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Connie Willis: Why sci-fi's seven-time Nebula winning author hangs out at a Greeley Starbucks

Greeley author Connie Willis was in Washington over the weekend, picking up her seventh Nebula award from the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. Yes, her seventh. The SFFWA's 1,500 members awarded best novel honors to her epic two-volume work, Blackout/All Clear, a tale of time-traveling historians trying to accomplish various missions during the London Blitz and the general chaos of World War II.

If the multiplying trophies on Willis's shelf make the award sound like no big deal, think again. Arthur C. Clarke and Isaac Asimov each won three Nebulas. Harlan Ellison has four, Neil Gaiman two. William Gibson has six, but nobody else has seven.

Willis is, by any measure, the most honored living sci-fi writer. She also has, by my count, at least ten Hugo awards, awarded by voting members of the annual sci-fi world convention -- but this nice interview in the Greeley Tribune says that number is up to eleven. No one else can claim such a fistful of the genre's two most coveted prizes, an indication of her work's remarkable appeal among colleagues as well as fans.

Colorado has a long tradition of being a hotspot of talented science fiction and fantasy writers -- including Paolo Bacigalupi, who won the Hugo and Nebula last year for his debut novel The Windup Girl -- and Willis has played a major role in building that community. A '67 graduate of Colorado State College (now the University of Northern Colorado) and married to a UNC prof, she's been cranking out first drafts longhand at a Starbucks in Greeley for many years. She prefers the bustle of the baristas to the distractions of home, telling the Tribune that she enjoys "having a little white noise" as she writes.

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Almost twenty years ago, back when she had only four Nebulas and two Hugos (and was about to get another of each for Doomsday Book), Willis told Westword science fiction appeals to her due to its endless range of creative possibilities, not to mention "that it almost never takes itself too seriously. It's different from all other genre writing because it's so free."

She's currently working on a new novel. Meanwhile, Black Out/All Clear is also nominated for the Hugo, to be awarded in August.

More from our Follow That Story archive: "Top five ways to improve One Book, One Denver -- and great Colorado authors to consider."

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