Connie Willis

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Connie Willis
Connie Willis at Clarion West, 1998
Connie Willis at Clarion West, 1998
Born Constance Elaine Trimmer
(1945-12-31) December 31, 1945 (age 69)
Denver, Colorado, USA
Occupation Writer
Nationality American
Education B.A., 1967
Alma mater Colorado State College
Period c. 1978–present
Genre Science fiction, social satire, Comedy of manners, Comic science fiction
Subject Time travel; War, especially World War II; Heroism; Courtship; Mores
Literary movement Savage Humanism[1]
Notable works Doomsday Book, To Say Nothing of the Dog, Blackout/All Clear, "The Last of the Winnebagos"
Notable awards Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award, Hugo Award, Nebula Award, Locus Award, and others
Spouse Courtney Willis
Children Cordelia Willis

Constance Elaine Trimmer Willis (born December 31, 1945) is an American science fiction/fantasy writer. She has won eleven Hugo Awards and seven Nebula Awards for particular works—more major awards than any other writer[2]—most recently the year's "Best Novel" Hugo and Nebula Awards for Blackout/All Clear (2010).[3] She was inducted by the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2009[4][5] and the Science Fiction Writers of America named her its 28th SFWA Grand Master in 2011.[6]

Several of her works feature time travel by history students at a faculty of the future University of Oxford—sometimes called the Time Travel series.[7] They are the short story "Fire Watch" (1982, also in several anthologies and the 1985 collection of the same name), the novels Doomsday Book and To Say Nothing of the Dog (1992 and 1998), as well as the two-part novel Blackout/All Clear (2010).[7] All four won the annual Hugo Award and all but To Say Nothing of the Dog won both the Hugo and Nebula Awards.[3]


Willis is a 1967 graduate of Colorado State College, now the University of Northern Colorado.[8] She lives in Greeley, Colorado, with her husband Courtney Willis, a former professor of physics at the University of Northern Colorado. They have one daughter, Cordelia.

Willis's first published story was "The Secret of Santa Titicaca" in Worlds of Fantasy, Winter 1970 (December).[9] At least seven stories followed (1978–81) before her debut novel, Water Witch by Willis and Cynthia Felice, published by Ace Books in 1982.[9] After receiving a National Endowment for the Arts grant that year, she left her teaching job and became a full-time writer.[10]

Scholar Gary K. Wolfe has written, "Willis, the erstwhile stand-up superstar of SF conventions – having her as your MC is like getting Billy Crystal back as host of the Oscars – and the author of some of the field's funniest stories, is a woman of considerably greater complexity and gravity than her personal popularity reflects, and for all her facility at screwball comedy knock-offs and snappy parody, she wants us to know that she's a writer of some gravity as well."[11]

Writing style[edit]

Willis tends to the comedy of manners style of writing. Her protagonists are typically beset by single-minded people pursuing illogical agendas, such as attempting to organize a bell-ringing session in the middle of a deadly epidemic (Doomsday Book), or frustrating efforts to analyze near-death experiences by putting words in the mouths of interviewees (Passage).

Other themes and stylistic devices include:

  • a scientist as protagonist (the main theme of Bellwether, but also present in Uncharted Territory, Passage, and—to a lesser degree—the Fire Watch universe stories).
  • satires of political correctness (the over-appreciation of indigenous cultures in Uncharted Territory, anti-smoking stances in Bellwether, prohibition of "addictive substances" in Remake and censorship of an English class in the short story "Ado").
  • the inclusion of meticulously researched, detailed trivia related tangentially or symbolically to the narrative (fads in Bellwether, mating customs in Uncharted Territory, old movies in Remake, the Titanic disaster in Passage, famous pairs of ill-fated lovers in To Say Nothing of the Dog).
  • "Romantic 'screwball' comedy in the manner of 1940s Hollywood movies, updated"[12]

Willis is acclaimed as a science-fiction writer, with much of her writing exploring the social sciences. She often weaves technology into her stories in order to prompt readers to question what impact it has on the world. For instance, Lincoln's Dreams plumbs not just the psychology of dreams, but also their role as indicators of disease. The story portrays a young man's unrequited love for a young woman who might or might not be experiencing reincarnation or precognition, and whose outlook verges on suicidal. Similarly Bellwether is almost exclusively concerned with human psychology.

