Sean Williams

2016 in Words

posted on 1 Jan 2017 at 10:58 am

The last time I endured (warning: First World Problem) a year without a new book was 1999, so I expected 2016 to be something of a challenge. Not so. It was nice to slip out of the publishing machine for a bit–and of course there was still plenty of writing and business to be done, and lots of highlights.

Publication details at the end.

January- March

Weird Al - smallerThe year started with a visit from parody king Weird Al Yankovic, seen in the photo here with me and lucky members of the family when he played Thebarton Theatre for the first time. We share an editor, and she arranged for us to slip into his dressing room to say hello after the show. A genuinely nice, hard-working guy. More power to him. Seeing him was a welcome break from drafting a new novel about anxiety and electricity, In My Mind.

February saw the commencement of my largest collaboration ever: Escape from Thorngate Hall is a short novel written by me and several hundred schoolchildren in South Australia, published one chapter per day in the Adelaide Advertiser, all through the month. Our method was this: I came up with the concept and wrote the first chapter. That chapter went to School #1, who wrote the second chapter. That chapter was edited by me and the indispensable Sarah Kipling at the Advertiser, and then sent to Stephen Stanley for illustration, and then published. Then it was sent to school #2, who wrote the next chapter. And so on until we reached the end, at which point I wrote the final chapter. It all started off fairly simple, but quickly became more complicated, with talking cats, time-travelling villains, and giant robot spiders. It was fun. And you can read it for free!

The final chapter was launched (and read) in the kids’ tent at Adelaide Writers’ Week, where I was also fortunate to meet and interview New Zealand author Anna Smaill regarding her World Fantasy Award-winning novel The Chimes, an intriguing, unusual work that defies genre categorisation.

March saw me visiting Brisbane for the 2015 National Science Fiction convention, where I got to hang out with many wonderful friends, speak on the odd panel, and pick up the Best SF Short Story Aurealis Award for “All the Wrong Places”, which first appeared in Jonathan Strahan’s Meeting Infinity. Twinmaker: Fall was also nominated for Best SF Novel, and recommended by Locus too (under its US name, Hollowgirl). All wonderful reasons to celebrate.

Wrapping up a busy March, Richard Fidler interviewed me for his Conversations series. We discussed matter transmitters and the future of, well, pretty much everything.

wotf32 coverApril-June

The highly anticipated and long-awaited publication of 100 Lightnings took place in April. It contains my horror flash fiction story “Tears of the Living Dead”.

Also that month I attended Writers of the Future in LA, where I met a bunch of wonderful new writers (plus a few established ones, too) and celebrated the launch of the latest volume of the contest anthology (#32), in which my story “The Jade Woman of the Luminous Star” was reprinted. After LA, I skipped over to New York to visit agents, editors and friends. Losing my voice put a bit of a dampener on that trip, but if you’re going to be sick anywhere, it might as well be Manhattan.

Returning to Australia, I appeared at the SA Writers’ Centre’s SF Festival and chatted with the mighty Fred Watson at Sydney Writers’ Festival on the topic of “When Science Fiction Meets Science Fact”.


I’ve always wanted to drive from Adelaide to Alice Springs, and that’s exactly what I got to do this year, via Woomera and Coober Pedy, with a side trip to Ulura, Kata Tjuta and the APY Lands. Shortly afterwards, I flew to Perth and from there drove north to Karratha. I’ve seen some of these landscapes before, but it was wonderful to visit and be inspired all over again. I undertook these trips as early research for a new Change book, The Bone Smith.

valley of the winds - editedAugust saw me back at Bendigo Writers’ Festival, appearing at the schools day and interviewing the delightful Isobelle Carmody as well. While there, I undertook the Nine Levels of Darkness Tour at the Central Deborah Gold Mine, one of my most amazing experiences for 2016.

September saw me in Canberra as the ACT Eminent Writer in Residence–a whole month of researching in the Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House, chatting to writers young and old, and catching up with friends. (There was some writing in there two, primarily on my novel about deafness, Impossible Music, with the assistance of the Australia Council for the Arts.) The month went by too quickly, and concluded with a lovely stint MCing at Conflux, where, among many other fun times, Alan Baxter and I debuted the world’s first complete performance of Sci Chi, Tai Chi for sci-fi fans.

You can find a Storify of all my Canberra adventures here.


Flying to meet Steven Wilson before his first concert in New Zealand was a personal highlight of the year. Well worth the trip! In the photo of the two of us I’m wearing a t-shirt from another favourite Steven: Steve Roach, whose ambient music has been a source of inspiration for decades.

I was delighted to chat with Heather Smith and Prof. John Spoehr on the subject of sustainable jobs in sustainable futures at the Adelaide Festival of Ideas and to meet and teach a great bunch of young storytellers at the SA Writers’ Centre Teen Bootcamp. (There, as in other places this year, I delivered a workshop on collaboration.)

SW and me - edited and smallerNow that I’m done with travelling for the year, I’ve been concentrating on In My Mind and Impossible Music, aiming to clear the desk before work begins on the second book of a new series with Garth Nix. Plus, I released six small chapbooks and one giant omnibus of early works that have never seen print before, under a pseudonym I used twenty years ago: “E. W. Story”. You can read more about these (and find buy links for all of them) here.


2016 had its deep low points that I don’t want to dwell on, but there remains so much to be thankful for. Lots of new and old fiction emerged from the cave. I continue to learn Tai Chi and Auslan. Various TV projects moved generally forward (rather than backward, which is the norm). I’ve had a few stories published, featuring work I’m incredibly proud of. I’m still invested in the Twinmaker universe, even as I move forward into new and even more challenging territories.

New fiction:

gods_of_space_final - smallerReprints:

What’s ahead

  • “A Better Place” in Daily SF
  • “The Winter of the Soul” in Ungentle Fire, a forthcoming collection from PS Australia

The really big news for next year is that I have been selected to be the 2016-17 Antarctic Fellow by the Australian Antarctic Division, which means I get to rug up and go south in February. I’ll be researching a novel called Last Soul Standing (or Mawson’s Martian) about Antarctic explorers meeting a survivor of The War of the Worlds. Watch this space for photos, blog posts, and other accounts of my adventures down there.

Apart from Antarctica (and a holiday in Myanmar early in the year) I’ve decided to put the brakes on overseas travel for 2017. Partly for health reasons, partly so I can stay home and concentrate on writing. I’m excited about the challenges to come, and keen to dive into them.

May 2017 bring solutions to all the problems of 2016, and more besides. Onward and upward!