Linda Nagata: the blog at Hahví.net


Recommended Audiobook:
Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

January 13th, 2017

The full title of Trevor Noah’s childhood memoir is Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood. I picked this audiobook because it had been named a best book of the year by several publications, and because the sample I listened to hooked me immediately.

I can’t say I was a fan of Trevor Noah before this. Really, I knew almost nothing about him except that he was the new host of The Daily Show. But I’m a fan now.

Trevor Noah reads the audiobook himself. He has a wonderful voice and is multilingual, speaking not just the various accents of the characters in the story, but also speaking brief sentences in native languages as he narrates incidents.

The title, Born a Crime, refers to Trevor himself. He was born under apartheid, the son of a black woman and a white man — his very existence evidence of an illegal act — and for the first several years of his life his parents hid him from officials and nosy neighbors.

The quality of the storytelling in this book is amazing. Trevor relates many experiences, beginning in his childhood and progressing through the start of his career as a comedian. Throughout, he reflects with great insight, intelligence, and empathy on what he’s seen and what he’s done. He speaks truths without outrage, but rather in a “let’s talk, let’s get real” style that is easy to listen to, but still powerfully communicates the hardships and the challenges faced by those who endure bigotry, poverty, and destructive cultures. He delves into issues of misogyny and the rights of women, and the incredible strength, independence and stubbornness of his own mother. He discusses racism, skin color, apartheid, poverty, education, the police, life in an abusive home, and making a living when your options are few.

Despite all that, this book is in no sense a downer. Quite the opposite: The strength of spirit and determination that exists in every story that Trevor tells is both inspiring and uplifting.

Highly recommended.

Recommended Reading: Ninefox Gambit

January 7th, 2017

I started, and failed to finish, three or four novels before picking up Yoon Ha Lee’s Ninefox Gambit. If you’re looking for something different, something challenging and endlessly interesting — a puzzle to be figured out — try this one.

I’m still not sure what it’s about.

Usually I say very little about the plot or even the background of the books that I recommend here, because I think a book is best appreciated without preconceptions. But I’m making an exception this time. So if you’re already intrigued, go off and read Ninefox Gambit. Otherwise, read on for just a bit of discussion about the book.

Read the rest of this entry »

Recommended Links

January 5th, 2017

Two recent articles you might find interesting:

At The Atlantic Joe Fassler has gathered what for him is “The Best Writing Advice of 2016.” These are quotes from literary writers talking about writing. I was particularly interested in Lydia Millet’s thoughts on writing fiction that’s based around current conflicts and politics:

In approaching these ideas in a fictional vein I’ve had to wrestle, on the technical side, with the trickiness of balancing the aesthetics of contemporary writing (grounded in the subjective and averse to the didactic, committed to the personal and hostile to the general) with what might unfashionably be called a moral vision
[…]
In fiction, philosophical, political, or religious ideas tend to be most convincing when they arise organically out of a character.

And in the same article, some cold truth from Mark Haddon:

I’ve come to accept that I’m going to be bored and frustrated for long periods. I’ve come to accept that I’ll be regularly dissatisfied […] I have to be patient and slog onward and trust that something better will come along.

…for me, the job of writing is pretty uphill most of the time. It’s like climbing a mountain — you get some fantastic views when you pause or when you get to the top, but the actual process can be tough. I’m sure there are people out there who enjoy writing, and I wish them all the best, but I’m not like that.

This describes my own process with eerie accuracy. I know there are people who think writing is fun. Wish I were one of them!

At the New York Times, Gideon Lewis-Kraus writes about “The Great A.I. Awakening.” This is a fascinating article on “how Google used artificial intelligence to transform Google Translate, one of its more popular services — and how machine learning is poised to reinvent computing itself.” Read the whole thing if you have time. If you don’t, at least read the epilogue. Here are a few excerpts:

We’re not only talking about three and a half million truck drivers who may soon lack careers. We’re talking about inventory managers, economists, financial advisers, real estate agents. What Brain did over nine months is just one example of how quickly a small group at a large company can automate a task nobody ever would have associated with machines.
[…]
The most important thing happening in Silicon Valley right now is not disruption. Rather, it’s institution-building — and the consolidation of power — on a scale and at a pace that are both probably unprecedented in human history.
[…]
…once machines can learn from human speech, even the comfortable job of the programmer is threatened.

I wonder how long until computers get good at writing near-future science fiction…?

Hey, maybe the Red is already here.

* * * Early Warning * * *

January 1st, 2017

COMING IN JUNE 2017
FROM MYTHIC ISLAND PRESS LLC

Scarred by war. In pursuit of truth.

THE LAST GOOD MAN

A near-future thriller

This is not the cover art! It’s just a placeholder until cover art is acquired.

Army veteran True Brighton left the service when the development of robotic helicopters made her training as a pilot obsolete. Now she works at Requisite Operations, a private military company established by friend and former Special Ops soldier Lincoln Han. ReqOp has embraced the new technologies. Robotics, big data, and artificial intelligence are all tools used to augment the skills of veteran warfighters-for-hire. But the tragedy of war is still measured in human casualties, and when True makes a chance discovery during a rescue mission, old wounds are ripped open. She’s left questioning what she knows of the past, and resolves to pursue the truth, whatever the cost.

