Tag Archives: connie willis

Fare Thee Well, Fellow Traveller

I heard the news about David Hartwell’s accident last night; it makes me inexpressibly sad to see one of the people who have shaped the speculative fiction landscape for so long pass. Others will tell you of all his wonderful accomplishments; I want to celebrate his life by recounting a few moments of it that I was privileged enough to share.
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On Clarion and Privilege and the Internets

People are, understandably, saying that the equation clarion + student = pro writer is not the only way you can reach that particular sum, and they are absolutely correct, although the drama is — as is often the case on the Internet — a bit hyperbolic.

This is the fact of F&SF writing — there are people disadvantaged by gender, or race, or sexuality or other physical circumstances. But there’s also a big group — which contains a disproportionate number of those differing physically — affected by economic issues. Continue reading

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Writing and the Human Condition

I wanted to talk about something that I often say in class. It’s something Connie Willis told my Clarion West class, and which I repeat, but don’t explain as thoroughly as I should, because it’s so clear in my head.

But words are imprecise things, and so I’m a-gonna do what we used to call “unpacking” back in grad school and even provide some useful examples. What did Connie say? She said, “Good fiction teaches us what it means to be human.” As good f&sf writers, I would argue that we might change “human” to “self-aware being,” but that is picking nits.

What does that mean? It means we’re all faced with this common problem: life. And we want to know what we’re supposed to do, and what we can get away with, and what to do about all that hardcoded primate behavior that keeps popping up from time to time, and stuff like that. Sometimes the message features a universal human, sometimes it is a human shaped by particular circumstances, such as race, gender, class, sexuality, disability, etc. It’s why we like to read fiction. It’s why we like gossip. We want to know what other human beings do.

And here’s why this is important: Sometimes thinking about what a story is trying to say is a good way to complete, rewrite, or sharpen it.
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