Last night’s Speculative Fiction panel as part of the Emerging Writers’ Festival is already my highlight of the whole festival, even though I’m meant to see many others. As I said in my picks the other week, I was expecting this to be great. And I felt, as an emerging speculative fiction writer I had to turn up to represent my genre. And so when I got there, I wanted the audience to be bigger, to see faces we didn’t usually see.
Perhaps that’s something for next year, to get the speculative fiction writers out in force.
The session was amazing but I was left with wanting more: more time, more writers, more questions, more spec fic.
We got to sit there and listen to Rjurik Davidson ask three amazing writers about spec fic and their own writing: Alison Croggon, Paul Haines and Kirstyn McDermott.
One of the issues that came up in the discussion, that I’ve talked about before and am curious about, is to do with crossing lines, defying taboos and writing bad guys. Paul Haines talked about the concern had when writing Wives that people would think he was a misogynist rather than just writing about misogyny with the point of highlighting what a problem it was.
I don’t think a writer necessarily advocates everything in the content of their work. Indeed, I often write bad guys from the perspective of being able to condemn them. Now often I agree it can get murky and I’ve read many a horror novel or watched a horror movie that left me questioning whether or not the creator was advocating or condemning the horrible events in the movie. By that, I don’t just mean violence because I think you can do horror where the obvious good guy is the meant to be the bad guy, and we’re meant to be rooting for the ‘villain’ getting his revenge.
But I’ve found this murkiness with the darker parts of speculative fiction especially horror to be a barrier to friends reading or watching it. They don’t get why I would want to watch or read about ‘fucked up things’ but they would happily argue the need to watch the news or know about real world events that are ten times as horrific just because they’re real. I think fiction can do the same because it often reflects reality.
It was refreshing to hear that this issue is something others in the genre come across as well. And I was glad Rjurik Davidson stepped into the political sphere with the discussion.
The discussion about taboos leads me to tonight’s session, Dirty Words, on erotica, where I tend to think sex and erotica is much more of a taboo in today’s society than violence and gore.
I managed to corner two audience members who are big spec fic fans to tell me why they love the genre or why they think it’s the best: