- Kirsten Bell
An ode to Renesmee
Given that last week’s post focused on personal names, I thought I’d tell you a story this week about my very own encounter with ‘Renesmee’ – one of the appellations that came up in my discussion of terrible names. That post is best read before this one, because I return to it at the end.
As I’ve previously mentioned, academics frequently receive a very particular form of spam encouraging them to submit papers to journals that charge authors to publish. These publishers are a varied lot, including amateurish-but-legitimate operations, low quality publishers that have realised that scholars will pay hefty sums to publish their work in academic journals, and what are essentially counterfeit journals set up by fly-by-night publishers that are here today and gone tomorrow.
Although there has been much handwringing about these publishers preying on ‘innocent’ academics, they are easy to spot. This is because the invitations generally have a parodic quality. For example, publishers often have ridiculous names like ‘Openventio’ and ‘Scholarena’, the language used in email invitations is typically informal, effusive and obsequious; academics are frequently invited to submit papers to journals in disciplines far removed from their areas of specialty, or where the journal has an extremely promiscuous view of what constitutes the field of study; and, on occasion, the editorial assistants have names that sound made up.
The following invitation I received in 2014 from the Journal of Geology & Geosciences is a typical example of the genre.
From: Journal of Geology & Geosciences <email@example.com> Subject: Share your current Research with us Date: 13 August, 2014 5:58:20 AM PDT To: <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Hello Dr. KIRSTEN BELL,
Hope you are doing great !!
Let me drag your attention towards the Journal of Geology & Geosciences
Journal of Geology & Geosciences publishes original Research/Review/Mini-review/ Commentary/Opinion articles, Short communication, Case Reports etc, which covers the topics related to Earth Sciences, Climatic Change, Structural Geology, Disaster Management, Mineralogy, Geochemistry, GIS, Remote Sensing, Anthropology, Geography of the Earth, Primatology, Planetary Sciences etc.
It would be an honor for our Journal if you could share your write-up related to the topics mentioned above or whatever suits you best for the upcoming issue of the Journal.
We request you to kindly submit the manuscript on or before August 25th, 2014 or your may also let us know the possibility of your submission in the near future.
If you are interested then kindly submit your manuscript as an e-mail attachment to the Editorial Office at: email@example.com
You may also submit your article at: http://omicsgroup.org/editorialtracking/geology/SubmitManuscript.php
Please forward this message to anyone you think may be interested in submitting the article towards Journal of Geology & Geosciences.
Awaiting your swift response
Renesmee Editorial Assistant
Journal of Geology & Geosciences
Although the invitation has the usual markers of academic spam (unsolicited, unusually broad definition of an academic discipline,1 informal and idiosyncratic language), what immediately caught my eye was the name of the editorial assistant.
As I mentioned in last Monday’s post on names, ‘Renesmee’ was invented by Stephenie Meyer in her Twilight series: the phenomenally successful teen vampire romance books that were made into a highly lucrative series of films. While the author of the email probably assumed that academics were unlikely to be familiar with a series of teen vampire romance books, some of us do, in fact, have a taste for pulp fiction (although few will publicly admit to it), so I immediately knew who Renesmee was, having read the full quartet of Twilight books.
I recall exactly when I first encountered the books. It was December 2008 and my husband and I were spending Christmas in Australia with my in-laws. Desperate for something to read on the long flight from Vancouver to Brisbane, I bought the first book at the Vancouver airport – the Twilight film had just come out, so copies were plastered all over bookshops.
Immediately, I was hooked. Simultaneously excruciating and unputdownable, the books are a unique combination of titillation and prudishness. This helps explain their cross-over appeal to both teenage girls and their mums, along with the extraordinary subsequent success of the 50 Shades of Grey trilogy, which started as Twilight fan fiction that imagined a relationship between Bella and Edward with less prudery and more titillation, but about the same level of dysfunction.
To the bemusement (and, I’m reasonably certain, disgust2) of my in-laws, I proceeded to read all four Twilight books that Christmas. In fact, my put-upon sister-in-law drove me to several Brisbane shopping centres in the madness of the pre-Christmas rush to purchase the three remaining books. As copies were flying off the shelves and the sequels had sold out at various bookshops, I had to source them from various locations.
