Can someone still be a thinker?
April 4, 2016 12:39 PM   Subscribe

How can a person not affiliated with a higher learning institution publish ideas of a more abstract nature, but also rooted in reality and science ? Are there any reputable journals that straddle the line between speculative fiction, futurism, philosophy and science that would publish an article from someone yet unpublished in the academic world? I'm not sure what I should google for, that's why I'm asking here. I have some ideas and would like to write an essay.
posted by spacefire to Religion & Philosophy (9 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
It's a tough racket, but there are resources for independent scholars. The NCIS is one of them. Academic journals and conferences generally do not require institutional affiliation, and many of them claim to do blind review, so being unaffiliated should not have an effect on their acceptance/rejection of your work. You can become a member and submit papers for publication or to give as talks the same as anyone else (allegedly). As for specific journals and conferences, it really depends on what kind of stuff you do. Some journals definitely lean towards the more eclectic, like Collapse (although I can't tell if that's still being published) and Cabinet Magazine.
posted by dis_integration at 12:47 PM on April 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

If you want to do this, a good bet may be to contact someone at a higher institution that has published this type of work in the past. They may be happy to hear your ideas and place their name behind yours in a publication, especially if it's in a more applied/industrial area. Getting something published is hard, and in my field at least a bit based on name recognition. Guidance and clout from a professor may be free and helpful.
posted by Kalmya at 12:53 PM on April 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

You might take a look at 3:AM magazine - they publish a varied mixture of philosophy, poetry, fiction and more. It's not an academic journal, and it doesn't want to be one.

Do you know about Dissent magazine? Or Datacide? I guess I'm thinking along these lines, rather than, say, the London Review of Books or the New Left Review or Radical Philosophy or whatever, since the 'zine (even in these online forms) is usually a more flexible and perhaps risk-taking medium than journals or other we-publish-essays places. Also take a look at n+1, or The Baffler.

You don't need to be academically affiliated in order to get anything in any of these, but that doesn't mean it's any easier. Most of them will list contacts for editors to whom you can pitch ideas for submissions (or will have a submission policy or guidelines for sending ideas).

Is it easier or harder to just go with academic publishers? At least with academic publishing – philosophy journals for instance – you can usually get feedback on your work which can help it to be improved (although there are a variety of attitudes to how helpful reviewers' comments tend to be). Since most academic journals aim (or should aim) for a process of anonymous review, it shouldn't make any difference whether you have an academic affiliation at least for the purposes of the procedures involved in getting your work reviewed. But journal editors tend to do a 'desk review' (prior to anonymous peer review) in which they'll make a judgement call (based on their experience, knowledge, and any other salient information) about whether the piece in front of them 'merits' being taken further into the process and sent out to peer reviewers. It's at this early stage that an unaffiliated researcher might stumble, since it's likely that their work hasn't been through the homogenising steps (presenting the work at conferences or seminars, soliciting comments from peers, closely reading lots of similar pieces by other academics) which might make the article as atypical as possible in order to make it through to the next round. For the majority of the top philosophy journals, the acceptance rate is very low (usually something like only 5% of submitted articles make it through to acceptance, even fewer for the most prestigious). It might be worthwhile trying out sending things to postgraduate journals of philosophy, where you can still get the benefit of a peer review comments but where a) a larger number of the submissions are likely to be from people who might not have an academic affiliation, and b) the reviews editor isn't under as much pressure to cull the number of things sent to reviewers by means of desk-rejection. But I'd guess that in general a postgraduate philosophy journal would still expect your submission to (broadly) resemble most other things that they receive, so 'speculative fiction' would normally not make the cut.

I guess lots of people have observed this before now, but publishing is really a very conservative business – people only want to publish vampire fiction if its already shown that vampire fiction is what everyone wants to buy – and academic publishing is even more conservative. That's why I figure that zines are a better bet for something that's a bit more of an experimental essay.
posted by Joeruckus at 2:36 PM on April 4, 2016

You could self publish it and offer it for sale on Amazon. Or you could start a blog about such subjects and publish it there.

These days, if the subject is relatively esoteric, the best way to go is to self-publish and pimp your work.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 3:12 PM on April 4, 2016

straddle the line between speculative fiction, futurism, philosophy and science

These topics made me think of SingularityHUB. The postings currently are more review of the industry but they may be a more open editor to pitch.
posted by sammyo at 4:16 PM on April 4, 2016

I don't know about the speculative fiction part, but if you want to publish in philosophy or (especially) philosophy of science, the best way to start is to write something short (3k or 4k words) and very clear and submit it to some conferences. Then go from there. PhilEvents maintains a nice rolling list of upcoming philosophy conferences.
posted by Jonathan Livengood at 4:21 PM on April 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

Pro tip, write your essay first. If it's any good, it will be far easier to pitch to editors if they have something to read, times a billion if you have no publishing experience. And if it's not any good the nice ones may give you some valuable feedback. Best of luck, be polite and be prepared for a little scepticism. I've worked in this field and sadly, people wanting to publish essays with no real experience are often cranks, I'm afraid. Not all of them, and I'm not implying that you are, but that's the environment you'll be going into, so you will really need to prove yourself.
posted by smoke at 5:06 PM on April 4, 2016 [4 favorites]

Maybe consider writing a book instead? What you're describing might translate well into creative non-fiction.
posted by deathpanels at 5:40 PM on April 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

Oh, hey, just thought of another couple of similar venues:
Four by Three magazine
Aeon magazine

Hope it helps.
posted by Joeruckus at 7:21 AM on April 11, 2016

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