A.M. Dellamonica‘s first novel, urban fantasy Indigo Springs, won the 2010 Sunburst Award for Canadian Literature of the Fantastic; a sequel, Blue Magic, was released by Tor in 2012. She has published short fiction in “Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine”, “Strange Horizons”, TOR.COM and over thirty other magazines and anthologies. (Her most recent short is “Among the Silvering Herd”.) A resident of Vancouver, British Columbia, Dellamonica teaches writing through the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program.
Leave a comment below to enter the drawing for a copy of Blue Magic.
Anyone who has a cursory glance at my blog will be well aware that I take a shocking number of pictures. On a recent trip to Sicily, I came away with 1600 keepers–images I put on Flickr, in other words–out of about 4000 frames shot. In any given week in my home stomping grounds of Vancouver, I’ll usually take 30-80 photos. This despite the fact that I feel, at times, as though I’ve shot every square inch of the city!
It is a terrific exercise to continue going out to look at the supposedly unchanged world one lives in. I keep seeing new things within the familiar terrain of home, and even in places I’ve been to dozens upon dozens of times, I can easily take several hundred shots if I get good light conditions or the right subject turns up.
How does this tie into my fiction writing?
In one sense, it doesn’t. Writing’s my profession and photography my principal hobby. I work hard to become ever better at the one and the other I try to just enjoy. I’ve improved as a photographer over the years–take that many pictures and it’s a hard trick not to get better–but it’s something I do for pleasure and I don’t let myself get angsty over it. Taking photographs is something I do to get out of the house, catch sunlight and fresh air, to refill the creative well, catch glimpses of cool birds (I’m insanely fond of birds) and–no small thing, this last–to spend time with my mother, who’s similarly inclined.
But I also strive not to compartmentalize my life unnecessarily, so all of my hobbies do bleed back into my fiction: how could they not? Just as I’ve written about students of aikido and knitters and singers, I have a fair number of stories about photography and photographers. The heroine of my next trilogy is a professional wildlife videographer: she goes on science expeditions and shoots video of narwals and nesting eagles and all manner of cool wildlife.
(The benefits here are that the research for this particular angle in my series is done for me. I know in my bones what it’s like to shoot pictures of wild animals. This character also allows me to indulge in a fantasy life where the part of me that hasn’t travelled much gets to shoot beautiful wildlife footage with a super-expensive camera, and the part of me that doesn’t particularly care for camping, rock-climbing, cold, wet or other extreme pursuits gets to stay home by her fire.)
Before I got a digital camera in 2005, I kept a Polaroid for memory-jogging purposes. I could take a picture with it and immediately write down what had struck me about the subject of the photo. It was inefficient and not always very effective, but I kept trying, because my visual memory is quite poor. I have trouble recalling how people look or the appearance of places I’ve seen… unless I’ve had multiple repeat exposures. I do much better if I go home with the image on a chip and browse them again later.
I am also newly in love with how social photography has become. It’s a second honeymoon. I had been getting a bit of camera fatigue before technology evolved better-for-me options for photo editing (through the iPad and its App store) and the social networking possibilities of Instagram. Now I am snapping every square inch of my home city yet again, so I can post the images in a new forum. In the process, I’m seeing it all anew one more time.
P.J. Rey and Nathan Jurgenson talk about documentary vision in this blog post (http://pjrey.wordpress.com/2011/11/21/ambient-documentation-to-be-is-to-see-and-to-see-is-to-be/), describing it as a tendency “whereby we increasingly experience the world as a potential social media document.” The stuff of daily life, in other words, is more and more becoming something we automatically consider not only recording but posting publicly. Would this coffee make a good Tweet? Why not? Should I tell the whole world I’m in line to see “The Avengers”? Sure!
I see this tendency in myself, but I have a counterbalancing example that I always set against it. When I was on a trip to Greece in 2001, I saw people walking through incredible museums and historical sites, passing innumerable treasures… and a few of them had their video cameras pasted to their faces. I’m talking about tourists who’d come Deity knows how far, and who never looked at what they were there to see: they just recorded it.
I vowed to never become that person, and no matter how in love with capturing the image I get, no matter how much I may want to post every single espresso and star magnolia blossom and Stellar’s Jay I come across, I make a point of taking the shot, lowering the camera and looking at the subject with the naked eye and my full attention. Because obvious though it may sound, it’s important to experience the world directly.
Especially if you want to write about it later.
LINKS, LINKS, KABILLIONS OF LINKS
My Official Site: http://alyxdellamonica.com
The UCLA Extension Writers’ Program: https://www.uclaextension.edu/
All my TOR articles: http://www.tor.com/Alyx%20Dellamonica#filter
TOR Stories: “The Cage” – http://www.tor.com/stories/2010/07/the-cage
“Among the Silvering Herd” – http://www.tor.com/stories/2012/02/among-the-silvering-herd
“Wild Things” (coming)
First chapter of Indigo Springs – http://www.tor.com/stories/2010/11/indigo-springs
First Chapter of Blue Magic – http://www.tor.com/stories/2012/03/blue-magic-excerpt
News, fiction, articles: http://alyxdellamonica.com