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Friday, May 10

Guest Author Michael Kinn: Speculative Ninjas for the Win!

By Michael Kinn

Please join me in welcoming Michael Kinn back to the blog today to ask a very good question: why do you write? He shares his reasons for writing speculative fiction, but all writers can benefit from a little introspection about their own genres and tastes.

Michael makes up stuff as a scientist, a storyteller and a writer, any combination of which sets his creative juices flowing. He loves the ocean, writes under the influence of green tea and finds life a breeze compared to negotiating his teenagers’ freedom charters. Michael is addicted to great stories and in dire need of extra lives.

Take it away Michael...

Whatever your occupation, someone is bound to ask the dreaded question: “Why do you do what you do?” Great if you happen to be a rocket scientist or a brain surgeon. What if you’re, say, a writer? Why do you write?

The answers will vary. But you better have one ready. For someone will call you on it, challenge your very existence. And just like you’ll need to justify why you’re a chess boxer, tattoo artist, bonsai clipper or whale therapist, you’re going to have to grow a pitch in the wake of deep soul searching or make due with a flippant comeback. Better, combine both.

Mine’s: “‘Cause I love extreme writing.”

It’s a pitch, and, like any pitch, it’s a bonbon of flippancy wrapped around a sweet core of truth. Speculative fiction writing is an extreme sport. It sharpens the ultimate survival skill: imagination. Wooing a hot date, anticipating your enemy’s attack or gymnasts making the jump, all require fast-footed imagining. We reached the moon because we imagined it. Aliens, get in line.

Down to the wire, fiction writing and reading exercise your prime survival skill. Speculative fiction writers and readers are at the extreme end of that scale… survival ninjas for the win!

Dreaming up stuff is part of why we do so well as a species, learning and growing as we conceive new possibilities. It links us as humans. Creativity is deeply tied to our survival, which is why courting the muse feels sooooo good.

Of course, writing about survival is great fun too. There’s nothing more exhilarating than surviving a tight scrape. In space, no one will hear you scream… What’s not to love? Especially if it involves creativity, like strapping yourself in a spacesuit before opening the hatch to flush out the alien.

The game of speculative fiction, like the Asian game of Go, has very few rules. Both give imagination near free rein, making them infinitely hard—and infinitely interesting. Speculative fiction, as a game of fewest rules, spans the crown of extreme imaginative writing.

It’s a brilliant occupation. And if editing ever drains your muse, leaving your creative side screaming for a change, just remember that fiction is not the only game in town. Music, story telling, sculpting... any type of creative project will loosen those muscles, and get you back to play.

Richard Feynman, during a dry spell of scientific discovery, went back to “playing”, scientific free-wheeling, mixed with his drum sessions, life drawing and safe cracking, before dreaming up his famous diagrams modelling the behaviour of subatomic particles. Scientists could do worse than to irrigate dry spells with fiction writing. Giving the imagination free rein works wonders.

That’s why I love speculative fiction. It unlocks the imagination—opening the gate to the Kingdom of Wonder, as a reader, as a writer.

Now, bring on those aliens.

And next time someone asks the dreaded question, let them in on your ninja secret as you pass them a copy of your latest survival practice.