I've been mostly neglecting LJ of late. Are you on Tumblr? I am! In fact, these days I mostly post there, which I often auto-cross-post to my Twitter account and my Facebook account. If Tumblr x-posted to LJ, you'd see me here a LOT more. It's all about convenience, I'm ashamed to admit, because my jobs SUCK SO MUCH TIME. Not that that's bad, mind you - I LOVE teaching, and my teaching JOB itself has been getting steadily better; I LOVE directing the Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction, and we have a bunch of REALLY BIG and EXCITING things about to happen (and, of course, it's always exciting); and I LOVE my writing career, which I'm finally, at long frakkin' last, TREATING like a CAREER... to the point that if my employer were to try to take that away from me, or if my day-job evolved to the point of no-time-for-writing, I would either fight to fix the problem or no longer work there. THAT's how much I've decided to dedicate myself to my writing.

Speaking of which:
  • Coming out soon is "Frederik Pohl: Mr Science Fiction (A Love Story)." Scheduled to appear in the Spring/Summer edition of Foundation: The International Review Of Science Fiction.

  • My Speculative Fiction Writing Workshop is getting close to full with a nice variety of writers. Really looking forward to this, as always! June 1 - 15.

  • As soon as I reach 1st Draft Complete on Jack & Stella, I'll dive back into short fiction. I have about three stories ready for quick revisions (HA!), ten more that need a bit more work but are worth it, and who-knows-how-many (six? ten?) in progress that I really want to get back to. Short stories are great in that they take a LOT less time per word than novels, and they'll help keep my name out there in the zeitgeist while the novels are making their way to shelves, but novels are ALL-CONSUMING. Every idea I come up with ends up in whatever book I'm currently working on. As it should be, I guess, but that means BLACK HOLE of IDEAS, and no new stories. Wait, that's not true: I'm planning to develop several things that are back-story for Jack & Stella into stories of their own.

  • Just about ready to submit Empire Ship. It's done (and has been for a while), but I wasn't happy with some things, and figured I'd just hold off until I had a draft of Jack & Stella, and submit them both together... speaking of which:

  • And I've reached another milestone on The Galactic Adventures of Jack & Stella: Just crested 80,000 words! That's up nearly 6000 in the past ten days, and all that word-count is brand-new in the past year... in fact, pretty much all of it is new in 2014, as I started over at the beginning at about 30,000 words when I realized it just wasn't working. Ah, the joys of novel-writing.

And now, because this is both inspiring and INSANE, I share OMG DANGEROUS JETBIKE MANIAC:

(Yes, I want to do this. Only I'll wear a helmet, thank you, and do a MUCH better job of engineering a proper bike platform. Are you hearing this, MadMatMax? Nevertheless, I'M IN LOVE. And now a subscriber of his.)

Oh my gosh, I had no idea that I hadn't posted here for, what... three weeks now? MANY APOLOGIES!

My absence is largely due to ten million little tasks all piling down like a deluge of weasels, weasels driven like furry rain across the Great Plains, lashed on and on by all this stuff. Let's start with the fun and move into the rest:

  • I've made many thousands of words progress on The Galactic Adventures of Jack & Stella. Current word-count:


  • I've been doing this "300 Swings a Day Challenge," an idea promoted by the Breaking Muscle folks (who are awesome) and presented to me by clevermanka. Except for one day when I literally didn't have a minute to spare (but spared enough to do something like 100 anyhow, because FUCK ALL THAT I'M PRACTICING TO BE A BADASS), I've made my 300 swings EVERY DAY THIS MONTH. I started with my 55-pound kettlebell, but couldn't do more than about 40 with that, so switched to the 35-pounder. But for the past couple of weeks, I've been doing them ALL with the bigger weight, and in much shorter time (completed 250 swings last night between 7:30pm and 8:00pm, aw yeah), and with ever-improving form, AND starting to see some real changes in the musculature of my legs and ass and, honestly, all over. (I promise to post before-and-after shots at the start of April. Let's hope there's something to see!) I've tried to keep up with my other movements (pull-ups, push-ups, etc.), but the last two weeks have been... well, what got me started with this post.

  • My novel, Transcendence, was February's book selection for the PBR Book Club, which meets at the 8th St. Taproom (yes, friends, book fiends gathering at A BAR). Booze, books, and intelligent conversation - great tastes that taste great together. They had really insightful observations and questions. So much fun!

  • Saw the AMAZING Latenight Callers in concert at The Replay. If you haven't yet heard this band, DO IT NOW. I think of them as "Electro-Noir," and they're unlike anything you've heard for a long time, or maybe ever. They're seriously one of my favorite bands, and they operate out of the Kansas City metro area, and they formed in the cultural center that is Lawrence, KS. And I Knew Them When.

