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Michael Z. Williamson (born 1967) is an American science fiction and military fiction author best known for his libertarian-themed Freehold series published by Baen Books.[1] Between 2004 and 2016, Williamson published eight Freehold novels, exploring military and political themes as well as first contact with alien beings.[2] This was followed by the Forged in Blood (2017) anthology which consists of 16 short stories taking place in the Freehold universe, five wholly or partly by Williamson and the rest by other authors, including Larry Correia, Tony Daniel and Tom Kratman.[3][4]

Michael Z. Williamson
Williamson in 2011
Williamson in 2011
Born1967 (age 51–52)
Birkenhead, England
GenreScience fiction, military science fiction, military fiction, political thrillers

Work outside the Freehold universe includes The Hero (2004), written with John Ringo, and the time travel story A Long Time Until Now (2014).[5][6][7] Short fiction by Williamson includes the story "Soft Casualty", an exploration of psychological warfare which won a readers' choice award organized by Baen Books.[8][9] Williamson's Wisdom From My Internet, a collection of witticisms and political polemic from the Internet, was nominated for a Hugo Award for Best Related Work in 2015.[10] As of 2016, Williamson's books had sold half a million copies.[11]



Williamson was born in 1967 in Birkenhead, England.[12][13] His family moved to Canada, then to Newark, Ohio, where he graduated from Newark High School in 1985. After high school, he joined the military and served in a support role in the Air Force for 5 years, then in the Air and Army National Guard, for a total of 22 years.[11][14] Williamson's military career included service with the US Air Force in deployments in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.[11] Williamson has three children and is married.[15]

Freehold booksEdit

Williamson's first book, Freehold, was released in January 2004 and made #3 on the April 2004 Locus Bestsellers list for science-fiction and fantasy paperbacks.[14][16]Freehold tells the story of Kendra Pacelli, a young soldier who begins the book in the service of a world-dominant, authoritarian United Nations. Accused of a crime she did not commit, she flees Earth for the Freehold of Grainne where she struggles to adapt to the climate and culture of an ultra-libertarian planet. She eventually joins the Freehold military and fights in a war against a UN invasion.[17] Williamson has remarked that the main character is partially based on himself and his experience immigrating from the UK to Canada and the United States.[18]

Don D'Ammassa criticized Freehold as a political tract with an oversimplified and unrealistic view of humanity calling it a "very long but frankly not very entertaining diatribe".[19] Michael M. Jones of SF Site conversely called Williamson's portrayal of a libertarian society "sound and believable" and described the book as "a satisfactory debut".[20] Ginger Armstrong of Kliatt called Freehold a "highly readable SF adventure" with "a strong female protagonist".[21] Carolyn Cushman of Locus noted heavy emphasis on the exposition of Libertarian ideology with plotting and pacing taking a back seat but described the novel as "amazingly entertaining".[22]

Many of Williamson's other works are set in the universe established in Freehold. One is Contact with Chaos (2009) where humanity has first contact with alien beings. This becomes a further source of conflict between the United Nations and the Freeholders. In a review of the book, Joseph T. Major praised Williamson for refraining from heavy-handed political messages and instead creating "a diverse, varied human interplanetary society ... trying to understand an exotic, alternative nonhuman society".[2] Other novels set in the Freehold universe include Better to Beg Forgiveness... (2007) which Mark Lardas of the Galveston Daily News praised as an "exciting and violent adventure"[23] and Rogue (2011) which he described as Williamson setting "a new, higher standard for himself".[24] The novel Do Unto Others (2010) made the Wall Street Journal best-seller list in hardcover science fiction[25] and Angeleyes (2016) sold in more than 100,000 copies.[26]

Williamson was the editor of Forged in Blood, which was released in September 2017.[3] The book is set in Williamson's Freehold universe and he also wrote or co-wrote five of its 16 stories; other contributors included Larry Correia, Tony Daniel, and Tom Kratman.[3] The stories are linked as they trace the history of a single sword, from its forging in Japan in the third century BC through to Williamson's Freehold of Grainne in the 24th century. Mark Lardas praised the authors for creating a coherent anthology while attempting "something original [by] telling a story through an object." He described the result as an "engaging book".[4] The science fiction review magazine Tangent described the work as a celebration of "soldiers and their tools" that is satisfying to those for whom that premise appeals.[27]

