Walter Jon Williams

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Walter Jon Williams

Postby ArnoKA on Wednesday, 16 October 2013, 8:23 am

Some days ago I made an interesting find, seeking the Great SF&F pages for Walter Jon Williams. I found that there had been, in 2008, a topic
on him in the Author Suggestions Forum, consisting of just one post by David Tate and one comment by owlcroft.

I was delighted to read that David Tate (like me) had valued the Metropolitan series, and ((like me) regretted the missing, crucial third novel,
but (unlike me) had queried Mr. Williams himself about the sake, and learned that the reason had been a disagreement with the publisher -- not (as I
had thought) an "Avram Davidson": getting bored with the theme. I wrote to the Webmaster asking if I should write as RE this old topic, which promptly
disappeared. So let's start a new one.

I like all the novels by Williams which I have read. But now, after reading the Dread Empire's Fall trilogy (which I'll call Praxis Trilogy for
shortness' sake) I think it the best space opera since Vance's Demon Princes, and arguably even better, because of the better plot.

Superficially the Praxis trilogy is military science-fiction. Both the hero and the heroine are space navy officers, and there are space battles
galore. But there is so much more, too. There is the richly detailed multiracial society, its intrigues of crime, matrimony, politics, and religion when
it slides toward civil war and fights it. I dare to recommend it highly!

The later Dagmar Shaw books are near future thrillers, well plotted and written, and Dagmar is a pleasant heroine. I recommend them to those
who like, say, William Gibson's latest novels.

I have written a letter to Mr. Williams, and he has promised to write a sequel to Praxis novels, about Lady Sula on Earth.
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Re: Walter Jon Williams

Postby ArnoKA on Friday, 18 October 2013, 11:07 am

(Correction: I wrote:".. . . had queried Mr. Williams himself about the sake," because the first word popping to my mind was Swedish sak = matter.
It is not too easy to try to think multilingually.)
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Re: Walter Jon Williams

Postby ArnoKA on Tuesday, 22 October 2013, 8:55 am

My writing has now been on the wall for six days, and there has been a satisfactory number, 360, of views. But no comment.
Not one. Why?

Is it so that nobody has any feelings about Mr. Williams' science-fiction, positive or negative?

Or is my English so barbarous that nobody has understood what I have tried to say?

In my opinion Walter Jon Williams is the most promising recent author of science-fiction.
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Re: Walter Jon Williams

Postby owlcroft on Tuesday, 22 October 2013, 12:08 pm

Regrettably, this is not the busiest of boards.

I have read a few Walter Jon Williams books, but aside from the lightweight but amusing "Drake Maijstral" trio, none of his works has managed to even stay much in my mind. Also, I am generally rather put off by military science fiction (or military anything); I am always peripherally reminded of that charming non-fiction book title "Military Justice is to Justice as Military Music is to Music", which speaks volumes about the military in general.

That is not to say that Williams is a dire writer. It is to say that after a few books, I personally found him not interesting enough to retain the books or seek out more.
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Re: Walter Jon Williams

Postby ArnoKA on Wednesday, 23 October 2013, 1:21 am

In the spring of 1958 the then President of Finland, Kekkonen, made a grave mistake: He promoted me to
vänrikki (From German Fähnrich, flag-bearer, internationally an one-pipper.) Not that I wouldn't have been
ready to resist the Russian invaders, but I would have been a lousy platoon commander. Fortunately they never came.

But even before the military service I loved military music -- the more Prussian the better.

De gustibus non est disputantum.
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Re: Walter Jon Williams

Postby DavidTate on Tuesday, 29 October 2013, 11:33 pm

I'm a bit tardy in responding here, but I'll reiterate that I found Metropolitan and its sequel City on Fire to be excellent works, perhaps around the 3-star level on Eric's scale. They are far more substantial than the enjoyable (but lightweight and flawed) Drake Maijstral novels. I haven't read anything else by Williams, but I will try to track down the Praxis novels and give them a try.
David Tate
Professor of Story Problems, emeritus
Rationalist with sombrero
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Re: Walter Jon Williams

Postby ArnoKA on Wednesday, 30 October 2013, 3:45 am

I am delighted, Professor! Please do. I really, really highly recommend them.

PS. I seem to be always correcting myself on these FORUMS but:

It was in the spring of 1959 when president Kekkonen made his fatal error.
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Re: Walter Jon Williams

Postby brianr on Saturday, 02 November 2013, 1:01 pm

I'd like to chime in here. Other than the Metropolitan novels Walter Jon Williams actually has a great diversity of types of novels he writes so don't give up on him if he has one on a theme or style you don't like. It would be a mistake to classify him as narrowly as military science fiction. At the start of his career he made a list of different types of novels he wanted to write (military, first contact, space opera, etc.) and then methodically did so. So, there is something there for everyone in his oeuvre. I think this approach is both his great strength and his weakness. Fans often don't know what to expect from him. For a group that prides ourself on our openness to new ideas we often want our authors to do the same thing over and over.

