Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Author Guest Post -- Joe Laycock on Real Life Vampires

As today marks the release of Eclipse, the highly anticipated third installment of the Twilight Saga based on the best-selling series by Stephenie Meyer, we asked the question: Do vampires really exist? Joe Laycock, author of Vampires Today, explains the truth behind modern vampirism.

I wasn’t always like this.

Since 2009, whenever I am introduced to someone, our mutual friend invariably says, “This is the guy I was telling you about! The vampire guy!” I’m a teaching fellow at Boston University and when I arrived late to a lecture the professor said, “There you are! We thought the vampires had gotten you!” The students all got a laugh out of that one. And I actually don’t mind being “the vampire guy,” but I wasn’t always this way.

This all began when I found out that Atlanta is home to a group of self-identified vampires called the Atlanta Vampire Alliance (AVA). Actually, “real vampires” can now be found in most North American cities––or small towns for that matter. What attracted me to the AVA was the work they were doing. They have devoted massive amounts of time and money towards a worldwide survey of vampires, studying their feeding habits, psychological profiles, religious affiliations, and medical histories. They collect this data because the AVA believes, like many vampires, that being a vampire is not a religion or the result of watching too many movies. In fact, they claim vampirism is not cultural at all. Instead, they believe there is actually something very different about them. The label “vampire” is only the simplest way to articulate a condition not understood by Western science. I spent several months observing and doing interviews with the AVA, and I gave a paper about their research and its concomitant identity claims at an annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion.

What I didn’t know at the time was that a woman from Arizona had written a novel called Twilight. The year 2009 was shaping up to be “the year of the vampire” and I was right in the middle of it. Suddenly everyone––including Geraldo––wanted to ask me why America was obsessed with vampires. In fact, “vampire booms” seem to have occurred in more or less ten year cycles since Béla Lugosi first played Dracula on screen in 1931. Before that, Westerners avidly consumed vampire stories and plays ever since John Polidori’s The Vampyre was published in 1819. And before that, figures like Voltaire and Jean-Jacques Rousseau wrote in wonder and disbelief about the bizarre stories coming out of Eastern Europe in the 18th century. Somehow the vampire continues to arise, appealing to a culture’s deepest fears and desires. But why do vampires have this power (as opposed to werewolves or zombies)? I’m not sure there is a satisfying answer to that.

But for all the attention I received when the first two Twilight movies came out, I think most people are missing the point I make in Vampires Today: We cannot ignore “real vampires” because we do not exist independently from them. They are our neighbors, police officers, and nurses. Most importantly, their identities are a product of the same culture as ours. The fact that young people can lose sleep wondering whether they are an ordinary human or a vampire shows that identity has become more fluid and achieved than ever before in human history. Furthermore, as the world becomes more aware of vampires, our identities will change, too. Before I met with the AVA, I never thought of myself as a “non-vampire”.

-- Joe Laycock, author of Vampires Today: The Truth about Modern Vampirism (Praeger, 5/2009)

PHOTO: Joe Laycock at the Georgia Guidestones in Elberton, GA

Joseph Laycock is a doctoral candidate studying religion and society at Boston University. His work focuses on the exchange of ideas between organized religion, folk religion, and popular culture. Before coming to Boston University, Laycock spent several years as a history teacher in inner city schools. He is a graduate of the Program in Religion and Secondary Education and has written on promoting religious literacy in secondary schools. When not teaching, Laycock enjoys martial arts such as kali, boxing, and Brazilian jujitsu.

Connect with the Author:
Facebook fanpage for Vampires Today
Ning page for Vampires Today

Monday, June 28, 2010

Excerpt: Boy Culture, An Encyclopedia

Teaching Boys
In North American culture, many boys perceive success in school as something to be avoided. As a result, some boys may attempt to disguise their intelligence because it can expose them to ridicule from their peers. This may take the form of boys refusing to do homework or putting only minimal effort into assignments. It has been argued that a refusal to put effort into schoolwork prevents boys from being ridiculed for being intelligent. In the event that they fail, their lack of success can be brushed off as unimportant. Boys are often criticized by their peers for participating in behaviors that are seen as being inappropriate. Specifically, intelligence and success in a school setting is seen by boys as feminine and is, therefore, something to resist.

