April 8, 2003
Having grown up just a few miles from the site of Duane Hockenberry's grisly murder, I feel as though I can identify with most of what Dan Simmons ’70 writes in his novels Summer of Night and A Winter Haunting.
However, Simmons did not return to campus to promote either of these books this week. Simmons visited his alma mater to which he has been so faithful to read from his new book, Ilium, which hits bookstores in late July. It’s true now, just as when Simmons wrote it in A Winter Haunting, "I’m digressing before I even begin. I’ve always hated writers who did that…I’ll just begin again."
Currently, it’s the writer’s science fiction that has the publishing world abuzz, as his epic Ilium, based on Homer’s Iliad, is scheduled for release in July 2003. Simmons’ previous science fiction novels—Hyperion and Endymion—gained the writer legions of fans and international awards, and Hyperion is currently optioned to a major movie studio, with actor Leonardo DeCaprio interested in playing a leading role.
On Monday, after Professor Bill Placher’s introduction, Simmons discussed his personal choice of reading material from the night before. Having only brought books he had written, he turned to the books supplied to guests in Trippet Hall, hoping to find some good reading material. He talked about Placher’s 1970 Commencement speech and the other, The Bachelor, which informed him, due to the NCAA championship game, he had only seven minutes to speak.
After this lighthearted introduction, this critically acclaimed author began to debate aloud whether to read a short story he had written to prove he was an author of worth or to read from his new book which is months from hitting the shelf.
He chose the latter.
But those in attendance knew, just like Stephen King, of Simmons’ brilliance. Describing Simmons’ Summer of Night, King writes, "An American nightmare with scares, suspense, and a sweet, surprising nostalgia. One of those rare must-read books!"
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Simmons signs a book for Joey Campbell
His new book doesn’t disappoint as well.
The book is a rewrite – though Simmons wonders how someone can rewrite Homer – of The Iliad in a science fiction setting. There are three main strands to keep in mind: one character conveniently named "Hockenberry;" a good bit of Illiumtakes place on Mars; and the book promises to be a great read for sci-fi fans across the nation and around the globe. Readers should note that this is the first half of the story, with Olympos—set to come out a year from now—being the story of the battle itself.
Dan Simmons the alumnus is quite a man indeed, too. Aside from his 22 published books, he also taught gifted students and set up a program to help gifted students gain recognition and encouragement. He has now endowed the Hockenberry Internship for excellence in creative writing. Oh, and by the way, he has dedicated Illium to Wabash, its faculty and the men whose lives it has touched.
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