I was born on March 4, 1974 in Blantyre, Malawi to Ghislaine Pineault, a French-Canadian, and Gordon Kinlay Sellar. To avoid confusion, my parents gave me the middle name Alexander, but kept the rest the same as my father at his father’s insistence. That makes me the 3rd Gordon in a row. But I much prefer to be called Gord. It’s also a lot easier for Koreans to pronounce (as “Go-duh”), which is helpful to me these days.
Because of my father’s work, after my folks moved to Canada in 1975, I grew up in many towns and cities across the country, including Moncton, New Minus, and Truro on the East Coast, and La Ronge, Prince Albert, and Saskatoon (all in Saskatchewan). I went to a series of different schools, and some of my fondest memories from Saskatchewan involve walking alone in the bush up north, and being taken fishing on the fast, cold rivers in that part of the world.
My first artistic interests were in drawing and sketching but by the time I was in elementary school I was more interested in writing. I regularly produced spoofs of movies with my friends cast in the main roles, fantasy stories in weird species-segregated worlds, and poems to various girls at school. This was also about the time when I started getting interested in role-playing games, starting with Dungeons & Dragons and slowly expanding to SF and modern gothic fantasy games. By the time I was in University, studying music, I’d given up on both writing and gaming, but during a year off from University, when I lived in Edmonton, my interests in both those areas was revived. Through the rest of college I played and gamemastered a couple of White Wolf games, especially Wraith. (Wraith was a great game and I think it’s unfortunate that they terminated the series. But, ah wellÖ existential RPG just ain’t for most people.)
You can look at the RPG thing in one of two ways: on the one hand, it did eat up a tremendous amount of my time and mental energy. To think that space in my brain is still devoted to calculating hit rolls, armor class, and saving throws without looking at the charts in the reference books is a bit disturbing. (The info is still there though, ready for use whenever I need it. Which is never, these days.) But in gaming I learned a lot about character development, plotting, plausibility, considering character motivation, and so on. I think in the long run it was good for my writing, therefore.
But for a long time, RPGing and writing – which I think of as twin interests of mine – sat on the backburner, while music took the foreground. You can read more about my musical history on a special page devoted to that, but basically it’s fair to say that for a few years, from somewhere in high school until most of the way through my undergraduate degree, music was my life. I was obsessed with jazz, but studying in a classical program, I had to channel that interest in creative experimentation into composing. So I majored in theory and composition, and bought myself a series of headaches fighting the music department about my recital requirements. This led to me doing twice as much recital work as anyone else in the program in my 3rd year, and so in my 4th year, given no choice by my unreasonably demanding saxophone professor who showed no regard for my desire to work seriously on my composing, I decided to pull out of the program. Since the year before, I’d nurtured a growing suspicion that my true talents lay elsewhere, so I decided to do a double major.
My other major probably should have been either computer science or philosophy, judging by my grades in elective courses in those areas. In both I was in the extremely high 90sÖ but I couldn’t do calculus, and I had little patience to slog through the basic required reading in philosophy. Too many philosophers, like Kant, are just downright bad writers. Taking a couple of creative writing classes with writers like Guy Vanderhaeghe and Tim Lilburn (both excellent writers and outstanding teachers), and discussions with literature majors, finally led me to doing a double honors program in English and Music, which I finished in 1998. I did wellÖ I managed to hold my own, and sometimes even excel, in what was basically my first year of serious literary study, even surrounded by students who already had been doing that kind of study for several years. I was a member of a wonderful poetry group that continued to meet for years after our shared course ended, and who still corresponds and shares work and news via the internet, and occasionally meets in person (those who are still in Canada, anyway).