Despite this reluctance to excel in school, boys continue to perform extremely well in math, science, and hands-on activities (e.g., building). Boys seem to be less restricted in performing tasks that require them to build, construct, design, be hands-on, be physically active, calculate, and be competitive. Competition has the advantage of motivating boys to complete tasks but can have the adverse effect of making the learning process self-centered, which can encourage negative behavior (e.g., aggressiveness). One strategy to effectively use competition is to have boys compete in groups. They can be assigned work that relies on communication, understanding, and teambuilding skills while having them compete collaboratively with other groups. That way, the learning activities encourage boys to excel while not making the exercise a negative experience.

It has been argued that boys under-perform in school settings because they lack positive male role models. However, recent research has not been able to find reliable evidence to support that theory. Boys taught by female instructors perform as well, if not better, compared to those taught by males. What seems to be more important than the sex of the teacher is the relationship that the teacher creates with the boys. This is especially true since boys are much more likely than girls to challenge authority and the figures representing authority. Therefore, it is important for teachers to implement effective strategies to ensure that their authority is respected while being careful not to appear oppressive (that would only further boys’ desire to resist authority). Specifically, it has been shown that boys react more positively to teachers that encourage a student-centered approach to learning.

Boys become excited when participating in decision-making processes; boys generally don’t like being told what to do. Offering a limited number of choices of activities is one effective way of encouraging them to actively participate in learning activities. It is also very important that they see a reason for the activities they are participating in. Tasks that are meaningful for boys are most effective as they are motivated to complete tasks that seem immediately valuable to them. Boys are particularly motivated to excel in school when their personal interests are incorporated into the educational exercises. For instance, if a particular boy is interested in football, an essay or project on the subject will be particularly motivating for that student. When boys are allowed to explore and incorporate their excitement for a particular topic in the educational setting, they will put substantially more effort into the task at hand. Therefore, they can be encouraged to enjoy learning and to see the immediate value inherent in the activities they are engaged in.

Boys’ interests vary widely but there are some commonly held interests: sports, television shows, movies, and video games. Interests will vary with each individual boy; it is important to purposefully appeal to the needs of each individual student. Furthermore, it is important to not reinforce stereotypes by assuming that boys will be interested in the same activities. Instead, boys should be encouraged to explore avenues of interest to them. They will be more comfortable (and less likely to be ridiculed) with subjects that they are already excited about. Student-centered assignments can encourage all boys, no matter their interests, to complete the tasks at hand.

Excerpt from Boy Culture: An Encyclopedia (Greenwood, 6/2010)
[Vol. 2, Section 12: Boys and School] 
By: Shirley R. Steinberg, Michael Kehler, and Lindsay Cornish, Editors

For more information on this title or to order the book, visit the book's website.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Conference Update: World History Association

I am very excited to be representing ABC-CLIO this week at the 19th Annual World History Association Conference. The event, which began yesterday, is being held at the San Diego Marriott Mission Valley through Sunday, June 27.

The WHA is the foremost organization for the promotion of world history through the encouragement of teaching, research, and publication. The annual WHA conferences provide an ideal occasion for ABC-CLIO to engage teachers, librarians, and scholars of world history in general and in order to keep up with current trends in world history scholarship, learn more about specific reference needs, and showcase what we have been up to.

In particular, our booth will be highlighting ABC-CLIO's forthcoming World History Encyclopedia, and I will be joined at the conference by the project manager of the WHE, Carolyn Neel.

Manfred Weissenbacher, author of Sources of Power: How Energy Forges Human History (Praeger, 2009), will also be on hand to sign copies from 2:00-3:00 p.m. on Saturday, June 26th.

Apart from manning the booth and attending as many of the conference sessions as possible (which look to be especially informative and interesting this year, judging from the schedule), I also look forward to the opportunity to do some light scouting for potential future authors, etc.

I hope to see you there!

