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"Tiny Tango" at Centre College 
23rd-May-2010 04:27 pm
At Vicki's
Late in April an email with the above in the subject line popped up in my inbox. Centre College is one of Kentucky's two small private liberal-arts colleges that are widely viewed as good schools (the other is Transylvania, in Lexington). Centre is in Danville, 35 miles from my farm, and the email turned out to be from someone named Mykol Hamilton, who said that for for fifteen years she'd been assigning her students the task of reading my novella "Tiny Tango" and writing a final paper about it for her class in social psychology.

In what?? Apparently so; she attached a term paper from last year, so I could see the various ways in which the principles of social psychology could be applied to my story about a woman plant breeder living with HIV, who goes through a radical personal crisis at the time of a nuclear power plant meltdown. The story has a first-person narrator and the student kept referring to the POV character as Moffett (as in Moffett derives comfort from her support group, and Moffett contributes to society by working with AIDS patients), which was a little freaky, but all in all it was indeed obvious that the story lent itself to being used in that way.

Anyway, I was invited down to visit the current class on May 17, last Monday, the day they turned their papers in. Considering that it was the last class and most of them must have been dying to get out of there, they came up with some quite good questions and impressed me as being nice, smart kids. Dr. Hamilton had been xeroxing the story out of the Dozois Seventh Year's Best for all those many years, and before the appointed hour I inquired delicately into the question of whether she'd ever gotten permission to do that from Gardner or St. Martin's or Asimov's or ANYBODY, and you already know the answer, but she promised to start fresh beginning next spring.

Weird to think what else might be going on out there, you know?
24th-May-2010 05:06 am (UTC) - 15 years...!
I think that's amazing that your story has been used in a college-level social psychology class, for the class's final paper -- for fifteen years! Not that the story isn't deserving of it (as you know, Judy, "Tiny Tango" is one of my all-time favorite stories); it's just that one doesn't think of an sf/alternate history story being used for such a class and paper.

It's curious that now, after 15 years, the instructor finally makes contact with you via email. Did you ever find out why now?

Regardless, if I were you, I would feel honored that my story was used for such a purpose. As you say, it's a small college, so I'll assume the class size is maybe 20 students? And if the class is offered once a year, then approximately 300 students have studied and written about that story; and double that number if the class is offered twice a year.

Also, the story may have been originally published in Asimov's and reprinted in the Dozois anthology, but you still retain the individual rights to that story. The instructor may be using the anthology version, but I believe only your permission is required to actually reprint the story for academic purposes.

Anyhow, like I said, I think it's great!
- marty
24th-May-2010 05:56 pm (UTC) - Re: 15 years...!
Thanks, Marty. It IS great, and one DOESN'T think of a story like that in a social psych context. I certainly never had. Surprising how well it works.

I don't know why the timing, but she decided to google me last year; that's when she found out--from my website :-)--that I lived 35 miles away. (I gently and mildly pointed out that this amazing fact would have surfaced a lot sooner had she contacted St Martin's at the get-go for permission to duplicate the story.)

What was actually even cooler was getting invited (twice) to Dartmouth, to be guest author in Noel Perrin's Environmental Studies 101 course; his students had had to read Pennterra. I'm trying to think if I've ever been a guest in a college English class for something to do with sf, and am drawing a blank. Lots of times for poetry. Never, I think, for fiction. Go figure.
2nd-Jun-2010 08:40 pm (UTC) - Centre, other
Glad to hear about the Centre class. Did you know you are on the Periodic Table of Women SF writers?

2nd-Jun-2010 08:55 pm (UTC) - Re: Centre, other
No, I sure didn't. It's distinguished company for sure. I suspect she just needed an Mo, but hey, I'm happy to be there. Thanks for telling me about it.
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