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Dispatches from the Age of Electracy: Obsolete before it ships

Charles Stross reflected on the relentless pace of culture and the difficulty of writing about the near future or the present in a post about his book Rule 34: There is a certain pub in Edinburgh that I’ve used as a setting for some key scenes, because it’s quarried out of the side of a […]

21st Century Dead: A Zombie Anthology

21st Century Dead: A Zombie Anthology Edited by Christopher Golden Each year, I pick a different anthology of zombie stories to read with my Zombies in Popular Media class.  This year’s collection was pretty good.  A few highlights: “Why Mothers Let Their Babies Watch Television: A Just-so Horror Story” by Chelsea Cain.  Written with the […]

Thoughts on next year’s zombie class

I’m wondering how the course would work if I re-worked it next year as a series of Zombie subgenres (Hollywood, Vodou, Cyborg, Alien-slug, Fast/Virus, Philosophical, Nazi) and we approached the material from that perspective.  This would make the experience of the course way different from what it is now, and give me some variety in […]

In which my course “doesn’t sound right no matter how seriously you phrase it”

The Times of India has joined the “look at all these stupid courses” game with their own collection of summaries, including a bizarre summary of my course (and PERHAPS a course about embalming as well?  It’s weird).  Here’s the relevant text: Class on zombies Official course title: Zombies In Popular Media What it means: Slacker […]

One more week

The busiest time of the year, for me, is early January.  It’s crunch time over at the PCA, where we’re solidifying our schedule, finishing registration, and getting ready for the conference.  We’re preparing for a new semester at Columbia College Chicago, so there are syllabi to finalize and other administrative work to do.  And I’m […]


Today marks the end of the first week of my annual horror j-session class, Zombies in Popular Media.  A few thoughts: This year brings another good mix of students with varying experience in zombie media.  As far as I can tell, though, I have no zombie fanatics.  Most years I’ve had at least one person […]

Dispatches from the Age of Electracy: End of the semester grading

Note: I’ll be taking a break from the Dispatches from the Age of Electracy series until after the new year. An interesting conversation opened up on Facebook last week about grading.  The OP asked “Hypothetically, what should I say to a student who’s unhappy about getting 91/100?” (click ‘read more’ below to see the full […]

The Stair Method…

Classes are done.  Now it’s just grading. and grading. and did I mention grading? The only time I dislike using all electronic project and paper submission is that it doesn’t give me this way out: See the Stair Method for more on this precise and detailed grading model.  

Keeping my head above water…

Between writing obligations (revisions and editing), family obligations (three swim meets, trips to Minnesota and Florida), PCA obligations (the 2015 conference is rolling along busily), and CCC obligations (two classes to finish now, a program to coordinate, my zombie class, and an intense committee I was just elected to), the next three months look to […]

Thoughts on the first week of class

We got new directory portraits taken last week. I have two classes this semester: The Rhetoric of Digital Media and Literary Genres: Detective Fiction.  Here are a few thoughts on the first week: My opening spiel for the Digital Media class had to be tuned somewhat, since I used to start the class (formerly called […]

The Best American Mystery Stories of the Century

The Best American Mystery Stories of the Century Edited by Tony Hillerman and Otto Penzler I don’t envy anyone tasked with assembling a book like this.  You’d want to be original, but you couldn’t skip the best things.  You’d need to hit many of the major figures while not ignoring minor gems.  You’d want to […]

Six points for a blogging class

I’m speaking in a class about blogging today, and feeling a bit out of my depth.  Sure, I’m a blogger. Sure, I’ve been keeping this blog for nearly a decade.  But I don’t make a living at it.  And if you’re a regular reader, you know that my ability to update regularly is spotty at […]

Gave a talk, still overwhelmed!

Greetings, dear readers.  In the past ten days I’ve accomplished five of the seven big things I needed to do: Grade New Media projects Give my talk on COLUMBO at MPCA Write and give the MPCA Pub Quiz Attend MPCA/ACA Finish and give my talk at the Palatine Public Library   Finish gathering and send […]

It’s official! PCA/ACA Executive Director of Operations

Many of you know that last October I was tapped by the PCA/ACA to serve as Interim Executive Director during the transition from one Executive Team to another.  Working with the officers and my team-mates (Joe Hancock, Lee Halper, and Alex Lamberti), I helped organize the 2013 PCA/ACA annual conference.  It looks like I will […]

I know where I’ll be on October 15th…

At Palatine Public Library for: Zombies!: Why You Should Care about the Walking Dead When: Tuesday, Oct 15 2013, 7:00 pm – 8:00 pm Event type: Adult Where: Main Library Dr. Brendan Riley, Columbia College, charts the evolution and philosophy of the living dead from its Haitian roots, to the graphic novel and TV show […]