I do recall feeling vaguely embarrassed about this brief obsession with the books. In fact, I distinctly recollect the look of contempt one teenage girl gave me as I was leafing through a copy at a bookshop in Carindale Shopping Centre, primarily because it was the exact same look I used to give as an 18-year-old when seeing ‘oldies’ (i.e., anyone over the age of 30) out at a nightclub. ‘You sad bastards’, I’d think to myself; ‘I’m never going to be that pathetic when I’m old’.3 Still, as someone who had lined up outside a Vancouver bookshop at midnight the previous year in order to obtain the final Harry Potter book on its day of release,4 I wasn’t going to let a child’s derision stop me from finding out whether mopey Bella ended up with the emo-vampire or the teen wolf.
Now, Renesmee doesn’t make an appearance until the final book, Breaking Dawn. The half-vampiric offspring of human Bella and vampire Edward, her name is a major discussion point in the book, and the character itself leaves a strong impression for reasons that will make sense once you’ve seen the trailer for Breaking Dawn: Part I & II 5 from Honest Movie Trailers.
As I noted in my discussion of names last week, parents are actually saddling children with this godawful name. In fact, the Baby Name Uniqueness Analyzer,6 which draws on publicly available data from the Social Security Administration, indicates that Renesmee was the 1363rd most popular girl’s name in 2021 in the USA! Still, there is simply no way that the editorial assistant of an academic journal, credible or otherwise, could legitimately have the name in 2014, unless she was a child – much like the character of Renesmee herself in Breaking Dawn (thus inspiring my parodic movie poster Breaking a Yawn).
To this day, I’m not sure why the author of the email from the Journal of Geology & Geosciences chose to label the name of the sender ‘Renesmee’. Perhaps they were taking the piss out of academics gullible enough to respond to the invitation. Maybe they were a hardcore Twilight fan (a.k.a. ‘Twihard’). Or it was a sort of ‘wink-wink, nudge-nudge’ allusion to the fact that such journals and many of the authors who publish them are colluding in a publishing parody that both are seeking benefit from. Perhaps all three.
But one thing I know for sure is that in the next two decades we may well be receiving a flood of emails from actual editorial assistants named Renesmee. And if current trends hold, in about 100 years, Renesmee will re-emerge as a ‘fresh’ alternative to the prevailing crop of names. If so, then the only difference between a ‘bad’ name and a ‘good’ one is time. And that would suggest that the best way of making a name for yourself is to create an entirely new one. If, in 100 years, the name ‘Renesmee’ is as popular as current indications suggest, then Stephenie Meyer is, in fact, our generation’s Shakespeare, because the most popular name for girls in 2021 in the USA was Olivia, and guess who coined it.
1 In case it’s not abundantly obvious, even the most inclusive definitions of the field of geoscience do not include anthropology and primatology. Still, I did consider it for a moment, purely so that I would be able to claim to my geologist father, geologist sister, geologist brother, geologist husband and geologist brother-in-law that I had published a paper in a geology journal.
2 My numerous brothers-in-law gave me endless shit about reading the books, and I’m not convinced that I have fully recovered from the reputational damage that damn series did.
3 The look is basically the visual equivalent of this conversation from an outtake from the movie Bridesmaids.
4 To understand the magnitude of this commitment, there is almost nothing that I will consider staying up past 10pm for. Indeed, I’m not convinced I would have made the same choice if sober,* although I loved the books.
*I was mightily surprised the next morning to find it on my bedside table, because I didn’t recall purchasing it. All I can say is that there were two factors involved: copious amounts of sangria and Toni Davies.
5 In a blatant attempt to draw out franchise profits for as long as possible, the book Breaking Dawn was broken up into two films. For the record, while I have watched both films (and also made my husband suffer through them*), I was not stupid enough to pay for them.
*‘There’s a big battle’, I assured him, when he told me he’d rather swallow razorblades than watch Breaking Dawn Part II, leaving out the part where the battle itself is just a dream. His reaction was about the same as the narrator of the Honest Movie Trailer – and his look of utter disgust was, quite honestly, priceless (#makingmemories).
6 This site should come with a warning label attached, as its sole purpose seems to be to encourage parents to give their kids daft names. To make matters worse, it includes a Unique Name Generator, a Name Blender and Alternate Spelling Suggester. The Unique Baby Name Generator includes gems such as ‘Traverlesseebastasiah’ and ‘Benjamiennedy’, which tells you everything you need to know about the site.