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My love affair with science fiction (part four)

October 7, 2018

Welcome to the fourth and final instalment of this blog series!

Where were we … Oh yes. I didn’t just write that one science fiction story about Captain Hard although it’s the one that made the funniest anecdote. During my middle and late teen years, I was on a healthy diet of Lost in Space reruns, more Star Trek and books by Ray Bradbury and Arthur C. Clarke amongst others. My own tales included one about a spaceship pilot named Gary Stu who met a beautiful very-human-like alien named Mary Sue (not really, but I have to be fair, and they were a little on the cliché side of things).

I also wrote a story about an android who fled to Earth to hide from a band of nasty thugs, and while it had an unfiltered dose of stuff I found interesting at that point in my life and wanted to include because I could, it also had some of my first prods at moral dilemmas and ethical greyzones and a case of PTSD (not that I knew the term then) which probably sound like familiar subjects if you’ve read anything by me ever.

But after that, I began to explore other strange new worlds and threw myself at fantasy for a long while. My interest in science fiction, however, didn’t end.

At university, grinding away at my master’s degree in English studies, I signed up for as many literature courses as I could, and naturally my own interests played a part in which ones I took. There was something I wanted to say, something that had been rattling around in my mind since elementary school tried to teach me that fantasy and science fiction were insignificant and I felt there was more than entertainment to those kinds of fiction. And it was almost time for me to say it.

I heard the terms speculative fiction and magical realism for the first time. And I learnt I wasn’t the only one who wanted to say something about the importance of literature stepping outside the boundaries of mundane reality. I was introduced to literature by Margaret Atwood and Jeanette Winterson, Neil Gaiman and Amitav Ghosh to mention just a few, and saw how some of the very best used fantastic elements to do something profound and important. Unsurprisingly, I wrote my final thesis on supernatural fiction.

And the rest is history. I’m certainly no Atwood or Vandermeer or Le Guin here, but I learnt that it isn’t only okay to enjoy the fantastic, the books that take a step through the back of the wardrobe and transport us to other worlds. It’s not necessarily pure entertainment, it’s a viable way of writing, and (as corny as this is going to sound) speculative fiction is where my own voice belongs and is at its strongest.

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