A year off during my bachelor’s program, during which I worked in a music shop in Edmonton, Alberta, produced in my a fervent desire never to have to rely on working in retail again if I could help it. So I studied like mad all through university and managed to finish with pretty good marks and references. This helped when I was accepted into a Master’s in Literature and Creative Writing Program at Concordia University in Montreal the same year, and started in on that in fall 1998. Although I suspect I was accepted on the basis of the poetry in the portfolio I submitted, my thesis ended up being a collection of short stories, all of them pretty much hard SF. I wasn’t truly happy with any of them, though, and submitted none of them for publication. (Silly me, that’s my next project after this website is finished.) I also worked on a lot of poetry in Montreal, and workshopped with outstanding young writers like Jack Illingworth, Helen Kuk, and Medrie Purdham. Studying with Catherine Bush has to have been the highlight of my studies there, though auditing a course on audio technology and literature taught by Jason Camlot takes a close second. While I didn’t play any music at that time, my friend Jack began to introduce me to indierock and I satisfied my need for a fun outlet by co-running with my friend Kat an rpg game online called Stellar Region.
During the last year of my studies, during which I mainly worked on my thesis, I also began to work as a technical writer, first doing contract work and later signing on with a company called TECSO, Inc. At the time TECSO was the world leader in design and implementation of educational software for the blind. The company primarily employed francophones, so my first contracts involved drafting English text for a major project outsourced to us. Later, I was hired on as the in-house English text writer. That was where I really learned French (though I’d studied the language a bit as part of my MA program) and I also learned a lot more: how to diddle with Windows; how to get through company meetings in a foreign language; how to translate documents when you don’t quite understand the original context.
Throughout my undergrad years, and all the way up to the time I started working at TECSO, I was very involved on the internet, in several communities, most significantly in the Brin-L science fiction mailing list and for a little while The Culture sf mailing list. I posted an unimaginable number of emails to Brin-L, so much so that people began using the length of my emails as a benchmark for long posts (Gord-Like-Length, they would warn potential readers). However, I later decided that my time would be better spent focusing on a few online relationships, and abstaining from email lists. I still hold to this today.
Unfortunately, my employers hit some difficulties in November of 2001, and this was the spur in my side to think seriously about my plans. I wanted to leave Canada, and a friend of a friend was looking for an English teacher in a sleepy little town near the southwest coast of South Korea, a town called Iksan. Well, in one of the most rapidly processed overseas job applications I’ve seen, I got the job and after a short visit to my family I found myself in Korea, working at a Won Buddhist school called Wonkwang University in a sleepy little town called Iksan. Iksan is located basically between Kunsan and Chonju on this map, near the west coast.
I haven’t looked back since. Well, maybe occasionally, a little, but I’ve basically settled here, happily working at slowly learning the language, and making a life for myself. I joined a rock band and began worming my way into the music scene; I made myself some Korean friends; I threw myself into my work, developing as much as I could as a teacher; after a few bad periods of classic who-am-I-in-this-place? stuff I achieved a kind of routine and regimen, and lately I’ve expanded that to include swimming daily and the resumption of both writing and rabid reading.
My life in Korea is good; I have a fair amount of free time to pursue my interests, and I have some really great friends here, stand-up people who care about me and who I can care about too. The woman who became my girlfriend is an absolutely amazing person and I feel incredibly lucky to have had the luck of ending up in Iksan and meeting her. I (usually)enjoy the constant challenge of my teaching work, of trying to learn the Korean language, and all the little tiny challenges of daily life in a country where everything is at least a little different from what you’re used to, and often very different. Between music, swimming, writing, reading, teaching, and studying, I have lost a ton of weight (30 kilograms in my first year!) and enjoyed some of the world’s most exotic and delicious cuisine. I’m playing in an indierock band that, while it’s nowhere near superstardom, is getting noticed by other musicians and fans all over Korea. (As I write this, we are preparing to play the opening set for a more renowned Korean band called Cocoa, a gig they requested us personally for!) The people are mostly kind, the women are surprisingly often beautiful (see my image galleries), and the countryside with its rolling soft ancient mountains is quite pretty… when you can actually find countryside. I have made a life here for myself. There are of course people and things I miss, but then that’s the nature of life anyway. But the long and the short of it is that, despite some discomforts and short-term difficulties things here are damn good.
For now, I guess that’s my life. In a nutshell. Any questions?