Linda Nagata is a Hawaii-based American author of speculative fiction, science fiction, and fantasy novels, novellas, and short stories. Her novella, Goddesses, was the first online publication to win the Nebula Award. She frequently writes in the Nanopunk genre, which features nanotechnology and the integration of advanced computing with the human brain.
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I'm Linda Nagata, author of The Red: First Light, a near-future military sci-fi thriller that deals with artificial intelligence, use of technology in warfare, and asks questions about how far a soldier's duty goes.
I self-published The Red back in 2013 and, to my surprise, it was nominated for the Nebula Award for best novel. It turned out to be the first self-published novel to receive that honor. It was also nominated for the John W. Campbell Memorial Award. That helped it catch the attention of traditional publishers, and it was picked up for republication, along with two sequels. The entire trilogy is being released this year, with the last novel, Going Dark, out on November 3rd.
I've written a lot of science fiction over the years, so if anyone is familiar with my older work (a Nebula and a Locus award in there), I'm happy to talk about that, too.
Outside of writing, I like to keep up with science and technology news, though that should really be a full-time occupation! I’ve done some memorable hikes over the years, I’ve worked as a PHP programmer in a tiny web development company, and I’m into fitness, mostly weight-lifting and running. You know how it is...prep work for the inevitable apocalypse. ;-)
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Thanks to everyone who stopped by. I appreciated the questions and I hope I get to do this again sometime. In the meantime, stop by Twitter and say hello. I'm @LindaNagata
Proof: Notice posted at my website -- http://www.mythicisland.com/
Any plans on movies for your novels?
There's been interest in THE RED, but nothing close to development. Still, fingers crossed!
You've written a lot of SF, went and did some fantasy and now have come back with a bang with The Red Trilogy.
So, does the siren song of Fantasy still hold any power for you, or are you staying in the SF side of the pond for the time being?
I loved writing the two Puzzle Land books (The Dread Hammer and Hepen the Watcher). Writing isn't usually fun in the moment, but these were fun. I would have been happy to keep writing them, but for me, fantasy doesn't sell as well as science fiction.
I do LOVE writing science fiction though. I like the challenge of it, and especially, dipping into real world technologies. So to answer your question, I'll probably be staying with SF for the immediate future.
So...uh...are you the same Linda Nagata that was featured in Playboy Japan back in the 90's? Asking for a friend.
Oh, the twenty-somethings... that's a rumor I've discussed on my blog. It's a post that still gets visits.
Linda, what made you decide to publish your own ebooks?
My first several novels were published in the 90s, when books often went out of print (OOP) with remarkable speed. One of the (few) things I did right in my early career was to immediately demand the reversion of rights when the books were no longer available. By the time the self-publishing revolution started, I had the rights back to all six traditionally published novels. In the meantime, I'd been working in web development -- and an ebook is essentially an HTML/CSS document. I knew how to do that. So I decided to create my own ebooks. There is a saying -- No one cares as much about your work as you do. I had a chance to take control of these books, and put them out under my own supervision -- and it was great. The Nanotech books had never been available as ebooks before, so it was really a pleasure to bring them back into availability, both as ebooks, and as print books.
(1a) In Hawaii, hiking Haleakala Crater is always amazing, no matter how many times I've done it. The most challenging Haleakala hike I ever did was the summit to Kaupo Ranch-- 17 miles.
(1b) The most amazing recent-ish hike was the Tongariro Alpine Crossing in New Zealand. Gorgeous area, and we were very luck, and had a perfect day. This is the national park where "Mount Doom" is located.
(2) That's the one with unexpected after-effects, right? To answer your question, NOPE!
Like ambiveillant above, my first introduction to your fiction was VAST. From there, I've been hooked on your writing. One of the features that keeps me thinking about your work time and time again is how real and human your characters are--of either gender. I'm doing a quick count in my head (and I haven't read RED yet), but there seems to be a bias toward male protagonists (Jubilee and Sky being my favorite exceptions). Have you considered a cast with largely or wholly female characters? Though I myself am a male reader, the dearth of strong female leads in the genre is not something to be proud of, and it's a problem that I think you're particularly capable of redressing.
I once did that same count and at that time it had seemed about 50/50 to me. Katie Kishida was the primary protagonist in TECH-HEAVEN. In some of the other books, there are multiple protagonists with some of them women. Phousita in THE BOHR MAKER, Clemantine in VAST, Ela and Summer in LIMIT OF VISION.
That said, what I've noticed very recently with short stories that I've been working on, is that I tend to get more formalized with my women characters. It's something I need to work on. Can a woman character be off-the-wall, smart, interesting, and compelling? Of course she can, but this is something that's been on my mind lately.
Which do you prefer writing? Far future science fiction or near future?
I've found that my preferences change from project to project. With my earlier novels, I would shift from near to far future and back again. I think this is because I would get bored with one or the other, and be ready to tackle something very different.
These days though, I'm much more interested in near future, and I think the reason for this is that, as the saying goes, we live in a science fiction world. Technology is advancing so quickly that there is just so much to explore. We don't need to go far into the future to come up with amazing story worlds.
Limits of Vision was my first novel from you I've ever read. If felt like it was ending with a sequel somewhere. Any chances we'll see it?
Never say never, but I don't think that will happen. The problem with writing a sequel long after the first book is that--unless the first book was really popular--it's going to be hard to sell a followup.
The book that I wanted to write a sequel for, and still might one of these days, is MEMORY. A couple years ago I even figured out what direction the book would take. I just need to write faster!
