Linda Nagata: the blog at Hahví.net

Encounters with AI

November 2nd, 2017

Just noting a couple of recent incidents…

On Sunday, I stayed overnight in Portland before catching an early morning flight home. While I was there I received my usual daily email from Amazon, with suggestions on books I might be interested in — but this time every book in the email was on the business or process of writing, and all were by WMG Publishing. I might not have noticed this, except that I’d spent the prior week at a workshop put on by WMG Publishing on the business and process of writing. **Ahem** How did the Amazon AI know I was at the workshop?

Then on Tuesday, I used my Android phone to look up the number of our local plumbing company and give them a call. Afterward, I sent myself an email reminder (as I do). In the subject line I typed “Al” and Google suggested “Allen’s”. I accepted that and it next suggested “Plumbing” (capitalized). So because I called a phone number, the AI guessed the likely subject line of my email.

I told all this to my husband.
He asked, “Do you like them spying on you?”
My answer: “No! It’s creepy.”

But they’re not perfect yet. On the way home from town I asked Google to tell me the weather. It gave me the weather for Portland even though I’d left Portland over a day before. Go figure.

Home From A Workshop

November 1st, 2017

I returned home on Monday from an intense eight-day workshop on the business of writing, held on the Oregon Coast.

Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch have held the ever-evolving “Master Class” workshop for many years. It’s aimed at the needs of working writers and is updated each year to reflect changes in the publishing business. I found it extremely useful and I’ve returned full of ideas and new inspiration. I have a a lot to do.

Writing more fiction is my top priority and I’ve already adjusted my schedule to accommodate that. My plan is to ignore email, Twitter, and the news until at least noon. Instead, I’ll start my day by diving straight into writing — after my early morning play session with Xena Rose, of course.

I’ve succeeded at this new schedule for two days so far — yay me! — and I’ve already seen a significant improvement in my productivity.

Afternoons and evenings will be for everything else, as I gradually implement many of the new ideas I’ve gathered.

That’s it for now. More soon.

Reminder: Sci-Fi Bridge Fall Giveaway

October 18th, 2017

During 2017 I’ve participated in a few promotions run by Sci-Fi Bridge, an author-created group seeking to mutually expand our reader base. Sci-Fi Bridge is sponsoring one more contest that I want to share with you. Sign up for the Sci-Fi Bridge newsletter (and separate author newsletters if you choose to) during the fall giveaway, and be entered to win collections of signed print books among other things. Details are here.

New Short Story: “Region Five”

October 17th, 2017

Out Today!

I’ve got a new short story in the anthology Infinite Stars, edited by Bryan Thomas Schmidt and published by Titan Books. Here’s the official description:

Infinite Stars is the definitive collection of original short stories by today’s finest authors of space opera and military science fiction, writing new adventures set in their most famous series. This unparalleled anthology also features past masterpieces by famous authors whose works defined the genre, making this a “must-have” book.

My own contribution is a story called “Region Five,” set in the Red story world. It doesn’t involve any characters from the novels, but it does follow a Linked Combat Squad. They’ve been assigned to peacekeeping duty in a tumultuous megacity, but everything has gone wrong…

Here’s the publisher’s UK website, and here’s the editor’s website with more information and buy-links in US stores.

Ekaterina: The Rise of Catherine the Great

October 13th, 2017

Recommended Television Series:

When Ron’s away I tend to surf Amazon Fire TV for something new, something different. A few nights ago I decided to check out a series called Ekaterina: The Rise of Catherine the Great which I’d seen advertised in a recent Amazon Prime email. I was stunned to find this was a Russian production in the Russian language, with English subtitles. I was just as surprised to find it riveting.

The production is gorgeous, the actors are incredibly talented, and the subtitles are very well done. The latter makes the story easy to follow, though I did need to keep the remote control close at hand as I had to occasionally jump back or pause to read all the dialogue.

If you’ve got Amazon Prime, give this series a try. I’d like to know what you think.

I’ve been pondering the question of why Ekaterina seemed like more than just another costume drama, and I think that a large part of the reason is the way women are represented. The story starts with Catharine’s (Ekaterina in Russian) arrival at St. Petersburg, there to marry the heir to a throne presently held by a woman, Elizaveta.

The character of Elizaveta is fascinating — a powerful woman who is quite firmly in charge and ruthless in many ways, but not a stereotype of an evil queen by any means.

Ekaterina is similarly complex. She is presented in a very positive light as a brilliant young woman. Just sixteen years old at the start, she is naive but determined to make her new role in the world work. Ultimately she finds that task to be impossible, and along the way adapts new strategies.

Despite the beauty of the setting, the women, their lovers, their clothing, the story is very blunt about the one real purpose of a “princess bride” — she exists to bear a child who will inherit the throne. I like that this is not glossed over.

The story also engages with the incessant conflicts among the European powers, the careful political decisions in how potential heirs are treated, and rivalries at court. But this is strictly a story of the aristocracy, with only occasional mentions of the Russian people.

If Amazon Prime eventually hosts season two, I’ll be watching.


September 26th, 2017

On Twitter someone recently asked, What book has changed the way you see the world?

I’ve just finished reading 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus — and it’s been that kind of book for me.

Written by Charles C. Mann and originally published in 2005, 1491 presents a view of the Americas before Columbus that is in sharp contrast to what most Americans my age learned in school.

This is a fascinating, well-researched, and well-written book. I’d read articles and extracts based on it, but the details included in the full text really drive home the author’s main points:
• that the indigenous population of the Americas before Columbus was much higher, diverse, and sophisticated than has traditionally been believed;
• that between the arrival of Columbus and the settlement of what would become the American colonies, disease swept through both North and South America, decimating these once-large populations and wiping out civilizations;
• that because of this, North America only appeared to be a “virgin continent” and relatively unpopulated;
• that Indians** acted as a “keystone species” essentially engineering much of the landscape to suit their needs — for example, burning off the undergrowth in New England forests, modifying land for agriculture, encouraging the growth of nut-bearing and other useful trees, and discouraging the proliferation of species that competed for these resources.

