I'm (almost) packed and (almost) ready to go. My plane to Arizona leaves early, early tomorrow morning and I'm getting up even earlier. So, of course, what am I spending my time doing? Not sleeping, like a sensible person, or checking that I have everything I need or anything of the kind. No, I'm baking apple muffins.
Let's just say it seemed like a good idea at the time.
And perhaps it'll seem like a good idea tomorrow morning, too, when I'm sitting in the terminal or in the plane and I'd like some breakfast. (An airline's idea of breakfast and mine are very different--especially since those sausages that I had on a Canada 3000 flight made me ill.) And I've made enough to be generous, too, which is a good thing considering everyone that I know who is attending World Fantasy this year somehow ended up on the same flight.
In case you're wondering: yes, I'm excited, and nervous too, which is probably why I'm talking so much about muffins right now. But nerves or not, it's time to sleep. I need to get up in six hours.
I had a discussion with my boss a little earlier today, and she has officially offered me the position. I get to keep my job! Or, to look at it another way, I have been hired to do something exactly like what I was doing before! Either way, I'm pleased. Continued employment is always nice.
I’ve been reading a lot (never too much), and thinking more, and having odd half-communications with people about these thoughts with the intent to say a whole lot more sometime soon. My brain is flying in so many directions at once: things about education, blogs, ePortfolios, careers, marketing and corporations and communication. And something, I’m not sure what, made me start thinking about callings. This is what I wrote. (It’s missing its beginning; I’m not quite sure what my mind was saying before my fingers started typing.)
Of course this is something that I’ve been thinking about, especially since I had that one year in which I seemingly could not write anything at all, and found myself faced with the question, “If I cannot be a writer, what am I? Who am I?” For so much of my self-identity is tied up in my own belief that what I am meant to do is create narratives and stories and write them down. And no wonder that it seems to be integral to my self; with few exceptions, almost all that I am and all that I have has somehow been tied into this belief over the past decade. I have more friends who are writers than friends who are not; I have more friends who love science fiction and fantasy than friends who do not; I have created places like this very space that exist seemingly for the sole purpose of supporting and developing and reveling in this very specific vision of myself and my future: I am Karina, speculative fiction writer.
People do this; everywhere people do this. Other than issues of love and relationships, few things cause such anxiety as the thought, “What am I supposed to do with my life?” This question inevitably leads to the idea of work and career—if it didn’t begin there already. As if the idea of one’s calling, one’s reason for being, is somehow tied into one’s career. As if your purpose for being on this earth—your singular purpose—inherently involves the generation of material wealth. Your calling must involve money, it must make you money, else you are deemed a dabbler, a wannabe, a hobbyist.
I see this all around me: it’s engrained in the very culture of the University setting; in great part, it is the reason for this office where I work, the Career Centre, to exist. I see it in myself.
How rarely we think to question these assumptions. Of course everyone has a calling. Those who don’t are thought to be still searching, still struggling towards that goal, that moment of realization that yes, this is the thing that I should be doing. This is the one reason that I am here.
How limited, to act as if there can only ever be one calling, one purpose, one reason for life. I often think of what would have happened if I were not quite me—if instead of being raised as I have been, grown up in the country and life and context that I currently find myself in, I had been born or moved or placed into an entirely different context, who would I have been? Say I was not given access to education; say I was illiterate. How could I be a writer? Say my parents had not always loved reading, had not seemingly decorated the walls of our house with bookshelves; say I had not been read a bedtime story every night. Would I love literature, reading, writing, story as much as I currently do? And say that my parents had loved Romance novels, or Mysteries, or biographies to the exclusion of everything else. Would I have found science fiction and fantasy? And if I had, would I love it the way that I do now?
These questions go along the same thought-train as my ponderings about the potential to be talented for things that have not yet been invented nor imagined. One time I thought to myself, there must have been people living in the Middle Ages who would have been fantastic jet fighter pilots. It was an odd and apparently shallow and somehow enlightening thought: that someone would have all the physical and mental abilities to make them terrifically good at something that does not yet exist. What jobs and callings and lives could we live in the future, if only the future was a place we could go faster than one day at a time?