Congratulations on your achievements! I'm a self-published author of creative non-fiction and poetry so seeing this pop up in my Twitter feed as I'm going through the process of putting another work out was inspiring today.
What advice do you have for writers out there on finishing concepts that have been tabled?
Who is your favorite character in Star Wars?
What do you think of Warhammer 40k? I stumbled upon it a few years ago and I feel like it's sci-fi junk food, I crave it periodically.
Do you read comic books/graphic novels? If so, favorite creators?
Thanks for your time and congratulations again!
(1) It seems to me the first question to ask is why did you table it? And has that reason gone away, did you figure out a way around it, are you a more able writer now? Personally, I don't think I've ever returned to a trunked project. I've completely rewritten a couple of novels, but once I give up on them, they're gone. What you don't want to do is expend a lot of energy trying to perfect what are essentially learning projects. Learn to finish what you write, but also learn how to move on.
(2) Urmm... Han Solo?
(3) So not a gamer. Everything I know about games, I've learned from my son, but I don't think he plays Warhammer 40K.
(4) When I was a kid, our parents didn't allow us to read comic books. We could read any regular books we wanted, but comic books were strongly discouraged. So I never got the habit. (Side note: I did not apply this rule to my own children!)
Linda, have you ever thought about revisiting (even in essay mode) the "Nanotech Succession" world? VAST was my first encounter with your work, and I eagerly went back and read the previous three books of the series.
VAST was a really hard novel for me to write and after I finished it my feeling was "never again." But time plays hell with good intentions. Several years ago, readers started asking about a sequel to VAST, and I started thinking about it. So just like a sequel to MEMORY, that's on my "maybe" list. The problem with either is, could I sell it after all this time?
In the meantime, I've done two short stories in the Nanotech story world. One of them, "Nahiku West" can be found in several best of the year anthologies from 2012.
Thanks for doing this AMA!
Who are your favorite writers? (Genres of your choosing)
Did you have an editor work on your book, The Red: First Light? If so, did you agree/disagree with many of their recommendations?
How did the story evolve? How do you strawman/timeline/map your storyline?
You're welcome! Thanks for stopping in.
I tend to think in terms of favorite books. A few that have really impressed me in recent years are Claire North's THE FIRST FIFTEEN LIVES OF HARRY AUGUST (I always want to write "Harry Potter" but of course the novel has nOTHING to do with HP.) Also, I was quite enthusiastic about Richard Kadrey's Sandman Slim books. Ramez Naam's NEXUS, and Greg Bear's WAR DOGS.
Regarding an editor, yes! Judith Tarr edited the original version of THE RED, and there were only minimal changes to the manuscript when Saga Press republished it. Judy is a very strict editor. I sent her the manuscript after several beta readers had given me big thumbs-up. Judy returned the manuscript to me with over 700 comments on ways the story could be improved. Honestly, I was devastated, and intermittently furious. But I took a deep breath and set about considering each comment individually, and while I ignored a fair number, I addressed the concerns brought up in the majority, and in the end I added around 10K words to the manuscript and ended up with a greatly improved novel.
Generally I start with a very simple outline. I need to have an idea of how the story starts, hopefully some of the major events, and some way in which the story can end. When I first started learning to write fiction, I often wrote stories for which I had not ending and those were always disasters. Ever since, I insist on having an ending before I start, even if I don't use it.
With all three of THE RED books, I started with this sort of loose outline, and kept revising the outline as I advanced with the story. It was essential to have a timeline as well, since events take place over a fairly limited timespan, and use specific dates.
Just based on the current design, I think it'd look fantastic collected in a set and I look forward to seeing it one day!
Agreed. Larry Rostant's covers really are terrific.
i am always interested in how authors write fight scenes. have you ever taken any self defense classes or do you just try to picture it in your head like a movie and write down what you are 'watching'?
Interesting question. I briefly took aikido when I was a kid, but nothing since. So yes, I try to picture it in my head. But I also try to keep in mind that getting hit hurts, and that fighting takes a lot of energy. Too often in the movies, characters seem to have a limitless endurance for wounds, and pain, and fatigue just isn't a big problem.
Thanks so much for replying! Your questions in reply to #1 make me think a bit differently about moving on. I've finished quite a few projects but there are definitely those that I can leave behind and I hadn't thought of them as learning projects. Shoots!
Yes, I was talking to someone at a convention who said she'd been working on a novel for years. It didn't sound like she was getting any closer to finishing it. Sometimes you have to stop, step back, and start over.
and as a followup how does the modern publishing world affect your work i.e. more self publishing of one's work can mean more control but harder to often get your voice out there because you have to self promote?
Well, unless you're a really big name writer, or really big things are expected of your novel, you're going to have to self promote regardless if you are self or traditionally published. I am not doing less promotion now, than I did when I first self-published THE RED. The advantages to traditional publishing that I've noticed are better distribution, and more book reviewers who are willing to consider your work. But in either form, it's a crowded field.
Any plans for a RED series box set? Really just meaning a set that includes a slipcase to collect all three books together in or something like that.
I heard this mentioned in passing once! But to my knowledge there are no immediate plans. I suspect the books will need to have stronger sales before Saga Press considers it. It would be nice though. I'd love it if this could happen.
When you first began writing, was their one author's style you tried to emulate? or admired for their world building? character development etc...?
When I first started writing-- a long time ago -- I remember trying to consciously imitate CJ Cherryh. This drove my early readers crazy, LOL. (Apparently I didn't do it very well.)
Eventually every writer has to find their own style, but that doesn't mean we can't keep learning new techniques and new approaches from others.