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Thursday, October 05, 2006

When is Forthcoming Work "Forthcoming"?

As blog posts go, this one is positively small and silly, but one of my colleagues and I were debating this point, and I'm curious for others' reactions: When is work sufficiently complete that, even if it is "forthcoming" in print, it is appropriate to list on your c.v./publications list/otherwise promote? One answer might be that, as soon as a Journal/publisher agrees to publish your work, it is appropriate to indicate such even if you haven't yet written a single word. The other extreme, of course, is that forthcoming work should only be listed, if at all, once your work on the paper/book/whatever is complete, and all that is left is the actual act of publication.

And then there is everything in between.

I raise the question because I don't really care, and worry only that others might. That is, I'm curious whether my own not-well-thought-out or particularly rational answer, which is to list stuff not the second I have agreed to write it but at some weirdly normative point later in the process, either (a) puts me at a comparative disadvantage; or (b) might offend my senior colleagues who think the correct answer is even later in the spectrum.

[And I promise to post about something more interesting (the impending third season of Battlestar Galactica, perhaps) later.] :-)

Posted by Steve Vladeck on October 5, 2006 at 03:47 PM in Steve Vladeck, Teaching Law | Permalink


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Paul, thanks for generously overlooking my pique. The internet tends to preserve momentary foul tempers a little too well. You should check out the second season. I agree that the best critics provide extremely useful glosses. But the characteristic of a good critic is to engage the material fully, to be faithful in their representation of its merits and on that basis frame their criticism. That Easterbrook cannot craft a meaningful critique without distorting and misrepresenting his source material is, I think, a damning indictment.

Posted by: Bart Motes | Oct 7, 2006 11:28:58 AM

Getting back to the WIP question, I move something from WIP to forthcoming when it's been accepted for publication. It can take a shockingly long time between when you're (mostly) done with a paper and when it actually comes out in print (or on westlaw). So forthcoming can be a very good thing.

Posted by: Miriam Cherry | Oct 6, 2006 3:01:28 AM

I enjoyed the substance of your critique of Easterbrook, once I set aside the epithets, but I can't agree with you that Battlestar Galactica reaches genius, that Baltar's conversations with the Cylon are beautifully done or that everyone who has met him would not conclude that he is utterly unfit for any position of trust, or that the show ultimately comes close to describing actual human behavior or lifelike dialogue, although I will grant that its creators and fans preeningly pride themsevles on its realism. Granted, I haven't watched the second season. I just saw the first, which began tremendously promisingly, had many fine aspects throughout the season, and in my view got more and more ridiculous, albeit cumulatively rather than because of any one outlandish aspect. Nor am I impressed by the Behan quote. There are bad critics out there, just as there are mediocre artists; but a good critic can say useful and insightful things about the difference between greatness and dreck, whether or not he's capable of creating either. Incidentally, although I have seen full many an artist striking back at a negative review more or less on the same line as Behan, I have rarely if ever seen an artist turn aside audience praise on the basis that it's uninformed. Perhaps Behan was an exception.

Posted by: Paul Horwitz | Oct 6, 2006 2:25:43 AM

Greg Easterbrook has been worthless since 1981. However, considering that in 1981 he did write a startlingly prescient analysis of how the shuttle Colombia would explode, I sometimes give him a read--invariably to be disappointed. Call it the curse of the post-Kinsley The New Republic. Easterbrook's "takedown" of Battlestar Galactica works really well--um, despite being almost completely factually inaccurate. Darn! Actually, reading over it again, I'm struck by what a dishonest slime Easterbrook is. Easterbrook asserts: there was one big code that disarmed all the colonies' defenses! And this guy Baltar had it! How dumb is that? Um, well, not so much. Baltar didn't have the code to the computers, and it wasn't a single big code that unlocked everything. He was lazy and allowed the Cylon agent to write code for the system (for some reason she was really good at it, who knew?) that allowed them to disarm the entire system through a virus. Easterbrook: Dumb guy hands Baltar, who everyone should know is a bad guy because he talks to an imaginary cylon agent, an atomic bomb! How dumb is that? Easterbrook's portion on the atomic bomb is correct in so far as yes, Baltar gets the bomb, but his "reduce it to its Idiot Plot" seems to equal "I'll lie about what happened because none of my readers watch the show." Actually, Commander Adama was extremely reluctant to give Baltar the warhead. And Baltar's conversations with his Cylon agent are beautifully, beautifully done, a fact that Easterbrook, contemptible hack that he is, gives no indication of. The point of the end of the second season is that democracies sometimes set themselves on suicidal paths. The "good guys" just tried to fix an election and were busted by the gooder guys, leaving the bad guys in power. The idea is that these people have been stuck on these ships for ages, running from the bad guys, they listen to the demogauge who tells them what they want to hear. Dumb? Yes, that actually is dumb. But it happens.

