Nov 21 2008 1:24pm

Meet Sean Williams: A Force to Be Reckoned With

Antipodean author Sean Williams is a force to be reckoned with in his native Australia. The author of some 26 novels, 1 stand-alone novella, and 5 short story collections (with two more novels out in 2009), he has won Australia’s coveted Ditmar Award 7 times and their Aurealis Award another 7. Recently, he hit the number 1 spot on The New York Times bestseller list with Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, the first novelization of a video game ever to achieve this rank. And it’s not even his first time on the best seller list for a franchise novel.

But, apart from thousands of Star Wars fans, Sean is still something of a well-kept secret among readers of non-tie-in science fiction and fantasy here in the good ’ol US of A.

Which is something of a puzzle to me.

His Geodesica duology (Ace), written with Shane Dix, is post-singularity, far-future space opera that would do Charles Stross or Iain M. Banks proud. Writing for, Paul Di Filippo said, “Williams and Dix have a flair for combining slam-bang adventures, intriguing characters and cutting-edge scientific and philosophical speculations, resulting in books that elevate your adrenaline and your intellect.” His new Astropolis trilogy (also Ace), which begins with the Philip K. Dick Award nominated Saturn Returns and continues in Earth Ascendant, promises more of the exciting same. His stand-alone novella, Cenotaxis, published by independent press Monkeybrain Books, was one of my favorite reads of the year and my personal choice for the Best Novella Hugo in 2008. It ably demonstrates why some people feel the novella is the ideal length for SF, and I say that because it’s true, not because he kindly set the novel’s resolution in my own home town (albeit of the far future.)

Of those books that it’s been my priviledge to publish at Pyr, I’m admittedly biased but no less impressed (after all, they were the ones I picked to bring over here, right?). The Resurrected Man is a hard-boiled noir mystery set in a world where the teleporter has replaced the airplane as the dominate means of travel and the industry employs its own private police force to solve transporter-related crimes before they leak into and panic the money-spending public. Sean explores every conceivable ramification of a technology he describes as a “murdering, twin-making machine,” to chilling effect. The novel virtually screams to be filmed.

Meanwhile, his fantasy quartet, The Books of the Cataclysm, thus far The Crooked Letter, The Blood Debt, and The Hanging Mountains, is the ultimate mash-up of Mad Max and The Wizard of Earthsea. Sean transposes the classic fantasy quest adventure to a fractured Outback, where brown-skinned mages drive Change-powered dune buggies. Now tell me, what’s not to love about that?

So, having bagged on Batman and Bigfoot in my previous posts, I thought I’d use my powers for good this time and give a shout out to a deserving author you may or may not have heard of. Check him out. Doesn’t matter if it’s a book I served on as editor or not—it’s all good.

Simon Bisson
1. sbisson
One thing to note, The Books Of The Cataclysm are themselves a sequel to a rather marvelous YA series, The Books Of The Change, which introduce major characters of the world of the change. There's a new sequence in the same world, The Broken Land, too.

You short sell The Cataclysm books - they also include a mix of Cthuluesque fiction with the Tibetan Book of The Dead, as well as a touch of I Am Legend.

Like Sean McMullen, Williams uses the landscape of South Australia as a structure for a lot of his stories - especially the meeting point of desert and sea. It's a fertile place for fiction.
Lou Anders
2. LouAnders
Thanks for this elucidation. Perhaps I came off as selling them short since I was shyer with my own line than with others. The books drew comparisons to Ursula K Le Guin, China Miéville, and Philip Pullman all. Book one (for those following us) starts off in the present day, when the world is broken and magic returns. A lot of the action takes place in a fractured afterworld - which is where the comparisons to Gaiman, especially American Gods, comes in. Then book two really starts a trilogy-inside-a-quartet, where adult versions of the characters introduced in The Books of the Change being a traditional three-book quest in a broken future world (that is the source of the Le Guin comparisons). The villain, Yod, first letter in the unpronounceable name for God in Hebrew (YVHV) gives us our Pullman. They are incredibly rich books in a rich world, and I thank you for saying so.
Aaron Hughes
3. Aaron Hughes
You forgot to mention that Sean is also a helluva nice guy!

When he was in town for Denvention, he sat in on our book group's discussion of The Crooked Letter. He hung out with us for a good three hours, was a delight to speak with the whole time, and never once tried to make a break for it. (And no, Lou, I didn't save you any lemon bars.)
Blue Tyson
4. BlueTyson
Then there's the Evergence trilogy, speaking of wild space opera, the end of which still creeps me out. :)
Irene Gallo
5. Irene
Lou - is that Cenotaxis art by Bridges?
Blue Tyson
6. BlueTyson

The first of the Books of the Cataclysm reminds me of Mark Chadbourn's Age of Misrule. The leap it took after that certainly surprised me, having no idea it would tie into the Books of the Change as it did.

There's also evil seagulls, hang gliding, blood currency and talking stone heads.

His Orphans of Earth books are in the Greg Egan ballpark, like Schild's Ladder, etc. Astropolis is a bit more Alastair Reynolds.

He's also a fine short story writer.
Lou Anders
7. LouAnders
Thanks all.
Irene - the Cenotaxis art is by Sparth.
Blue - odd you should mention the Age of Misrule. We'll be bringing that out in Spring 09 over here.
Lou Anders
8. LouAnders
I should add - that is Greg Bridges art on The Blood Debt. Stunning stuff.
Aaron Hughes
9. Sean Williams
Thanks, all, for your kind words.

I'm pleased so many people have read the Books of the Change (those who haven't: it's coming out on e-book and POD next year). My kids' series, the Broken Land, is also set in the same world, featuring one character from the Books of the Cataclysm, and I have a couple of shorts coming up that also link across the series. It just keeps on rollin'.
Aaron Hughes
10. Gary Reynolds
I'm loving Sean's Astropolis series (including the excellent Cenotaxis that's set between Saturn Returns and Earth Ascendant).

Can't wait for The Grand Conjunction! Check out this link for further info:

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