Writer – Revealed

I’ve gone and stuck my writerly neck out. Just waiting for the blade in the guillotine to fall. I’ve published an opinion piece that might be a bit controversial. People might even violently disagree with me. It’s here.

I feel conspicuous. Vulnerable. Like the kid who’s broken the unattractive pink porcelain poodle that’s been passed down for generations, which Mom actually hates. But it happened while I was doing something I was told not to, like cartwheels in the living-room, when no one was home. I cleaned up the fragments, buried them in the green bin, rearranged the shelf so it wasn’t obvious the poodle’s gone, and made it through the first 24 hours without anyone saying anything.

Ok, so this scenario isn’t quite the right metaphor, because I don’t believe I’ve done anything wrong by stating my opinion. But I’m concerned others will think I’ve transgressed into the realm of the capitalists. That isn’t where my allegiances lie, but I’m as apprehensive as the cartwheeling kid about the potential consequences of what I’ve done.

Sign. We live in a richly diverse, networked world. It’s my opinion, based on my knowledge and life experiences, that GMO*s have the potential to be of benefit to people. But I know lots of people believe otherwise. (If you have any doubts, read the comments on this CBC news article.) My opinion is based on years spent as a research scientist and observing the biotechnology industry.

I could raise niceties about how healthy debate is and the value of differing perspectives, but that’s not my message today. I’m coming from a raw, emotional state like I’m standing naked on an iceberg, and the experience is nibbling at my comfort levels like a woodpecker drilling into a tree.

My nature is to find consensus, harmony, not disturb anyone else’s equilibrium. Not that I don’t love a good debate, as long as we all agree in advance its an intellectual sparing match. And not personal.

My fear, perhaps irrational, is that I personally will be condemned for my opinion.

When I write fiction, it’s my characters who have controversial opinions, attitudes and actions. In my opinion piece, I’m not hiding behind my characters. I’m me, Ann, with the outlying opinions.

I fret about my publication. Later I go to the Toronto SpecFic Colloquium and hear many sage individuals talk about writing and speculative fiction. And I learned.

Art is intensely personal says Nnedi Okorafor. What she says about creativity and stories coming from deep within our being resonates with me. If this is true, there’s a good chance my fiction has my opinions buried in it too, perhaps like eggs in the cake. Eggs in the batter don’t make the cake taste eggy but do keep the cake from disintegrating when it’s sliced into portions. The next speaker at the SpecFic colloquium, Simon McNeil, put out his definition of political: any form of speech to organize, or prevent, change. I liked it. It has the right generality to cover how we use the word ‘political’ currently.

Taking these two things together – the acknowledgement that my fiction must be a homogenate of many things, including my opinions on GMOs, and that if I write about controversial things, it is a political stance – then all that I write it, fiction or opinion, has me imbedded in it and reflects my political views.

I accept. I have lots of options. Public opinions. I think GMOs are not universal evil. They are a technology with potential to do many things. We should not condemn them as a group but consider each individual for its risks, safety and benefits.

Wow. I’ve said it. Perhaps I can hide some more, in the anonymity of the web. After all, how often does one voice change something?

Far more often than silence.


* Genetically Modified Organisms

Photo: Me reading at the Station Gallery in Whitby at the launch of the Renaissance anthology in Oct. 2014

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