Other worksEdit

Among works not set in the Freehold universe is Williamson's second novel, The Hero (2004), which was written with John Ringo and made the Locus Bestseller list in February 2006.[28] The book is a part of the Legacy of the Aldenata series. It appeared in German as Invasion – Heldentaten and in Russian as Герой.[29][30] Williamson has also written the Target: Terror (2004–2005) military fiction series which is set in the world of the Target: Terror arcade game. His stand-alone novels include the time-travel story A Long Time Until Now (2014) which was praised for its characterization and survivalist elements.[5][6][7] As of 2016, Williamson's books had sold half a million copies.[11]

Williamson has contributed short fiction to numerous anthologies, including many which take place in the Valdemar and Elemental Masters shared universes created by Mercedes Lackey. He has also contributed stories to the Heroes in Hell shared universe and to many anthologies of military science fiction published by Baen. An anthology of Williamson's short fiction, Tour of Duty (2013), was reviewed by Publishers Weekly which singled out "The Humans call it Duty" as "strong" and "Desert Blues" as "subtly haunting".[31]

In 2015, Baen Books released an anthology, The Year's Best Military SF & Space Opera, which was described by Don Sakers of Analog as "long overdue".[32] Baen Books invited readers to vote for the best story from the volume. Sakers commented: "We can only hope that the award, like the anthology, will become an annual event."[32] Williamson won the readers' poll for the short story "Soft Casualty" and was presented with an award at Dragon Con.[9][33] The story deals with psychological warfare as an occupying force encounters harsh resistance tactics.[8][34]

Williamson's Wisdom From My Internet (2014), a collection of witticisms and political polemic from the Internet, was nominated for a Hugo Award for Best Related Work in 2015.[10] The Hugo nominations that year triggered accusations of politically motivated bloc voting.[35] The controversy resulted in a number of categories, including the one containing Wisdom From My Internet, receiving "No Award".[36][10] Williamson himself stated while the poll was underway that he had voted for no award in all categories, including the one in which his work appeared.[37]


Williamson was recruited as an author by ex-soldier and publisher Jim Baen who "recruited a batch of younger, like-minded authors from similar backgrounds";[38] Williamson, David Drake, John Ringo and Tom Kratman.[38] Commonalities in the works of these authors include the setting of a civilization in decline with heroes battling against conventional wisdom.[38] John Clute comments in the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction that a pattern running through the works of Williamson is a fight to maintain freedom against external enemies with the heroes adhering to libertarian principles.[1] Clute notes the frequent presence of female heroes in Williamson's works and feminist critic Liz Bourke describes Williamson's treatment of female characters as "less clearly marginalizing" than that of John Ringo and Tom Kratman.[39]

Blair Nicholson, in a doctoral thesis from the University of Waikato, points out commonalities in the authorial stances of Williamson and David Weber who both emphasize that in military science fiction, the hypothesized military environment must be depicted in realistic detail down to details of strategy and tactics. According to Williamson the work should then seek to "explore the proposed system, and its interactions with the people – soldiers and civilians – involved".[40]:23 Nicholson notes that Williamson depicts the United Nations as an enemy, and particularly so in his Freehold (2004) novel, where the United Nations appears as an authoritarian oppressor. This depiction of the United Nations has parallels in the Marine in Space series by Ian Douglas and in the works of Tom Kratman[40]:219–220 and is reflective of a negative right-wing popular opinion on the institution.[40]:234


Freehold UniverseEdit

Grainne War/AftermathEdit

  1. Freehold (Baen, January 2004, ISBN 0-7434-7179-2)
  2. The Weapon (Baen, August 2005, ISBN 1-4165-0894-5)
  3. Contact with Chaos (Baen, April 2009, ISBN 978-1-4165-9154-2)
  4. Rogue (Baen, September 2011, ISBN 978-1-4391-3462-7)
  5. Angeleyes (Baen, November 2016, ISBN 978-1-4767-8186-0)

Ripple CreekEdit

  1. Better to Beg Forgiveness... (Baen, November 2007, ISBN 1-4165-5508-0)
  2. Do Unto Others (Baen, August 2010, ISBN 978-1-4391-3383-5)
  3. When Diplomacy Fails... (Baen, August 2012, ISBN 978-1-4516-3790-8)

Freehold anthologiesEdit

These are anthologies containing stories set in the Freehold universe by multiple authors.

