Blog No. 139
Out in the world (during my brief forays away from my blissful seclusion) when I talk to people about my writing, I always get the same questions. I legitimately love being asked what I’ve written. Sometimes it’s asked with genuine interest and I launch into the list of things I’ve done, Adventure Worlds, This Blog, Working on the novel, the collection, Finder, The Zine, and anything else I think of at the time. The conversation then moves into details of those things and moments where I realize I’m selfishly prattling on and manage to ask a few questions of my own. It’s a great feeling to share what I do with interested parties. Sometimes the question is asked with malice (or incredulity if malice is too harsh). I relish the chance to show those people what I’ve done and what I’m doing. Even if their question was meant to belittle or call me out, I like being able to prove to them (and myself) that I have and am actually writing things, plus the question holds big talkers to their words.
Sometimes the things I’ve written aren’t enough for those inquisitors, but I don’t care. I’m confident in the answer I have and I’m proud of what I’ve done so far. For those people, a writer means the person has a novel, for those more particular, that novel has to be released by a big name publisher, nothing else will do. I can see why some people see that and personally the novel is a goal of mine and being published would be great. I don’t think it’s a prerequisite for being a real writer though. Not only could a person be a journalist, cook book author, poet, playwright or history writer (to name but a few) but there are writers who have made a good living off of short stories or self publishing.
The other question almost always comes from friendly interest. What do you write (or alternatively what in your novel about)? Really, the issue is my own hang-up, and there shouldn’t even be an issue, but telling someone that you write sci-fi seems to take the wind out of their sails. Most people stick with the, you write and that’s great (which is great of them) and some people are into that and are on board anyway, but all it takes is that one person who ends the conversation and promptly leaves the room. I sink and feel stupid. I shouldn’t, I know. I love sci-fi and I champion it. Good science fiction inspires, makes people question, changes perspectives. Even mediocre sci-fi can entertain. Science fiction breeds scientists and tells people to go to the moon. It warns us of what could happen if we don’t change things. It can be deeply complex and thrilling at the same time.
I’m proud that I can even come up with sci-fi story ideas (or any story ideas really). There are a lot of people who are completely turned off by it, almost more than any other genera (at least in literary form). It could just be my own insecurities (and probably is), but I practically apologies every time I tell people the things I write. I know I’ll get over it. There are naysayers for everything, just like there are supporters. Most people are really nice, some people are fans of the genera, and some people are jerks. None of it matters when I’m coming up with ideas or ploughing through the novel. It’s what I read and what I write. My name is Ben Van Dongen, and I’m a science fiction author.