A cold morning here in Michigan, as it looks like they all will be for the foreseeable. I’ve just about gotten used to it.
Of course, that means I’ve no excuse not to stay indoors and get work done. So, for the purposes of enlightening all of you (and, more importantly, as an entry in what will hopefully be a good work diary of 2014 that I can look back on fondly when I forget what I spent the year doing), here’s what’s happening.
ENDLESS WEATHER, the history/education focused sabbatical project that has no actual name at this point is coming along well. I’ve just about finished with the Early US course content, very nearly by my self-imposed deadline. I anticipate that this will be the section where things take the longest—I’ve had a lot of instances where I’ve had to stop and admit that my initial ideas were not that great. For example, there are some documents that are just too long for practical classroom use among students in a 100-level survey. Thus, there’s some editing that I wasn’t anticipating. I’m also rethinking the “document + assessment = done” model as there are a lot of sources across time and space that would work well together. So, I think the early US section is going to take the most time and hopefully the lessons learned will make the rest go more smoothly. The web-side of things is still up in the air, which is good, otherwise I’d be tinkering with website stuff and procrastinating on the content.
BLACK SCREWDRIVER–the book project for Rowman & Littlefield, Publishers—is in the massive research and outlining stages. I’m spending much more time on the outlining with this project than I have with previous ones (because it’s a lot bigger—at least it feels that way). After looking around at outlining tools, I settled on Cloud Outliner because it’s cheap and it does what I need it to. I’m also dedicated (at this point anyway) to doing the writing in Scrivener. Niftily, Cloud Outliner will export outlines in OPML format readable by Scrivener, so that should save a step or two. I’m currently doing paragraph-level outlines of chapters, which hopefully will pay off when the drafting commences in a bit. The outline for the first chapter is actually at about 20% of my target word count, which is far more detail than I usually indulge in.
Of course, the fun part of this project is getting to watch (and re-watch) a huge amount of 1990s SF television.
It’s also allowing me to spend some quality time with the paranoid fringes of the Internet (and some of the older, non-Internet computer networks and BBS’s) as well as pondering on the significance of Omni magazine, which was a mainstay of my reading in high school. Wonderfully, Omni is available in its entirety in PDF format from the Internet Archive.
I also need to finish up SIENNA SMOKE, which I now feel comfortable mentioning (since the program for the conference is up and I’m actually on it!). it’s a brief (10 minute) lightning talk on storytelling and teaching for the LAND Conference, coming up next month in Bay City. Usually I don’t write out talks, but since there’s a strict time limit, I should probably make sure whatever I’m saying comes in under the wire.
Quick reminder, I’ll be on Where Did The Road Go? this Saturday from 11:00 PM to Midnight, Eastern time.
Okay—this has gotten my typing fingers warmed up. Time to go to work.
So long, 2013. Professionally, it was very good, with a number of books coming out including Extraterrestrials and the American Zeitgeist and The Chaos Conundrum, along with the podcast and radio interviews those entailed. For those of you who’ve read TCC, the pic to your left is the actual crop circle I discuss in the book. I failed to unearth it in time for publication, so consider this a value added feature. For those who are wondering what the crop circle is about, I can only urge you to buy the book…
2014, so far, looks to be a year with a lot of work that will probably see the light of day sometime in 2015. Right now, chief among these is the working-titled Paranormal Paranoia, for Rowman & Littlfield, which explores the relationship between conspiracy and paranormal culture and television science fiction in the 1990s. I’m also working on secret-so-far projects codenamed SIENNA SMOKE, SLEDGEHAMMER GOLDEN, and EIGHTH WRENCH which I will only reveal once I’ve finished them…! Of course, there is also the looming (and priority-dominating) sabbatical project for Mott Community College.
So, if 2013 was the year of paranormal stuff, 2014 is going to be the year of heavy history, eduction, and pop culture stuff. It’s the other side of the coin I inhabit.
It wouldn’t surprise me if there are some other, smaller, projects here and there. In 2013 I did some writing for The Schlager Group’s Milestone Documents resource as well as collaborated on a revision and expansion of a test and assessment system for WW Norton’s Worlds Together, Worlds Apart textbook. Both of those projects were highly enjoyable.
I’m still mired in the research phase for the new book which, in this case, involves viewing lots of television and taking lots of notes. Dark Skies is a particularly dense watch and I’ll probably end up watching some episodes several times to map out all the (honestly) obnoxiously clever references. I’m most looking forward to checking out some of the background viewing from the 1970s like Project UFO and Kolchak as well as some “factual” shows like In Search Of… and the always-entertaining Alternative 3.
Anyway, happy new year to you all. Stay tuned.
Nick Redfern has nice things to say about the new book over at Mysterious Universe, including:
I should note that Gulyas has a fine writing style; it’s one that is various parts sly humor, engaging wit, imagination, and the ability to craft and weave a fine, gripping story. This alone makes The Chaos Conundrum a book that not only massively informs, but which highly entertains, too.
