Alibi V.16 No.31 • Aug 2-8, 2007 


Walter Jon Williams

Noms de Plume: Jon Williams (historical fiction)

Location: Valencia County

Key Book Titles: Ambassador of Progress, Hardwired, Angel Station, Metropolitan, The Rift, Star Wars: Destiny’s Way, The Praxis


Years in New Mexico: 40

What is it about New Mexico that keeps you here?

New Mexico encourages creativity. There is enormous natural beauty, there is an interesting blend of culture, and there is an enormous amount of actual science going on here, which makes it very attractive for a science fiction writer.

With the many research labs?

Yes, and the number of scientific people that I can talk to in order to get my questions answered.

How do you approach writing SF?

Most of my SF novels start out from a collision of several ideas. I smash ideas together and see what the explosion looks like. For instance in Hardwired, which was recently re-released from Nightshade books, the ideas have to do with personal information technology, global media, the rise of the multinational corporation and the decline of the nation-state.

So you consider a lot of things that you’ve been thinking about, and then you see how they can fit together?

Right, and then I throw in fighting hover tanksjust for the fun of it.

What is the state of SF publishing these days?

The readership tends to be growing older, and there are more writers than there are slots to fill.

Why is the readership growing older?

In the last 20 years or so, there has not been a grand, inspirational science in the same way that my generation experienced the race to the moon.

What are you currently working on?

A novel called When the Game Calls, which will be out on Little, Brown in a couple of years. It involves channeling the cybernetic mass-mind by way of alternate reality gaming.

What’s that?

It’s an interesting topic. Alternate reality gaming is computer gaming that intrudes on the real world rather than with an online role-playing game. [Rather than] entering a fantasy world and [having] adventures there, the alternate reality game enters your world, and you start receiving phone calls from fictional characters. Or they’ll send you faxes or e-mails or they will send you out to perform tasks in the real world. It’s a type of computer gaming where you’re not chained to your computer. And because no one person could possibly have the skill set in order to successfully accomplish an alternate reality, you have to weave together players with different skills, so it’s a cooperative game rather than a competitive game.

What inspired you to become a SF writer?

I’m not sure I had any choice. Becoming a writer was something I always wanted to do from a very early age, and it was the actual publishing industry that made me a science fiction writer by rejecting everything I ever tried to do that wasn’t SF, usually on the grounds that it was too unusual or weird. So it’s fortunate that there’s a form of literature where weird is a compliment, and I found myself there.

Had you not wanted to be a SF writer?

I actually thought I wasn’t good enough. I had very high standards for SF.

Your standards have lowered, or you have risen to the challenge?

I would like to think the latter.

Finally, what really happened in the Roswell Incident?

Well, my wife knows the gentleman who sent up the balloon, so let’s just say that I am a skeptic as far as extraterrestrials in Roswell are concerned.

—Thomas Gilchrist