Please visit our new blog, Behind the Book at unpblog.com, for behind-the-scenes looks at the publishing industry, book conversation, and the latest news from UNP.
Please visit our new blog, Behind the Book at unpblog.com, for behind-the-scenes looks at the publishing industry, book conversation, and the latest news from UNP.
Rob Buchanan is the sales coordinator in the marketing department.
I owe a huge debt of gratitude to J. R. R. Tolkien. The first adult books I ever read were The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy. I know The Hobbit is technically a children’s book, but since it led me to The Lord of the Rings books, and goes well with them, I am including it here. These are the books that began a lifelong love of fantasy books. After reading those books I spent countless hours at the local library, hunting for new books to read. I can’t remember a lot of the books I read at that time, since it has been twenty-five to thirty years since I read them, but some left a lasting impression.
Our library had a number of metal spinning racks and I distinctly remember finding almost all of the Horseclans books by Robert Adams in them. These aren’t traditional fantasy books because they are set in a world many years after an apocalypse. I don’t recall there being any magic, but there was an occasional bit of high technology thrown in. I can’t remember which of the eighteen volumes the library didn’t have, but I still remember the frustration I felt at not being able to read the entire series. I recall the books taking place over a long period of time, following a group of immortals and the people they were guiding. This allowed the author to have a large cast of characters, since of course the immortals outlived everyone as the years passed. Every once in a while I think about going back and getting the series so I can read them again and see if they are as good as I remember. They are old enough that they aren’t in the library any longer, but a quick search of Amazon shows that they are all available, in one form or another.
Ryan H. Edgington is a visiting assistant professor of history at Macalester College. His book, Range Wars: The Environmental Contest for White Sands Missile Range is now available in hardcover and paperback.
A couple months ago, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel offered a compromise on the SunZia transmission project that in part traversed the northern call-up area of White Sands Missile Range located in south-central New Mexico. A Department of Defense site about the size of Connecticut, the missile range is the largest overland military site in the Western Hemisphere and the second largest in the Western world (Woomera Test Range in southern Australia is the largest). The project is a 500-kilovolt “clean energy” transmission line that crosses private, state, and federal lands across central New Mexico and Arizona. The project is named for SunZia Transmission, which leads the project accompanied by sponsors including Salt River Project, Shell Wind Energy, Southwestern Power Group II, Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, and Tucson Electric Power. The Bureau of Land Management is the lead federal agency on the project. According to the Environmental Impact Statement for the project “the BLM’s purpose and need for the proposed Project is established by regulatory obligations and directives, and current energy development trends.” Those playing a role in the EIS include the missile range, Fort Bliss to its south, Holloman Air Force Base on its eastern border, and the National Park Service (which manages the White Sands National Monument), among others.
Rains have flooded parts of New Mexico this summer. But considering long-term climate change and substantial drought conditions over the past few years, such a project might seem not only reasonable, but also urgent. Yet conflict over the project arose as soon as it got off the ground. White Sands Missile Range came out against the plan. Last September, Range Commander Brigadier General Gwen Bingham said, “I’m not going to sit here and tell you that allowing the line will mean the end of White Sands Missile Range…But it will mean the end of some of the programs.” The SunZia project is not the first time the missile range has wrestled with conflicts to its primary mission. Established in the summer of 1945 as White Sands Proving Ground, the missile range has long had to face both local and extra-local challenges to its existence. During World War II regional ranchers raised questions about the value of growing militarization to the regional economy. They suggested that the area was best left to producing beef for the war effort. In the thirty years after the war, local tourist boosters sought to make the Trinity Site (where the first nuclear weapon was detonated) a public monument. The missile range consumed the site as it grew after World War II. The Atomic Energy Commission and the DOD successfully fought to limit public access to the site.
Ranchers, who had used the land prior to World War II to make a living, were tied in to twenty-year grazing permit suspension and property lease agreements after World War II. Upset by what they saw as a reduction of value on their ranchlands when condemnation hearings commenced in the 1970s, the ranchers challenged the missile range’s authority in to the 1990s by bringing lawsuit after lawsuit against the government. In 1982 rancher Dave McDonald and his niece Mary crept into White Sands and occupied the family’s former homestead. Armed with guns, they posted signs to the army (which managed White Sands) to keep out. Members of New Mexico’s congressional cadre eventually escorted them off the range. Yet, not unlike Cliven Bundy’s recent protests against the BLM in Nevada, their protest reflected the discontent with federal land management among rural western producers that has emerged since the Sagebrush Rebellion of the late 1970s. Militarization added a wrinkle to rural discontent across the West.