Which of course leads to the question, are the people who find themselves lost and confused and without a driving motivation to do any one thing (or even group of things) simply those whose callings lay in areas that we don’t yet know? Are they yearning and searching for things, a method of fulfillment, that they cannot achieve simply because of the distance of 10 or 100 or 1000 years? It is, of course, a question without any clear answer, and bases itself on the assumption that there is such a thing as a calling.
The other argument, of course, is that one’s calling is one’s family, or one’s partner or partners, or one’s children. And indeed there is a great depth of meaning in all of these things—the debate over whether love is an action or an emotion or a state of being or all of these things and something more is something best left for another day, another runaway train of thought.
My argument is not that love is not or cannot be a calling. My argument is not that everyone needs a calling. It is that the very idea of a “calling” is a construction—that even as we see and hear and experience it as a real thing, its meaning is something that we have made for ourselves.
What worries me is that people make themselves unhappy searching externally for something that is only an internal construction of meaning based on personal emotion and experience and thought. When you look at people who are searching for a job, or a career, they are not asking “What will make me happy right now?” or “What role do I need this work to play in my life?” or “What’s out there?” but “What can I do?” and “What should I do?” and the always panic-ridden cry, “I don’t know what to do with my life!”
How many people spend their entire lives searching for the thing that they are supposed to do to give themselves meaning, rather than finding a thing that they can do right then, that day, that year, at that point in their lives, to find happiness and fulfillment?
I think this: you have no calling. You only have choices.
Last night as we were making dinner Carly put a CD in the player, saying that she had a song that was perfect for the day. The song was "Autumn's Here" by Hawksley Workman--I remembered it as my favourite song of the concert we saw him play.
She was right, too. The song's lyrics, the tune, the sound of his voice as he sings, it all sounds like yesterday, and like today: days when the sky is gray like wet paper and it never rains quite enough for you to make the effort to get out an umbrella, but still your glasses get speckled and the winshield wipers shriek across the glass, and when you pause the wind holds you in a cold hand that smells like snow.
Sunday evening, after banging my head against the crappy 4000-word draft all afternoon (and consoling myself with Knight Rider when things got too rough), and after listening to my Kincardine Scottish Pipe Band CD at least three times on repeat, and before I ate the rotten pork roast that took me out of commission all day yesterday (and/or began feeling the effects of what could be some sort of cold/flu type thing), I found the voice of the bagpipe story. (Aka "Safe Passage," aka "Calling Her Home," aka "that stupid mutter-mutter story.") I know how it sounds and I know that now that I have two scenes that are right everything else will happily (or at least eventually) follow from there. I also know that as I write, the existing 4000 words will be deleted, overwritten or totally ignored. That's the thing about finding the real story's voice: anything written to that point becomes useless. And it doesn't matter!
Few things are quite like the thrill of finally finding the right words.
Now if only I felt like writing when I get home today, instead of curling up in my bed and trying to sleep away this dreadful yuckiness. (Ah, well. Can't have everything.)
My interview for this job ended about ten minutes ago, and I breathe a deep sigh of relief. I think it went well. The presentation that I had to give in the latter half of the interview seemed to go especially well. (One would almost think that I gave ePortfolio-related presentations with some frequency...)
Now I suppose the waiting begins. I'm not so terrible as to hope that the other interviewees do badly, but ... well ... I just hope that I'm the best. Now is that too much to ask?
The Bakka-Phoenix launch of Summoned to Destiny was something that I'd been excitedly nervous about for a good while now--as the frequent mentions here demonstrate. Yet Saturday morning, I awoke almost calm. I puttered around, got ready and headed downtown early, all the while feeling ready. I'd been waiting and waiting for this event and I was glad that it was finally going to happen.
I stumbled into Julie and Roger on the street, and so decided that my timing had to be perfect. Ruth Stuart had already arrived, Michelle West had likely been there for quite some time already (seeing as she works there and all), and Jana Paniccia showed up only a few minutes later. Jana, Ruth and I discussed the number of pens that we had brought (three each), and how we were feeling (nervous, excited, exhilarated), and how many copies we had been requested to buy and sign for people who could not attend (many). Soon Julie rounded us up and, with the addition of Ed Greenwood and some pages of stickers bearing Marie Brennan's signature and more with the cover artists' signatures, we began to fly through a box of books that were to be sent to a store in Vancouver, attempting to get through the entire lot before the launch officially started.
