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Thursday, August 16, 2007

Connie Willis

Certain writers seem to be criminally ignored.

Lets taken American Science Fiction Writer Connie Willis. Willis has won more major science fiction awards than anyother writer and yet she is hardly known over here. Her stories are not full of space wars and aliens. They are full of humour and humanity.

Some of the problem is her lack of productivity. She has written only 4 solo novels (her first being published in 1988). She has written some excellent short fiction and has 3 published collections.

I've read that she writes in a comedy of manners style and is influenced by P G Wodehouse but that tells only part of the story. Her novel Doomsday Book is deeply moving as is some of her short fiction.

She doesn't write series although two of her novels and at least one of her short novels are related.

I first came across one of her short stories and I dismissed her out of hand. Then around 1993 I was at lunch with no book, I wandered into WH Smiths and found a paperback copy of Doomsday Book. It had garnered many good reviews and won the Hugo and Nebula Awards so I gave it ago. It tells the story of Historian Kivrin Engle who does field work via Time Travel and ends up in Britain in 1348 (the time of the Black Death). This is no big historical romp but deals with the realities of a small community dealing with the plague. I loved it, it is a deeply moving account. It is one of the few novels I have reread with equal enjoyment.

All her solo novels Lincoln's Dreams, Doomsday Book, To Say Nothing of the Dog (featuring the same Oxford History department as Doomsday Book but TOTALLY different) and Passage are worth reading. Her short fiction is eclectic but worth seeking out. There are 3 collections so far with a fourth about to be published. This will feature some stories from each of the first 3 plus some newer pieces.

She has also published 3 young adult novels and 3 short novels.

If you've not come across Willis then I'd recommend giving her a try. She is certainly not to everyones taste, if your idea of Science Fiction is warping all over the universe with light sabres and aliens then look elsewhere. However if you want a humane and literate and sometimes funny writer then look no further. She deserves to be much better known than she is.


Diddums said...

Loved that book - would be happy to try the others if I came across them.

Mo said...

It's funny - I haven't read much science fiction but I've read all the ones you've mentioned so far. Enjoyed Doomsday book a few years ago.