Edward Willett

Praise from Saskatchewan Book Awards jurors for The Cityborn

Last night the 25th annual Saskatchewan Book Awards were presented at the Conexus Arts Centre. My science fiction novel The Cityborn was shortlisted for the City of Regina Book Award, for “the best book by a Regina author, judged on the quality of the writing.”

This is, I believe, the eighth time I’ve been shortlisted, and I won the City of Regina Book Award in 2002 for Spirit Singer; in fact, on the display board at the door last night they had photos of some past winners, myself among them (look closely at the photo I’m indicating in the photo accompanying this post!).

My competition this year include Anne Campbell’s poetry collection The Fabric of Day (Thistledown Press), Trevor Harriott’s non-fiction book Islands of Grass, with photographs by Branimir Gjetvaj (Coteau Books), and Marlis Wesseler’s novel The Last Chance Ladies’ Book Club (Signature Editions).

Although I didn’t win (Trevor Harriott did), the jurors for the category, Mryl Coulter, Charles Demers, and Farzana Doctor, had some very nice things to say about The Cityborn in the program:

“In this torrent of a story, Edward Willett crafts a fast-paced narrative that features masterful world-building and dozens of surprising twists. The result is a reading rush led by two unique young people who must unravel the mystery of their origins while fleeing a crumbling trash-filled environment and evading an oppressive social hierarchy. The continuing failed attempts for ultimate power by many of this book’s characters illuminate human flaws and the impossibility of omnipotence. The Cityborn is an intricate tour de force that will bewitch its readers.”

It was a great event all the way around. I look forward to next year.

Illustrated collection of science fiction/fantasy poetry released!

I Tumble through the Diamond Dust, my new collection of fantastical (science fiction, fantasy, and horror) poems, illustrated by Alberta artist Wendi Nordell (my talented niece), is now available in both print and ebook formats!

Buy it from Amazon.ca, Amazon.com, Kobo, or the Apple store in ebook format, or in print through Chapters/Indigo or the publisher, Your Nickel’s Worth Press.

Here’s the description:

Within these pages lie twenty-one poems… and twenty-one worlds: worlds in the farthest reaches of space, worlds steeped in myth and legend, worlds that never were, and worlds that yet could be.

Written by award-winning science fiction and fantasy author Edward Willet, and beautifully illustrated by Alberta artist Wendy Nordell, each poem was inspired by— and contains– two lines of published poetry from Saskatchewan poets, sent out every weekday by former Saskatchewan Poet Laureate Gerald Hill as a Poetry Month challenge to members of the Saskatchewan Writers Guild in April 2016.

Every poem tells a story. Some are frightening. Some are funny. Some are poignant, some surreal. Enter a realm of unfettered imagination… and embrace the fantastical.

Tentative plans are for a book launch the first weekend in June. Whatever happens with that, Wendi and I will both definitely be on hand for a book signing at Chapters Regina the afternoon of June 2. I’m also working on some sort of launch event/reading/signing in Saskatoon at McNally Robinson. Stay tuned!

Complete cover for my poetry collection I Tumble Through the Diamond Dust

Here’s the complete cover of my upcoming poetry collection, I Tumble Through the Diamond Dust, illustrated by Alberta artist Wendi Nordell (who happens to be my niece). The back copy reads:

Within these pages lie twenty-one poems…and twenty-one worlds: worlds in the farthest reaches of space, worlds steeped in myth and legend, worlds that never were, and worlds that yet could be.

Written by award-winning science fiction and fantasy author Edward Willett, and beautifully illustrated by Alberta artist Wendi Nordell, each poem was inspired by—and contains—two lines of published poetry from Saskatchewan poets, sent out every weekday by former Saskatchewan Poet Laureate Gerald Hill as a Poetry Month challenge to members of the Saskatchewan Writers Guild in April 2016.

Every poem tells a story. Some are frightening. Some are funny. Some are poignant, some surreal. Enter a realm of unfettered imagination…and embrace the fantastical.

Coming soon from Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing.

Great new review of Door Into Faerie

On her blog, Saskatoon author Shelley A. Leedahl reviews Door into Faerie:

“…I read it without reading its predecessors, and also, admittedly, with a bit of a bias against the fantasy genre. Magic shmagic. I’ve oft said that what I really value in literature is contemporary realism: stories I can connect with via details from the here and now, geography and language I can relate to because I recognize it, I speak it. The old “holding a mirror to the world” thing. Well surprise, surprise: I loved this YA fantasy. Willett wields his well-honed writing chops from page one, and my interest was maintained until the final word…I can’t imagine teens not enjoying this entertaining story, perhaps especially if they’ve read the books that’ve preceded it. This adult enjoyed it, too … magic and all. “

Read the whole thing.

