A lot of changes are in store for me this summer, with the two most extensive being that I’m leaving Central Connecticut State University to join the English Department at Fitchburg State in Massachusetts and that I will become a homeowner for the first time when I buy a condo in Fitchburg in July.
The prospect of another inter-state move five years after I left Pennsylvania to come to Connecticut has me sorting my possessions like crazy, shredding or recycling pieces of paper almost as ruthlessly as George R.R. Martin prunes characters in the Song of Fire and Ice series. And after more than ten years of teaching, and seven years of graduate school, I have a lot of paper.
Yet, not everything is becoming victim to this purge. I found two amazing pieces of paper the other day, both more than ten years old, that unmistakably mark the start of the path that I am currently taking to Fitchburg.
The first is a printout of a May 2000 email (back when we used to print such things as a matter of course) from the director of the brand new Rowan University Master of Arts in Writing program. I had been investigating graduate programs for a little while, trying to figure out the next step in my career and a former professor of mine put me in touch with Diane, who (as you can see in the picture) invited me to join an Issues in Composition class that was starting that evening so I could see what it was all about.
I received that email early in the morning of May 31 and by 6:30 that night, I was introduced to a world I hadn’t even known existed, and which I haven’t left ever since: Composition and Rhetoric. All of my current composition work and the basis for Science Fiction Reboot can be traced to that single impulsive decision and I’m beyond grateful that I have this physical artifact of that profound transition period in my life.
I discovered the second piece of paper a few minutes later in the same folder as the Rowan MAW file. It’s just a simple Word document, single-spaced, with no header, title, or other identifying marks. I’m not even sure why I created that document, let alone decided to print it and save it for more than a decade, but the content leaves no doubt that this memento contains my initial thoughts and reflections from my first World Science Fiction Convention (World Con) in Philadelphia in 2001.
Attending that convention was another spontaneous decision, made with as little awareness of what I was getting myself into as the one to join Issues in Composition the year before. I had never been to a science fiction convention, ever, but saw a link on the SciFi Channel’s website for something called Millennium PhilCon over Labor Day Weekend in my hometown. I thought, why not?
Why not, indeed? It is no exaggeration for me to say that those five days in 2001 changed my life. I have described before the way in which that convention (specifically Greg Bear’s Guest of Honor speech) inspired my first book and that the idea for Writing and the Digital Generation was also sparked at a later World Con (LACon in 2006). But what is particularly remarkable about the reflections I found the other day was this tidbit: “The big question is: will I go to next year’s World Con in San Jose, CA?” I laugh even now reading that because not only did I attend the 2002 World Con, but I have been to eight of them in the past twelve years, and attended two North American Science Fiction Conventions when the World Con was off the continent and I couldn’t make the trip.
As my reflection from twelve years ago also says, that weekend I found “a greater sense of this science fiction and fantasy community I have belonged to for so many years but just didn’t know it.” What I also didn’t know at that time was how that community would come to define, in many ways, my identity as a scholar and as a professor.
The time it took for me to sort through those files was certainly well spent even if these pieces of paper didn’t make it into the recycling after all. They will be coming with me to Fitchburg, and wherever else this journey takes me, to remind me that while it’s a good thing to make plans, I also need to leave myself open to take those opportunities I didn’t even know would be coming.