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'Mockingbird' writer, family move to Davis

September 24, 2000
Elisabeth Sherwin -- gizmo@ dcn.davis.ca.us

Sean Stewart, 35, and his wife, Christine Beck, had just finished shopping at the Davis Farmers' Market recently when they looked at each other with the same thought.

"Why did we loiter in a hole like Monterey for so long?" they asked. "Moving to Davis was a brilliant idea."

Sean, Christine and their two young daughters Caitlin, 10, and Rowan, 6, moved to Davis on June 29. Now, the interesting thing about the move is this: they didn't know Davis at all. They'd just heard nice things about the town for many years.

"So we thought we'd move once more and never move again," said Sean. "My wife looked at the Davis school district scores on the Web and that was enough for her." Sean said they came up to Davis for the first time, looked around and bought a house in the Stonegate area all on the same day.

They moved in on a Thursday and bought bicycles on Friday. The girls have joined Brownies and soccer teams. They adopted a dog, Jed, at the pound. In every way they are now trying to pass as Davis residents. They even like the weather in Davis and claim that the hot summers here are not really that bad.

Christine and Sean were high school sweethearts who both attended the University of Alberta in Edmonton. Christine was offered at post-doc at Baylor University in Houston and that's where the family lived for several years before Christine was offered a job in Monterey. They enjoyed Monterey while it lasted, but realized the Davis area offered more job opportunities. You might say a weather compromise helped bring them to Davis, too.

"After three years in Houston, you can't complain about the weather in Davis," he said. "It's not remotely comparable. Everyone in California should be forced to live in Minnesota or Texas for a year. This is a supernaturally pleasant place to live."

Finally, Sean drops a clue as to why I care about the fact that he moved to Davis. It's the use of his word "supernaturally."

He is a science fiction/fantasy/magic realist writer, the author of seven published books including "Mockingbird," which is out in paperback. Let me say up front that the only Sean Stewart book I've read is "Mockingbird" and I loved it. I read it on a recent very long airplane flight to Ukraine and finished it before the Sacramento to Washington to Frankfurt leg was complete, leaving me with nothing but a dull history of World War I to read.

"Mockingbird" is set in Houston where it's sweaty and hot. The main character appears to be a woman a lot like Sean's wife, and describes her late-stage pregnancy to an unpleasantly accurate degree.

He was so accurate, in fact, that a nurse/midwife from the Bay Area recently wrote to him requesting his permission to use his work in a pamphlet she's preparing for pregnant women.

"That falls into the 'you-know-you've-done-it-right-when' category," said Sean. He wrote about what's called 'non-productive pain,' in other words, not the kind of pain that tells you you're getting close to labor and therefore actually having the baby but pain that doesn't lead to labor.

But beyond that, his novel brings together unexpected moments of magic, mixed in with a woman's reaction to her mother's death and the realization that she will probably be an imperfect mother, too.

Sean also has another book on the market now, a hardback called "Galveston," which he describes as a more traditional science fiction novel. And he is currently hoping to sell his most recent novel, "The Glass Coffin."

"I know Karen Fowler and Kim Stanley Robinson," said Sean. That's another good reason for moving to Davis. Now the town can boast of including three well-known science fiction writers among its residents.

"I grew up (summers in Texas, winters in Canada) reading a lot of science fiction and fantasy books. My imprint book was 'Lord of the Rings.' But my mom was an English professor," he said.

He describes himself as the kind of reader who would lurch drunkenly from the classics to fantasy fiction.

He doesn't know how to describe his work, other than to say that "something impossible is likely to happen in my books."

The myriad descriptions of what he writes -- magic realism or Southern gothic --- are basically false terms largely market driven. It doesn't matter anyway.

"I always wanted to write 'meaning of life' thrillers, books that ask big questions but don't skip the sword flights. Or entertaining books about real things that actually matter," he said.

Is he successful? Check out "Mockingbird" or "Galveston" or any of his other books. And if you run into Sean at the market or riding his bike or walking his dog, be sure to welcome him to Davis.

To inquire about ordering any of the above mentioned books from an independent bookstore,
Bogey's Books at discounted prices [ Click Here ]

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