HAVE YOU OVERLOOKED – JANET KAGAN?

Author Janet Kagan died 29 February 2008 of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease after a long illness. Born in 1946, she was 63 years old and so far as I can tell from various sources, she’d been ill for much of her life. She started her career by writing a fake ad (Analog in 1982,) then wrote what is arguably the best of all the Star Trek novels, no. 21 on the list, UHURA’S SONG. This was a great book, one of the few that would still have been a wonderful book if you deleted every ST name and reference.
The basic plot was a well-used one, a new disease appears on a Federation world. No matter what the medics do, it spreads, and then, it moves on to infect humans – whom it attacks more ferociously. The Federation needs a cure, but nothing is discovered. Then Uhura – whose friend years ago was one of the felinoids on the world where the disease first appeared – remembers a song her friend taught her, one of many songs they shared. And from this the Enterprise crew realizes that the felinoids did not originate on the world the Federation is trying to save, and that they may have a way to find the home-world, which could have the cure. How they find that world, make friends with the people, and find why it is forbidden on each world to discuss the other, made a story that was wholly engrossing.
After that Janet produced a single stand-alone book entitled HELLSPARK. Again it’s part mystery – one of a team of people studying a new planet has been found dead, part psychological – how your own culture of gestures, physical nearness to another, affect you when working with others from a different world, and part SF – the descriptions of the world on which it takes place are brilliant and believable. The characters are people you’d recognize, the problems are ones you can understand, and through it all, strides Tocohl Susumo who isn’t who they take her to be, and the natives of the world who are more than the study team know – all but one member who is afraid ‘they’ do know. The of the brilliant things about this book is that of the dozen or more ‘alien races’ only one is physically alien, the others are variations of humanity that Janet makes fascinatingly alien.
After Hellspark Kagan went on to write a series of short stories set on a new planet, interspersed with other stories not in the series. The six that were, were collected in the book MIRABILE, (which ones are noted below) that appeared from Tor in 1991. It’s difficult to sum of the theme of the Mirabile stories in a short paragraph, but settlers have come on a generation ship to Mirabile. With them they have brought flora and fauna that has redundancy inbuilt. i.e. one in a hundred daffodils may produce cockroaches. These may in turn produce something else. It was done to make sure nothing that was required in Terran genetic material was lost, but what has been lost is the computer lists of what produces which. Annie Jason Masmajean is the main one of those in this generation attempting to cope with the results. The stories are funny, charming, and noir in turns, and it’s almost impossible to put them down – regularly voted so by the readers of Asimov’s Magazine in which they appeared.
So, a body of work that comprises two books, one collection, and another collection’s worth of stories as yet uncollected. Not a long list, but then if you have half a handful of diamonds, it’s still far better than a bagful of citrines. I recommend all three books without reservation. Yes, even those readers who don’t much care for the Star Trek series, should enjoy Uhura’s Song, (cat lovers in particular.) Run, do not walk, to Janet’s site and buy a copy of the original edition, HELLSPARK, go without lunch if need be, then look for the others. Note, the list below came from Janet’s website still run by her husband, Ricky. Where it says you can get something “here” it’s to be found on – http://www.janetkagan.com

JANET KAGAN’S SLIGHTLY INCOMPLETE BIBLIOGRAPHY

“Faith-of-the-Month Club”
    (fake ad, p89, uncredited & NOT listed in the table of contents)
    ANALOG, Feb 1, 1982
    original version in SHAGGY B.E.M. STORIES, ed. by Mike Resnick, Nolacon Press, ’88
 
UHURA’S SONG (Star Trek #21), Pocket, Jan ’85
    Gregg Press hc, ’85
    Titan Books, London, May ’89

HELLSPARK (sf), Tor pb, July ’88*
    *cover art by Rick Sternbach miscredited to Bryn Barnard
    SFBC hc, Main Selection, cover art correctly credited (Thanks, Ellen!)
HELLSPARK (revised)
    with afterwords for HELLSPARK & UHURA’S SONG & additional reading list for both
    Meisha Merlin Publishing, tp, Jan ’98
Copies of the ’98 edition of HELLSPARK may still be had here but not for long. Get ’em while they last.

