Monthly Archives: August 2013

Dream Builders- the gifts of speculative fiction writers to emerging writers

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Fantasy readers have long been familiar with Tolkien’s three gifts of reading Fantasy, eRcovery, Escape and Consolation, but what I have come to discover is that these are not the only gifts of Fantasy. Not only are there three gifts for the readers, but there are also three gifts for the fellow writer. I call these gifts Embracement, Academia, and Dream Building.

Embracement
Many a budding Speculative Fiction writer has endured the slings and arrows of outrageous prejudice because they apparently write just silliness. They write about trivial things like believing in the good in people, how hope shall prevail, these are apparently things that don’t mean anything to anyone… Obviously they should be writing about relevant things like sexually ambiguous, serial killers, who love porn, inject heroine into their eyeballs, are charismatically alluring and yet are still the best darned kindergarten teacher around. That’s what real writers write about, real life. Not minority groups like Hobbits showing that they too are of value, that they too can be great. That’s just babyish nonsense. Brethren (I hope you don’t mind me calling you that), if you think that writing about hope and triumphing over obstacles is something that you’d actually like to do, then boy is Speculative Fiction the community for you. They’ll love you for your dedication to fairy tales, they’ll adore your deliberations over exactly what colour a skink that lives in a Mars like environment would be, they’ll accept that monkeys can talk and fly and wield magic and that’s important. What’s more, it isn’t just your fellow fledging writers who will encourage you, those published demi gods will actually come down from on high and actively encourage you. They’ll even remember you. So if you don’t necessarily want to become a starving artist, unappreciated in your time, living in a mental institution, slowly sipping contraband absinth, these people will accept that. Heck they’ll accept it if you do. That’s what is so great about Speculative Fiction writers. They believe in people and they welcome people.

Academia
Yeah, I know, ironic right? Don’t Speculative Fiction Writers just make it all up? Aren’t they writing Speculative Fiction because they aren’t smart enough or disciplined enough to write about and understand real life? No and No. Sitting down with a Speculative Fiction writer is like have a living encyclopaedia in front of you. If you are lucky enough to hear Ian Irvine speak, he’ll cover a range of topics, from the environment, to the history of Speculative Fiction in Australia, to the reasons behind the collapse of Boarders, and then go onto let you know the best way to escape from family BBQ’s in order to get some writing done. Even John Flanagan, who is notorious for claiming he just makes stuff up, can provide you with an eight page dossier on the discovery and usage of coffee in his world. And quite frankly, what Kate Forsyth doesn’t know about pee isn’t worth knowing. It is staggering the vast array of expertise these people have, you cannot help but be inspired to research and write just from listening to them for half an hour. They’re the human equivalent of art galleries and I love to soak them up and you will too.

Dream Building
This is their final, and I believe greatest gift. Speculative Fiction writers are dream builders, not dream killers. They understand that you have a story and that you would love for people to read it. They don’t treat the dream of being published like a dirty thing. Something that you should never dream of. That you should only write for the sake of writing and forsake all other dreams. I think it is because of the nature of Speculative Fiction, they often write about good triumphing, and that deep down people are good, that they tend to be more accepting of dreams and motivations. They tend to skip the thought that people only wanting to write to get published, they cast aside the notion that there are people out there who deeply despise writing and are only doing it to get rich and or famous. These people say, what’s your dream? Work hard, and go for it. Dreams can come true and if you work for it, yours can too. They are willing to encourage you to be the best you that you can be. They accept you, they embrace you, they encourage you to research and work hard, but they also encourage you to dream. And dreams are what fiction is made of.

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Literary Refugees: the Speculative Fiction Haven

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Recently I was at a writing course and one of my fellow students told a sad tale of how she loved writing and had chosen to do a Creative Writing degree only to find that her tutors were rejecting her work simply because it was Speculative Fiction and they preferred Literary Fiction. She was seriously losing her confidence and her passion. As a teacher I found this devastating that teachers, tutors, lecturers, professors could have such a negative effect on someone’s hopes and dreams. What was worse, the person who had traumatised this girl was actually an ex collegue of mine. The horror, the horror. I in part felt personally responsible, because it wasn’t just some random person demeaning the genre but someone I had quite enjoyed having cups of tea with. And so I decided that I could not sit idly by. I decided that in personally must take action. With this motivation I decided to start the Literary Refugee group on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/groups/556083947785347/) and I roped my friend Cassandra Page in with me. I had met her at A Touch of Magic by Kate Forsyth at the New South Wales Writers’ Centre. This group is to be a place where you can proudly declare that you want to write about wizards and or aliens. You can say you don’t just appreciate fairy tales but you love them, you can say magic happens, you can say the future is the best setting. Heck you can say and do whatever you like and I hope you find solace with like-minded people. Speculative Fiction writers, you are loved, you are adored, I am you. You have a home! I hope you join me.

So, here’s my pitch. Have you suffered the slings and arrows of outrageous literary bigotry? Have you, like Terry Pratchett discovered that stories of imagination tend to upset those without one? Are you fleeing literary persecution from dusty old academics (some in young bodies) who think Speculative Fiction is best left in a cupboard, locked up and unexplored? Then take refuge here, a place that appreciates and upholds Tolkien’s three gifts of escapism, consolation and recovery. Where you can proudly declare that you want to write about a magical talking horse, or a skink like alien that lives in a sulphur rich environment and be supported, encouraged and celebrated. As Tina Fey says, I don’t care if you don’t like me, I’ll start my own group, isolation is what created the X-Men… or something like that. It is time to get your Speculative Fiction on! Join Literary Refugees at https://www.facebook.com/groups/556083947785347/

For those wondering what course was I at, it was History, Mystery and Magic, run by Kate Forsyth at the Australian Writers’ Centre. She’s an unbelievable teacher as well as having published over 25 books. I personally recommend her courses to anyone.