Sasquan (Worldcon 2015) Schedule

Connie Willis and her daughter, Cordelia, will be doing programming at Sasquan, the 73rd World Science Fiction Convention happening this coming weekend (Aug 19-23) in Spokane, Washington.

Connie’s schedule on the Sasquan Web Site

Cordelia’s Schedule on the Sasquan Web Site

Here’s their schedules in text format

Connie Willis

Hard SF Movies: Rare but Not Extinct
Wednesday 14:00 – 14:45, Bays 111C (CC)
Hard SF has always been rare in the movies.  Forbidden Planet, 2001, 2010, and a few others set the standard.  Recently, Interstellar had a well-known physicist keeping the science (mostly) in line with reality, and next year we’ll have The Martian.   What are the great works of hard SF in the movies?  What tried and failed?  Are there cases where they tried to keep the science so hard they hurt the story? (We can all name pieces of written SF that did that.)
Connie Willis (M) , Fonda Lee, Alvaro Zinos-Amaro

Reading – Connie Willis
Thursday 16:00 – 16:45, 300C (CC)

Kaffee Klatche – Connie Willis
Friday 11:00 – 11:45, 202B-KK3 (CC)
Join a panelist and up to 9 other fans for a small discussion.  Coffee and snacks available for sale on the 2nd floor.
Requires advance sign-up

Stroll with the Stars
Saturday 09:00 – 09:45, Breezeway/Statue (CC)
A gentle morning stroll with some of your favorite authors, artists and editors. Meeting each morning at 9AM in the Breezeway between the INB Theater and the Convention Center (check your map), and returning in time for 10AM programming.
Stu Segal (M), Kevin J. Anderson, Paolo Bacigalupi, Troy Bucher, Vincent Docherty, Doug Farren, Toni Weisskopf, Connie Willis

Autographing – Brenda Cooper, Daniel Kimmel, Fonda Lee, William Campbell Powell, Kristine Rusch, Robert Silverberg, Connie Willis
Saturday 15:00 – 15:45, Exhibit Hall B (CC)

Colleagues as Family
Sunday 13:00 – 13:45, Integra Telecom Ballroom 100B (CC)
Unlike many other jobs, it is a brave, lonely, and financially very risky thing to be a fiction writer. But despite the physical distances, many writers develop close friendships with other writers and editors.
Melinda Snodgrass (M), George R. R. Martin, Vonda N. McIntyre, Connie Willis, David Gerrold

Cordelia Willis

Stage Movement and Presentation
Thursday 15:00 – 15:45, Spokane Falls Suite A/B (Doubletree)
How to move effectively on the masquerade stage. What does it mean to upstage someone? How do you get across an idea quickly and easily within the confines of the masquerade time limit? People should be prepared to get up and move.
Tanglwyst de Holloway, Torrey Stenmark, Cordelia Willis, Kevin Roche

Getting Started: Costuming
Thursday 16:00 – 16:45, 206A (CC)
Where do you find information? Resources? Who to ask? Where to look? Where can I find other people who share my interest? The information that most newcomers to costuming want to know.
Jared Dashoff (M), Tanglwyst de Holloway, Leslie Johnston , Cordelia Willis

Bad Science on TV
Friday 13:00 – 13:45, 300C (CC)
Science is a hot topic in TV entertainment: from CSI to Orphan Black to The Big Bang Theory to Person of Interest. Some of it is good, but much of it is bad. The panel will bash the bad science and clue you in to those shows that seem like the science is good, but not really.
Deb Geisler (M), Julie McGalliard, Janna Silverstein, Cordelia Willis

Getting Started: Cosplay
Friday 14:00 – 14:45, 206A (CC)
How to find information, groups, and Internet sources for cosplay topics.
Alicia Faires, Johanna Mead, Torrey Stenmark, Cordelia Willis

Masquerade Versus Cosplay
Sunday 11:00 – 11:45, 302AB (CC)
What are the differences between what everyone thinks of as a standard Worldcon masquerade and cosplay?
Ada Palmer (M), Johanna Mead, Cordelia Willis, Tanglwyst de Holloway

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Sasquan (Worldcon 2015) Schedule

Surgery Update

There is now a “Fans of Connie Willis” facebook page where short updates may occur as well as other news.

The latest update from Connie post surgery is

Dear Everybody: I’m recovering nicely from the surgery (as witness the fact that I’m able to write my own updates now.) No more double vision, which is wonderful, and not a lot of pain (though I’m still on painkillers, so maybe I do have pain and just don’t know it.) My main problem is exhaustion. I think I feel fine, but then when I try to do anything, I wear out very, very fast, and so spend lots of time taking naps. My eye looks horrific–like something out of a scary movie or King Lear or something–and I have a black eye, but otherwise no signs of the surgery. Cordelia was here for the surgery and the first few days, and that was great! I don’t know if Courtney or I appreciated it more. She was a wonderful nurse. My brother Lee is here now for a couple of days. Thanks to all of you for your kind thoughts and cards and everything.