Now, I thought Easterbrook's Jewish controversy was overblown, http://talkleft.com/new_archives/004077.html

but the Battlestar Galactica commentary shows that he is a useless hack. Bredan Behan was certainly talking about Gregg Easterbrook when he wrote that critics are "like eunuchs in a harem: They're there every night, they see it done every night, they see how it should be done every night, but they can't do it themselves." That Easterbrook doesn't get the genius of Battlestar Galactica, and can only criticize it by wholesale distortion, illustrates just how impotent his analysis is.

Posted by: Bart Motes | Oct 5, 2006 9:10:48 PM

what, no Mets comments?

Posted by: Lindsay | Oct 5, 2006 7:59:09 PM

On the many problems with Battlestar Galactica, see Gregg Easterbrook's lovely takedown in his indispensable TMQ column, the nut of which is that the show relies far too heavily for its continuing narrative tension on "Idiot Plots," stories "kept in motion solely by virtue of the fact that everybody involved is an idiot." A problem that also infects Lost, I might add -- and also every other long-running show in which the plot relies on characters not talking or sharing information with each other when, after countless examples, they've learned the troubles that ensue WHEN THEY DON"T TALK TO EACH OTHER. Here's the link: http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2/story?page=easterbrook/060425 Now I'm going to go look up "prescind."

Posted by: Paul Horwitz | Oct 5, 2006 6:58:55 PM

What about "work in progress" instead of "forthcoming", considering the Chronicle's definition. I guess wanabe profs would still want to shy away from this, however, because it basically does mean "not quite even a shitty first draft yet" and you wouldn't want an appointments committee seeing it on your c.v. and asking for a copy. Or am I wrong?

Posted by: Wanabe Lawprof | Oct 5, 2006 6:38:50 PM

For a book, forthcoming really has to wait until you have submitted a draft. That's because the contracts give the publisher an out in case the work doesn't survive the peer review process. It might be more acceptable to have a separate works-in-progress section indicating a book project was "under contract," but listing it as a "publication" seems a bit too definite.

For a law review article, as long as it is accepted, it seems fair to list it even if it's going to get revised (since the chance of it being pulled is essentially null). If it's just commissioned work for a symposium, it seems like the law review still has the right (implicit or explicit) to pull the acceptance, a la the publisher, if the submitted work turns out to be unacceptable. In most cases, the law review will publish anything submitted, but it is very common for a conference participant to simply never turn something in and end up getting cut out of the issue. Listing the work as forthcoming would mislead as to your actual productivity.

In the case of peer-reviewed work, "a reader" is correct that forthcoming indicates that it is complete and accepted for publication. That's why "revise and resubmits" or "under submission" works are put in the works in progress section.

Posted by: Anon | Oct 5, 2006 6:38:37 PM

" "Forthcoming" indicates an article has been completed and accepted for publication." http://chronicle.com/jobs/2003/07/2003070301c.htm

Posted by: a reader | Oct 5, 2006 6:24:57 PM

Steve, I'm going to prescind from debating the merits of BG, which I'm sure is wonderful on Bart's say-so, but as to whether something's "forthcoming," my sense is that if the paper has been drafted and already accepted somewhere for publication, then that is "forthcoming." A good test is: has it been accepted for publication and have you posted a draft of it on SSRN or bepress yet?

I think it's ok btw to list on your cv those works in progress for those projects you've been invited to write, but for which you haven't yet completed a "shitty first draft."

I don't really understand your point about comparative disadvantages: how might you might suffer from one--your market value? Everyone knows: you're priceless :-) But I suppose the wannabe prawfs might want to list solicited projects under works in progress if they haven't finished a draft yet of SSRN-quality. That's just my sense.

Posted by: Dan Markel | Oct 5, 2006 4:18:24 PM

Senor Markel turned up his nose when I promoted Battlestar Galactica. Work on him! It's so good.

Posted by: Bart | Oct 5, 2006 3:55:11 PM

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