“Sometimes, you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read the book.” ―John Green, author of The Fault in Our Stars
I work in book publishing and I love to read books. This should come as no surprise. Most people who know this about me probably think that I’ve been a book worm my whole life; why else would I seek a position in the book publishing world? That, however, couldn’t be further from the truth.
When I was younger I hated reading. You couldn’t pay me enough money to sit down with a book and read just for fun. I would only read if I had to for school. I was much too busy watching Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Rugrats, Boy Meets World and all the other great shows of the 1990s. Who had time for reading?
Then, in September 1998 something miraculous happened. J.K. Rowling wrote the story of a young boy named Harry Potter. All of a sudden reading had a whole new meaning. It didn’t have to be work; I could read for fun! The Harry Potter series transported me into an imaginary world. In this world, I learned to love and care about the characters. I read these stories and instantly wanted to know more. I locked myself in my room for hours just reading away, exploring the grounds at Hogwarts, and I wasn’t alone. The Harry Potter series is one of the best-selling series in history, with more than 450 million copies sold.
University presses are silos joined in many ways by bridges of varying strength. We’re connected through what we do, who we publish, the genres in which we publish, our missions, and our sense of the importance of scholarly publishing. But we’re also disparate, competing, in a sense, against each other, hoping to sell our books to the same people that are interested in another university press’ titles. We market to the same groups, often using similar techniques. This competition forces us into a silo whereby we have to withhold information or data because there is a belief that we will lose our edge if we share such commodities. But what if university presses took a different approach?
What if, instead of keeping marketing information and data separate we actually opened our silo doors and let those crucial marketing leads and contacts leak out? Maybe we could use these leads and contacts, send them outside of the silo to see what they might find and return to us; a set of marketing carrier pigeons, if you will. Can we, in essence, market multiple university presses at once through a combined system of shared marketing efforts? The simple answer is yes. There are few reasons that cannot be skewered with logic and reason and considered argument. The simple reality is that there seems little inclination at this point to do so.
At the recent AAUP meeting in New Orleans collaboration ran the show. It was all everyone talked about. But as a few panelists noted there is little actual, real collaboration. Danny Bellet, publicity manager at Penn State University Press (PSUP), pointed to efforts they have undertaken on their own to use books from other university presses as their “also of interest” titles. PSUP believes it makes sense to highlight these competing titles because of the power of cross pollination but also because if a customer does like one of those books from the other press there is a better chance they’ll like the one from Penn State as well. Simple. And yet this is a relatively isolated incidence. MIT, Nebraska, Florida, and Purdue came together recently to create the “Up In Space” campaign and this has demonstrated some value but it is static and so rather limited in what it can do.
Eric Brach is a lecturer in English at California Lutheran University and worked with Billy McGill on his book, Billy "the Hill" and the Jump Hook: The Autobiography of a Forgotten Basketball Legend (November 2013).
I met Billy McGill in the spring of 2010, just before completing my graduate education at the University of Southern California. In truth, I hadn’t heard of him or his story before then. I didn’t know that he had been the No. 1 pick in the 1962 NBA draft. I didn’t know that he’d been the first to integrate the basketball team at the University of Utah, nor that he had been such a star that the team retired his number before he’d even left the school, paving the way for athletes (and students!) of all races to find a place at that school. I didn’t know that Billy invented the jump hook, nor did I know anything of the struggles he’d had to face as a youth coming up in the pre–Civil Rights Act era.
I also didn’t know that Billy had been trying to find a way to tell his story since the New York Times published a piece on him back in the early 1980s. He had been trying to tell his tale for about as long as I had been in alive.
Of course, all of that came in time, as did so much more. Over the four years that I was lucky enough to get to know and work with Billy, I learned that he was a family man – that he loved his wife, Gwen, more than he could ever say, and that his children and grandchildren served as a source of constant joy and pride. I learned that he thought fondly of Utah, and that recollections of his days on the hardwood playing for his alma mater were among his most cherished memories. He treasured his teammates and he welcomed his fans. Generations of Ute faithful stepped forward to shake his hand, and fathers recounted to sons the tales of Billy’s exploits on the basketball court. These all offered him great pleasure.
