Creator / Walter Jon Williams

Walter Jon Williams is an American Science Fiction writer, generally known for not having a signature-style. He has written everything from Cyberpunk (and Post-Cyberpunk) to Comedy of Manners; from Space Opera to Police Procedural. All available evidence suggests that Williams does not like being pigeonholed. (His fondness for games has caused some to try to pigeonhole him as a gamer, but a survey of his work will reveal that this is an incomplete description at best.)

Among his better known works are the early Cyberpunk novel, Hardwired, the Post-Cyberpunk novel Aristoi, the humorous Drake Maijstral series (The Crown Jewels, House of Shards and Rock of Ages), the epic Dread Empire's Fall series (The Praxis, The Sundering, and The Conventions of War), and, most recently, the Dagmar Shaw thrillers (This is Not a Game, Deep State, and The Fourth Wall). He has also written a novel in the Star Wars Expanded Universe, The New Jedi Order: Destiny's Way, and the straight-up historical Privateers and Gentlemen series. He was also a frequent contributor to George R.R. Martin's Wild Cards series.

Two of his early works, Knight Moves and Hardwired, were homages to Roger Zelazny's works, This Immortal and Damnation Alley, respectively.

Not to be confused with the other Walter Williams.

Tropes in his works:

  • Alternate Reality Game: The protagonist of This Is Not A Game is a professional ARG writer; the book begins with her being trapped in Indonesia during rioting and enlisting the help of the people who play her ARGs to get her out.
  • Arc Words: In This Is Not A Game, the frequent Title Drops are this.
  • Benevolent Alien Invasion: Played with in the Drake Maijstral books, where the aliens did not really disturb Earth very much bar imposing their own formal culture and ideas of monarchy upon it. Humanity still didn't take this very well and kicked them off-planet before the beginning of the first novel, becoming the first and only race to accomplish this. The protagonist Drake Maijstral is the descendant of those who opposed the revolt, and honestly doesn't much care either way.
  • Blind Jump: In Angel Station, FTL travel is achived by using captured black holes (contained within each ship) to open a tear in space-time. Proper calculations are necessary to "ride out the wave" to the proper destination. The protagonists, Ubu Roy and Beautiful Maria, make a random jump, hoping to find a system that will have "catchable" black holes to sell. A similar jump puts a Living Ship (also looking to capture and sell singularities) in the same system, resulting in the events of the book.
  • Brain Uploading: Played for extreme horror in the short story "Daddy's World".
  • Brother-Sister Incest: In Angel Station, Beautiful Maria (yes, that is her full name) and Ubu Roy are not genetic siblings, as they were both genetically engineered by their "father" from scratch. This is most evident by Ubu's four arms and Maria's technopathy. However, they have been raised as brother and sister, so their feelings for each other are no different than if they had biological ties. That said, they have no problem screwing each other whenever they feel like it (it gets pretty graphic at times), although this can be justified by the fact that (after their "father's" suicide) it's just the two of them on long voyages and that their "father" used hormones to boost their growth, which made them all the more horny. They don't see a problem with this, probably because they have limited exposure to other people and they don't really advertise this.
  • Cybernetics Will Eat Your Soul: Hardwired plays a variation of this trope; a person who replaces too much of their brain-matter with implants becomes "white-brained", detached from the world and other people, obsessed with mathematical abstractions, and losing much of their emotions in the process. However, it only happens to those who are inclined towards abstract thinking to begin with - those who use their cybernetic implants to intereact with physical objects like vehicles, and expand their abilities in the realms of physical talent like martial arts rarely suffer from these effects.
  • Divided States of America: Hardwired has a heavily balkanized territory formerly known as the USA, in which Hovertank jockeys make a fortune flying contraband across fortified state borders.
  • Fixing the Game: In Angel Station, the protagonists are down-on-their-luck brother and sister named Ubu Roy and Beautiful Maria (that is her full name). Maria is an "electronic witch", genetically-engineered with an ability to manipulate electrons with telekinesis. As a way of making money while they look for a contract, she plays a game (with a decent payout) that simulates navigating a ship through a field of black holes. Using her ability, she's able to win consistently by intercepting and altering computer signals before they appear on the screen. Ubu then suggests going for a big score and cheating at the roulette at a big casino on the titular space station. By that point, all casino games are electronic in nature, so Maria feels she has a good chance. She ends up winning a lot, but both are then taken to a back room, where it's revealed that the casino monitors all machines and detects any attempts at hacking them. Their only curiosity is the fact that Maria doesn't appear to have any equipment with her. They start beating on both of them. Even when Maria admits her ability, the casino owners don't believe her. They are thrown out the back of the casino badly beaten and without their winnings.
  • Future Imperfect: In The Crown Jewels, Drake Majistral watches a movie in which the two main characters are Jesse James and Elvis Presley.
    Majistral liked Westerns better than other forms of genre entertainment. He wondered why Shakespeare hadn't written any.
  • Gender Bender: In Hardwired, the rich elite often transfer their consciousness to a younger body to extend their lives. The book introduces one who used to be an elderly man but got himself transferred to a young, female body to live his sexual fantasies of submission and vulnerability. S/He gets what s/he asked for and more when Sarah, one of the protagonists seduces, and then murders him/her.
