In the Stacks: Edogawa Ranpo’s Japanese Tales of Mystery & Imagination

Our In the Stacks this time is similar to our last in that it is a collection of mystery stories written in tribute to another writer, but while Solar Pons is largely a Sherlockian pastiche that took off on a life of his own, Edogawa Ranpo’s collection of somewhat Poe inspired stories, Japanese Tales of Mystery & Imagination, is a classic of psychological mystery.

Ranpo, born Hirai Tarō, took his pen name in tribute to Poe (as you say Edogawa Ranpo, note that it is a phonetic play on Edgar Allan Poe) and some of his stories definitely fit into Poe’s elements of gothic sensibilities, psychological underpinnings, and a sense of puzzle and play. Ranpo, though, largely avoids the floridness that was one of Poe’s greatest strengths and weaknesses, making him quite readable while retaining the thrilling energy of old estates and city streets and people who sneak around in the night [how much this is owed to James B. Harris, the translator, is unknown to me but fans of the original language version can feel free to comment below].

Tales of Mystery and the Imagination Cover

Notable stories in Japanese Tales include

  • “The Human Chair”, about a man who hides out in a fancy chair feels – note, this is exactly as it sounds – and listens in [and eventually falls in love] with the people who sit on him;
  • “The Psychological Test”, about a Raskolnikov-wannabe who is overcome partially by his own sense of superiority; and
  • “Two Crippled Men”, about a man who has dealt with a fear of his sleep walking and the horrors he had done, not knowing that other forces might be at play.

Most of these are about the psychology of the crime more than the crime itself. A couple, “Hell of Mirrors” and “The Traveler with the Pasted Rag Picture”, are actually closer to weird fiction more than mystery, but make for some nice spice in the mix.

Our copy is up on the third floor, north side, with the call number, PL826 .D6 J3 1956. It is the sixth printing of the 1956 Tuttle edition. You can see more information on the Goodreads page for Japanese Tales of Mystery & Imagination. That link has reviews and some edition notes and links to buy a copy if you want.

As a note, his pen name is most often romanized as Ranpo, now, but earlier romanizations (including the one on the cover of the book, though not the book’s record) is Rampo, with an “m”.

Spotted a book in our stacks that you think is worthy of being brought up in a future In the Stacks feature? Just let me know at doug.bolden@uah.edu and I’ll look into it. Questions about this book or any of the others we have, then email me or the reference desk at erefq@uah.edu.

Five Misconceptions About Plagiarism as Highlighted by Certain Recent Events

There have been a couple of big plagiarism news pieces lately, including one that hits my personal weird fiction interests: a recent claim by Mike Davis (of Lovecraft Ezine) and Jon Padgett (of Thomas Ligotti Online) that some quotes from the show True Detective were outright plagiarism of Thomas Ligotti’s book, Conspiracy Against the Human Race. I am not here to talk about my personal feelings on the truth or untruth of this claim, nor even my professional assessment, I’ll reserve that for my personal discourse, but as a librarian I have noticed a number of misconceptions cropping up about plagiarism in online discussions about this issue and the others, such as a Reddit thread on r/TrueDetective about the article. I feel those are worth discussing because there are many confused by what plagiarism means and what its impact can be. There are more than five misconceptions – by the far the biggest one encountered in the Academic World seems to be, “If I found it online, it’s not plagiarism!” – but these five seem most germane to the current debates being waged in comment sections around the internet.

At the onset, my plan was to take specific posts from the Reddit thread, the Facebook thread, some of the Twitter comments, and so forth, but I found this troublesome because some of these problems are spread throughout multiple poster’s comments but some of the more egregious offenders have since deleted or edited their posts – or had their posts buried under a flood of other posts – and I am not quite comfortable with calling specific people out. I am trying to inform, not embarrass. To that end, I’ve decided to generalize a little bit, to synthesize and to analyze a little bit, and to use these misconceptions in a big picture light. If I do actually reference a specific claim from a specific person, I’ll go ahead and let that be known, because, you know…plagiarism.