  • Went to Planet ComiCon in Kansas City's Bartle Hall Convention Center. Got to hang with LeVar Burton, Jonathan Frakes, Darryl "DMC" McDaniels (who's now working on a hip-hop comic!), Gates McFadden, Brent Spiner, Jewel Staite (Kaylee), Wil Wheaton, the Xenomorph from Alien (and his Predator buds), plus about a zillion local fans - many of them in costume. Wow. This was my first media-con since the 1990s (hello, Weaselmom!). I had no idea a local comicon could be so HUGE. The lines to get in wrapped around TWO city blocks. Once I adjusted to the crowds and lines, I realized that everyone was there among their tribe - polite, friendly, and HAPPY. A lot more fun than I'd expected. I'll do one of these again.

  • Finally, FINALLY, got the CSSF Lending Library fully alphabetized, including organizing our magazine holdings by publication and year. Just an off-hand guess, but I'd say we hold about 30,000 volumes. That was a monumental task, I TELL YOU WHAT, but my office (aka The Center's Space) is now the coolest room on campus. Before-and-after photos coming soon.

  • Designing my first Freshman-Sophomore SF course, which I'll offer this coming fall: Science Fiction and the Popular Media, where we'll study science fiction across a range of media forms including film, television, literature, fanfic, comics, gaming, and more. Hook 'em young, as they say. I made a request for suggestions on Facebook (which, sadly, is where I've been posting lately, also on my Tumblr blog, because if I'm only dropping something quick, that's where I go. Sorry for contributing to LJ's Long Decline.) This class should be a BLAST!

  • Hosted the English graduate-student recruitment party at our place, and met with one of the (hopefully) incoming creative writers.

  • Reading (and doing all the other logistics and setup) for this summer's Speculative Fiction Writing Workshop (June 1 - 15). We'll again have BOTH science-fiction Grand Master James Gunn and the inimitable Andy Duncan as this year's guest authors! Yours truly leads the Workshop. Are you thinking about applying, or know someone who would love to participate in an intensive but only two-week-long workshop? Now's the time!

  • Doing the thousand-and-one things necessary to host an international scholar here at KU. This year, the Center is host for a professor from Turkey! She'll be here until the end of May. (The last two were from China. We get around.)

  • Did a ton of thesis-project reading and critiquing and meetings, especially with one of my grad students who's working on an SF novel.

  • Teaching: Nothing unusual this semester, but teaching three full, writing-intensive courses always starts to crush me as we approach the middle of the semester. I was hoping to get caught up this week (Spring "Break"), but I have so many other things to do, including...

  • Journal-article writing: I'm finishing a research-intensive article about one of my greatest science-fiction heroes, a man with whom I had the great privilege and honor to spend anywhere from a few days to a week each summer: Frederik Pohl. Wonderful to go back and read so much by him again, but not so great to have to do this on top of things like...

  • Gary K. Wolfe's "Bold Aspirations" visit and talk for KU. SO MUCH planning. SO MUCH spreading the word, and setting up contacts, and writing press releases, and organizing gatherings, and ferrying him here from the airport, and so forth. Which was all great, mind you, but in the end a massive disappointment due to things I cannot discuss publicly. Friends, my fondness for academia is on the wane.

  • Building and organizing a group of Center for the Study of Science Fiction Faculty Affiliates. This has been really cool, setting up interdisciplinary relationships with faculty from all across the University of Kansas, but also a huge investment of time and energy. Expect Big Things out of this! More to come.

  • Similarly, I've been working with another brilliant group of interdisciplinary faculty and KU administrators in a think-tank named "Tech 2070," whose goal is to prepare the University for the kinds of changes we'll see over the next 50 years. FANTASTIC stuff, these bi-weekly meetings, but they also require hours of homework (seriously, but it's all stuff I'd read anyway given the time), including preparing to give presentations now that we've started to gel in our purpose.

And because it's not a post unless I share a photo of our Outdoor Pets, I hereby present "Squirrels Combating the Blizzard By Eating Tons of Birdseed" from the storm that whacked us recently (just days before the temps climbed back up to their present 60s and 70s!):

Click the chilly squirrels to see my Facebook photo albums.

Speaking of cute animals, want to see tons more photos of space-stuff and baaaby animals (among other things)? Then check out my Tumblr blog:

Click the fierce baby elephant to see my Tumblr blog.

...aaand now I've just spent an hour writing this post. So that's what's kept me away for so long. What have you been up to?