Connie Willis

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Surgery Update


You know how Queen Elizabeth talked about her annus horribilus–the awful year when her daughter Anne got a divorce and so did the Duke of York and Fergie, to say nothing of Windsor Castle nearly burning down? Well, I’ve been having a mensis horribilus.

It all started a few weeks ago when I was bitten by a bat. Yes, a BAT! I was lying harmlessly asleep in bed when I woke to find the cats going nuts. I assumed they were chasing a moth–we have tons of millers this time of year–and then realized they had a bat cornered up by the ceiling. I called Courtney, who hadn’t come to bed yet, and we chased around after it, trying to confine it so we could call Animal Control, in the process of which I realized that my ankle hurt and looked down to see two bleeding puncture wounds.

So we went to the emergency room, where I had to have the first round of rabies shots–no, they’re not in the stomach anymore, they’re in the leg, but you still have to have four rounds of five shots, one a bright purple rabies vaccination and the others very large shots of gamma globulin to pump up your immune system enough that it can (hopefully) hold off the rabies, which is pretty much always fatal.

This, of course, was right before I was supposed to go be the emcee for the Locus Awards and the next two rounds of shots were the day I was supposed to leave and the day I was supposed to fly home, so travel arrangements had to be changed and the possibility that I couldn’t go at all considered.

Luckily, we caught the bat, which tested negative for rabies, and we got the test back just in time to keep me from having to have the second round of shots–and from having nightmares about that scene in To Kill a Mockingbird where they have to shoot the rabid dog. I was able to go off to the Locus Awards and do my emceeing (which was way fun), and the only thing I have to worry about from the experience is a sudden, overwhelming desire to read the Twilight novels.

The worst part about the whole affair was finding out that bats really do attack you while you’re sleeping, just like in Dracula, which I had always assumed was a made-up thing, but no!

Well, so anyway, I dodged that bullet, only to do a face-plant at a garage sale the day before I was supposed to leave to teach at Clarion West. It was on a steeply slanting driveway with one of those curved, molded-all-in-one-piece curbs, and I didn’t so much trip as step wrong, but because the driveway was slanted, instead of hitting knee first, then hand, then head, with each impact slowing your momentum, I pretty much hit every part of my body with the same impact, or, as Courtney said, I went down like a board, and then couldn’t see anything–it was like one of those Picasso paintings where the image is all sliced into triangles, followed by double vision.

It turns out I’d fractured the floor of my eye socket, and the eye muscle was trapped in the fracture, which sounds disgusting and is, though the eye surgeon seemed unfazed by it. (He called it a blowout fracture with entanglement and said the surgery has an almost one hundred percent chance of success.) I’m having it operated on on Wednesday, after which point I’ll hopefully be able to read–and write–again instead of just watching one-eyed television (you have no idea how many truly awful movies are on the Turner Classics channel) and not lifting, not bending over, and not blowing my nose, all of which are forbidden activities.

Lots of people have inquired about how I’m doing, so I thought I’d better try to let everybody know just what was going on. And yes, I am wearing an eye patch (this in response to a question from Bob Silverberg.) And no, it isn’t just like Johnny Depp’s. And, yes, I am aware that Queen Elizabeth was wrong about that being her annus horribilus and that things got way worse for her just a short time later.

Connie Willis

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on WEBSITE UPDATE–INJURIES–JULY 20, 2015


Every year on D-Day, my husband and I watch The Longest Day, one of my all-time favorite war movies. This year, because we were going to be in Chicago for the Nebula Awards Weekend, we watched it the week before–on two nights since it’s so long (and we are so old.) When we originally saw the movie in the theater way back in 1962, it had an intermission, but our current DVD doesn’t, and Courtney and I had a fight over where it should be, the particulars of which I can’t tell you without giving you spoilers.

I know, I know, what spoilers can there be? We landed on Normandy beaches, lost gazillions of soldiers, won the war–all of which I assume aren’t spoilers, although you never know. When I was writing Lincoln’s Dreams, which is set in the Civil War, a member of my writers’ group said, “You need to explain more. I mean, who’s this Lee person? And Grant? And you don’t even tell us who won!” I am not making this up.

But how we did it is an amazing story most people don’t know the particulars of, and that’s what The Longest Day is about. It’s an impossible story to tell because the invasion isn’t just about the landings on Omaha Beach, but also about the French Resistance who cut the lines and blew up railroad tracks, about the paratroopers and gliders who went in the night before, about the game plans and diversions and disasters–the plan hadn’t been going five minutes before everything went completely to hell, but it didn’t matter. They had backups. And backups to the backups. It’s about the codebreakers and the generals and the soldiers and the intelligence officers and even the meteorologists, who gave the forecast that made Ike say, “Go.”

