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A Profile of Bram Stoker Award-winning Author
Edo van Belkom
by Robert J. Sawyer
Copyright © 1997 by Robert J.
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'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
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
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
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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