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Walter Jon Williams

(1963- )
Walter Jon Williams Williams was born in Duluth, Minnesota and attended the University of New Mexico, where he received his BA degree in 1975. He currently lives in Valencia County, south of Albuquerque in New Mexico. Williams played roleplaying games (in a group with other sf authors including George R.R. Martin and Melinda Snodgrass) and has written both fiction and rulebooks for the games Privateers and Gentlemen from Fantasy Games Unlimited and Cyberpunk from R. Talsorian Games. In 2006, Williams founded the Taos Toolbox, a two-week writer’s workshop for fantasy and science fiction writers.

Angel Station: Needs some humans we can root for

Angel Station by Walter Jon Williams

Ubu Roy and Beautiful Maria are a couple of young adults who were genetically engineered by their “father,” a spaceship pilot and explorer who recently committed suicide on his ship, leaving his two “kids” to fend for themselves. The money is gone, and so are their prospects, so Ubu and Maria set out to try to make enough money to avoid foreclosure on their ship.

Luckily, they both have a couple of special skills engineered into their DNA. When they happen upon an unknown alien civilization, they come up with a get-rich quick scheme. But for it to work, they have to keep the aliens a secret from humanity. This becomes more and more difficult to do as their competitors plot against them.

Angel Station (1989) is the type of space adventure that I usually find very appealing and there were some aspects of the novel that I liked a lot such as the gen... Read More

The Boolean Gate: Mark Twain saves the world?

The Boolean Gate by Walter Jon Williams

Walter Jon Williams’ The Boolean Gate is a story about the famous friendship between Sam Clemens / Mark Twain and Nikola Tesla. Clemens was fascinated with Tesla’s scientific experiments and spent a lot of time in Tesla’s lab. Williams’ version of this relationship suggests that Clemens discovered that Tesla’s genius had some supernatural help. When Clemens realizes what’s going on, he has to make a decision that may affect the future of the human race.

The Boolean Gate is a fast-moving novella (I read it in just a couple of hours) filled with lots of interesting facts about Sam Clemens, Nikola Tesla, and New York City at the end of the 19th, and beginning of the 20th, century. We learn all about the guilt Clemens feels about the death of his son, daughter, and wife. We see him offering his humorous quotes to waiting reporters e... Read More

The Best of Walter Jon Williams: 12 smart stories

The Best of Walter Jon Williams by Walter Jon Williams

The Best of Walter Jon Williams (2021) is a 663-page tome containing, as its name implies, twelve of Walter Jon Williams’ best stories spanning four decades of his writing career. Fans will appreciate Subterranean Press’s beautiful hardcover edition of this collection (there’s also an audio edition). And for readers who aren’t familiar with this prolific writer, The Best of Walter Jon Williams is a good place to start getting to know him.

The book begins with an endearing introduction by fellow author Daniel Abraham who credits Williams with teaching him more about writing than “any other single source” in his career. After describing the breadth of Walter Jon W... Read More

Magazine Monday: Subterranean Magazine, Fall 2012 and Winter 2013

Welcome news: Subterranean Magazine, a quarterly publication, has announced that it will be available for free download from here on out. The announcement was accompanied by the free editions of the Fall 2012 and the Winter 2013 issues, each of which contains a number of excellent novellas — a length for which Subterranean Press, as well as the magazine, are known. Many, including me, consider the novella to be the ideal length for science fiction, fantasy and horror: it provides the author with enough space for world building, but not more space than many stories need. The novellas in these two issues illustrate this opinion nicely.

“African Sunrise” by Nnedi Okorafor is the opening tale in ... Read More

Wild Cards: Try this in audio format

Wild Cards edited by George R.R. Martin

Sept 15, 1946: Wild Card Day. When aliens from the planet Takis wanted to test their newly developed virus on a species that is similar to them, naturally, they brought it to Earth. Though they were thwarted by one of their own princes, a foppish alien who has become known to Earthlings as Dr. Tachyon, the virus fell into the hands of evil Dr. Tod, a Nazi sympathizer who, thinking it a biological weapon, decided to drop it on New York City. His archenemy, Jetboy, tried to stop him in a now-legendary air battle above Manhattan, but Jetboy was unsuccessful. When the virus was dumped on New York City, it killed 90% of the people it infected. Nine out of every ten who lived mutated into strange, often hideous, creatures who became known as “Jokers” while one in ten developed a special superpower and became an “Ace.”

