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: 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 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 »

The Space-Time Continuum: Space Opera

Here's the latest instalment of my regular column on writing science fiction and fantasy from Freelance, the newsletter of the Saskatchewan Writers Guild... “Space opera” is an odd-looking term: after all, as the marketers for the movie Alien might have (but fortunately didn’t) put it, in space, no one can hear a tenor scream a high C. Early SF fan Wilson “Bob” Tucker coined the phrase, writing in his fanzine in 1941: “In these hectic days of phrase-coining, we offer one. Westerns are called ‘horse operas,’ the morning housewife tear-jerkers are called ‘soap operas.’ For the hacky, grinding, stinking, outworn space-ship yarn, or world-saving for that matter, we offer ...

Posted by Edward Willett at 9:34, September 14th, 2014 under Blog, Columns, Science Fiction Columns, Writing and Editing | 2 Comments »

The Space-Time Continuum: Workshops

Today, while writing the next installment of my regular SF/F-writing column "The Space-Time Continuum" for Freelance, the magazine of the Saskatchewan Writers' Guild, I realized I'd never posted the previous column online...and so here it is! *** Over the years I’ve participated in a number of science fiction and fantasy writing workshops, to great effect: two of my published novels (Marseguro and Terra Insegura) and a published short story (“Waterlilies”) arose directly out of the Writing With Style workshops instructed by Robert J. Sawyer at the Banff Centre a few years ago. Workshops have a long, honorable history in science fiction. As noted SF writer Bruce Sterling puts it, “People often ...

Posted by Edward Willett at 17:10, January 14th, 2014 under Blog, Columns, Science Fiction Columns, Writing and Editing | Comment now »