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Newbie in GeekLand

September 6, 2010

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?

Jodi Cleghorn could name drop some of the amazing authors & script writers she ‘accidentally’ spoke & networked with over her four days at AussieCon, but she’s not like that. She’ll ‘fess up to being present at last night’s Hugo Award presentations though. You can find more of Jodi’s musings at Writing in Black and White or Twitter.
  1. September 6, 2010 7:38 am

    Horror. It’s a loosely defined toilet of gobbledegook. It’s hard to write very sunny tales mostly because the ordinary is mostly very boring to me.

  2. September 6, 2010 8:03 am

    I am strongly steeped in sci-fi, and assumed when I started writing that I would, naturally, write sci-fi almost exclusively, perhaps with an occasional foray into fantasy.

    Funny how things work out. I’d say that the majority of my best work is literary fiction – no robots, no aliens, no vampires/ghosts/demons. Just people being marvelous or horrible to each other.

  3. September 6, 2010 5:20 pm

    I’m still not entirely sure which genre (or genres) I’m most comfortable in, I think I’d only cringe if I ended up writing romance novels though! Anything else I’m pretty much up for, sci-fi included!

  4. September 6, 2010 7:29 pm

    Stacey – I also have a literary cringe about romance. I remember when I was young my mother used to wind me up by saying if I wanted to be a writer I could grow up to write Mills and Boons. Bleurgh!

    I’m grateful for having some type of direction now. It doesn’t mean I stop writing mainstream fiction or dabbling and experimenting with other genres, but it is good to have a base genre to work and develop your craft from. Only took me three years and a trip to WorldCon to put it all into perspective.

  5. Jim Bronyaur permalink
    September 6, 2010 7:37 pm

    Jodi –

    So glad you have been uplifted and ready to rock now! (Not saying you didn’t rock before!)

    That moment of “AH-HA!” is so important and so huge. Mine came last year. I received On Writing (by Stephen King) as a birthday present. When I finished that book, I realized that my entire life I’ve been reading his work (along w/ many other horror/thriller/sci-fi) and I never made the connection that that is what I needed to be writing. Then I stepped back and looked at some of the stories I had written. The best ones were horror. To make a long story short, I started writing what I wanted to write – horror/thriller/sci-fi and a year later, I’ve had 40 stories published and have won two writing contests. What a great “AH-HA!” moment indeed! 🙂


  6. September 6, 2010 8:01 pm

    After many years of thinking that only literary fiction was real writing I’ve come full circle back to where I started: Sci-Fi and Fantasy. You don’t have to sound like an alcoholic coming clean about their addiction … genre is fun! Say it loud. Say it proud.

  7. September 10, 2010 7:32 am

    In this auguste company I feel a bit of a fraud, however I found my initial love of reading and writing at 15 via the wonderful world of “Orbitsville” by Sci-Fi writer Bob Shaw. In those pages literacy first caught my imagination and took me beyond the confining society of country Queensland into the big blue beyond. From there I explored Asimov, Heinlein and E.E.Doc Smith, until finally I could resist the urge no longer and began to write for myself. So thank you for the Sci-Fi High. That is my reply.
    (Live long and Prosper)Tehe.

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