Among other themes, Uncharted Territory contemplates the extent to which technology shapes expectations of gender; "technology" here ranges from a land rover and binoculars to Bult's online "tchopping" and the pop-up holograms—even socioexozoology. Remake embraces old movies and the computer graphics revolution, as well as intellectual property, digital copyright issues, and the question of public domain.

Other Willis stories explore the so-called "hard" sciences, following in the classic science fiction tradition. "The Sidon in the Mirror" harks back to the interplanetary and interstellar romanticism of the 1930s and 1940s. "Samaritan" is another take on the theme of Heinlein's "Jerry Was a Man", while "Blued Moon" is similarly reminiscent of Heinlein's "The Year of the Jackpot".

With Harlan Ellison at Hugo Awards 2006[edit]

On August 26, 2006, during the 64th World Science Fiction Convention, writer Harlan Ellison put his hand on Willis' breast while on stage at the Hugo Awards ceremony.[13][14] Ellen Datlow described this as "a schtick of Harlan acting like a baby".[15] Patrick Nielsen Hayden described this as "pathetic and nasty and sad and most of us didn't want to watch it".[16] Ellison responded three days after the event:[17]

"Would you believe that, having left the Hugo ceremonies immediately after my part in it, while it was still in progress ... and having left the hall entirely ... yet having been around later that night for Kieth Kato's traditional chili party ... and having taken off next morning for return home ... and not having the internet facility to open "journalfen" (or whatever it is), I was unaware of any problem proceeding from my intendedly-childlike grabbing of Connie Willis's left breast, as she was exhorting me to behave.

Nonetheless, despite my only becoming aware of this brouhaha right this moment (12 noon LA time, Tuesday the 29th), three days after the digital spasm that seems to be in uproar ...YOU ARE ABSOLUTELY RIGHT!!!

iT IS UNCONSCIONABLE FOR A MAN TO GRAB A WOMAN'S BREAST WITHOUT HER EXPLICIT PERMISSION. To do otherwise is to go 'way over the line in terms of invasion of someone's personal space. It is crude behavior at best, and actionable behavior at worst. When George W> [sic] Bush massaged the back of the neck of that female foreign dignitary, we were all justly appalled. For me to grab Connie's breast is in excusable, indefensible, gauche, and properly offensive to any observers or those who heard of it later.

I agree wholeheartedly.

I've called Connie. Haven't heard back from her yet. Maybe I never will.

So. What now, folks? It's not as if I haven't been a politically incorrect creature in the past. But apparently, Lynne, my 72 years of indefensible, gauche (yet for the most part classy), horrifying, jaw-dropping, sophomoric, sometimes imbecile behavior hasn't--till now--reached your level of outrage.

I'm glad, at last, to have transcended your expectations. I stand naked and defenseless before your absolutely correct chiding.

With genuine thanks for the post, and celestial affection, I remain, puckishly,

Yr. pal, Harlan

P.S. You have my permission to repost this reply anywhere you choose, on journalfen, at SFWA, on every blog in the universe, and even as graffiti on the Great Wall of China."

The internet firestorm continued with his statement attacked as not being an apology. On August 31 he publicly lost his temper, stating:

"Would you be slightly less self-righteous and chiding if I told you there was

NO grab…

there was

NO grope…

there was

NO fondle…

there was the slightest touch. A shtick, a gag between friends, absolutely NO sexual content. Would you, and the ten thousand maggots who have blown this up into a cause celebre, be even the least bit abashed to know that I apologized WAY BEYOND what the 'crime' required, on the off chance that I HAD offended? Let me ask you, Mark:

1) Were you there? 2) Did you see it? 3) Are you standing on your soapbox to chide me via 3rd/4th-hand reportage by OTHERS who weren’t there? 4) Do you also buy the infinite number of other internet brouhahas that turned out to be misreported?

Here it is, Mark; and for any others who fit the shoe:

In the words of that great American philosopher, Tony Isabella,

'Hell hath no fury like that of the uninvolved.'

