Amateur Hour at the Minas Morgul All-Ages Dance Club—Artemus Zebulon Pratt SpecGram Vol CLXXXIX, No 4 Contents Onomastic Destiny ♂—Dirk Delarme & Emma Gassert

Cull Those Writers! The Lines Are Open!

[Note: This article is provided for historical completeness. As of the time of publication, SpecGram is currently understaffed. (See the Epilogue below for the sanguinary details.) Please let us know if you would like to help us rebuild the tattered remains of the Editorial Cabal. —Eds.]

SpecGram, as readers will know, attracts an immense degree of interest. Adverts for unpaid interns often attract many hundreds of applications for only a handful of places. And when it comes to competition for staff writer positions, it’s another world. So, blessed as we are with fame and global recognition, it does mean that we’re often overstaffedand that consequently we do sometimes need to shed some of the writerly dead weight that may have accumulated.

“Dead weight!?” we hear you cry. Apart from the delightfully metaphorical nature of both collocates in the phrase, it is, we admit, a surprise that so streamlined an operation as SpecGramwith its world-leading strategic management team and terabyte-per-second communication systemsshould be supporting hangers on, scroungers and dependents. Nevertheless, ’tis so.

Which brings us to the rub: management have come to the decision that now is as good a time as any to filter through our contributors to see who’s still packing a loaded six-shooter and whose chamber is decidedly empty. In times past, we’ve done this simply on the basis of the number of articles submitted: if you ain’t written n articles, you’re written off, as we jokingly put to those staff writers unproductive enough to fall below the standard. However, we fancy a change not only of method but also, as it were, of mode. So, we thought we should move with the populist zeitgeist of the times and invite you, the readership, to propose how to kick the stragglers off the last carriage of the train. We’ve got a few suggestions below, but if you have any ideas of your own, just write in.

Metric 1: Laughs Per Article

SpecGram is as serious as beans on toast, region-wide famine, and who’s gonna be the next 007. However, it’s also seriously funnyand that means laughs. Let’s face it, not all articles in SpecGram are necessarily crack-your-mascara guffawtastic. So, we’d like you to write in with any contributors who you feel just don’t make the funny honey flow as much as you’d expectand we’ll send them on their way!

Metric 2: Rhetorical Style

SpecGram articles are guaranteed to elicit thought.1 Indeed, our content has been awarded the SPIT2 award for the last eight years. However, content is nothing without style. A cheeky conceit, a memorable turn of phrase, a clever parallelism, a coded high-brow reference to James Joyce: SpecGram aims to sprinkle these features liberally in any text it publishes, much as a decrepit, heavily limping octogenarian gardener might spread manure on M’Lady’s strawberry beds in the background of some TV adaptation of Lady Chatterley’s Lover. However, despite having invested many hundreds of thousand of dollars in a compulsory online training module for our writers,3 the editorial board would admit that some pieces may fail to be truly Shakespearean in their tenor. Under the Rhetorical Style metric, if you spot a piece that is bland, uninteresting, dull etc., drop us a line and we’ll happily send the relevant writer on a long walk down Please-Hire-Me Lane.

Metric 3: Novelty

Novelty; what’s new? Well the first novel was. Novel that is. But now after a couple of centuries of ‘literature’, we’ve all got a little (over)accustomed to what was once a ground-breaking genre. Largely thanks to Thomas Hardy, I think we can agree. Well, SpecGram has no office in Wessex, but that doesn’t stop us from learning lessons from the dank, repetitious tedium of Hardy’s sorry succession of tales of rural English folk, the lives of a downtrodden handful of whom are left tragically transfigured by the narrow mindedness of the unthinking, unblinking morass of automaton society. AKA: we want it new! If a SpecGram article isn’t well swept, smokin’ and shiny, it ain’t no SpecGram article at all!

But let’s not get carried away. Genre, tradition, the tried-and-tested and above all, reader expectationsyour expectations!are not to be sniffed at. If Hardy’s out cause he’s ‘Sir Real’, so too is Kafka cause he’s surreal. SpecGram articles need to make you think, not turn you to drink. Not to mention that your editorial board has no wish to be disturbed from its afternoon nap for some piece of writing that’s ‘outside the box’. So, ‘something old, something new’ runs the first line of that piece of doggerel for newly-weds; just so! New, but not so new, now, y’know.

Metric 4: A Balance of Academic Rigor and Accessible Style

This is Big Beast, the Lion in the journal Jungle: Balance. Balance is without doubt a Good Thing. A balanced diet, gymnast, set of scales and ball on a nose of a born-in-captivity seal whose sole purpose is to entertain families of cheering holidaymakers at some aquatic entertainment park each inspire and elevate in equal measure. In fact, the only unbalanced thing about balance is that you can’t get too much of it! SpecGram is a study in balanceliterally! Bell and Tze (2020) listed 20 conceptually distinct kinds of balance in a meta-study of 462 SpecGram articles. And their Number One, to the surprise of none but our most ardent detractors, was the sustained, systematic and simply symphonic balance between academic rigor and accessible style.

This characteristic, balance between academic rigor and accessible styleor the occasional and unfortunate lack of itcomprises our fourth criterion for sifting the rarefied wheat from the quotidian chaff. So, eyes open, reader: if you spot an article which is insufficiently balanced, contact us without delay and we’ll unbalance the bank balance of the writer by re-balancing their employment status to ‘un-’. We’ve even developed a heuristic in easy-to-use table form to support your search for the errant imbalanced writer.

Academ­icity Quotient Access­ibility Quotient Result
Too little Too little Clear that desk!
Too little Just enough Nice knowin’ ya!
Too little Too much Begone!
Just enough Too little You’re off!
Just enough Just enough Satis­factory for now
Just enough Too much Byeee­eeee!
Too much Too little L8rz!
Too much Just enough Security!
Too much Too much See you!

As we noted above, the only downside to balance is being balanced with it. So not only should readers feel free to interpret the above criteria as loosely and subjectively as they see fit, but also to apply them randomly and without any basis in fact, rationality or reality. And, according to Bill Ents’ ground-breaking spy thriller-cum-seminal monogram, Balance in Satirical Linguistics as a Rhetorical Mobius Strip, a surfeit of imbalance brings one back to ... who’d have guessed it? ... balance. Finally, as we all know, the word for ‘imbalance’ in proto-Tibetan is nearly an anagram of ‘you’re fired’ when transliterated into Cyrillic. Need we say more?

So that’s where we’re at. Please do get in contact. It’s not, of course, about management wriggling out of responsibility; au contraire, we love firing staff! Instead we want SpecGram to be as democratic as possible. If it was good enough for Plato, it’s good enough for us. So choose your metric, write in, and heads will most definitely roll.

All best,

SpecGram Management Executive Group (SMEG)

[Epilogue: Unfortunately, a significant number of the more ambitious junior members of the Editorial Staff took to this call to cull a little too enthusiastically. It began with several forced demotions to “intern” and ended with two crucifixions and a blood eagle. SMEG has been disbanded and we are trying to rebuild. Please help. —Eds.]

1 Although the thought may be ‘Why am I reading this?’

2 Inaugurated eight years ago, SPIT is the SpecGram Prize for Intellectual Top-notchness. It is awarded by the editorial board to any creditworthy journal.

3 We heartily recommend the module. It is called R-SIET (Rhetorical Style Interactive Experience Training) and comes with a free training seat.

Amateur Hour at the Minas Morgul All-Ages Dance ClubArtemus Zebulon Pratt
Onomastic Destiny ♂Dirk Delarme & Emma Gassert
SpecGram Vol CLXXXIX, No 4 Contents