Synchronicity - by Debbie Bennett

What makes us who we are? Nature or nurture? I don’t have any strong convictions either way, but I can identify pivotal points in my life – think Sliding Doors – when things could have gone either way. Not good/bad, or even particularly momentous, but just turning points.

My writing roots are firmly embedded in the sf/fantasy part of the garden. Though I read and write predominantly crime and thriller stuff these days, I grew up on Robert Heinlein, cut my teeth on John Wyndham and moved swiftly into fantasy once I was aware of its existence. My university library had an amazing fiction selection and rooms full of pretty-much every fantasy paperback ever published, including all the US imports too. I was in heaven.

Towards the end of my first year at university (Liverpool, 1982-1985, for those of you who like the details), I happened – for some long-forgotten reason – to be late into tea one Sunday afternoon. Back then, meals were provided in Halls, and Sunday “tea” consisted of a piece of plastic ham, a piece of lettuce, half a tomato and a slice of cucumber. And a cake for dessert. Yum. I wonder why I bothered rushing … But I did. I was on my own and chose to sit on the same table as a guy I vaguely recognised from my course.

And the universe split into two alternate time streams. One where I didn’t strike up a conversation with Sean, and one where I did. We were never boy and girlfriend, but we hung out together and he introduced me to another world. Role-playing – both D&D and live, wargames – all kinds of creative stuff which fed my imagination and started me writing. And so many of my friends, boyfriends, the rest of my time at university, my love for fantasy and reading and from that, my first steps into “proper” writing (as opposed to teenage angsty ramblings) all stemmed from that moment on a Sunday afternoon. 

Sometimes I wonder what my life would have been like if I’d not been late for tea that day. I'd have carried on not-quite fitting in, never feeling like I belonged anywhere. I'd never have spent my weekends at Peckforton Castle, acting out adventures and meeting a weird and wonderful group of people, I'd never have spent a couple of years dating a guy I met there and I'd probably never have seriously started writing. I'd certainly never have joined the British Fantasy Society or gone to Winchester Writing Festival (or Southampton as it was back then), which means I'd never have met another wonderful crowd of people, some of whom have been my closest friends for over 25 years now. I'd never have organised conventions, nor met some lovely authors. My whole life would just have been so different.

Strange how things can be so pivotal. If you wrote about it in fiction, it'd be way too unbelievable, wouldn't it? It's all cause and effect in fiction - things don't just happen without a reason.

Synchronicity because I’ve just done a short article after a call on a facebook page for those who were into live action role-playing at its birth in the early 80s. Double synchronicity (is there such a thing?) as my daughter has a residential summer job in Liverpool and will be staying in the same halls of Residence that I lived in 35 years ago. And now I just feel old ...


Umberto Tosi said…
Strange indeed how our lives can turn on a dime or a pence. I cut my teeth on the same generation of scifi masters to which you refer, though I never went to any teas. They say we should define our characters through actions. It seems that our actions define us as well, though we never know for sure which ones will count most. Thanks for another thought-provoking post, Debbie.
julia jones said…
Yes, it's fascinating. I like this. Thanks Debbie

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