KU officials closed campus last night, fearing Snowpocalypse. Waking up today to see only a light dusting provoked taunting words from me, but then the Fauxpocalypse showed its true nature: We've already gotten several inches of snow. What does this mean?
  • School is closed.

  • My once-a-week science-fiction class meets online in two hours.

  • I spent this morning with my Write Group of Prolificness, upping the word-count of Jack & Stella by another 580. More importantly, I revised another 12 pages. That's significant because the revision includes shifting POV - the most important decision a writer makes, affecting everything else - and changing all the opening scenes.

What does this mean? That I'm only a couple of days from finishing the revision and surging into unexplored territory.

The Galactic Adventures of Jack & Stella progress:

Egad, my fingers and wrists and neck and shoulders are in knots after a pretty-much solid two weeks of sitting at my desk almost every waking hour. Why I felt the need to write demanding blog posts this week, too, I do not understand. But I'm DONE! Sure hope the students appreciate my efforts and find my comments useful. I really enjoyed a bunch of the final projects, though many were the typical undergrad papers. The grad students' work was universally pleasing to read, of course. I felt uncomfortable giving as many C or lower grades as I did this semester, but I'm done giving incompletes unless a student asks and really needs it - too much of a pain for everyone later on.

This weekend shall be nothing but goofing off. Some stretching, too, and maybe some working out. My poor, neglected body.... Sadly, I will not be going to my usual Saturday-morning breakfast with James Gunn, on account of that's usually at 8:30am (6-1/2 hours from now). MUST SLEEP.

Next week, I get back onto writing. I intend to reach about 30,000 words on The Galactic Adventures of Jack & Stella, write up a formal book outline and cover letter, and get this thing OUT. Also finish revising Empire Ship and submit it as well as a distinctly odd couple.

Mostly, though, I'll spend the winter "break" finishing development of my upcoming, brand-spanking-new interactive-online version of my "Foundations of Technical Writing" course.

Now, to sleep, perchance NOT to dream about student papers.

Having my novel pirated and torrented all over the web has gotten me thinking a lot about copyright and distribution of creative work, what to do about pirating, and the freedoms that get touched when combating pirates.

One cannot write about this topic without mentioning long-time Electronic Frontier Foundation fellow Cory Doctorow, who observes that "Despite 15 long years of the copyright wars, despite draconian laws and savage penalties, despite secret treaties and widespread censorship, despite millions spent on ill-advised copy-prevention tools, more copying takes place today than ever before" (Guardian).

His observation is that "if I give away my ebooks under a Creative Commons license that allows non-commercial sharing, I'll attract readers who buy hard copies. It's worked for me."

When Doctorow came to Lawrence, KS, for the 2009 Campbell Conference (where we honored him with the Campbell Award for Little Brother, free download from Doctorow's Craphound site here), he gave a talk about an experiment he was planning to run. He's long argued for giving away ebooks as a tool to increase an author's visibility, and after hearing his plan to completely circumvent traditional publishing with his experimental project - the marketing supported by giving away books (marketing itself coming from Boing Boing, articles, and thousands of avid fans...) - I was convinced that it was a good approach for a new novelist, as well, and planned to give away my book for free.

Heck, John Scalzi made his name by giving away his work, and he's doing pretty well now.

Only the pirates beat me to the punch and cracked a href="http://www.amazon.com/dp/0982946708/?tag=CSSF-20" target="_blank">the Kindle version of my book, posted it to bittorrent sites, and posted links all over the web. So I'm playing catch-up with the pirates in a race to give away my work! It's available as a free .pdf download now; as I write this, a friend is converting the book into epub format, and I hope to offer more formats (html next) as soon as I can manage to make them. Not just sample chapters, but the whole darn thing.

Am I crazy? Well, when it comes down to it, it's already out there. As I see it, I'm losing nothing by giving it away. Now, we can have all kinds of ethical and philosophical debates at this point, wring our hands about the decline of civil society where people feel it's okay to take something that someone created, copy it, and give it away to others (or even charge for downloading it! One has to be a member of some of these forums to use 'em...), but that misses the point.

My book has been pirated and shared already. I can't stop that, and the methods necessary to create a pirate-free environment would transform the internet into something ugly and forbidding. Look at the Great Firewall of China. Do you want that? I don't. And even this unimaginably oppressive regime of censorship doesn't stop serious Chinese internet users who seek internet freedom.