This is where I learned my first signing lesson: don't kneel on the floor grate. It hurts. But seeing as there weren't enough chairs for everyone--or, really, anyone--my choices were either kneeling or crouching. I quickly learned to crouch.
My second signing lesson was not to be near the beginning of a signing cue. My name has many letters, and when I sign it I like to make sure that they're all there, in the right order and at least somewhat legible. This makes me slow--or, at the very least, slower than Julie and Ed, with whom I shared a signing table.
At this point, all those last-minute things were running through my head: what if no one shows up? What if only people I know show up and no one else cares? Is this pen going to leave big ink splotches on the pages? All groundless.
Because before I'd finished signing stock for the Vancouver store, people had already started to arrive. Some I knew: Carly, bearing flowers; my Gramp; Suzette, my former co-worker from Atkinson. Others I'd never seen before in my life. And the store was filling up and quickly.
(From left to right: Julie Czerneda, Karina Sumner-Smith, Michelle Sagara West, Ed Greenwood, Jana Paniccia, Ruth Stuart.)
Our editor rounded us up quickly and said a few words of introduction, as well as formally announcing that we'd each be getting an archival-quality print of the cover art courtesy of the amazing artists--one copy of which we proceeded to pose behind. Then the masses descended.
Okay, perhaps I'm exaggerating; I'm not entirely sure, seeing as the first hour at the very least is a blur of signing my name, scribbling prayer forms, making sure that I spell others' names correctly and thinking of things to say in every copy. I only made one bad mistake that I know of: I signed my friend Mark's copy on Marie Brennan's story instead of my own. (Still not sure how that happened, as Marie's story isn't even close to my own.) But I managed to fix it ... or, at least, sign it on the correct page and apologize to Marie/Bryn on her page.
So many people attended: newsgroup friends, various family members of numerous authors, close friends, co-workers, total strangers. The two hours absolutely flew by, and I don't think I stopped grinning the entire time. It was 4:30 before I realized that I hadn't eaten or drank anything since that morning, which would likely account for the way my hands were trembling when I finally stopped writing. Chris got me a bottle of water which I downed in record time, and felt much better. The delicious cookies, sadly, had long since been devoured.
It was only in the last twenty minutes or so that we authors could begin to chat, rest our hands and straighten up from all that crouching. The only sad thing about having such a well-attended event is that there was never time to talk to anyone who'd come to see us--and since that was the biggest of the problems, I feel I have nothing to complain about. In the last few of minutes of the event, we authorly types set to signing all the copies ordered from the store by people who couldn’t attend, as well as copies for people who had won some of Julie's contests, and a box plus a stack of store stock. This time I made myself the very last person in the signing cue (and did not kneel on a grate) and so everyone was happy.
When the event was finished most people went out to Jana's relatives' place for dinner and talk, which sounds like it was lovely. I went out with my parents, brother, and friends Sid, Jaki, Michelle and Serge for dinner instead, which was absolutely perfect--as was the gift that my mother had made for me (so perfect it made me cry). At the end of it all I was exhausted, exhilarated and shocked to discover that it was barely 9 PM.
As I said that evening, I had no idea that repeatedly signing my name could be so much fun. Great company, amazing turnout, many copies of the book sold and wonderful people to share the experience with: who could ask for more?
It's funny to discover I've written almost 4,000 words in the current draft of a story that I feel I haven't begun--and, worse, am afraid is doomed to failure. Bagpipes, mutter, mutter.
Also, I need to question my subconsicous about whether or not I'm stealing ideas from Sean Stewart's Perfect Circle. I love Sean Stewart, but stealing ideas? Not so much.
Friday I thought to myself, "What my site needs is an RSS feed." This startled me, as about two weeks ago I didn't even know what an RSS feed was. (My geekiness does not swing towards computer geekiness, I'm afraid--which is too bad, as computer geekiness can be a very functional form of geek.) But, thanks to various things, I have an Atom feed instead. Good enough.
Also: fixed problems with the commenting feature. One of these days I'll fix everything ... and then it'll be time for a redesign.
Note to self: you made yourself promise to write story, then blog entries. Stop listing crap. And if you have to blog, why don't you write the entry about the incredible launch, hmm? Wouldn't that be more productive?
Reply to self: oh, shut up. You're the one who keeps watching Knight Rider instead of being productive. Get writing or Summoned will be the last book you'll be in, get it?
