Maybe Utah

If not Arizona, then a land not too far away. Where all parents are strong and wise and capable, and all children are happy and beloved. I don’t know. Maybe it was Utah.
–H.I. McDunnough, Raising Arizona

So this is flattering: My article, “The Wire Devils: Pulp Thrillers, the Telephone, and Action at a Distance in the Wiring of a Nation,” American Quarterly, September 2006 (that link works for AQ subscribers only, but if you really want a copy I can hook you up) has been shortlisted for the Constance Rourke Prize, for the Best Essay Published in American Quarterly last year. Much of the credit for that should go to the issue’s editor, Carolyn de la Pena. She worked so patiently and enthusiastically with me–it was a crash course in what having a good editor is all about. (If only she’d made me do something about my title. What a mouthful!)

Also, the issue of American Quarterly my article appeared in, a theme issue on technology and American studies, has been republished as a book: Carolyn de la Pena and Siva Vaidhyanathan, eds, Rewiring the Nation: The Place of Technology in American Studies (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2007). And another article of mine, on technology and Canadian nationalism, has also finally been published in a book: Norman Hillmer and Adam Chapnick, eds., Canadas of the Mind: The Making and Unmaking of Canadian Nationalisms in the Twentieth Century (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2007). So I can erase that “forthcoming” that’s been on my CV for something like five years now.

Cooler still, I’m off to Salt Lake City this week for Frontiers of New Media, a symposium on media and the West at the University of Utah. I’m quite excited. I love little conferences like this where you actually get to meet people, and the list of speakers and presenters is like reading the spines on my favorite bookshelf. Henry “Convergence Culture” Jenkins, MIT’s reigning academic fan geek media studies guru, is the keynote speaker. There’s also Philip Deloria, whose Playing Indian is a high point in my American Studies class every year; Greg Downey, whose book on the telegraph dropped an intellectual bomb on me at exactly the right moment in writing my dissertation; and Lisa Gitelman, media history guru in her own right, who probably doesn’t even remember the crucial advice she gave me on my early pseudoscience research, back when she was at the Thomas Edison Papers and I hadn’t even started work on the telephone. Plus the proverbial many more.

Coolest of all, my daughter is walking now. And by “walking,” I mean “tearing everywhere at top speed, climbing chairs and tables and bookshelves and walls, stopping, spinning, and starting like a radio-controlled nitro funny car.”


  1. Thanks! I cannot tell a lie: my original draft of the article cited you (for those just joining us, Jess wrote the monumental Encyclopedia of Fantastic Victoriana), but that footnote eventually got cut. No aspersion on you, I promise, just that it was in a section (a digression on roguish characters in turn-of-the-century fiction) that didn’t really belong in the end.

  2. Pingback: Old is the New New :: It’s Whalers, not Whalies

  3. Congrats on all the good news! Especially about the nitro funny car girl. Makes me think you need to rewrite that book spines sentence into something like: “is like reading the spines on my favorite bookshelf (or would be if my daughter hadn’t already torn them off the books, ripped them to shreds, swallowed them, and pooped them out over the course of the last several months).” The internets loves the digressions!

  4. Shoot, I *hate* the feeling of hearing about an incredibly cool conference that a critical mass of smart people I know are speaking at on the very weekend it’s happening. Sigh.

  5. Rob, it was super to be able to hang out with you and all the other smart folks at the Utah conference. I’m a buddy of Siva’s myself (he was at Wisconsin during the same year I started there) and I just finally met Carolyn de la Pena at SHOT this week in D.C. — I’m definitely intrigued by the cross-fertilization in serious and creative technology scholarship between American Studies, history, STS, and communication/information studies. It’s often hard to see those boundaries blurring at big association conferences, but they’re really apparent here on Web 2.0. Thanks for producing the space!

  6. Thanks, Greg, and back at you. I was sorry to miss SHOT this year, but really I find I get the very most out of small interdisciplinary things like Utah.

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