Edward Willett

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The Space-Time Continuum: Pulp Fiction

This is my latest column from the Saskatchewan Writers Guild magazine Freelance, with extra graphics! Mention “pulp fiction” these days and most people probably think of the 1994 Quentin Tarantino movie. But of course the movie’s title referenced something much earlier: fiction literally published on pulp—cheap paper made directly from wood-pulp. Pulp paper quickly turns both yellow and brittle, and perhaps that perception of poor quality has coloured the perception of the fiction printed thereon, but in fact many classic stories—not just of science fiction and fantasy, but in other genres, too—first appeared in what are now known as the “pulp magazines.” Mike Ashley is a U.K. researcher and editor who has published ...

Posted by Edward Willett at 14:48, October 3rd, 2017 under Blog, Columns, Science Fiction Columns | Comment now »

The Space-Time Continuum: What’s the Big Idea?

Here's my latest "Space-Time Continuum" column from the Saskatchewan Writers Guild's magazine Freelance. “Where do you get your ideas?” is a question every author has heard multiple times. I usually say something about how story ideas are all around us, and give some examples. But recently I’ve realized there are two different kinds of ideas at work in a book: the idea that starts the book, and the idea at the heart of the book—what you might call the “big idea.” Or, at least, that’s what I’m going to call it, because that’s what bestselling science fiction writer John Scalzi calls it in his popular blog “Whatever," where for years he has generously ...

Posted by Edward Willett at 11:15, August 6th, 2017 under Blog, Columns, Science Fiction Columns, Writing and Editing | Comment now »

The Space-Time Continuum: Aliens in Science Fiction

Having just posted my column from the February/March 2017 issue of Freelance, the magazine of the Saskatchewan Writers Guild (see previous post), it behooves me to be more timely and post the most recent column, from the April/May issue. And here it is! I remember being confused, as a kid, the first time I encountered the term “illegal aliens.” “Alien,” to me, had only one meaning: intelligent creatures from other planets. How could they be illegal? I wondered. Not being from this planet, were they really subject to its laws? Yes, I was a weird kid. Aliens are one of the great tropes of science fiction, as the length of the article in the ...

Posted by Edward Willett at 16:15, May 21st, 2017 under Blog, Columns, Science Fiction Columns, Writing and Editing | Comment now »

The Space-Time Continuum: Creating Magic Systems

This is a belated posting of my column from the February-March 2017 issue of Freelance, the magazine of the Saskatchewan Writers Guild. Don't know how I missed posting it, but better late than never! Most fantasy stories include magic: that’s kind of what makes them fantasy. (In fact, if I had to distinguish between fantasy and science fiction, I’d say, “The fantastical stuff in fantasy is ascribed to magic. The fantastical stuff in science fiction is ascribed to advanced technology.”) However, different authors take different approaches to the use of magic in stories. In older books of the fantastic (think The Lord of the Rings), magic is (in the words of Brian ...

Posted by Edward Willett at 16:05, May 21st, 2017 under Blog, Columns, Science Fiction Columns, Writing and Editing | 2 Comments »

The Space-Time Continuum: Maxims and proverbs and saws, oh my!

Here's my latest Space-Time Continuum column for Freelance, the magazine of the Saskatchewan Writers Guild: Writers love to write about writing, probably because writing about writing is a great way to avoid actually, you know, writing. Sometimes writing about writing takes the form of a long essay or (ahem) column; sometimes it takes the form of a sage saw, witty aphorism, clever epigram, or wise maxim (another way to procrastinate is to spend several minutes poking around a thesaurus). Science fiction and fantasy writers have coined a number of these over the years, only some of which relate to writing. Some are more general observations, such Arthur C. Clarke’s Third Law, “Any sufficiently ...

Posted by Edward Willett at 9:04, December 4th, 2016 under Blog, Columns, Science Fiction Columns, Writing and Editing | Comment now »

The Space-Time Continuum: Frankenstein, the first science fiction novel

This is my Space-Time Continuum column for the latest issue of Freelance, the magazine of the Saskatchewan Writers Guild. It's a modified version of a column I wrote ages ago as one of my newspaper science columns. It seemed appropriate to bring that old column back to life...bwah-ha-ha! As I write this, it’s about three weeks until Hallowe’en, a time when people’s thoughts turn to monsters. While in this modern age there are a great many more monsters to choose from than there used to be, there’s no doubt that one of the most popular (which is an odd thing for a monster to be, perhaps, but still) is the ...

Posted by Edward Willett at 11:10, October 21st, 2016 under Blog, Columns, Science Fiction Columns, Writing and Editing | Comment now »

The Space-Time Continuum: The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction

My "Space-Time Continuum" column for the August/September 2016 issue of Freelance, the newsletter of the Saskatchewan Writers Guild. When I was growing up, in pre-Google days, my go-to book for anything I had a question about was the 1958 edition of Collier’s Encyclopedia, which my parents had bought before I was born. One thing I couldn’t learn much about in Collier’s or any other encyclopedia, however, was science fiction. I had to rely on bits and pieces gleaned from the introductions to books and stories, and the occasional magazine article. All that changed in 1979 with the publication of a massive reference work called The Encyclopedia of ...

Posted by Edward Willett at 10:38, September 5th, 2016 under Blog, Science Fiction Columns, Writing and Editing | Comment now »

The Space-Time Continuum: Women of Futures Past

My latest column for the Saskatchewan Writers Guild's newsletter, Freelance. Whenever I lead a workshop about writing science fiction, I say it’s important to read widely and deeply in the field: that science fiction is like a long ongoing argumentative conversation, and jumping into it without being aware of what has already been said will irritate people at best and derail the conversation at worst. Admittedly, it’s far harder to be keep up with the field now than when I was a kid. Back then, a dedicated fan could reasonably hope to read everything of note published every year. Today, there is far more science fiction and fantasy around, and the audience ...

Posted by Edward Willett at 20:21, June 23rd, 2016 under Blog, Columns, Science Fiction Columns, Writing and Editing | Comment now »

The Space-Time Continuum: The Aurora Awards

Here's my Space-Time Continuum column from the December-January issue of the Saskatchewan Writers Guild's newsletter Freelance... Literary awards are nice to get. They may or may not help book sales, and they may or may not come with a cash prize, but at the very least, they’re a form of validation for authors. (As Sally Fields put it when she won an Academy Award, “They like me, they really like me!”) Canada's most prestigious literary science fiction awards are the Auroras, presented annually by the non-profit Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Association (CSFFA), which also sponsors the French-language Prix Aurora Boréal. They were first given out in 1980 (when there ...

Posted by Edward Willett at 15:47, December 7th, 2015 under Blog, Columns, Science Fiction Columns | Comment now »

The Space-Time Continuum: The world of fanzines

Here's my latest column from Freelance, the magazine of the Saskatchewan Writers Guild... Long before I ever subscribed, or even read, a copy of a professional science fiction magazine, I was reading—and even drawing illustrations for—science fiction fanzines. In those pre-Internet days, fanzines filled the place today taken by Tumblr and Instagram and myriad other social media sites, allowing fans of science fiction in general, or particular genres (or sub-genres, or sub-sub-genres) of science fiction, to connect with the likewise-interested...likewise-interested who could be very hard to come across in, say, your average small-town (and sometimes small-minded) high school. I began by reading Star Trek fanzines (probably because I’d read about them in ...

Posted by Edward Willett at 9:46, September 15th, 2015 under Blog, Columns, Science Fiction Columns, Writing and Editing | Comment now »