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Powell’s Q&A: Walter Jon Williams

Describe your latest project.
This Is Not a Game is a thriller set 20 minutes from now in the world of Alternate Reality Gaming. ARGs combine video, text adventure, radio plays, audio, animation, improvisational theater, graphics, and story into an immersive experience.

To the player, the Alternate Reality Game has no boundaries. You can be standing in a parking lot or a shopping center. A pay phone near you will ring, and on the other end will be someone demanding information. You'd better have the information handy.

Dagmar, the protagonist, designs ARGs for a living. When people connected to the game turn up dead, and when world currency markets begin to crash, she has to determine which of the thousands of players is responsible, and mobilize the rest to save the day.

If someone were to write your biography, what would be the title and subtitle?
Another Dangerous Sport: Walter Jon Williams and the Art of the Possible.

Introduce one other author you think people should read, and suggest a good book with which to start.
I'm beginning to think that Daniel Abraham, author of The Long Price Quartet, may be the most talented writer of his generation. I'd start with the first of the series, A Shadow in Summer.

How do you relax?
The problem with having an office in the home is that you never leave the office. I can't really relax unless I leave home completely, and my work with it. I'm on the verge of a three-week trip to Turkey — but even that will be work, because I'll be scouting locations for my next book.

What is your favorite indulgence, either wicked or benign?
I drink. It's the traditional refuge of writers, now sadly neglected by the younger generation.

Why do you write?
For the first 40 or so years of my life, I wrote because I had an ungovernable compulsion that pushed me into writing. I began to write compulsively at the age of three or four, dictating stories to my parents. I had no choice. I wrote because I had to.

After 40 or so, I found that the compulsion faded. I had to actually find reasons for writing, and I found that the best reason of all was to write things that pleased me. That's what I'm trying to do now.

Name the best television series of all time.
Revolutionary Girl Utena. Mystery, romance, fantasy, philosophy, alchemy, a terrific soundtrack, and swordfights. What's not to love?

Make a question of your own, then answer it.
Q: If you could have any 10 people to dinner, and language weren't a problem, who would you invite?

A: Servilia, Benjamin Franklin, Frederick the Great, Catherine the Great, Voltaire, Talleyrand, Oscar Wilde, Shakespeare, Isabella d'Este, and Alcibiades.

Recommend five or more books on a single subject of personal interest or expertise.

Five Great Novels with Unreliable Narrators Who Can't Be Trusted an Inch:

The Magus by John Fowles

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

The Green Man by Kingsley Amis

An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears

The Fifth Head of Cerberus by Gene Wolfe

÷ ÷ ÷

Walter Jon Williams has been nominated repeatedly for every major SF award, including Hugo and Nebula Award nominations for his novel City on Fire. His most recent books are The Sundering, The Praxis, and Destiny's Way. He lives near Albuquerque, New Mexico, with his wife.


Books mentioned in this post


  1. The Sundering: Dread Empire's Fall... Used Mass Market $4.95
  2. The Praxis: Dread Empire's Fall... Used Mass Market $3.95
  3. Destiny's Way (Star Wars: The New... Used Mass Market $3.50
  4. This Is Not a Game
    Used Hardcover $9.95
  5. Long Price Quartet #01: A Shadow in...
    New Mass Market $7.99
  6. The Magus Used Mass Market $3.95
  7. Lolita Used Hardcover $12.00
  8. Green Man New Mass Market $15.00
  9. An Instance of the Fingerpost
    Used Mass Market $3.50
  10. The Fifth Head of Cerberus: Three...
    Used Trade Paper $9.50


Walter Jon Williams is the author of This Is Not a Game

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