And that’s just on our side. There’s also the German response to the invasion, composed of over-confident generals and bad decisions and unlucky coincidences, which has to be shown, and the local farmers and housewives and nuns and… The D-Day invasion involved hundreds of thousands of people scattered all over France and Germany and much of England, and they’re all in this movie. (It stars virtually every major actor and teen idol in Hollywood in 1962, from John Wayne and Henry Fonda to Fabian and an impossibly young-looking pre-Bond Sean Connery. Plus there’s a bulldog.)

I have no idea how they came up with the script for this movie. It must have been a nightmare to keep all these people and events straight, let alone make a coherent movie out of it, especially with no centralized locations, no characters who saw the whole thing, and dozens of small and scattered plots to follow.

Yet they somehow manage not only to pull it off, but to do a spectacular job. The Longest Day not only shows you the invasion in all of its sprawling and deadly complexity, but it also shows you the small, intimate, improbable details that make history so much more fascinating than fiction could ever be, from the soldier who gets a “Dear John” letter right before the invasion to General Rommel’s going to Berlin for his wife’s birthday at the worst possible moment, from an airman’s wound being safety-pinned together by a medic who’d lost his kit on landing to officers on both sides muttering disgustedly, “I wonder whose side God is on.” Which they actually said. Many of the lines spoken by characters are straight out of the history books.

The sort of World War II movie I usually like is the “keyhole movie,” a story which deals with one small part of the war. Hope and Glory is like that, showing you the Blitz from a little boy’s point of view, and so is Father Goose, which involves a plane-spotter in the South Pacific, a stranded schoolteacher, her charges, and a Japanese cruiser.

Both show just one small aspect of the war, but by getting involved with their story, you glimpse the wider war. It’s like looking through a keyhole, and it’s usually far more effective (and emotional) than trying to portray the whole thing.

It’s what I write, too, and why I chose to show you World War II through the eyes of a handful of time travelers, a small group of Londoners sheltering in the Tube, and a couple of kids, rather than, say, writing The Winds of War.

Panoramic views of the war are rarely successful (I include The Winds of War in the unsuccessful category) because World War II was just too big, and I can only think of a couple that work: Tora, Tora, Tora (which is great) and Midway.

And, of course, The Longest Day. It’s got everything, sweeping battle scenes, cruel tricks of fate, acts of astonishing courage, humor, tragedy, horrific moments, and stuff you could never make up. It’s great watched on D-Day, but I wouldn’t wait. I’d watch it now.

NOTE: I said The Longest Day was one of my favorite war movies. Here’s a list of the others, in no particular order:

  1. Hope and Glory
  2. The Big Red One
  3. Tora, Tora, Tora
  4. Enigma
  5. Goodbye, Mr. Chips
  6. Father Goose
  7. Paradise Road
  8. Sahara
  9. Mister Roberts
  10. The Imitation Game
  11. Mrs. Henderson Presents

      I also love Hanover Street and Force 10 From Navarone, even though they’re bad movies–Hanover Street has a plot hole you could drive a bus through right in the middle of it, and Christopher Plummer is not a boring, middle-aged British bureaucrat, and I know I’ll only be accused of liking them because Harrison Ford is in them, which is probably true. But I still like them, and Force 10 has a great ending. Plus, of course, Harrison Ford is really cute.

It’s got it all.

The only thing missing is the letter Eisenhower wrote the night before the invasion to the American public telling them why it had failed.

Connie Willis

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on WEBSITE UPDATE–D-DAY EDITION–JUNE 6, 2015



When we were first married many, many, many years ago, my husband Courtney and I were driving back to our teaching jobs in Connecticut, and as we drove through Indiana, I saw on the map that we were only a few miles from the Limberlost Swamp, the location of one of my favorite books, A Girl of the Limberlost.

It’s the story of a young girl, Elnora, and her awful mother who live in the Limberlost, a swamp full of old-growth hardwood trees, birds, butterflies, rattlesnakes, and quicksand. Elnora wants to go to school, but her mother refuses to pay for the necessary books and clothes, so Elnora earns her way by collecting butterflies and moths for a naturalist, and then she meets this guy who’s been sent there for his health (in spite of the rattlers and the quicksand, I guess), and they…anyway, I loved this book when I was a teenager, and what I remembered most about it was the beauty of the Limberlost. So when I saw it on the map on that wedding trip, I desperately wanted to go see it.

But we didn’t have time then to take even a short detour. I’d always regretted our not going, and when I realized that by being in Chicago for the Nebulas, we were only four hours away from it, my husband offered to take me there. “Consider it a belated wedding present,” he said.

It was quite an impressive wedding present, especially considering he had to deal with Chicago rush hour both ways and the Limberlost no longer exists. “You drove eight hours to see a swamp that isn’t there?” Nancy Kress said when we told her about it.

