Author Archives: roslynw

The shapeshifting Snow Queen and all things Frozen

Shameless confession time: I love Frozen.

frozen cast

There, I’ve said it, I’ve aligned myself with every six year old girl on the planet, and I don’t even care. It’s a great movie. The songs are catchy (painfully so). Elphaba and Veronica Mars sing in it. It’s a lot of fun. And there’s a ridiculously cute snowman.

olaf

Less fun is the creepy animation with the girls’ unnatural looks. Come on, Disney, enough with fake Barbie looking characters. (Beware the link; as an article about unrealistic body images for women, the lingerie ad that appeared when I read it was slightly ironic.)

frozen sisters2

Also less fun is the way “Let it Go” gets stuck in your head, or hearing every single small girl around the world sing it. Literally. I have been walking in Spain and heard a little girl singing it in the street. They were screening it in Norway when I was there (and you can go tour the places that inspired the film). Flying back home to Australia, I listened to another young girl singing it in the plane as we waited for take off. And for a while social media was awash with variations on “Let it Go” (and variations on “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?”). You can even sing along yourself.

Okay,  I don’t love it that much. Please, make it stop.

For anyone awakening today from a coma some years in the making, Frozen is a Disney animation based on the Hans Christian Andersen fairytale “The Snow Queen”.

In the original, parts of a cursed mirror fall into people’s eyes and distort their vision so they can no longer anything good or beautiful in the world but only what is bad and ugly. A boy, Kai, falls victim to the mirror, and begins to hate everything around him, even his best friend Gerda. He’s taken by the Snow Queen far, far away but Gerda’s a plucky girl, and battles her way through to save him with her love. It’s a great story.

The_Snow_Queen_by_Elena_Ringo

In Frozen, Disney has shaken up the story by making the Snow Queen a young queen called Elsa, who cannot control her ice-making powers and fears hurting those around her. Rather than offering her snowmaking services to local ski fields in need of some fresh powder, she runs off to set up camp on her own, far away from the rest of the world. She’s saved by the sacrificial love of a sibling rather than a suitor. Nobody gets married in the end. Is this a first for Disney fairytales?

frozen_anna

The Snow Queen has been a pretty popular lady lately, appearing in a range of popular texts. In Frozen, she’s a very sympathetic character who just wants to control her abilities without hurting anyone.

Frozen

She pops up on Once Upon a Time, the fairytale television program we’ve blogged about before, as a villain who turns out to be not such a villain after all.

Once upon

And she features in Jackson Pearce’s fourth book in her modern fairytales series, Cold Spell, a series we’ve previously blogged about. I shall not attempt to explain the complicated shapeshifting world in this series (seven sons, twins, triplets, mermaids, snow queens, gypsies, bad werewolves, misunderstood werewolves all appear), but suffice to say in this case, the Snow Queen is evil and has hidden herself away from society on a frozen island. She recruits a man-harem since she is desperate for love, men that she uses and abuses and turns into werewolves, until one day she gets her comeuppance from a plucky girl Ginny with a lot of love in her heart for one of the man-harem members, her best friend Kai. Cold Spell follows the original story more closely than other iterations, in a modern setting, and tries to engender some sympathy for the Snow Queen, though certainly not to the same extent as in Frozen.

cold spell

We’ve blogged here before about the current popularity of fairytales and how some have morphed over time into contemporary representations, as with Snow White and Red Riding Hood. The villain-misunderstood outsider-hero Snow Queen is yet another shapeshifting fairytale character to be recast in contemporary stories in more sympathetic terms. Based on the song and clothing choices of little girls around the world, Elsa from Frozen is the clear favourite of the current crop of Snow Queens.


Are zombies the new vampires? Part 2

Someone rather foolishly once wrote on this blog that vampires and werewolves are easily cast as romantic heroes, while zombies languish as the unwanted and rejected lovers, unable to ever meet anyone because they always want to eat everyone.

Okay, that was me, and I was wrong. An astute reader of this blog (thanks Frank) pointed me towards a film called Warm Bodies (2013), a romantic zombie comedy film (rozomedy?) about a teenage girl’s romance with a “sensitive undead” after a zombie apocalypse.

Sensitive undead? Apocalypse?

Sign me up right now!

So it is time to admit my error – sorry, two readers of this blog – and update my previous musings on the topic of paranormal suitors.

