholastic UK published The Definitive Guide a few months after The Rough Guide to His Dark Materials. Although the passages Simpson weakly paraphrased from Elements are also in The Definitive Guide, Elements is the one Simpson used. Scholastic UK didn’t consider the case strong enough to pursue.

I consulted Jonathan Bailey, who runs a very informative site called plagiarismtoday.com.

Continue reading “When Stealing is Not a Crime, or My Rough Guide Ordeal Continued”

What do you mean? I rearranged the words…

 I would love to have a little talk with Paul Simpson, author of The Rough Guide to Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials, a title in the Rough Guides Reference Series, published in 2007 by Rough Guides, a division of Penguin in the UK and of Penguin Putnam in the US.  First I’d sit him down and we would visit How to Recognize Plagiarism, a service of the School of Education, Indiana University where we would look at its fine collection of examples of plagiarized passages, paying particular attention to what is and isn’t a paraphrase.

Then we would open my book, The Elements of His Dark Materials (Niles, IL: Fell, 2006), and the US edition of his and compare a few passages. I’d take three highlighters and mark exact copying in blue, near exact in green, and close substitutions in pink. Look how colorful the passages become! Unfortunately, this doesn’t allow me to mark the similarities in sentence structure, but it will do.

Elements 255: Mrs Coulter reaches for Metatron’s hand as she leads him toward the abyss, but there is nothing for her to grasp, even though the angel seems to yearn for physical contact with a woman. Moments later,Metatron delivers skull crushing blows and experiences great pain when Coulter stabs her fingers into his eyes.

Rough Guide 54: When Mrs Coulter reaches for Metatron’s hand near the abyss, there is nothing to grasp. Yet the dusty regent is soon delivering a few skullcrushing blows and cries out in pain when Mrs. Coulter stabs his eyes with her fingers.

Continue reading “What do you mean? I rearranged the words…”

Rights and Wrongs: a little talk about publishers and authors

Publisher to Author: You do the work. We pay you nothing. You relinquish all rights to your work forevermore. Oh, and about that word “commissioned” in the Guidelines. It means nothing.


You’re thinking, she’s kidding, right?


You are wrong. Let me tell you a little story.


I am the author of a book about Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials. You’ll be hearing more about that later.


I was asked by a press, founded in 1887, which I will call – wait while I pull something out of the blue here, don’t want any litigation in my life —  “Closed Session” to write an essay for a book about His Dark Materials, a forthcoming volume in a series. By the way, there are 37 titles in this series.


The Guidelines sent by the editor included this statement: “4. This is a commissioned essay. Be prepared to revise your essay several times in cooperation with the volume editor and the series editor. Even the very best essays require some revision.”


Commissioned=money, right?


As the deadline approached I started fretting. If this is a “commissioned” work, does that mean it is a “work for hire.” Won’t that mean I’m selling my rights? And why haven’t I gotten a contract or agreement or something of that ilk? Shouldn’t that come before I’ve done the work and sent it off?


So I asked for clarification. The volume editor told me that there is no payment for the work (but I would get 10 copies of the book! If I had 9 kids, I might have some use for these.). And he included a clause from previous contracts to indicate what I could expect:


You hereby grant all right, title, and interest in the Work of every
kind, nature, and description to us, including, but not limited to (a)
the right to use, print, publish, license, exploit, sell or otherwise
dispose of the Work and any translation thereof in such form as we may
at any time see fit; (b) all subsidiary rights therein, such as internet
or intranet on-line network rights, electronic database, CD-ROM,
mechanical, or other electronic storage system (video or audio) rights,
including without limitation, e-book rights, and stage, radio,
television, and commercial exploitation rights, and the like; (c) all
publication rights therein, whether in book form or in magazines or
newspapers or electronic form, or otherwise; and (d) the right to secure
copyright in the Work in our or the Publisher*s own name and for us or
its own benefit in any country throughout the world and in any language
and to secure any renewal of copyrights.  Without limiting the
foregoing, you agree that we may transfer all grant of rights hereunder
to the Publisher.”


Reader, I bristled. Time to have a little talk…

Continue reading “Rights and Wrongs: a little talk about publishers and authors”