Linda Nagata’s Future Tech Draws Closer Every Day

By Carl Slaughter: Linda Nagata does hard science  —  nanotech-supported genetic engineering, duplicate minds, artificial intelligence, ubiquitous surveillance, brain-computer interfaces, autonomous drones, military exoskeletons, and brain-controlled replacement limbs.  She has more than one series and gives us the inside story on all of them.

Carl Slaughter:  What type of tech is featured in your stories?

Linda Nagata:  Depends on the story! I started off my career writing in a story world with highly evolved nanotech that supported genetic engineering and duplicate minds—electronic ghosts—that allowed individuals to be many places at once. The more recent stories have been a lot closer to our present-day reality, based off technologies under development, such as artificial intelligence, ubiquitous surveillance, brain-computer interfaces, autonomous drones, military exoskeletons, and brain-controlled replacement limbs. It’s been amazing to watch the real-world shift ever closer to the books.

CS:  How does that tech affect the setting, plot, society, and characters?

LN:  All those aspects are interwoven, continuously playing off one another. One of the challenges of developing a story is to continually weigh the effect of the available technologies, while keeping in mind that the characters are part of this story world, so they’ll be making specific assumptions based on this world they know—assumptions about uninterrupted communications, for instance, or the certainty of surveillance. So technology is part of the setting, and the setting is integrated with plot, society, and characters.

CS:  What kind of research do you have to do to prepare for a tech novel?

LN: I try to read widely, if shallowly, all the time—essentially keeping an eye on what is going on in research and development. And I’ll read a little more deeply when my interest is sparked. I keep bookmarks and save articles. So by the time I begin to develop a story idea, I’ve got ideas of the sort of tech I want to include. Then I’ll usually do some deeper background reading. But I don’t do a lot of preliminary research. Instead, as I write, I’ll leave myself notes along the way on things I need to look into later. And of course, I’m still reading articles during the writing process and many times that’s led to the discovery of critical ideas and concepts that get integrated into the developing story.

CS:  How realistic is this tech and how soon might we see it?

LN:  A lot of the technology in the Red trilogy is based on tech under development now. For example, while the details of the brain-computer interface I use in the story are completely made up, BCIs are being researched and experimental systems do exist. What’s fascinating to me is the way advances in one field generate advances in others. For example, imagine a combat exoskeleton that, instead of responding to a user’s movement, anticipates it through a brain-computer interface that in turn relies on narrow AI to interpret the user’s intention.

My forthcoming novel, The Last Good Man, plays heavily on the idea of autonomous robotics—something we’re seeing more of with every passing day.

CS:  What’s the status of the Red series?

LN:  The trilogy concluded with the publication of Going Dark, but I’ve written an additional short story set in the same world. That will be part of Titan Books’ forthcoming anthology Infinite Stars.

CS:  What was the inspiration for the Dismay character?

LN: A whim, nothing more! Dismay is a demon of violent nature and the protagonist of my Puzzlelands duology. He came about after I took a long hiatus from writing. When I finally resolved to try another novel, part of the deal I made with myself was to start with something completely different from what I’d done before—and a handsome demon who can transform at will into a puff of smoke certainly qualified.

CS:  What’s the status of the Puzzleland series?

LN:  I had a lot of fun writing those two books. Both are very short novels, violent and darkly humorous—and I would have been happy to write a few more in the series. But they never found their audience so I eventually returned to writing science fiction. The two novels together make a complete story, so right now I don’t anticipate adding more to the series.

CS:  Same question for the Succession series?

LN:  My first four novels comprise the Nanotech Succession, all originally published in the 1990s. I returned to this story world in 2012 with the publication of short story “Nahiku West” which became runner-up for the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award.

Recently, I’ve outlined two novels in the Nanotech Succession story world, though I’m still debating whether or not to go ahead with either of them. In part it’s a marketing question. I’m not a fast writer, and a novel is a big commitment for me. But I hope to do at least one, before too much longer.

CS:  What type of tech is in “Last Good Man”?

LN:  The setting in this novel is the imminent future, so the technologies are advanced versions of tech that’s in existence now—universal communications, increasingly reliable and clever artificial intelligence, autonomous systems ranging from analysis to robotics and including autonomous weaponry. The Last Good Man is a thriller based around the idea that warfare is becoming ever more automated.

