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Devourer of Words 024: Get Out

Marc Bernardin

I have made the excuse more often than I can count: That the reason I write fiction, science fiction at that, is because I prefer making stuff up to researching it. Never mind the fact that making up a world that feels real requires more work that it would to research an actual real place—time and humanity has done all the work for you, you just have to notice it.

But there is something all too introverted about too many of us. We are content to stay in wherever it is we write or, if we’re at a convention, to hang out in a corner of the bar with the pros we already know. We are, some of us, too content to lean on Google to do the legwork for us. And the Internet is a marvelous tool and, without it, naturally, the work we do would be demonstrably harder.

But there is no comparison to actually getting out there and seeing it. Seeing anything different from your norm. Seeing what the world is like when you push beyond the borders of the familiar.

I once ran into comics writer Fred Van Lente (Action Philosophers, Archer & Armstrong, Make Comics Like the Pros) at a comics convention in Dallas a few years back. We had dinner, shot the breeze with a few other pros, as you’re wont to do at a convention in a city not your own. I asked him what his convention calendar was looking like for the year—how many he was doing? And he said that he’s at the point in his convention career where he’d go to any convention that would take him to a place he’d never been before.

And I took that to heart. Find a way to be places you haven’t, meet people you never would. I’m not saying that it’ll directly find a way into your work … but it will in ways you wouldn’t expect.

I’m writing this column in Bucharest, Romania. I never wanted to go to Bucharest—I don’t have a “bucket list” but if I did, there’d be approximately every place else before I got to Romania. But when the opportunity presented itself, I couldn’t say no. Because when the hell else am I gonna get to Romania?

And now I know a place I never knew before. I know that not everyone is a gypsy or a vampire (or a vampire hunter). I know that it looks like the Queens, NY of the Old World. I am reminded how useless traffic circles are.

I’m also writing this on Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday and it brings to mind, as it does every year, issues of diversity. And really what that means is a plurality of opinions, inviting people into the circle who aren’t the same, whose experiences are different from yours. It doesn’t have to be demarcated by race, or gender, or sexuality—it can also be life experience.

Different is always better, especially when it comes to storytelling. And if you can BE different, all the better.

Marc Bernardin’s Devourer of Words appears the third Tuesday of every month here on Toucan!