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 book is The Fourth Wall, out from Orbit this month. Williams lives near Albuquerque, New Mexico, with his wife.
I’ve been a full-time, professional writer of fiction for over thirty years now, so it may surprise my regular readers to know that my writing career might well have gone in an entirely different direction. When I was breaking into the fiction market, I was also breaking into the computer game market, both as a writer and as a designer.
I’d always kept one foot in games. As a teenager I was a game zealot. I was probably the first person in my home state to run a Dungeons and Dragons campaign, out of the original three-volume boxed rule set.
A decade or so later, I was selling both games and novels to the same person, Jim Baen. Baen was, at that time, editor of a brand-new imprint, Tor Books; and he was also branching out with his own software company- named after himself, of course.
Baen was a visionary: he saw the potential for computer games, and he also saw the potential for profit. Unfortunately, though he knew a lot about publishing, he didn’t know anything about software or about running a game company; and he also made the mistake of distributing his games through the sales force at Simon & Schuster, the publisher, who knew nothing about selling games and weren’t very interested in learning. Instead of getting his games into every bookstore in North America, which was probably what he intended, he was unable to get on the shelves anywhere. Baen Software faded away, caught between the breadth of its own vision and its naïveté about the way the business worked. I’ve written elsewhere about my unfortunate involvement with the company.
But imagine what would have happened if Baen Software had been a success — it did, after all, produce some pretty good games before it disappeared. By now I could be a gaming god, with a much larger audience than I currently possess, and probably a much nicer car.
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