gillpolack (gillpolack) wrote,

Women's History Month - guest post by Sue Isle

I've been sitting here in my study looking around at the books for inspiration. You're never completely on your own when you live with books. If a person never read anything, how would they be able to write? Everything I've read has inspired me in some way. Even if I absolutely hated certain books, which was the case with some of the books I was required to read through school and university, they still shaped how I turned out as a writer and maybe as a person.

Still, when you're asked to write about writers who have inspired you, it's generally accepted that they're writers you like.

The thought of "women's writing" actually annoys the hell out of me, as I've never liked the idea of segregating half the community into an unnecessary subcategory. When I encounter people who think being female causes one to think or write a certain way, I have to fight the urge to smack them repeatedly with a nice hardback copy of War and Peace. [That's still the heaviest book in my library.] With great self control, I didn't smack the workmate who said wasn't science fiction for boys, upon hearing that I wrote the stuff. There's writing. There are authors. Deal with it.

Okay. What have I got here? Ruth Park. The Harp in the South. That book is from high school, I think, and the fact that it's still here means it somehow survived the butchery that is high school literature analysis. With most of them, I could never bear to open the book again. I've read one other book of hers, Swords and Crowns and Rings (title from memory) which was a mainstream novel about a dwarf. It wasn't much more cheerful than Harp, but even so, she was very good about writing stories full of awful things (family tragedies and terrible poverty etc) which nevertheless contained hope and even humour and could depict a time and place so clearly that I felt I'd been there.

I'm primarily into science fiction, but I also read a lot of historicals. Other times, either way. I find those more interesting than reading about the here and now. That's why I've got Rosemary Sutcliffe, Ellis Peters, Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte in my library alongside C.J. Cherryh, Marion Zimmer Bradley and Barbara Hambly. All of them depict their worlds so clearly I can see them and go back to them again and again because there's always something new.

The book I always name when asked for ONE favourite (which is like taking one chocolate) is Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird and not always for the big picture reasons; depiction of prejudice, hope for the future and so on. It's another survivor from high school and what I remember liking then was the creativity of the children. They invented games the way I did, with characters and storylines, sometimes borrowing from movie serials but always uniquely theirs. They get into awful trouble when their father catches them acting out the real-life drama of their neighbours, who imprisoned their mentally-ill son in their house. Young Jem imagines lurid scenarios of Boo Radley's life but his father Atticus comes out with one of the most chilling lines I've ever read, relayed by viewpoint character Scout, that no, there were other ways of turning people into ghosts.

The theme mentioned artists or musicians which have inspired me, as well as writers, but I'm afraid I don't know too much about the first two. My favourite music type is folk, because I enjoy songs which tell stories, so I've listened to a lot of music from folk musicians, some famous and others unknown beyond the folkies club they played in. From that I discovered filk, the sf and fantasy variations. Often it was created and played by sf authors, sometimes by fans who became famous as filkers. These include people like Leslie Fish, who wrote cheerful, anarchic pieces about the fall of human civilisation, such as "Black Powder and Alcohol/When the states and the cities fall/When your back is against the wall!" Fantastic stuff, highly recommended to have playing while one writes one's Nobel Prizewinning epic about the zombie apocalypse. Hey, a person can dream.

Right now, as I write, I've discovered the writing of Kerry Greenwood, the Phyrne Fisher books set in 1920s Melbourne! These are a lot of fun and a great inspiration. This is the 1920s we should have had. Phryne Fisher for Prime Minister!

I'm supposed to put in a bio, I see. This always makes my brain freeze up. I always have to go and get the last thing I wrote a bio for and remind myself, though I have trouble stopping once I do get started. This was for Nightsiders (2011), the book of stories and one novella that's part of the Twelve Planets series from Twelfth Planet Press and I was allowed to rabbit on for a whole page there. Shorter version: I live in Perth, Western Australia and am very fond of it, despite what I do to it in my fiction, predicting its almost-demise from climate change. I've written quite a few short stories for various magazines, plus two short books, but am now more interested in longer forms.

I have a Live Journal blog, Apocalypse With Rats and believe that online writing may be the way of the future.

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