ISU Headlines

ISU Department of English and Philosophy houses fantasy journal

Posted October 19, 2007

Thanks to funding from the Idaho State University Office of Research, the University now houses a new international scholarly journal, the “Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts.”

Brian Attebery, Ph.D., of the Department of English and Philosophy, has taken over as editor of the journal. Well-known as a scholar of science fiction and fantasy, Attebery was invited to apply for the editorship by the journal’s founding organization, the International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts. He is just finishing a transitional year, working with the previous editor William A. Senior.

“We are now putting together our first solo issue, which is due out this fall,” he said. “Starting with volume 18, it’s all ours.”

The journal joins other ISU-based publications such as the historical journal “Idaho Yesterdays,” the creative and critical magazine “Rendezvous,” and the classroom-oriented “Perspectives on Economic Education Research.”

The “Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts” is an interdisciplinary journal. A typical issue might include articles on fantasy literature, magic realism, utopias, supernatural, horror films, Native American storytelling, surrealist painting, or even musical scores.

“We’re covering everything from fantasy films to comic books to children’s literature and folklore,” Attebery said. “One of our goals is to make the journal readable to the non-specialist, while keeping it in a peer-reviewed format.”

To cope with this variety, Attebery has assembled a group of editorial consultants from four continents as well as a local team that includes two graduate student editorial assistants. The assistants are Kristi Austin, interdisciplinary studies, and Monty Vierra, English.  

“Both assistants bring additional expertise to the job,” Attebery said. “Monty has considerable experience in editing and publishing and Kristi is both a reference librarian and a former science fiction bookstore owner. They’re very good at noticing things I miss, and they are phenomenal at tracking down hard-to-find information that we need for double-checking our authors.”

Both Austin and Vierra expressed excitement about being involved with the production of the journal.

“It is a tremendous opportunity to do this kind of work,” Austin said. “It’s a great opportunity for ISU to become well-known worldwide.”

Additional local help comes from writer and free-lance designer Greg Nicholl, who redesigned the interior format of the journal last year and now has come up with a “terrific new cover” for the current edition, Attebery said.

Editing an international journal means spending a lot of time at the computer.

“I sit in my office in the Liberal Arts building and connect daily with scholars in England, Australia, Hungary, Poland, Canada, Japan. Sometimes the e-mail is overwhelming, but it’s also fascinating. In addition to corresponding with major scholars in my field,” Attebery said. “I get to work with artists like Charles Vess and writers such as Peter Straub, Karen Joy Fowler, Geoff Ryman, John Crowley, and Ursula K. Le Guin. I’m currently polishing up an interview I did with Le Guin last spring.”

Editing the journal has brought some sideline benefits to Attebery and his assistants, and to ISU as a whole.

“Getting to hang out with writers has affected my teaching,” he says. “I’ve been able to bring some of them, award-winning writers like Molly Gloss and Nalo Hopkinson, to campus, and I’ve held conversations by speaker-phone between my students and writers they are reading–we did that with Kim Stanley Robinson and with Kathleen Ann Goonan. This gives the students more insight into the way literature is created and helps them (and me) see how writers interact with one another. It makes literature seem alive, instead of something that only happened in the dim past.”

The journal also provides an educational opportunity for the editorial assistants, who get experience in tracking down references, verifying facts, maintaining the journal’s Web page (http://www.iafa.org/jfa/author.html) and sometimes smoothing out the English of foreign contributors.

 “Having this publication at ISU puts us on an international stage. It enhances our reputation as a place where interesting ideas are exchanged,” Attebery said.