 

CS:  Will “Last Good Man” be a series?

LN:  No. The Last Good Man is a stand-alone novel. It tells a complete story in itself. It’s possible I might return to this story world, but if so, it would be a related novel and not a sequel.

CS:  Describe the writing process for Jonathan Strahan’s Infinity anthology.

LN:  Jonathan was looking for stories that speculated on how a permanent presence in space might actually be achieved—which struck me as a tall order for a short story.

I considered and discarded many ideas over at least a nine-month period. The deadline was approaching, and still nothing felt right. Then, as I was watching an NFL football game, I was struck by the thought that there is a lot of money in professional sports—and money is what it takes to get into space. “Attitude” evolved from that observation.

CS:  Same for John Joseph Adams’ Cosmic Power anthology.

LN:  John has a habit of asking me for stories that are not what I usually write. For example, Operation Arcana was an anthology of military fantasy stories—something new for me. I took it on as a challenge and really enjoyed it. So when he asked for a story for Cosmic Powers, I happily agreed—and eventually came to regret it!

I had such a hard time writing this story. Cosmic Powers is about galaxy-spanning adventures with “a little less science,” but I found it really hard to let go of the science. After considerable soul-searching, I decided to forego any use of hyperspace, FTL, wormholes, etc., and limit my adventure to the solar system. It all worked out in the end.

CS:  You’ve done corp, i.e., Saga, and you’ve done indie, i.e., Mythic.  In your experience, what has been the advantages and disadvantages of both?

LN:  Upfront money, art directors, distribution, and respect are the advantages of traditional publishing. Speed to publication, control over the process, and after-the-fact money, are some of the advantages of indie publishing—and in my experience, the respect is growing. But it takes a lot of time to prepare a book for publication and to handle all the publicity. The Last Good Man is coming out in June under my imprint, Mythic Island Press LLC. And much of this year has been devoted to advance publicity efforts and getting it ready to go.

Has that impacted my writing time? Absolutely. And I’m going to have to try to make up for it in the second half of the year.

CS:  What’s on the horizon for Linda Nagata?

LN:  To be determined…

I’ve got three novels—or possibly two novels and a novella—under development. I’d like to write all of them. I’d like to write faster. With luck I’ll have something new in 2018.

Linda Nagata Bio:

Linda Nagata writes hard science fiction. Her novel First Light, first in her Red series, was nominated for both the Nebula Award and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award.  Her novella “Goddesses” was the first online publication to receive a Nebula award.  Her novelette “Nahiku West” was runner-up for the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award. “The Bohr Maker,” first in her Nanotech Succession series, won the Locus Award for best first novel.  Her latest novel, “The Last Good Man,” is scheduled for release on June 20.

Linda Nagata, A Star of MilSF

By Carl Slaughter: Linda Nagata writes hard science fiction. Her novel First Light, first in her Red series, was nominated for both the Nebula Award and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award.  Her novella “Goddesses” was the first online publication to receive a Nebula award.  Her novelette “Nahiku West” was runner-up for the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award. “The Bohr Maker,” first in her Nanotech Succession series, won the Locus Award for best first novel.  Her latest novel, “The Last Good Man,” is scheduled for release on June 20.

THE LAST GOOD MAN
by Linda Nagata
Mythic Island Press

Scarred by war. In pursuit of truth.

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.

ADVANCE PRAISE FOR THE LAST GOOD MAN

  • The Last Good Man is a compelling and subversive novel, told by unique characters, especially True Brighton: sympathetic, prickly, determined, all too human. Linda Nagata has impressive insights into technological advances and their potential effects. Not to mention some very cool invented AI critters…. It was a privilege to read TLGM before its publication.” —Hugo and Nebula award-winning author Vonda N. McIntyre, author of Dreamsnake, Starfarers, and The Moon and the Sun.
  • I asked to see an advanced copy of The Last Good Man: with the caveat that I was very busy and might not get to it. I was just going to glance at the first few pages but looked up to find myself halfway through the book in the wee hours of the morning. Only an early morning appointment kept me from reading on but I finished it the following evening.  Welcome to the future of war. Soldiers on the ground depend more on their augmented reality visors, net connections, and hosts of robotic allies, than their rifles, but as long as they tread in harm’s way, certain things do not change, including collateral damage, ethical challenges, and the grief of a mother, a warrior herself, when her son dies in action.  Set where war’s bleeding edge of technology slams into people’s lives, this is a very human story, brilliantly told. —Steven Gould, author of Jumper.

