Reality Skimming

Interview with Garth Spencer

Interview with Garth Spencer by Michelle Carraway

Garth Spencer

What would you consider your top three creative achievements to be?

You should ask me again in about five years. Until now, I mostly been active as a fanzine fan. The most creative things I've written were absurd crank theories for the Royal Swiss Navy Gazette, collectively titled "Dementia Helvetica"; or faanfiction pieces, satirizing my friends and their foibles, with the names all changed.

What are your hobbies and how do they affect your creative pursuits?

My hobbies are my creative pursuits - reading SF and fantasy, writing for fanzines and Facebook and an apa, and recently writing some fiction.

How has science fiction affected your life?

In my formative years it offered an escape from mundane life, when I needed one; it also offered examples of reasoned speculation, at the age when a child's imagination is opening up. It helped me become literate, and to comprehend foreign kinds of English. Above all, I learned how much of life we take for granted, and how many fundamentals keep changing, and can change again.

u once said that you had issues with the term 'sci-fi', could you explain why this is?

Speculative fiction has gone by a few differnt terms, from Gernsback's "scientifiction" to Forrest J. Ackerman's "sci-fi". What seems to have happened is that, at least from the 1960s through the 1990s, "science fiction" was the term most often used for the good stuff, almost entirely in written form, most closely based on real science, and "sci-fi" was most often used for crap, the kind of movies and writing that people make fun of, with a good deal of justice. But a lot of people don't know the difference between the good, solid stuff and crap, either in SF or in the sciences.

For a number of reasons, science fiction was known for a long time by examples of sci-fi, usually involving spectacular and absurd adventures, and preposterous excuses for science. I have recently heard a tale that many of the worst 50s B-movies were the result of criminal organizations laundering money through low-quality movie productions. The dismaying thing is how far these productions formed the popular impressions of science and technology, even while some of the best, classic science fiction was being published.

Theodore Sturgeon was once on a convention panel with a character who kept dragging in the worst examples of science fiction to call the whole field crap. Sturgeon finally said, "Of course 90% of science fiction is crap. 90% of /everything/ is crap." Absolute silence from the audience. He then added, "The 10% that's left is worth dying for." Since then, this rule has become famous as Sturgeon's Law. It helps explain things like Internet and social network discourse.

What is your favourite author/book or universe?

Tough to pick just one. If pressed, I would pick Lois McMaster Bujold and her Miles Vorkosigan universe. If you're unfamiliar with this, she projected a future history with just three unproven assumptions: that a means of faster-than-light travel is invented, that habitable planets are reached and colonized, and that new biological technologies allow for some politically explosive practices - cryogenic preservation, extra-uterine reproduction, cloning, advanced gender reassignment, and the search for life extension.

How did you first discover the Okal Rel Universe?

I heard about it at a VCON.

What life experiences have contributed to your creative endeavours?

The people I grew up with, who were kind of a challenge to communicate with; the times when sciences or mathematics or mechanics or construction toys worked for me; experiences that are harder to articulate, like a sense of place, or empathizing with a cat or dog as you pet them.

What is your greatest source of inspiration?

Ask me again in five years, and I might know what inspires me.

What advice would you give to fellow/aspiring writers?

Either you write, or you don't. I tend to put it off too much.

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