Discovered

by wjw on March 14, 2006

I haven’t been posting recently, in part because I’ve been busy with Authors’ Month activities.

I’ve been a full-time, professional writer for, oh god, 27 years. I’ve been on the bestseller lists of the Times both of London and New York. I’ve won literary awards. I’ve been published in France, Poland, and Croatia (to name three places which gave me free trips) and in Japan (where I’d very much like to go for free).

This year I was discovered by my home state, New Mexico, where I’ve been laboring in near-total obscurity for all those years.

For the most part, New Mexico is interested only in writers who write about New Mexico. The state is provincial and insecure that way— not that it doesn’t have reason for the insecurity, with so many citizens thinking we’re a foreign country, and writing to the Chamber of Commerce asking if they need shots to visit here. Local authors who write about Dubuque or New York or Russia tend to be ignored, let alone authors who write about other planets. Tony Hillerman is sort of a local god. (Not that this is a bad thing. I’d as soon pray to Tony as anyone)

After twenty-six years of benign neglect, I’ve suddenly been Discovered, and for no reason that I can see. And I’ve not just been Discovered by one group, but by several. For the past month I’ve been giving lectures in libraries and classrooms, been interviewed on television (okay, it was public access), appeared on panel discussions, and taught a writing workshop. (I overprepared, and gave my students a six-week Clarion course in 150 minutes. By the time I was done, they looked as if I’d bashed them over the head with an 800-page manuscript.)

In the middle of all this came the annual Jack Williamson Lecture in Portales, four days of concentrated fun, and far too much food.

It’s interesting being on the map after all this time. I’ve met a lot of new people, I’ve caught up with others I haven’t seen since I got booted out of college, and I got a nice check from the Albuquerque Tricentennial Commission, the first time I’ve ever taken government money for being a writer. I’ve done my best to be entertaining at wine-and-cheese parties. I’ve got a pocket full of business cards and bits of paper with scribbled phone numbers and email addresses. I’ve even sold some books.

It will be interesting to see whether I stay on the map after the current busyness subsides. (What the hell— with Judy Chicago becoming such a big New Mexican, I can’t see why I don’t have a shot.) Whether I lapse into obscurity or become a local superstar, I’m cool with it either way.

Though I have to admit that it would be fun to have a side chapel in the Tony Hillerman cathedral.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Glen Engel-Cox March 14, 2006 at 2:23 pm

Hey, it couldn’t have happened to a nicer person, big guy! Glad to see you’re getting some recognition.

Ian Gorrie March 14, 2006 at 10:58 pm

It’s great to hear that things are picking up for you. Personally I’ve been recommending your work to people for years. You’ve been one of my favorites for much longer than most. I would imagine that your new popularity will lead to a growth in popularity for your older work. :)

dubjay March 15, 2006 at 3:28 am

Of course this growth in popularity is strictly a New Mexico thing, and is among people who probably won’t ever be found reading a science fiction novel.

Personally I’m hoping it leads to more government money. If the oil companies with their record profits can qualify for a subsidy, why can’t I?

S.M. Stirling March 17, 2006 at 3:44 am

You’ve always been a star to me, Walter… 8-).

Laurie March 19, 2006 at 10:52 pm

Best of all, you’ve been discovered while you’re still alive! So much more helpful than being discovered too late! Congratulations and all that.

dubjay March 20, 2006 at 9:00 pm

It’s impossible to overstate how small-time this discovery is, but I’ll take what I can get.

HaloJonesFan April 3, 2006 at 1:31 pm

Government money? Walter Jon Williams has sold out to the Man? Say it ain’t so!

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