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Matthew J. Trafford: Say no to the naysayers

The author of The Divinity Gene on how to handle those pesky sci-fi haters.

"Sitting down to write is an act of bravery. But there are all too many people willing to tell you that you're a fool for even trying. They'll tell you that you're a dreamer, that you won't make any money, and entice you to 'get out of your head' and join them 'in the real world' for a bite or a pint or a gathering of friends. Don't listen to them.

The naysayers can get even louder if what you write dares to step outside the boundaries of realism. They'll tell you that science fiction and fantasy aren't serious literary pursuits, call you adolescent or geeky, or at best compliment you on your 'imagination' in a backhanded manner—often because they don't have any imagination themselves. I'll never forget the time when I told a colleague I was working on a story about a mermaid. She looked me in the eyes and said: I hate that crap. I didn't listen to her.

Imagine what the world would be like if C.S. Lewis or J.R.R. Tolkien had listened when someone told them not to write fantasy? Or if Kurt Vonnegut had given in when someone told him time-travel and aliens had no place in a novel about the firebombing of Dresden? It's not a world that I would want to live in.

The next time you hear something disparaging about your writing—whether it's an external voice or one in your head—don’t listen. Smile instead. Take a moment and be grateful that you have a powerful imagination and a brave heart, and write your story. I guarantee you there are people out there who can't wait to read it."

Matthew J. Trafford’s fiction has appeared in The Malahat Review and Matrix and has been anthologized in I.V. Lounge Nights and Darwin’s Bastards: Astounding Tales from Tomorrow. He has won the Far Horizons Award for Short Fiction and an honourable mention at the National Magazine Awards and has twice been shortlisted for the CBC Literary Prize. He lives in Toronto, where he works with Deaf college students and performs long-form improv with his brother in their two-person troupe, The Bromos.

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