After interviewing the famous and fabulous Martin Crosbie recently, I realised that he was the second Scot-transplanted-to-Canada to feature in a podcast. Then there’s me, a Londoner in Ontario. You may recall, I asked him if he thought the whole emigration thing had contributed to his writing, and we mused about outsiderness for a while. Intrigued, I went to the other blog I write for regularly, Indies Unlimted, and perused the other staff writers on the Indies Bio Page. I realised that about half of us have moved from somewhere to somewhere else.
Not a scientific survey I’ll grant you but I wondered about the connection and decided to write about it. I asked some of the minions, “Did you become a writer because you travelled, or did you travel because you’re a writer?”
and “Writers often consider themselves to be outsiders, observing life. Did learning to adapt to new cultures foster this aspect of your personality?”
One reply struck me particularly, because it fed into the questions I’m planning to ask in the next podcast interview. Chris James is a Brit, now living in Warsaw, Poland. He writes science fiction and the questions I asked the Indies in a direction that both bothers and encourages me as I try to settle in different places:
“I became a writer because I travelled. I’d never felt that I had much in common with other people when I lived in the UK, but when I moved to Poland – to raise a family with my Polish wife – I was staggered by the similarities between Polish people and those in the UK.
Here again was everything I thought I might leave behind: the indifference, the arrogance, the racism. Especially striking is the “patriotism” – how otherwise intelligent people can subscribe to the belief that their nation state is somehow superior to all other nation states – even at the same time as they acknowledge their own state’s failings. Many people in both the UK and Poland are incredibly limited in their ability to comprehend, and this limitation is also easy to see in people in other states. This realisation used to amaze me, until I considered that it is likely the same in all countries.When you take into account all the hatred that the injustice in our societies creates and promotes, I’m left with one key curiosity: how far away can the next major global war be, and what shape will it take?”
Now, me? I became a writer because I travelled too, and I can still only write when I’m ‘away’. There is no inspiration for me in habitual surroundings but as soon as I’m out of my comfort zone I spot the tiny things that make our expectations of ‘normal’ so different. While, of course, our need for the reassurance (and sometimes superiority) of our own version of ‘normal’ ties us all together. The sense that humanity is pretty similar under the surface of cultural differences is one that gives me hope, however, as opposed to Chris’ pessimism.
I’ll be reviewing a book shortly by Mary Smith, who spent ten years in Afghanistan, during the run up to the Taliban taking control. The sense that we are all the same under our differences is one that I felt very strongly while reading her memoir of that time. I’ll be asking her, during our interview, whether that gives her cause for hope or concern.
Yes, the weekly post system has gone completely out of wack this year, consider the blog just one big bundle of surprises, just when you think the posts have stopped for a while, here’s another. What can I tell you? Life intervened.
Just before I go, a sneaky me, me, me link. Big thanks to Bill Thompson at The Bookcast for having me on as a podcast interviewee!
Listen in here!