Tale of graverobbing digs up award nomination

Langley author Ian Weir’s novel Will Starling takes readers to 19th century London for a tale of grave robbing and the mad days of early medical experiments.

Now it might take Weir to an awards ceremony.

Will Starling has been named on the long list for the 2015 Sunburst Award, an award for excellence in “Canadian literature of the fantastic.”

“I was surprised and delighted,” said Weir, who found out about the nomination early in June.

This is Weir’s second adult novel. Although he’s been a professional writer for years, his career has been varied, and has included some young adult books for Scholastic in the 1980s and early ’90s, the creation of plays, radio scripts, and TV series, including Arctic Air, partially filmed in Aldergrove.

Weir was gratified to be included with a number of Canadian literary luminaries.

“It’s a really interesting long list,” Weir said.

Alongside Will Starling are horror novel The Troop by Nick Cutter, director David Cronenberg’s first novel Consumed, Thomas King’s The Back of the Turtle, and some hard science fiction novels like Peter Watts’ Echopraxia.

The awards jury seems to have taken its mandate to look at literature of the fantastic very broadly, said Weir.

Weir’s novel certainly has some gothic aspects, and it’s no coincidence he set it in the same year that Mary Shelley began writing Frankenstein.

However, when he was working on it, he didn’t think of it as a fantasy or horror novel. Now that he’s not writing it, he can see the ways the book holds a door open to the fantastic.

As for whether he’ll win the award, he says his fingers are crossed, but he’s just pleased to be on the list.

He’s also planning to read several of the other nominees, with Pastoral by Andre Alexis and Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel already on his to-read list.

The award won’t be announced until the fall, but Weir has plenty to keep him busy until then. He’s hard at work on a new novel.

“It’s something of a departure for me,” he said, as it’s set in North America rather than London. This story began as a revisionist Western, but is now veering into the Southern Gothic, Weir said.

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