Warm Bodies takes place in a post-apocalyptic North American setting, 8 years after the usual kind of vague apocalyptic plague thingy happened. We begin with R, a zombie suffering existential angst as he wanders around an abandoned airport now inhabited by fellow zombies. He wonders about the meaning of life now that he has none: he feels alone, longs to connect with other people, and wonders if his life would be better if he worked on his posture and had more respect.

Nearby, humans are living in a fortified urban enclosure, worrying about extinction, and occasionally venturing outside to find more resources and medical supplies. A human team sent outside encounters R and fellow zombies who are out for a stroll looking for food. They fight. Zombies eat the humans. Well, most of them.

The humans include a girl called Julie and her boyfriend, and R eats her boyfriend’s brains but saves Julie and takes her back to his crib (an abandoned plane). R is embarrassed about his love of eating brains but he also relishes it … bad pun, sorry … because when he eats someone’s brains he captures their memories and feelings.

So, when he kills Julie’s boyfriend, his initial interest in Julie takes on an added dimension because of those captured feelings. Cue unexpected romance between our leads R and Julie, Shakespearean connotations and all. He plays her bad music, occasionally summons up an actual word or two instead of his usual grunts, and struggles to understand her. In other words, your typical man and woman attempting to date.

warm_bodies_ver12

The movie gives us levels of zombie-ness: R is unusual for the fact that he has some thinking and caring abilities despite his love of eating brains and limited speech, and over the course of the film he and fellow zombies gradually become more human. The bad zombies are those who have lost all humanity and turn into skeletal CGI “bonies”.

It’s a funny movie in a low-key way. There’s plenty of self-referential humour about the zombie genre and wordplay on life and death. “Welcome to the dead zone,” graffiti announces to the human team exiting the compound, “Look alive out there!!!!” “This date is not going well,” R thinks as he struggles to communicate with Julie. “I’m going to die all over again.”

At one point Julie holds up to R the DVD cover of Zombie (1979), the very image I chose for my earlier blog post to illustrate how unromantic most zombies would be as heroes, which is a nice contrast for this current post.

So was I wrong about the romantic lead thing? Maybe. R is appealing in the way of all awkward, socially inept characters whose communication skills might be lacking but whose sincerity can’t be doubted. Which makes a nice change from those uber handsome, rich, smooth talking vamps that so many teenage girls love. And the film’s celebration of brainy girls is worth some props.

OK so it’s kind of completely undermined by the busty blonde pose, but hey, let’s give them points for trying to be funny anyway. And, like the similar meme running round social media that there’s nothing hotter than a man who reads, they are sentiments we can heartily subscribe to here. But such sentiments mean the typical non-Warm Bodies zombie still remains unattractive as the thinking woman’s romantic lead, since most of them can’t exactly think, let alone read.

If nothing else, though, R has nailed the zombie version of the intense leading man stare, so maybe there’s hope for lonely zombies yet.

 

 

 

 

 


Shifting the shape of advertising

Taking a slightly different approach to shapeshifting, social media has for a while been circulating pieces that draw our attention to some of the ways women are framed in advertising and fashion. They do this by switching the gender roles and placing men in traditional women’s fashion poses, or switching the context out to the real world instead of a fashion shoot. The intention might be solely or partly comedic, but it is also a good technique to get people thinking about our assumptions and expectations about gender.

One of the examples of this is from a shoot of male comedians in traditional female fashion model poses.

A second example is a series of shots of men posing in typical women’s fashion stances; like the first example, drawing the attention to the way women are often posed in sexy, coy, and frankly ridiculous ways.

And a third shows women in everyday surroundings, removed from the high fashion scene, reproducing poses from shoots. The argument here is that women are often pictured in unnatural positions that are not only ridiculous but also link women with weakness, madness, and the artificial. The link comes from a blog where I found this, but the work is from Yolanda Dominguez, who has followed it up with another switch out from a Chanel ad.

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Can you imagine male models being used in this way? So far I’ve not come across any examples using the reverse technique, of placing women in traditional men’s fashion poses, but it’s worth considering how that may work, or if it would work, and what it might tell us about expectations and assumptions about men.


Pompeii: a disaster movie in more ways than one

It’s long overdue for a thoughtful, well-researched review on here of a provocative piece of cinema. This is not that. Instead: Pompeii.

Where to begin. That’s easy: the accents. Pompeii is a deeply entertaining film if only for the accents. I don’t know why we’re in the ancient Roman world hearing British accents, but okay, let’s go with it. But the entertaining part is how the actors attempt to do a British accent. Playing the villain, Kiefer Sutherland adopts a mystifying British accent that involves gratuitous amounts of lisping and negligible amounts of actual British accent. Take a listen here, if you can stand the ad. It’s a deleted scene but amply illustrates the pain the viewer suffers.