Yes, but Gene Stratton Porter’s house is still there, and her moth-and-butterfly collection and the conservatory Freckles stood in the night he came to deliver the message to the Swamp Angel and the actual photos the Bird Woman took of the baby vulture and her books, including a copy of the same edition of A Girl of the Limberlost that I read when I was fifteen (the one with the irises on the cover.)

A Girl of the Limberlost and Freckles were both international bestsellers, A Girl of the Limberlost was the first book to be translated into Arabic, and Teddy Roosevelt wrote Porter a letter to tell her the book was so realistic that “I’m sitting here by the fire, and I got my feet wet.”

But Gene Stratton Porter was even more of a naturalist than she was a novelist. The reason she wrote A Girl of the Limberlost and Freckles and Laddie: A True Blue Story in the first place was to offset the expense of her nature books like Moths and Butterflies of the Limberlost and Homing with the Birds, which were full of photographic plates and therefore very expensive to publish, and was one of the foremost female naturalists of the early twentieth century.

She took all her own photos, sometimes lying in the swamp for hours while things crawled over her and wasps stung her, trying to capture a bird or butterfly on the primitive film equipment of the time, which took forever to take a picture. At one point, a representative from Kodak came to her front door to ask her how she was able to get such good pictures out of their cameras. She was ashamed to tell them she developed them in her bathtub and rinsed them on turkey platters.

The Limberlost, a wetlands filled with old-growth hardwood trees worth a fortune to loggers and thousands of rare bird, butterfly, and moth species, was in the process of being destroyed even as she documented it–first by loggers (which is what her novel Freckles is about) and then by companies drilling for oil and gas, and now it’s all cornfields, although thanks to her, parts of the wetlands are in the process of being restored.

For now, though, you can tour the visitors’ center, the garden, and the house which Gene Stratton Porter designed herself. It’s done in a style somewhere between late Victorian and early Arts-and-Crafts, and it’s open and airy, with big windows everywhere. You can see the writing desk with its typewriter, where she worked, and the aforementioned conservatory, where she kept the oriole she’d raised from a baby and dozens of other birds. Her moth and butterfly collection is there, including the beautiful pale-green Luna moth and the rare yellow Empress moths she immortalized in A Girl of the Limberlost, and you can see the sitting room porch she stood on one magic night.

She had been sleeping in the sitting room–it was a very hot night–and she woke up and went out on the little porch in her white nightgown, stopping first to move a moth from the inside of the screen door so it wouldn’t get out when she opened the door. As she did, holding it on her finger to transfer it gently to the window screen, it sprayed her with pheromones.

She put the moth down and went outside. The moon was full, the two apple trees beyond the porch were in bloom, and there was a carnival uptown, its bright lights attracting every moth for miles, and as she stood there in the moonlight, all dressed in white, hundreds of them converged on her, landing on the porch railings, her hair, her shoulders, her arms, her nightdress.

Most people would have frantically swiped at their hair and bodies, trying to get them off, but not Porter. For her, it was a magical moment of transcendent beauty she remembered for the rest of her life.

That incident is in A Girl of the Limberlost, and so is Porter’s first disastrous attempt to collect moths, only to have them eaten by the insects in the moss she used for mounting, the effort to take the vulture chick photos is in Freckles, and all her novels are full of actual events of her life, including more horrific events.

When she was six, her beloved brother Leander, the only person in her large, overburdened family who paid any attention to her, drowned in the Wabash River–right in front of her. He had dived in to save a friend who couldn’t swim, and Gene Stratton Porter was holding his boots, clutching them to her chest, when he died, and the loss (and all its accompanying complicated emotions) echo through all her work, from Laddie to A Girl of the Limberlost and Freckles.

As a writer, I was entranced by all this–her life and her house and her problems with juggling family and writing and dealing with publishers (they made her change the ending to Freckles, to her everlasting regret.)

But Courtney loved it, too, and fell in love with the big old house, with its naturally stained woodworking and doors that could be slid back to open up the entire house, and the surrounding towns, especially as we drove through them in the late summer evening, looking at the turn-of-the-century houses. He also loved the fact that he was finally seeing the Wabash River, and spent a lot of the trip singing, “Oh, the moonlight’s fair tonight along the Wabash. From the fields there comes the breath of new-mown hay.”

There was a breath of new-mown hay from the fields around Geneva (it’s a Mennonite community), and the scent of roses and irises and peonies, and the countryside was lovely. The only disappointment of the entire trip was that we were too early in the year for fireflies. According to the locals, they don’t appear until around the Fourth of July.

Otherwise, it was a perfect wedding present, late or soon. Thank you, Courtney!


