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Sean Williams: The Sweet Sound of SF June 2004

Sean Williams grew up in South Australia and the Northern Territory, studied economics at university, then held odd jobs in the music industry before writing full time beginning in 1990. His first story sale was "Traffic" to Eidolon in 1992; his first novel was The Unknown Soldier with Shane Dix in 1995, and book later rewritten as the first of their "Evergence" series: The Prodigal Sun (1999), The Dying Light (2000), and A Dark Imbalance (2001). His first solo novel, Metal Fatigue, was published in 1996. Other novels include the "Books of the Change" series beginning with The Stone Mage & the Sea (2001); a trilogy of Star Wars novels (with Shane Dix); and the "Orphans" space-opera series (with Shane Dix) beginning with Echoes of Earth (2002). He's published three collections of short fiction, and has two new series of novels in work: "Books of the Cataclysm" beginning with The Crooked Letter (July 2004); and "Geodesica" dyptich with Shane Dix, due in 2005 and 2006. He has won five Aurealis Awards and four Ditmar Awards. He lives in Adelaide, South Australia with his partner, Kim Selling, and DJs at local clubs in his spare time.    
Photo by Beth Gwinn

Excerpts from the interview:

“My usual line is that I don't have much to say philosophically about my writing because I'm too busy doing it. But it's not entirely true. I look back at my science fiction and see how it keeps coming back to extropian issues. What makes people people? How far can you push the envelope and still be human? I've always been interested in exploring the blurred boundaries between human and machine, life and death. Metal Fatigue, my first stab at a novel, featured lots of blurred characters. The protagonist, in a city where biotechnology was illegal, was heavily modified but a good man for all that. Another character (nominally evil because he was completely biomodified) was also sympathetic, and the real bad guy in the book was an ordinary human. These ideas are taken to extremes in my later novels, in which personality undergoes radical dislocation from the physical body, resulting in various kinds of trauma and opening up all sorts of wonderful possibilities.”


“I received a lot of good advice at the Writers of the Future workshop, some of which has stuck indelibly. Kevin J Anderson's line, 'The harder I work, the luckier I get,' has been a mantra ever since. The best came from Charles Brown, who delivered an unforgettable speech in which he congratulated the roomful of young wannabes on our success so far, then told us to give up immediately. Save ourselves the heartbreak and frustration, he advised us, because the chances were that none of us would go on to have careers in writing. The odds were stacked heavily against anyone succeeding. He was absolutely right (and still is). It's a depressing reality. But the flipside of it is that some people do go on to succeed, and I swore to be one of them. I used Charles's harsh truth as a goad to keep me going. I wasn't trying to prove him wrong, but to be the exception that tests the rule.”


“I sometimes think reading a novel is like listening to several pieces of music at once. You've got one refrain that is the plot, increasing and decreasing in tension. Each character has its own little tune that has its own rise and fall. Getting all those melodies in synch is what writing a novel is all about. The structure of a novel determines whether it will be a symphony, a collection of sonatas, or one big Straussian monolith.”


“I've opened my new fantasy series the 'Books of the Cataclysm' with The Crooked Letter, a book that experiments with a different tone again. I've been carrying this book around in my head for years, and I've always known it would be dark and intense, and that it wasn't something a novice could write. I've invested a lot in it, so it's been very important for me to get it right. My other new project, Geodesica: Ascent, is also from an older idea, but it's been much easier to write, maybe because I've been through the trial of fire that was The Crooked Letter. I dabble with romance in this one, inspired by events in my recent life. I'm consciously 'writing on the edge of my emotions,' as Ray Bradbury advises.”

The full interview, with biographical profile, is published in the June 2004 issue of Locus Magazine.

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