This week I have been at the Southwest Popular American Culture Association Conference, which one of my students has called a “nerd extravaganza.” On Wednesday, I presented some of the X-Files poetry that I have been working on; the manuscript of the collection is called “Glitches in the FBI.” Last night, I received the following e-mail:
This note (which included some more specific information beneath the scroll), is my first encounter with David Publishing. Because I am human, I like to have my ego stroked, so my first thought was, “Cool.”
When I was younger, I kept a blog, in part to keep in touch with my family across the country, and in part (ok, a really big part), with the hope that I would be “discovered” by some publishing company and land a book deal. The publishing process was very mysterious to me then (it still is, some days), so I had no idea how writers could be proactive about becoming authors.
Anyway, I saw this e-mail and, I have to admit, it satisfied some part of that “being found” desire I used to have. Even though I presented to a crowd of about seven poetry enthusiasts, in a ballroom staged for 200+ people, I believed my presentation went well. One of my students came, on assignment from the school paper. A poet in a gray suit shook my hand afterward. “Glitches in the FBI” had a lot of good energy around it; of course some one would want to publish some of the poems or a discussion of the process.
The e-mail mentioned my CV, which is one of the emotional trigger words for anyone pre-tenure. “Yes, my CV,” I thought, “needs all the help it can get.” There are publishing requirements, and it’s hard to make time to write. Some of my younger colleagues, other junior faculty, say that the publishing requirements have increased. It’s more demanding now. I don’t know if that’s true–they’re all in different fields; I’m too busy to research it–but it sounds plausible. And I know that certain publishing credits are weighted differently. Writing for Bark does not, for instance, count toward tenure. Poems are less than short prose; short prose is less than long prose. Online is less than bound; certain bound journals are less than other bound journals. I’ve never heard of Philosophy Study, and this is where I begin to turn–if I did publish in this journal, would it count? If I’m going to publish somewhere that doesn’t hold much weight on my CV, I would rather my work be in a literary magazine or a local arena, or some venue where I care about the audience.
That, and the language is off in this e-mail. It is, I believe, a bot. It is an algorithm crawling the web for conferences and hitting up presenters for their fresh papers. And it’s so easy to snag someone at a conference, especially someone who has the right mixture of fantasy and pressure (see above).
My bother had a weird bot encounter after he finished his Master’s in chemistry from the University of Kentucky. UK publishes their theses and dissertations online, as do many other universities. He had already moved to Japan when a German company wrote him:
I was never sure if he had or had not consented, but he wrote to ask if this was legit. I thought about it. His chemistry research had direct implications for some miraculous biodiesel fuel. I wondered if the company might be taking the rights to the information (intellectual property rights) as well as the copyright. I think that in Germany, copyright extends from one’s death another 70 years, then enters the public domain (similar to our copyright). I had no idea about how the intellectual property rights would be handled there–it’s tricky enough in the U.S.