Newbie in GeekLand
This column comes to you from a bar in the departures lounge of Melbourne airport. I’m on my way home from the 68th World Science Fiction Convention, known affectionately this year as AussieCon4, my first but definitely not my last WorldCon.
Aussie fantasy writer and friend, Kim Falconer, gifted me the ticket after a series of misfortunes befell the friends intended to join her. After a mad dash to convince my partner he needed me to let me go, organising childcare, flights and accommodation, four days before the convention began… the road smoothed to get me here. Thank you Kim for the opportunity.
I feel invigorated sitting here among the general chit chat and piped in music of the bar. I’m literally bouncing in my seat and it’s all to do with AussieCon. It’s like I’ve “come home” to a place I never imagined existed, which in itself sounds a bit like an oxymoron (the convention – not the airport, though some who know may might beg to differ given my intense involvement in the Chinese Whisperings project this year, based in an airport!)
I’ll be upfront. I’m not your dyed-in-the-wool sci-fi fan. I didn’t have a hat with a little propeller on top, nor a collection of WorldCon ribbons. I wasn’t dressed as Tom Baker’s Doctor Who, a Jedi Knight or among the amazing array of elaborately costumed steam-punk fans.
I’ve loved Dr Who since childhood, passing on the Dr Who gene to my son and revelling in the revival of The Doctor in 2005. And I enjoy sci-fi movies… but I’ve never had much exposure to sci-fi books (or the associated sub-genres). It is embarrassing to admit I’ve read three sci-fi novels, a handful of short fiction and it took until March this year to finally read The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. Among the halls of the Melbourne Convention Centre, with far more knowledgeable and passionate fans/writers I considered myself an interloper. I feared I’d be stopped, quizzed and then thrown out despite my lanyard saying I was an official AussieCon member.
All the big names on the program… they were just names to me (not that I let anyone know this… the joy of spending the first two days there alone!) But phwoar… there’s nothing like the best to woo you out of your closet, to stoke fires you’d attempted to ignore.
When I returned to writing three years ago, to my astonishment, my writing had a very strong sci-fi bent. My writing interests lie in exploring social issues and sci-fi/fantasy is the best backdrop. When I attended a world-building workshop with Sonny Whitelaw three years ago, she said traditionally sci-fi wasn’t all about space travel, aliens and otherworld living… author interests lay in exploring social issues and they utilised alternate worlds to do so.
But claiming “sci-fi” or the broader “spec-fic” genre as my own has been problematic. I won’t go into the reasons at length now, other than to say, this misalignment in my writing process hampered my ability to develop stories I loved and gain confidence in my ability to write them. I have two sci-fi shorts published. You would think I’d be happy to claim the mantle of sci-fi author, embrace the genre. But something always held me back.
Now, after four days amid the best writers, biggest fans and honestly, the nicest, most open, funny, welcoming and accommodating folk in the world, I’m ready to claim my place in the sci-writing community and prepared to do what it takes to make my writing successful. For the first time in many months, I’m bursting at the seams to write, without genre checks or preconceived borders. So this is home?
Have you always known which genre you write in? Have you ever had a literary cringe about what genre you write in? Do you believe genre hems your creativity or expands it?