  • Forged in Blood (Baen, September 2017, ISBN 978-1-4814-8270-7, as editor and author)
    • "Broken Spirit" with Dale C. Flowers (short fiction)
    • "Choices and Consequences" (short fiction)
    • "The Day the Tide Rolled In" with Leo Champion (short fiction)
    • "The Reluctant Heroine" (short fiction)
    • "The Thin Green Line" (short fiction)
  • Freehold: Resistance (Baen, forthcoming in December 2019, ISBN 9781982124236, as editor and author)

Target: Terror seriesEdit

A military sniper adventure series set in the world of the Target: Terror arcade game.

Legacy of the AldenataEdit

Set in the Legacy of the Aldenata series created by John Ringo.


These are collections on Williamson's fiction and non-fiction.

  • Tour of Duty: Stories and Provocations (short story/essay collection, Baen, August 2013, ISBN 978-1-4516-3905-6). Stories original to this collection include:
    • "Misfits" with Gail Sanders (short fiction)
    • "One Night in Baghdad" (poem)
    • "Port Call" (short fiction)
  • Tide of Battle (short story/essay collection, Baen, July 2018, ISBN 978-1-4814-8336-0). Stories original to this collection include:
    • "How Sweet the Sound" with Morgen Kirby (short fiction)
    • "Off the Cuff" (short fiction)

Short fiction published by BaenEdit

  • "The Humans Called It Duty" in Future Weapons of War (Baen, March 2007, ISBN 1-4165-2112-7)
  • "The Price" in Citizens (Baen, May 2010, ISBN 978-1-61824-764-3)
  • "Battle's Tide" in Exiled: Clan of the Claw (Baen, August 2011, ISBN 978-1-4391-3441-2)
  • "The Brute Force Approach" in Baen Books Free Stories 2011 (Baen, August 2011)
  • "Soft Casualty" in Baen Books: Free Stories 2014 (Baen, February 2014)
  • "How Do You Solve a Problem Like Grandpa?" in Black Tide Rising (Baen, June 2016, ISBN 978-1-4767-8151-8)
  • "Starhome" in Baen Books: Free Stories 2016 (Baen, 2016)
  • "Hate in the Darkness" in Star Destroyers (Baen, March 2018, ISBN 978-1-4814-8309-4)
  • "Inhale to the King, Baby!" in Voices of the Fall (Baen, March 2019, ISBN 978-1-4814-8382-7)