NOTE: I adored A Girl of the Limberlost when I read it as a teenager. When I read it again a few years ago, it seemed overly-sentimental and given to the linguistic flourishes and sometimes impenetrable prose of girls’ books of the time, so it may not appeal to modern readers like it did to me. But it still told an exciting story, and Porter’s heroines are courageous, determined, plain-spoken, and very likeable. And the descriptions of the swamp are indelibly vivid.

I’d never read Freckles, so I read it specifically for the trip, and it was great, too. I think she was probably right about her original ending being better (especially since the new one seems tacked-on and wildly improbable), but on the other hand, it would probably have been too much for the readers to take. (It broke my cardinal “Don’t kill the dog” rule. Even if the dog is a human being.) But I’d definitely recommend both books to modern readers, even though it might be a bit of a slog. But then again, it is a swamp!


NOTE: We didn’t sing “On the Banks of the Wabash” the entire time. On our way there, we passed Gary, Indiana, which led to lots of “Gary Indiana, that’s the town that knew me when” and other songs from The Music Man.

We also passed LaPorte, Indiana, where we’d spent a memorable (not in a good way) night on that long-ago wedding trip. We’d been unable to find a place to stay in Chicago (this was in the days before Holiday Inn Express and making reservations online), and we ended up at midnight passing motel after motel whose “No Vacancy” signs were lit up.

A toll booth guy finally suggested we try the hotel in downtown LaPorte, and we did. It was…interesting. The lobby was full of sleeping-it-off drunks, Hemingway was typing his novel somewhere down the hall, the transom wouldn’t shut, the door from the bathroom to the room next to ours wouldn’t lock, and the bed was constructed in such a way that you could choose between sleeping on the very edge and falling off or, rolling to the middle and being smothered by the very old mattress and probably bedbug-filled mattress.

On the other hand, we got a great story out of it, which we’ve been telling for the last forty-seven years!

Connie Willis


Some Limberlost Links:

Limberlost Swamp (Wikipedia)

Limberlost Historic Park

Limberlost and Found (Audobon Magazine)

Posted in Updates | Comments Off on WEBSITE UPDATE–LIMBERLOST–JUNE 7, 2015


One of the nicest things about this year’s Nebula Awards Weekend was that it was held in Chicago, which is one of my all-time favorite cities. Next year’s Nebulas will be held there, too, so if you’re going, or if you didn’t have time to see everything this time, here’s a list of my favorite Chicago things:

  1. All the Tiffany stained glass. I’ve been a Tiffany freak ever since I accidentally stumbled across the Tiffany windows at the First Presbyterian Church in Topeka, Kansas, of all places. They were astonishingly beautiful, and ever since then I’ve sought them out wherever I could find them, from the Unitarian Church on the Boston Common to a beautiful jasmine skylight in Nebraska.

Chicago has tons of Tiffany stained glass. There’s the dome at the Chicago Public Library (now the Chicago Cultural Center), nine windows at the Second Presbyterian Church on Michigan Avenue, and miles of it in the corridors of the Navy Pier.

Tiffany’s colors are like nobody else’s. Most stained glass is reds and blues and yellows, but Tiffany’s is all azure and lavender-blue and rust-gold, plus he does pearlized clouds and multicolored sunsets and trees whose leaves you can almost see shimmer in the sunlight. His faces are angelically beautiful, his scenes are transcendent, and he makes you feel like you’re seeing the beauty of skies and flowers and Nature for the first time.

  1. The Museum of Science and Industry, though I never get to see much of it because I am stuck watching the baby chicks hatch. Last time I was there, I spent four hours standing there watching an already-cracked and slightly-rolling egg, waiting for the chick to emerge and convinced it was going to happen any second. The heck with all those modern interactive exhibits designed to make museums into “a participatory learning experience.” The baby chicks are the best interactive experience ever, with children (including me) literally having to be dragged away, sobbing “Just a few more minutes! It’s going to hatch any second!”

P.S. The egg I was watching did eventually hatch, collapsing on the incubator floor so wet and exhausted I was afraid something was wrong with it, but after a few minutes it opened its eyes, perked up, and turned into the fluffy yellow chick it was supposed to. It was great! I didn’t even mind having missed the coal mine or the train.

  1. The sliced person. This is my second-favorite thing at the Museum of Science and Industry, which I now go visit first thing because I know I’m not going to be able to tear myself away from the baby chicks. It is actually two people, one sliced vertically and one horizontally, their organs stained different colors so you can identify them easily, and then the slices put between large pieces of glass. You know those racks of posters in stores that you can flip through? Well, the sliced person is like that, and you can flip through to look at your appendix and liver and brain and bones and stuff. It’s very cool.

I can’t tell you where it is because they keep moving it to more and more obscure places. (It’s been upstaged lately by those Body Worlds travelling exhibits, which are very cool, too.)   You’ll have to ask at the information desk. But the first time I saw it, it was on the stair-landing just outside the ladies’ room. Since I was there with a pregnant friend, I had lots of time to look at the slices.

