Far From Alone in the Universe (Writing Life)

A Reflection on the Writing Life

Writing is, truly as well as stereotypically, a lonely job; fiction writing at any rate, since writing for electronic media is generally collaborative; scripts can’t reach their intended audiences until they go through processes that involve performers, producers, directors, clients, managers and other stakeholders. But I also wonder if writers were ever quite as lonely as we fancy ourselves. When I look honestly at my ‘writing career,’ I realize that I have always sought out ‘community’ on some level.

As a high school/university student I never really found ‘my people,’ either in the fan  or the writing community at the University of Victoria. A few of my creative writing profs were encouraging and sympathetic, especially W.D. Valgardson, Charles Lillard and Cherie Thiessen - even though none of them shared my passion for literature of the fantastic. I made a few friends on campus, mostly while finishing my degree as a part time student. The writing itself was a solitary exercise and the creative writing workshops were occasionally hostile; less genre-friendly in the mid-seventies than in the new millennium (I am given to understand that the academic world has recently become more genre tolerant, but it didn’t really happen until superheroes took over the box office and a number of writers from the mainstream community (like Margaret Atwood) began working openly in genre fiction. 

While writing for radio in the early 1980s, there were other folks in the creative departments who became my writing partners on some level. We would create silly and elaborate marketing campaigns for future products as well as co-writing stories, and reading and critiquing one another’s creative endeavors.  Leonard Franco and Paul Curtis were my community for some time.

The Discovery of Life in the Far Reaches of Fiction

When I met Gerry Truscott – while trying to sell something to the first Tesseracts anthology (which was Gerry’s brainchild), it turned out that he too was trying to expand his writing community and he spearheaded the formation of a writers workshop – with Sally McBride and a number of other Victoria sf writers. It was the most supportive and encouraging environment I had ever happened upon and began a very productive period in my life.

Starting TransVersions magazine and moving to Toronto both widened and deepened my connection with the community. I discovered fandom and joined the national writers community called SF Canada. On moving to Toronto, I joined The Cecil Street workshop, which was not only supportive, but gave me the opportunity to witness first-hand the emergence of a number of important writers – including Karl Schroeder, Cory Doctorow, Allan Weiss, and David Nickle – into the professional ranks.

In the late 90’s, my short story “Roots of the Soul” appeared in the North of Infinity anthology; a mediocre story at best, but based on the best science fictional idea I’d ever had. Recognizing its potential, I rewrote it as the screenplay, Dark Woods, and pitched it to Diane Boehme at CHUM/Bravo Fact. Ms. Boehme was patient and encouraging enough to work with me through two drafts, at which point, she advised me that I probably couldn’t go much further with it until I brought a director on board; a challenge I might have risen to had life not chosen that moment to throw me a number of curveballs that saw me quit writing imaginative work completely for over 10 years.

Return to the Emerald City

My re-appearance in 2014 took the form of a retrospective short story collection, Psychedelia Gothique, that would almost certainly have achieved instant oblivion if not for the years of construction criticism from the Cecil writers, encouraging reviews from writers like Ed Bryant and Brian McNaughton,  support of a few dozen editors like Don Hutchison and Kris Rusch, the nice foreword to the book provided by David Nickle, and the signal boost provided by Cory Doctorow at Boing, Boing.

I picked “Roots of the Soul”/Dark Woods back up in 2012, renamed it Avenging Glory, and am now finally bringing it to fruition – with the help of Derryl Ritchie and a team of wonderful, generous people who are reading and editing and advising me on the massive double novel I now tell myself it was always meant to be.

Given my more-or-less solitary creative existence for most of my life, I have an awful lot of people to thank for helping me reach this point of the journey. It’s always a good exercise to remember that we’re not alone; I owe everything to a list of people that grows and grows the longer I reflect on it.

Get the scoop on my new novel, The Human Template at https://dalelsproule.com.


  1. You certainly have an impressive group of writer/editor friends. But in the end, it all comes down to applying seat of the pants to the chair and buckling down to the writing - and I know how good you are with ideas, images, characters, and often breathtaking flights of fancy. I am really looking forward to the novel!

  2. True enough, Sal (and I'll deliver your beta-copy of The Human Template on Saturday). But my point was that the support of those friends can be instrumental in convincing yourself to knuckle down and do the writing. If we really were alone, it would be much harder.


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