Brewing Community is a series of guest posts in which readers, writers, artists and fans are invited to share their experiences of community. Whether online or in person, these groups bring a great deal of support and sometimes stress to their members. The aim of Brewing Community is to share the joy and find ways to brew stronger communities.
The series first ran in 2015. In returning to it after several years, I wanted to focus on how these experiences of community may have changed in recent years, and how people would like to see them change, as well as delving into what books and media have brought comfort in difficult times.
Today’s guest is Tansy Rayner Roberts. These days, she’s primarily a writer of cosies (both the SFF and the mysteries kind… sometimes both at once). However, she’s also a co-host of the Verity podcast and formed one third of Galactic Suburbia.
Since you’ve never been interviewed on Earl Grey Editing before, there’s one important question I must ask first: what’s your favourite beverage?
Tea, always tea! (Ironically not Earl Grey but just, ALL the other tea)
Has your experience of community in speculative fiction and fandom changed in recent years?
Absolutely it has. Partly I feel like I’ve withdrawn from a lot of community aspects I used to pour time into, which does leave me feeling a little more isolated. I’m older, my kids are growing up, I have a more intensive day job than ever before, and my drawbridge has gone up a little as far as online spaces/social media is concerned.
And then of course, Covid. Not going to a convention every year or so shouldn’t feel like a big deal — there were often years when I didn’t go to Continuum etc. But I miss it a lot, while also not feeling ready to travel even as the conventions do start up again.
I’ve been looking inward a lot more — my family has suffered some losses and some scary medical situations over the last couple of years. It’s been rough. I find myself wanting to spend more time improving our immediate environment and less time at the laptop, even if that is where so many of my friends live…
I’ve found new pockets of community — or they’ve found me, on the whole I don’t have energy to track down new friends but I have occasionally been invited into conversations/new online spaces/local events that I enjoy greatly. I like being invited to things! It’s my true weakness.
What would you like to see changed?
Honestly I want someone to invent some kind of brand new social media platform that everyone gets excited about and allows me to stay in touch with all of my fannish/SFF friends in a way that is intimate and fun and low-stress. Obviously that magical social media platform would also have to be 100% accessible, non-problematic and just, perfect for everyone.
It’s too easy to just… drift away from chatting to people you used to talk to every day, just because you aren’t sharing the same specific online space any more. How do we fix that? I don’t know. But I think my future in SFF community is going to continue to be more weighted to the digital and the local than anything involving travel any time soon.
Also if Covid could just stop now please, that would be great.
What books or media have you found yourself turning to for comfort?
My love of gaslamp fantasy has grown so much over the last few years. I find historical romance comforting, too — now there’s so much of these genres that is LGBTQ friendly, feminist and generally rich with diversity, they feel like good places to escape to. The present feels almost as scary as the future…
The TV show that got me through 2021 — a really painful, stressful year in many ways — was Escape to the Chateau and its associated spin-offs. I can’t tell you why I took so much pleasure and diversion from a show about Brits buying cheap property in France and then refurbishing collapsing castles in the face of termites, plumbing disasters and dwindling budgets, but these shows are EVERYTHING TO ME.
I tell myself it’s because I’ve always been obsessed about stories involving small business (see: my love of The Babysitter’s Club, and any romance novel involving a little shop) but mostly it’s the heartwarming tales of strife and the vintage wallpaper.
Tansy Rayner Roberts is the author of the Teacup Magic novellas (cozy gaslamp fantasy), and The Creature Court Trilogy (dark, blood-spattered gaslamp fantasy). Under the pen-name Livia Day, she also writes mystery novels set in her home of Tasmania.
Tansy’s recent releases include From Baby Brain to Writer Brain (Brain Jar Press), Dyed and Buried, and Spellcracker’s Honeymoon.
Until the perfect social media platform to rule them all is invented, you can find her on Twitter & Instagram as @tansyrr, or subscribe to her newsletter: https://tinyurl.com/tansyrr