Plato said that you can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation, and that may be true – there’s no doubt that everyone who shared the floor with Billy during his playing days has a story to tell. I believe that the time I spent talking with Billy and helping him craft a manuscript from the recollections of his youth offered a clear view into the life and mind of a truly unique individual – one whose legacy lives on in game film, in sporting lore, in a beloved family, and, at last, in a book as well.
Billy McGill was a fighter. He worked hard. He spoke little, preferring to let his actions speak for him. No cenotaph can ever fully capture the life of an individual, but I hope that the book he completed will continue to delight his fans for a long, long time to come.
My book, A Lenape among the Quakers: The Life of Hannah Freeman, emerged from the pages of a dissertation completed to fulfill the requirements for a doctoral degree in history. The path to that dissertation topic was not out of the ordinary. But the space between the dissertation and the final manuscript is as convoluted as the course of the Brandywine River, the center of Hannah Freeman’s world.
My interest in Pennsylvania’s Indian history was both pragmatic and personal. I wanted to work with Sharon Salinger because she was a highly respected colonial scholar, and she had a reputation for being a tough dissertation advisor. And as both a Pennsylvanian and a Native American scholar, I knew that the state’s history was a perfect example of an overly mythologized colonial story that silenced and subverted the history of Native Americans. There was much work to do on that score.
During the early stage of my graduate program, Dr. Salinger brought to my attention a piece published in the Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography. Marshall Becker, an anthropologist, provided a brief discussion of a source he described as the “earliest known autobiography of a Native American woman.” That got my attention. I did not realize it then, but I was beginning a long journey, with Hannah at my side every step of the way. The Examination of Indian Hannah, written by Moses Marshall in 1798, is not an autobiography as such but rather a two-page deposition used to satisfy Chester County’s residence requirements in order to commit Hannah Freeman to the poorhouse. She was their first inmate and the only Native American woman. Two hundred years later, her story opened a door to a little-known past, and I walked through.
Tish Fobben is the direct response manager at the University of Nebraska Press.
A recent Shelf Awareness newsletter headline caught my eye, “RIF Survey: Reading Important, but Not a Top Summer Priority.” Shelf Awareness reported “a new survey commissioned by Reading is Fundamental and Macy’s found that 17% of parents believe reading is a top summer priority and that children spend nearly three times the hours playing video games or watching TV than reading during summer vacation. . . . While summer reading may not be the top priority, 83% of respondents still considered it extremely/very important to them that their child reads this summer.”
I recognize the disconnect between “very important” and a “high priority” in my own life. I just don’t expect to see it in other’s. Books have a lot of competition out there and I have been repeatedly shocked (and insulted, I’m afraid) by how compelling a TV program, computer game, or Nook app is for our five-year-old daughter, in comparison to, say, a conversation with me.
But as a book publisher and the parent of a young child, I have to believe that reading is fundamental. (And I do.) I’ve heard experts recommend that parents model reading during the day (since children are typically in bed before their parents settle down for their own reading). Although most parents of a young child can only fantasize about the luxury of reading during the day—there is nothing as powerful (or contagious) as behavior, good or bad. Since the summer solstice I resolved to “get caught reading” by my daughter. (The days are getting shorter now—there’s no daylight left to waste!) Reading during the day goes against my longtime, frustrating tendency to save the pleasure of reading until my bedtime, at which point I doze off after a few paragraphs—thus making an “extremely important goal” a low priority.
We know the legal facts by now. On Wednesday, June 18, the U.S. Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, part of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, cancelled six different trademark protections associated with the Washington Redskins professional football team. Federal trademark law does not permit registration of trademarks that “may disparage” individuals or groups or “bring them into contempt or disrepute.”
Each of the trademarks in question contained the word “redskin.” The 2–1 decision said that “the recognition that this racial designation based on skin color is disparaging to Native Americans” was demonstrated “by the near complete drop-off in usage of ‘redskins’ as a reference to Native Americans beginning in the 1960s.”
A similar ruling was handed down in1999, but was later overturned on appeal. The current case was filed in 2006 by five new petitioners, targeting registration—and the protection it ensured—of the Redskins team name between 1967 and 1990.
Prior to the decision, strong momentum had been building to pressure the football team to change its name. President Obama, Democratic members of Congress, journalists, and other members of the public have urged the Redskins to change the name, largely through denunciation.
