Melisa C(orrina) Michaels was born in America in 1946 (yup, another of that fine vintage decade.) There isn’t much available on her, but what I do have is that at various times she worked as a Private Investigator, and a singer, backgrounds she uses to great effect in some of her books. I know she lived with her husband Richard in Hawaii for some twenty years, and they ran Embiid for many years. She’s a cat lover and I believe she and the cats later moved to somewhere in rural Pennsylvania. In 2007 she received the SFWA Service Award – and that’s about it.
Back in 1986 I picked up a secondhand copy of Skirmish, (a.k.a. Skyrider 1.) This is a good reason why writers shouldn’t fuss over their books ending up sold and resold as secondhand, because I loved the story, the plot, and the characters, and promptly shot out to my favorite bookshop see if there were other books available. There was, the second and third in the series were in the shop, I bought them on the spot, and put in an order for any more. Over the next couple of years I ended up with all five of the Skyrider series, plus an excellent stand-alone, Far Harbor, and then the author’s writing went into hiatus for some years.
Melacha Rendell, a.k.a. The Skyrider lives in the asteroid belt, delivering supplies to prospectors and others who live on the various rocks, and in between runs she’s kicking back and starting fights. She’s a great character, and the books can be classified as military SF since right through the series either there’s a war about to start or there’s a war or skirmish going on. The Skyrider has no illusions about people. She understands that the majority believe everything they hear/see from government sources, that they will follow the demands of anyone in authority, and, that while insisting they are individuals, they never want to stand out from the crowd and will follow each other like sheep to make sure of that. Thje Skyrider books are clever, amusing, and well-written and I only wish that there were more.
Far Harbor is a variation on the child raised by wolves, in this case an alien baby raised by humans on her world who teach her that she is ugly, clumsy, stupid, and a waste of food. She is starved, beaten, and overworked until she rebels and flees into the forest. There she finds that she can survive, that she isn’t as stupid or clumsy as she’s been taught, and when she rescues a kitten of the large wild cats she has a friend. The story ended neatly but with hooks that suggested if a publisher had asked, there could have been more books continuing the story and I’m sorry there wasn’t.
I’m even more sorry that the Skyrider series didn’t have the final three books that 10 years ago Melisa said she had originally planned. But the lack of any real advertising of the series meant that they didn’t sell as well as they should have and the publisher dropped them and her – after the fifth. A real shame but since they’re 20+ years old now, it could be that they will be picked up for reprint sometime and then maybe the other three can be added to the series – and the world of Emerald Starling of Far Harbor expanded as well perhaps.
However a decade later Michaels started a new series and managed to sell two of that. Cold Iron was the first, an excellent hard-hitting book that takes an urban fairy background and turns it feral. This world has elves, and the author never felt a need to go into long-winded explanations. The reader is just presented with the world and, this is how it is Many rock bands in this world are what is known as Magic metal and Cold Iron is one of this type of band that’s huge. Rose Lavine, a PI joins them at the request of a groupie who believes that someone plans to murder the front man (elf) and Rose becomes caught up in the glamour and hard-living that surrounds the band – the drugs, the sex, and the constant touring. The band background of this book was savage, brutal, and very very believable. There are several deaths, which are initially assumed to be accidents, but Rose is suspicious and rightly so as it turns out. But the outcome is not what she or the reader is expecting.
As a final note on Melisa Michaels books, she has not always been well-served by the covers used for her books, Cold Iron in particular, don’t be put off.
Skirmish (1985) Tor Books
First Battle (1985) Tor Books
Last War (1986) Tor Books
Pirate Prince (1987)Tor Books
Floater Factor (1988) Tor Books
Cold Iron (1997) Roc – Nebula Award Nominee in 1998, a year of very strong contenders including Jack McDevitt’s Moonfall, Connie’s Willis’s To Say Nothing of the Dog, and Harry Turtledove’s How Few Remain. It was actually won by Joe Haldeman’s Forever Peace. (Although IMHO Jack McDevitt’s Moonfall was better.)
Sister to the Rain (1998) Roc
Through the Eyes of the Dead (1988) Walker & Co Mystery
Far Harbor (1989) Tor Books
World-Walker (2004) Five Star
Anthologies containing stories by Melisa Michaels
The Best Science Fiction of the Year 9 (1980) Del Rey
Horrors (1986) Roc
In the Country of the Blind, No One Can See (1979)
A Demon in My View (1981)