Our namesake James Gunn, author, scholar, teacher, mentor, friend, and gentleman, passed away two days before Christmas 2020. At 97, he was the dean—easily by a dozen years— of living science fiction writers. To celebrate his accomplishments, I want to share some of his wisdom with you.
We came from a world far away...
This report is a continuation of the work done in Worldcon Membership Demographics, 1939-1960 (Walling, 2016) and in Worldcon Membership Demographics, 1961-1980 (Walling, 2018) and Worldcon Membership Demographics, 1981-2000 (Walling, 2019) and aims to see if any of the trends previously observed continue in subsequent Worldcons and provide some hard data on the membership of the Worldcons of that period.
First draft: In your first draft you get to be Wild Being of the Woods. Write crazy. Stop and start, veer off, break rules, color outside the lines. Let the story discover itself. Later you can figure out what to do with it.
Jake’s stomachs growled. The big boss had sent him into town to meet with the company’s newest computer geek. The noob had selected a Marriott near the spaceport. Jake hated Marriotts, always full of squirrels.
The alley, you would have sworn, is empty. Blank concrete walls and a narrow, colorless door, likely out of use for years. You’re turning your head to say it’s a bust when the light blazes into existence, catching the corner of your eye, flooding the door and the whole lane with blood-red light: a bent-neon sign and the words THE OZ CASINO.
I write this in bright sunshine, teasing words from air that is rich with glimmering motes. My hands trace calligraphic arcs against the cloudless sky, circling primrose, aconite, forget-me-nots.
It was close to three a.m. when a woman came into the Borderlands diner. I slipped the book I was reading under the counter and said, “Morning.”
Down at the town hall, everybody decided I should be the one to smash up the Invader’s statue. Folks in town call me Joe-Fix-It. I’m usually around doing odd jobs, helping mend a fence or changing a tire. And I’ve always been handy with a sledgehammer. No sweat, I told them.
What you respond to in an idea or a prompt—what Ursula K. Le Guin called a “thought experiment”— may be big or small, clearly structural or emotionally subtle. Anything, really.