When I was first talking at work about the upcoming release of Summoned to Destiny, one of my co-workers mentioned that there were publications at York who were always interested in reporting and promoting news and events about students, alumni, faculty and staff—and seeing as I currently fit two of those categories, this made me think. So this week I managed to gather up my courage and wrote basically a promotional article about myself and the book and sent it off to YFile. After a brief email exchange with the editor, and a quick snapshot taken yesterday at work, this is the result.
Though it makes me laugh—the picture especially—I’m rather pleased, too. And I hope that a person or two that reads this would be interested in coming to the launch, or might consider picking the book up if they saw it in a store. Hey, you never know, right?
Course, seeing this, it made me truly realize that the launch is tomorrow, and I am now officially nervous. Excited nervous, yes, good nervous, even (if there truly is such a thing), but nervous. And not only is there the launch, but I have my interview next Tuesday, and a major presentation to give at a Faculty meeting the Tuesday after that, and World Fantasy just a few days later. I am officially jittery.
I’m also highly distracted. I decided a little while ago that in some of the books I sign tomorrow, I’ll personalize them by using basic prayer form, which appears in the story but is not officially named. Of course, prayer form (and the “cursive writing” version, prayer shape) have been merely concepts until rather recently, so I’m now having to understand how all of these elements that I’ve mentioned in “Prayer” and the novel thus far actually work. I’ve caught myself scribbling prayer forms in the margins of my notes for a presentation no less than six times today.
On Saturday, October 16, 2004, join editor Julie E. Czerneda and authors Michelle West, Ed Greenwood, Jana Paniccia, Ruth Stuart, and Karina Sumner-Smith (that would be me) for the launch of the new anthology Summoned to Destiny at Bakka-Phoenix Books in Toronto. Event starts at 3 PM. There will be mixing, there will be mingling, there will be snacks!
Everyone is welcome! In fact, I'd love to see you there, whomever you are. And if you can't make the event but would still like a copy of the anthology signed by the editor and five authors, contact the store and they can have one signed and shipped or set aside for you. They're wonderful with these things.
Wrong, Wrong, Wrong, Wrong, WRONG
Or, The Travesty That is Knight Rider 2000
I have a confession to make: I am a huge Knight Rider fan.
Okay, maybe it's not so surprising--especially if you knew me when I was 12, or you know of my rather odd relationship with vehicles, or you've been reading Sarah's blog over the last week or so. Generally I do not advertise my undying love for a cheesy show that's almost as old as I am; yet very recently Season 1 was released on DVD, and though I do not yet own copies it is only a matter of time. And not owning something does not prevent me from watching it.
Though I probably have not watched every single episode of the show (yet) due to the vagaries of network reruns and my own after-school schedule, I still watched it religiously. A few days ago I described the show to a friend as a soap opera about vehicles, and truly that's what it was to me. Sure, there was Michael, and Bonnie, and all the other human characters, but for me the key was always the vehicles. KITT, of course, was my favourite thing on four wheels, bar none; he was sarcastic, somewhat acidic, long-suffering, and ridiculously full of himself, but also moral, clever, somehow innocent, and absolutely loyal. If I had a crush on anyone during my pre-teen years, it was KITT, a modified and unstoppable black Trans Am with red scanner lights. And so of course I couldn't help but be drawn into the plotlines that had anything to do with him, or his evil twin, the early prototype KARR, or the unstoppable semi, Goliath. Even when there wasn't a case of vehicular amnesia, or near-death experiences, or actual death experiences, there were all the other fabulous things, like turbo boosting through concrete walls.
Well, as it turns out, within the Season 1 DVDs there is also a copy of the 1991 TV movie Knight Rider 2000. Now, until a couple of days ago, I had never even heard of Knight Rider 2000. Despite the fact that this show absolutely dominated my consciousness for the entirety of my Grade 6 year and beyond, I had no idea that they'd created a feature-length film, never mind watched it. This was a situation that needed to be remedied, immediately.
Sarah warned me that it was a terrible, terrible movie, and I believed her. Yet it was still Knight Rider, and I was still excited. After all, how could any movie that had KITT in it truly be that bad?
