The master escapist

The ICon Festival for fans of science fiction and fantasy welcomes author Carol Berg, a working mom who let her own fantasies transform her life.

September 23, 2007 09:16
3 minute read.
icon festiva 88 224

icon festiva 88 224. (photo credit: )

Assuming you are among the great silent majority of people who are not entirely enamored with your daytime job, Carol Berg might provide you with a bit of inspiration. The Colorado-based author is the guest of honor at the forthcoming annual ICon Festival which will be held between September 28 and October 4 at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque. This is the 11th run for the science fiction and fantasy gathering and is now a bona fide fixture in the country's festival calendar. The theme of this year's event is legends, an area which naturally lends itself to all manner of sci-fi and fantasy stories and movies. The ICon program includes a larger number of movies than in previous years (over 100), along with animation and comics items, and role playing games for all ages. Berg has specialized in legends since she first put pen to paper around 10 years ago. In the interim she has produced a burgeoning line of acclaimed and popular tomes, including Transformation, Daughter of Ancients and Song of the Beast. All in all, Berg says it isn't a bad way to earn an honest living. "I love this job. For quite a while I never imagined I could do just this, and make a living. But, thankfully, it's gone that way." Before devoting all her working time to writing, Berg followed a meandering career path. Her former sources of income include working as a high school math teacher, providing childbirth preparation and working as a software engineer. She kept the latter running in tandem with her writing for some time before she felt it was safe to settle on her writing pad. "I worked in software for 17 years, and writing was a hobby. I wrote to provide myself with something else to do besides bringing up my three, then small, children." Berg, it seems, was never content to just stick to homemaking. "When my youngest son was a toddler I got my computer science degree," she recalls. "I wanted to work, and I found software intriguing." Some time after she started her computer job Berg was cajoled into some "moonlighting." "I never imagined I could write a whole story, but a friend of mine teased me into writing a series of letters in characters. She and I each took a character and began emailing each other letters in our assumed guises. Before I knew it I had 20 pages written. A year later we had 32 stories." Berg does not regret the "lost time" spent working in the computer industry, though. "Software starts from a series of rules and you proceed to looking for logic and connections between the different bits and pieces of the puzzle. I use that part of my engineering background everyday to pursue plots and create magical realms." Writers follow all sorts of work regimes. Some hibernate for a defined period and just bash away until they produce the goods. Berg, on the other hand, treats her writing as a regular nine-to-five job and, the subject matter notwithstanding, does not become submerged in the fantasy worlds she creates. "I don't get lost in my books, even though I have to be by myself, and alone, and live the adventures along with my characters. When I'm finished with writing I get back to the real world, my husband, and go and read the newspaper. It does take me away from current life, but when I put the book down, it's gone. It is my full time job. I get up in the morning, I eat my Cheerios and I go to work. I can't just sit around waiting for inspiration to come. I write all day every day." Fantasy literature is, by definition, a form of escapism. Does Berg think there is a danger of readers, especially the younger ones, taking her work too seriously? "Take [Harry Potter author] J.K. Rowling, for example. She is a great storyteller and has the ability to understand what appeals to children - seriousness and fun. Children can handle seriousness. I think people have always told stories to ease discomfort with fears and worries, and things we can't explain. I think so called escapist literature can allow us to look at the problems we have but in a different way. It gives us ideas." Berg has been encouraged by the response she has received over the years from some of her readers. "A while ago, a young man came up to me who had just returned from doing military service in Iraq. He told me he'd pulled Transformation out of a box of books, and that the story [about people being in a place they didn't want to be] made a big difference to him there. That touched me. That makes me feel I am a success." For more information about the ICon Festival, go to:

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