And lisper of bad British accents.

Look, I have fond memories of the first few seasons of the TV show 24, and Kiefer Sutherland in it, so I prefer to think he is doing the accent ironically.

Then there’s the main guy, Milo, to whom I objected for many reasons, primarily because his name belongs either to an iconic Australian drink, or one of the animals from that movie Milo and Otis. So, I can’t take him seriously for those two entirely valid reasons, but also for others: why is he whispering every line?

Why is he oiled up all the time and how did he get that six pack when he was a slave? I didn’t think slaves could choose their diets and spend hours in the gym, but hey, I’m no ancient Roman citizen, so maybe they could.

I have learned that this guy (Kit Harington) is some kind of big name in the Game of Thrones TV show, a role that apparently extends his acting range a lot, or so these pictures tell us.

Then there was the bewildering subplot that took up too much time at the start. So Milo’s family is slaughtered and that seems to be some kind of motivation for something, I guess revenge, but really, people, a volcano’s about to blow. A volcano! Apparently the volcano bit wasn’t enough, they thought we have to come up with a grand revenge plot of a slave taking on the evil people who murdered his family, while simultaneously sticking it to the evil Roman empire. Ha! Take that, evil Roman empire!

Pompeii Photos

But then, everyone dies in Pompeii, including our whispering hero and lisping villain, so I dunno if the evil Roman empire even got that memo from oiled up Milo sticking it to them.

And finally, the romance. This is how it goes. High born girl travels in a carriage, pouting about her sad, sad life. Horse falls over. Slaves wandering by at the same time look on at fallen horse. Oiled up slave Milo breaks the fallen horse’s neck and high born girl falls in love. As you do. Well, who doesn’t dream of meeting Mr Right while bonding over killing a horse. HOT!

Somehow, these two kids manage to meet up in Pompeii, give an entirely unconvincing performance of falling in eternal love, and then in the most baffling of baffling parts, they start riding off to escape the volcano (yes, gentle viewers, eventually the filmmakers remembered the volcano the film is named for), and then decide, hey, let’s not out-run this volcano lark, let’s just get off the horse and stand here and kiss instead while dying. Because it’s soooo romantic.

The end. And fortunately for you, gentle reader, this review is ending at this point too. Feel free to disagree and point out some of the good things about the movie instead…


Interested in how TV represents mental health disorders? Join our new project

Interested in how TV represents mental health disorders? Love – or hate – how shows like Homeland, The Big Bang Theory  or Glee represent conditions such as bipolar, autism, or OCD?

While writing our werewolves book, Kimberley and I became interested in how TV was representing particular mental health disorders and the characters who have them. So one of the things we put to the side was the idea of taking that theme further into its own book, extending beyond lycanthropy to TV generally.

The time has come to pick up this project in earnest, and we have decided in this book to not only analyse particular TV shows in depth, but to seek the perspectives of viewers who have a mental health disorder, or their carers.

So we want to invite you to join our project. If you have a mental health disorder (or care for someone who does) please let us know. And we would really appreciate you letting anyone know who you think might be interested in the project – so feel free to pass this on.

Some things you might be asking:

* What do you mean by mental health disorders? We’re keeping this broad: depression, anxiety, bipolar, OCD, autism, Asperger’s Syndrome, schizophrenia, dissociative identity disorder, addiction, to name a few.

* Will my privacy be protected? Yes. Nobody’s name or any identifying info will be included in the book, just anonymous comments. We have institutional ethics approval and promise to adhere to ethical guidelines always (which we’d do without the approval anyway!) to protect your privacy, and more details are on an information sheet and consent form we can give you before you decide to join.

* How do you want to use my comments? We’re planning on interweaving viewer comments with analysis. So when we’re talking about, say,  how OCD is portrayed on Glee, we might include some comments from a viewer with OCD about their thoughts on how accurate (or not) the representation is.

*What do I have to do? We’d like to ask some questions in an interview. If you want to participate by email, no problem. The questions are about your views of how television represents particular mental health disorders.

For more information about the project and how you can be involved, contact us using the form below.


Iconic shapeshifters: Peter as the wolfboy in Jumanji. And, fake monkeys!

So a couple of corrections immediately: Peter’s not exactly an iconic shapeshifter. And he’s not really a wolf boy. He’s kind of a monkey boy. But there really are fake monkeys!