  1. The Bean. This enormous chrome sculpture (whose name is actually “Cloud Gate,” though nobody ever calls it that) is to my mind the perfect outdoor sculpture. You can walk all around it, under it, and up to it–and sometimes into it, since it’s concave, so your image looks some distance behind the surface and it’s easy to crash right into it, and lots of people do. Kids love it, adults can take funhouse pictures of themselves in it, and it reflects the afore-mentioned tourists, the Art Deco skyscrapers of Michigan Avenue, the lake, and the endlessly changing sky. Absolutely beautiful!
  2. The skyscrapers. A lot of Chicago was built in the first part of the last century (helped along by the Great Chicago Fire), so many of its buildings are wonderful Art Deco skyscrapers which were meant to be the height of modernity and which now look elegantly retro, with their soaring, streamlined towers (think the Chrysler Building in New York City) and linear, geometric designs. There’s the Chicago Tribune, the Carbide and Carbon building (whose top was designed to look like a battery), and the long row of skyscrapers along Michigan Avenue.

    Just looking at them makes you feel like you’re back in the Twenties, in the Chicago of Ben Hecht, who wrote The Front Page and His Girl Friday, and the play Chicago (in the Twenties!) which was made into the Broadway musical Chicago. “Find a writer who has something American to say,” he wrote, “and nine times out of ten you will find he has some connection with the gargantuan abattoir by Lake Michigan.”

He loved Chicago and its skyscrapers, writing, “look again at the fire escapes that are stamped like letter Z’s against the mysterious rectangles; at the rhythmic flight of windows whose black-and-silver wings are tipped with the yellow winking of corset and ice cream signs.”

The buildings also make you think of Carl Sandburg, who captured the city of Big Shoulders, as he called it, better than anybody else: “Hog Butcher, Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat, Player with Railroads and Freight Handler to the Nation.” He wrote about the skyscrapers “looming in the smoke and sun,” given a soul by the “men and women, boys and girls poured in all day,” and out again, “back to the streets, prairies and valleys.”

Sandburg seemed to be everywhere. One of the days we were there, the fog poured in on “little cat feet,” just like in his poem, and the elevated train rumbled past our hotel, winding through the city, “broken across with slashes of light,” just like he’d described it so many years ago.

My favorite thing by Sandburg is his biography of Lincoln, which may be full of inaccuracies and confabulations, but which captured the spirit of Lincoln like no other book ever has. It I love Sandburg for that, and for talking about it every day while he was writing it. He was working at the Chicago Daily News, and he talked about it so much to his friend and fellow reporter Lloyd Lewis, that Lewis fell in love with Lincoln, too, and wrote one of my favorite books of all time–Myths After Lincoln.

It’s all about Lincoln’s death and its aftermath–Lincoln’s dreams of his impending death and the funeral train and the grave robbers and all the myths and legends that have grown up around Lincoln in the years since, and it’s full of fascinating facts. Did you know that Seward was almost killed, too, in the assassination plot, and that he was saved because he fell down behind the bed and his killers couldn’t get to him? Or that his son Willie’s body rode along with his on the train that carried him back to Illinois?

Myths After Lincoln was my constant companion when I was writing Lincoln’s Dreams. I couldn’t have written the book without it. Copies are hard to come by, but Myths After Lincoln is definitely worth tracking down. So are Sandburg’s Abraham Lincoln: The Prairie Years and The War Years. And his poems, particularly “Limited” and “Arithmetic”–and the lovely “The Long Shadow of Lincoln: A Litany.”

Connie Willis

Posted in Updates | Comments Off on WEBSITE UPDATE–NEBULA AWARDS WEEKEND II–June 17, 2015


I was very flattered to be asked to attend the Nebula Award Weekend this year as a special guest, though there was really no need for SFWA to have done that–I’ve been going to the Nebulas every year since 1982. This year was special, though. It marked the fiftieth anniversary of SFWA. Next year is the fiftieth anniversary of the first Nebula Awards, which will be in Chicago, too, so it’s an historic occasion to be a part of, and SFWA has gone all out, including inviting its Grand Masters, to make it a great celebration!

It was, starting with the fact that it was held in Chicago, which is one of my favorite cities. Lots of people attended, and it was great to see everybody–from Nancy Kress and Greg Bear and Ellen Datlow to Joe Haldeman and Laura Mixon and Cat Rambo and Beth Gwinn and Gary Wolfe and Steve Gould and…oh, gosh, lots of people.

I got to spend time with Cynthia Felice and John Stith–yes, I know they live in Colorado, but we seem to only see each other at conventions–and whine to my agent and eat pizza with my webmaster Lee Whiteside and have lunch with Sheila Williams and attend the Asimov’s Awards breakfast and meet lots of the Nebula nominees.

