William Wandless (who generally goes by “Bill,” which is banal, lacks symmetry and alliteration, and would look pretty tawdry on a book cover, if we’re honest) is several things, sometimes all at once.
By day he is a professor of English, where he delights in introducing students to literature, which he knows is an utterly useless enterprise. By useless, of course, he means “not directed toward any specific and limited utilitarian end,” for literature is more like painting, dancing, sports, or music than anything that will directly feed us, protect us from hyenas, or allow us to reproduce (although he once impressed a Rottweiler with a well-turned Petrarchan sonnet). Literature just adds grace, beauty, and joy to the world, and he supposes that’s lovely if you’re into that sort of thing. (It also teaches folks how to use language well, to uplifting, rousing, and devastating effect, though he asks that you keep that on the low, lest he jeopardize his whole schtick.) He allegedly specializes in British literature of the extra-Long Eighteenth Century, and he supposedly emphasizes the origins of the English novel as a smallish thing within that biggish field, but in practice he happily teaches any fiction, poetry, drama, film, or cultural subject he can fairly lay his paws on. Thankfully, he’s at least consistent in his approach to literary criticism, which centers on ethical expression in both rhetoric and narrative. He’s convinced we reveal who we are, what we want, and what we want to be via the stories we tell and the language we use, and if you get him going on that subject he will almost certainly ruin your cocktail party experience.
By night (and on the weekends, and sometimes during the day) he writes poetry and speculative fiction. He dithered and dabbled for a good, long time like many writers, reading avidly to stock his cognitive cupboards, and finally turned to more earnest practice when he moved to Michigan. He inclines toward informality in his prose and formality in his verse, but you can rest assured he will turn this “About” page into a much more stately introduction should he ever decide he’s more important than he actually is. He’s drawn to the magical artifice of engineered effects in poetry, when acts of craft yield beautiful music and insights into the human condition. In fiction he’s drawn toward characters and how they live their way through supercharged situations. He knows full well there are many such situations in our everyday existences, but he has always been drawn to dark fantasy and horror fiction, where those situations are especially zesty. His favorite poem is probably “The God Who Loves You” by Carl Dennis, but were you to ask him tomorrow he would give you a different answer because he’s something of a cad. His favorite short story is “Mrs. Todd’s Shortcut” by Stephen King, though the same proviso applies.
What else? He’s also a certified hypnotist, which happens to be one of those professions where narrative, language, and the workings of the mind intersect in especially colorful and interesting ways. He tinkers with Twine and other tools for interactive storytelling, which is pretty much on brand for this guy, am I right? He lives in the middle of Michigan with his lovely and brilliant partner Kate and the many squirrels that haunt their monstrous walnut tree.
(Image adapted from The London Stereoscopic Company’s page on “Diableries – French Devil Tissue Stereos.)