I want to blog about this because in a recent review of our book – which was very nice, thank you – the question of text choice came up. Our book covers a lot of novels, film and TV, but we never wanted to do a comprehensive survey of every shapeshifter, instead we wanted to pick some texts and discuss them in the context of particular themes. We also chose to focus on relatively recent texts from the last decade or two, because that’s what most readers are familiar with.

 But it did make me think about some texts we might have missed, and that will have to function as my segue into the topic of this blog post: Jumanji.

I have a weakness for this movie. Don’t judge me. Jumanji is a 1995 children’s fantasy film directed by Joe Johnston and starring Robin Williams, Bonnie Hunt, and Kirsten Dunst, and, most importantly, Bradley Pierce, our almost-wolfboy. You can watch the trailer here.

If you’ve not seen the film, the plot is about a couple of kids who find a board game called Jumanji, which brings jungle life to the real world: dangerous creatures appear, there’s a stampede, monsoonal rain, and even a nod to Australia with a giant crocodile and enormous spiders.

Well, that’s what I call a Hollywood nod to Australia anyway. So when the kids play, one of them gets sucked into the game (literally), and 26 years later emerges when 2 new kids find the game and start playing it. They then battle the jungle terrors together until one of them manages to get to the end of the game, which returns everything to normal.

The movie is notable for the fakest looking monkeys ever (that is an entirely unsubstantiated claim and I’m willing to see faker monkeys if anyone wants to find them).

They were probably okay for 1995 but honestly, I kept looking for the bits of string holding up the paper monkeys being moved around the set.

There’s a lovely moment when the monkeys pass a shop with a television screening a scene of the flying monkeys on The Wizard of Oz, and they get quite excited.

As I watched this again recently I realised that there is an element of shapeshifting in this film that I didn’t remember: the boy, played by Bradley Pierce, turns into a half monkey in the film after he cheats at the game. I think it’s a half monkey but initially I assumed it was a half wolf, because the sudden hairy hands/face and pointed ears look like most other human-wolf hybrids on screen.

Also, the boy’s name is Peter, hence another lupine connotation. But then you see the big tail and no, it’s a monkey. He stays as this human hybrid until the game is over and everything reverts back to before.

If we were to position this film within the other texts discussed in our book, we’d probably include it with other shapeshifters who have been turned into an animal as a punishment; ie, shapeshifting functions as a moral lesson. Remember Eustace from Voyage of the Dawn Treader, in the Chronicles of Narnia? His greed for gold turned him into a dragon. Only once he’d learned his lesson could he return to being a human. Many shapeshifters these days are framed in terms of redemption, where they are trying to overcome their darker side, and sometimes they have become shapeshifters because of wrongdoing. And so we have Peter, who cheated in the game, so he lost part of his humanity and became part animal.

 The thing is, he’s a very cute little wolf/monkey boy and it’s hard to shake your head for his lost humanity when you see this:

This is one of those blog posts without a real point, which I was hoping to disguise in cute pictures of the little wolf/monkey boy, but as I reach this point I think it’s best to just ‘fess up and say it’s just for fun. Anyway, here’s to the forgotten wolf/monkey boys and other shapeshifters permeating our popular culture texts that didn’t make the final cut for our book.


Co-authoring: The good, the bad, and the ugly

One of the questions we have been asked frequently about our book is one we weren’t expecting: how did we write a book together? Who wrote what?

So we thought it might be interesting to talk a bit about the process of co-authoring for anyone who is considering writing with someone else, to discuss what we found works and doesn’t for us, especially given (warning: shameless self promotion) we’ve co-authored a book chapter on the importance of mothers in Harry Potter that has just been published.

And as always we welcome your thoughts!

* How did co-authoring happen?

RW: I can’t remember if we did the Harry Potter chapter or the book first, but it would have started with something like: hey, what do you think about working together on ABC? Kimberley might have a better memory than me.

KMC: I think we’d already started work on the Harry Potter chapter. And my memory of the initial “let’s write a book conversation” involved jetlagged versions of ourselves in a hotel room, with me pacing and writing lists and Roslyn looking at me as though she was trying to figure how to get past me to the door if emergency assistance was required. 😉

RW: No wonder I can’t remember, I’ve blocked it out of my mind. 🙂 When I was doing my PhD I couldn’t imagine co-authoring anything, since English is pretty much dominated by single-author research. It’s your research, your thinking, your publication. After being employed as a research assistant in health research, I became more familiar with teams of authors who research and write up their findings together, but I was certainly sceptical at first, especially when it comes to large teams. Despite some cases where people don’t actually meet authorship criteria in multi-authored papers, now I am much more positive about co-writing and my current publications are probably about a half and half mix of sole/co-authored work. However, my sole work is still mostly English and co-authored is mostly health, so I think the divisions remain to some extent.

