Coming of Age In The Science Fiction Community

I said to a new writing friend "I'm young, particularly given that anyone under the age of 40 in the science fiction community is considered 'a young writer.'" Which is, more or less true (on both counts,) and brought on a couple of trains of thought that I'd like to explore in a bit more depth:

1. The "youth" of a writer is long, indeed much longer than one would expect.

2. I've found a community of science fiction writers. Admittedly I'm new and very much on the outside, but I find it delightful that all of the "things I do," are part of communities one sort or another: Sacred Harp singing, Morris Dancing (in the Midwest, particularly,) Contra Dancing (on the East Cost, particularly,) Free/Open Source software, blogging, and apparently Science Fiction writing. [1]

The Portrait of the Author During Youth

I've written here before about the challenges and inherent problems of "being a writer:" the work we do is potentially hard to understand, good writing is more than the sum of its parts, and because writing is a sign of education for most people, sometimes it's difficult to figure out (even those of us who "are writers") to figure out what's "writing," and what's just throwing words together.

Now to be fair, I'm not complaining that the period of "youth" as a writer is so long. This standard seems wrapped up in the idea that a large component of being a "real writer," is having lived long enough to have enjoyed a great deal of unique experiences (which can inform your work,) and also to have had enough time writing "crap" to be able to have the (learned) skill of being able to construct quality texts.

It's really hard to tell people, epically the young, that they need to "wait until they're older." But I think once we (I) get done with the pouting, there's a pretty strong silver lining: the extended adolescence of the writer provides a longer window to read, to experiment, to apprentice to other writers, and to grow as a writer. Additionally, if the "youth" of a science fiction writer is longer than it is for writers in other fields (and I suspect it is, slightly,) the science fiction community has created a way to compensate for the exclusion of science fiction from most academic writing programs. These are all largely good things, to my mind.

Community Discourses

I think communities are fascinating, and I'm delighted to touch so many different and interesting communities. It seems to me that the formation of communities is very much not a project for youth. As young people, our communities are local, and based on where we go to school, where we live, even where we work. The communities I'm thinking about there are, in turn based on what we're interested in and what we love to do. Although there's a potential for insularity and self-selecting qualities, there's also a great potential for diversity. There are a lot of different kinds of science fiction writers, sacred harp singers, folk dancers, open source hackers, and so forth.

There's another interesting set of common factors for these communities: they're all built around shared experiences and activities in the "real world" (as it is,) but the members of these communities tend to be scattered across a given geographic area. Though I don't have much to compare this to, personally, but I think the ways that these communities are supported and connected through the Internet. As much as Facebook irritates me on a technological level, its done it's job.

The principals under which communities function and adhere are not something I have a terribly firm grasp of, I must confess, but I know what I find myself in one, it's a good thing indeed.

[1]I have, it seems too many hobbies and avocations.
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