WILD CARDS is a shared universe in which several SFF au... Read More

Aces High: There’s always something fresh and new in WILD CARDS

Aces High edited by George R.R. Martin

Aces High is the second volume of George R.R. Martin’s long-running WILD CARDS anthology. In the first volume, Wild Cards, we learned how aliens from the planet Takis decided to test their new virus by using humans as their guinea pigs. In the 1960s, they let loose what has now become known as the Wild Card virus on Manhattan. Much of the world population died and many of the survivors became grossly deformed and are now referred to as “Jokers.” A much smaller proportion of those who were infected gained one or more superpowers and are now known as “Aces.” In Wild Cards, we followed several Aces and Jokers as they dealt not only with their new status in life, but also with the social and political events of the 1960s.

Aces High, which is named after the upscale r... Read More

Down and Dirty: Lacks cohesion, but still entertaining

Down and Dirty edited by George R.R. Martin

Jube: Hear who won the Miss Jokertown Beauty Pageant last week?
Croyd: Who?
Jube: Nobody.

I continue to listen to the new audiobook version of the WILD CARDS books as they are released by Random House Audio. Down and Dirty, the fifth volume, was published a few weeks ago. If you haven’t read the previous volumes (Wild CardsAces High, Jokers Wild, Aces Abroad), you should do so before reading this review. I’ll assume you’re familiar with the format of these anthologies / mosaic novels, and the story so far.

Down and Dirty (originally published in 1988) has a strange structure which, as George R.R. Martin admits in the book... Read More

Ace in the Hole: WILD CARDS gets back on track

Ace in the Hole edited by George R.R. Martin

Ace in the Hole (1990), the sixth WILD CARDS mosaic novel, is a vast improvement over the last two novels (Aces Abroad and Down and Dirty). Down and Dirty, especially, lacked cohesion due to George R.R. Martin’s lack of editorial control over his authors, something he laments in that book’s afterword. I suspect the experience was a good lesson because he’s fixed the issue in Ace in the Hole. You’d never know the story was written by several different authors (Walter Jon Wi... Read More

Songs of the Dying Earth: Stories in Honor of Jack Vance

Songs of the Dying Earth: Stories in Honor of Jack Vance edited by George R.R. Martin & Gardner Dozois

Songs of the Dying Earth: Stories in Honor of Jack Vance is the best anthology I’ve ever read. These stories will be enjoyed by any SFF reader, but they’ll be ten times more fun if you’ve read Jack Vance’s The Dying Earth, because they are all written in honor of that fantastic work. Each tale is written in the style of Vance, which is quite amusing in itself, and each takes place on the Dying Earth, that far-future wasteland in which natural selection means survival of the cleverest, nastiest, sneakiest, and most self-serving.

Songs of the Dying Earth was written by “many high-echelon, top-drawer writers” (as Mr.... Read More

Golden Reflections: Stories that boldly blend sci-fi and alternate history

Golden Reflections (Mask of the Sun & stories) edited by Joan Spicci Saberhagen & Robert E. Vardeman

Golden Reflections is an anthology of stories based on Fred Saberhagen’s Mask of the Sun, the premise of which is the existence of certain goggles that allow the wearer to see events in the future. But it only works sometimes, and it's unclear what it chooses to show the wearer and why. Golden Reflections includes Saberhagen’s original Mask of the Sun while bringing together several well-known sci-fi/alternate history writers who build on his original concept and its world.