* What are some of the advantages to co-authoring?

RW: Being able to blame the co-author for bad reviews (“yeah but she wrote the bad bits”). Just kidding! There are several good things about it. One is intellectual – you benefit from a different perspective/ background/ mind to help give some more depth to the analysis or to take it in unexpected directions. My co-authors in my publications add a lot to my research, they make me think better and work harder and give new directions to our research, and this is a fantastic benefit for which I’m very grateful.

Another advantage is practical – sharing the workload, another eye to pick up errors, someone else who can carry some weight when things don’t go according to plan, you can cover more ground with two or more people researching something.

A third is psychological – being able to commiserate when the world fails to grasp our particular brand of genius, and to celebrate when a miracle happens and somebody actually likes the work.

KMC: The practicalities, definitely. It helps if the co-author has strengths you don’t; and it makes you more accountable. A deadline you’ve set for yourself and a deadline where a friend and colleague is expecting to have something on which to work are two quite different things. I loved the idea of co-authoring because I found the world of book contracts etc daunting and Roslyn had been through it with her first book. Plus, I am someone who gets stuck at various points in the writing process, and sometimes I just want a second opinion on what I’ve done and where I’m headed. I’m needy like that. 🙂

* What are some of the disadvantages to co-authoring?

RW: Three things come to mind: again with a practical and an intellectual side. First, the practical stuff: tone and coherency. Getting tone consistent across the whole piece is really hard sometimes when you have co-authors. People write differently, sometimes really obviously so. Kimberley and I are fairly similar in our writing anyway, but even so I can tell which bits she writes because it doesn’t “sound like” me, and no doubt the same is true for her (my usual litmus test is that if it sounds smart, I didn’t write it).

KMC: Funny, that’s my litmus test, too!

RW: For my journal articles in health-related work, when I am lead author I really try to go through all the sections and rephrase some things to add a bit of gloss to make it all sound like a united team wrote it rather than individual styles coming through, but in some cases it doesn’t happen and it can sound disjointed.

Second, for coherency, when you split up sections between people (eg, this person does the Intro, that person writes the Methods, or Kimberley analyses that book, and I write about that TV show) you really have to work hard to try to make sure that there is an overarching argument coming across, that ties the whole work together and builds across the chapters. So you need to watch out for repetition, gaps, introducing the same theories or texts multiple times, and so on. Again, doesn’t always happen.

The third element is about the intellectual side. Researchers usually don’t agree about everything (sometimes about anything), so when you write with co-authors you might find them writing things you disagree with – it might be their interpretation of the data/ texts or their philosophy. They might be focused on something you don’t think warrants that focus. I think you have to learn to walk a line – ultimately your name is on it and you have to “own” that piece of writing and take responsibility for it. But you also have to compromise and accept that your co-authors have an equal right to their interpretations and you probably don’t agree with everything so you have to wear it. My only exception to this is when you’re the lead author, I think there’s an extra level of responsibility and if you really disagree with a co-author’s interpretation you need to discuss that to find some common ground.

KMC: I’ve also taken the view that the lead author has the final vote if there’s disagreement, to my own detriment in a very early attempt at co-authoring which saw me avoid it for many years. In contrast, working with Roslyn was easy, as we do share ways of thinking, research interests and style, to some degree.

I think probably our biggest “problem” was around quoting True Blood, because Roslyn was keen to keep the book PG. I am a bit of a sweary bear, however, and it’s a sweary show, so it was quite tricky to find quotations which were useful but then still have them make sense if you removed the worst of the profanity. I was worried it might end up looking like a redacted WWII telegram but the more practical half of the team reminded me that using asterisks in lieu of letters was an option. It’s still one of the more interesting issues we come up against, because sometimes I’ll attempt to clean something up but I’ll miss 27 other instances of the profanity in a chapter, because it just doesn’t register with me.

So our contentious issues were fairly minor and usually sorted out quickly. In the end, the ‘lead author decisions’ have been things like: we had a discussion about whether or not, at final proof stage, we cared enough about the fact that we’d used the word “witches” in a gendered way when talking about Harry Potter, but in a gender-neutral way when talking about True Blood and Roslyn said she didn’t mind either way (So I figured we’d stick with how it was; which followed the texts, more or less. We might change it if there’s both an audience outcry and a reprint. So if you want that change to happen, comment below. And buy the book. 🙂 )

* How did we actually do the writing?