THE LAST GOOD MAN is a powerful, complex, and very human tale.

Uh, the last line of that description was supplied by my agent. 🙂

The “cover art” I’ve posted above is just a placeholder. The back-cover description and taglines are preliminary and subject to revision. But the novel is real. It exists. It’s complete as is, though I plan to do one more draft before I send out review copies.

If you’re a book reviewer and you’d like a copy please send me an email at linda at mythicisland dot com, letting me know who you are, where you review, and whether you prefer an epub or mobi (Kindle) ebook file.

There’s no preorder option yet, but PLEASE DO signup for my newsletter. You’ll not only get news about The Last Good Man as the publication date approaches, but you’ll also get news about DEALS on my other books — including one that’s coming up very soon.

Writing Goals For 2017

January 1st, 2017

I wish everyone a Happy New Year. Let’s do the best we can, okay? Given the president we here in America are about to be encumbered with, I suspect 2017 will prove to be a bitter, divisive year. I hope I am wrong and that we are, by some grace, better off at the end of it.

In the meantime, there is the work.

Here’s what I hope to accomplish in 2017:

1. Write a NEW NOVEL. It may or may not be the one I’ve already started, but I want to have a new novel, either in my agent’s hands or ready to publish myself, by the end of the year.

2. Write a SHORT STORY. I’m only going to require one. Science fiction or fantasy, but unrelated to any existing work. If any additional short fiction happens, that will be a bonus.

3. Write a NOVELLA set in an existing story world. This is an unmet goal carried over into a third year. I still want to write it. There is a chance it will turn into a novel. So it goes.

4. PUBLISH the novel I finished writing in 2016. (More on that in the next post.) It’s going to be a complex process, but I’m looking forward to it.

That’s it! This list gets shorter every year, either because I’m getting older, or I’m becoming more realistic about what I can do.

What are YOUR writing goals for 2017? What are your reading goals? Share them here!

