Sean Williams

Antarctica, Here I Come!

posted on 15 Dec 2016 at 11:47 pm

I first met Kim Stanley Robinson in Hobart, 1995, when he was on his way to the South Pole. Author of the Mars trilogy and Antarctica, he suggested I look to the Australian Antarctic Division as a possible means of fulfilling my dream of visiting the great southern land.

Over twenty years later, and thanks to the Australian Antarctic Division‘s Arts Fellowship program, that dream is about to come true.

I’m incredibly honoured to have been awarded the 2016/17 Fellowship. Alumni include artists working in performance, documentaries, sound, and of course visual arts and writing. I’m the first speculative fiction writer since Anthony Eaton (2005/6) whose book Nightpeople won the 2005 Aurealis Award for best YA novel, and possibly the first South Australian writer ever to be awarded the Fellowship. The responsibility is incredible. The opportunity likewise. I cannot wait to get down there and get started.

UPDATE: There will be a blog/diary, updated as often as I can. Follow this link (http://seanwilliams.com/tag/antarctica/) or social media if you want to hear more about my adventures.

UPDATE: Here’s a great article in the Adelaide Advertiser (featuring a great photo of my adventuring beard).

Here’s the press release:

Sean at Casey - edited

Australian speculative fiction author Dr Sean Williams has been awarded this year’s Australian Antarctic Arts Fellowship and will travel to Antarctica to research an alternate history novel based on the Heroic era of Antarctic exploration.

Adelaide-based, Dr Williams has published over forty novels and more than one-hundred short stories across numerous genres, primarily science fiction.

He has won numerous literary awards and has written several New York Times bestsellers.

Dr Williams says the novel he proposes to research during his Antarctic Arts Fellowship will depict a meeting of Heroic Antarctic expeditioners and future explorers.

“My novel will explore the encounter between a young Douglas Mawson, other famous Antarctic explorers including Robert Falcon Scott and Ernest Shackleton, and a survivor of H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds during a delayed version of the Discovery Expedition,” Dr Williams said.

The 1901-04 British Discovery Expedition launched the Antarctic careers of many who became leading figures in the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration.

Australian Antarctic explorer Sir Douglas Mawson, who hailed from Dr Williams’ home state of South Australia, led the first Australasian Antarctic Expedition of 1911-1914 several years after the Discovery expedition.

The British expedition was a celebrated success, despite having needed an expensive relief mission to free Discovery and its crew from the ice.

Tragedy also struck Mawson’s expedition, with two deaths and Mawson’s remarkable survival after falling down a crevasse and making his way back to base alone.

“I have always been interested in the Antarctica as more than just an extreme and utterly unique environment. It’s also a meeting place of people from very different cultures, where conventional notions of empire fail.”

Australian Antarctic Division Director, Dr Nick Gales, said the Australian Antarctic Arts Fellowship provides opportunities for people from the arts or humanities to travel to Antarctica to experience the continent and share that experience through their work.

Dr Williams is a talented writer who reaches a very wide audience through his highly creative and entertaining works and will strive to spark a passion and enthusiasm for Antarctica among his readers.

Dr Williams has written several original award-winning series as well as six novels set in the Star Wars universe. His short story “All the Wrong Places” won the 2015 Aurealis Award for Best Short Story. A TV show set in the world of his latest series, Twinmaker, is currently in development.

The working title for my novel, Lone Soul Standing, comes from a wonderful quote in Mawson’s diaries, written on April 9th, 1912, describing how it feels to be in the Antarctic:

“Outside one is in touch with the sternest of nature–one might be a lone soul standing . . . on Mars.”

Charlie Stross came up with a very good alternative, though: Mawson’s Martian. Time will tell which it is.

The Arts Fellowship aims to increase Australian and international awareness and appreciation of Antarctica, the sub-Antarctic, and the Australian Antarctic program. List of Arts Fellowship alumni here.

Author photo: James Braund. Crappy photoshopping: me.

  1. stephen says:

    Hello there and congrats on the AAAF.
    I wish you luck with the trip and the future book from your trip to the Ice in Feb.
    I have made 9 trips down south as a visual artist .. Meaning Antarctica was a
    strong focus for me for about a decade. I now live in Argentina…I think.
    In Aug. 2017 I may visit Adelaide so it may be fun to meet and swap tales if you wish. If I can help in any way with questions about the odd but excellent AAAF please feel free to email me.