Call for Names, Editors, and Contributors: Journal/Magazine of Fiction by Academics #CFP

Call for Names, Editors, and Contributors: Journal/Magazine of Fiction by Academics #CFP December 5, 2019

I really shouldn’t start new projects. But I’ve had so many conversations recently with academics in my field about writing fiction that I think the time has come to do something about it. And so I’m going to be announcing soon the launch of a new periodical dedicated to fiction written by academics. This post aims mainly at gauging interest (and more specifically the kinds of interest there may be both from potential contributors and from potentially readers) and tackling a few initial questions that it is better to crowd source now.

One of the several questions still to be answered is the kinds of fiction that ought to be published. Should it be just any fiction written by academics (meaning pretty much anyone with a graduate degree and some connection to academia)? I think it should at least publish science fiction, fantasy, historical fiction, and academic fiction (i.e. fiction about academics or set in academia). Should it have a narrower topical focus on fiction written by academics that explores religious themes? I think there is enough interest just from people who work in religious studies, biblical studies, theology, and similar fields to make this viable. But I don’t want it to be too narrow. Should it just have themed issues, perhaps around a genre (sci-fi, historical fiction) or a theme (religion, ancient history, philosophical thought experiments)? I want to launch this in a way that sets the trajectory for it as accurately as possible. And so I’d like to hear from other academics about this. (Note that I do not necessarily envisage it having a narrow focus, but am simply referring to making its breadth or narrowness as clear as possible from the outset).

I definitely want it to have room for novelettes. One reason I haven’t published some of the stories I’ve written is that they are longer than most literary magazines are willing to accept when it comes to short story submissions. I wonder whether this is a common issue that confronts academics who write fiction – we tend to write longer stories, but not always novel-length ones.

Once the precise focus becomes clear, then a few more things need to happen. One is to line up an editorial board, and so by all means express interest from now if this appeals to you. Not all fiction written by academics ought to be published, and so I think it is important that there be a serious review process. Another thing that needs to happen is to come up with a good name for the periodical, which reflects the kind of content it will have. My two ideas so far are AcademFic and Storyology. I’m sure someone can do better, and if I use your idea, you’ll get thanked in the foreword to the first issue. As most readers of my blog and other publications know, I’m good at puns, assuming a pun can be “good,” but when it comes to finding a serious name for something, others should be consulted.

You may recall that I wrote previously (updated here to include a new release):

It would be great to produce a volume featuring academics who have become writers of fiction, especially (but not necessarily exclusively) science fiction. I mean, of course, academics who are not teachers of creative writing, but academics for whom this is something we do in addition to (or in some cases instead of) teaching in our area of expertise, rather than as the thing we are expected to do professionally as part of our academic work. If such a volume were to be assembled, presumably Mary Doria RussellStephen L. CarterRachel HodgesPaul LevinsonFrauke UhlenbruchBen WitheringtonPaula GooderKen Schenck, Holly BeersGary BurgeJohn Byron, and Richard Bauckham ought to be among the contributors. We could probably have more than one volume, with one just focused on sci-fi, and another focused on biblical historical fiction, and probably have enough contributors for each. Who else should be part of something like this?

I have also been wondering whether there might not be a need for, or at the very least room for, a magazine (whether print, online, or both) that focused on science fiction with religious and/or spiritual themes. They would not have to be central in every instance, and this certainly would not be an outlet for sectarian propaganda under the guise of literature. Instead, it would be for any kind of exploration of religion through sci-fi, whether committed, sympathetic, agnostic, opposed, or merely interested and analytical. How many authors do you think would contribute if there were such a magazine? How often could there be a new issue? How many of you would read it?

And so this has been on my mind for a while, and I’m glad to be able to say that I’ve finally set the wheels in motion to make it happen.

Some other things related (in one way or another) to the intersection of fiction and what academics do:

Interview with Paul Levinson

Can fiction and academic writing help one another?

The Hidden Connection between Fiction and Academic Writing

Off the Shelf: Fleming Rutledge explores Middle-earth

What can a force ghost do in the Star Wars universe? (I still think a book series on the theologies of fictional worlds, i.e. how God, religion, the supernatural, prayer, ritual, and other things ‘work’ in a fictional universe, could be really interesting.)

Creating worlds

On the intersection of writing about science and writing science fiction

The future of Christianity in science fiction

From Academic Writing To Podcasting And Fiction

Theology and Science Fiction Radio Interview and Review

ReligionProf Podcast with Juli Gittinger

ReligionProf Podcast with Jeremiah Bailey

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  • John MacDonald

    It’s also exciting for students! I used to love reading my Profs’ books and essays.

    • Dr.Robert Runte

      I’m torn on this one. I have a short story that’s directly relevant to my course next semester, but hesitate to use it in class because that feels like an imposition on my students. I fear they will complain that they had to take time to read my story and suck up to me about it. I know they frequently complain about having to use textbooks written by their profs–they see it as the prof imposing sales of their books. (I’d post the story free on the class website, but still…hesitant.)

      • John MacDonald

        I taught public school for ten years and I was always writing little stories and reports and letters etc to model for the students as exemplars that reflected the rubrics we created together. It was a lot easier to model the forms of writing rather than find pieces by other authors because by doing it myself I was sure I was hitting the indicators on the student/teacher created rubrics.

        One thing you might try is give the story to a fellow teacher to read and have them write a blurb about it reflecting positives/needs improvements/next steps. That’s one strategy I tried to entice students to read.

      • The journal will be open access online, and so one can at least assign one’s own stories without the conflict of interest inherent in charging students to buy a textbook written by the professor. But I would have qualms nonetheless about assigning my own writing in anything other than a “here’s something else you might be interested in” sort of way.

  • Dr.Robert Runte

    Interesting… I’m a (retired) academic, but also an SF editor and writer. I would observe that my second dean told me that he’d rather I wrote porn than that scifi rubbish and refused to even touch the anthology I had coedited, let alone read it. (He pushed it back at me across his desk with a pencil) The subsequent two deans, however, not only encouraged me to do creative writing, but counted it all as part of my output on annual professional activities report. So you never know.
    I find the writing style required for academic work somewhat corrupts one’s fiction style and vice versa. But maybe also informs each other as one adds both to one’s writing tool box. I know that I had a problem selling my textbooks to publishers because they were too entertaining. I managed to get a couple of chapters in one text in spite of the referees complained that it was too funny and did not respect the gravitas of the topic, but I note that that the biggest ‘offender’ is still part of dozens of course readers 30 years later because, the instructors tell me, it’s the only article their students ever liked on the topic and provoked a lot of discussion. It’s too bad that so many textbooks (at least in my discipline) or so bloody boring, but the publishers need to sell to the lowest common denominator/not offend anybody means they purge anything controversial or funny or interesting. So there is a great resistance to using fiction in the classroom, even though fiction can get at a lot of ideas across in a more contextualized, meaningful, and accessible way….
    Looking forward to your project. (Have you asked your Dean if this will count as professional refereeing/service yet?)

    • Good question about the dean. I’ve found that, as long as I am productive in all the ways expected of me if not indeed more so, then additional things – blogging and other forms of public scholarship, writing fiction, developing games for educational purposes – are consistently greatly appreciated at Butler, and so I didn’t feel the need to ask, which I think is to Butler’s credit.