There are some books that I always buy whenever I find a copy, because I know that somebody will want one. Walter Jon Williams’s Aristoi has been one of those. I wrote about it here in May last year. I said:
It’s about the possibilities opened up when we aren’t limited to the human mind. Aristoi posits nanotech, in-brain implants, virtual realities, and techniques of advanced consciousness creating sub-personalities who can operate independently, daimones. The world — worlds, for though Earth was destroyed by runaway “mataglap” nano, there are now lots of other terraformed and colonized worlds — is divided into the demos, ordinary people, the Therapontes, those who aspire to become Aristoi, and the Aristoi themselves, the best and brightest among humanity, rulers of worlds, makers of laws, controllers of nanotech. They rule their domains absolutely, but immigration between domains is free, so the odder ones tend to lose population.
Many people said they wanted to read it, so I’m delighted to see that it’s now available as an e-book. I think Aristoi is one of the most impressive books by one of science fiction’s best writers. It’s also one of those science fiction books that’s really pushing the boundaries of what it’s possible to do in the genre — as much now as in 1991.
And to celebrate the release of the e-version, Walter Jon Williams has written a very interesting article about writing it.
I began making another list, this one of ideas and concepts that I’d never written about before. And then I jammed them all together in one incredibly detailed piece of worldbuilding.
One book was a primary influence in the worldbuilding: Francis Fukuyama’s The End of History, which offered the hypothesis that, following the collapse of the Eastern Bloc, the world was going to consist of parliamentary social democracies — social democracies all the way down, as it were.
Snort, I snorted. I can think of all sorts of ways that autocracies will not only survive, but thrive. So I decided to write about a society in which the rulers were more absolute even than Louis XIV. And it was a good thing.
I wanted to write about nanotechnology, which I had only touched on in previous works. I wanted to write about virtual reality in a more comprehensive way than I’d seen in the past. I wanted to write about ideas about the mind/body interface that I’d developed through studying martial arts, and how it might be altered through implant wetware. And I wanted to write about multiple personalities.
There’s a whole lot more on his blog, all of it fascinating.
Jo Walton is a science fiction and fantasy writer. She’s published two poetry collections and nine novels, most recently the Hugo and Nebula nominated Among Others. She reads a lot, and blogs about it here regularly. She comes from Wales but lives in Montreal where the food and books are more varied.