--Greg Wolf, Writer/Editor, ABC-CLIO

Forthcoming! World History Encyclopedia

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Conference News: ALA Annual

ABC-CLIO will be at American Library Association's 2010 Annual Conference in Washington, D.C. this week. Stop by our booth for a product demo, to purchase discounted books, to have your favorite book signed, or just to say hello!

ABC-CLIO Booth #3725

Show Hours:
Friday, June 25 5:15 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, June 26 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Sunday, June 27 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Monday, June 28 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Nineteen author signings will be taking place in the ABC-CLIO booth from Friday through Monday. To ensure that you don't miss your favorite author, here is the schedule.


Sam McBane Mulford, How Green is My Library? 6:00-7:30 p.m.
Anthony F. Chiffolo, Cooking with the Bible 6:00-7:00 p.m.


Jean Preer, Library Ethics 10:00-11:00 a.m.
Elizabeth Chamberlain Habich, Moving Library Collections 11:00-11:30 a.m.
Robert E. Dugan, Peter Hernon, and Danuta A. Nitecki, Viewing Library Metrics from Different Perspectives 12:00-1:00 p.m.
Allison Zmuda, Librarians as Learning Specialists 1:00-1:30 p.m.
Dianne de Las Casas, Stories on Board!: Creating Board Games from Favorite Tales 1:00-3:00 p.m.
Sharon M. Scott, Toys and American Culture 2:00-4:00 p.m.
Sam McBane Mulford, How Green is My Library? 3:00-5:00 p.m.
Carolyn W. Lima and Rebecca L. Thomas, A to Zoo: Subject Access to Children's Picture Books, Eighth Edition 3:00-5:00 p.m.


Anthony F. Chiffolo, Cooking with the Bible 9:00-10:00 a.m.
Dianne de Las Casas, Scared Silly: 25 Tales to Tickle and Thrill 10:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m.
Jeannie Dilger-Hill, On the Road with Outreach 1:00-1:30 p.m.
Sharon Coatney, The Many Faces of School Library Leadership 1:00-2:00 p.m.
John Lubans Jr., "Leading from the Middle," and Other Contrarian Essays on Library Leadership 2:00-2:30 p.m.
Pam Berger, Choosing Web 2.0 Tools for Learning and Teaching in a Digital World 2:00-3:00 p.m.
Sam McBane Mulford, How Green is My Library? 3:00-5:00 p.m.


Helen R. Adams, Ensuring Intellectual Freedom and Access to Information in the School Library Media Program 9:00-10:00 a.m.
Dianne de Las Casas, Handmade Tales: Stories to Make and Take 10:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m.

Experts from the ABC-CLIO team will also be running demos of our online products throughout the weekend. Learn more about the ABC-CLIO eBook Collection, ARBA Online, and our academic and school databases. A new demo starts every hour, from 9:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m, on Saturday and Sunday (ending at 3:30 p.m. on Monday). For a complete schedule of presentations, stop by booth #3725.

*Sneak Peek: Get a special tour of our 12 brand-new databases exclusively for higher education. For more information, stop by booth #3725.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Welcome to ABC-CLIO's New Online Community

As part of our forthcoming, brand-new website, ABC-CLIO and its team of authors, editors, and staffers are pleased to unveil the ABC-CLIO Blog.

Our goal is to provide readers with timely information on our new and upcoming releases, alongside guest posts from our expert authors, interviews, excerpts, podcasts, outstanding reviews and media coverage, contests, and much more. You'll also learn a little bit about the ABC-CLIO team and we'll let you in on some behind-the-scenes facts on the production of our most popular titles.

We value your thoughts and comments, so please share your experiences. Do you use the ABC-CLIO Databases or the ABC-CLIO eBook Collection in your classroom or library? Tell us about it. If one of our Libraries Unlimited books has helped you as a librarian, teacher, or media specialist, we want to know how! If you loved reading the latest addition to the Greenwood biography series, let us know! And if the newest hot-topic title from Praeger has you intrigued, leave us a comment and tell us why.

So check back often for the latest updates, and we look forward to starting a conversation with you all.

Thank you,