A disclaimer, right off, none of these are an attack, and especially not upon the parties discussed in the source article.

Misconception: Plagiarism has fair use.

Plagiarism and copyright infringement are cousins, not identical twins. “Fair Use” is a concept better suited for copyright questions. Many of its tenants – transformative use and quantity used – are poor fits for plagiarism analysis. I can take, say, a paragraph from a book and use it in a paper and consider that use fair, especially for education reasons, but this does not excuse me from the needs for proper citation and making distinct which words/ideas are mine and which ones are not. If the ideas/words are not mine, then I need to acknowledge this at some level: citation, author’s note, credit, in-text acknowledgement, or so forth. This ties in closely with the next point…

Misconception: Plagiarism is negated by works in the public domain.

This is false. Whether or not a work is in the public domain, it does not impact the fact that someone lifted words or ideas from another source. Plagiarism is about whether or not something is from someone else, not about whether it is actionable on copyright grounds. You can argue that once a work achieves a degree of general knowledge that plagiarism becomes less possible, but then it behooves you to try and use exact quotes so that there is no doubt of the source. For instance, if I were to say, “All the world’s a stage!” in a paper about social perceptions of job titles, I could reasonable assume that the reader would recognize the Shakespearean origin, but it is still more more polite to acknowledge.

Misconception: Since X got his ideas from Y and Z, you cannot truly be said to be plagiarizing X.

Some discussions about Ligotti coming up out of this have correctly noted that his book is influenced by a number of pessimistic and antinatalistic authors. There are two points to look at here, though. First, Ligotti’s book has extensive references to those authors from whom he is deriving his arguments, so saying that Ligotti is borrowing – and in some cases commenters have actually used the claim of plagiarism against Ligotti for clearly citing the works of other- in the same way is fallacious. Second, even if many of the ideas are unoriginal, there is an aspect of his wording and his synthesis and his analysis that forms a unique take upon the field. There are cases of “soft” plagiarism where synthesis provided by one author – say as part of a literary review – is taken without credit. Maybe John Smith’s comparison of experiments involving  peanuts uses only old data to make his point, but if I have used Smith to get an understanding of the field, I need to be citing Smith. Not to mention I would be forced to trust Smith’s interpretation of others data, which is additionally problematic.

Misconception: Plagiarism is negated/tested by pecuniary remuneration.

Basically, some have said that this is not plagiarism because it helped to spread the word about Ligotti through the fame of the show while some have said that it is only plagiarism if Ligotti takes it to court as such. The latter seems to be confusing plagiarism with trademark dispute – where active legal defense against infringement is required in order to hold status – while the former is practical but generally beside the point. If a professor steals another professor’s research and only admits such after the accolades, it does shed some fame back on the source, but it could have done so much better had proper acknowledgement been given at the start. Besides, even if I give you permission to use my work, it is still plagiarism if you not cite your sources. I’ll leave aside, for now, the very tricky aspects when it comes to stuff like works-for-hire and when WfH-A uses WfH-B and etc etc.

Misconception: Plagiarism and homage are really difficult tell from one another.

This is the hardest one to nail down, and is less relevant to the sort of plagiarism that goes on at college campuses, but I would contend that there are lines. If I were to take a fountain and flip it upside down and call my piece “The Urinal” then it feels much more like an homage [see below where I debate myself briefly on this, though] than if I were to take an entire scene from Tracy Letts’ “Bug” and pass it off. In general I would say that homages should optimally be

  • slight [maybe, though I guess my "urinal" above would be anything but so maybe it would not be homage]
  • respectful, and
  • obvious [which can mean different things in different fields and media and genre...obviously].