Looking Back, and Looking Ahead

December 28th, 2016

Here we are at the end of the year. It’s a good time to take stock of writerly things. This isn’t meant to be a whiny post. More of a looking-reality-straight-in-the-eye post — and looking ahead at what’s to come

~~~~~

Some writers have nicely ascending career paths. There may be a few setbacks, but overall the trend is up. For many of us – dare I say most of us? – that’s not how it goes. Oh sure, we enjoy the occasional triumph, but our careers are mostly a long, lonely slog through tough, soggy, mosquito-filled terrain, with only an occasional glimpse of snow-capped peaks rising in the distance—the Olympian heights! (This being a metaphor for bestseller lists, in case you missed that.)

For a while, it looked like The Red trilogy was going to be my path out of the fens — if not to the magic mountains, then at least to more solid ground. I mean, the critical response was pretty damn encouraging. Check out some of the crazy quotes here.

If you’re new to this blog and you’ve never heard of these books, here’s a brief history:

Back in 2013, I decided to self-publish the first of the trilogy, The Red: First Light, rather than trying to sell it to a traditional publisher. This was my first science fiction novel in ten years, and it went on to become a finalist for the Nebula award and second runner-up for the John W. Campbell Memorial award. It was picked up by Simon & Schuster’s Saga Press, given a gorgeous new cover, and in that incarnation was named as a Publishers Weekly best book of 2015. Saga Press published the second and third books in the trilogy in quick succession. Book 3, Going Dark, tied for first runner up for the Campbell Memorial award.

So I had reasons to get my hopes up, right?

These books had the most commercial potential of anything I’ve written. They are action oriented, and they extrapolate on real-world technology and politics. They are also heroic stories in which the actions of individuals do matter. Yes, they are written in a cynical tone (an amusingly snarky tone, I hope), but this was cynicism wrapped around a core of idealism. In other words, they’re culturally appropriate for a large swath of American readership. As evidence of that, they’ve had multiple inquiries regarding film and TV rights, and in fact were optioned for TV (an agreement now expired).

This was all far more than I’d expected … but the path peters out if potential readers miss those reviews, or if they decide for reasons of their own to skip the books, or if they never hear of the books at all because they don’t read reviews and rely instead on chance, name recognition, or word of mouth to choose their next read.

The trilogy garnered enthusiastic readers — and I’m grateful for every one of you! — but despite all the good omens, it failed to capture the attention of enough readers to make it a success. Sales languished. The books sank out of sight.

Hell, yes, this was disappointing. And I could write a long, disgruntled post speculating on the reasons why it happened — in fact I did — but I’ll spare you that. We’re here at the turn of the year and it’s time to move on, because…

I’VE GOT ANOTHER NOVEL ON THE WAY!

::cheers::

::confetti::

Hey, I’m excited about it. I hope you are too. I really, really hope you’re excited, because I’m going to need you’re support on this.

So what’s it called? What’s it about? That post will go up at the New Year. But here’s a hint:

In these crazy, frightening, rapidly changing times my focus has been captured by the near future. Where are we going? What are some of the implications of our rapidly developing technologies? What impact might they have on the way we see ourselves, and on what we value in ourselves, given that we are still operating under the templates of our ancient tribal minds? These are some of the themes behind a thriller that’s written on a very human scale.

So check back soon. And in the meantime, if you haven’t done so already, sign up for my occasional newsletter (see the form in the upper right column). It’s one more way to keep in touch.

Merry Christmas!

December 25th, 2016

Writing Goals for 2016:
The Assessment

December 23rd, 2016

Since 2011, I’ve been publishing a list of my writing goals for the year, and at the end of the year I take a look at that list and assess how I did at meeting those goals. So it’s time to assess 2016. What follows is a list of the goals I posted on January 1 2016, and how I did on each one:

1. FINISH the current novel-in-progress, where “finish” means it’s been revised and polished and is in my agent’s hands.

DONE. Done. Totally done.

2. START the next novel, where “start” means figure out the general idea behind it, and develop a rough outline with a list of characters. Bonus points for actually writing the opening.

This is actually DONE too. I’ve outlined a new novel and written the first 5,000 words. Circumstances being what they are, though, I will likely dump this novel… er, I mean, put it aside… and try to come up with something more traditional and possibly more marketable.

3. PUBLISH a second short story collection. This is going to be a round up of all my short fiction published since 2012.

DONE, with the caveat that it doesn’t include all my short fiction — I’ve held back the two Zeke Choy stories. Still, eight short stories! For more details on the new collection, click here.

4. Write a short story in THE RED story world.

DONE. This story was requested for an anthology that I really wanted to participate in, so that gave me the motivation to get it done.

5. Write at least one hard-SF short story unrelated to anything else I’ve done.

NOT done. Other than the story mentioned above, I didn’t even start any new short fiction this year. However, I did rediscover a story I wrote two years ago, but never sent out. It was better than I remembered, so I revised it and am now in the process of marketing it.

6. Write at least one novella set in an existing story world.

NOT done. This was an unmet goal from both 2015 and 2016, and it will now roll over into a 2017 goal.

Overall, 2016 was not a good year for my writing career. I’ll admit that my confidence has faded, along with the enthusiasm of a few years ago, and without that confidence and enthusiasm it’s been a lot harder for me to write. Still, I managed to do most of what I’d hoped to do. So I’ll give myself a pat on the back, and try to do better in 2017.

Did you have writing goals for 2016? How did you do?

Christmas Gift Suggestions

December 1st, 2016

Because if I don’t suggest it, who will?

Books make great Christmas gifts, don’t you think? If you’re considering giving books this year, I hope you’ll consider giving some of mine.

The Red Trilogy is available in beautiful hardcover editions from Saga Press/Simon & Schuster. Or for a more budget-friendly gift, look for the paperback editions.

The Red Trilogy by Linda Nagata

Memory by Linda NagataMemory is available in a lovely, matte-finish trade-paperback edition, with cover illustration by Emily Irwin and interior design by yours truly.

This trade paperback, as well as the Nanotech books, are 5.5″ x 8.5″, so they’re not “pocket books.” Instead they’re a size typical of many hardcover editions.

All four books of The Nanotech Succession are available in gloss-finish trade paperback editions, with cover art by the amazing Bruce Jensen.

The Nanotech Succession by Linda Nagata

I’m pretty sure you won’t find Memory or the Nanotech books in your neighborhood bookstore, but all of these titles should be available online.

Light And Shadow: eight short stories

November 30th, 2016

Light And Shadow by Linda NagataBack in January, I posted a list of writing goals for 2016. One of those goals was to publish a second short story collection — and here it is: Light And Shadow: eight short stories.

The collection includes all my short fiction published since 2012, with the exception of the two “Zeke Choy” stories from the Nanotech Succession story world.

Here’s the list of included stories:

Through Your Eyes (Asimov’s 2013)
Halfway Home (Nightmare Magazine 2013)
Codename: Delphi (Lightspeed Magazine 2014)
Attitude (Reach For Infinity 2014)
A Moment Before It Struck (Lightspeed Magazine 2012)
Light and Shadow (War Stories 2014)
Nightside On Callisto (Lightspeed Magazine 2012)
The Way Home (Operation Arcana 2015)

It’s likely that those of you who regularly visit this blog have already read most of these stories, and if you haven’t, I want to let you know that most of them are available to read online. If you’d rather approach them that way, visit my website for links.

On the other hand, an ebook is vastly more convenient, this one contains short introductory notes with each story, and sales of this ebook could give a small but meaningful boost to my rather paltry career.

Further persuasion: I’ll add that half of these stories have appeared in various best-of-the-year anthologies.

So…buy an ebook! And tell your friends! I don’t expect this collection to be a big seller, but I’m hoping it can serve as an introduction to my work, for those vast numbers of readers who have never encountered my stories or novels before.

Here are some vendor links. The first link is to my webstore, which uses PayPal to checkout:

Mythic Island Press LLC
Amazon.com USA
Amazon.com UK
Kobo Books (International)
Barnes & Noble

Okay, back to writing.