Collection C000489 - Walter Jon Williams Manuscript Collection

Identity elements

Reference code

TxAM-CRS C000489

Name and location of repository

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Walter Jon Williams Manuscript Collection


  • 1979 - 2018 (Creation)


10 boxes

Name of creator


Biographical history

Walter Jon Williams (1953-) was born in Duluth, MN, but has resided most of his life in New Mexico, where he received his B.A. in 1975 from the University of New Mexico. Williams' earliest novels were non-SF historical works , written under the name 'Jon Williams': nautical adventures (1981-1984) set on board American ships as they battle the British in the Age of Sail, and based on games he designed for Fantasy Games Unlimited. His career in science fiction began with the 1984 novel "Ambassador of Progress"; his second SF novel, "Knight Moves" (1985) was nominated for the 1986 Philip K. Dick Award.

From 1986-1989 Williams produced the 'Hardwired' series of novels, a well-received group of novels in the emerging cyberpunk genre; Williams' interest in cyberpunk continued with the 1989 novel "Angel Station". Over the course of his career, Williams has written novels and short stories in a number of other genres, such as science fantasy (the 'Metropolitan' series, 1995-1997), SF noir (the 'Dagmar Shaw' series, 2009-2014), comedy (the 'Drake Majistral' series, 1987-1996), and far future military space opera ('Dread Empire's Fall', 2002-ongoing). He is also a noted fantasy writer, having written the 'Quilifer' series (2017-2019).

Williams also plays in other people's universes from time to time. He has written two works in the 'Star Wars' Expanded Universe series: "Destiny's Way" and "Ylesia" (both 2002). He has also written for George R.R. Martin's 'Wild Cards' shared universe series that explores the real-life societal effects over decades of a virus that struck Earth in the 1940s and infected many people with superpowers and others with horrible deformities.

He has been nominated for numerous awards in the course of his career, including Hugo Awards for the 1987 novelette "Dinosaurs", the 1988 novella "Surfacing", the 1993 novella "Wall, Stone, Craft" (also nominated for a Nebula Award), the 1998 novel "City on Fire" (also nominated for the Nebula), and the 2003 novella "The Green Leopard Plague"; and Nebula Awards for his 1986 novella "Witness", the 1991 novella "Prayers on the Wind", the 1995 novel "Metropolitan", the 1997 novelette "Lethe", and the 1999 novella "Argonautica". He won the 2001 Nebula Award for Best Novelette, for "Daddy's World" and the 2005 Nebula for Best Novella for "The Green Leopard Plague". He was a finalist for the 1998 Theodore Sturgeon Award for Best Short Science Fiction for "Lethe", and for the 2000 Sturgeon Award for Best Short Science Fiction for "Daddy's World".

Content and structure elements

Scope and content

This collection contains manuscripts and manuscript material from noted science fiction author and historical novelist (under the name Jon Williams) Walter Jon Williams. Included are drafts in various stages of evolution for a number of Williams' novels and stories.

The collection contains small amounts of other materials relating to Williams' life and career, including correspondence.

System of arrangement

Materials are arranged chronologically by date of publication.

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Languages of the material

  • English

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Immediate source of acquisition

Gift, from Walter Jon Williams, received July 2020 (2020_0054).

November 2022 Addendum received from Williams, November 2022 (2022_0141).

July 2023 Addendum received from Williams, July 2023 (2023_0095).


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General note

Wild Cards is the general title given to the shared superhuman universe of novels created and primarily edited by George R.R. Martin. The first book, Wild Cards, was released in 1987, set mostly in the early days of the wild card epidemic, and continues to run (as of this writing) through 29 subsequent books (the latest being 2022's Full House), having been brought up to the present day. The series is governed by the Wild Cards Trust, a collective of authors that share the universe not only through their own stories but with their own created recurring characters that can be used by other authors. Besides Martin, authors include or have included, among others: Melinda M. Snodgrass, Howard Waldrop, Lewis Shiner, Stephen Leigh, Walter Jon Williams, Walton Simons, John J. Miller, Mary Anne Mohanraj, Victor Milan, Carrie Vaughn, William Wu, and Caroline Spector.

Wild Cards begins in 1946, when a humanoid alien species called the Takisians releases an experimental virus upon Earth, as a test. (The entire Wild Cards series is an exploration of the subsequent wide-reaching social, political, and historical effects of this virus on humanity.) The "wild card" virus (called so by humans because its effects are unpredictable and never affect two people in the same way) rapidly disseminates across the entire planet.

People who contract the virus suffer one of three possible fates. The vast majority of victims die in horrible ways (called "drawing the Black Queen). Of those that survive, most become "jokers", developing serious, often crippling and often dramatic deformities - in many parts of the world, including the United States, jokers suffer discrimination, prejudice, and marginalization. A tiny percentage of virus victims (c. 1%) become "aces", developing powers that often rise to the level of superhuman. In the traditional comic book manner, some aces become superheroes, and others become villains.

Although stories in the series occur in various parts of the world, the primary setting, especially in the earlier books, is New York City, including its joker ghetto 'Jokertown'. The series is notable not only for its colorful fights between aces and aces (and aces and jokers), but its less dramatic but emotionally fraught explorations of how the presence of superheroes, supervillains, and a dramatically different underclass would affect the development of the "real world".

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