Sunday, 17 June 2012

If poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world, science-fiction writers are its court jesters

Today I'm borrowing the wise words of sci-fi author Bruce Sterling, words I first came across in the foreword for William Gibson's short story collection, Burning Chrome. These have special meaning for me. All through my time studying Creative Writing at university, there was this tiny little struggle - every now and again - to be taken seriously. In fact, for a third year feature article assignment, I pretty much wrote a rant (an eloquent one, I might add), on how it felt to be marginalised in a subject that struggled so valiantly to justify its academic merit.

But today, today is not a rant. No, lately I've found myself in this strange kind of equilibrium, a sense of acceptance of both things outside of my control and feelings that I have. However, today isn't about this either. No, today's random rambling (off to a very nonsensical start), is about something else entirely. It's about writing. Of a sort.

Okay, more than of a sort. See, today's ramble is inspired by this video, made by a dear friend and fellow writer. It was inspired by the very first lines of this video. Because, not only I am a writer, but - shock horror - I'm a big reader too. And I'll be honest, it sometimes really, really surprises me how many writers, how many big names, actually know each other personally. To put into some perspective, take William Gibson (American-born, Canadian-based) and Douglas Coupland (Canadian-born, Canadian-based). I've read pretty much everything Gibson's ever written, while I've only (so far) read jPod (brilliant book, also awesome short-lived TV show), but one of Coupland's many, many works. But it was in the acknowledgments of Gibson's novel Pattern Recognition that I learned that more connected these two authors than Canada. Apparently, coffee was consumed, high above Shinjuku, new perspectives on Tokyo shared that evidently affected what Gibson wrote in Pattern Recognition.

This is, of course, but one connection amongst a sea, nay ocean, of the fundamental interconnectedness that is the universe. Or, as The Slush Pile Project video states, The Writerverse. This is becoming a thing. It's so totally a thing. But back to topic. So yeah, one of many connections in The Writerverse.

So this is kind of a response to my friend's video, to the notions presented about the loneliness of writing and importance of a community (aka, The Writerverse. You got that now? Writerverse? Good). So I'm going to take you all on a journey. I'm going to tell you where all this random crap started. I'm taking you 2004.

It was around here that I twigged. I'd been writing stories, mostly only when they were assignments in school, for years. I loved it, I always had. Every chance I had, I would write a story...sometimes, I would stretch the assignment details to their very limits to write what I wanted to. Once though, my imagination in one assignment culminated in an interesting result - when I was in Year 6 of Junior School (this would've been around 1999-2000), a student teacher taking our class assignment as a creative writing task. She gave each table of students one picture and a back story on what was happening in that picture and they had to write the rest. She came to me, gave me the picture - one I remember vividly to this day. Back then, I didn't get it, but now, seeing it clearly, it was a pair of Israeli riot police and their van. Anyway, she gave me this picture and said "I'm not going to tell you what happened here, you've got such a good imagination I'll let you make up whatever you want."

That kind of faith in my imagination was exactly the kind of thing I needed and over the following years, I found myself writing more and more little stories at home. But something changed, something twisted in 2004. I can't quite tell you what it was, but I know the story that changed everything. It was 15-page short story, entitled The Fallen Angel. It was the first ever story I set on Mars. The year was 2207. The setting was the city of New Seattle, on a terraformed Mars, the main character was Angel O'Neal, a contract assassin.

From here, my writing, my ambitious imagination, it grew and grew. And I had my first taste of The Writerverse, of being a part of a community. I was part of a fan forum for the TV show 24, called 24Natic. Here, in the fan fiction section of the board, I posted my stories - one long, 24-related project and many, many others, completely non-24 related. Original works of mine. People liked them, commented to that effect. The first time my work was truly nurtured by a community. We may have only been fans, occasional dabblers in a spot of fiction about the show we loved, but it didn't make us any less part of The Writerverse, giving each other feedback on our work.

Time-jump to 2007. One of the biggest years of my life. Love and loss, moving away from home, university. It was the first step into a brave new part of The Writerverse. Suddenly, on my course, I was surrounded by like-minds, fellow travellers on this long and treacherous road we weave through The Writerverse, where road metaphors can suddenly give way to faster-than-light travel metaphors, dinosaurs or dragons, depending on whose company you were in.

We were, suffice it to say, an eclectic mix. You had your literary fiction types, people who seemed to be aiming with a massively ambitious cannon at some far away zeitgeist idea they wanted to be the pioneer of. You had your genre fiction people - those who loved certain times in history, or like me, people who loved imagining times to come, visions of what humanity could become in a few centuries' time. And together, we supported each other.

In the three years I studied Creative Writing, my writing grew leaps and bounds. I can honestly say that while I may have been a good writer when I was in school, when I came out of university, I was so, so much better. And this was not only thanks to my amazing classmates, who told me what I was doing wrong, what I was doing right, and for the love of the gods, would I stop making a huge song and dance of how frakkin' hot that holographic girl is with those freaking angel wings! It was the tutors too - those who supported me and those who seemed determined to get me to write anything but sci-fi. Especially the latter bunch in fact. They forged me, put me through a fire, challenged me and made me come out swinging. I'm still a sci-fi writer, they failed to stop me from being that, but by gods I'm damn frakkin' gorram proud of being a sci-fi writer.

But honestly, one of the most important things, what The Slush Pile Project is trying to do, what it will frakkin' well succeed at doing, what really matters when you're a writer, is to have people around you, people to bounce your ideas off and point out things that don't make sense to them. Everything might make sense to you, but if you're the only person it's making sense to, then there's something really, really frakkin' wrong here, kids. And it's that the community, those fellow writers flying around The Writerverse, who can help you.

So not only is this blog me talking about my origins as a writer, it's my unwavering declaration of solidarity and support for The Slush Pile Project. For The Writerverse. Watch the video. Heed the words. Seek out new writers and new imaginations. Boldly go where writers have gone before and where you can damn well make your mark. The Writerverse is ours, but we are most definitely not alone in it. We conquer it together.

Welcome to The Writerverse, children. It's a wonderful place to exist. We hope you enjoy your part in it.

(Song of the Mind: Dissolved Girl - Massive Attack)

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