For those of you who have not had the experience of seeing this particular cinematic masterpiece, let me explain the premise. It is the year 2000: THE FUTURE!! And in THE FUTURE many things have changed. For one, guns have been banned in the city of L.A., and the police force now carry ultra sound weapons. Criminals are frozen rather than incarcerated, and police cruisers have truly annoying sirens. From the opening scenes, you are aware that this is THE FUTURE--you can feel the capital letters--and in THE FUTURE anything can happen.
Now seeing as this was released in 1991, I truly have to wonder what they were thinking. Was it just that Knight Rider 2000 sounded cool and futuristic that let them ignore the fact that this rounded-edged future was but nine years away? I don't know.
Anyway, our one-time hero, Michael Knight (aka David Hasselhoff), has retired and now runs a fishing business; the Foundation for Law and Government toils on, and is in the final stages of completing a new car, something pointy and red and futuristic. Enter Evil Director Skinner (aka Mitch Pileggi wearing his smarmy look and no glasses), recently unfrozen and somehow already in the middle of a gun-smuggling ring. (He also has an office in a hallway, where he holds top-secret hallway meetings with police officers. Don't ask me; it doesn't make sense in context, either.) Devon and the new guy at F.L.A.G. need Michael's help just one last time, just until they can build the new car and stop Evil Director Skinner.
But KITT has been dismantled. The car is entirely gone and the computer is in cardboard boxes. Let me say, this is not a good thing. But wait, Michael (who never before knew how to fix anything, never mind a dismantled A.I.) puts him back together! Hooray! Except ... well ... it's not KITT.
Okay, in the movie it's KITT. It's supposed to be KITT. Let me tell you: it's not.
There is a line in the IMDB review of this film that reads: "I love it when KITT says, 'That you Michael? You look like crap! You have obviously been flushed down the toilet since we split up. Get a life!' A funny line that only KITT could say."
My reaction upon hearing this line was one of absolute shock. See, KITT couldn't say that--he wouldn't say that. Not any of it! It was just ... wrong. So many kinds of wrong.
But not only did they make KITT a total jerk, they made him a classic Chevy. Few things could inspire a feeling of such horror as the sight of a blue and white Chevy with red scanner lights across the front; it was something I loved twisted and turned into something dreadful.
Of course, a key thing about KITT was that he was a truly fantastic car. The classic Chevy, beyond being shiny, was not fantastic. So the only chase scene in the entire movie was an entire dud, because KITT could not go fast, he could not jump over anything, he could not be shot and remain unhurt, and he could not blast through walls, fences, or other such objects. In short, he was a normal car with a jerk personality.
And when they turned him into the stupid pointy red car instead...? No. Just no.
Really, who thought of this movie? What is Knight Rider without cool car stunts? Like Sarah said, I don't car if the car is a boat, I just want to see him jump over something!
I realized halfway through, this movie was like watching fanfiction. All the characters were there, and they all looked right, and they had the right voices ... but everything else was off, sometimes only a little, sometimes a lot.
So from this point onward, I am officially pretending that this movie does not exist. It is just fanfiction to me, and has no place in the official chronology. KITT does not become a Chevy, or a pointy red car, or a jerk; Devon doesn't die; Michael doesn't abandon KITT to go fishing. I mean, really.
But, it's alright, it's okay, because I have many, many real episodes of Knight Rider to watch, and that's enough to make me very, very happy. It's stupid, I know, and cheesy, and everything else, but I love it anyway. As the length of this entry attests.
I knew it was fall, and I know what fall means, namely pretty colours and a certain smell in the air and the creeping onset of dreadful coldness that won't leave me along for another six months if I'm lucky. It is October; this is what October means. Yet I'd been spoiled by the unseasonal warmth--a warmth of an extra four or five degrees only, but one I was greatly thankful for nonetheless--and the bright sun that let me spend a few more lunch hours outside, warm and content. I was still waiting, I realize, for summer to come, for the opportunity to wear shorts and cool shirts to arise, and it was only over the last few days that I've realized that no, that’s not going to happen.
This morning I lay in bed dozing for far longer than I should have, simply because it was so lovely soft and warm in my bed and so dreadfully cold outside of it. The chattering radio DJs announced quite cheerfully and on more than one occasion that it was five degrees outside, five degrees! And an hour or so later when I actually went outside, indeed, it couldn't have been much warmer. My hands froze and shivered against the steering wheel. I wore my woolen fall coat today, luckily, and thought I'd just keep it on for a moment or two longer once I'd reached work, just until I warmed up.