Archivy etc.

opinions, occasional rants, and sometimes things that have nothing to do with archives at all. Nothing here should be assumed to be reflective of my employer's opinion(s) nor should it be assumed that at anytime afterward, this is what I still think.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Long overdue bibliography

I'm nearly at two decades since I began some "serious" research into the way archives and archivists are portrayed in fiction. This research thus far has resulted in three relatively complete products: a masters thesis, an American Archivist article based on my masters thesis (though substantially cut), and a presentation at SAA-Austin.

And by relatively complete I don't mean they're the last word on the topic. At least once a year I'm approached by a grad student doing some variant on the subject and though I like to think I've had some really good ideas over the years, I know I haven't drained the well dry. Mostly I mean those are standalone products not subject to my going back and revising them. Am I likely to produce some thing new? I doubt it. My thinking has changed a lot over the years, matured I'd hope, but I don't have any current plans to go in and add something new to the discussion. At least not anything new that would require I concentrate on research and writing for more than oh, say, however long it takes me to read a novel.

That doesn't mean I've stopped reading, though. And it really doesn't mean I've stopped keeping track of what fiction I read that has archival content. What you may not know is that I have a list. Of books I've read with archival content and books I've been told have archival content. Currently the full list is comprised of 854 titles. 568 of which I've confirmed have archival content.

Scary thing? I'm well aware it's not comprehensive. For example, it contains only the first Ballantine/Morris Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences novel, and as near as I can tell, there's bunches more to go. And I haven't kept up with my James Axler reading in the past couple of years, though I have a lot of travel booked for this year and those are always great airplane reads, so maybe I will get that series caught up.

At any rate, last week yet another individual contacted me about this topic. Technically the request was for an e version of my thesis (which doesn't exist anymore) but it got me thinking about the various things I've created over the years on this topic. Especially my book list which I've pretty much been keeping confidential. And what I was or wasn't planning to do with it. And okay, the list isn't pretty, it's not comprehensive, it's not well-crafted, and I had a dozen other self-protective (ego-protective) reasons to just keep it mine.

But eventually common sense comes along and gives me a swift kick. Common sense that says: what are you saving this for? (Ans: nothing in particular.) Are you ever planning on doing another project? (Ans: yeah, but no, but yeah, but no, but yeah, but likelihood low). What's with the possessiveness? (Ans: But I spent a lot of time researching it! Me! My time! Why should I give it away? Plus it's been a private list since 2006! It's tradition now!) What happened to your alleged attitude about information accessibility? (Ans: Uh...)

And I realized I was channeling General Buck Turgidson a little too closely. "I mean, he'll see everything, he'll... he'll see the Big Board!" Yeah, I'm a little embarrassed to admit I've read some of this stuff. Then again, at least I can point to them and say "Research Project!" when somebody shakes their head over the fact that I've read Dan Brown not once, but twice. Or whatever other author, book, or series on there makes you raise an eyebrow. 

So what the heck. The product of way too many hours of work and somehow, yet, still not done and never will be, either. About an hour ago, I logged into my account on LibraryThing and hit the switch. The switch that's been set to private since I first set up my account on LibraryThing in 2006. My perpetually-in-progress archives in fiction bib is now public.

By the way, if you somehow missed it, that product I mentioned that I did for the Austin SAA? It's NSFW. No joke. And the bib contains records for the books that were the source of the content for the presentation. Plus some of the books in this list are awful. Badly written, boring, etc. Just, you know, be careful. Read at your own risk. As I suppose we always do, huh?