Best of Walter Jon Williams

Best of Walter Jon Williams

Illustration By Lee Moyer

Dust jacket illustration by Lee Moyer.

With the publication of his debut novel, The Privateer, in 1981, Walter Jon Williams began one of the most varied and prolific careers in contemporary popular fiction. His work encompasses cyberpunk (Hardwired), military SF (The Dread Empire’s Fall series), humor (The Crown Jewels), even disaster fiction (The Rift). But much of Williams’s best work takes place in the shorter forms, as this generous volume, filled to overflowing with award-winning and award-nominated stories, clearly proves.

With one exception, The Best of Walter Jon Williams reflects its author’s affection for—and mastery of—the novella form. That exception is “The Millennium Party,” a brief, brilliant account of a virtual anniversary celebration unlike any you have ever imagined. Elsewhere in the collection, Williams offers us one brilliantly sustained creation after another. The Nebula Award-winning “Daddy’s World” takes us into a young boy’s private universe, a world of seeming miracles that conceals a tragic secret. “Dinosaurs” is the far future account of the incredibly destructive relationship between the star-faring human race and the less evolved inhabitants of the planet Shar. 

“Diamonds from Tequila” is a lovingly crafted example of SF Noir in which a former child actor attempts a comeback that proves unexpectedly dangerous. “Surfacing” is a tale of alienation featuring a research scientist more at home with the foreign and unfamiliar than with the members of his own species. Finally, the magisterial “Wall, Stone, Craft” offers a brilliantly realized alternate take on a young Mary Godwin, future creator of Frankenstein, and her relationships with the poets Percy Bysshe Shelley and Lord Byron, culminating in the creation of a monster who would “stalk through the hearts of all the world.” 

These stories, together with half a dozen equally substantial tales, are the clear product of a master craftsman with a seemingly limitless imagination. The Best of Walter Jon Williams is the capstone of a truly remarkable career. It’s the rare sort of book that the reader can return to again and again, finding new and unexpected pleasures every time out. 

Limited: 1000 signed numbered hardcover copies

From Publishers Weekly (Starred Review):

“Best-known for space operas, Williams (Fleet Elements) showcases his versatility in this impressive collection of 12 stories, whose wide-ranging subjects include a superhero-supervillain battle in the Old West (‘The Golden Age’) and a moving account of a child who learns that his world isn’t what he believed it to be (‘Daddy’s World’)… Across every entry, Williams displays his superior prose, an ability to craft well-rounded worlds, and a facility for creating engagement and empathy in readers, whether for a recognizable human character or an alien intelligence. This stellar volume should grow Williams’s devoted fan base.”

From Locus:

“I come away from this collection admiring not only Williams’s flexibility as a master of traditions and conventions and tropes, but also the way that these stories are not merely exercises or japes (though ‘The Golden Age’ and ‘Prayers on the Wind’ are plenty playful). When Williams takes on a genre, he also takes on the issues and tensions and themes such con­structs are meant to address. This is where craft crosses the fuzzy borderline and becomes art.”

From Locus Online:

“Emerging from a deep dive into this truly entertaining treasure chest of riches, the reader immediately has several reactions. First, although Williams’s range of topics is immense, every story emerges from that core template of speculative fiction: assume a novum, extrapolate logically…

“Still working today wholeheartedly at the apex of his abilities, Williams has persevered through the ups and downs typical of most writers (revealed in his generous Story Notes) to accumulate a corpus of work that stands on the same victor’s platform as many of his illustrious predecessors and also with the best of his peers. He’s done his—our—generation proud.”


Table of Contents:

  • Introduction by Daniel Abraham
  • Daddy’s World
  • The Golden Age
  • Dinosaurs
  • Surfacing
  • Video Star
  • The Millennium Party
  • The Bad Twin
  • The Green Leopard Plague
  • Diamonds from Tequila
  • Margaux
  • Prayers on the Wind
  • Wall, Stone, Craft
  • Story Notes
Lee Moyer
Walter Jon Williams
616 pages
United States
Subterranean Press