Interview by Amy Brozio-Andrews
William Shunn’s novella Inclination appears on the just-announced 2006 Preliminary Nebula Award Ballot. William Shunn is a Nebula Award-nominated science fiction writer (cite>Dance of the Yellow-Breasted Luddites)and stage/film reviewer. His work has appeared in Asimov’s Science Fiction, Realms of Fantasy, Science Fiction Age, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, and Science Fiction Weekly, among others. Listen to Shunncast, his biweekly podcast at via iTunes. William Shunn has a Website.
Is attendance at events like the World Fantasy Convention part of growing as a writer and expanding your network?
Oh sure. I go to maybe two or three, sometimes four, conventions a year and they’re just invaluable for meeting other writers and editors. I don’t even necessarily get as much out of attending panels and so forth than I do just hanging out and meeting all the people I can. I’m sort of introverted by nature, so I drag my wife along to these things and she makes sure that we always have something to do and someone to do it with.
Do you think it’s getting to the point where writers need to have a core competency in terms of technology and reaching out to their audiences?
I [don’t] think that it’s vital. It may be, in the future, ten, twenty years it’ll be more important even, but I think someone who is not necessarily good at computers, Web design, and what-have-you might waste an awful lot of time trying to get a Website going and learning all the ins and outs of that.
I do think it’s a good idea to use the web as a resource for learning more about the craft . . . different sorts of bulletin boards and newsgroups and so forth, but, I think you can get too caught up in the self-promotion and not focus enough on the writing.
I know in the early days of the Web, that happened to me and I spent way way too much time on my Website. Now . . . I post on my blog . . . during odd moments of free time at work. My podcast takes more time, but again, with a podcast, it’s helpful if you’ve got a bit of a reputation already and have something to build on. I don’t know that it’s going to help everybody right out of the box.
Do you think that readers of science fiction might be more willing to interact with authors through technology than other readers in general?
It has always seemed that way to me, yes. There are certainly exceptions, but it seems like science fiction fans and science fiction writers are among the early adopters of new technology.
I was interacting with science fiction writers online as far back as 1991 or 1992 back when it was just usenet and GEnie and Compuserve . . . and there was a really thriving community of science fiction writers on GEnie. There must have been at least one or two hundred folks I would see on the newsgroups thirteen or fifteen years ago. And it really does seem like they keep doing that; they’re the first ones doing podcasts. There are a lot of science fiction podcasts now and yeah, I think there’s a fascination with gadgets and with new technology that sort of goes hand in hand with being in that genre. I don’t think everyone else is that far behind, though.
The readers, and the writers, they’re interested in cool futuristic stuff and as it comes along, they want to grab a hold of it.
Science fiction and fantasy are so often lumped together, yet there are many readers and writers speak vehemently about the differences between them. Do you think the two of them really do have a genuinely close relationship?
The two genres are definitely very closely related, so closely related that a lot of authors write both. I can think of very few examples of science fiction writers who’ve never written a fantasy story or novel or vice versa. Myself, I’ve published maybe in equal measure science fiction and fantasy. Most people tend to fall more toward one end of the spectrum or the other but I think that the close relationship there is that these are the two really imaginative genres and there are a lot of storytelling elements that they have in common. And then, within that, a lot of people prefer one over the other, or prefer science over what they see as the softness of fantasy or people who can’t stand thinking about technology or science and things like that . . . you get closer in and it’ll break down more and there will be among readers people who will be really very adamant about the differences between the two . . .
I do prefer science fiction more in a lot of instances than I do fantasy but some of my favorite novels are fantasy novels. Tim Powers is one of my favorite writers and books like Last Call will always be on my top ten favorite novels list but I read more science fiction and lately I write more science fiction. They’re very closely related and you can’t talk about one without the other in most cases.
Do you have any thoughts on the future of science fiction that you’d like to share with other writers? Advice? Observations?
Once challenge that science fiction writers continually face is the increasing rate of technological change in the world. It’s like, you write a story and then if it’s near future or even not-so-near future, sometimes it turns out that just a few years later, there’s some kind of scientific development that makes your story look really old fashioned really fast. A challenge for science fiction writers has always been to try to stay ahead of the curve and keep your finger on the pulse of what’s going on in the world of science. But I really don’t think that that’s going to make science fiction obsolete at any point. I think that no matter how much that’s technologically exciting that’s going on the world, there’s always new things that we can imagine and new stories we can write about it. The technological change brings up ethical dilemmas and so forth and that’s the sort of thing that makes interesting science fiction. That’s the reason a lot of people read it, is for a sense of wonder that they get about the future, for a look at some of the dilemmas that changing technology present to us as humans. As long as we’re accelerating technologically, we’re going to keep thinking about what is it that comes next and how are we going to face that and how are we going to respond to it.
Amy Brozio-Andrews is a freelance writer and book reviewer. Visit her Website at http://www.amyba.com.