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M A R I N A   F I T C H :
Life As Fiction

(excerpted from Locus Magazine, April 1999)
Marina Fitch
    Photo by Charles N. Brown

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Marina Lee Fitch was born April 11, 1957, in Pasadena CA, and grew up in San Jose. She attended college at UC Santa Cruz, with a six-month break for travel to Europe with a friend, studied music, literature, and creative writing, and graduated in 1981.

Her first SF story sale came when she took third place in The Writers of the Future contest in its second year with ''They That Go Down to the Sea in Ships’’, printed in Volume Two of L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future (1986). She has had numerous short stories published in Pulphouse, F&SF, Asimov’s, etc. Her first novel, fantasy The Seventh Heart, appeared in 1997, followed by another contemporary fantasy, The Border, at the start of this year.

Aside from a year or so in the late ’80s working for Kristine Kathryn Rusch at Pulphouse and F&SF in Oregon, Fitch has spent most of her life in the area of Santa Cruz, California, where she now lives with husband (and fellow writer) Mark Budz.

''I was a very eclectic reader. I read anything that fell into my hands - fantasy, science fiction, mysteries, war stories, animal stories. I loved Dickens and Austen. But fantasy was the genre I kept coming back to, and what really got me into that was Peter Beagle’s The Last Unicorn. Through him, I discovered the Lin Carter-edited Ballantine adult fantasy series, and I loved the eclecticism there. When I got older, a lot of the fantasies were mostly based on Tolkien, but I loved the Lin Carter series because they weren’t all quests. People were exploring all kinds of different ideas.

''I didn’t get serious about writing until college. After I graduated from college, I just wrote as much as I could. At the time, I was writing mostly mainstream contemporary fiction, because I had genre work trained out of me in college. ‘You don’t need these fantastic elements. You don’t need to do this science fiction and fantasy stuff. That’s crazy.’ Then I got a third place in Writers of the Future, and that was it - I’ve been writing fantasy and science fiction ever since!

''I also got into the science fiction community when I sold my first short story. I took part in the first workshop the Writers of the Future put on in Taos, New Mexico, with Howard Hendrix and Bridget McKenna, Kris Rusch and Dean Smith, and more - a bunch of really talented people. As teachers, we had Jack Williamson, Algis Budrys, Fred Pohl, and Gene Wolfe, so it was quite an experience. Through them, I got even more involved in the science fiction community, which led to meeting Mark Budz, and moving up to Oregon to work at Pulphouse and F&SF.

''I like people in transition, people facing enormous changes, problems that are going to change their life. In The Seventh Heart, Gillian, the main character, is thrust into a situation where she has to appease the spirits of ocean, air, and earth. She doesn’t think she’s prepared for this. She thinks it’s kind of crazy. And it’s a life-transforming experience for her. She has to face up to this task that she doesn’t feel ready for, and yet actually she’s been preparing for all her life. She becomes the language for the spirits of these different elements, and draws on her knowledge and her experience as a speech therapist.

''In The Border, a lot of people face the death of their dreams. There’s an artist who has carpal tunnel and may not be able to do ceramics anymore. Everything she is, everything she sees in herself, may be taken away, so she has to think about what other things are open, what other passions does she have, so she can recreate herself. She’s moving from one self to another, crossing a border. Two other characters are facing the fact they may never have a baby of their own, and others are trying to build new lives, coming from Mexico into California. Those are the kinds of things - all people facing what I consider big issues in their life.

''Another thing that comes up in those first two books and the one I’m writing now, Rhythms Out of Time, I boil down as ‘Do I stay or do I go?’ Do I make a commitment to who I’m with or where I am now, or do I move on? Again, it goes back to my life. My parents divorced when I was 10. And I myself got involved with a man for 11 years - a wonderful man, a good man, just not my good man. For most of those 11 years, in the back of my mind I kept trying to decide, ‘Do I stay with him, or do I leave?’ And it shows up in my fiction. In the new book, it’s a mother and daughter who are trying to come to that separation a person needs to come to with their parents. And the daughter is trying to decide whether to stay or to go. It comes back to watching my parents separate and divorce and try to struggle with the question, ‘Do we work this out, or is it beyond salvage?’ It’s a dilemma that pervades a lot of the society around us.

''The advantage of using fantasy is that it gives me another way of going within and exploring. My characters aren’t shaped by the magic; they shape the magic. The magic comes from within them, and they use it to transform their world. Yes, I’m headed toward magic realism, and the book after Rhythms Out of Time will probably be an undoubted magic realism story.

''Fiction is a metaphor for life. People have been doing it since the dawn of time, trying to create sense out of random events. Fiction has always used characters to explain what the world is all about. And again, it’s that looking in that other mirror, that other window, and seeing things from a different perspective. Fiction has been around from the beginning so people could look at life from some other angle.

''Fiction gives structure to our lives. It gives meaning, it gives a way of collecting all the little bits and pieces, the things that we give significance. We gather those together, and we create a story we can live with - something that again requires faith and hope. It gives us hope that there is a meaning, a purpose to what we’ve done. Most people need to believe there’s a purpose in life, some reason for them to be here, that they’re performing some important function as a part of a greater whole, and they’re not insignificant. And fiction gives them a chance to do that.''

© 1999 by Locus Publications. All rights reserved.