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Stephen Gaskell

Stephen Gaskell

Life is a constant battle between the routine and the extraordinary. Like light and shadow, each is needed to appreciate the other. Through my teenage and university years I found a reasonable balance. I read plenty of speculative fiction, studied the fundamental laws of the universe (incredibly counter-intuitive at times), and did all the usual crazy adolescent things (no, no car-jackings or traffic-cone shenanigans, but I reckon I might be the only person to have ever skateboarded around the main quad at University College, Oxford). These activities all helped to compensate for the tediums of youth–lack of money, timetables, dull classes. However, after graduating and working in the IT industry for several years, I began to feel that I was living too much of the routine and not enough of the extraordinary. Temperamentally, I knew I wasn’t suited to a life of office work. What I was suited to I had no idea.

So I went travelling.

And after a month or so I started to enjoy it. And after two I never looked back. Each country, each place offered new horizons. In Tokyo I stayed a couple of nights in a capsule hotel, where Japanese businessmen clad in regulation pyjamas ran around reading Manga comics. In Varanasi I watched recently deceased Hindus get cremated on the stone ghats next to the holy river Ganges. On the border between Vietnam and Laos I experienced a farcical customs process. In Palenque, Mexico I wandered around ancient Mayan ruins.

Upon returning, still not knowing what I wanted to do, writing fiction–an art I’d dabbled in through my mid-twenties–seemed a good stop-gap for the time-being. Creating stories allowed me to draw out my most interesting experiences without having to subject too many friends to the dreaded holiday slideshow. More importantly, it allowed me to entertain strange milieus and situations while maintaining the belief I still had a career of sorts.

The background has varied since then, but the one constant in my life has been the, if not daily, then at the very least, weekly, communion between a writer and his writing. In the meantime, in an effort to have some other milestones apart from the slowly accumulating wordcount and the occasional sale (the two metrics by which any writer ultimately judges him or herself), I’ve become a CELTA qualified English teacher, lived in Budapest for two years, gained a Masters in Evolutionary and Adaptive Systems, and worn the colours of four different football teams.

As to what I actually write, the waters are still murky. In an ideal world I’d combine the mind-expanding concepts of Iain M Banks, the lexical suppleness of Vladimir Nabokov, the inventiveness of Ted Chiang, the spiritual depth of Hermann Hesse, and the taut emotions of Margaret Atwood… but in this world I’m pretty happy when I type the words: THE END.

 

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