There’s a lot I could say about my six weeks spent at the Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers’ Workshop.
I could use the phrases “life-changing” and “career-affirming,” and “anxiety-inducing,” but none of that would really get to the essence of what those six weeks actually meant to me. So, I’ll stick to two major takeaways that seem relevant right now. The first: books matter.
People are out there writing some amazing things.
Wonderous, intangible, miraculous things, dark, horrifying, jaw-dropping things, things that question and poke and meddle, things that challenge every manner of status quo. And they’re doing this at what is possibly the most difficult time EVER to write creatively! A time when every moment of your day is suffused with cranial clutter, the dead-space of targeted ads and infinite online content. There’s a brick in your pocket that weighs down your brain, there’s a thousand thousand worries in the way of productive expression and communication. But there’s still some people out there who sit down regardless and ply their trade of crafting worlds, in order for us to imagine difference.
I mean, that’s the whole point, really, of Fiction in general, and Speculative Fiction especially: the ability to imagine difference. Scientific difference, social difference, political difference, all of the above, and more. It’s what keeps the lights on, soul-wise and otherwise.
Books are empathy machines. We are lucky to have them. (I've included a few of my recent favorites at the end of the article)
The second takeaway:
If you wish to do anything well, find yourself a community.
It is so easy these days to fall into the trap of solitary pursuit, especially with creative endeavors. This is fine and good to a certain extent, some people (me) can get by in such conditions, but one of the most revelatory and vitalizing aspects of Clarion was being around other people who were passionate about the same things I was.
It turns out that when those around you are doing awesome things, you can do awesome things too! Weird, I know, but it's true.
A couple of sidenotes:
- Southern California is a paradise and shouldn’t actually exist. Six weeks straight of mid-70s, blue sky, and an absolutely relentless gentle sea breeze. I’ve never missed thunderstorms more.
- The flora is gorgeous but don’t touch the pointy bits.
- If you find yourself in San Diego, definitely check out Mysterious Galaxy Books. Super rad place.
Here’s a list of books I’m jazzed about: