Linda Nagata: the blog at Hahví.net

Archive for September, 2012

Snippet: Skye Object 3270a

Saturday, September 29th, 2012

Cover of SKYE OBJECT 3270a

The pit was an ugly chunk of a room, weirdly lit by panels set between the three sets of elevator doors along its curving back wall. Faint shadows shifted and rippled across the floor, leading Skye to glance up, at the domed observation bubble, and the faces of nearly two hundred ados staring down at her. Buyu was there. He gave her a thumbs-up. Skye pretended not to see.

She straightened her shoulders, glancing nervously at Commandant Penwo’s office, sheltered behind a transparent wall on one side of the jump pit. She could see him, dressed in street clothes and rocking in a high-back chair. He didn’t look happy. He wanted to veto this jump, but Skye was fourteen now, and by Silk’s city charter that meant she was free to do any activity approved for ados. It was a giddy freedom that she had been cherishing over the five days since her birthday.

Penwo caught her glance. He shook his head. “Somewhere between six and sixty people lose their good sense,” he said. “We don’t call this phase ‘dumb ado’ for nothing.”

Skye’s fingers twitched. “Can you remember that far back, Commandant?”

Penwo grinned. “Have fun, Skye Object. Hope you live.”


* * *

Advanced middle-grade / young-adult science fiction, available in print and ebook versions. More Info.

Short Fiction Sale: Asimov’s

Wednesday, September 26th, 2012

I’m very pleased to announce that a short story I wrote last spring has been accepted at Asimov’s. “Through Your Eyes” is scheduled for the April/May 2013 double issue. This will be my first publication in Asimov’s, which is a milestone for me.

In the post linked to above I mention that “The protagonist of this story is proving rather troublesome. He’s in my head, lobbying for his own novel…” Uh-huh, and since then he’s gotten his own novel. That’s the one I’m presently working on, with the first draft just finished a couple weeks ago.

Snippet: Limit of Vision

Sunday, September 23rd, 2012

Limit of Vision - cover art by Sarah AdamsLimit of Vision was originally published in 2001 by Tor Books. It begins in Honolulu, but most of the story takes place in the Mekong Delta of Vietnam.

“I will tell you a story of these children,” Ky Xuan Nguyen said, startling Ela again with his voice so intimate in her ear. “It is said the Roi Nuoc are not human. Some say no children are truly human anymore. They are invaders, living in disguise among us. Aliens. They hope to keep us unaware until they reach breeding age, at which time they will bear only alien-type offspring. At that point the world as we know it will end. If we are unlucky, or undeserving, they will murder us all. If we have shown the proper deference and respect, they may choose to see us through an honored old age, but even so, we will be the last human generation. Any children we bear will belong to them.”

Ela caught herself barely breathing. She had heard this same story in Bangkok, after Sawong left with his lover and she was alone. “If you want to be afraid of something,” she said softly, “it’s easy to find an excuse.”

“I’m not afraid.”

No. Why should he be?

She spoke to the green-tinted mud. “People like to talk. But these are not evil spirits. Not alien invaders.”

“You’re sure?”

Her mouth felt dry. Sawong had left her with a thousand baht, a set of farsights, and the keys to his apartment. She’d been twelve. “They are just children.” She tapped her fingers, wishing she could see Nguyen’s face so Kathang could read him. “They are just children. I should do an article on them. That would be a good thing, if I show—”

“No, Ms. Suvanatat, that would not be good. You will not write about the Roi Nuoc. Not now. Not ever.”

Ela stood still, gazing back at the village and the silhouettes of distant women working in their platform houses, feeling as if she stood on the rotten floor of an abandoned tenement. Only a fool would take another step. So. “You think you can make it forever?”

“You are much like the Roi Nuoc, Ela. You are very like them. You could have found Sawong, or waited for him to return. But you didn’t. Why not?”

Anger blended with her surprise. He should not know about Sawong. He should not have bothered to know. “Say, did you want to do an article on me?”

“That would be difficult. There’s not much to tell, is there?”

“Sure. Aliens lead dull lives.”

“I take it we understand each other, Ms. Suvanatat?”

Oh yes. She understood him. He had made a mistake, talking to her about the Roi Nuoc, and now he wanted to pretend that mistake was repaired. Fine. “Of course, Mr. Nguyen.”

So what was his connection to the Roi Nuoc anyway?

With a few quiet finger taps, she passed the question on to Kathang for investigation. After all, she was not going to stay trapped in the Mekong forever. Someday soon she would be in Australia — and beyond Nguyen’s reach.

* * *

Publishers Weekly:
[A] compelling biotech thriller. Nagata…enlivens this extended chase through the steamy murk of Mekong swamps and the monsoons of the southeast Pacific with fascinating biotech hardware and gadgetry as well as clever extrapolations into nanotech potential…an idea-provoking narrative that is genuinely innovative in conception.

A Very Rough Draft

Saturday, September 15th, 2012

The manuscript is inconsistent, it’s full of notes, it’s in desperate need of research, and a couple of sections are just blocked out (“They struggle for the gun” “Intimate, poignant sex scene here”), but all the essentials are in place — beginning, middle, end — so I am officially declaring this to be a FIRST DRAFT.

While I like to call this novel a “near-future thriller,” it is science fiction, making it the first SF novel I’ve written since Memory — though I hasten to add it’s nothing at all like Memory.

It’s easily the roughest first draft I’ve ever done. In the old days, I would polish every paragraph, every chapter, before going on to the next. With the Puzzle Lands books I wrote much faster, but still stopped to polish and revise along the way. With this book, while I did a little backfill and a bit of revision, it was mostly a straight shot from beginning to end — partly out of fear that if I stopped and thought about it too much I would let the internal-critic take over, become discouraged, and quit. I tried to make “trust the process” my mantra, though whether it worked or not, only time will tell.

For those writers out there who might be interested in the timeline, I started brainstorming the story on June 5. Actual writing commenced on June 9, with a session that produced 1300 words. I worked on it fairly consistently over the summer, aiming for a thousand words a day. Sometimes I succeeded, sometimes I did nothing, sometimes I did more. At any rate, by September 2 I’d accumulated 69,000 words…which means that over the next 13 days I added 18,000 words for a first draft total of 87,000. For a lot of writers, this is no big deal. For me — I am a slow writer — this is an astonishing pace, especially given that on some of those thirteen days nothing was written because I didn’t have a clear idea of what was going to happen next. (Do other writers always know what happens next? So many of them seem to.) After revisions, I’m hoping the final word count will be no more than 95,000.

Here’s an ironic “fun fact”: this novel was inspired by a character who came to life in a short story I wrote last spring. I sent that story off to a major market at the end of May, and since then I’ve written the entire first draft and have still not gotten a decision on the story. Of course, now that I’ve said this in public, I’m sure the rejection will turn up on Monday. C’est la vie. ***

And here’s an embarrassing “fun fact”: this is the second first draft I’ve finished this year. The other is a fantasy novel unrelated to anything else I’ve done. The rule is supposed to be “finish one project before starting another,” but…yeah. I’ll get back to the fantasy novel real-soon-now — like after I get a solid second draft of the SF novel, because it’s the one that has a firm grip on my enthusiasm, and in my opinion, enthusiasm is a very good thing.

*** Update: I was wrong. In fact, Monday brought great news. This story has sold. More on it later.

Snippet: Memory

Sunday, September 9th, 2012

I lowered myself into the well’s dark throat. The shaft sweated a cold dew. Knobs of jade stuck out from the narrow walls as if they had been put there on purpose to make a ladder. I moved cautiously from one to the next. Jolly and I had climbed every tree in the orchard, we had scaled the wall around the temple at a hundred different points, and we had even climbed up to the roof once, when my father was away and my mother was busy with the new baby. But the shaft was a new experience for me, and I didn’t like it.

I could feel my shirt getting wet, and crumbles of dirt trickling past my collar. The smell of dirt was strong. Beneath that though, there was something else: a sharp scent that made me think of knives, or melting glass. The walls were tiled with the shapes of dormant kobolds. I could see their legs folded against their machine bodies, and their scaled abdomens, but the complex mouthparts that decorated their beetle faces were only half-formed.

I had never seen an unfinished kobold before. I stroked the back of one. Then I pried my fingers into the dirt around its pupal shape to see if it could be freed. It popped loose with surprising ease. I almost dropped it, but managed to catch it with my left hand, while my legs held me propped against the wall.

“You shouldn’t do that,” Jolly said.

I looked up at his foreshortened figure braced across the well’s throat, and I made a face. Out of sight in the well room, Moki was whining anxiously, wondering where we had gone. It was a lonely sound, and did not help my mood, but I had things to prove. So the pupal kobold went into my pocket and I continued down.

* * *

[A] kick ass big idea, hard SF novel…Yes, I’m raving. But I seriously love this book.
-–Tobias Buckell

Book Rave: Devil Said Bang

Tuesday, September 4th, 2012

Devil Said Bang is the fourth and most recent installment of Richard Kadrey’s Sandman Slim series. (Sandman Slim, Kill The Dead, Aloha From Hell.) I freely admit to being a fan-girl. I picked up the first book by chance last March, quickly grabbed the second, revised my principles on ebook pricing to read the third, and pre-ordered the fourth and most recent — the first time I’ve pre-ordered anything.

The books are violent and profane, but they’re also loaded with clever dialogue and compelling characters. The stories are told by “Stark” aka Sandman Slim, a young magician (actual magic, not illusion) who was betrayed by his circle of “friends” and whisked off to Hell. When he manages to escape his fate, revenge is on the menu.

Stark describes himself as “a shitstorm magnet” and this is not an exaggeration. His adventures ramp up in scope through the first three books, but Devil Said Bang brings things back to a more human scale. I think it’s the best book since the first one, but I might just re-read them all to be sure.

This is the sort of series that makes me wonder why I like what I like — lately I’ve glanced at other, much praised, books and moved on — but that’s a subject for another blog post.

If you’ve read Sandman Slim I’d love to hear what you thought. If you haven’t, grab a sample of the first book and give it a try. I’m not the only one raving.

Snippet: Hepen The Watcher

Sunday, September 2nd, 2012

I’m re-posting this at the top of the blog today, for “Sample Sunday.” One of my much-neglected Puzzle Land books! Find newer posts below.

Praise be to God!


Beyel the poet was experiencing a rare appreciation for the divine as he retrieved the bowl of coins he’d just earned with his new monologue. If the army thugs had shown up even a minute sooner, he’d have gotten only a pittance. Then again, if they’d waited one minute more the last holdouts might have pitched in . . . but never mind! The idiotic Koráyos character he’d debuted tonight had earned him a lovely wage. God damn the army, and God bless the poor fool who’d dropped the bundle of Koráyos clothing into the back of the wrong wagon.

Beyel was so pleased he even dared to think his luck might be turning, at last.

He scooped coins out of the bowl, depositing them across several pockets so none would bulge too much.

The crowd in the marketplace was thinning out rapidly. Naturally, no one wanted to stay and talk to the soldiers. Beyel, too, was eager to slip away, but unfortunately he had to hitch up his oxen before he could take the wagon out to the traders’ field.

So, as soon as the coins were safely stashed in his pockets, he shaped his actor’s face into the wide-eyed visage of a frightened citizen, and then he turned around, prepared to assure the soldiers he’d seen nothing—which happened to be the truth.

To his surprise though, no one noticed him. Every one of the soldiers had already captured a citizen to question—the unlucky, the slow. Of these poor souls, most shrank from their interrogators, shaking their heads, but one man (no doubt drunk) pointed at a closed stall where a linen merchant had earlier displayed his wares. Beyel’s gaze searched the deep shadows within the stall, but he saw nothing, and before curiosity could buy him trouble, he went to fetch his oxen.

Two soldiers ran past in great haste as he brought the first beast around, but it wasn’t until he was backing the ox into place alongside the hitch that a soldier finally approached him. He was a middle-aged fellow with an ugly scar across his left cheek who spoke with all seriousness when he asked Beyel, “Sir, have you seen anything of a demon?” And when Beyel’s only response was a slack-jawed look of surprise, the soldier clarified his question, “It’s a Hauntén demon, male, well-armed and with long brown hair.”

Just any demon at all would have been something new to Beyel’s eyes.

“No, sir.” He found himself glancing over his shoulder into the unknowable dark beyond the wagon. “I was performing. I only saw the faces in front of me. I-I assumed you were after a thief or a runaway slave.”

The scar on the soldier’s cheek unbalanced a wry grin. “And I thought the shopkeeper who called us was drunk! But many reported seeing the creature. One man said the demon stood watching your performance, with a bloody mean scowl on its face. If you’ve offended it, best watch your back, I’m thinking.” His grin widened, and then he wandered off into the dark after his fellows, seeming none too much in a hurry to catch them up.

“God bless us,” Beyel whispered, because it was all he dared to say aloud. God damn was what he was thinking. And wasn’t this just what he needed! A vicious Hauntén demon who didn’t approve of his acting skills.

So much for a turn in his luck.

Follow this link for more information on Hepen the Watcher.