What we think of today as North American wilderness and the “primeval” Amazon are both, in large part, recent phenomena, existing only since disease eliminated indigenous cultures.

This is compelling stuff on so many levels. First and most obviously, that many millions of people died of disease — up to 95% of the population by some estimates – and hundreds (thousands?) of cultures simply vanished.

Apocalypse is a popular topic in science fiction. What happens to a culture when 95% of its people suddenly die off? Nothing works after that. Technology, history, the complex network of human interaction that allows food to be grown and goods to be produced and traded simply vanishes. Those few who are left will be left with very little and no real means to replace what was lost. Mann uses the phrase “Holmberg’s Mistake” to describe the conclusion of an anthropologist who studied a “primitive” Amazon tribe and came to believe that these people had lived thus for thousands of years, not considering the possibility that they were the descendants of a handful who survived a real apocalypse. Read the rest of this entry »

Two Reviews and a Contest

September 25th, 2017

Before we leave September behind, I wanted to link to two online reviews of The Last Good Man.

Locus is a trade magazine focused on science fiction and fantasy and has been in print for decades. Issues include publishing news, interviews, and reviews. In the September issue — both print and online — Russell Letson reviews The Last Good Man:

Nagata has devised a thinking-reader’s future-military scenario, a highly qualified adventure in which every thrill comes with a realization of what it costs, what it says about the world that enables it, what it means to fight and kill and face death.

Read the full review here.

And at “Nerds of a Feather” (got to love that name), Joe Sherry has posted a mini-review, saying “Nagata’s near future military sci-fi is as good as it gets.” Read the mini-review here.

The Contest
During 2017 I’ve participated in a few promotions run by Sci-Fi Bridge, an author-created group seeking to mutually expand our reader base. Sci-Fi Bridge is sponsoring one more contest that I want to share with you. Sign up for the Sci-Fi Bridge newsletter (and separate author newsletters if you choose to) during the fall giveaway, and be entered to win collections of signed print books among other things. Details are here.

Spoonbenders by Daryl Gregory

September 23rd, 2017

Set in the 1990s, Daryl Gregory’s Spoonbenders is the story of a family of psychics who live in the Chicago area. I’d heard it was really good and, wanting to try something different, I listened to a sample of the audiobook — and decided at once to pick it up. I’m so glad I did.

This is a terrific novel. It’s amazingly well plotted, the characterization is fantastic, it’s fun, it’s funny, and it’s utterly engaging. The narrator, Ari Fliakos, does a fantastic job. As is usual for me, I won’t try to describe the plot, but you can check it out at Audible.

I hope Spoonbenders proves to be a huge success for Daryl. He deserves it.

Highly recommended!

This is the first novel by Daryl Gregory I’ve read. I’m looking forward to reading more!

Checking In

September 22nd, 2017

I haven’t posted in a while. What with hurricanes, earthquakes, politics, nuclear war, global warming, etc., posting about a new review can seem a bit trivial, and I haven’t been inspired to write about other topics.

I have been keeping busy, though. I’ve been working on a new novel in an existing story world. I’m 44,000 words into it, which is a big enough investment that I feel like I ought to finish it. I had/have an ambition to hammer out an extremely rough draft by the time I head to the mainland in October — four weeks from now. That would be some kind of a miracle for me, but hey, you never know.

I write best when I’m confident. I tend not to write at all when I’m feeling discouraged. Not a tough-survivor trait, I know, but it is what it is. Today I’m feeling discouraged. Tomorrow will probably be better. If I could look at writing as a hobby instead of a career, I think I’d be happier — but I still need to figure out where the money is coming from.

For many years I’ve done all my writing on a Toshiba laptop. A few years ago it started having issues, so I stopped allowing it online. It’s worked great ever since then. I’ve only been using it for writing and coding ebooks, and I back up my files multiple times a day.

Two days ago I finally ordered a new laptop.

Today — a discouraging day — I decided to start my writing session by typing out all the things that are bothering me. This is something like Julia Cameron’s “morning pages” but not in longhand. I was less than two hundred words into this exercise when my old laptop crashed. System dump something or other, scary stuff. Ugh. But at least I hadn’t just written some wonderful artistic passage! And the laptop rebooted.

Being of a paranoid nature, I decided to take a snapshot of everything on the laptop’s hard drive. (I’ve done this before and like I said, I back up files frequently. But extra insurance, right?) I copied almost all the folders onto a USB stick, leaving out only a couple of things I really don’t care about. Everything, all together, came out to slightly over a gigabyte of data. Years of work. One gigabyte.

Easy to tell I never kept photos, movies, or Photoshop files on this computer.

Within a few minutes after I finished copying files, the laptop crashed again. It rebooted again, but I can take a hint. I won’t be doing anymore writing on the dear old Toshiba. Maybe I’ll fire up the old Netbook and use that until the new laptop arrives. Or I’ll use this Mac desktop, though it’s getting on in computer-years too.



Newsletter Contest Results

August 31st, 2017

Thank you to all those newsletter subscribers who participated in my recent giveaway contest. The prizes were three audiobook codes for The Last Good Man, and a paperback copy of the Red trilogy. Winners have been notified.

For those on Twitter, here’s one more chance to win an audiobook code. Retweet the tweet below TODAY, and be entered to win. Contest ends at midnight August 31, Hawaiian Standard Time. I’ll announce the winner tomorrow.