THE RED SERIES
by Linda Nagata
Publisher:  Saga

THE RED [originally published as The Red: First Light]

Reality TV and advanced technology make for high drama in this political thriller that combines the military action of Zero Dark Thirty with the classic science fiction of The Forever War.

Lieutenant James Shelley, who has an uncanny knack for premeditating danger, leads a squad of advanced US Army military tasked with enforcing the peace around a conflict in sub-Saharan Africa. The squad members are linked wirelessly 24/7 to themselves and a central intelligence that guides them via drone relay—and unbeknownst to Shelley and his team, they are being recorded for a reality TV show.

When an airstrike almost destroys their outpost, a plot begins to unravel that’s worthy of Crichton and Clancy’s best. The conflict soon involves rogue defense contractors, corrupt US politicians, and homegrown terrorists who possess nuclear bombs. Soon Shelley must accept that the helpful warnings in his head could be AI. But what is the cost of serving its agenda?

Read a sample of The Red: First Light.

PRAISE FOR THE RED: FIRST LIGHT

  • “…one of the best pieces of near future Mil-SF ever written. What’s so good about it? The action rocks and the characters are engaging as hell. But this isn’t just adventure fiction, it’s Mil-SF and very well done, straight out of DARPA’s dreambook, not somebody’s fantasy.”  —  Ernest Lilley, SFRevu
  • The Red delivers intense action, leavened by a genuinely sympathetic portrait of soldiers caught up in battles they never chose. Best of all are Nagata’s well-informed representations of future military tech. This is hard science fiction at its finest, full of devices like bionic limbs, exosuits, autonomous drones, and brain implants that are being developed in labs today. But you’ve never seen them like this, at play in a realistic field of battle, controlled by people you actually care about.”  —  Annalee Newitz, io9.com
  • The Red: First Light is a gripping exploration of the human and technological aspects of next-generation warfare. What sets the story apart is its ability to address the human level of what it is like for soldiers to live with the next generation of battlefield technology and to place it within an action-driven story…”  —  August Cole, co-author of Ghost Fleet
  • The Red: First Light is one fantastic speculative fiction novel, from a plotting, characterization, military sci-fi, and thematic standpoint.”   —Thea James, Kirkus
  • “If ever you hear someone say women can’t write military science fiction, please do me a favor and smack them over the head with this book […] Seriously, it doesn’t get more edge-of-your-seat than this near-future thriller, which seamlessly blends advanced technology and military action with political drama.”  —  The BiblioSanctum
  • “A big part of what I, and many people, enjoy about SFF is seeing familiar elements spun in a new way […] In The Red, Nagata manages one of the most seamless, enjoyable, and enthralling meldings in SF of [the] familiar and “new spin.” […] It is an excellent novel and will likely remain near the top of my list of favorite 2015 reads. Highly Recommended”  –  Rob H. Bedford, SFF World
  • “…there is a believably organic texture to the various hardware, software, and weapons. The meshing of humans with technology — leading, inevitably, to dangerous co-dependence — is seamlessly presented. And man oh man, it is exciting.”  —  Rich Rosell, B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog
  • “…an amazing novel… The Red: First Light is a dark, intelligent, cynical take on military SF. It’s an excellent novel that deserves a much larger audience.”  —  Stefan Raets, Tor.com
  • “…the same post-Vietnam sense of discontinuity that separates The Forever War from Starship Troopers, updated for the post-9/11 world.”  —  Russell Letson, Locus
  • “Linda Nagata’s The Red: First Light begins like a shot and never lets you go. Well-written, thrilling, and thoughtful, The Red: First Light is science fiction at its best.”  —  Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Hugo-award winner & USA Today bestselling author
  • “Remember the scare times of the Cold War, when President Eisenhower warned us of the power of the military-industrial complex? Don’t you wish we had listened? In The Red: First Light, Linda Nagata gives us an alarming glimpse of the day after tomorrow—on an Earth torn by wars fueled by defense contractors. It’s a thriller; it’s a convincing character novel; it’s a terrifying extrapolation—and it’s a hell of a fine read. But…”Don’t read this book if you don’t want to think squarely about what our world is coming to. Don’t read it if you don’t want to risk some sleepless nights. Don’t say you weren’t warned! Once you start it, you’re not going to stop.”  —  Jeffrey A. Carver, author of The Chaos Chronicles
  • “Military fiction and high-tech speculation, complex and edgy characters, a pinch of Eichmann in the plot, sly bits of Frankenstein in the setting, … make Linda Nagata’s The Red: First Light compulsively readable.”  —  Vonda N. McIntyre, Nebula and Hugo Award-winning author of Dreamsnake, Starfarers, and The Moon and the Sun
  • The Red: First Light is a fast-paced, exciting story about soldiering in the near future. The characters are likeable and well-drawn, and the piece is infused with the kind of careful, thought-provoking attention to “how might this work, really?” that has always been one of Nagata’s particular strengths.”  —  Sean Stewart, author of the World Fantasy Award winner Galveston

