Sean Williams was born in the dry, flat lands of South Australia, where he still lives with his wife and family and a pet plastic fish. He has been called many things in his time, including (somewhat ostentatiously) “the premier Australian speculative fiction writer of the age” (Aurealis), the “Emperor of Sci-Fi” (Adelaide Advertiser), the “Lord of the Genre” (Perth Writers’ Festival), and the “King of Chameleons” (Australian Book Review) for the diversity of his published output. That output includes over forty novels for readers all ages, one hundred-plus short stories across numerous genres, the odd published poem, one recipe (“Big Bang Brussels Sprouts”), and even a sci-fi musical. He also likes making up new words. He is a multiple recipient of the Aurealis and Ditmar Awards and has been nominated for the Philip K. Dick Award, the Seiun Award, and the William Atheling Jr. Award for criticism. He received the “SA Great” Literature Award in 2000 and the Peter McNamara Award for contributions to Australian speculative fiction in 2008. His latest series are Troubletwisters, a fantasy for middle grade readers co-written with Garth Nix, and Twinmaker, a near-future thriller for young adults (and old adults too). Over forty bonus short stories set in the Twinmaker universe are available online here. In 2014, Sean and Garth co-authored the third novel in the New York Times bestselling Spirit Animals series, Blood Ties.
On the sci-fi front, he has written several original award-winning space opera series as well as six novels set in the Star Wars universe, many co-written with fellow-Adelaidean Shane Dix. These include the Astropolis, Evergence, Orphans and Geodesica series, and the computer game tie-in The Force Unleashed–the first such adaptation ever to debut at #1 on the New York Times bestseller list. A series for young readers, The Fixers, pitted an increasingly lost protagonist against zombies, cyborgs, and vampires across numerous parallel universes. His most recent releases in the Star Wars universe are The Old Republic: Fatal Alliance and The Force Unleashed II. Twinmaker (Jump in Australia) came out in 2013, the sequel Crashland (Crash) in 2014. Hollowgirl (Fall) concluded the series in 2015, to critical acclaim and a nomination for the Aurealis Award. The Twinmaker-related short story “All the Wrong Places” won the 2015 Aurealis Award for Best Short Story. He is currently working with a collaborator on a TV series based on his second novel, The Resurrected Man.
His fantasy novels–inspired by the landscapes of his childhood–occupy a unique niche in Australian publishing. These include the Books of the Change (The Stone Mage & the Sea, The Sky Warden & the Sun, and The Storm Weaver & the Sand) and the Books of the Cataclysm (The Crooked Letter–the first fantasy novel to win both the Aurealis and Ditmar Awards, currently in development as a TV series–The Blood Debt, The Hanging Mountains, and The Devoured Earth). His most recent entries in this world include the Broken Land series (The Changeling, The Dust Devils, and The Scarecrow) plus novellas and stories in several anthologies, including The Dragon Book, Trust Me Too and Legends of Australian Fantasy. Troubletwisters: The Monster, second in the series he co-wrote with Garth Nix, was published in 2012, with The Mystery in 2013 and The Missing (aka Missing, Presumed Evil) in 2014. In 2015, New Zealand composer Sam van Betuw wrote an orchestral suite based on The Stone Mage & the Sea; it can be heard here. Sam and Sean subsequently collaborated on the work “M-Cubed”, a meditation on future music and John Cage for Cabinet of Oddities, performed in Canberra and the 2016 Melbourne Fringe Festival.
Sean’s stories have been appeared in a wide variety of publications, including Clarkesworld, Lightspeed, Galaxy’s Edge, Forever, Daily SF, Cosmos, Reviews of Australian Fiction, Seizure, Solaris Rising 3, Meeting Infinity, Drowned Worlds, The Bulletin, Best Australian Stories, and Gardner Dozois’s Year’s Best SF anthologies. Many have been gathered in six collections, including Instant Elsewhere, New Adventures in Sci-Fi, Light Bodies Falling and Magic Dirt: the Best of Sean Williams, two of which have won major Australian awards. One novella, “Among the Beautiful Living Dead”, has been adapted into the short film Retrospect, while the short story “Passing the Bone” is currently in development for a feature film. One of his short stories, “Midnight in the Cafe of the Black Madonna”, is an official story set in the Doctor Who universe.
Sean occasionally dabbles in other writing forms. His poem “Reflections on Water” formed the text for the Adelaide Zoo’s welcoming soundscape (reprinted in Tadpoles in the Torrens), while another, “Ants Attack”, in collaboration with artist Thom Buchanan formed a centrepiece of the 2015 Ruby Awards. He takes an active role in writing-related organisations and writer advocacy groups, including The Big Book Club Inc, the Adelaide Writers’ Week Advisory Committee, and the premier international representational body of speculative fiction writers, SFWA. He is a judge of the international Writers of the Future Contest, of which he is a past winner. He is one of only two living honourary life members of the SA Writers’ Centre and an honourary member of both the Southern Dewback Squad of the 501st Legion and the Rebel Legion Fan Organization. He has a Masters and PhD in Creative Writing from the University of Adelaide, where he remains a Visiting Research Fellow and an Affiliate of the J.M. Coetzee Centre for Creative Practice. His thesis, The “Murdering Twinmaker”: Putting Into Context an Overlooked Icon of Science Fiction, received a Dean’s Commendation for Thesis Excellence.
Since winning a 1984 Young Composer’s Award, his music writing has been sidelined to a large degree, but he still dabbles. He wrote the theme for the 2006 reading of The Soap Bubble: A Space Opera and in 2016 The Grand Silence, a musical collage inspired by the two-minute silence commemorating Remembrance Day, aired as part of a live improvisation by musicians Gabriella Smart, Derek Pascoe and Brad Cameron. His love for this artform serves as a major inspiration for the novel he is currently writing, Impossible Music.
On a personal front, he lives just up the road from the best chocolate factory in Australia, is a supporter of Feminist Frequency, Jesus & Mo, Philip Sandifer and The Angriest, and is a member of the Voluntary Euthanasia Party. He likes to DJ, but only bad dance music from the 70s, 80s, and 90s. You can view his recent reading via his Goodreads page.
(For more about Twinmaker, see Twinmakerbooks.com.)
(Here’s a link to Frequently Asked Questions.)
(Here’s a downloadable Curriculum Vitae, accurate as at March 2016.)
Top photo by James Braund.