Monday, March 2, 2015

Janet Kagan's Song


The death of a certain actor recently, got me thinking about Star Trek, and whenever I think of Star Trek and death, I think of Janet Kagan, who died far too young.

Janet's second novel written but first published was Uhura's Song, a Trek tie-in and one that was particularly popular, in part because it gave agency to a character everyone liked the but show's scripts slighted and in part because Janet's fiction connected with people.  Her first novel, Hellspark, followed soon after, part of a two-book deal.  (The story was that the publisher wasn't taking first novels and so her editor offered her the Trek contract in order to get around that restriction.  Maybe so.  It's also possible that the editor was desperate for good writers to do the tie-ins at a time when -- believe it or not -- they were hard to get.)  It was extremely popular.

Those were her only novels, unless you count Mirabile, a collection of stories set on the eponymous novel, all starring the same protagonist and all telling a single progressive story.  These stories were wildly popular.

One day, much to her amazement, her story "The Nutcracker Coup," won a Hugo.  Nobody else was amazed.  Her work was positive, upbeat, funny, and fun.  These were qualities she valued in fiction (Her favorite novel was James H. Schmitz's The Witches of Karres), and so that's what she wrote.  This was not the dominant style at the time she wrote it, but she wrote what she loved.

So if there are any young writers out there wondering... that's how to win a Hugo.  Write the kind of fiction you want to read.



Edward said...

I dearly love The Witches of Karres, which I re-read recently. It still works for me.

I have a story I'm working on now which I realize is vaguely similar.

Michael Swanwick said...

The Witches of Karres is a kind of touchstone. I suspect it will be secret cult novel for a long time to come.