Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Birthday Review: Stories by Linda Nagata

Today is Linda Nagata's birthday, and so herewith a selection of my reviews of her short fiction, mostly from Locus but first an extract from my year-end summary of stories from Sci Fiction back in 2000.

Summary post about Sci Fiction, 2000

My favorite of the three Sci Fiction novellas this year was Linda Nagata's "Goddesses", set in the moderately near future, about a corporation trying to introduce new technology to a poor area of India in a way that won't excessively upset the social order, but which will benefit not only the corporation, but the local people, and the ecology.  The conflict arises when a young wife is rejected by a traditionalist Hindu family, and ends up on the doorstep of the idealistic corporate manager.  His attempts to walk the tightrope between helping the young woman, and not offending the more traditional villagers, leads him to realize that sometimes you just can't please everybody.  It's engagingly told, and full of nicely portrayed new technology, in the best near future hard SF tradition.  Indeed, it's very much an Analog-style story, both in terms of its "hardness" and its optimism, (and Nagata has published in Analog, if memory serves), and I suspect only its length (about 30000 words) kept it out of Analog (well, or higher pay at Sci Fiction, or a perception of greater prestige -- I don't know).

Locus, June 2012

The May Lightspeed features a strong SF adventure story from Linda Nagata, "Nightside on Callisto", in which four elderly women are trying to establish a base on Jupiter's moon, a minor outpost in a war against "the Red", an AI menace that reminded me of John Barnes's "One True". Their mining mechs suddenly attack them -- clearly infected by "the Red", and the story concerns this small battle. It's pure, small-scale, adventure, with a nicely hinted back story -- in itself a minor work but very good.

Locus, September 2012

The October Analog is one of the best issues of the magazine in a while, with a variety of generally interesting stories. Best are the final two, both novelettes. "Nahiku West", by Linda Nagata, is set in a space habitat. The main character, Zeke Choy, has been drafted into the Commonwealth Police, charged with enforcing their rather draconian laws about the purity of the human genome. When a man survives a depressurization incident, he seems likely to have a genetic "quirk" enabling short-term tolerance of vacuum. Zeke tries to find a way to save him, but his boss intervenes. Soon Zeke suspects the man was a victim of a murder attempt to begin with, and things get more complicated when his lover is also accused on having a "quirk", and worse still when his lover's son is attacked. So we have a twisty mystery plot, well resolved, with dark overtones. Even better is the world and society building, lightly sketched but continually surprising -- an interesting future solar system.

Locus, July 2013

Analog in June features an outstanding story by Linda Nagata, "Out in the Dark". It's a fairly direct sequel to last year's excellent "Nahiku West". It features the same detective, Zeke Choy, as the earlier story, again addressing a "crime" defined by the somewhat draconian rules of his spacefaring society, rules that enforce original identity (particularly in the case of  regenerated bodies) and genetic purity to a quite distinct fault. Here he is investigating the suspicious appearance of of a woman in the Outer Solar System who may be the same woman who was marooned and frozen long before. If she is, her later copy forfeits any right to their identity, and must be killed. So it sets up a wrenching problem … mitigated in a sense (for readers) by what seems outrageous injustice in this society's laws. Choy, who was forced in the previous story to a disturbing decision, has a similar dilemma here. I thought the resolution veered a bit in a conventional direction, but it's still a strong piece.

Locus, April 2017

Linda Nagata’s "Diamond and the World Breaker" (Cosmic Powers), is again about a super weapon (they are rather a major feature of Space Opera, eh?) -- in this case aimed at the AI controlling the transportation and communications between the Nine Thousand --the intricate array of space stations etc. in the Solar System. Violetta is a hunter (sort of a policewoman) and finds herself coerced to deliver the weapon to the AI because for complicated political reasons her daughter will lose her identity if she doesn’t -- all this is interesting future cultural stuff that is better learned in story space: suffice it to say it works nicely, and the story is exciting and convincing.

Locus, October 2017

In’s July set of stories I thought "The Martian Obelisk", by Linda Nagata, the best. It’s set in a future in which a series of disasters, with causes in human nature, in environmental collapse, and in technological missteps, has led to a realization that humanity is doomed. One old architect, in a gesture of, perhaps, memorialization of the species, has taken over the remaining machines of an abortive Mars colony to create a huge obelisk that might end up the last surviving great human structure after we are gone. But her project is threatened when a vehicle from one of the other Martian colonies (all of which failed) approaches. Is the vehicle’s AI haywire? Has it been hijacked by someone else on Earth? The real answer is more inspiring -- and if perhaps just a bit pat, the conclusion is profoundly moving.

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