I also got to talk to Larry Niven, who was just named a SFWA Grand Master. If you’ve never read his wonderful book, RINGWORLD, you should take this opportunity to. It’s both hard science fiction and Wizard-of-Oz-like magical journey as the characters explore an immense artificially-constructed ring created by an alien race, and it’s got great characters like Speaker and Teela Brown (who’s my favorite.) Congratulations to Larry!

The whole weekend was made better by the fact that it took place at the Palmer House, one of Chicago’s oldest and most beautiful hotels. It was built as a wedding gift for Potter Palmer’s bride in 1871, which turned out to be a terrible time to build. Thirteen days later it burned to the ground along with everything else in the Great Chicago Fire.

It was rebuilt and then expanded, and along the way became the first hotel to have electric lights and telephones in the rooms. It also invented the chocolate fudge brownie–for the World’s Columbian Exhibition of 1892–thank you, Palmer House! And it hosted everybody important, from President Harding to William Jennings Bryan of Scopes Trial fame, and Edna Ferber used it as a setting from her novel, Showboat. Everybody stayed there: Ulysses S. Grant, Harry Truman, Mark Twain, Rudyard Kipling, L. Frank Baum. And now it can also claim the science fiction writers who were at the Nebulas.

The Palmer House has kept all its original charm, from the revolving doors to the marble registration desk and the photographs lining the walls of all the stars who’ve played the Empire Room: Frank Sinatra and Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald and Liberace. Sophie Tucker was right outside our room, and there was a charming photo of Jimmy Durante rehearsing a number in the corridor by the elevator.

The Palmer House is an absolutely gorgeous hotel, with golden-peacock doors designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany, curving marble staircases, and an elegant central lobby with a painted ceiling by Rigal. It’s easy to imagine Magnolia and Ravenal from Showboat walking through the lobby or sitting at the bar.

Rudyard Kipling apparently hated the place. He called it “a gilded and mirrored rabbit warren” and complained that the lobby was “a huge hall of tessellated marble crammed with people talking about money and spitting about everywhere.” He sounds a lot like a modern reviewer I read on Expedia who sniffed that it has “too many tourists,” though you have to wonder who else you’re going to find there. It is, after all, a hotel, guys.

And it’s only a block from the Art Institute, two blocks from the Bean (about which more in my next post), and just a few blocks from the old Public Library and Giordano’s, which may well be the best place for pizza in Chicago. So what else could you want, really?

The Palmer House was the cherry on top of a delicious weekend and Nebula celebration. Congratulations to all the Nebula winners, to all the finalists, and to our new Grand Master, Larry Niven!

Connie Willis

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on WEBSITE UPDATE–NEBULA AWARDS WEEKEND–JUNE 16, 2015



by Connie Willis

I’ve been asked by David Gerrold, this year’s Worldcon Guest of Honor and one of the  Hugo Awards emcees, to present the Campbell Award at this year’s ceremonies. Ordinarily, I’d be very flattered and would jump at the chance, but this time I’m afraid I’m going to have to tell him no.

I don’t want to. I love the Hugos. I can still remember how thrilled I was the first time I was nominated for one. It was the fulfillment of a dream I’d had ever since I was thirteen and had opened up Heinlein’s HAVE SPACE SUIT, WILL TRAVEL and fallen into the magical world of science fiction. I was nominated for a short story called “Daisy, in the Sun,” and I didn’t win–I lost to George R.R. Martin–but just being nominated and being there at the awards ceremony was more than enough, and then on top of that, I got to talk to Robert Silverberg and watch Damon Knight emcee and meet all these famous authors who were my heroes. It was one of the happiest nights of mThe Best Novel Hugo for Blackout/All Cleary life.

Since that first time, I’ve won Hugos, emceed the awards ceremony twice, and presented countless awards. I’ve handed Hugo Awards for all kinds of fiction to all kinds of authors, told them congratulations, beamed at them as they made their acceptance speeches, hugged them, and helped them down the dark stairs backstage afterwards. I’ve loved doing it. And I’ve loved everything else about the Hugos–the anticipation and the nervousness when you’re a nominee, the fun of bantering with George R.R. Martin and Mike Resnick and doing comedy routines with Robert Silverberg, the excitement of watching authors and artists you love be awarded for the work they do, and the joy of being in a room with thousands of other people who love science fiction as much as I do. I’ve adored every minute of it. Till now.

You may or may not have heard of the Hugo crisis currently facing the science-fiction community. (If you haven’t, I recommend Susan Grigsby’s excellent article on Daily Kos entitled, “Freeping the Hugo Awards.”) Basically, what’s happened is that a small group of people led by Vox Day/Theodore Beale and Brad Torgerson took advantage of the fact that only a small percentage of Hugo voters nominate works to hijack the ballot. They got members of their group to buy supporting memberships and all vote for a slate of people they decided should be on it. Since everybody else just nominates what they like, and those choices vary quite a bit, nobody else stood a chance, and the ballot consists almost entirely of their slate.

