Tis the time of year to think about elves (Santa's helpers, on shelves, in overly long Tolkien adaptions). I am always, of course, invoking the Underwear Gnome when folks seem to miss the key middle part of a process (I so invoked this fall in a dissertation proposal workshop as causal mechanisms were often missing). In a comment on a facebook post, Michael Munger of Duke University reminded me of another kind of magical creature: the Self-Loathing Fairy. They usually arrive when a desk rejection is received by academic. Which means that it is time to catalog the variety of magical creatures in the academic universe.
Relatives of the Self-Loathing Fairy are the Guilt Goblins, who make academics feel bad for not doing enough even when they are doing plenty. This may be the most plentiful of all the magical creatures. The only thing that keeps the Guilt Goblin away? Dead wood. Really dead wood.
The Envy Urchins tend to spend much time on anonymous websites, but they exist in many places. They spend lots of time being jealous of more successful academics and seek to sow rivalry and discord.
Positive Pixies are often overlooked, but they try to ward off the Envy Urchins by spending much time trying to make academics feel better. They create hashtags like #scholarsunday to promote younger faculty.
While the Self-Loathing Fairies are most unwelcome, the greatest threats to academics are the Time Suck Sirens. These take many forms--administrivia, twitter, overly talkative colleagues (um, hmmm), computer updates, etc. Lately, the Time Suck Sirens have proliferated, feeding off of the distraction machine operating in the White House.
The Prestige Demons are insidious creatures as they try to get people focus more attention on labels than on the stuff that is labeled, be it universities, presses, journals, or whatever.
Mrs. Spew and I discovered Library Womprats way back in college. These critters mostly live in libraries but any place where there are many books. They painlessly nip people, injecting their sleep-inducing venom. This then gives them ample opportunity to chew on the notes, papers, exams, and whatever that mysteriously go missing. They are related to Grading Gremlins, who also induce sleepiness but exhaustion and frustration as well.
Alas, we don't have a Newt Scalamander helping us, so we need to crowd source. Have you discovered any good or bad magical academic creatures in your travels? If so, let me know and I can add them to this list.