This year I’m taking the first steps to develop my 2040 vision of a speculative fiction Riverland.
Thanks to a National Regional Arts Fellowship I will undertake a month-long self-directed writing residency this November in Barmera. Across the month I’ll be learning, writing, ideating, exploring, reflecting and documenting as I ask myself and my community: What would a version of the Riverland full of dragons and magic look like (and how can that help us better care for and build the real Riverland)?
My long-term vision is that the fantasy world version of the Riverland created through Novel November will become a framework for future stories, theatre projects, visual art exhibitions, cosplay, LARP and other things here in my community over the coming years.
You can find a full list of ways to be involved in workshops, write-ins and celebrations for Novel November here: https://partofthings.org/portfolio/novel-november-2021/
The rest of this post covers some anticipated Frequently Asked Questions:
What is Speculative Fiction?
The Oxford Dictionary definition of speculative fiction is: a genre of fiction that encompasses works in which the setting is other than the real world, involving supernatural, futuristic, or other imagined elements.
It’s basically an umbrella category for a whole bunch of genres that tell stories outside of the “real world”. Speculative fiction includes:
- science fiction
- superhero fiction
- alternate history
- utopian fiction
- dystopian fiction
- supernatural fiction
- ghost stories
Through Novel November, I am most interested in exploring fantasy, but there may be other elements of speculative fiction that develop.
Did you say 2040 vision? Isn’t that a long way away?
Yup. It is and a lot will change in twenty years, including me and the Riverland, and what we want and need. Everything could (and will) go in many different directions but my big ambitious 2040 vision is something like a Sleep No More crossed with Sovereign Hill crossed with Evermore Park kind of experience in the Riverland. We may get nowhere near that but I hope to have a lot of fun with my collaborators exploring a whole bunch of outcomes within our fictional magical Riverland over the next few years at least.
So what kind of outcomes are you imagining in the short-term then?
The month-long residency will determine some of what that looks like, but what I am currently imagining is that by the end of the residency in November I will have some core characters and a handful of written pieces (most likely short stories and poetry, but perhaps other bits) created by me and workshop participants. Next year I’d then like to bring 3-5 of those characters to life through some costume design workshops and take them out and about to local Riverland events, and perhaps a photography outcome from that too. I’d also like to do an exhibition at Part of Things of concept art responding to writing from Novel November 2021. I’m already in conversation with my illustrator friend Samuel Wannan about making that happen. In 2023, I’d love to aim for creating a short live performance experience set in the world and featuring one of the characters/stories. Alongside this, I want to keep working with Riverland writers to keep growing the collection of stories and bring them to life with other collaborators – I’m thinking there could be some outcomes here similar to the We Love Dragons merch collaboration. I’d love to develop a Games Jam using the settings and concept of the world we create in a year or so (check out Wretched & Alone for some idea of what a Games Jam can be) and I can see lots of other potential ways to bring our world to life with different collaborators and formats in the coming years.
Who owns the content created during Novel November?
I’ll be asking all participants in Novel November to sign a Workshop Participation Deed, which outlines expectations for any shared content developed during Novel November. Individual creators will retain copyright to individual pieces of work and we will negotiate share/licensing agreements where appropriate. We are trying to build an overall world/concept that many people can create in without fear, but it is also important that the work of individual creators is respected and cared for. My big 2040 vision does have an economic element to it as I want to build a structure that could create employment for Riverland artists, young people and other small businesses.
How do I get involved or follow what you’re doing?
If you live in the Riverland, sign up and attend any of the free workshops I’m facilitating for Novel November. Details here.
I will be posting a work-in-progress blog every Wednesday in November and live-writing throughout the month, so people from anywhere can follow along that way.
I’ll also be sharing updates on my Facebook and Instagram accounts.
Do I need to be creative to get involved with Novel November?
Absolutely not! The workshops will all be writing focused but everyone is welcome, you can just sit in and listen. There are so many skills I don’t have to be able to bring the 2040 vision to life, so the more the merrier. Bring ideas, listen, share, connect and contribute in whatever way suits you.
Got a question I haven’t covered? Flick me an email with your question and I will add my answer to this post.
Alysha Herrmann’s Novel November Residency is supported by the Australian Government’s Regional Arts Fund, with additional support from Writers SA through Alysha’s role as Writers SA Riverland Coordinator.