RW: We didn’t sit down together and write it side by side. At all. This is what I think sometimes people assume happens with co-authors, that we set up a computer and sit down and type our shared thoughts. I have actually co-authored with some other people where we literally sit together and work on sections, but that is very rare.

No, for me, co-authoring is a case of splitting up chapters (for the book) or sections (for journal articles/ book chapters). For example, mostly the lead author of journal articles will assign the sections (if the co-authors agree of course) so that each person is responsible for writing the draft of the Methods, or the Introduction, or the Discussion, etc, and then the lead author incorporates those sections into a master document. Often the lead author writes points for each section on what they think could be covered, to help the co-authors and maintain that coherency.

For the book, Kimberley and I split up the chapters down the line and each wrote three chapters and emailed the drafts to each other. We wrote about half the introduction and conclusion each, which involved one person starting it and the other person continuing it (swapping it back and forth until it’s done, not a neat division of writing one half each). At some point I had the bright idea of a seventh chapter so I wrote a fair chunk of that and Kimberley added to it.

We then read each other’s chapters and commented, changed things, and sometimes added a paragraph or a section. We shared responsibility for editing, proofreading and indexing. As lead author, Kimberley took most of the responsibility for that side of things and did more of that kind of work.

KMC: I think this is the fascinating bit. As Roslyn says, we didn’t sit down and write together, but swapped back and forth. There were times, however, when I was feeling a bit isolated by the writing process and invited myself over to hers so that we could work on the book–which meant each of us sitting on a computer in the same room, largely doing out own thing, but which allowed for more immediate conversations about any tricky points and gave me a bit of a jolt.

I’m about to start a co-authored book with a colleague from work and her previous co-authored publication utilised the “sit down together and type it up together” strategy, so it’s going to be interesting to try to amalgamate the two styles. I actually think it has potential – allocated tasks but meet up one morning a fortnight or whatever to join forces — like a staff meeting! We’ll see how that goes.

RW: We should probably point out that this blog is an example of co-authoring in our usual style. One started (in this case me), the other continued, then a couple more interventions from both parties before publishing.

* How does author order get decided?

RW: This can be political in some cases where seniority or other power issues are at work. One idea is that the lead author has more reward because their name is first and they are seen as having the most stake in the project, so they also take more responsibility and more of the load. In some disciplines the most senior person might get the last author position because that position carries some kind of prestige, but that’s not the case in humanities.

There are fairly universal rules governing who can be named as author  and these are pretty much based on: everybody named as an author needs to have made a substantial contribution to interpreting the data, writing the article, and approving the article. In some cases this doesn’t happen in reality but it should always be the case, and you should never be named as an author unless you meet those criteria. We probably all know of cases where co-authors have done zero to contribute, but one hopes they are few. And that’s the bad and the ugly bits of co-authoring. Possibly it can end friendships or working relationships when people fail to contribute to co-authoring or something else happens, but that hasn’t happened for me.

Having said that, it’s tricky to decide the order, is it based on descending order of contribution, ie, author 1 did 40%, author 2 did 30%, author 4 did 25%, and author 5 did nothing much at all? Is it alphabetical? It’s a discussion that should be had, early. It should be transparent to all involved, and everyone (mostly) happy with it.

For our case, I think we would have each been happy for the other person to be lead, and I probably insisted it be Kimberley and that has worked out fine. (For me, anyway … Kimberley?)

KMC: I have mostly co-authored with people who are on a similar level of seniority, which helps with the politics: almost without exception, the division of labour, credit and royalties (where applicable) has been equal. For us, the lead author question has come back to “whose idea was it” – which is why our names are in a different order if you compare our chapter to the book – and does that person have the time and energy to take the lead? (the lead author is usually the corresponding author, so there are more emails to draft etc). This strategy sounds easier than it is, however, since we have a number of, “Hey, we should do [insert wild project idea here]” conversations and sometimes it’s hard to know at what point they became serious. In the book project and our upcoming project, yes, I would have been happy with either order of names and I think draft proposals with reverse orders were emailed about at various points. And so far, it’s working fine, yes.

*Would we do it again?

RW: What a coincidence … Yet more shameless self promotion but it just so happens we are currently working on another project we think is pretty exciting … details to follow (we hope).

And on that note, please feel free to add your thoughts and experiences for this business of co-writing – have you had good experiences writing with other people? Some challenges? Advice to share?