Bolden’s Razor

It is gauche to name such a thing after myself, I know, so don’t worry, I am not really [to respond to a comment, below]. You can call this whatever you like [I recommended you call it the "Why I Should Just Cite Rule"], even though if you have the pleasure of a library instruction session with me I might still put my own name in and/or some odd literary reference…50/50. I am making a play upon Hanlon’s Razor, which is itself potentially a reference to a number of older phrases and shows, indirectly, the trickiness of knowing the source of something even when it has a name and a ready-at-hand defining characteristic. Rather than, “Never assume malice when ignorance suffices,” I would say,

“Never avoid acknowledgement of source when acknowledgement is possible. Always be respectful and acknowledge the dialogue between yourself and those who came before you. Go beyond minimum requirements.”

As said at the end, this is beyond “If you use it, cite it,” which is something you will be held to as a student (and otherwise) here at UAH. Acknowledge where you got your ideas from, in whatever way works best for the medium and the topic. Be respectful to those who came before you. Do not make it a letter-of-the-law issue when spirit-of-the-law suffices. As a academic or a student, it is quite actionable to plagiarize, but more than that: when you enter in a field it is good to be in a position where you can say you have treated that field well. As a librarian, provenance of information is immensely important, but even beyond that it is fascinating to look back on those old stories and those old essays and those old papers and to see them as part of a whole, not as something trying to stand singular.

How about you? Any weird misconceptions about plagiarism you want to bring up? Any questions? You can feel free to comment below or drop me a line.

Update: I have edited the wording of the Razor to be a little more definite, in response to a comment below, and also strove to make it clear that I am not trying to get people to refer to it by my name is a egomaniacal march to claim majority rule over internet aphorisms.

Salmon Library Open House 2014! Activities, Door Prizes, Food, and a Chance to Meet the UAH Librarians

On Tuesday, August 26, 2014 (about a week into the Fall 2014 semester), we are going to be holding our annual Salmon Library Open House from 9am to 1pm and would love for any and all students, faculty, or staff from UAH to attend. Whether you are an old hat at our services or new to them, we’ll have things for you to do. There will be door prizes for students who complete some of our activities, and food and snacks throughout the event.

Activities planned at this time include a photo scavenger hunt and a self-guided library tour. People who complete these activities will be eligible to win door prizes: a series of Amazon gift cards. There may be more opportunities to win, so you should stop by and see what crops up!

You can stop by and ask us questions about our services or resources, and there will be librarians that can help on the tour if you need [yes, I know, we can argue the semantics of "self-guided" if you want]. If you just want to take a look at what we’re doing, that’s fine, too. It doesn’t have to be a formal visit.

From 9am to 11am, there will be coffee and donuts. From 11am to 1pm, there will be pizza and drinks.

Want to see some pictures from Fall 2013? Here you go!

Summer 2014 B.E.S.T. Meeting Notes, Including the Full-Text of our “Where Feedback Fears to Tread” Talk

This past Tuesday, July 29, 2014, we had the honor of hosting the Summer B.E.S.T. meeting where librarians from all types of institutions around the Huntsville area visited and talked about plans and swapped conference stories and ideas and asked questions about related services and so forth. It was a delight, and we look forward to the next one.

Michael Talks about Cost as a Factor of Risk

As part of the meeting, Michael Manasco and I (me = Doug Bolden) gave a presentation about feedback loops with the twist of looking at how it can be personal. What does good versus bad feedback mean to us as professionals? How is it that sometimes negative feedback can be a good thing while positive feedback can be bad? What are the biggest dangers to consider? What are the strengths or weaknesses of some feedback systems? That sort of thing. And then we talked about a few of the basic case studies that we have personally dealt with, along with some discussion questions that hopefully helped to broaden the topic and see a few perspectives. We had a good discussion about some of the factors of the talk…even if we went a smidgen over time.

Doug [that's me!] Describes the Jabberwock, aka Confirmation Bias

For those who attended, and for those who did not, our presentation is below. Feel free to read and comment upon it!

You can download a PDF of “Where Feedback Fears to Tread” and use as you wish. We have released it under Creative Commons 4.0 International License (i.e. cc-by). Yes, this means you can feel free to adapt portions of it and to share it. We promise we don’t mind. If you do use it, you can drop us a line to let us know how, but that’s just so we can see how people respond to it. Note, a couple of the slides have been slightly altered to help put them into context outside of the vocal portion of the presentation. The gist is still the same in all cases, though.