Freedom isn't free, sez the dusty ghost. Musicians, movie-makers, authors, artists, and other creatives pay for the cool stuff we can get on teh interwebs - not with money (though, sure, that too; websites aren't free), but with creative energy that they could have used to make money. Before I turned to a life of teaching and fiction-writing, I worked in high-tech and used my creative energies to create software documentation. My career change cost me about $50k/year in salary and bonuses, not counting stock options and other perks. I no longer get fancy parties or logo-embroidered jackets or a 5th-floor office with windows overlooking forested hills and all that jazz.... But I love teaching. And when I'm not writing fiction, I get grouchy and unhappy. Will fiction-writing ever make up for the earnings I gave up in the transition from IT dude to teacher? Seriously doubtful, but that's not the point.

This is the same story for all creatives: Whatever you're doing for love is costing you greenbacks, probably a lot of 'em. If you were dealing crack or selling stocks or whatever, you'd earn a lot more dough. So there's a measurable cost to creative output. If - rather, when, because that's the reality of our times - someone pirates your work, be it a photograph or song or book or whatever, you are potentially giving up even more income that you could have earned from selling that work. To have created that work in the first place is to have cost yourself income due to the time and energy you expended to create it. So pirated work serves up a double-whammy, kicking you in the creative 'nads while you're down.

However! If someone encounters your art or book or movie or song or whatever via a friend's blog or in an email or wherever, and if they like it, and if - and this is important - if you are identified as the creator of that work, you've earned a new fan. This is someone who might potentially purchase your work, or at least spread the word to other like-minded people, some of whom might purchase your work. This was a functioning business model for Jim Baen's Universe, enough so that they paid pro rates for stuff they gave away. The idea is pretty simple: The more this happens - the more your work gets around for free - the greater the likelihood that someone will encounter it who'll buy it or make a donation to your PayPal tip jar. Assuming enough of these ethical folks see your work, potential losses from non-sales will be outweighed by the acquisition of new fans.

When it comes down to it, that's why we create stuff: To communicate whatever it is in our hearts that burns so strong that we are driven to create art and share it with others. To grab the stranger on the street by the collar and say, "Listen to this! I have something really important to say!"

Getting paid to do this just means we can continue to do more of it. I don't know any professional writers, artists, or musicians who honestly hope to get rich from their work. Though a lot of beginners have this motivation, few succeed, because creative fields simply aren't the best place to get rich. We do it for other reasons. If I could make a living writing fiction, would I give up teaching? It would mean another salary drop, similar to going from IT to the university, plus loss of more benefits like health insurance and so forth, but it would also mean giving up teaching, about which I am equally passionate. Happily, I won't have to face this dilemma any time soon.

But many creatives out there dream of earning enough from their art to pursue creative work full-time. It seems counter-intuitive to think that giving away one's creative output could serve that goal, but obscurity = poverty. Perhaps even worse, obscurity = no one can hear the really important thing you have to say. But if no one pays the creators, there'll be few creators to make the cool, quality stuff we love. Right here is the heart of the matter, and the eternal question regarding piracy and giving away our work. If I ever transition to full-time writing, I'd love to be able to earn enough to buy food and pay the bills. The only way to make that happen is to develop an audience now, enough of whom are willing to pay to enjoy my work later.

So am I bothered by my book getting ripped and torrented? Sure, at least I was when I first discovered the piracy. Now I see it as an irritant; I'm annoyed that the folks who ripped and shared it didn't ask if I was willing to give it away and let me handle that. Heck, I told an audience at ConQuesT (the Kansas City SF convention) last spring that I was going to give it away, and I've been telling people that ever since – and even wrote it on my website and blog! In fact, I'm a bit flattered that someone liked it enough to share it. But when people read my book in shadowy corners of the internet, I don't know about it. On the other hand, when they buy a Kindle edition or a paper copy, my publisher tracks those sales. When they download the ebooks from my website, I know about it. My primary motivation in writing is to share stories about things I can't not write about, so I want to know when people are reading it. I want to hear what they think about it!

So I urge you: If you enjoy a creative work - especially one you got for free! - tell the world about it. With my novel, at least, you needn't worry about getting caught, because I'm giving it away. Blog about it, post reviews at Amazon or Goodreads or wherever, and tell your friends whom you think might also like it. Post a link to my site where others can download it. Because those small efforts are payment-in-kind for my effort-cost to create the work and distribute it without demanding payment or imposing DRM on the free copies. Visit my my blog or Facebook page or send me an email to let me know what you think. Heck, buy a copy and give it to your local library or to a friend if you really liked it, but largely I simply want to know that I'm being read, that someone out there gets what I'm saying and is affected in some way by my work. It would be awesome if my writing could provide enough income to pay for a trip or fix the roof or so forth, but I'm not banking on it. I just don't want to be the idiot who worked his ass off for years to create something and then just let people run off with it without even saying, "Thanks."

