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The Lit Blitz Hall of Fame: William Morris


In the Lit Blitz Hall of Fame, we celebrate authors published in previous Mormon Lit Lab contests by asking their thoughts on Mormon Lit, writing, and life. Check back twice a month for new Hall of Fame interviews.


Previous Lit Blitz pieces by William Morris:


An Interview with William Morris


Explain the background of one of your Lit Blitz pieces–your inspiration, your writing process, or why the piece is meaningful to you.


After the Fast” started with this phrase: Third Nephite Gourmand Fasting. There are quite a few Third Nephite stories in the body of Mormon literature, but most of them use them as trickster figures or agents of consolation. I wanted to start with the idea of how strange it was to have these beings who aren’t quite mortal existing in a mortal world. What happens if you truly believe that such beings exist in this world as we understand and experience it? What is exsistence like for them?


And so the story became, yes, a somewhat typical Third Nephite story, but one where the folklore story is in the background and the story itself is an exercise in speculative theology as well as a meditation on and a metaphor for spiritual attenuation and renewal, which then links to those of us who aren’t translated beings.


What’s one of your favorite Lit Blitz pieces written by someone else?


Three Dogs in the Afterlife” by Luisa Perkins. I love the use of non-Roman alphabet characters, but, above all, I just really like the concept. I’ve written my share of stories featuring the afterlife, but what I like about focusing on animals is that Perkins reinforces a very Mormon belief about the afterlife: that even though it will be a different environment than mortality, our selves and our relationships there will very much resemble what we experience in this life.


What advice would you share to future submitters?


Experiment.


The Mormon Lit Blitz has shown a willingness to publish innovative work, and the short form is perfect for that.


It’s an opportunity for newer writers to figure out what genres, themes, and styles they’re interested in writing as well as for seasoned writers to experiment with genres and forms they may not have written before.


What’s an idea for a Lit Blitz project you’d love to see another writer take on, or an idea you’ve had but haven’t had time to develop?


I’d like to see someone attempt a future Mormon cryptolect, perhaps one based on the Deseret Alphabet. I and other writers have come up terms for our Mormon science fiction and sprinkled them here and there, but, as far as I know, no one has tried to create a more robust patois, like, for example, Belter in James S. A. Corey’s work.


What draws you to writing Mormon lit? How does Mormon lit fit into your larger artistic identity?


Mormon lit is where I started writing fiction in my mid-thirties after focusing on literary criticism for about a decade. I find that I can’t quit it because there’s just something so satisfying about bringing together what literature can do and what the Mormon experience is and playing those off of each other to create something new. It’s central to my artistic identity, and even when I’m creating work with no overt Mormon aspect to it, I find myself chasing a similar experience of trying to syncretize various things to create something that speaks to multiple levels of my identity (and, hopefully, those of the reader).


How do you hope your work will impact your readers?


I’ve made no secret that the main (but not sole), thrust of my artistic project is to provide a multitude of ways, whether recognizable or strange, of thinking about Mormon history, the modern Mormon experience, and the future of Mormonism. That I’m concerned that we too often too narrowly define what Mormonism was, is, and can be, and that as this century progresses, we’re going need to re-envision and reinvigorate Joseph Smith’s project of restoring all things and linking people and ideas together. And that a big part of that project is to preserve and expand the (truly) radical middle of Mormon culture.


That may sound grandiose. And I might not be the most effective torchbearer. And the number of actual readers of my work may be pretty small in the grand scheme of things.


But it’s what I feel called to do.


And if even just a few people read my work and recognize something they hadn’t recognized before, then that’s all I want and all I can ask.


What’s a passion you have outside writing?


A few years ago, I discovered I needed a hobby that wasn’t writing so even though I have no musical training and very little talent, I’ve started producing music under the name Will Esplin (Esplin is a family name [and a United Order reference]). The irony, of course, is that making music does involve writing/composing in the end. But I love how much there is to learn in so many different areas (from music theory and digital recording to lyrics writing and singing) and especially how it brings together various passions of mine: technology, music, the creative process, genre theory, graphic design, and storytelling. You can find more at frozenseapress.com.


What else have you been doing, whether in writing, other creative fields, or life?


Late last year I published The Unseating of Dr. Smoot, a novella that saw me return to writing Mormon faithful realism.


But not to worry weird fiction fans: I have a solar punk-ish story coming out in Dialogue fall 2024 for you — “Strait is the Way” — that also features straight edge punk and the idea of time travel as a gift of the spirit.


I’ve also begun a monthly newsletter focused on Mormon literature, especially criticism and theory. For all my Mormon lit activity, visit motleyvision.org.


Thank you, William Morris, for sharing your insights with us for the Lit Blitz Hall of Fame!


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