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Clarion Science Fiction Writers' Workshop

Entry updated 15 May 2023. Tagged: Community.

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This long-standing US workshop enrols beginning writers who are interested in writing sf. It consists of intensive writing and discussion sessions under the direction of known sf writers, who have included Orson Scott Card, Terry Carr, Samuel Delany, Thomas M Disch, Harlan Ellison, Karen Joy Fowler, John Kessel, Damon Knight, Nancy Kress, Margo Lanagan, George R R Martin, Ursula K Le Guin, Tim Powers, Lewis Shiner and Kate Wilhelm. The first three sessions were held at Clarion State College in Pennsylvania in the summers of 1968-1970. In 1971 "Clarion East" was held in Tulane University and "Clarion West" in Seattle. Clarion West held workshops 1971-1973 and then folded, but was later re-established in Seattle (every summer from 1984), where it remains. In 1972 Clarion East moved to Michigan State University, where it remained (as just Clarion; 39 sessions to 2006). From 2007 Clarion moved to the University of California at San Diego, a move that has created some geographical confusion, since it placed Clarion almost as far west as Clarion West, so it is often referred to as Clarion at San Diego. It is still there at present.

Both Clarions are highly demanding, with teachers changing weekly for a six-week period. Student numbers are kept quite low (currently 18 students in both cases), and there are always many more applicants than available places. Applicants are selected on the basis of stories they have already written. Student writers from outside the US are welcomed. Some scholarships are available.

Clarion in its various guises has been notably successful, more so than most writers' workshops, and has produced notable alumni. These include Ed Bryant, F M Busby, Octavia E Butler, Ted Chiang, Gerard F Conway, Cory Doctorow, George Alec Effinger, Nicola Griffith, Eileen Gunn, Bill Johnson, James Patrick Kelly, Vonda N McIntyre, Kim Stanley Robinson, Lucius Shepard, Bruce Sterling and Lisa Tuttle. The original director of Clarion was Robin Scott Wilson, who also edited the first three anthologies of students' and teachers' work: Clarion: An Anthology of Speculative Fiction and Criticism from the Clarion Writers' Workshop (anth 1971) and its two sequels as detailed below. Clarion SF (anth 1977) was edited by Kate Wilhelm; The Clarion Awards (anth 1984) edited by Damon Knight covers the previous six years of Clarion.

Clarion West received a special Locus Award in 2018 for "community building and inclusivity". [PN]

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