The University of Alabama Honors College held a book signing on Tuesday, Oct. 16, for one of its instructors, award-winning science fiction writer Andy Duncan. The event took place in Gorgas Library to promote his new book, “The Pottawatomie Giant And Other Stories .”
Duncan, who is also a professor at Frostburg State University in Frostburg, Md., usually hosts class through the Honors College by video conference calls, but he flew in for the event.
“It seemed fitting that a science fiction author would teach classes online,” Shane Sharpe, dean of the Honors College, said.
Founding Dean Emeritus of the Honors College Robert W. Halli introduced Duncan to the audience. He explained that Duncan had been a great instructor and that, since the writer couldn’t teach science fiction in the English department, he would have to hire him for the Honors College.
“[My inspiration was] a paragraph in the biography of Harry Houdini about him being involved with the former heavyweight champion Jess Willard, who was once very famous until he was defeated by Jack Johnson, but now is only known as a footnote to two famous men,” Duncan said. “I wanted to tell his story, but since I didn’t know it, I made it up instead.”
Within Duncan’s new book, many of the short stories have won awards or received nominations for numerous science fiction awards. The main story, which holds the same title as the book, was awarded the World Fantasy Award for short story in 2001. He also won a World Fiction Award in the same year for the best collection for his “Beluthahatchie and Other Stories” and a Theodore Sturgeon Award for his short story, “The Chief Designer.”
Duncan, initially a journalist, didn’t start writing fiction until he was 30 years old.
“I had a new computer and had all that blank white space to fill,” Duncan said of why he began writing science fiction.
Duncan said his books are an outlet for him.
“I’m trying to figure things out, so my books are me talking through problems with my readers.”