Does not anyone READ WHAT I WROTE within fifteen minutes of learning of this? Does not anyone wonder why, if it was such a piggish thing I did, as one of those jerkwad blogs calls it, Connie Willis hasn’t [sic], after twenty-five years of 'friendship,' not returned my call on Monday … or responded to the Fedex packet of my posting here on Monday, which Fedex advises me she received at 2:20 pm on Tuesday?

Can the voluble and charismatic Connie not even pick up a phone to tell the man whose work she 'admires deeply' that he has gone a bridge too far? Is she so wracked by the Awfulness of it that she is incapable of saying to his face, you went too far? No one EVER asked her to 'bell the cat.' She decided that was her role toward me, long ago. And I’ve put up with it for years.

How about it, Mark: after playing straight man to Connie’s very frequently demeaning public jackanapery toward me — including treating me with considerable disrespect at the Grand Master Awards Weekend, where she put a chair down in front of her lectern as Master of Ceremonies, and made me sit there like a naughty child throughout her long 'roast' of my life and career — for more than 25 years, without once complaining, whaddays think, Mark, am I even a leetle bit entitled to think that Connie likes to play, and geez ain’t it sad that as long as SHE sets the rules for play, and I’m the village idiot, she’s cool … but gawd forbid I change the rules and play MY way for a change … whaddaya think, Mark, my friend, am I within the parameters of brutish pigginess to suggest if she WAS offended, then I apologize … even if you and a garbage-scowload of asinine pathetic internet wanks get up on their 'affront' and tell me how to behave?

I’ve sat here for four days, quietly, having done as much forelock-tugging and kneeling as I feel — as I — I — not you — not fan pinheads in far places who jumped and bayed and went after me in a second — but I –who is responsible for my behavior — as I feel is proper. And for four days I’ve waited for Deeply Outraged and Debased Connie Willis — an avowed friend and admirer of my work for more than a quarter century –to get up off her political correctness and take her pal off the gibbet.

I spent more hours traveling this benighted country, for eight years, state after state after state, lecturing in defense of women’s rights and passage of the ERA than any of you have spent mouthing your sophomoric remonstrances.

As the Great American Philosopher Tony Isabella has said, 'Hell hath no fury like that of the uninvolved.'

My last word on this clusterfuck. If Willis wants in, she knows where you all are. She knows where I am.All the rest is silence.

Harlan Ellison."[17]


Hugo Awards[edit]


Additional Nominations

  • Daisy, In the Sun : short story : 1980
  • The Sidon in the Mirror : novelette : 1984
  • Blued Moon : novelette : 1985
  • Spice Pogrom : novella : 1987
  • At the Rialto : novelette : 1990
  • Time-Out : novella : 1990
  • Cibola : short story : 1991
  • In the Late Cretaceous : short story : 1992
  • Jack : novella : 1992
  • Miracle : novelette : 1992
  • Remake : novel : 1996[21]
  • Passage : novel : 2002[22]
  • Just Like the Ones We Used to Know : novella : 2004

Nebula Awards[edit]


Additional Nominations

  • The Sidon in the Mirror : novelette : 1984
  • Schwarzschild Radius : novelette : 1988
  • Jack : novella : 1992
  • Death on the Nile : novelette : 1994
  • Bellwether : novel : 1998
  • To Say Nothing of the Dog : novel : 1999[19]
  • Passage : novel : 2002[22]
  • Just Like the Ones We Used to Know : novella : 2005

Locus Awards[edit]


Additional Nomination

Arthur C. Clarke Awards[edit]


World Fantasy Awards[edit]


  • Chance : novella : 1987
  • The Winds of Marble Arch : novella : 2000

John W. Campbell Memorial Award[edit]


British Science Fiction Association Award[edit]


Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award[edit]

  • Lifetime achievement, 2011, presented at the Nebula Awards banquet, May 2012[6]


Novels and novellas[edit]

Short story collections[edit]

Short stories[edit]


  • Roswell, Vegas, and Area 51: Travels with Courtney (2002)