#”The Loch Moose Monster”
    ASIMOV’S SCIENCE FICTION, March ’89
    reprinted in THE YEAR’S BEST SCIENCE FICTION, SEVENTH ANNUAL COLLECTION, ed. by Gardner Dozois
“Naked Wish-Fulfillment”
    PULPHOUSE: THE HARDBACK MAGAZINE, #3
    reprinted in PULPHOUSE WEEKLY, Issue Zero, Mar ’91
    reprinted in UNICORNS II, ed. Jack Dann & Gardner Dozois
    Ace, ’92
#”The Return of the Kangaroo Rex”
    ASIMOV’S SCIENCE FICTION, Oct ’89
    2nd place in ASIMOV’S Readers’ Poll, ’89
#”The Flowering Inferno”
    ASIMOV’S SCIENCE FICTION, Mar ’90
    3rd place in ASIMOV’S Readers’ Poll, ’90
#”Getting the Bugs Out”
    ASIMOV’S SCIENCE FICTION, Nov ’90
    Winner of the ASIMOV’S Readers’ Poll Award for Best Novelette of ’90
“What a Wizard Does”
    MARION ZIMMER BRADLEY’S FANTASY MAGAZINE, Autumn ’90
    winner of the MZB Cauldron Award for best of issue
    reprinted in THE BEST OF MARION ZIMMER BRADLEY’S FANTASY MAGAZINE, *vol. 2*
“From the Dead Letter File”
    STARSHORE, Winter ’90
#”Raising Cane”
    ASIMOV’S SCIENCE FICTION, Mar ’91
#”Frankenswine”
    ASIMOV’S SCIENCE FICTION, Aug ’91
“Winging It”
    ISAAC’S UNIVERSE, VOLUME 2: PHASES OF CHAOS, ed. Isaac Asimov and Martin H. Greenberg Avon, July ’91
MIRABILE (contains all the Mama Jason stories marked # above)
    Tor hc, Oct ’91 Tor pb, June ’92
“Love Our Lockwood”
    ALTERNATE PRESIDENTS, ed. Mike Resnick & Martin H. Greenberg
    Tor, Feb 1992 Or you could read it here.
“Fighting Words”
    ISAAC’S UNIVERSE, Vol 3: UNNATURAL DIPLOMACY, edited by Martin H. Greenberg
    Avon, July 1992
“Out on Front Street”
    PULPHOUSE, A FICTION MAGAZINE Sept/Oct 1992
“The Last of a Vintage Year”
    ALADDIN, MASTER OF THE LAMP, edited by Mike Resnick and Martin H. Greenberg DAW, Dec 1992
“The Nutcracker Coup”
    ASIMOV’S SCIENCE FICTION, December 1992
    Winner of the ASIMOV’S Readers’ Award, Best Novelette ’92 Hugo Award, Best Novelette ’93 Nebula nominee
    reprinted in CHRISTMAS MAGIC, edited by David G. Hartwell Tor pb, Nov ’94
    reprinted HUGO & NEBULA WINNERS FROM ASIMOV’S SF, ed. Sheila Williams, Wings Books hc, ’95
    also reprinted in ISAAC ASIMOV’S CHRISTMAS, edited by Gardner Dozois and Sheila Williams Ace pb, Dec ’97
“She Was Blonde, She Was Dead—And Only Jimmilich Opstrommo Could Find Out Why!!!”
    MORE WHATDUNITS, ed. Mike Resnick DAW, May 1993
“No Known Cure”
    PULPHOUSE: THE HARDBACK MAGAZINE (#12, THE LAST ISSUE) Pulphouse Publishing, 1993
“Christmas Wingding”
    CHRISTMAS FOREVER, edited by David G. Hartwell Tor hc, Nov ’93
“Space Cadet”
    BY ANY OTHER FAME, ed. Mike Resnick and Martin H. Greenberg DAW, Jan ’94
“Face Time”
    HOTEL ANDROMEDA, edited by Jack L. Chalker Ace pb, Feb ’94
“Fermat’s Best Theorem”
    ABSOLUTE MAGNITUDE, Issue #3, Summer ’95, DNA Publications
    reprinted in THE BEST OF ABSOLUTE MAGNITUDE, edited by Warren Lapine and Stephen Pagel Tor hc, May ’97
“Standing in the Spirit”
    ASIMOV’S SCIENCE FICTION, Dec ’97 Psst—or you could read it here.
“The Stubbornest Broad on Earth”
    ASIMOV’S SCIENCE FICTION, Feb ’98

1 comment

  1. I read and thoroughly enjoyed Mirabile. But her stuff has always been hard to find — it is seldom reprinted. I think that’s a shame. She didn’t write much, but if Mirabile is anything to go by, she certainly was very good at what she did.


    -Alan

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