Tag Archives: mythology

Confession of a Spec Fic Writer: Sometimes We’re Not Clever, We’re Just Plain A-Holes.

Standard

In October of 2012 I started this blog as a budding Spec Fic writer. I wrote Doctor Who Horoscopes, I shared Fantasy excerpts and short stories that I had written. However, in March 2014 I went into a psychiatric hospital with postnatal depression. My blog focus shifted but strangely enough I still often identify myself as a Spec Fic writer. For the next couple of years I have Spec Fic slated to come out. A Historical Fantasy this year and a Paranormal Crime next year. As such I am having more Spec Fic focused conversations with fellow writers. We all think we’re pretty clever. We all like playing with reality. We all enjoy coming up with clever tricks…. But sometimes we fail. Sometimes we unintentionally write things that are harmful and bigoted. 

A recent conversation with a friend reminded me of a concept that an ex came up with when we were in our early 20s, about 15 years ago. It was a vampire film (yeah, I used to do short film, I’ve even got an award, I’m quite the Jack) and he was so excited about it because it combined his two great loves, medical science and vampires. He had a medical science degree. He had honours. He was doing his PhD. In short, he knew his stuff. And as he told me his plans I said, “Wow, that’s really fucking interesting.” 

His premise was that vampires were a result of a blood mutation and that people with hemophilia were actually descendants from the original vampires. He had way more science behind it than that but that’s about the extent that this aging, arts-degree brain can remember. We hi5ed to good thinking and how solid the science was. We listened to Placebo’s Haemoglobin. We were sooooo cool. But then some thoughts started cropping up…

…. Hang on, are we saying that very real people who exist today are not entirely human? Are we saying that a group of real people are part parasite ready to suck the blood of others? Have we made out that they’re different and savage because of a medical condition? Have we seriously othered them? Oh shit, we had. But aren’t vampires cool? Doesn’t everyone want to be one? No. People who have been systematically excluded already probably don’t want to be further dehumanised. 

You know what we ended up doing? We set the idea aside. We decided not to run with it because there were too many issues. Sure the science was interesting, the play of ideas was interesting, but actually putting that dehumanisation of a group of people out into the world was not interesting. It wouldn’t be fun or cool. It would be actively othering and already misunderstood group. 

What did we do? We came up with other ideas that didn’t dehumanise a group of marginalised people. Just because and idea seems interesting on the surface doesn’t mean it’s actually a good concept to film or write about. We’re creative people. We can think of more things. We can do better. We can come up with equally exciting concepts with out dehumanising marginalised people. I believe in us. We’re thinkers. 

This was 16 years ago and I’m still having similar conversations. Let’s do better. I know we can do it. Don’t get me wrong, we’ll all fuck up at times, I definitely do, but at least put it on our radar.

#Indigenous Representation in Speculative Fiction

Standard

image

There is a lack of Indigenous Representation in the type of literature that kids like to read. This is something I initially posted about on my personal Facebook profile rather than on this blog because I was concerned about being torn apart like so many people trying to tackle this incredibly sensitive issue before me. I’m white, I’m female, I’m educated and these days I’m middle class, so what do I know about these issues? True. I am utterly unqualified. I am not an Indigenous Australian, I have not lived an Indigenous existence and I do not live in an Indigenous community. I cannot deny that, nor am I trying too. But I have decided that this issue is too important for me not to say something. So even if I get called ignorant or superficial at least people will be thinking about it. And hopefully those thoughts will help come up with a solution. So here is my Facebook post cut and pasted directly here.

Alright people. I’m doing it. I’m going political… or cultural. I’m going something controversial, not sure of the label but it definitely would have one.

Let’s talk about the lack of representation of Indigenous Australian characters and stories in Australian Literature and “white man’s” (self included) fear of portraying them.

I think we can all agree that there is a lack of Indigenous representation across all genres. Sure there is some literary and memoir style Australian fiction out there looking at settlement/invasion/colonisation, but let’s be honest, how many children sit about thinking, “Gee, I’d love to read some literary historical piece that can be very heavy handed and judgemental.” Not many. They’re thinking things like, “Harry Potter is awesome, Twilight is tots romantic, Hunger Games is the bomb yo.” So if we want our youth (black, white, green, purple, sparkling) engaging with Indigenous issues/characters/themes, then surely we need to but it into novels that they’ll actually want to read.

