Between the fifth and sixth grade I changed schools and entered a full time gifted program. Ostensibly, I did this because I was such a bloody genius and I needed more of a challenge than my local school and teachers could offer, but that was maybe one per cent of the reasoning behind my final decision. In reality, I was being viciously bullied and I needed to get the fuck out.
As a result of this, I adopted a scorched earth approach to everything that I thought might have made me a target in the past. I started wearing jeans because someone once made fun of my stirrup pants (oh, the early ‘90s) at the old school and I thought maybe that was part of the problem. And I completely turned my back on all things science fiction-related because my Dune and Star Trek love really hadn’t gone over well at all.
While I missed comfortable pants, I actually found it easy enough quit sci-fi cold turkey. Whatever enjoyment I’d received from the genre was too heavily weighted with baggage. Space and science just felt like victimization. I felt vaguely sick when I even tried to watch or read that shit. And I soon fell in love with indie rock and had no room for any other entertainment in my life, anyway, so it was a relatively painless break.
In grade eight, our teacher included a science fiction unit in our language arts studies. The majority of the class – male geeks who were allowed to stay in at recess to play D&D – were thrilled. The brilliant burnouts and academic overachievers were either apathetic or somewhat game.
I was mortified.
I was viciously disappointed in our naive teacher for even suggesting such a thing. Surely she could tell how vulnerable we were as a small class of gifties in a normal school. Why on earth would she bait all of those potential bullies by making us visibly read and engage with science fiction?
When it came time to write our own sci-fi stories I did the only thing in my power to protect myself: I sort of made it about indie rock. And, um, Hamilton, Ontario.
I was really, really, really, really into the Killjoys and the Sonic Unyon bands at the time and their hometown had taken on almost mythic proportions in my mind. I loved Hamilton beyond all rationality. Like, I used to tag along on my family’s (strangely frequent, in retrospect) road trips to the Lime Ridge Mall just so I could be in Hamilton.
Which is how I ended up writing a (not terrible?) science fiction short story about people with bright hair getting killed and committing suicide a lot set at the Lime Ridge Mall and named after the band Smoother to defend my coolness.
I showed them.