I first encountered internet pirating a decade ago. My website contains a bunch of poetry, and some of the sex poems have made the rounds on various sites. I never expected to earn anything from those - they're poetry, famous for not making money! - so I found it flattering that people liked them enough to share with others. I wish the posters had at least identified me as the creator with link-backs to my site. To this day, when I find one of my poems on a site, I respond to those posts (when the site allows non-members to respond) something along the lines of, "Glad you liked it! Here's my website..." The moment that made giving away these works worth it was when a woman wrote to tell me that one of my poems had re-ignited her and her husband's sex life. (Yes, that was an appropriate response to the work *g*) Can an author ever hope for more than that? Also, a musician asked to use it as lyrics for what became one of his most popular songs.

That's what I'm talking about.

What did I earn from giving away those poems? Not much. But the value I got from my efforts was immense. I'm not willing to give up the exquisite freedom inherent in the Web as we know it today in order to make more money from my creative work. Trampling on net neutrality, imposing draconian safeguards over content, DRMing everything - these are baby-steps toward a Web that is not free. I give away my stuff because I want people to read what I have to say and then to tell others - and me! - what they think of it. I just don't want to be a chump about it; I want to make a little income from my efforts.

I'll let y'all know how my own experiment turns out: Will giving out my novel earn extra sales? That'll be tough to measure, because it's my debut novel, so I can't compare it to anything. My publisher might be able to guess a bit by comparing my sales to those of other SF books he publishes, but that won't say much more than what appeals to various market segments. But I hope to see results in the form of responses from readers. And maybe some of them will buy a copy of this or my next book!

EDIT: By the way, it's important to mention that I made prior arrangements with my publisher (and we put it into the contract) that I retain the right to sell or give away electronic editions of the book. In fact, he was very supportive of the idea, because Hadley Rille Books is a smaller press with a limited marketing budget, so he sees my giving it away as just another publicity tool.

EDIT2: I've been interviewed on this topic on the Lawrence Journal-World website, here. If digital freedom is important to you, check out the discussion! Some really good chat there.

mckitterick: Yes, this is one of my actual scooter helmets. RESPECT THE EMPIRE. (Vespa 150S)
( Aug. 18th, 2010 11:27 am)
Getting ready to head out to the all-day English Department "retreat," where we'll do strategic planning for the coming year(s). I figured I shouldn't wear shorts to such an event.

It's been boiling hot (or in Silvergoth's - a Seattle friend - words, "hellish") here in Kansas since June, so I haven't had the opportunity to wear proper pants for a few months (except for dressy pants during the Campbell Conference). Thus this was my first opportunity to pull on a pair of pants since spring semester.

Remember how I've been working out kinda seriously since spring? It began with an effort to strengthen my shoulder post-accident and has continued with renewed vigor because I like the results overall. The newest result: My jeans, once tight, now need a belt to keep from falling off.

Woohoo! I'll post another photo and proper health-post when I have some more time.

Now off I go on my pretty Vespa, half an hour into the wilds of North Lawrence.

Whew - just turned in the last editorial piece for the World Literature Today special science-fiction issue (May 2010). That was way more work than I'd expected, as they ended up asking me to write several little pieces. And it'll continue to be more work until we finish the companion website.

Click the image to visit the SF Studies site.

Next up: Proof the final magazine copy. Wait... first I need to finish an article on KU's SF collection for Science Fiction Studies. Catch up on grading? Hm, that'll have to wait until Monday. Remind me why I agreed to these projects on top of finishing the novel edits, serving on the Campbell Award jury (12 books left to read), and teaching seven classes plus serving on a thesis committee? Can't just be because I'm crazy. Oh, and at some point I want to finish building the Hot Rod Newport (so close!) and replace the Saab's blown head gasket.

Time-Stop Power, wherefore art thou?

mckitterick: Yes, this is one of my actual scooter helmets. RESPECT THE EMPIRE. (To infinity and BEYOND!)
( Mar. 9th, 2010 01:19 am)
I've ridden an emotional roller-coaster over the last 24 hours:

Good: My job is funded next year, despite massive layoffs at the University of Kansas.
Bad: They cut my summer salary for this year, despite its being my busiest time of the year.

Good: Fetish-Kitty's illness has been diagnosed and treatment has begun - she's already feeling better.
Bad: Waking to find bloody urine in the bathroom before hearing the diagnosis.

Good: Catching up with high school friends. Facebook serves a purpose.
Bad: The reason we're getting in touch is that we lost a dear friend, Tim Haukos, in a small house fire.