He's recently released in e-book form, his disaster novel the rift which, in my opinion, is as close to the "great american novel" as I have seen from a SF writer.

Myself, I'm particular to his novels Aristoi (dead tree edition, not e-book), Hardwired, and Voice of the Whirlwind. Personally, I think, had his publisher not sat on Hardwired for so long, he may well have had the impact that William Gibson did with Neuromancer.

In addition, outside of SF, he has a fine series of historical nautical fiction. And, some of his best work is in short form,so look up his collection Surfacing for a great set of stories.
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Re: Walter Jon Williams

Postby ArnoKA on Saturday, 23 November 2013, 5:21 am

Damon Knight, in his book In Search of Wonder, discussing the several definitions of Science-Fiction, offers his own:
"Science-Fiction", he writes, "is what we point to when we say it." Thus, for example, Neal Stephenson has stated that both
Cryptonomicon and Baroque Cycle are Science-Fiction -- and I think that we must respect the authors own opinion.

Both near future thrillers and catastrophe novels have traditionally been considered legitimate subgenres of SF.

Then, on the other hand, we have the opinion of Dan Simmons about his novel PHASES OF GRAVITY -- in my opinion the
only one of his books I have deemed worth re-reading. In his "Author's Afterword" he writes "PHASES OF GRAVITY is not Science Fiction,
speculative fiction, SF, or any variation on that honorable theme. It's a novel. Just a novel."

OK. Again we must respect the author's own opinion. I will reread the book just as a fine novel, and ignore Simmons' other books as
horrorstories which I detest.

Do you catch my meaning, brianr? Science Fiction is a matter of taste. It is like beauty, in the eye of beholder.
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Re: Walter Jon Williams

Postby ArnoKA on Tuesday, 10 December 2013, 4:43 am

I copy from The Ultimate Guide to SCIENCE FICTION by David Pringle:

Angel Station (1989) ** Novel by Walter Jon Williams (USA). A space adventure in which brother and sister go searching for black holes and encounter an alien race. “Starts off as a cyberpunk space opera, tries to become a novel of characters, and then goes off to become a first contact and political intrigue thriller. [my italics] In the end, the book never finds a focus” -- Tom Whitmore, Locus.

I admit that there is much valid in Mr. Whitmore’s criticism, still, in my opinion, what hides behind the words in my italics, makes the book very readable. The two stars (in scale from zero to four) is Mr. Pringle’s maximum praise to, for example, Jack Vance’s most novels -- and all novels which don’t belong to Mr. Pringle’s dearly loved British New Wave.

Yes, it is a story of a first contact -- with the most interestingly alien aliens I have met, and the following intrigues between aliens and humans, and between competing groups of humans. There is even the tragic story of the alien commercial attaché, who learns to think like a human, and has to be destroyed.

I dare to recommend the book.
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Re: Walter Jon Williams

Postby ArnoKA on Wednesday, 25 December 2013, 11:37 pm

I would like to speak about escapism, the bugbear of all SF&F-haters. Tolkien has answered them for all times: Why, it is the duty of a prisoner of war to do his best to escape, to rejoin the battle against his captors.

Perhaps some of my readers have wondered, why does this intolerable besserwisser speak only of novels. The reason is escapism. I read only for escapistic purposes. Therefore I want the books to be thick preferably parts of series, so that I can escape into them for days, preferably for weeks.

The second layer of escape is to read in English. I am proud that I can do it relatively fluently, and that I have self-taught myself to do so. (My spoken English is rusty and hideously barbaric, and, to be understood, one should use Kings English and speak very slowly and clearly, preferably avoiding such shortenings as IMO, IMWY etc. so loved in fan speech. Also in written text I would prefer such anti-Websterian forms as colour, harbour etc.)

The most important factor is the personality of the author. It must be lovable, witty and ironic (without being bitter). We have a perfect example here in Finland, in Mika Waltari. Please, never, never, try to read American so called “translations” of his novels! Same warning goes to Frans G. Bengtsson's Swedish masterpiece Röde Orm and its unspeakably bad English translation The Longships. Read in French or in German if you can, or, better still: demand new, proper and unabridged translations by professionals!

Happily, there are plenty of eminently re-readable authors in English literature like Barbara Tuchman, Mark Twain, and, most of all, Anthony Powell, whose magnificent series of twelve (short) novels, A Dance to the Music of Time is comparable only, in wit and irony, to our own Jack Vance.

And of course, for us lovers of SF&F, there is nobody comparable to him, in re-readibility or anything else, as our Webmaster has shown in his excellent essay on Vance!

But I have great hopes that a crown prince is developing, novel by novel, to inherit his mantle, perhaps in a novel already under development. I mean -- you have guessed it -- Walter Jon Williams and his promised sequel to the Praxis series about Lady Sula on Earth.
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