 

Cover Art Reveal: Worldshaper

Here’s the fabulous cover art for Worldshaper, my ninth novel for DAW Books, coming out September 18 in hardcover and ebook. It’s the start of a new series called Worldshapers. The artwork is by Juliana Kolesova, who happens to also be from Canada–she works out of Toronto.

Here’s the description:

The Space-Time Continuum: Steam-Engine Time

Here’s my latest column from Freelance, the magazine of the Saskatchewan Writers Guild.

All forms of art, from the visual to the theatrical, from motion pictures to literature, tend to go through movements. One reason for this is simply copycatting, something that is most clearly seen in the motion picture industry: somebody makes a movie about, say, competitive cross-stitching, and it’s such a hit that suddenly there are a dozen more films about the cut-throat world of fabric-related competition. Another reason is conversation: artists within the same genre naturally react to, protest, and comment on the work of others within their genre.

But sometimes, and especially in science fiction, it’s because it’s “steam-engine time.”

The phrase was coined by Charles Fort (1874-1932), who researched and wrote about weird, inexplicable phenomena—showers of snakes, spontaneous human combustion, floating balls of light, encounters with monsters, that kind of thing. His books were very popular, and to this day there are “Forteans” who continue to collect and investigate accounts of these anomalies.

In his third book of oddities, Lo!, published in 1931 (which, as Wikipedia puts it, detailed “mysterious falls of animals and strange materials, flying stones, poltergeist activity, etc. and incorporated these strange phenomena into his new theory on teleportation, saying that teleportation from the Super-Sargasso Sea can explain these phenomena”—because, why not?), Fort wrote, “A tree cannot find out, as it were, how to blossom, until comes blossom-time. A social growth cannot find out the use of steam engines, until comes steam-engine time.”

In the science fiction field, “steam-engine time” is a handy shortcut for the phenomenon of multiple writers suddenly and more-or-less independently producing stories built around the same idea. In a 2011 interview in The Paris Review, Canadian author William Gibson talked about how he came to coin the word cyberspace (it first appeared in his story “Burning Chrome,” published in Omni in 1982, then really took off with the publication of his 1984 novel Neuromancer). It was, he said, “steam-engine time” for the idea of cyberspace.

“It’s called steam-engine time because nobody knows why the steam engine happened when it did,” Gibson said. “Ptolemy demonstrated the mechanics of the steam engine, and there was nothing technically stopping the Romans from building big steam engines. They had little toy steam engines, and they had enough metalworking skill to build big steam tractors. It just never occurred to them to do it. When I came up with my cyberspace idea, I thought, I bet it’s steam-engine time for this one, because I can’t be the only person noticing these various things. And I wasn’t. I was just the first person who put it together in that particular way, and I had a logo for it, I had my neologism.”

The resulting sub-genre of cyberpunk is hardly the only example of “steam-engine time” within the field. The idea of manned spaceflight, still closely associated with science fiction, was another that many people were drawn to all at once.

When I read science fiction short stories religiously, in the 1980s and 1990s, one topic that sprouted several stories was the threat to civilization posed by the coming ice age (remember, in the 1970s scientists were predicting global cooling, not warming). These days, of course, there are so many stories about civilization facing the challenges of a warming planet that they’ve spawned their own (rather unattractive) neologism: “cli-fi.”

Nanotechnology and virtual reality have all had their place in the sun. And you could say it literally became steam-engine time again with the advent of the popular sub-genre of steampunk.

Science fiction, I think, is particularly prone to the flowering of multiple stories built around the same themes because it is driven by scientific, technological, and social developments in the real world. The classic science fiction idea-generator, after all, is “If this goes on…”

In fact, “If This Goes On—” was the actual title of a classic science fiction novella by Robert A. Heinlein. Serialized in 1940 in Astounding Science Fiction, and included in revised and expanded form in his 1953 collection Revolt in 2100, it’s about a theocratic dictatorship taking hold in the United States. A backwoods preacher, Nehemiah Scudder, is elected president in 2012…and there are no more elections after that. The theocracy is established and maintained through the combination of mass communications (just taking hold when Heinlein wrote), applied psychology, and a hysterical populace.

While some of the upwelling ideas that produce clusters of similar stories eventually fade, overtaken by events, others continue to percolate inside the field. Nanotechnology, artificial intelligence, robots, genetic engineering, environmental concerns, terrorism, mass migration, and many other technological and social developments continue to spark ideas, and thus stories, from today’s science fiction writers.

Science fiction isn’t about predicting the future (and when it tries, it almost always gets it dead wrong), but it is very much about the fact that tomorrow will not be like today. Whenever enough threads come together in the real world to point to amazing (or alarming) developments down the road, you can bet science fiction writers will begin putting the pieces together—and once again, it will be steam-engine time.

