Once again it’s the 31st of December and once again I can’t believe how quickly this year has gone. It’s odd, in some ways, writing a year in review post at the end of the year because there’s so much to forget, and so much of what you write and say is coloured by the last few weeks of the year (which in my case have involved my mother’s surgery, illness and death in friends’ families and a busy period at the day job). I wanted to do a round up of 2015 though because it’s been a big year, full of ups and downs and hellos and goodbyes. It’s also the year in which the time left on my PhD has dropped below 2 years, which is quite frankly freaking me out.Without further ado though, and to stop me dwelling on the 20 months I have left to get my thesis sorted, here’s what happened in 2015.
Personally, two of the biggest things were having to put one of my cats to sleep and the end of my relationship (though not at the same time because the universe isn’t that cruel). I got home from a really interesting conference at the end of July to Milo running to meet me at the door, as usual. Within 10 minutes he’d lost the use of his back legs and me and my dad were rushing to the emergency vet. They gave him painkillers and put him in an oxygen tent, and told me that he had a heart murmur and the paralysis was caused by an aortic thromboembolism. Even if they treated him and he got better there was no guarantee that it wouldn’t happen again in a week, a month, six months’ time. I left him at the vet’s overnight with the decision that we’d try treatment but whatever we did had to be the best for Milo.
I got a phone call just before 7 the next morning to say that he’d got worse overnight, and me and my mother drove to the vet’s in tears to say goodbye. Losing Milo was devastating because I’ve had him and his brother, Loki, since they were 6 months and if you’re friends with me on Twitter or Facebook you’ll have seen the sheer number of cat photos I’ve put up. I still miss him, my furry writing partner*, but Loki seems to have become extra affectionate now and takes to sleeping on my bed (often waking me up at 3 am by walking over my face while covered in mud). The second ending was the relationship I talked about in my 2013 year in review blog, though this was far less traumatic. No one died and we’re still friends! Which I’m very glad about.
Terry Pratchett also passed away during 2015 which affected me like no celebrity death has since Stephen Gately. I heard the news in work and was crying at my desk (while also thinking about my own response to his death and wondering how it relates to fandom and post-object fandom [cf Rebecca Williams], as you do when you’re an academic). Pratchett’s last book came out in 2015 and that had me crying while reading it as well, which I still haven’t written about but will in time.
Other good things happened in the year though. Me and my dad went to the Game of Thrones exhibition in London towards the beginning of the year. Two of my best friends got married and I had a lovely few, sunny, days in Pembrokeshire with them. I got a new car (which, okay, I got because I was rear-ended and my old car written off on the way to the Fan Studies Network conference) and a digital campaign I worked on in the day job was nominated for an award. Mitch Pileggi followed me on Twitter, and we got ALL THE NEWS about The X-Files coming back (in less than a month now, omg) which has made me utterly, ridiculously happy (and is great timing for PhD research).
Academically this has also been a pretty big year (I’ve scrolled through my Twitter analytics to try and remember half of what’s happened!). My first book came out, which was pretty surreal to see. It’s an edited collection on crowdfunding, published by Peter Lang, and has had some pretty good reviews so far. I kicked off my research on Lostprophets and The X-Files by posting links to surveys in February and May respectively, and presented some of the intial Lostprophets findings at the Popular Music Fandom in Chester in May. I’ve also written a book chapter on it, which is with the editor at the moment, and will be starting the X-Files paper when I finish this blog post. I presented at fewer conferences this year, but I did give a paper at Console-ing Passions, which was a real highlight. I also co-organised two conferences including the first Sex and Sexualities in Popular Culture in Bristol, and the third Fan Studies Network conference in Norwich. I became part of the World Star Wars Audiences research project and had papers accepted for two of 2016’s big conferences – SCMS and Celebrity Studies.
Looking back at the year I can see that academically, things are going well. I feel pretty comfortable with where my research is going (and hopefully my supervisors agree!) and I’m looking forward to writing the remaining papers that will make up the PhD. One of the biggest things to happen, though, was I got a job interview for a lecturing position. I didn’t get the job, but to be shortlisted from over 140 applicants, given that I don’t yet have a PhD, was hugely surprising but also a big boost to my confidence. I don’t have much teaching experience (which was a big reason I didn’t get the job) but it felt as though the research I’ve done and the work I’m publishing actually did make up for that a bit. Quite often I’m subject to imposter syndrome, like a lot of us are, and although I can look at my academia.edu profile and see what I’ve written and what’s getting views, that feels quite removed from what I’m doing, especially when I come home from work and don’t want to open the laptop to revise a paper. I haven’t had any more interviews since that one, though I’ve applied for a couple of jobs, but I’m still taking heart from the fact that I was shortlisted, and that I’ve got a couple of things that I can work on to improve my chances of getting shortlisted in the future. Chief among those is, obviously, teaching which I’m trying to get but which does pose some problems given I work full time, but I’m trying, and I’m okay with what I’m doing so far.
Much like the last few years, though, there are things I need to get better at in 2016. I consistently fail at blogging more though I did try to make an effor this year! It’s not for lack of ideas – it’s mainly because I don’t want to open the computer to work after I’ve come home from work, but I need to. I also need to pull my finger out and get on with PhD work. My thesis at the moment looks like this (subject to change, of course):
Rationale for PhD by Publication
And this is what I have done/have left to do:
Intro – written at the end
Rationale for PhD by Publication – written at the end
Lit Review – 40,000 words, needs to be rewritten
Methodology – 10,000 words, needs to be rewritten
Fifty Shades – written and with the editor
Lost Prophets – partly written as conference paper
X-Files – not yet written
One Direction – written and with the publisher
Doctor Who – partly written as conference paper
Harry Potter – partly written as conference paper
Conclusion – written at the end
So I think I’m in an okay-ish position. Of the max. 100,000 words of the thesis I’ve got 74,672 done. Okay, 50,000 will need cutting and rewriting because the lit review and methodology were the first things I wrote, but I’ve got three papers that are partly written and only one full one to write from scratch. My plan is to get at least one of those turned into a first draft and sent to my supervisor before the end of the weekend and then start working on another. If I can get them all done by, say, Easter that will give me just over 16 months to edit, rewrite and fine tune the rest of it, and do the intro and conclusion. I think that’s doable. I hope that’s doable!
Here’s to a healthy, happy and productive 2016 to all of us.
*Lying on the keyboard while I try to write.