[Robert J. Sawyer] Science Fiction Writer
Hugo and Nebula Winner

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A Profile of Bram Stoker Award-winning Author

Edo van Belkom

by Robert J. Sawyer

Copyright © 1997 by Robert J. Sawyer
All Rights Reserved.

I wrote the following profile of Edo van Belkom for the Program Book of the 1997 World Horror Convention, at which Edo was Toastmaster. A slightly revised version appeared as the introduction to Edo's 1998 short-story collection Death Drives a Semi.

First, the name: Edo. It rhymes with Laredo.

Second, the man: he's thirty-four, bearded, a Torontonian by birth, of mixed Dutch and Italian descent.

He grew up in a blue-collar family in an ethnically mixed suburb — a crucible that's given him an excellent ear for accents. When he met science-fiction author George Zebrowski for the first time, he made a friend for life by pronouncing it correctly — "Hor-gay Zhebrovskee." Edo's also a devastating mimic, doing impressions of not just TV and movie stars, but writers and other publishing types, as well.

[Edo van Belkom] Edo's degree is in Creative Writing from Toronto's York University, and there's an irony in that: he is the most practical, down-to-earth wordsmith I've ever met. His constant challenging of classmates' opinions in his final workshop course (most often by exclaiming, "That's not the way it works in the real world!") made him less than popular.

But it's an attitude that's served him well. Although he's worked as a police and sports reporter, Edo made the leap from first sale to full-time fiction writer in less than two years. In many ways, he's the ideal of what used to be called, back when the term wasn't disparaging, a pulp writer — he writes stories quickly, often to a given editor's specification, always producing a quality, salable product on time.

And, of course, it comes full circle. Edo now teaches three different writing courses in and around Toronto, does online tutoring in fiction writing, and this fall will be lecturing at the University of Toronto. What distinguishes Edo's writing courses from most others (including the ones he himself once took) is his no-bull, sales-oriented approach.

What else can we say about Edo? Well, he's far thinner than a man who refers to eating as "snarfling" has any right to be. He's a devoted fan of car racing. When eating at home, his favorite meal is spaghetti; when eating out it's a burger and fries — which he'll try to order, no matter how classy the restaurant is. Edo is husband to Roberta (a librarian), and father to five-year-old Luke. There's a cat named Miss Penelope living in their house, but Edo seems content to ignore it as much as it ignores him, so that's okay.

Third, the career: Edo van Belkom's fiction career started with "Baseball Memories" in 1991. Its initial publication venue was about as obscure as it gets: Aethlon: The Journal of Sports Literature, put out by East Tennessee State University. But Edo wasn't to dwell in obscurity for long. Karl Edward Wagner picked up "Baseball Memories" for the twentieth annual Year's Best Horror Stories collection.

After that, honors seemed to come Edo's way on an almost daily basis. "Baseball Memories" was shortlisted for the Aurora Award, Canada's top honor in science fiction and fantasy writing. When Don Hutchison was launching his prestigious hardcover line of Canadian dark-fantasy anthologies, Northern Frights, he came to Edo to produce a story to go with the cover painting he'd already bought ("Mark of the Beast"). Edo was quickly made a contributing editor of the Bulletin of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA), and Canadian membership representative for the Horror Writers Association; this past year he's served on HWA's elections search committee, and is in his second year on SFWA's Board of Directors (as Canadian Regional Director).

And all the while Edo keeps selling stories at a fantastic rate, to markets big and small — stories that are tight and polished and ring true even when they are about incredible things, stories that send shivers down the reader's spine, or outrage us, or sometimes make us laugh. Stories that are real stories, old-fashioned stories, stories with beginnings, and middles, and ends ("plot-optional" is Edo's favorite derisive adjective for certain writers' output). Stories with characters we care about and points to make and language used so elegantly as to be all but invisible.

Edo's stories are always good reading, but classifying them is hard. Is he an SF writer? Perhaps today. A horror writer? Tomorrow. Fantasy? Yesterday. Erotica? Last week. Mainstream? Next Tuesday. His "Baseball Memories" and "S.P.S." are science fiction, of the Twilight Zone sort. "Mark of the Beast" and "Blood Bait" are werewolf and vampire tales respectively — each with a new twist, of course. And his "The Highway" has no fantastic element at all, which makes its horrors all the more chilling. In total, Edo has sold over one hundred stories — a lifetime's work for many another writer, but only the barest beginnings of the van Belkom oeuvre.

Edo's work reminds one of Ray Bradbury, of Dennis Etchison, of Richard Matheson, of Stephen King, of Rod Serling. He takes on writing voices and genres with the same facility with which he adopts accents or does impressions. He tries his hand at everything, fails at nothing, and is always looking for new avenues to explore, and new challenges for both himself and his readers.

His most recent challenge has been to do work in other people's universes. Edo's first novel, Wyrm Wolf, was the only entry in White Wolf's initial Worlds of Darkness line to make it to the Locus bestseller's list, and, against all the odds, it went on to be a finalist for HWA's Bram Stoker Award for Best First Novel of the Year.

Edo has written three more gaming-tie-in novels: Lord Soth, Army of the Dead, and my favorite, Mr. Magick, about a real magician taking on a religious fundamentalist on the Las Vegas strip. He's also working on a collection of interviews with Canadian science fiction, fantasy, and horror authors for Quarry Press entitled Northern Dreamers.

Come up and say hello to the man; despite the penetrating gaze and somewhat satanic look, he really is a nice guy — especially if you offer to buy him a burger and fries.

[1997 bionote] Robert J. Sawyer is the author of the science fiction novels Golden Fleece, Far-Seer, Fossil Hunter, Foreigner, End of an Era, The Terminal Experiment, Starplex, Frameshift, and Illegal Alien. He has won the Nebula Award for Best Novel of the Year (for The Terminal Experiment) and twice been a finalist for the Hugo Award.

More Good Reading

Turning the tables:

Rob and Edo both nominated for Arthur Ellis Awards

Rob's 2000 profile of Edo van Belkom
Rob's interview with Isaac Asimov
Rob's interview with Donald Kingsbury
Rob's profile of Terence M. Green
Rob's profile of Judith Merril

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