For those into such things, we also have a few pictures from the event (you can see a couple in this post already). Browse the slideshow below for more. If you were there, and have some pictures you would like to share, you can send them to me at doug.bolden@uah.edu. I can add them to our gallery, below, and credit you are or I can not, as your preference.

Salmon Library is now offering Onshelf Holds

The Salmon Library User Services Desk has now started offering onshelf holds. What this means for you is that you can browse our catalog after signing into your account, find the book you want, and then place it on hold. You can mark up to five titles as such, and they will be held for up to five days. You will receive an email when the hold is available at the desk.

There are a number of factors that can impact how long that takes, including if the book is currently checked out (in which case, it will be held when it gets brought back). If the held book is on the shelf when the hold is placed, it will be brought down to User Services the next day. If you need a book more immediately, you are of course welcome to skip the hold and to grab the book off the shelf and check it out right away. Onshelf holds are meant more to reserve a book you plan to pick up in a day or two.

For information, see Placing Holds and Recalls, which includes a .docx file showing the steps. You can also call User Services at (256)824-6530.

Putting a book on hold.

What to look for if you are placing a hold.

Scopus working on increasing author visibility and organization

From a recent Scopus blog entry: The new Scopus author profile page has arrived.

Newly revamped, old distractions on the Author Profile page are gone and the best tools remain. For example, if an ORCID ID is associated with a Scopus profile then a link to that ORCID will display on the author detail page. Additionally, a new graph added to the sidebar gives a quick overview of an author’s recent productivity. Best of all, users can sort “Document” and “Cited-by” lists without having to leave the author profile or reload the page.

What this means for you varies on whether or not you have articles indexed by Scopus.

If you do, then your author profile page is a little bit cleaner and has more functions. It provides a convenient glance at most cited articles, co-authors, sources, and the sort. If something is incorrect, look for the link over on the upper right-hand side that says “Request author detail corrections”. Care to see your author page? Then head over to Scopus, click on the Author Search tab, and then search for yourself. Confirm the affiliation and view the page.

Whether or not you have articles indexed by Scopus, you can still make use of this to see what other researchers are doing. Have a big paper for a professor and want to make sure the quantum physicist you are citing is well respected? Well, here is a good way to see the citations and the interactions with the community. You can also subscribe to an author to see when he or she publishes new articles or get alerts, check a few different cross-tab style statistics, and similar sundry.

You can view this screenshot of Dr. Joseph Ng’s page to get a feel.

Sample of a Scopus Author Page

Scopus, click to access (note requires UAH login)

Copyweird: The Case of the Heterogeneous Copyright Status

Sherlock Holmes is an iconic character undergoing a bit of a resurgence as of late, with shows like Sherlock and Elementary bringing him into the modern era and a recent pair of blockbuster movies bringing him into the popcorn flick flair. There have been great new editions of the original canon, including impressive annotated editions, and fair-sized run of books introducing new stories with various twists—often a mash-up with a famous historical or literary personage or a bit of horror. There have been audioplays* and stage plays. There have been discussions about whether or not House counts as fully Sherlockian. All in all, not a bad time to be a Baker Street Irregular.

A Study in Scarlet, Holmes's First Appearance

But what happens when you try to release a series of stories inspired by the canon, and you find out that the Arthur Conan Doyle Estate wants you to pay a licensing fee for said collection? The vast majority of the canon—a total of 56 stories and 4 novels—is in public domain, and this includes many of the key stories (e.g., Hound of the Baskervilles, “The Final Problem”, “The Case of the Empty House”, “A Scandal in Bohemia”). However, the very last handful of stories, from The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes are still in copyright, at least in the US (not in the UK, Canada, or Australia). Here’s the question: do the iconic earlier [and public domain] stories which established the character allow you to access it for new material, or do the final [and often considered poorer] stories still hold the character under copyright?

