Happy New Year! After a jam-packed fall term, it’s been a relief to have a slower winter break and a little time to reflect. While I’m still enthusiastic about Workable Utopias, which launched this newsletter, I’ve moving toward a focus on the rhetoric of “hope.” The word “utopia” carries complicated and negative connotations, and while it’s worth reclaiming, it’s not always necessary to fight that battle. Moreover, we’re in no danger of achieving utopia—even ambiguously—anytime soon. What we do need right now, though, is hope. Indeed, how to find and sustain hope in the slow apocalypse of climate crisis is arguably the defining issue of our age. Without it, human society will collapse, but with it, even a collapsed society may re-learn how to live.
And so my science fiction writing, my scholarly writing, and my teaching are all bending toward hope. I mean a genuine hope, not a frivolous lie that things will be “all right” or an imaginary golden age can be recovered, but a determination to see the good and find ways to heal. I have a couple of upcoming hope-related workshops in the works, and will report in due course.
Report from Jolabokaflod PDX
I had a wonderful time this past December at the Jolabokaflod book festival, based on the Icelandic new year’s tradition. Hosted by Nordic Northwest, the event was just the right size to be cozy but bring in a good number of people. Many thanks to Margaret Pinard for developing and executing this project. I had a blast tabling with Arthur Smid, who kindly helped me workshop my focus for my upcoming Writing to Sustain Hope class. (The title is his wording, in fact.) It was also very gratifying to meet Monica Bourgeau, author of The Change Code: A Practical Guide to Making a Difference in a Polarized World, just the sort of hands-on approach to making positive change we so profoundly need right now.
Pay Raise at Clark College: It’s All Connected
The delay in my newsletter this month has largely been due to my union, the Clark College Association of Higher Education, going on strike, which was exhausting, nervewracking, and exhilarating, and culminated in our ratifying to a good contract with significant pay increases for both full-time and part-time faculty. (I’m part time.) Aside from distracting me from writing this newsletter, the pay raise may not seem directly connected my life as a writer. But really it’s all connected. While I’m still underpaid as adjunct, I now have more leeway for things like paying editors, attending workshops, and so on. One open door opens another. And that’s one reason equity is always important.