As today is Valentine’s Day, I thought I should really do a post about love. My husband is the romantic type (I always thought I was until I met him, but nothing I do can compete) and our relationship is one of great affection. Which is why Valentine’s Day always seems a bit superfluous, although we still endeavour to make it special (mostly it’s an excuse to eat cake).
So I won’t bore you with the mush of my marriage. Instead, I thought I’d share a recent epiphany about my writing. This is a writing blog, after all.
When I was 19 I went to university and studied Archaeology (as you do). We were encouraged to do ‘wild modules’, that is, take a subject in our first year away from our chosen subject. My mum had been pushing for me to do an English degree, but as I hate people telling me what to read and giving me timeframes within which to read, I couldn’t think of anything worse (except maybe Maths…). But while looking for a ‘wild module’ I discovered that my university’s English department did a module on science fiction. Perfect! I could submerge myself in a genre I love and meet attractive geeky men (which is why we go to university, isn’t it?).
During the module, I forced myself to read the suggested science fiction texts, watched old science fiction movies about aliens, got amazing marks (the only ones in this module) on a couple of creative writing assignments, and finished the module with the conclusion that I don’t like science fiction.
Ever since, I’ve written and read fantasy, steering well clear of science fiction unless it’s in film.
That is, until last September, when a certain movie (yes, I’ve managed to make yet another blog post about Elysium) came to our screens. Suddenly my mind was ablaze with the possibilities and I began to write apocalyptic and science fiction again. Late last year I submitted my first science fiction short story in nine years to a competition in Writing Magazine. Just before Christmas I was told that I had been placed as the runner up! So not only am I writing science fiction again, but it’s going pretty well.
When I mentioned to a friend that I had started writing science fiction again, she reminded me of that ‘wild module’ I took when we were at university. I’d forgotten, to be honest, and she got me thinking about why I had decided that I didn’t like this genre that was suddenly all I could think of.
I didn’t want to do an English degree because I knew it would ruin writing and reading for me. Just as doing that science fiction module ruined science fiction for me.
I don’t like being told what to read, and I didn’t enjoy any of the classic science fiction texts. Think less of me if you want, I just found them to be boring. I didn’t enjoy watching the films because they were often about space travel and aliens, things I have trouble getting excited about. I distinctly remember sharing with the seminar group my favourite moments from film, and the raised eyebrows and scoffing that I received.
At the time I put this down to just not knowing what I was talking about. Now I know that it was more about the snobbery of the English department and the subject, not to mention the fact that I was one of only three women in a group of about twenty.
Science fiction is a male orientated genre, and men and women are very different creatures. In my experience, men seem to like to explore space, technology, aliens and robots (with macho captains and a bit of sex). Women, on the other hand, prefer to explore social construct (although nothing wrong with the odd macho captain and a bit of sex).
That was what Elysium did for me. It flicked that switch back on. Sure, there’s space and droids and it’s very male orientated, but it’s a story about class. It’s a story about people surviving. That’s what hooked me.
I can’t give all the credit to Elysium. I’ve always watched science fiction films and Elysium is no different to those. No, it must have just come at the right time when my mind was becoming that way inclined. As I started to read more female authors, stealing my mum’s feminist science fiction novels, and I’m sure it’s no coincidence that the country’s Government and the organisation I work for is also going down the pan, and it probably is connected to the fact that last year was a very difficult one for me.
I have since read one or two modern science fiction novels, and not enjoyed them. I haven’t given up, though. It’s still early days. The biggest change has been in my writing. Over the last few months, I have fallen back in love with writing science fiction. It has opened up a whole new world for me (no pun intended…well, maybe a little) and I’m filled with that wonderful excitement of a new relationship.
Happy Valentine’s Day science fiction. May we never fight again.