  • On Ghost Stories (1991)
  • Foreword (1998)
  • Introduction (1999)
  • The Nebula Award for Best Novel (1999)
  • The 1997 Author Emeritus: Nelson Bond (1999)
  • The Grand Master Award: Poul Anderson (1999)
  • A Few Last Words to Put It All in Perspective (1999)
  • Bibliography, including a list of all of her SF short stories and "confessions" stories, collected in the "Limited/Lettered Editions" of The Winds of Marble Arch and Other Stories: A Connie Willis Compendium
  • A Final Word; Twelve Terrific Things to Read... (Christmas stories); And Twelve to Watch (Christmas movies); all collected in Miracle and Other Christmas Stories

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Sawyer, Robert J. (April 29, 2008). "The Savage Humanists". Robert J. Sawyer. Retrieved 2013-06-16. Meet the Savage Humanists: the hottest science-fiction writers working today. They use SF's unique powers to comment on the human condition in mordantly funny, satiric stories... In these pages, you'll find the top names in the SF field: including...Connie Willis (The Doomsday Book)... 
  2. ^ "Nebula Awards Interview: Connie Willis". Helen Merrick. SFWA. Retrieved 2013-04-03.
  3. ^ a b "Willis, Connie". The Locus Index to SF Awards: Index to Literary Nominees. Locus Publications. Retrieved 2013-04-03.
  4. ^ Announces its 2009 Science Fiction Hall of Fame Inductions" "EMP at the Wayback Machine (archived August 14, 2009). Press release 2009(?). Experience Music Project and Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame ( Archived 2009-08-14. Retrieved 2013-03-19.
  5. ^ Strock, Ian Randal (April 6, 2009). "2009's Science Fiction Hall of Fame Inductees". Science Fiction Hall of Fame. Retrieved 2009-06-06. 
  6. ^ a b "Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master". Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA). Retrieved 2013-04-03.
  7. ^ a b Time Travel series listing at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database (ISFDB). Retrieved 2013-04-03. Select a title to see its linked publication history and general information. Select a particular edition (title) for more data at that level, such as a front cover image or linked contents.
  8. ^ "University Archives: RG18 ALUMNI". University of Northern Colorado: University Archives. January 27, 2002. Retrieved 2009-06-06. 
  9. ^ a b "Connie Willis – Summary Bibliography". ISFDB. Retrieved 2013-04-03.
  10. ^ "Connie Willis: The Facts of Death", Locus, January 2003, p. 7.
  11. ^ Wolfe, Gary K. (March 2001). "Passage". Locus (Oakland, California: Charles N. Brown) 46 (3, issue 482): 21. ISSN 0047-4959. Retrieved 2013-12-04. 
  12. ^ Kathryn Cramer (2006). Hartwell, David G., ed. Year's Best Fantasy 6. Tachyon Publications. ISBN 1-892391-37-6. 
  13. ^ "Sci-Fi Awards Show Marred By Boorish Groping" by Ron Hogan, Galleycat, August 30, 2006.
  14. ^ Sanderson, Larry. "Hugo Awards – Harlan and Connie – 2006". Retrieved 2006-09-03. 
  15. ^ Unca Harlan's Art Deco Pavilion: Archives
  16. ^ Patrick Nielsen Hayden – LAcon IV
  17. ^ a b Jen Volant (tacithydra) (September 3, 2006). "tacithydra: GropeGate". Retrieved 2013-04-22. 
  18. ^ a b c d e f "1993 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 2009-05-04. 
  19. ^ a b c d "1999 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 2009-05-04. 
  20. ^ 2011 Hugo and Campbell Awards Winners. Locus. Retrieved 2011-08-21.
  21. ^ a b "1996 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 2009-05-04. 
  22. ^ a b c "2002 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 2009-05-04. 
  23. ^ "2010 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 2011-05-23. 
  24. ^ a b c "2001 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 2009-05-05. 
  25. ^ a b c "1988 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 2009-05-05. 
  26. ^ "1992 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 2009-05-05. 
  27. ^ "1997 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 2009-05-05. 
  28. ^ "1998 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 2009-05-05. 
  29. ^ ISBN 978-0-575-13114-9

External links[edit]