Adventures in Independent Scholarship

Thursday, 03 May 2012 15:43

Yesterday, I finally sat down and did some project management for my work life. Without intending it, I have officially become one of those people who must plan out their appointments and deadlines weeks – if not months – in advance. I am taking this new need for long-term planning as a sure sign that I am a fully functioning, on-my-way-to-success, real live Independent Scholar. It turns outs that all I needed to do to get to this point of alternative employment, was to start doing it. Like client work, interesting scholarship is rarely going to fall in your lap – you need to create opportunities for it to happen.

Last August I pitched my idea for Technology as Cure? Representations of Disability in Science Fiction [working title] at WorldCon, and by the winter I was selecting the essays that would make up the collection. Now it’s May, and I am writing the Introduction to the book, while my contributors buckle down on their second draft. My goal is have the full drafted manuscript off to the publishers for peer review in mid-summer. I am damn excited about this project – the contributors have written excellent, ground-breaking work and it seems that many people I meet are keen on picking up the book when it comes off the press. While I am still without a contract for the collection, I am fully confident that I will have one by the end of the year (if not much sooner).

In my role as editor of the volume, I have gone through a crash course in academic publishing. In many ways, the process is a lot less intimidating than I first imagined. I was worried that both academics and publishers would be uninterested in working with me, once they noticed my lack of university affiliation. But, like my experience at ICFA in March showed, I have not encountered any bias that was not easily overcome. Along every step of the editorial process for Technology as Cure, I have gone through bouts of self-doubt: Will this contributor respect my deadline? Will this seasoned academic be insulted by my request for extensive revisions? As always, my worry has been pointless. All of the contributors are committed to the project and I’ve discovered that I can edit with the best of them. It’s incredibly satisfying to be doing the kind of work that I was trained to do.

In order to give my recent scholarly activities adequate attention, I have had to limit the amount of paid client work I have been taking in. This meant making a financial sacrifice. And it’s been worth it. I have gone through a lot of soul searching this past year and I have had to evaluate life’s “big questions.” For me, it has come down to what I want out of my working life and I have chosen happiness, learning, and health over the potential to make more money. If I worked a traditional full-time office job, there is no way that I could pursue my research and writing into science fiction. Besides, I know for certain that traditional forms of employment are not for me – I’ve worked in various offices, taken on different roles within the academy, and no job has ever been fulfilling as the one I created for myself. I simply love being a self-employed scholar.

The next few months are going to be intense. Here is what’s on my plate right now: a few book reviews, paper at WisCon (May 23-28 in Madison, WI), wrapping up first full draft of Technology as Cure?, writing an Afterword to short story collection on “Outlaw Bodies” (Edited by Lori Selke and Djibril al-Ayad), submitting an article to JFA (special issue on the Canadian Fantastic), and offering feminist feedback on one of my new SF colleague’s novel. Plus whatever other random projects I end up taking on/falling into as I keep working with academic copyediting and coaching clients. My fall is shaping up to be just as busy – if not busier – in terms of scholarship, so I am trying my best to dedicate enough time for all of that reading and writing.

All of this happened because I started writing blog posts about my SF interests and joined in the SF community (making initial connection over Twitter, the only social network I am on - @BleedingChrome). Each connection I made gave me a little more confidence to take the next step, to propose bigger, more adventurous projects. I can’t think of one day in the past three weeks where I didn’t love what I was working on (both in terms of paid and unpaid work). While I still get stressed out about what my future will be like (because it is so uncertain), I am not overwhelmed by it anymore. Instead, each day, I look at my work calendar and think to myself “this is awesome!” And it is.

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