Exclusive Interview: The Accidental War Author Walter Jon Williams

Sixteen years after he launched the Dread Empire’s Fall series with 2002’s The Praxis, writer Walter Jon Williams is continuing to expand this sci-fi space opera saga with The Accidental War (paperback, Kindle), the sixth installment but first in a new sub-trilogy. In the following email interview, Williams discusses this new story and the Dread Empire’s Fall saga as a whole.

Walter Jon Williams Dread Empire's Fall The Accidental War

To begin, what is The Accidental War about and how does it connect, both narratively and chronologically, to the other books in the Dread Empire’s Fall series?

It opens six years after the conclusion of the Naxid Rebellion, which was brought to an end in Conventions Of War. Everyone’s had a chance to settle into their new lives before another big conflict emerges, a war that no one planned, no one expected, and nobody knows how to stop.

Where did you get the original idea for The Accidental War and how different is the finished novel from that initial concept?

The story hasn’t changed much since I first worked out the series arc eighteen or so years ago. I had always planned to write nine to twelve books in the series, but the publisher decided to end the series after the third book [Conventions Of War] due to disappointing sales.

But those original books just kept selling. Initial sales weren’t spectacular, but the books kept going through one reprinting after another, and they never went out of print. Finally, years later, a new editor looked at the cumulative sales and made an offer for the books I would have happily written fifteen years ago.

It’s entirely the readers and their devotion that is responsible for the continuation of the series, and they all have my sincere thanks.

The Accidental War has been called a space opera. Do you agree with this, or do you think there’s another subgenre of sci-fi, or combination of them, that describes this book better?

If a space opera features action on distant worlds, with space ships and exotic alien races, then The Accidental Waris a space opera. If I were to characterize the works myself, I’d say they’re about “war and revolution as seen through the eyes of a pair of star-crossed lovers.”

As we discussed, The Accidental War is part of your Dread Empire’s Fall series, but it’s also the first book in a new trilogy. Why did you decide this was the first book in a trilogy?

It’s too big a story to fit into a single volume, and publishers don’t like to buy more than three books at a time, which explains why this trilogy exists, and probably all the other trilogies, too.

 I should probably mention that the series includes a pair of stand-alone books, Investments and Impersonations, so you don’t necessarily have to commit to a trilogy to start reading.

Assuming that all goes well, the next two books should appear in 2020 and 2022, sandwiched between volumes of Quillifer, my other series. I don’t have titles for the next books in the series, alas. I’m hoping they’ll come to me soon.

Walter Jon Williams Dread Empire's Fall The Accidental War

So do you think The Accidental War would be a good place to start, both with your oeuvre and the Dread Empire’s Fall series, or do you think people should go back to the beginning, with The Praxis?

The Accidental Warwas carefully designed to catch the reader up on what had happened earlier in the series, so you can start there and be perfectly fine. But The Praxisand the other books are still in print and available in revised and (very slightly) expanded additions, and I see no reason why you should deny yourself the pleasure of reading them.

Is there anything about The Accidental War that will surprise those who’ve read the Dread Empire’s Fall series?

I think that those who haven’t read the earlier books will probably miss a few of the jokes.

As you know, some people like to wait until every book in a series is available, and then read them all in a row. But is there any reason why they should read The Accidental War now? Or should wait until the third book is out?

I’m absolutely terrible at telling people why they should read my books. All I can say is that if readers buy the book now instead of later, it will make it easier for me to sell future books, and make the publisher’s job easier, too.

So has there been any interest in adapting The Accidental War, or the Dread Empire’s Fall series, into a movie, show, or video game?

There has been no interest in adapting the series, at least that I’ve seen. But the rights are available.

What do you think would work best for this story?

I’m thinking the series is too big for a single movie, but a television serial could render the story very well. Bear in mind that the entire series has an arc that brings it to an end, so there would be a definite conclusion.

But I’ve always been an active gamer, so I’d love to see, and play, game adaptations. Three-dimensional space combat with real-ish physics isn’t something I’ve seen in video games, so that would bring something new to the form.

Walter Jon Williams Dread Empire's Fall The Accidental War

Finally, if someone enjoys The Accidental War, and they’ve read the earlier books in the Dread Empire’s Fall series, what other book of yours would you suggest they read while waiting for the sequel to The Accidental War to come out?

As I mentioned earlier, I’m writing another series concurrently with this one, and Quillifer is just out in a very handsome trade paperback. It’s very different from the Praxis books, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t check it out.


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