But the new lawsuit took a different tack, hitting the $1.7 billion franchise where it would hurt: merchandise—T-shirts, license plate holders, sweatshirts, beer glasses, decals, and more. Forbes estimates the brand alone to be worth $145 million. With that much money in the game, the ruling, in turn, could have a direct effect on other NFL franchises because football’s revenue-sharing system gives them all a stake. “Maybe this is the tipping point for the rest of the league,” said Gabriel Feldman, director of the sports law program at Tulane University.
During a recent interview, I was asked where ideas for new books originate. I replied that they usually come quite unexpectedly and often are derived from casual conversations or notions that people suggest. The important thing is to recognize these verbal prompts when they appear, and then act on them.
However, the entire concept of the Outward Odyssey series was not mine to begin with, and on this occasion the idea came from a more traditional source. It all started with a March 2003 query from my new-found publisher, the University of Nebraska Press, and specifically the press’s then editor in chief, Gary Dunham, a self-confessed spaceflight enthusiast who said he had enjoyed publishing my two previous books, Teacher in Space and Fallen Astronauts. Dunham was excited about the possibility of a series of books on the history of space exploration, something along the lines of a “people’s history” that did not privilege technical advances nor a manifest destiny approach to the subject. His idea was to instead look at the social history of spaceflight and its impact on people. He felt eight volumes might be a good starting point, and asked me if I would consider taking on the role of series editor.
Although the project was well beyond anything I had ever attempted before then, I rather boldly and without any professional editing qualifications replied that I felt I was up to the challenge. This not only involved finding suitable authors and having each prepare a proposal based on a suggested book outline, but bringing them all up to speed on the social mandate of the series and where each book fit within the overall scheme of the series. I also emphasized their contractual obligations and offered information on the fixed style guide they had to employ in what they wrote. My role, once each proposal was found acceptable by the editorial board, would be to guide them through the writing, editing, and publication process on behalf of the press. I became basically a go-between, constantly communicating with all of the potential authors and the publisher.
I began by looking at authors of previously published books on space exploration, but then realized we needed a whole new generation of authors for the series officially dubbed Outward Odyssey. As a member of several online space forums I was able to submit notices asking for any potential authors to contact me with their ideas, resumés, and examples of any previously published articles or other works.
To kick-start the series I contacted long-time friend and spaceflight enthusiast Francis French; together we tossed around ideas for the first book in the series, which we thought should cover the first pioneering human spaceflights carried out by the United States and the Soviet Union. We felt it was important to explore both the achievements of American astronauts as well as those of the Soviet cosmonauts, and this recognition of all participants in the highly competitive international space race set the trend for the rest of the series, which embraces the spaceflight and space spectaculars (and tragedies) from all spacefaring nations. We set out to not only relate the stories of successive spaceflights, but to emphasize the stories and backgrounds of those who flew missions, especially focusing on what inspired them to saddle up on these incredible adventures.
Our book, titled Into That Silent Sea: Trailblazers of the Space Era, 1961 –1965, dominated our lives for the next couple of years and resulted in a massively oversized manuscript. In consultation with Dunham we decided that it would be an injustice to heavily crop the manuscript. Instead, it was divided evenly and became two volumes; the second book took on the title In the Shadow of the Moon: A Challenging Journey to Tranquility, 1965–1969. As before, the main title originated from Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.
Those first two books in the series traced the story of human space travel, from Yuri Gagarin’s pioneering flight in 1961 to Neil Armstrong as he was about to set foot upon the moon. In the meantime I had found another suitable author, Chris Gainor, to prepare a manuscript that detailed the centuries-long lead-up to Gagarin’s flight; launched another follow-on book that related the history of Project Apollo (called Footprints in the Dust: The Epic Voyages of Apollo, 1969–1975, with multiple chapter authors); and initiated another on the Skylab space station program. NASA journalist David Hitt had contacted me regarding the proposed Skylab book and mentioned that he was researching a book on the life of Skylab astronaut Owen Garriott. I convinced Dave to look at writing about the entire Skylab program, and he convinced Owen Garriott to join him in the project as co-author. Soon another Skylab astronaut, Joe Kerwin, asked if he could participate. Thus two NASA astronauts were involved in writing Homesteading Space: The Skylab Story along with Hitt.