Now the three novels that I’ve mentioned above that have taken youth by storm are all Speculative Fiction, which to me means Australian writers need to put Indigenous content into this genre. But how can we when we’re too scared too. Yep, there I said it, I admit it, I’m too scared too and I’m not the only ones. Now I’m sure Indigenous authors aren’t too scared to. That they feel totally comfortable writing about their own heritage but there’s a slight problem with that. The problem isn’t only that we have an education gap making literacy levels low amongst indigenous populations low, hence writing a whole novel and going through the long journey to get published quite challenging. But also that even in an ideal world where this gap is bridged, the Indigenous population only accounts for around 3% of the Australian population. And let’s face it, not everybody is born to be a writer, so we’re looking at a very small drawing pool. On top of that not everybody has exactly the same taste is books. Even amongst Speculative Fiction fans you have those that both love and hate Tolkien. So to expect this small drawing pool to produce works of mass appeal is just ridiculous. Sure it only take one, like JK Rowling to come along and inspire a generation, but we cannot expect every writer in the Indigenous community to be the next Rowling anymore than we can expect it of any other community. Not only that, not every writer wants to write for children or young adult. The pool gets smaller yet.

So, how do we fix it? Forced breeding to increase the population? Let the petrified white writer have access to the stories as well? Do nothing but whinge? Do what we do now (self included), have Indigenous minor characters but avoid drawing on the Dreaming or any settings or major characters? I honestly don’t know how this issue can be fixed. I could rather glibly say that stories should be available to everyone. That Celtic and European folktales, myths, legends, history and religion seem to be open slather for anyone to appropriate, so why can’t writers of any culture just draw on anything and anywhere to serve their story. But I can tell you this, I love the stories from Hinduism but I’m sure not going to write about that either. Because not only am I scared that this Celt would unintentionally offend someone but also because I know I would get crucified for it. White writers who tackle other cultures, even previously popular writers, have a history of being torn apart. I, an unpublished, very pale skinned, blue eyed, woman of Scottish and Welsh heritage, am surely not the one to fly in the face of this history and solve all problems. So for my part, I’ll continue to have Indigenous minor characters and refer to Indigenous plants but who will do more? Who can bridge this gap and solve this lack of representation? Thoughts?

I would normally blog about something this lengthy (and yes I know I’ve barely scratched the surface of this incredibly complex and sensitive issue) but quite frankly I have no desire to be called a stupid racist by complete strangers… I’ll leave that to my friends 😉

This rant was inspired by something #KateForsyth said at the Monsters Under the Bed discussion hosted at the New South Wales Writer’s Centre #nswwc about the need to increase the representation of Indigenous stories and the complexities involved in this.

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

Standard

1111

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.

This is me

Standard

wordpresssmallThey say a picture tells a thousand words, so here I am. This is me.

Snake Song: I am Medusa – Part 1

Standard

medusawatermarked
You may call me a monster, or say that I am cursed. Some have even said I was a merciless killer without a hint of compassion. You would be right I guess. But you would also be wrong. I am just a woman. Angry, yet loving; hard, but gentle. I am the Medusa.

Stories are told, legends abound, and myths are born. Somewhere along the way the truth is forgotten and the real people are lost. I am no more a monster than anyone else. I have lived a long life, I have loved, I have laughed and I have regrets, but I am still just a woman. No more, no less. I was a girl once. Most would claim beautiful. I had a face that put Helen of Troy to shame. Yet despite all this I had a happy childhood. I am Médousa, and this is my story.

I was born in what is now called Anapa. I was the youngest in a set of triplets. It was quite rare at the time for triplets to survive, but not in my family. In fact, my father’s Aunts were triplets. We were considered quite lucky in our local village and people would often stop to stroke our hair before setting out on a voyage or starting out on a new venture. We were happy. Mind you, our Aunts were not afforded quite the same affection. As brown and ugly as the sweet tasting tomatoes they used to grow, my blind Aunts were avoided, even feared by some. There were whispers of sorcery and magics but generally they were left to live in peace and to continue growing their tomatoes in peace.

Our father, Phorcys, was a great fisherman and well respected amongst the locals. He knew the waters better than anyone else. If my father said a storm was coming then nobody set sail. If he told people there was good fishing to be had then everybody followed. My father always managed to catch the best fish though. He would proudly present them to my mother Ceto, who would happily gut and scale them whilst singing of dreams and wishes.

I remember the simple life as if it were yesterday. There is not a day that I do not wish to go back to those quiet times of fishing and singing. But alas time stays still for no man, and all our peace and happiness was to be swept away.

When my sisters and I were but eight years old our lands started to fail. A plague was upon us. Some say that it was Hera in one of her customary rages; others claim it was Freya trying to gain dominion in our lands, what caused it I could not say. But the villagers grew a feared and accused my poor Aunts of treachery. They claimed they had cursed the land with their Grey Lady Magics and that they must go. My father called for calm but it was not respected for long. So, for my Aunts’ safety, we fled. We piled up into my father’s fishing boat and set to the seas. We remained afloat for who knows how long until by some miracle we were washed up on the shores of Boebeis. Starving, frightened, wretched, but alive.