THE TRIALS

Lieutenant James Shelley and his squad of US Army soldiers were on a quest for justice when they carried out the unauthorized mission known as First Light. They returned home to America to face a court-martial, determined to expose the corruption in the chain of command that compelled their actions. But in a country still reeling from the nuclear terrorism of Coma Day, the courtroom is just one battlefield of many.

A new cycle of violence ignites when rumors of the elusive, rogue AI known as the Red go public—and Shelley is, once again, pulled into the fray. Challenged by his enemies, driven by ideals, Shelley feels compelled to act. But are the harrowing choices he makes really his own, or are they made for him, by the Red? And with millions of lives at stake in a game of nuclear cat-and-mouse, does the answer even matter?

Read a sample of The Trials

GOING DARK

In the third book in The Red Trilogy, former Army Lt. James Shelley becomes a black ops sniper working for the Red—a suspected rogue artificial intelligence that is ripped from today’s headlines.

James Shelley has left his lover, Delphi, and his companion-in-arms, Jayne Vasquez, with a fortune acquired from a fallen oligarch. They believe him to be dead, and he doesn’t try to set the record straight. His long-running question has been answered: There are other soldiers like him who have served the purposes of the Red—and he has accepted his place among them.

As a soldier of the Red he pursues covert missions designed to nudge history away from existential threats—but that doesn’t mean the world is growing more orderly. It’s only in the froth of a “managed chaos” that human potential can grow and thrive. Shelley’s missions eventually take him into orbit—and into conflict with those he loves—Delphi and Jaynie—who are determined to escape the influence of the Red.

Read a sample of Going Dark.

Stalking the Rampant Manticore

Two awards were started in reaction to the Puppy controversy about the Hugos, the Dragon Awards and the Rampant Manticore Awards. They were given for the first time last year. They had one winner in common. Can you guess? It was Larry Correia’s 2015 novel Son of the Black Sword. Remarkably, considering why these awards were started, there was no other overlap at all. And that will still be true whenever we find out all the Rampant Manticore winners, which for some reason has been practically impossible.

The Dragon Awards winners in all 15 categories were announced September 4 at Dragon Con. The Rampant Manticore Awards were presented October 29 at HonorCon in Raleigh, North Carolina but to this day I have been unable to discover three of the seven winners.

The Rampant Manticore Awards (and the H. Beam Piper Memorial) are given for the best Military Science Fiction and Fantasy published in the preceding year. They are sponsored by The Royal Manticoran Navy: The Official Honor Harrington Fan Association, founded a decade ago by fans of David Weber. The group runs two cons a year, MantiCon every May in Minnesota and HonorCon each October in North Carolina. Nominations are taken at MantiCon, and voting on the finalists happens at HonorCon.

Under the rules, not only the award winners but all the voting information should have been published online. That never happened.

