ESL Teaching and Ultraviolent Fantasy Life: An Interview With Richard Morgan

Richard Morgan is an SF writer who works with extremely violent plotlines and vicious, tough characters. But when I listened to this interview with him that I learned something very interesting about him: he used to be an ESL (EFL) teacher in Britain. In fact, he attributes the extreme violence in his writing to his work as an ESL teacher.

He talks about the kind of necessarily suppressed rage that one feels when one is confronted with bigotry, celebration of evil crap like Hitler and the Holocaust, and all kinds of other disturbing things that, well, frankly, are all too familiar to an ESL teacher. His comments about a desire to make the classroom a warm, friendly place, while stifling rage at particular students—or groups of them—who are assholes, bigots, and racists? He even recounts a brief example of a Korean student declaring, after only a few weeks in Britain, that Brits are much more lazy than Koreans, and Koreans are much more hardworking.

And you can’t strangle these people, you know, because it’s your job not to. So I’m conviced that over the years, a kind of compacted form of rage settled inside me.

For some reason, I found this whole notion of ESL work and compacted rage as a really interesting connection, and perhaps a minor defense for some of the less savoury people I’ve met here.

Anyway, I haven’t found myself writing ultraviolent fiction yet, but I’ll have a good excuse if I ever do come to it.

UPDATE: Morgan actually discusses this directly here.

2 thoughts on “ESL Teaching and Ultraviolent Fantasy Life: An Interview With Richard Morgan

  1. This explains why my own writing has a certain level of violence to it. Interesting gord, verrrrry interesting. It’s a wionder there haven’t been any serial killers who were ESL teachers.Imagine Ed Gein introducing the Present Perfect to scores of Koreans. Or Jeffery Dahmer teaching cohesive devices at International House.

  2. Alistair,

    Sorry, I must have missed your comment the first time around.

    As Koreans have begun to talk in more and more lurid terms about “foreigner crime” I have begun to laugh and note that the fact more non-Koreans living here don’t go postal, given the amount of crap some seem to deal with, is a testament to their self-control and reserve.

    To which, the usual response is outrage bordering on violence… Ha! I jest… but I do think the crime rate in Korea is rising among foreigners isn’t just the diversification of foreigners here (so many people like to blame the Chinese emigrants) but also because, in some sense, foreigners in general (expat teachers included) are habituating themselves to Korea, and going native in some sense… rising to the level of violence and dishonesty that seems acceptable in the society around them.

    And the response to that definitely is outrage, but nobody’s ever presented a coherent counterargument.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *