Friday, June 20, 2008

good bye to self censorship

Hi all,

I apologise for this post as it is probably going to wander all over the place, just like a rant usually does.

For the past few years I have been trying to intergrate myself into the Australian speculative fiction writing scene. I have been doing this for a few reasons: most importantly to learn what Australian writers are writing and getting published; secondly to learn more about writing speculative fiction, particulary science-fiction; and, as I am stuck out in the bush, the chance to just communicate with people who write speculative-fiction was also important.

I started by joining Eidolon, an Australian email based forum on speculative fiction which had a lot of published, semi-professional writers on it. This forum was fairly active when I began, but since just about spluttered to a halt. I joined Infinitas, a Sydney based critiquing group, but I never seem to be co-ordinated with their critiquing cycles. I joined Myspace, and found very few Aussie writers, so I joinned Facebook, there they all were. One of my facebook friends suggested Livejournal. I joined it and found a few Aussie writers.

I started a blog on myspace about things that concerned me, which, of course, included a fair bit on writing. I also ran the same blog on blogspot, primarily because there blogs looks so much better than the myspace blogs. I then decided to run the same blog on Livejournal. Here's where my self-censoring began, and hence the title of this blog.

I have become aware that the number of writers in the Australian Speculative Fiction field is tiny. So I didn't want to offend one of them or their mates. I am aware that many of them not only have had stories published in, but contribute to the editing of The Andromeda Inflight Spaceways Magazine. A magazine that, after reading the first four editions struck me as nowhere near the standard of Aurealis and Orb, too light, too much fantasy, too many meaningless stories. The fifth edition lies unread in a cupboard somewhere. Many of this small group of Aussie Speculative Fiction writers have been awarded or had something to do with the awarding of the Ditmars. Many of them have been published in anthologies that I have read, some good, some bad, but would a honest review offend them? Probably, I tell myself. The same as criticism of the way the Ditmar awards are decided on and the quality of the stories in Andromeda Inflight Spaceways Magazine would probably offend. Could these criticisms see it harder for me to be published in the small market in Australia? Possibly. I also sensed that most of the writers I interacted with were afraid to criticise the writing and publishing efforts of other members of the Australian spec fic community.

As my blog went onto Livejournal and could be perused by this small group of writers I found myself self-censoring. As of this week, I have decided to no longer blog on livejournal and use it a bit like googlereader: to link up with journals with something interesting and informative to say about writing - which from past experience comes from the literary agents and publishers. Where they will fearlessly answer my sometime niave, sometimes arrogant questions.

Now back to my original quest to intergrate myself into the Aussie Speculative fiction scene. I've learnt a little about Australian novels and stories and publishing avenues, but I am now wondering, is that the best way to go? The novels written by Australians, for the most part, fail in comparison to overseas authors. Is that because of a small, insular Australian writing community. There are exceptions like George Turner, Damien Broderick, Sean McMullen, Sean Williams and others (note I have only read a fraction of what has been written - an upcoming post will list these and how I rate them). I am now thinking, it might have been better to concentrate on reading the lastest novels coming out from overseas spec fic writers, like the wonderful novel "The Future Happens Twice," by Matt Browne and concentrating on reading magazines of the quality of Analog and Asimov (which I have already started to do).

From these various forums and journals and networking sites, I would say I have gleaned only a fraction of the helpful information about writing and getting published that I have read on literary agent blogs and from critiquing on the American website Critters.

The most beneficial aspect of being part of my attempts to intergrate myself into the Australian spec fic circle has been meeting a few people, mostly on the fringes, who I have enjoyed interacting with.

So, basically I am thinking that it is time to look for forums and blogs and journals by overseas spec fiction writers who might be more forthright, as they don't have to worry about offending a small group of fellow writers. The Australian spec fic scene reminds me a bit of the students doing my Masters at the Uni of Canberra, most of them seemed too scared of offending to write worthwhile critiques. I remember reading the George Turner thought the quality of criticism of speculative fiction in Australia was appalling, resulting in pretty average speculative fiction being published here.


No comments: