Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Graeme K Talboys - guest post

Today as part of Harper Voyager's week-long celebration of their digital authors we're welcoming to the blog Graeme K Talboys, author of Stealing Into Winter to talk about his youthful influences

I grew up in a home with books. Reading was encouraged and I learned at an early age. I borrowed from the school library, the public library, and I read what was in the house. By the time I was eleven I had an adult library ticket, although the library only allowed me to borrow non-fiction, presumably to protect me from the adult fiction I was reading at home with my parents’ blessing. Mix in with that all the normal fiction and non-fiction a boy would be reading along with his weekly Beano, TV21, and Look and Learn and you get a potent brew.

In those days I was fairly solitary with very few close friends. Those I did have all went to different secondary schools to me. In terms of education, that was two years of utter misery. Away from school it was balanced by the fun of becoming a young flâneur and of haunting museums and old buildings in the city where I lived. Although my walking days are done, museums are still inspirational havens I enjoy.

This was preparing the seedbed. I was writing already. Making up stories, doing research for projects, and writing them up were all fun. It seemed as natural a thing to do as playing with my construction set. But it was playing at that stage and nothing more.

It was when we moved to Sussex that the light went on and the seeds began to germinate. I was moved from a school where bullying was rife to one that was much more relaxed yet had far fewer problems. I made friends. There were girls. I was surrounded by people who were interested in the arts – dance, music, theatre, film, painting, sculpture, and writing. And this was the ‘60s. My immediate circle of friends was embedded in a culture of freedom and exploration, of sex and drugs and rock ‘’n’ roll. And books.

At school I had a succession of very good English teachers from Bill Euston who introduced me to T. H. White’s The Once and Future King, a book important to me on so many levels, through to Colin Silk who taught me at A Level and instilled not just a love of a broad range of literary fiction, but analytical and synthetical reading.

With money coming in from weekend work, I could buy records and books. I could get to London for the theatre. I could go to festivals and concerts. And yes, you really could do all that on what a teenager earned from stacking shelves in a supermarket. The endless summers of youth seemed like a long party. I read for days on end, explored the countryside, left flowers on the river bank where Virginia Woolf stepped into oblivion, and sat under the stars with friends to dream of what we thought would be a better world.

We made our own festivals at school, put on plays, trooped along to Phun City, went up to the Roundhouse and Hyde Park, were in and out of the Dome, tried to sink the Isle of Wight, spaced out to Hawkwind, cheered on the Deviants, and chanted along with Edgar Broughton.

When not out of my head on music, I read and read and read, buying books from the Unicorn Bookshop in Brighton and mixing there with all sorts of wonderful people. This is, perhaps, when I began to find my voice. I read New Worlds, Bananas, OZ, IT, and other underground magazines. And I swallowed books whole – one a day, sometimes. On top of all that activity I still had the energy to pull all-nighters to finish a book. It didn’t exactly enhance my performance at school, but I seem to have done well enough to go on to become a teacher.

Those magazines opened up a world of writing that I hadn’t imagined existed. Michael Moorcock’s work became a firm favourite and I later discovered that he had written for Look and Learn as a Fleetway staff writer. And of course, if you read New Worlds your mind was being expanded by all sorts of wonderful writers – Peake, Ballard, Aldiss, Sladek, Zoline, Harrison, Spinrad, le Guin, Russ, and so on. All of these are writers who are invariably pushed into the science fiction/fantasy ghetto, yet they were writing the most powerful literature of its time, using sf&f to enable them to explore issues that were not getting an airing elsewhere as well as exploring different methods to get their message across. I was also reading those writers when they discussed their influences and explored those as well, stepping from world to world of an ever increasing literary multiverse.

And of course, I wrote and wrote and wrote.

And wrote.

And then I wrote a lot more.

Follow the author on Twitter @graemeKtalboys and at http://www.graemektalboys.me.uk/

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