Mask of the Sun is classic sci-fi time-travel, strong alternate history, and richly woven historical fiction. After his brother discovers a myster... Read More

Rogues: A diverse and satisfying collection

Rogues edited by George R.R. Martin & Gardner Dozois

Rogues, a short-story anthology by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois, is a marvelously diverse collection of stories and genres, tied together by those scoundrels, those tricksters, those rascals, those rogues that you can't help but love. I listened to it on audiobook and loved the experience, especially because a few of the readers were actors from Game of Thrones.

When I picked this up, I was most excited to hear two stories in particular: "How the Marquis Got His Coat Back," by Neil Gaiman, and "The Lightning Tree," by Patrick Rothfus... Read More

More speculative fiction from Walter Jon Williams

Hardwired — (1986-1987) Publisher: Ex-fighter pilot Cowboy, “hardwired” via skull sockets directly to his lethal electronic hardware, teams up with Sarah, an equally cyborized gun-for-hire, to make a last stab at independence from the rapacious Orbitals.

Walter Jon Williams 1. Hardwired 2. Voice of the Whirlwind Walter Jon Williams 1. Hardwired 2. Voice of the Whirlwind       Walter Jon Williams 1. Hardwired 2. Voice of the Whirlwind , Solip: System

Drake Magistral — (1987-1995) Publisher: Peleng is a planet ripe for the plucking, and Drake Maijstral is an Allowed Burglar rated in the Top Ten by the Imperial Sporting Commission. But what should be a simple case of breaking-and-plundering turns into an intergalactic crisis when Maijstral steals something so rare, so valuable, so utterly desirable, that everyone wants it — everyone including well-armed Imperial spies, gun-toting human militias, a homicidal maniac with a very large sword, and a fanatical countess with a really, really nasty croquet habit. The Crown Jewels, by award-winning author Walter Jon Williams, is sophisticated science fiction comedy at its best.

science fiction book reviews Walter Jon Williams Drake Magistral 1. The Crown Jewels 2. House of Shards 3. Rock of Ages science fiction book reviews Walter Jon Williams Drake Magistral 1. The Crown Jewels 2. House of Shards 3. Rock of Ages science fiction book reviews Walter Jon Williams Drake Magistral 1. The Crown Jewels 2. House of Shards 3. Rock of Ages

Metropolitan — (1995-1996) Publisher: Nominated for a Nebula Award. Walter Jon Williams’ classic science fantasy Metropolitan is once again available for a new generation of readers. Aiah has fought her way from poverty and discovered a limitless source of plasm, the mysterious substance that powers the world-city. Her discovery soon involves her with Constantine, the charismatic, dangerous, seductive revolutionary who plans to overthrow, not simply the government, but the cosmic order…

science fiction book reviews Walter Jon Williams 1. Metropolitan 2. City on Fire science fiction book reviews Walter Jon Williams 1. Metropolitan 2. City on Fire

Dread Empire’s Fall — (2002-2012) Publisher: All will must bend to the perfect truth of The Praxis. For millennia, the Shaa have subjugated the universe, forcing the myriad sentient races to bow to their joyless tyranny. But the Shaa will soon be no more. The dread empire is in its rapidly fading twilight, and with its impending fall comes the promise of a new galactic order… and bloody chaos. A young Terran naval officer marked by his lowly birth, Lt. Gareth Martinez is the first to recognize the insidious plot of the Naxid — the powerful, warlike insectoid society that was enslaved before all others — to replace the masters’ despotic rule with their own. Barely escaping a swarming surprise attack, Martinez and Caroline Sula, a pilot whose beautiful face conceals a deadly secret, are now the last hope for freedom for every being who ever languished in Shaa chains — as the interstellar battle begins against a merciless foe whose only perfect truth is annihilation.

science fiction book reviews Walter Jon Williams Dread Empire's Fall 1. The Praxis 2. The Sundering 3. Conventions of War, Investments science fiction book reviews Walter Jon Williams Dread Empire's Fall 1. The Praxis 2. The Sundering 3. Conventions of War, Investments science fiction book reviews Walter Jon Williams Dread Empire's Fall 1. The Praxis 2. The Sundering 3. Conventions of War, Investments science fiction book reviews Walter Jon Williams Dread Empire's Fall 1. The Praxis 2. The Sundering 3. Conventions of War, Investments