  • Gentleman Thief: The Drake Maijstral series is entirely based on this trope. Drake is an "allowed burglar", which is actually a legal profession in the far future galactic empire. You may legally ply burglary as your trade if and only if you are a gentleman thief. You must always behave as a gentleman (or woman). Violence is forbidden. When you steal something, it doesn't become yours for 24 hours, and if you do get caught during that time, you must surrender politely or risk losing your license. And the thing you stole must stay under your control or that of a subordinate for the full 24 hours—no hiding it in a drainpipe and hoping nobody finds it. You are also expected to steal classy things. Which is not to say that you can't steal cash from a bank vault. But if that's all you steal, you may be in trouble. Allowed burglars are literally judged on style.
  • Healing Spring: Implied Spaces features pools that can both heal and resurrect people. The "water" is actually a silvery, computer-linked nanotech soup.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Each chapter of This Is Not a Game is titled "This Is Not a(n) _____" or "This is not the ______".
  • Information Wants to Be Free: The short-story, "The Green Leopard Plague" (available here), features this regarding hunger; the main character uncovers the history of how the invention of photosynthesis in humans to combat hunger was suppressed by regimes who used it as a weapon.
  • Killer Game Master: This Is Not a Game characterizes each of four friends by their habits when acting as DMs. The most antisocial one has every NPC betray the players, and often sets them up to betray each other. The main character eventually realizes that he expects everyone to betray everyone else in real life as well, and hence betrays them first.
  • Kiss of Death: Hardwired features "The Weasel", a mechanical weapon that shoots out of your mouth.
  • Leeroy Jenkins: Namechecked in Implied Spaces: when Grax the Troll's battle cry turns out to be "Grax the Troll!!!!", the protagonist's cat remarks, "Not exactly 'Leeroy Jenkins', but I suppose it will do.".
  • Living Ship: Beloved in Angel Station is a member of a race of living ships, who use genetically-engineered servants to maintain them and do various tasks like load cargo, the most prominent of which is General Volitional Twelve, who is sent to study humans and act as her envoy. At the end of the novel, Beloved's trade (high quality drugs for computers) with the newly-discovered human siblings Ubu Roy and Beautiful Maria results in prosperity for both sides, although it is hinted that Beloved's "people's" exposure to humans will eventually lead to their demise.
  • Multi-Armed and Dangerous: Ubu Roy in Angel Station has four muscular arms by virtue of having been genetically engineered.
  • Not a Game: The appropriately titled This Is Not a Game, about an Alternate Reality Game producer using her forums and players to get her out of a burning Jakarta, has the forum admins constantly reminding the players that this one is Not a Game.
  • Not Quite Dead: In Hardwired, one character, Reno, is killed when his home is the target of a missile attack. He later makes a series of telephone calls to the hero. Turns out that he was a wirehead and was "jacked into the net" when the missiles struck. He spends pretty much the rest of the book as a disembodied mind, wandering around the equivalent of the Internet, looking at everyone's most secret files.
  • No Warping Zone: In Angel Station, ships entering or exiting a jump must do so far away from planets, as the process releases deadly radiation. The protagonists are forced to jump fairly close to an inhabited moon, realizing they're committing a heinous crime.
  • Oh Crap! There Are Fanfics of Us...: This Is Not A Game (part of the Dagmar Shaw series) is an original-fiction example. The protagonist is stranded in Indonesia when its currency collapses, causing rioting. She enlists the help of a bunch of alternate reality gamers to get her out, not all of whom believe it's really happening. As a gag gift, one of her friends later presents her with a bound copy of the Fan Fiction some of these gamers wrote about her.
  • Our Wormholes Are Different: While the word "wormhole" is never used in Angel Station, all ships use captured black holes in order to perform FTL jumps. This requires precise calculations, which are done perfectly by one of the protagonists, because she's a "witch", a genetically-engineered girl with the ability to see and alter electron motion. Opening a "tunnel" creates in a massive radiation wave that can damage anything for thousands of miles, meaning jumps have to be made far away from planets or other ships. It is also revealed that aliens use the same method. Apparently, any ship can be equipped with devices for capturing black holes. Why they don't get torn to shreds by gravity is never brought up.
  • Patch Work Map: Implied Spaces takes place in a world where technology is advanced enough that every rich kid can design his own little world. Most of them try for patchwork maps. The main character is a scholar studying what happens on the borders between the patches, when the physical realities of these constructed worlds start to act. These borders are the "implied spaces".
  • Pocket Dimension: The future human civilization of Implied Spaces uses pocket dimensions maintained by vast post-human artificial intelligences as living space.
  • Portal Pool: In Implied Spaces, Pools of Life are pretty much equivalent to 'save points' in games - you can enter a pool to have a snapshot of your memories stored and/or your body plan altered and/or have yourself deconstructed then reassembled at another location with or without your consent.
  • Possession Burnout: In Metropolitan, the Iceman causes this to his hosts.
  • Real Money Trade: One character of This Is Not a Game makes most of his income by gold farming and ganking — while at his official phone support job.
  • Sex by Proxy: Aristoi, which is set in a future where everybody has wireless internet connections in their heads, has a science-fictional example.
  • White Collar Crime: Hardwired is rife with this. It's pretty violent, though; one episode of corporate sabotage involves murdering an executive to get access to the company's intranet.