So, with that all said, what do we get from reading Gulyas’ book? Let’s take a look. The book is not exactly an autobiography, nor is that the intention of the author. It does, however, contain several chapters that are, at the very least, semi-autobiographical, in the sense that Gulyas uses personal experiences to help get his points across. And they are points very well made.
The Chaos Conundrum: “‘A compelling and very personal look at the impact the paranormal has had on the way we view ourselves and the world in which we live.’”
NOW AVAILABLE from the Redstar books online store, on Amazon in a few days, and in e-book versions as soon as we possible can. Nick Redfern, prolific author on the paranormal calls it, in his foreword, “A major contribution to paranormal research and observation.”
(I, of course, would never doubt the judgement of Nick Redfern
Writer and filmmaker Paul Kimball (who, through his wonderful work in editing the book, knows as much about what’s in it as I do), says that it is “A compelling and very personal look at the impact the paranormal has had on the way we view ourselves and the world in which we live.”
Personally, I’m excited to have this out there. It’s an eclectic book, but Paul Kimball’s edits and suggestions made the book much more cohesive and compelling that it might otherwise have been. It was the most thorough editing relationship I’ve had since graduate school and the book is much stronger for it.
There are some photos, ranging from a strange radio tower in downtown Flint to a family picture from 1932. I look at everything from Roswell (ugh!) to the connections between religion, the paranormal, and extremist politics. The best way I can describe this book (and one that I’ve used in conversations with friends) is that The Chaos Conundrum is what you’d get if you sat me down, bought me a beer and said, “Okay- what do you think about all of this?”
That said, it’s not what you’re expecting. Honestly, it’s not what I was expecting when I started writing it. But, in a way, it’s the sort of book I’d wanted to write for a very long time.
To the right is the cover to my new book, due out in time for the holiday shopping season.
I’m excited about this one, not least because it contains a foreword by Nick Redfern, one of the greatest authors on paranormal issues in the world today (not hyperbole, seriously). From the foreword:
Aaron Gulyas’ The Chaos Conundrum is a thoughtful, and thought-provoking, compilation of papers on a wide variety of paranormal phenomena. Or, as it’s collectively known in circles where the unusual is typically the usual: profoundly weird stuff. A cursory glance at the titles of the essays, and their attendant subject matters, might make some readers assume they are stand-alone pieces with no connecting or unifying parts. Well, those souls would be wrong. Actually, they would be dead wrong.
The connection is not so much the issues and topics that Gulyas places under his supernatural microscope. Rather, it is the fact that the essays all invite us to do one thing: address and consider alternative theories, paradigms, and ideas to those that the established figures of the paranormal would prefer we adhere to.
I invite you to indulge yourself in the work of a man who has made a major contribution to the domain of paranormal research, writing and observation.
Read it, consider it, and learn from it. Just don’t be an ostrich about it.
See, that’s pretty dang cool, right there.
This is a pretty diverse collection of essays on everything ranging from UFOs to religion to achaeoacoustics, which is pretty interesting. I also get to talk a bit about Gray Barker, who I touched on briefly in Extraterrestrials and the American Zeitgeist. As I wrote about here, a couple years back, visiting the collection of his papers in West Virginia was an incredible experience and it was nice to be able to write about his work and its effect on me from a more personal perspective.
This one has been a much more intensive and compressed writing experience and the editing has been a really nice experience, with Paul Kimball of Redstar providing some great insights.
At this point, I’m thinking this may be my last (or close to my last) word on the paranormal for a while (at least in this particular form). I’m really looking forward to this one hitting the streets.
And another recent presentation, this time from Network Detroit: Digital Humanities. With all the MOOC stuff flying around, I wanted to talk a bit about online education and the community college (or at least my community college). Again, not a polished product and not–honestly–too awfully similar to what I actually said at the event!
Over here (link!) and under the “Papers and Presentations” menu above is what is more or less the bones of the paper I presented at the Midwest PCA conference last week in St. Louis. I deviated a bit (went over time–sorry, fellow panelists) and–more than anything else–came to the conclusion that this is something I need to return to, probably in the course of working on the largely top secret PROJECT MADOC.
If pseudohistory and its debunking is something you’re interest in, the two places I would send you before anything else are to the site of writer Jason Colavito (@jasoncolavito) and also to the website for a course on Pseudo-archaeology taught by Michigan State archeology professor Ethan Watrall (@captain_primate). These are two folks who have been (whether they know it or not) an enormous help as I look into these things.
After pressing a few more buttons (and, in a tactical move, making it exclusive to Kindle for a bit), In Fandom’s Shadow is available for free borrowing on Amazon Kindle devices for “Prime” members.
Work continues on the paperback version. I hadn’t planned to do one from the outset of the project, so it’s taking a bit of work to get all the spacing and the cover how I like them (crucially, making sure I have the wording on the cover image credits correct– Creative Commons licenses are awesome, and so are people who make their photos available for commercial use…).
So, spread the word, tell your friends, and feel free to have a read through without buying it.