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Williams, Liz

Entry updated 15 July 2024. Tagged: Author.

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(1965-    ) UK author who began to publish work of genre interest with "A Child of the Dead" in Interzone for September 1997, which was assembled with other early work as The Banquet of the Lords of Night and Other Stories (coll 2004); later stories were assembled as A Glass of Shadow (coll 2011). Her first novel, The Ghost Sister (2001), is set in a lost colony (see Colonization of Other Worlds) whose inhabitants, after sending a long-ignored distress signal back to Earth, have evolved into Posthuman carnivores capable of surviving conditions on Monde D'Isle; when a rescue ship finally arrives they must cope with the Utopian determinism of its vegetarian Gaian crew. Though it shies away from the rigours of the typical Thought Experiment, the tale nevertheless poses and examines a range of issues, from ideal societies, to Sex (the evolved colonists are bisexual) to the Biology of adaptation to the real, however taxing.

It is a complexity that marks her later singletons as well: Empire of Bones (2002) burns through its Space Opera setting to explore, once again, the moral conundrums exposed by Evolution, in this case attempts to seed various planets, and to await the chance to Uplift species with promise. One of these planets is Earth, where much of the action takes place in Near Future India, where a Secret Master manqué in communication with the seeders must cope with the impact of their arrival on a species (Homo sapiens) ill-suited to think of itself as inferior. In The Poison Master (2003), which is set in an Alternate Cosmos where the Cabalistic speculations of John Dee describe the universe correctly; he is tricked by "angels" into leading an expedition to another planet, which is christened Latent Emanation, where his descendants (once again) must realize their destiny in confrontation with Aliens of greater power. And Nine Layers of Sky (2004), set in Near Future Kazakhstan and elsewhere, follows routes through various Dimensions to a Shangri-La-like Polder [for both terms see The Encyclopedia of Fantasy under links below], where it may be that sustainable lives can be led.

Since these four strong novels, Williams has focused on series. The Banner of Souls sequence comprising Banner of Souls (2004) and Winterstrike (2008) is set in a fabulated Far Future populated by Shapeshifters and other sports of Evolution, all with a strong Science Fantasy looseness of touch. The Detective Inspector Chen sequence beginning with Snake Agent (2005) is fantasy, with a focus on dealing with the Devil; the protagonist is assisted by a demon sidekick. The stories are sharply told. The Darkland sequence comprising Darkland (2006) and Bloodmind (2007) returns to the baroque Space Opera universe of her first novel, and explores again issues of Sex and hierarchy and power through combative contrasts between variously structured societies on more than one world; as in all her work, but here very explicitly, Feminist arguments are cogently laid out for examination. Worldsoul (2012), first volume of the projected Library of Worldsoul sequence, is set in the eponymous City, which is described in terms evocative of Urban Fantasy [again see The Encyclopedia of Fantasy under links below] while Equipoisally implying that there are more Dimensions to the city, and the world, and the library where stories are portals, than can easily be imagined. Some coherence is, perhaps, sacrificed. The Fallow Sisters sequence beginning with Comet Weather (2020) is fantasy.

Williams gives no sense that she has exhausted her repertoire of venues, nor that her concerns have faded. That some readers have found the edgy dazzle of her stories exhausting may not always be an unfair response, but the rewards are constant, and underlying arguments about large issues continue to be fielded. [JC]

Elizabeth Helen Laura Williams

born Gloucester, Gloucestershire: 26 February 1965



Detective Inspector Chen

  • Snake Agent (San Francisco, California: Night Shade Books, 2005) [Detective Inspector Chen: hb/Jon Foster]
  • The Demon and the City (San Francisco, California: Night Shade Books, 2006) [Detective Inspector Chen: hb/Jon Foster]
  • Precious Dragon (San Francisco, California: Night Shade Books, 2007) [Detective Inspector Chen: hb/Jon Foster]
  • The Shadow Pavilion (San Francisco, California: Night Shade Books, 2009) [Detective Inspector Chen: hb/Jon Foster]
  • The Iron Khan (Sweden: Morrigan Books, 2010) [Detective Inspector Chen: pb/Stephanie Pui-Mun Law]

Banner of Souls


  • Darkland (London: Pan Macmillan/Tor, 2006) [Darkland: pb/Greg Bridges]
  • Bloodmind (London: Pan Macmillan/Tor, 2007) [Darkland: pb/Greg Bridges]

The Library of Worldsoul

  • Worldsoul (Prime Books, 2012) [Library of Worldsoul: pb/Oliver Wetter]

Fallow Sisters

individual titles

collections and stories


  • Diary of a Witchcraft Shop (Alconbury Weston, Cambridgeshire: NewCon Press, 2012) with Trevor Jones [nonfiction: illus/pb/Arthur Billington]
  • Diary of a Witchcraft Shop 2 (Alconbury Weston, Cambridgeshire: NewCon Press, 2013) with Trevor Jones [nonfiction: illus/pb/Liz Williams]

works as editor


previous versions of this entry

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