It is not exactly an easy answer. On one hand, a collection of pastiche stories seems like it would be responding to the canon as a whole. Whether or not “The Three Gables” is a good Holmes story, it is a Holmes story written by the original author. On the other hand, copyright when it comes to a character can get complicated. Especially when the person trying to expand the Holmes canon, Leslie Klinger, has an itemized list of key Holmes ideas and from which public domain stories they originate. To wit, as long as they do not use elements unique to the in-copyright stories, then Klinger feels the works are in response only to the canon that does exist in the public domain.

Does Holmes exist as two canons? What’s your gut-take? How about an informed one?

And, presuming you can’t be bothered too much about copyright weirdnesses, here is a post about 10 Interesting Facts about Sherlock Holmes and another with 10 More Interesting Facts about Sherlock Holmes. Those should give you something to munch on.

* Including, interestingly, one where the voice of Holmes is preformed by Nicholas Briggs, the man who does the voice of the Daleks on Doctor Who, which is a cross-canon delight if I have ever heard one.

In the Stacks: August Derleth’s Sherlock Holmes Pastiche/Tribute – The Chronicles of Solar Pons

If you have heard of August Derleth, you probably have heard of him in context with his work publishing the works of Howard Philips Lovecraft. In fact, whether you find Derleth’s take on the Lovecraftian canon to be interesting—by way of adding in a more stabilized structure, adding certain elemental flavors—or tedious—by way of converting Lovecraft’s generalized cosmic dread into what comes down to a family struggle between something like good and something like evil—if you have played any games or read any books with words like “Lovecraft” or “Cthulhu” or “Call of…” in the title, you owe a bit of thanks to Derleth’s work.

But it is not just Lovecraft that Derleth pastiched and updated. At the age of 19, Derleth contacted Sir Arthur Conan Doyle about if there were to be any more Sherlock Holmes stories and (possibly, some sources vary) whether he (Derleth) could continue them, if not. Whatever the exact question asked, Doyle said “No” and Derleth took Holmes under his wing and changed a few things. Like carefully chosen names to completely hide that he was riffing on Holmes canon.

You ready for these deep-hidden names? How about Solar Pons instead of Sherlock Holmes, or Dr. Lyndon Parker instead of Dr. John Watson? The two of them are not at 221b Baker Street, but 7b Praed Street. My favorite is Bancroft Pons as the older brother, rather than Mycroft Holmes. Clevery clever Derleth.

Charles Prepolec wrote a short article called The Great Pretender: Solar Pons that fills in some gaps. Stuff like some people prefer Pons to Holmes, since Pons is a little less burdened by life and a little more boisterous. And that after Derleth’s death, another writer, Basil Cooper, has continued the adventures of Solar Pons (making the Pontine stories, as they call, out-number the Holmesian originals, though pastiche versus pastiche might even it out). And there is a Praed Street Irregulars to act as fan club, much like the Baker Street Irregulars do for Holmes.

Curious to dive in and try some of the Pons stories? Luckily, since they can be kind of expensive and hard to track down, we have one of the books here in our stacks: The Chronicles of Solar Pons. Published in 1973 posthumously (Derleth died in 1971), this are some of the last things written by Derleth. They are possibly not the greatest of the stories, but there is a bit of enjoyment in seeing this alternate Holmes set in a slightly different time, with a slightly different take on the world (a take that is actually closer to many portrayals of Holmes in TV shows and movies, since many scriptwriters like to dial up his action elements and dial down some of his more onerous bits like cocaine abuse and such).

If you wish to see Chronicles, it is up on on our third floor, north section, with a call number of PS3507 .E69 C57.

Spotted a book in our stacks that you think is worthy of being brought up in a future In the Stacks feature? Just let me know at doug.bolden@uah.edu and I’ll look into it. Questions about this book or any of the others we have, then email me or the reference desk at erefq@uah.edu

In the Stacks: Dead Towns of Alabama

Curious about a local road trip for the summer? Interested in odd bits of lost local culture? Just curious about where some of the roads got their names? Try out W. Stuart Harris’s Dead Towns of Alabama. A encyclopedic collection of blurbs and short anecdotes about towns, settlements, and sites around the state.