 

Cover reveal: Paths to the Stars, my short-story collection

I’m getting very close to releasing my short-story collection, Paths to the Stars. It brings together almost all of my published, and a few of my unpublished, short stories, going all the way back to the beginnings of my writing career, up through “Textente Tela Veneris,” just released in the Planetary: Venus anthology from Superversive Press (see the previous note).

Since I’m independently publishing this through “Shadowpaw Press” (ahem), I’m doing my own cover art. I found a great image on Shutterstock created by Tithi Luadthong. I my still tweak the fonts, but this is pretty close to what you can expect on the finished book.

Can’t wait to share these stories!

Short story in new anthology Planetary: Venus

I have a new short story out, in the anthology Planetary: Venus from Superversive Press.

Here’s a description of the anthology:

Venus, the second planet from the sun, a world of sulfurous gas and tremendous temperatures where the landscape features—mountains and valleys—are all named for love goddesses. Venus herself is the goddess most known for allure and romance.

Here are twenty stories featuring Venus, the planet, the goddess, or just plain love—both romantic and otherwise. Planetary Fiction explores the themes associated with these heavenly bodies as well as their astronomical, mythological, and in some cases even alchemical significance.

My short story, “Texente Tela Veneris” (in English, “Venus’s Weaver”), has an interesting back-story: it began life as a play. In fact, you can read the original play right here on this website. Called “Threads,” it was written for Globe Theatre’s On the Line: A Freefall Through New Work a few years ago. It took a bit of tweaking to make it Venus-specific, but I’m pretty happy with the result.

Lots of great stories in the anthology as a whole–check it out if you like short fiction!

The Cityborn shortlisted for Saskatchewan Book Award

I’m pleased to announce that my science fiction novel The Cityborn (DAW Books) is a finalist for the $2,000 City of Regina Book Award in this year’s Saskatchewan Book Awards (you can find the complete list of nominees at the link.) The shortlist was announced at the Regina Public Library (and concurrently in Saskatoon) on February 16.

I’ve been nominated for the Regina Book Awards three times previously, for Spirit Singer (which won in 2002), Magebane, and Masks.

Others nominated in the City of Regina Book Award category are:

  • Islands of Grass by Trevor Herriot (photographs by Branimir Gjetvaj) (Coteau Books)
  • The Fabric of Day by Anne Campbell (Thistledown Press)
  • The Last Chance Ladies’ Book Club by Marlis Wesseler (Signature Editions)

The awards ceremony is Saturday, April 28.

Song of the Sword now available as audiobook!

I’m thrilled to announce that Song of the Sword, book one in my Shards of Excalibur young adult fantasy series (published in print by Coteau Books) is now available through Audible.com as an audiobook, narrated by the talented Elizabeth Klett, who will be narrating the remaining four books in the series over the course of the year.

 

 

 

I couldn’t be happier with Elizabeth’s narration. Here’s a bit more about her from her website:

Reading books out loud has long been a passion for Elizabeth Klett. She has been a professional audiobook narrator since 2011, with over 100 titles available at Audible and elsewhere. She has been recording free audiobooks for LibriVox since 2007, and has produced over 60 solo recordings of novels, short stories, and poetry. She can also be heard voicing various characters in audio dramas at The Online Stage, and reading poetry at Rhapsodize Audio. She lives in Houston, Texas.

Here’s the synopsis as presented on Audible (I wrote it, so I can vouch for it):

Ariane’s life is complicated. Her mother suddenly disappeared two and a half years ago, she’s trying to get used to living with her aunt after bouncing around a series of foster homes, and she’s taking a lot of grief from the clique of “in” girls at school. To make matters even worse, now she’s having strange dreams involving swords and knights and battles, and things seem to get weird whenever she touches water.

The weirdness comes to a head the morning the lake starts singing to her. Next thing she knows, she’s underwater, talking to the Lady of the Lake of King Arthur fame (who turns out to be an ancestor), has acquired a nerdy sidekick, Wally, has been bestowed magical powers, and has been sent on a quest to find the five scattered shards of Excalibur before the powerful wizard Merlin, in his unsuspected modern-day guise, can get his hands on them. Can Ariane and Wally figure out how to use her new abilities to meet the challenge…or will they die trying?

Reviews

“Every so often…a writer is skilled enough to utilize the stories of King Arthur and Camelot to significant effect. Guy Gavriel Kay’s Fionavar Tapestry Trilogy is definitely on the list. So, too, is Song of the Sword, the impressive new YA novel from Regina writer Edward Willett…a taut, compelling narrative, well-drawn characters, and a keen sense of genuine peril and true wonder. It’s a powerful, fun, engaging read, and it’s the first of a series, so readers have much to look forward to.” – Quill & Quire

“This is a fantasy of epic proportions, with the perfect blend of suspense; well-developed, likable characters; and a touch of sarcastic humor…this is just the beginning of the fantastical journey.” – School Library Journal