TRANSPARENCY

To ensure this is all done in a transparent manner, the vote tallies will be posted publically at MantiCon for the nominees, and at HonorCon for the finalists. They will also be posted the webpage http://www.rampantmanticore.com which will be set up for the Rampant Manticore Award. Full names of voters will be removed, but the vote counts will be posted and the weight of each vote, for the nomination phase, will be shown.

This award is about the quality of the work, and not the politics of the author. Should politics become an issue, further voting restrictions may be enacted to ensure the apolitical quality of the Rampant Manticore remains intact.

Larry Correia and Marko Kloos publicly thanked fans for the awards and from them we know the results in four categories – the three they won, and another Kloos mentioned offhand in his post.

Here are the 2016 nominees with the four known winners in bold.

Best Author – Fantasy Short Story

  • “Rules of Enchantment” by Klecha & Buckell
  • “The Way Home” by Linda Nagata
  • “Look at Me Now” by Sarah Norman

Best Author – SciFi Short Story

  • “Horus Heresey #31” by Graham McNeill
  • “Blue Knight” by Carol Pedroso
  • “Yes! Yes! Yes!” by Lily Velden

Best Author – Fantasy Novella

  • Tallaran: Ironclad by John French
  • Bounty Hunter by Samantha Harvey
  • Tiger’s Paw by Kimberly Rogers

Best Author – SciFi Novella

  • Riding Redemption by Jolie Mason
  • Draxius Redeemed by Brian Dorsey
  • Burnsides Killer by Timothy Ellis

Best Author – Fantasy Novel

  • Son of the Black Sword by Larry Correia
  • The Aeronaut’s Windlass by Jim Butcher
  • Cold Iron by Stina Leicht

Best Author – SciFi Novel

  • Angles of Attack by Marko Kloos
  • Oncoming Storm by Christopher Nuttall
  • An Ancient Peace by Tanya Huff

H. Beam Piper Memorial Award

  • Angles of Attack by Marko Kloos
  • Riding Redemption by Joile Mason
  • Son of the Black Sword by Larry Correia

Unable to find the rest of the winners anywhere online, I wrote to several people who might know. The chair of MantiCon courteously answered my email and said she would try to track down the information. When I followed up a couple of weeks later she still hadn’t located anyone who knew.

Just the same, MantiCon is already publicizing the second round of awards. The con is coming up on May 26-28.

Also, join us for the second annual nominations of the Rampant Manticore Award for Literary Military Fiction, Science Fiction and Fantasy, featuring the H. Beam Piper Memorial Award for Best Author in the Category of Literary Military Fiction, Science Fiction, and Fantasy!

If nothing else, we know the Rampant Manticore is a handsome little award in the shape of a crystal book, bearing the crest of the Royal Manticoran Navy.

photo by Marko Kloos

Women in Sci-Fi Storybundle Available

Kristine Kathryn Rusch has organized a Women in Sci-Fi Storybundle. Pay what you like and get five books. Pay more than $15 and unlock five more books.

Rusch is justly proud –

The women writers in this bundle have written or worked in science fiction for a cumulative 240 years. They have written every kind of sf, from space opera to hard science fiction. They’re all award nominees. Some of them are award winners. They’ve written dozens of bestselling novels. Many of the women in this bundle have written Star Trek tie-in novels. Others have written for popular games. And of course, we’ve written in their own universes. They’re here to share their universes with you.

“I am kinda awed by all of the company,” says participating author Cat Rambo, “and love the fact that Mike Resnick is included in the bundle. He’s been a bit droll about it.” (Resnick and Janis Ian co-edited an anthology in the bundle.)

The five works everybody gets in the bundle are

  • The Phoenix Code by Catherine Asaro
  • Crossfire by Nancy Kress
  • Memory by Linda Nagata
  • Near + Far by Cat Rambo
  • Recovering Apollo 8 by Kristine Kathryn Rusch

The five bonus books are –

  • Strong Arm Tactics by Jody Lynn Nye
  • Starfarers by Vonda N. McIntyre
  • The Diving Bundle by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
  • Forgotten Suns by Judith Tarr
  • Stars – The Anthology by Janis Ian and Mike Resnick

There’s no DRM on any of the books.