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Nagata, Linda

Entry updated 26 February 2024. Tagged: Author.

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(1960-    ) US author who began publishing work of genre interest with "Spectral Expectations" in Analog for April 1987, and who rapidly established a reputation for swiftly told, shapely, Internet-savvy Hard SF tales set in worlds drenched in Nanotechnologies, much of this work being assembled as Goddesses and Other Stories (coll 2012), "Goddesses" (5 July 2000 Sci Fiction) having won a Nebula award; some of this work has also been incorporated into the loose Nanotech Succession sequence beginning with The Bohr Maker (1995), which won a Locus Award for best first novel. Here a chase thriller story is set into a complexly delineated distant Near Future Earth where orbital centres of civilization are reached by an array of Space Elevators; Nanotechnology is strictly controlled, though it inevitably escapes First-World constraints, proliferating into impoverished environments where those who represent or embed it are thought of – and think of themselves – as being possessed by supernatural powers. Like later volumes in the sequence, The Bohr Maker – complexly inhabited by Androids and Avatars and outcasts – presents a powerful cluster of images with which to conceive the planetary future and its possible extensions outwards. In this, her work resembles that of David Marusek and Paolo Bacigalupi, though the exorbitant Space-Operatic inventiveness of the sequence is perhaps more evocative of early Larry Niven. The second volume of the sequence, Tech-Heaven (1995), is a prequel that focuses on a worldwide dispute involving Cryonics and Overpopulation; the sequence continues with Deception Well (1997) and Vast (1998), much expanding the already voracious reach of the first two instalments with a possible Forerunner species dominating from its Time Abyss an immensely complex tale set somewhere past the Near Future in a solar system beset by Berserkers unappeased by the ending of their war aeons earlier; and much else. Some of the Cosmology is reminiscent of more sober authors, like Olaf Stapledon; Dyson Spheres are numerous, but suffer destruction. After something like a Long Night – though gaps in the sequence as a whole are multiply explainable, it may be – a sole protagonist returns to the Deception Well planetary system, now inhabited by Posthumans, and mounts an exploratory expedition into a possibly crowded universe. The subsequent Nanotech Succession: Inverted Frontier sequence beginning with Edges (2019) thrusts the overall sequence into the Far Future, where a relic Rimworld culture of humans has survived the slow turmoil of a Long Night, and the continuing threat posed to Homo sapiens by non-conscious alien networks (see Berserkers above). The protagonist of the new sequence undertakes a quest to answers to our plight; Time Abysses loom.

Limits of Vision (2001), Nagata's first singleton, focuses on nearly microscopic artefacts (hence the title) that in conjunction act like a distributed Computer net, a non-conscious Hive Mind that adumbrates the kind of non-conscious galactic civilization depicted in Peter Watts's Blindsight (2006). Memory (2003) – which has not yet been followed by a sequel to tie together its many incomplete strands – is set on an artificial planet (see Macrostructure) whose inhabitants may (or may not be) Avatars of figures lurking inside the great artefact, or not. There is a strong sense that a Godgame is being played and replayed – characters die and are perhaps reborn, constantly, in order to perfect their performances – and the narrator of the tale, as in many stories by Gene Wolfe, cannot be trusted and speaks from a coign of vantage we cannot comprehend. More than her previous work, though none of her tales seems to come to a permanent halt, Memory calls for Nagata to develop her intricately engaging worlds.

A later series – the Stories of the Puzzle Islands sequence comprising The Dread Hammer (2011 ebook) as by Trey Shiels and Hepen the Watcher (2012) – is a fantasy considerably detached from her previous concerns; its Feminist reading of a demon-haunted "primitive" world is powerfully couched. Two Stories: "Nahiku West" & "Nightside on Callisto" (coll 2013) assembles two recent novellas. The Red sequence beginning with The Red: First Light (2013) is Military SF along lines pioneered by Joe Haldeman. Its squad of grunts, bonded to their Mecha and smart Weapons, are embedded into a nasty brushfire war somewhere in the Near Future Third World. The protagonist loses his legs and is transformed into a Cyborg; the squad as a whole become more and more aware that they are pawns in a profoundly cynical "defense industry" game; but the eponymous "Red", possibly a sentient AI inhabiting a distributed network of Computer nodes, invades the protagonist's dreams with subversive knowledge, and begins to take on a dominant role as the series progresses.

Similarly structured but not part of the sequence, The Last Good Man (2017) focuses on a mature female protagonist employed by a "private military-services company", and on her increasingly compromised involvement in Near Future conflicts. Also a singleton, Pacific Storm (2020) elaborates depicts a Near Future a decade after a Category 5 hurricane has desolated the Archipelago, intensifying the effects of Climate Change at a time when the American federal government has effectively abandoned overall governance; within this frame, a security company operative, while tracing down an "Expected Perpetrator", becomes involved in machinations surrounding China's planned takeover of the crisis-ridden state. Nagata's tale "The Martian Obelisk" (19 July 2017 won a Locus Award as best short story.

Nagata has a moderate tendency to overplot, but an extremely sharp sense of how the toolkit of modern sf can be applied to expose the wounds of the contemporary world. [JC]

Linda Nagata

born San Diego, California: 7 November 1960



The Nanotech Succession

  • The Bohr Maker (New York: Bantam Spectra, 1995) [Nanotech Succession: pb/Bruce Jensen]
  • Tech-Heaven (New York: Bantam Spectra, 1995) [Nanotech Succession: pb/Bruce Jensen]
  • Deception Well (New York: Bantam Spectra, 1997) [Nanotech Succession: pb/Bruce Jensen]
  • Vast (New York: Bantam Spectra, 1998) [Nanotech Succession: pb/Bruce Jensen]

The Nanotech Succession: Inverted Frontier

  • Edges (Kula, Hawaii: Mythic Island Press, 2019) [Nanotech Succession: Inverted Frontier: pb/Sarah Anne Langton]
  • Silver (Kula, Hawaii: Mythic Island Press, 2019) [Nanotech Succession: Inverted Frontier: pb/Sarah Anne Langton]
  • Needle (Kula, Hawaii: Mythic Island Press, 2022) [Nanotech Succession: Inverted Frontier: pb/Sarah Anne Langton]

Stories of the Puzzle Islands

  • The Dread Hammer (Kula, Hawaii: Mythic Island Press, 2011) as by Trey Shiels [ebook: pb edition issued 2012: Stories of the Puzzle Islands: na/Sarah Adams]
    • The Dread Hammer (Kula, Hawaii: Mythic Island Press, 2012) [Stories of the Puzzle Islands: pb/Sarah Adams]
  • Hepen the Watcher (Kula, Hawaii: Mythic Island Press, 2012) [Stories of the Puzzle Islands: pb/Sarah Adams]

The Red

  • The Red: First Light (Kula, Hawaii: Mythic Island Press, 2013) [The Red: pb/Dallas Nagata White]
  • The Trials (New York: Simon and Schuster/Saga Press, 2015) [The Red: hb/Larry Rostant]
  • Going Dark (New York: Simon and Schuster/Saga Press, 2015) [The Red: hb/Larry Rostant]

individual titles

  • Memory (New York: Tor, 2003) [hb/David Bowers]
  • Skye Object 327a (Kula, Hawaii: Mythic Island Press, 2010) [ebook: pb edition issued 2011: very loosely associated with the Nanotech Succession universe: na/]
  • The Last Good Man (Kula, Hawaii: Mythic Island Press, 2017) [pb/Philippe McNally]
  • Pacific Storm (Kula, Hawaii: Mythic Island Press, 2020) [pb/]

collections and stories


previous versions of this entry

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