A little about Tim: He played Oscar in Ortonville High School's production of "The Odd Couple" (I played Murray the cop and did set-building and special effects). He performed humorous speeches for our Forensics team and fought fiercely for our Debate team. He helped me build and launch rockets for the Ortonville Space Program (including one that made it at least 30 feet into the air before gloriously exploding - hence the icon choice). We played countless games of chess after school in his living room. He once performed a flawless imitation of a fountain-cherub in the entryway to my parents' house. I'm not sure if he got me in more trouble or vice-versa. He was hilarious and kind, crazy and well-liked. Tim was troubled in many ways - partly why I loved him.

RIP, Tim. Here's hoping you find some peace.

In Crazy-Land, that's where. Not suprising, what with teaching five classes (two in new formats), working with two grad theses, directing a couple of internships, editing a magazine issue, revising a novel, writing proposals, taking applications for the AboutSF position, reading novels for the Campbell Award, soliciting and reading work for the upcoming World Literature Today special science-fiction issue, and a few hundred other things.

In the immortal words of the Emperor of the Universe, "Imperial battle cruiser: Halt the flow of time!"

Click the image to get yourself a copy of STARCRASH, perhaps the B-est B-movie of all time.

Sorry for not posting more. Oh, and I promised astro-porn, didn't I? Here, have an awesome movie that shows a coronal mass-ejection on the Sun! Think of the size and power of this thing:

Click the image to see the Spaceweather story.

"Oh my god, it's coming right at us!" According to Spaceweather, "Coronagraphs onboard the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) observed a bright double-ringed coronal mass ejection billowing over the Sun's western limb during the late hours of Feb. 1. At present, the source of the blast is unknown."

Okay, I'm back to work!
What I'm doing; what I want to be doing:

1) Grading papers, dealing with work-related things, scootering to work in the rain. 2) Revising my novel, working on song lyrics for a short album, writing the script for an indie movie, writing a new story, starting the next novel.

Guess which is which? Bursting with creativity but must fulfill crazy-busy Day Jobbe duties even though the top-level administration is considering cutting my position. Why, exactly, am I fighting for this?

Feh on being a grown-up.

I'm preparing to meet with the Department Chair in a few hours, where we'll do strategic planning about how to keep my position. Tomorrow, she and the Associate Dean meet about this. Some time soon, I'll give my presentation to the Dean. No pressure.

On the ego-boosting side, I got a couple of job offers last week, one that pays more than twice as much as teaching. Tempting, yes, but I love this teaching gig, and the students need the tech-writing classes I teach (and appreciate the SF and fiction-writing courses I teach). It drives me crazy that the powers-that-be at KU have (historically, anyway) displayed no understanding of the importance of writing in the professions. KU stands alone among our peer schools with no official technical-communication program. Shame on us. I've done all I personally can to get the program approved, but those at the Dean's level and above are terrified of commitment to a new program, so they're sitting on the proposal. And now they're considering eliminating my position.

Let's examine that proposition for a moment: Just about every Engineering program requires the first tech-writing course I teach, as do a number of science, design, business, and other programs. The English Department voted to make my position a permanent hire (that is, tenured). A couple of GTAs teach it occasionally, but they're done this year. If I'm not here, we'll likely have zero people teaching the course. This, despite demand that could support at least three full-timers teaching the tech-comm courses. This is not a position to cut in order to save money.

Oddly, I've come to realize that I wouldn't feel sorry for myself if I do lose my day-job: I would see it as an opportunity to dive head-first into my fiction-writing career for at least as long as the unemployment insurance holds out. See, I have a novel coming out in early 2010 and one more ready to sell right away. I have two previous novels I want to revise and publish. A young-adult SF series I'm dying to write. Three more adult novels. Tons of stories. Even a tech-writing textbook that I plan to give away online.

In that light, why do I care about keeping my position? Why am I fighting for it? Well, I love teaching. But I could easily teach part-time or just on occasion. No, it comes down to my loyalty to James Gunn and the Center for the Study of Science Fiction. It would kill me to see his legacy wither. I refuse to let that happen.

In a perfect world, a wealthy science-fiction fan would donate funds to set up a sustainable Center. It would be truly perfect if we could have our own, independent facility with rooms for residential students to occupy for extended stays, but all we would really require is funding sufficient to support a permanent SF position at KU. The facilities to run ongoing programs - monthly seminars, credit courses, non-resident workshops, speakers, and so forth - are free or cheap to use here. We have our own offices, one of which is big enough to house our massive SF research lending-library. KU has a couple of fine libraries on site with large SF collections, plus museums and so forth. Lawrence has a fantastic downtown with restaurants and shopping and movies and music and everything else visitors need to blow off steam. With an endowed SF Professorship, KU could not cut that position. Grad students could come here just to study SF. We could have guest authors and scholars stay for a full semester at a time, if they wished. And Jim Gunn's legacy would be secure.

