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.