Tag Archives: Dungeons & Dragons

Sabbatical Productivity: July

Yesterday was officially the last day of my sabbatical, although classes do not begin until 24 August. I kept a list in my journal of the academic activities I engaged in during my seven-month break. This practice was partly for myself, so that I could make sure I was using the time productively, and partly for my institution, which requires me to write a report about the sabbatical once it finishes. Here is a list of what I accomplished in July, generally in chronological order. The list is shorter than in any previous month because I spent almost all of my working time on a new writing project, so I worked on a smaller variety of things. I feel that I accomplished a decent amount, though.

1. Updated the Mennonite/s Writing Bibliographies and blog throughout the month.

2. Sent the call for papers for an anthology of writing about Dungeons & Dragons that I am co-editing to potential contributors.

3. Had a Zoom meeting with a colleague at another institution about a bibliographing project.

4. Submitted senryu to several journals. I haven’t heard back from some of them yet because the reading period is still open, but Failed Haiku took three poems for their August issue, which is here (my poems are on page 129).

5. Finished the introduction of my new book project, which is about the importance of literature in these terrible times. I’ve been feeling hopeless a lot this month because of the political situation and the way many people in the U.S. are not taking the pandemic seriously. I can either write with the hope that things will get better and that my writing might help this healing in some small way, or I can give up and be part of the problem. So I choose to write.

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Sabbatical Productivity: May

I am on sabbatical this semester and have been keeping a list in my journal of the academic activities I engage in. This practice is partly for myself, so that I make sure I am using the time productively, and partly for my institution, which requires me to write a report about the sabbatical once it finishes. Here is a list of what I accomplished in May, generally in chronological order. I did less than in some previous months (you can read about what I accomplished in April here) because it’s been difficult to be productive due to the pandemic. I feel like I am slowly getting back on track, though.

1. Finished and submitted a book review of Nikki Reimer’s My Heart is a Rose Manhattan.

2. Updated the Mennonite/s Writing Bibliographies and blog throughout the month.

3. Wrote a draft of an essay about Mennonite speculative fiction for a special journal issue on Mennonite political theology.

4. Agreed to peer review a book in one of my fields for a university press and received the manuscript.

5. Had a special session panel proposal for MLA 2021 on Dungeons & Dragons that I co-authored accepted.

6. Agreed to serve on the MLA’s Committee on the Literatures of People of Color in the United States and Canada for a three-year term.

7. Began writing my portion of a Call for Papers for an essay anthology that a colleague and I are working on.

8. Emailed presenters from the Mennonite/s Writing IX conference that was scheduled for October 2020 to let them know that it has been postponed to October 2021 due to the pandemic.

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Books Acquired Recently

As I mentioned in a recent post, I panic-ordered a bunch of books when the pandemic hit to make sure that I don’t run out of reading material. The rest of them have come in.

Chavez, Felicia Rose, José Olivarez, and Willie Perdomo, eds. The BreakBeat Poets, Volume 4: LatiNext. Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2020.

I’m looking for a poetry anthology for my Latinx Literature course next semester, and this anthology is one of the candidates.

Freedman, Carl, ed. Conversations with Samuel R. Delany. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2009.

This book came out just as I was working on research for my dissertation, which had a chapter on Delany, and I missed it because it wasn’t listed in scholarly databases yet. I’m not sure how I failed to come across it in the ensuing decade, but I put it on my to-buy list as soon as I encountered a reference to it recently.

Irby, Samantha. Wow, No Thank You. Essays. New York: Vintage Books, 2020.

I love Irby’s previous book, We Are Never Meeting in Real Life, and wanted to buy her new book right away. Due to the pandemic, a bookstore where she lives in Michigan ran a promotion in which you could order a copy and she would inscribe it for you however you wanted before the store mailed it. I had her inscribe mine “Happy pandemic! Queer of color solidarity!”

Jackson, Major, ed. The Best American Poetry 2019. New York: Scribner, 2019.

I don’t normally buy the volumes in The Best American Poetry series, but decided to buy this one as part of my poetry panic-buying. The Best American Poetry 1999 is the only other volume I have in the series (which has only been edited by a woman nine times in the series’s 32-year history, inexcusable) because I thought it would be fascinating to have a memento of what American poetry was like just before the new century, so maybe I’ll buy it every twenty years.

Xanathar’s Guide to Everything. Renton, WA: Wizards of the Coast, 2017.

I recently became part of an online Dungeons & Dragons campaign that is using some of the resources in this book, so I decided to buy a copy for myself.

