Monday, July 27, 2009

Greetings from Malaysia!

It's always difficult coming in on the end of such a strong line-up of writers. They've set such a high standard and you wonder if you're capable of sustaining that. I suppose only time will tell.

So, I'm back home in Malaysia after wandering a few continents for the past couple of decades. And it's been, and continues to be, relatively difficult. There's an old adage -- you can never go back. And it's true. If you've ever left your hometown, then you'll start to pick up little quirks of thought, emotion or action that are foreign to the person you used to be. You'll change. And, when you go back, (depending, of course, on how long you've been away) you'll realise that those changes are enough to perhaps permanently set you apart from your original community. As it has done for me.

Maybe that's why I'm so comfortable writing about aliens and otherwordly landscapes. Because, no matter where I am, I feel like an alien myself. It can be due to the colour of my skin, or the accent in my voice. Home in Malaysia, it's definitely a different way of thinking, including a faster, more abrupt (impatient) way of talking. The locals can tell the minute I open my mouth that I don't really come from around here. Not recently, at any rate.

But what's interesting is also the flip side. I've visited and lived in a variety of countries and had to battle the strange new way of doing things, from examining the labels on unfamiliar-looking groceries (and, believe me, no matter how similar the country to the one you've just come from, there are always going to be several items that completely stump your ability to comprehend), to grappling with a new set of annoying banks, to negotiating the local post office protocols. The language is different -- even if it's English! -- the terrain is different, the smell is different. Yet, the one thing that remains the same are the people themselves.

We all have the same basic dreams, the same wishes for our children, the same hopes for our societies. It's been like this for millennia too because, in reading letters and memoirs from centuries ago, I find a commonality that's startling and, sometimes, depressing. (Haven't we moved beyond [fill in your own pet peeve] yet?) The affirmation part of the equation, though, is what I find so compelling about writing romance. Our humanity is universal, and that is exactly what I feel I'm trying to plug into whenever I sit down and attempt to pen a story.

So, for an alien peering through many windows and -- beyond the surface differences -- seeing the same things, I suppose writing something like science-fiction romance is a natural choice. At least, that's the way I look at it.


Jewel Amethyst said...

I can relate to that. Having left my native country sometime back I realize when I go back, it is just not the same. And part of it is me. My expectations have changed. And I want it to be like when I was growing up. Impossible

Maria Zannini said...

This is so true. I had the very same experience when I went back to visit Chicago after having lived in SE Texas for a couple of years. I felt like a pariah. I no longer belonged. Even my family seemed unfamiliar.

Once I got over the shock, it made it that much easier to embrace my new home in Texas.

Kaz Augustin said...

I could be a bit flip here and say that, in the end, it's all grist for the creative mill, but that's exactly true, isn't it? It's interesting the things that prod our muse.

Liane Spicer said...

I've always felt apart, 'alien', even in my own country. It's paradoxical but probably because of this distance I've never doubted that I could make myself at home anywhere. The differences are all superficial, the similarities universal.

And yeah, I often feel that as a species we've learned nothing over the last few thousand years.

Phyllis Bourne said...

Like Maria, I'm from Chicago, but I haven't lived there since I graduated high school.

It's different. I'm different. I just don't really fit in, and when I visit I usually can't wait to leave.

KeVin K. said...

I grew up in Florida. I left the year Disney arrived. If youy want to see the Florida I remember -- the place I think of when I say 'Florida' -- you have to read a Travis McGee novel from the 60s or 70s.

As a partner in an interracial family in the American South, I often find myself on the outside of things. There's a glass bubble effect.

But I often wonder whether this sense of alien, this sense of no longer being a part of what we once were, is not a function of the world changing or even of the choices we have made but of the natural arc of human growth. Whatever its cause, I suspect it is another universal. Something we all share whether we want to or not.