But even if we can't secure such, and even if I lose my day-job, I'll continue to serve the Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction. I'll fight to keep our programs housed here, where our endowment lives, where our book collections live. I'll fight to keep the office that also serves as our lending library.

So off I go to prep for a meeting to save my job. It's comforting to realize that I won't feel sad if I end up losing that job.

Hi folks -

This is cool, had to share: per-capita red-wine consumption around the world:

Click the image to see the story; Click here to see a bigger image.

If I'm reading this correctly, the average Brazilian drinks 0.17 liters/day, while a Luxembourgian drinks nearly 6 liters/day (seriously? Whoah.). Something's wrong in our country, as I've examined this map in detail and can't even find the US. I'm doing my part lately, what with Cork 'n' Barrel having their 20% off wine-case sale this month (only a few days left, Larryville-ites!).

Sorry I've been such a crappy blogger lately. In large part, this is due to having seriously pulled my right-hand ring finger about a month ago (don't ask), rendering typing a huge PITA. On standard keyboards, we commonly use that finger for O, 0, L, ), and the period - way more than you'd think. I'm typing with 9 fingers now (rather, 7 fingers and a couple of thumbs; why is it called "10-finger typing"?), which is slow - and painful when I forget and use that finger.

The other main reason for the lack of communication is that I've been dealing with possible job-loss next year. Budgets being what they are, I'm an easy way for the University to save a few bucks in the short term, because I'm not tenured. Even so, I have to act as if the job will go on past next year, so I've written a new proposal for the KU Certificate in Technical Communication, proposals for online versions of the courses, reports about which KU schools or colleges my students belong to and the fiscal percentage each school costs the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, a job description for the KU Technical Communication Liaison position (mine), reports on our peer institutions and how their TC programs compare to ours (embarrassing to KU), and much more. I also wrote my yearly review just before all this craziness, which happened at an auspicious time, as doing that made my contributions more present in my mind. Oh, and teach two regular classes and two directed-study classes, plus read a million novels for the Campbell Award, request nominations from the publishers, gather nominations for the Sturgeon Award and put together a list of finalists (which I'll publish soon!), read submissions and select winners for several English Department awards and scholarships, plan for the summer SF program, do some consulting with other KU academic units, and so on.

So I've not only been busy with work - nothing unusual there - but stressed like something fierce.

I recently bought a 40-gallon rain barrel that collects the runoff from one-half of my garage roof. This is necessary because the new sidewalk I laid earlier this spring gets in the way of downspout drainage. Here's an indication of how much rain we've been getting this Kansas spring: Except for the few sunny days, I've been emptying the thing 3-4 times/day lately, and it's almost always overflowing in the morning. Yesterday, it filled just minutes after each time I emptied it (this is not an exaggeration - we got 6 inches of rain yesterday). This morning, I had nowhere to dump the water, because the alley is flooded and the yard is several inches deep in water, so I just poured it all down my kitchen drain.

Six inches of rain in just a few hours; that would be 54 inches of snow. Holy moly! Most of the grass seed I've put down has washed away *sigh*

Hot-Rod Newport
I've been neglecting my fun project due to the above stresses and time-devourers, plus I had made some uncomfortable discoveries that led me to suspect it hadn't been rebuilt as advertised. So, unsure how to proceed (overhaul the short-block? If I do that, why not stroke it to a 500-inch monster? But that'll eat an extra 30% more gas. So maybe just buy an already-overhauled short-block and sell the current block, saving bucks while getting more cubes, but if I do that I don't want to pull the heads and ruin the head gaskets, but... Yeah, like that), I didn't make any progress. Well, yesterday I finally just said heck with it and removed the last bolts holding down one of the heads to see for myself if the engine was overhauled. Viola! It has been! The cylinders are clean and even still show a bit of cross-hatching, and the piston crowns are imprinted with "0.030" (they're oversized), both of which verify that the engine has been rebuilt - and recently - as advertised. Woohoo! So now I can comfortably leave the short-block as-is and add the performance parts I've been collecting since I bought the car last spring, saving money, time, and fuel.

Fiction-writing has been on the back-burner as I strive to keep the job and further the KUTC program. Luckily, my editor hasn't yet gotten back to me with novel revisions, though I look forward to those soon. However, we've started talking about the cover and some other cool ideas.

Two of my stories will be coming out in new anthologies this year: Global Warming Aftermaths, edited by Eric T. Reynolds; and Sentinels In Honor of Arthur C. Clarke, edited by Gregory Benford and George Zebrowski.