Dagmar Shaw — (2008-2012) Publisher: Once upon a time, there were four of them. And though each was good at a number of things, all of them were very good at games… Dagmar is a game designer trapped in Jakarta in the middle of a revolution. The city is tearing itself apart around her and she needs to get out. Her boss Charlie has his own problems — 4.3 billion of them, to be precise, hidden in an off-shore account. Austin is the businessman — the VC. He’s the one with the plan and the one to keep the geeks in line. BJ was there from the start, but while Charlie’s star rose, BJ sank into the depths of customer service. He pads his hours at the call-center slaying on-line orcs, stealing your loot, and selling it on the internet. But when one of them is gunned down in a parking lot, the survivors become players in a very different kind of game. Caught between the dangerous worlds of the Russian Mafia and international finance, Dagmar must draw on all her resources — not least millions of online gamers– to track down the killer. In this near-future thriller, Walter Jon Williams weaves a pulse-pounding tale of intrigue, murder, and games where you don’t get an extra life.

science fiction book reviews Walter Jon Williams 1. This Is Not a Game 2. Deep State 3. The Fourth Wall science fiction book reviews Walter Jon Williams 1. This Is Not a Game 2. Deep State 3. The Fourth Wall science fiction book reviews Walter Jon Williams 1. This Is Not a Game 2. Deep State 3. The Fourth Wall

Stand-alones and story collections by Walter Jon Williams:

science fiction book reviews Walter Jon Williams Frankensteins and Foreign Devils Frankensteins and Foreign Devils — (1980) Publisher: The Boskone 35 (February 1998) Book to honor the Guest of Honor, Walter Jon Williams, with cover and interior art by Boskone 35 Official Artist, Omar Rayyan. Limited edition of 1200 copies. The first 185 are numbered, autographed, and slipcased with special endpapers. The remaining 1015 constitute the trade state.

science fiction book reviews Walter Jon Williams Ambassador of Progress Ambassador of Progress — (1984) Publisher: An interstellar catastrophe has left humanity scattered on dozens of primitive worlds. Fiona is an emissary to one such world, charged with helping the inhabitants of Echidne rise from barbarism. But once she’s arrived on the planet, she finds herself in the middle of a war… the Brodaini, the world’s most ferocious warriors, have risen in revolt against their overlords. The combat threatens to become a war of extermination. Fiona is a neutral in the war. But Echidne is proving a perilous place for neutrals…

science fiction book reviews Walter Jon Williams Knight MovesKnight Moves — (1985) Publisher: A Philip K Dick Award-nominated novel. Eight hundred years ago Doran Falkner gave humanity the stars, and he now lives with his regrets on a depopulated Earth among tumbledown ruins and ancient dreams brought to life by modern technology. But word now comes that alien life has been discovered on a distant world, life so strange and impossible that the revelation of its secrets could change everything. A disillusioned knight on the chessboard of the gods, Doran must confront his own lost promise, his lost love, and his lost humanity, to make the move that will revive the fortunes both of humans and aliens…

science fiction book reviews Walter Jon Williams FacetsFacets — (1990) Publisher’s Weekly: Williams, best known as a writer of cyber-punk novels ( Hardwired ), branches out in this collection of nine well-crafted short pieces ”Video Star” and ”Wolf Time” are fast-action cyber-punk. ”Flatline” and ”The Bob Dylan Solution” edge into a new subgenre, bio-punk, more fully realized in ”Dinosaurs” and ”Witness.” The latter is the introductory story for George R. R. Martin’s Wildcard series, but it stands well on its own.what is this a reference to?/mc .”Side Effect” is also bio-punk, but is so depressingly contemporary and believable as to hardly qualify as science fiction. have restored cut phrase because it doesn;t make sense otherwise. sss The best story is ”No Spot of Ground,” set in an alternate universe where Edgar Allan Poe is a general in the Confederate Army.