 

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Sabbatical Productivity: March

I am on sabbatical this semester and have been keeping a list in my journal of the academic activities I engage in. This practice is partly for myself, so that I make sure I am using the time productively, and partly for my institution, which requires me to write a report about the sabbatical once it finishes. Here is a list of what I accomplished in March, generally in chronological order. Although March’s list is the same length as February’s (you can read about what I accomplished in February here), I did less than the previous two months because it’s been difficult to be productive due to the current pandemic. I feel like I am slowly getting back on track, though, so I have high hopes for April even though, as T.S. Eliot writes, it “is the cruellest [sic] month.”

1. Along with a colleague, chose four panelists for an MLA special session proposal on Dungeons & Dragons. All four accepted the invitation to be part of the proposal.

2. Sent rejections to the rest of the people who submitted abstracts for the Dungeons & Dragons panel.

3. Revised the three Mennonite/s Writing bibliographies throughout the month. They are here, along with the blog that lists all of the individual revisions.

4. Worked on revisions to my current book project.

5. Submitted a book proposal to the ideal publisher for my book project.

6. Wrote and submitted an abstract for an MLA panel on Samuel R. Delany.

7. Wrote a few senryu.

8. Corresponded with the rest of the planning committee for the Mennonite/s Writing IX conference that is scheduled for October (fingers crossed!) about which abstracts to accept.

9. Wrote a template for the Mennonite/s Writing IX acceptance email and sent out acceptances to around forty submitters.

10. Submitted five senryu to the 2020 Haiku Society of America Members’ Anthology and received notice about which one the editor accepted.

11. Along with a colleague, wrote and submitted the proposal for the Dungeons & Dragons panel.

12. Began writing a long poem about the pandemic.

13. Got asked to review a book of poetry by a journal.

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Sabbatical Productivity: February

I am on sabbatical this semester and have been keeping a list in my journal of the academic activities I engage in. This practice is partly for myself, so that I make sure I am using the time productively, and partly for my institution, which requires me to write a report about the sabbatical once it finishes. Here is a list of what I accomplished in February, generally in chronological order. You can read about what I accomplished in January here.

1. Worked on revisions of my current book project throughout the month, including incorporating feedback on an earlier draft that I received from a friend.

2. Finished a draft of a book proposal to begin sending out to publishers.

3. Attended a poetry reading by Wendy Chin-Tanner.

4. Attended the Mennonite Arts Festival in Cincinnati and networked with other Mennonite writers there.

5. Contacted a potential keynote speaker for the Mennonite/s Writing IX conference in October 2020 in my role as a member of the organizing committee. She accepted the invitation.

6. Wrote and submitted an abstract for a panel at MLA 2021 on Queer Lists.

7. Responded to abstracts throughout the month that were submitted for the MLA 2021 panel on Dungeons & Dragons that I am co-organizing.

8. Revamped my website.

9. Built and launched a website for the three Mennonite/s Writing bibliographies that I curate, which is here.

10. Began work on an invited essay for a forthcoming collection about Anabaptist vitality in the twenty-first century.

11. Began work on another invited essay for a special issue of Political Theology on Mennonite political theology. (And yes, I am surprised that my new work is turning even more toward the theological, but my general practice when people invite me to write things is to say yes.)

12. Received an email from a journal asking me to submit the longer version of my MLA 2020 presentation to them. It is already under contract elsewhere (forthcoming later this year!), so I declined.

13. Received an email about another journal interested in reviewing Queering Mennonite Literature and in the possibility of me curating a special issue on queer literature and religion.

 

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Books Acquired Recently

Cruz, Nicky, with Jamie Buckingham. Run Baby Run. 1968. Newberry, FL: Bridge-Logos, 2016.

Wilkerson, David, with John Sherrill and Elizabeth Sherrill. The Cross and the Switchblade. 1962. New York: Jove Books, 1977.

Mennonites like to play what is known as the “Mennonite Game” whenever we meet a Mennonite whom we haven’t met before. We try to figure out how we are connected to them via mutual acquaintances. This often involves hearing their last name and asking, “Oh, are you related to (person with same last name that the person asking the question knows)?” “Cruz” is not an ethnic Mennonite name, but many Mennonites of a certain generation still know it because of Nicky Cruz’s and David Wilkerson’s memoirs about converting gang members from New York City to Christianity. So members of my family used to frequently be asked “Are you related to Nicky Cruz?” The answer is no. Cruz is about as common a name as “Smith” is, but most white Mennonites don’t realize that. I am doing some writing about my family’s Mennonite history, including my father’s experiences as a non-ethnic Mennonite, and decided that I should actually read Cruz’s and Wilkerson’s books to help me understand why they were popular with Mennonites in the 1960s and 1970s.