When I heard about this, I was sick at the thought of what they’d done and at all the damage they’d caused–to the nominees who should have made it on the ballot and didn’t; to those who’d made it on and would now have to decide whether to stay on the ballot or refuse the nomination; of the innocent nominees who got put on Vox Day’s slate without their knowledge and were now unfairly tarred by their association with it; and to the Hugo Awards themselves and their reputation.

But I didn’t want to speak out and refuse to be a presenter if there was still a chance to salvage the Hugo Awards ceremony. I wanted to do it if I could for the sake of the nominees who were on the ballot honestly and for the sake of the people putting on the Worldcon. And for the poor emcees who had the terrible luck to be chosen to host the awards this year and have watched what should have been one of the highlights of their careers turn into a nightmare. David Gerrold is an old and dear friend. The last thing I wanted to do was let him down. Plus, I’ve generally found that wading in to controversies with your two cents’ worth (even if you’re personally involved and were onstage when they happened) only tends to make things worse, not better.

But then Vox Day and his followers made it impossible for me to remain silent , keep calm, and carry on. Not content with just using dirty tricks to get on the ballot, they’re now demanding they win, too, or they’ll destroy the Hugos altogether. When a commenter on File 770 suggested people fight back by voting for “No Award,” Vox Day wrote: “If No Award takes a fiction category, you will likely never see another award given in that category again. The sword cuts both ways, Lois. We are prepared for all eventualities.”

I assume that means they intend to use the same bloc-voting technique to block anyone but their nominees from winning in future years. Or, in other words, “If you ever want to see your precious award again, do exactly as I say.” It’s a threat, pure and simple. Everyone who votes has been ordered (under the threat of violence being done to something we love) to let their stories–stories which got on the ballot dishonestly–win.

In my own particular case, I feel I’ve also been ordered to go along with them and act as if this were an ordinary Hugo Awards ceremony. I’ve essentially been told to engage in some light-hearted banter with the nominees, give one of them the award, and by my presence–and my silence–lend cover and credibility to winners who got the award through bullying and extortion.

Well, I won’t do it. I can’t do it. If I did, I’d be collaborating with them in their scheme.

So to David, I have to say, with genuine regret, “I am really sorry I have to turn down your kind invitation.” And to the people running Worldcon, “I’m sorry I can’t present at the Hugo Awards ceremony, but I’ll definitely be attending the convention, and I’m supporting you all the way.”

To everybody else caught up in this mess, I want to say, “I totally respect whatever you’ve decided you have to do–to remove yourself from the ballot or stay on, to vote for ‘No Award’ or not, to participate in the ceremony or not, to boycott the Hugos or Worldcon or attend them. I know how hard it was for me to make my own decision, and I have no intention of second-guessing anyone else’s.”

And finally, to Vox Day, Brad Torgeson, and their followers, I have this to say:

“You may have been able to cheat your way onto the ballot. (And don’t talk to me about how this isn’t against the rules–doing anything except nominating the works you personally liked best is cheating in my book.) You may even be able to bully and intimidate people into voting for you. But you can’t make me hand you the Hugo and say “Congratulations,” just as if you’d actually won it. And you can’t make me appear onstage and tell jokes and act like this year’s Hugo ceremony is business as usual and what you’ve done is okay. I’m not going to help you get away with this. I love the Hugo Awards too much.”

Connie Willis

April 14, 2015


[Webmaster Note – This blog is not set up for comments.  If someone wants to set up a public location for comments, let me know and I will add a link. Feel free to post this in full elsewhere with a link back here.   You can find additional information on George R. R. Martin’s Not a Blog]

Posted in Updates | Leave a comment

Renovation (2011 Worldcon) Pictures

Here are a few pictures from Renovation, the 2011 Worldcon held in Reno, NV in August.   Photos are courtesy of Cordelia Willis.

Connie with Gary K. Wolfe (left) and Robert Silverberg (center) on the Charles Brown memorial panel.

At the Hugo Awards Ceremony (Tim Powers in the background)

Connie with the Best Novel Hugo

One more picture with the Hugo

Group shot of Hugo winners and presenters

Hugo Fiction Winners Allen M. Steele, Ted Chiang’s acceptor, Connie Willis, Mary Robinette Kowal (left to right)

The Best Novel Hugo

A closeup of the Hugo Base (each year’s base is different)

Connie with George R. R. Martin

Connie with Robert Silverberg

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Mysterious Galaxy All Clear Signing Pics

Thanks to Kathy Li, we have some pictures from Connie’s stop in San Diego at Mysterious Galaxy for All Clear.

Connie Willis and fans at Mysterious Galaxy

Posted in Events | 1 Comment