Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Willis, Connie

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Working name of US writer Constance Elaine Trimmer Willis (1945-    ), known primarily for her sf. She began with "Santa Titicaca" in Worlds of Fantasy in 1971, but didn't start appearing regularly in the genre until the early 1980s. In the interim, she published many stories in confessions magazines.

CW's fictions have a number of common elements. The first is her use of Time-Travel, presumably acquired from her love of Robert A Heinlein's work – and the second is the use of misunderstanding and misdirection, which harks back to the screwball comedies of 1920s and 1930s Hollywood. Her use of comic elements is muted somewhat in her more ambitious solo novels, Lincoln's Dreams (1987) and Doomsday Book (1992). The former is a heartfelt contemporary novel in which a Civil War researcher befriends a young woman haunted by the Ghost of Robert E Lee. Here, through judicious use of exposition on the Civil War and Lee's horse, Traveller, Willis creates a present-day immediacy and a lasting resonance. Even more harrowing is Doomsday Book, properly sf, which shares some characters and settings with "Fire Watch" (1982), an earlier Time-Travel tale set in London during the Blitz. It concerns a young woman sent back to 14th-century England, where the Black Plague reigns. The attention to detail is enormous, but CW does not shirk the moral or emotional consequences of the setting.

Much of CW's shorter work is collected in Fire Watch (1984) and Impossible Things (1994), the latter's title being a reference to Lewis Carroll. Fire Watch in particular is noteworthy for the variety of its contents, which range from the poignant "A Letter from the Clearys" (1992) – a post-Holocaust story – to the comic "Blued Moon" (1994). Stories in Impossible Things which are not explicitly sf include "Winter's Tale" (1988) – an alternate history of Shakespeare's retirement and homecoming – and "Jack" (1991), a story of pluck and vampirism (> Vampires). Of CW's uncollected stories, two are of fantasy interest: Distress Call (1981; with essay "On Ghost Stories" 1991 chap) and "Substitution Trick" (1985), about Houdini.

CW has won six Nebula and five Hugo Awards. [WKS]

other works: Water Witch (1982) and Light Raid (1989), lightweight sf with Cynthia Felice; Uncharted Territory (1994), Remake (1995) and Bellwether (1996), all lightweight comic sf.

Constance Elaine Trimmer Willis


This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.