Miller Shearer, Tobin. Two Weeks Every Summer: Fresh Air Children and the Problem of Race in America. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2017.

Miller Shearer was one of my youth group advisers in high school before he went back to graduate school to get a Ph.D. in history. The Fresh Air program is one that many rural Mennonites have participated in, hosting children from cities (including some Mennonites) for several weeks in the summer. I heard adults talk about it all the time when I was a kid, so I look forward to reading his history of it.

Witwer, Michael, Kyle Newman, Jon Peterson, and Sam Witwer. Dungeons & Dragons Art & Arcana: A Visual History. Ten Speed Press, 2018.

As a result of my new Dungeons & Dragons obsession, I’ve been trying to read as much as I can about its history. I found this huge book about the game’s visuals on sale for $31.00 (the cover price is $50.00) and decided to buy it.

I purchased all four books from amazon.com because I had a gift card.

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Books Acquired Recently

Brautigan, Richard. Revenge of the Lawn, The Abortion, So the Wind Won’t Blow It All Away: (Three Books in the Manner of Their First Editions). Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1995.

I received this omnibus edition of three of Brautigan’s books as a Valentine’s Day present. The only book by Brautigan that I’ve read is Trout Fishing in America, and that was about 17 years ago, so it will be good to have a fresh dive into his work.

Dungeons & Dragons Dungeon Master’s Guide. Renton, WA: Wizards of the Coast, 2014.

Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual. Renton, WA: Wizards of the Coast, 2014.

Dungeons & Dragons Player’s Handbook. Renton, WA: Wizards of the Coast, 2014.

Some friends and I have recently started playing Dungeons & Dragons (yes, dear reader, it was possible for me to get even more nerdy). After completing our first adventure, we decided that we want to continue playing, so I decided to buy the box set of playing manuals. I purchased these, Williams’s, and Womack’s books from amazon.com.

Williams, David. When the English Fall. 2017. Chapel Hill, NC: Algonquin Books, 2018.

This is a novel about how the Amish fare after an apocalyptic natural event. It sounds like a similar premise as Leigh Brackett’s science fiction classic The Long Tomorrow, which assumes that Mennonites will come to prominence after the fall of current American society because they are used to living simply without modern technology. Williams’s biographical statement says he is a Presbyterian, but in his author photo he is wearing an Amish-style beard, so I wonder if he is ex-Amish or has Amish ancestry.

Womack, Ytasha L. Afrofuturism: The World of Black Sci-Fi and Fantasy Culture. Chicago: Lawrence Hill Books, 2013.

My current research project is about two African American speculative fiction writers, Samuel R. Delany and Sofia Samatar, so I thought I should do some reading about Afrofuturism, which I know a little about, but not much.

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An Ode to Advertisements in Old Comic Books

I’ve been reading some older comic books lately, and I’m struck by how a large part of the aesthetic pleasure which results from this activity comes from the advertisements sprinkled throughout the books and on their back covers. In other words, the activity is more about re-experiencing material culture to create pleasant nostalgia than it is about revisiting my favorite super heroes. Here are some examples:

Defenders advertisement

This is a great page of ads from The Defenders #53!  It’s colorful, the range of fonts make it visually interesting, and it is also a fascinating artifact of the time when comic book dealing was becoming big business. There’s also the obligatory strength-training ad.

Here’s the back cover ad from the same issue:

Dr. J ad

Who doesn’t love a cartoon version of Dr. J? Are you a nerdy, 98-pound weakling type who needs the strength training offered earlier, or an athlete who likes to shoot hoops with his friends after school? Comic books bring both types together, just like a print version of The Breakfast Club.

But Marvel did not have a monopoly on great ads. Here’s a fantastic Bubble Yum ad from Tales of the New Teen Titans #4, complete with instructions for a magic trick:

Bubble Yum

And here’s an excellent Dungeons & Dragons ad from the back cover:

Dungeons & Dragons ad

The ads are light-hearted, meant for children, unlike those in comic books today. For instance, in the X-Men issue I wrote about in my previous post, there was a car ad and an insurance ad inside the book, and a motorcycle ad on the back cover (though I must note that the insurance ad was written in comic form like the Dungeons & Dragons ad above). Obviously the target audience for comic books has shifted in the past twenty years from younger teenagers to adults who grew up with comics and still read them (this shift has almost exactly coincided with my own maturing–I was the target audience in 1992 and I am still [or, perhaps, am once again?] the target audience today), but I think something is lost in the more expensive, high-gloss comics of today. The books themselves feel sterilized and are unpleasant to hold. The artwork is beautiful, but the objects that contain it are not.

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