science fiction book reviews Walter Jon Williams Days of AtonementDays of Atonement — (1991) Publisher: Loren Hawn is a traditional Western peace officer walking the streets of 21st Century New Mexico, and seemingly unaware that times have changed. And when a dying man named Randal falls out of a bullet-riddled car and dies in Loren’s arm, Loren finds he isn’t the only man living in the wrong time — because he remembers pulling Randal’s dead body out of a wrecked car twenty years before. He knows the car belongs to a scientist who works at the high-security laboratory built on the outskirts of town, and he knows that if he doesn’t work fast, all evidence of a crime will disappear into national security vaults. In order to bring justice back to his community, Loren will have to risk everything, his life, his job, his faith, and his family.

science fiction book reviews Walter Jon WilliamsAristoi — (1992) Publisher: Gabriel is one of the Aristoi, the elite class that hold dominion over a glittering interstellar culture, their rule more absolute than that of any Old Earth tyrant. When another of the Aristoi is murdered, Gabriel finds that the foundations of his civilization are tottering, and that his own power may have its roots in the greatest lie in all history. In order to defend himself and the interstellar order, Gabriel must go on a quest into the heart of barbarism and chaos, and discover within himself his own lost, tattered humanity.

science fiction book reviews Walter Jon WilliamsThe Rift — (1999) Publisher: It starts with the dogs. They won’t stop barking… And then the earth shrugs — 8.9 on the Richter scale in the world’s biggest earthquake since 1755. It hits New Madrid, Missouri, a sleepy town on the Mississippi. Seismologists had predicted the disaster… but no one listened. Within minutes, there is nothing but chaos and ruin as America’s heartland falls into the nightmare known as the Rift — a fault line in the earth that wrenchingly exposes the fractures in American society itself. As a strange white mist smelling of sulfur rises from the crevassed ground, the real terror begins for the survivors, including a teenager separated from his mother, an African-American engineer searching for his daughter, a TV preacher whose visions of hell have become all too real, and a sheriff cum Ku Klux Klansman who seeks racial vengeance in the midst of disaster. It can happen. And sooner or later, it will.

science fiction book reviews Walter Jon Williams Implied Spaces Implied Spaces — (2008) Publisher: Aristide, a semi-retired computer scientist turned swordsman, is a scholar of the implied spaces, seeking meaning amid the accidents of architecture in a universe where reality itself has been sculpted and designed by superhuman machine intelligence. While exploring the pre-technological world Midgarth, one of four dozen pocket universes created within a series of vast, orbital matrioshka computer arrays, Aristide uncovers a fiendish plot threatening to set off a nightmare scenario, perhaps even bringing about the ultimate Existential Crisis: the end of civilization itself. Traveling the pocket universes with his wormhole-edged sword Tecmesssa in hand and talking cat Bitsy, avatar of the planet-sized computer Endora, at his side, Aristide must find a way to save the multiverse from subversion, sabotage, and certain destruction.

science fiction book reviews Walter Jon Williams Implied Spaces The Green Leopard Plague and Other Stories — (2010) Publisher: From Walter Jon Williams, author of Implied Spaces, Hardwired, and Voice of the Whirlwind, comes The Green Leopard Plague and Other Stories, a stunning collection of short fiction including the Nebula Award winning story The Green Leopard Plague, as well as Daddy’s World, Lethe, The Last Ride of German Freddie, Millennium Party, The Tang Dynasty, Underwater Pyramid, Incarnation Day, Send Them Flowers, and Pinocchio.

science fiction book reviews Walter Jon Williams Implied Spaces Prayers on the Wind — (2011) Publisher: All humanity is at peace. The Diamond Library contains all wisdom, and has incarnated itself as the Treasured King. But now the peace is threatened by the alien Sang, a species bent on conquest, and humanity’s response is fatally divided. At the height of the crisis, the Treasured King is found dead, and a dangerous new incarnation is born — beautiful, seductive, erratic, and very possibly mad. Walter Jon Williams combines cutting-edge science, Tibetan Buddhism, and hard-nosed political reality in this novelette, which was nominated for a Nebula Award on its first release.