The information ranges from tiny to fairly interesting, and it often fills in formative gaps for the early development of the state. The 1977 edition has a surprising lack of maps or precise locations, but it does have bits like this, about the town of Ditto’s Landing:

Situated on the north bank of the Tennessee River, this early Madison County river landing was 10 miles south of Huntsville, approximately where U.S. Highway 231 crosses the river today. John Ditto, a Pennsylvanian, was possibly the first white man to reside in what is today Madison County. He operated an Indian trading station long before the settlers came into the region. He established the first landing used by the pioneers between Chattanooga and Colbert’s Ferry.

In 1820, John Hardie operated a store at Ditto’s Landing, where he received and distributed goods for the firm of Read and White (see Mardisville). Colonel James White, who owned an ironworks and a salt firm in East Tennessee, shipped his products to Hardie by way of the river.

It goes on to say that it was later changed to Whitesburg, in honor of Colonel White.

So, maybe a hobbyist/specialist resource, but it is worth at least a browse. We have it here in the stacks as a physical book with call number F334 .H37 (this on the second floor, north section). We also have it as an ebook through our Ebsco Ebook Collection. That ebook is viewable by only one person at a time, so if it says that it is in use, try again later.

If you are curious about getting your own copy, you can order it from the University of Alabama Press, as a paperback, for $19.95. There, it is described as

This easy-to-use reference work documents the many long-vanished towns, forts, settlements, and former state capitals that were once thriving communities of Alabama.

Dead Towns of Alabama is not merely a series of obituaries for dead towns. Instead, it brings back to life 83 Indian towns, 77 fort sites, and 112 colonial, territorial, and state towns. W. Stuart Harris conjures up a wealth of fascinating images from Alabama’s rich and colorful past–images of life as the Indians lived it, of colonial life in the wilderness, of Spanish explorers and French exiles, of danger and romance, of riverboats and railroads, of plantations and gold mines, of stagecoaches and ferries. Overall, it presents a thoroughly absorbing panorama of Alabama’s early history.

Here we learn about two former capitals–St. Stephens and Cahaba–that have deteriorated to mouldering ruins now. We learn about once thriving communities–county seats, river landings and crossings, trading posts, junctions, and other settlements–that time has forgotten. Absent from most maps, these sites come alive again in Harris’s fascinating account, filled anew with the bustling activity of their former inhabitants.

First published in 1977, Dead Towns of Alabama is a unique guidebook to every region of the state. It is an invaluable resource for historians, students, tourists, and anyone interested in exploring Alabama’s interesting historical and cultural past.

Happy dead town hunting…

N1 closed for renovations, and C2 quiet study impacted: Updated Study Zone Information

As a note, the north section of the first floor (the large section furthest from the front door, which we referred to as the Charger Commons, or as N1) is being shut down this summer for renovations. Currently, books and furniture are being moved out of it. The journals will be relocated to the second floor. The furniture will be spread throughout, but largely into the study sections of the first floor.

Due to the move of the journals to the second floor, the quiet study in the central second floor section (C2) will be unfortunately noisy. Even after the move, the renovations will likely impact the sound levels of it and the second floor north-section quiet study (N2). With this in mind, the best spot for quiet study will be the north-section of the third floor (N3). This may vary by state of project or time of day. Or you can check out a Study Room for you and a group (talk to User Services). The archives, down in the old ground floor, is also often a quiet area, but is technically deemed “semi-quiet” (meaning that people can have cell phones and talk at respectful levels). Again this depends on time of day. The central section of the first floor will remain “social study” (as the north section was) and the south section of the first floor will remain “semi-quiet”.

If you need any help finding one of the journals in transition, or finding a place to study in the library, then feel free to stop by the Reference Desk [(256)824-6529] or User Services [(256)824-6530] or to email us at erefq@uah.edu.