Finally, I hope to finish my technical-writing textbook before the end of the year - and post it free to the internet for all to use. Though my department's Chair and the school's Dean both think that's crazy and I should sell it to a textbook publisher. I dunno; I kind of hate how much they charge students for textbooks.

Sounds like I'll be working on an SF anthology soon - with full art inside, too! And the long-awaited Sturgeon Award winners anthology is on the front burner again.

Of course, with all this, I've also been awful about reading LJ, too. How have you been?

This looks cool if you would like to work for the US Congress on a mid-length contract:
TECHNICAL WRITER-EDITOR 7 (not to exceed 3 years)
Congressional Research Service, Washington DC

The Congressional Research Service Office of Communications is seeking a technical writer-editor, not to exceed 3 years. If you are selected for this position you will plan, write, and edit a variety of documents on information technology-related issues, ensuring accuracy, consistency, format, completeness, spelling, punctuation, capitalization, and syntax. You will also produce material on technical issues for a variety of offices and determine the adequacy of materials prepared by others.

This position is being offered at the GS-11 level ($55,706-$72,421). Interested applicants must either apply online (preferred) at http://www.loc.gov/crsinfo or call (202) 707-5627 to request an applicant job kit. Please refer to vacancy #070175 in all correspondence. Applications must be received by July 16, 2007. CRS is the public policy research arm of the United States Congress and is fully committed to workforce diversity.
(cross-posted to the [livejournal.com profile] kutc - University of Kansas Technical Communicators - LJ)

Had to share this: I was just going through last semester's student course evaluations and got the most pleasant surprise.

(Aside: We got our evals back late this semester, because the new policy is that the Department's secretaries need to type them all up before the prof's can see 'em; evals are anonymous and go to the sec's first... anyway.)

So: I just got my first perfect set of student evaluations! Every student in my English 562: Advanced Technical Writing course last semester ranked all 14 aspects of the class a perfect 5.0. W00t! And I got an almost-perfect for my English 564: Advanced Technical Editing course, with only one student ranking two elements at 4. Wowee!

Students in my English 362: Foundations of Technical Writing - required for several majors rather than elective for the Advanced courses - ranked every element of the course except for textbook [natch] over 4.5, so it would seem that my students feel I do a pretty good job. This is the best way to start the semester!

mckitterick: Yes, this is one of my actual scooter helmets. RESPECT THE EMPIRE. (Default)
( Sep. 13th, 2006 04:15 pm)
So busy that I forgot to eat (sort of: I had half a sandwich for breakfast). Gave a presentation on presentations for another prof's class, then had a meeting with Thomas and Jim re: AboutSF.com, then had a meeting with a student I'm directing through her undergrad honors thesis, then had work to do, and now I have to fetch the KU carpool car for teaching tonight's class.

mckitterick: Yes, this is one of my actual scooter helmets. RESPECT THE EMPIRE. (computer - ENIAC)
( Sep. 5th, 2006 09:08 pm)
I've been meaning to post this for a while. Without further delay, my schedule:

5:00-6:20pm: Pick up KU carpool vehicle for driving to Edwards campus, eat.
6:20-11:20pm: English 362 (Foundations of Technical Writing) at Edwards campus (includes driving time and dropping off vehicle).

2:00-4:00pm: Office hours and meeting with [livejournal.com profile] tmseay and Jim Gunn.
4:10-7:00pm: English 562 (Advanced Technical Writing) in Lawrence.

2:00-4:00pm: Office hours.
5:00-6:20pm: Pick up KU carpool vehicle for driving to Edwards campus, eat.
6:20-11:20pm: English 564 (Technical Editing) at Edwards campus.

Noon-late: Game Day at my joynt (frequently).

I just did a tally; I created or revised/updated the following over the past few days:

* 34 class web pages at a quick count, holy mackerel! Some of those are for external viewing (see here), but most are for paying-student-eyes only.
* 4 Center for the Study of SF web pages.
* 4 class syllabi.
* 46 handouts.
* 46 assignments (coincidental number, not directly related).
* 4 spreadsheets of all my students' contact information.
* Wrote to all of them to let them know where they can download these goodies.
* Answered 56 outstanding work-related emails that had been awaiting spare intellectual energy.
* A bunch of personal processing, all very difficult and challenging.
* Other stuff I can't recall.

Busy week!

Tomorrow I write to all the Sturgeon Award nominators, inviting their nominations, and to Tor to find out why they didn't nominate anything for the Campbell Award.



mckitterick: Yes, this is one of my actual scooter helmets. RESPECT THE EMPIRE. (Default)


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