Short fiction published by DAWEdit

Short fiction published by othersEdit

Other worksEdit


  1. ^ a b Clute, John. "Williamson, Michael Z". The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction.
  2. ^ a b Major, Joseph T. (August 2009). "Share of Glory" (PDF). Alexiad: 3–4.
  3. ^ a b c Williamson, Michael Z., ed. (2017). "Table of Contents". Forged in Blood. Baen Books. ISBN 9781625796073.
  4. ^ a b Lardas, Mark (26 September 2017). "The secret of a steel blade". Galveston Daily News. Retrieved 22 July 2019.
  5. ^ a b Lardas, Mark (24 May 2015). "Survival story grabs readers from the beginning". Galveston Daily News.
  6. ^ a b Sakers, Don (November 2015). "The Reference Library". Analog Science Fiction & Fact. 135 (11): 107.
  7. ^ a b Robson, Seth (13 December 2016). "'A Long Time Until Now' draws on vet's experience, imagination (book review)". Stars & Stripes.
  8. ^ a b "The Year's Best Military SF & Space Opera". Publishers Weekly. 13 April 2015.
  9. ^ a b Silver, Steven H (8 September 2015). "Williamson Wins Baen Military SF Award". SF Site.
  10. ^ a b c d "2015 Hugo Awards". Retrieved 21 July 2019.
  11. ^ a b c d Robson, Seth (1 July 2016). "Former troops building second careers in military science fiction". Stars and Stripes. Retrieved 21 July 2019.
  12. ^ "Welcome to". 14 May 2006. Archived from the original on 14 May 2006. Retrieved 23 July 2019. I was born in 1967 in Birkenhead, England.
  13. ^ Williamson, Michael Z. (2013). Tour of Duty. USA: Baen Books. pp. 9–10. ISBN 978-1-4767-3676-1.
  14. ^ a b Whyde, L. B. (9 April 2007). "Former Newark resident publishing seventh novel". The Advocate.
  15. ^ Williamson, Michael Z. "Michael Z. Williamson: Writer: Bio page". Retrieved 13 October 2010.
  16. ^ "Locus Online: Locus Bestsellers, April 2004". Retrieved 21 July 2019.
  17. ^ Williamson, Michael Z. (2004). Freehold. Baen Books. ISBN 0-7434-7179-2.
  18. ^ Clemmons, Travis (29 September 2009). "Sci Fi Interview -- Michael Z. Williamson". Buzz Sports and Entertainment. Archived from the original on 9 October 2009. Kendra is in part based on me, because when I moved from the UK to Canada, and then to the US, I found they were very different cultures
  19. ^ D'Ammassa, Don (May 2004). "Freehold by Michael Z. Williamson". Chronicle: SF, Fantasy & Horror's Monthly Trade Journal. 26 (5): 45.
  20. ^ Jones, Michael M. (December 2004). "Freehold". SF Site. Retrieved 25 July 2019.
  21. ^ Armstrong, Ginger (May 2004). "Williamson, Michael Z. Freehold". Kliatt. 38 (3): 31.
  22. ^ Cushman, Carolyn (April 2004). "Michael Z. Williamson, Freehold". Locus (519): 25.
  23. ^ Lardas, Mark (30 December 2007). "Green sci-fi writer pens intrigue in Celadon". Galveston Daily News. p. 33. a fast-paced, exciting and violent adventure ... Williamson is a new name in science fiction. If he continues writing books like “Better to Beg Forgiveness,” he can expect a long career.
  24. ^ Lardas, Mark (11 September 2011). "Author sets new standard in 'Rogue'". Galveston Daily News. p. 23. Williamson has never written a bad novel. With "Rogue," he sets a new, higher standard for himself. It is outstanding action science-fiction.
  25. ^ "Best-Selling Books Week Ended Aug. 22 ; With data from Nielsen BookScan". Wall Street Journal. 27 August 2010. 10. Do Unto Others/Michael Z. Williamson/Baen Books
  26. ^ "Authenticity Counts: Science Fiction / Fantasy, 2016–2017". Publishers Weekly. Retrieved 21 July 2019.
  27. ^ Lewis, C. D. (6 October 2017). "Forged in Blood, ed. by Michael Z. Williamson". Tangent Online. Retrieved 22 July 2019.
  28. ^ "Locus Online: Locus Magazine Locus Bestsellers, February 2006". Retrieved 21 July 2019.
  29. ^ Ringo, John; Williamson, Michael Z. (2005). Invasion – Heldentaten. Heyne, W.
  30. ^ Ringo, John; Williamson, Michael Z. (2007). Герой (Geroĭ). Azbuka-klassika. ISBN 978-5-352-02197-2.
  31. ^ "Tour of Duty: Stories and Provocations". Publishers Weekly. 17 June 2013.
  32. ^ a b Sakers, Don (November 2015). "The Year's Best Military SF & Space Opera". Analog Science Fiction & Fact. 135 (11): 100.
  33. ^ Afsharirad, David. "The Year's Best Military Science Fiction and Space Opera". Baen Books. Archived from the original on 29 January 2016.
  34. ^ Di Filippo, Paul (16 July 2015). "Paul Di Filippo reviews The Year's Best Military SF & Space Opera". Locus. Michael Williamson’s “Soft Casualty” offers the most implicit topicality
  35. ^ "Hugo Awards Nominee Announcement Causes Controversy". 4 April 2015. Retrieved 26 July 2019.
  36. ^ Dean, Michelle (23 August 2015). "'No award' sweeps the Hugo Awards following controversy". The Guardian. Retrieved 26 July 2019.
  37. ^ Williamson, Michael Z. (13 July 2015). "NO AWARD". The Sacred Cow Slaughterhouse.
  38. ^ a b c Buchanan, Craig (16 April 2015). "Sci-Fi Battlefields". The Big Issue: 30.
  39. ^ Bourke, Liz (17 January 2012). "Admirals and Amazons: Women in Military Science Fiction".
  40. ^ a b c Nicholson, Blair (2016). A Literary and Cultural History of Military Science Fiction and the United States of America, 1870s-2010s (PDF) (PhD). University of Waikato.

External linksEdit