Linda Nagata: the blog at Hahví.net

Archive for the 'Musings On…' Category

Behind The Scenes: Limit of Vision

Friday, February 13th, 2015

Limit of VisionI think of my novel, Limit of Vision, originally published in 2001, as the book-no-one-has-heard-of. Certainly, it occupies a weird place in my mental landscape, in large part because it was written in the great, oxygen-deprived emotional void that followed the publication of Vast.

I can’t talk about Limit of Vision without talking about Vast. Vast was a special book to me. It took everything I had to give as a writer. It was edgy, nontraditional science fiction, something I knew at the time would appeal mostly to the hard core of the genre. It was the book I was born to write — that’s how I felt, and I’m not going to argue the point now. But Vast, of course, was a market failure and very quickly out of print.

The experience left me with a sense of futility, but I forged on anyway and wrote Limit of Vision, a near-future biotech thriller that takes place primarily in the Mekong Delta. The novel sold to Tor for a much larger advance than I’d ever had before. Even so, in the wake of the failure of Vast to find a larger audience, I was not brimming with confidence.

Reader vs. Author Gender

Wednesday, December 19th, 2012

There is a meme that shows up now and then in my twitter stream (today for example) and it goes something like this: women will read books regardless if they are written by men or by women, but men tend to read books only by men.

My experience is the opposite.

My very rough estimate is that only 20% of my readers are women. This is based on such things as reader emails received over the years, “Likes” on my facebook page, people who comment on my blog, people on twitter who are interested in my work, and statistics on a recent sale of a story of mine republished as an ebook.

All of my readers are fantastic. Men and women both are incredibly supportive and I would be nothing without them…but more and more I can’t help wondering why more women don’t read my work.

Yes, it’s true that most of my work has been hard science fiction – generally assumed to be a genre dominated by male readers and I don’t disagree, but still – why don’t more women read my work? Is it simply the label “hard SF”? But don’t women read “everything,” regardless?

In the last couple of years I’ve put out two “scoundrel lit” fantasy novels, darkly humorous and very concerned with male/female relationships. So far as I can tell, mostly men have read them.

I don’t think I write for any particular gender. I write the books I want to read. I often write from the male point of view, but probably just as often I write from the female point of view. I like to think there is a great deal of emotion in my stories, and that there are meaningful relationships.

So why don’t more women read my books? What is it in general that determines if men or women will read a book?

I’d love to hear your thoughts, men and women both.

My First–Maybe My Last–Writer’s Retreat

Wednesday, October 10th, 2012

I just got back from Oahu last night. I was there for five days, house-sitting — well, okay, dog-sitting — for my daughter and son-in-law. The idea was, this would be a writer’s retreat: five days of intense revision on the novel-in-progress, with occasional dog walking.

I’d never done a writer’s retreat before, nor had much desire too. Generally, when I decide “Now I will do hours of mind-expanding writing” that will be the exact moment that all desire to write suddenly leaves me. So why set myself up for failure? I write well-enough at home.

But in this case dog-sitting was needed, and my philosophy is “try new stuff.” Besides, I actually got a lot of useful writing done when I was traveling alone in July. So I packed up my Netbook and my folder of “to-do notes” and headed over to Oahu, where it was really hot.

Okay, that’s an unfair statement, because it’s not just Oahu that’s hot. Hawaii, at sea-level, is hot. Sure, there are warmer, more humid places, but the truth is I am spoiled. I live at a relatively high elevation on the island of Maui where the air temperature rarely if ever exceeds eighty degrees, and is much more commonly in the low seventies. Sure, it can be hot in the sun, but it’s almost always cool in the shade, and if the upstairs of the house gets kind of warm on a blazing summer day, well, the downstairs is still cool. So, yeah, spoiled.

Also, I grew up on Oahu, living at sea-level in a house without air-conditioning, and going to a school without air-conditioning. I know what it is to live and work in constant heat and humidity, and I’m not fond of it. The funny thing is, it really wasn’t that hot for the first three days, but regardless, I had a hard time settling into work. In the end, I managed two decent days of revision, but I did get to read a long and fascinating novel by Chaz Brenchley, which I will post on in more detail next week, when it’s released by Book View Café.

And next time I go to Oahu to dog-sit? I’ll plan on sightseeing and hiking, not writing. And if I happen to get some writing done on the side, that’s “cool” too.

Musings on Tech-Heaven

Monday, July 2nd, 2012

Tech-Heaven by Linda Nagata; cover by Bruce JensenPowerful women populate my novel, Tech-Heaven, in a story that explores the impact of cryonics, the slow development of nanotechnology, and political issues surrounding both.

But is Tech-Heaven a feminist novel? What is a feminist novel anyway?

The protagonist of this story is a woman, Katie Kishida. The two primary antagonists are women as well — Senator Ilene Carson and Roxanne Scott — who are both complex characters in their own right, though they also serve as the face of broad-based social forces.

But here’s the catch: at the center of the conflict between these three women is a man, Tom Kishida. He’s Katie’s husband, Ilene’s brother, and Roxanne’s friend. He’s also the dead man the story revolves around, his body preserved in liquid nitrogen while those who love him wrestle over his fate. Katie wants to rescue Tom, to see him through to a time when advancing technology can repair his body and restore his life. Ilene and Roxanne see things differently.

As several reviewers noted, at its core, Tech-Heaven is a romance, but be warned: it’s a grimly determined one.

What I like most about the character of Katie Kishida is that she’s not remotely a superhero. She’s starts the story as a nearly ordinary wife, mother, and businesswoman, but after her husband’s death her obsessive determination to make cryonics real and workable changes everything: her life, her relationships, and the world around her.

Out of all my novels, I think Tech-Heaven is written closest to a “mainstream” style, with scenes of daily life and reflection included in what becomes from time to time, a bizarre narrative.

The story is a very American one, set primarily in California and reflecting many aspects of American culture.

It’s not directly concerned with the role or status of women, assuming instead that women are capable players — or more accurately, that people in general are as capable as they choose to be. Alliances between characters are not made across gender lines, but are founded on shared beliefs and shared goals.

The story also includes mixed-race marriages while paying hardly any attention to them, because in my experience, when you’re living inside one, that’s how it is. But the story does pay attention to love, family, obligation, ethics, politics, and the determination to see a task through to the end.

Tech-Heaven is not a book aimed particularly at men or women, but at readers interested in exploring different sides of controversial ideas and the fallout of advancing technology.

Is it a feminist novel? If it’s not, then the meaning of “feminism” is uselessly narrow. Is it a humanist novel? I like to think so. From a marketing perspective, I consider it a near-future thriller. We’re already into the early years of that future and it seems to me the story still holds up disturbingly well.


Where to sample/purchase the ebook:
Book View Café (worldwide) USA
Amazon UK
Barnes & Noble (USA)

Where to order the print version:
Amazon USA
Amazon UK
Booktopia (Australia)
Barnes & Noble (USA)
Powell’s Books (USA)