In Praise of Creative Play by Dorthy Winsor

Photo by Jacky Watt on Unsplash

In February, I attended Capricon, a speculative fiction convention that took place in the Chicago suburbs. It was fun. Some of those attending were writers who gave readings or spoke on panels, but Tobias Buckell, the guest of honor, was the only well-known author there. Mostly, it was a fan convention, and the writers at the con also saw themselves as fans. Attendees could wear costumes, browse the art show, shop in the dealer room, experiment with the starship bridge simulator, and join in role-play gaming.

Afterwards it occurred to me that these local speculative fiction cons are everywhere, particularly if you count ComicCons. Speculative fiction is not the most widely read genre. That honor belongs to romance. Yet spec fic seems to have the most fan conventions. I started to speculate (pun intended) on why that should be so.

I suggest two reasons. First, world-building is a strong element in the genre, and a desire to explore or even live in those author-built worlds is common. Second, in spec fic, the line between writers and fans is thin and porous. The genre seems to encourage creative play, and conventions nourish it.

The Importance of the World

I can think of speculative fiction set in, say, Chicago. For example, Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files series features a magician/detective operating in my fair city, though it’s a city that’s altered by the presence of paranormal beings. But it’s very common for both science fiction and fantasy to set their stories in worlds that the author creates more or less from scratch. Those worlds can be future space colonies or kingdoms that never existed or a huge variety of other options.

For spec fic fans, such world-building is important. They want to be lifted out of their everyday world and transported elsewhere. They fantasize about what it would be like to be the characters they read about and live in those worlds. That’s why Universal Studios can have a Harry Potter World that people rush to visit, while they don’t have, say, a Jack Reacher World, despite the popularity of Lee Child’s mystery series.

Fan conventions offer readers or movie/TV viewers the chance to live for a day or two in a bit of their favorite pretend world, even if it’s only in a minor way. That’s one thing those costumes are about. Conference-goers slip into character and tacitly agree to respect one another’s fun. Want to wear that Gryffindor jacket hiding in your closet? A con is your chance.

Overlap Between Writers and Readers

The second and most important element enabling spec fic cons is the overlap between writers and readers. In a way that undermines the pretenses of the Artist with a capital A, the genre seems to encourage breaking down the barrier between those who create art and those who consume it.
Some of the attendees were literally writers or podcast producers or graphic novel designers. But among story creators, I think you have to count the role play gamers who create characters and lead them through adventures. You also have to count the folks in costumes who are acting out their own stories.
In an utterly delightful way, spec fic seems to encourage play and creativity, and fan conventions are the result.
Other Genres Can Share the Fun

As I thought about this, I couldn’t see why spec fic readers should be the only ones to have this kind of fun, though it’s true that some genres lend themselves more than others. Regency romance? Those fans are enthusiastic and can probably think of apt costumes and games. Historical fiction has many of the same opportunities for costume and world that spec fic does, and a historian friend says she does occasionally see someone in costume at their big conference.

It seems to me that what holds us back from widening the fan convention world is that we are embarrassed to be caught pretending. We think we’re too old to play. But to me, a reader is always pretending for a while. You’re always imagining that you’re someone else, living another life. That’s not embarrassing. That’s good. It’s enriching.

So here’s advice for readers of all genres: Go forth and play!

Dorothy A. Winsor writes young adult and middle-grade fantasy. Her novels include Finders Keepers (Zharmae, 2015), Deep as a Tomb (Loose Leave Publishing, 2016), The Wind Reader (Inspired Quill, 2018), and The Wysman (June, 2020). At one time, Winsor taught technical writing at Iowa State University and GMI Engineering & Management Institute (now Kettering). She then discovered that writing fiction is much more fun and has never looked back. She lives in Chicagoland.

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No Wasted Ink Writers Links

Welcome to No Wasted Ink’s top ten writing articles. As I comb the internet for interesting articles to read, I like to save some of the best ones to compile into my link posts. This time there are plenty of articles about writing craft that I hope you’ll favor. Enjoy!

Worldbuilding The Other

Building Temeraire: How Novik Included Diversity and Justice in a Historical Setting

History for Fantasy Writers: Bank on It

Maximize Productivity with Speech-To-Text Software

5 Reasons Our Characters Need to Fail

How to Publish an Ebook: A 9-Step Guide for Success

Will Fantasy Ever Let Black Boys Like Me Be Magic?

On Inventing the Past from a 21st Century Perspective, and Inventing the Present for Future Generations

In Defense Of The “Modern” Adaptation

7 Powerful Lessons From 7 Legendary Writers

THE CURATE’S BROTHER BY WENDY VAN CAMP #REGENCY #AUSTEN

The Curate’s Brother: A Jane Austen Variation of Persuasion
by Wendy Van Camp

Available on Amazon

A Regency Historical based on the characters and settings from Jane Austen’s novel Persuasion. It can serve as a stand-alone or a prequel to Austen’s book.

It is the summer of 1806 in Somerset, England.

EDWARD WENTWORTH, a young curate, is surprised by the arrival of his brother, Commander Frederick Wentworth, the “hero of San Domingo”, who is on shore leave from his battles in the Napoleonic wars and has come to spend time with the only family he has in England.

All the good Commander wants to do is flirt and dance with the ladies until he is called back to sea, but when his flirting extends to SALLY MARSHALL, an outgoing beauty that Edward always disdained as “a child”, the curate becomes aware that his opinion of Sally is sorely outdated. Meanwhile, Frederick becomes drawn to shy wallflower ANNE ELLIOT. She is the daughter of a baronet and above his station, but Frederick pays no heed to his brother’s warnings that class may prevent their union.

At the end of summer, a letter and package arrive that will change everything for the two brothers. Which will prevail? The bold action of the commander or the quiet manners of the curate?

No Wasted Ink Writers Links

Welcome to another Monday of writers. This week I was taking a long look at world-building since I’m working on a new setting for a novella and was searching for new ideas on making a more vibrant world. I hope you enjoy the selection.

What is a curse?

Plants in World-building: Cacao Case Study

Writing for beginners… a few thoughts

THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A “PLOTLESS” NOVEL, DAMN IT

15 Productive Tasks You Can Still Do Even When You Don’t Feel Like Writing

IN PURSUIT OF THAT LOOOONG CAREER

Enemy Without a Face: When Dealing With a Different Sort of ‘Villain’

Should I Publish My Story Online in Sections?

How to Describe a Location You’ve Never Visited

Scrivener Quick Tips: A Roundup of Handy Features

The Planets: a scifaiku poetry collection nominated for Elgin Award

The Planets: a scifaiku poetry collection is nominated for the 2020 Elgin Award

It is with great pleasure that I announce that my first poetry collection has been nominated for an Elgin Award! This is an award given by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association for the best poetry book of the previous two years.  It is an honor to be nominated this year.

Winning an Elgin has been a dream of mine for as long as I’ve been a poet. If you are a member of SFPA, there is a PDF of my book available to you to view on site. I hope you’ll consider “The Planets” as you make your determination of which books to vote for in 2020.

The book is available at all major online book retailers including AMAZON

Author Interviews * Book Reviews * Essays * Writer's Links * Scifaiku

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