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

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Stopping in again to respond to a few questions that came in overnight...

Okay, done. Thanks again for the questions!


Proof: Notice posted at my website -- http://www.mythicisland.com/ https://twitter.com/LindaNagata/status/656264219596161024

Comments: 83 • Responses: 31  • Date: 

Princejvstin17 karma

Hello Linda!

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?

LindaNagata18 karma

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.

SparkyMountain3 karma

Would you say fantasy is less of a seller for you personally or in general?

LindaNagata3 karma

Definitely for me personally. In general, fantasy is said to far out sell most science fiction, and from what I've seen, that's true.

Mudlily1 karma

Writing isn't often fun in the moment for me, too. And I write books. Isn't it interesting to hear some writers say that is is a big fun lark for them?

LindaNagata3 karma

Right? I'm so envious. I think it's the fascination of developing the story I want to tell that keeps me going.

tsanders_pgh13 karma

Linda, what made you decide to publish your own ebooks?

LindaNagata28 karma

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.

tsanders_pgh7 karma

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?

LindaNagata17 karma

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.

WannabeAKiwi2 karma

I'd just like to gush a bit about how much I enjoyed the Nanotech books. And Memory. Gush, gush, gush. And thank you.

LindaNagata5 karma

Gushing is awesome. Every writer needs some gushing. Thank you!! So glad you enjoyed the books.

TheFeshy5 karma

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.

I can't tell you how many sci-fi authors I wish had done as well as you at that! There are a handful of books I'm still waiting on ebooks for, but it's in the hands of "traditional" publishers who aren't interested.

LindaNagata5 karma

The other complication with a lot of older books is that the author has passed on and the books are presently under the control of an estate or of multiple heirs, and there's just no motivation or agreement on getting the books into ebook form. It's sad.

nerdy103239211 karma

Any plans on movies for your novels?

LindaNagata19 karma

There's been interest in THE RED, but nothing close to development. Still, fingers crossed!

CloseoutTX4 karma

Please don't let Hollywood make a poor rendition like Ender's Game.

Dracosphinx3 karma

Yeah, make them do a proper adaptation, like The Martian.

LindaNagata6 karma

The problem is that usually the writer has no say over what happens with the script. If you're a big name with producers bidding on the story, you can probably get terms in the agreement that give you influence. Unfortunately, I'm not in a position like that.

WackyXaky2 karma

The Martian always seemed better formulated to be a movie. I feel like from what few books I've read of Nagata, there's a complexity to the characters that would be completely lost in a movie. Of course, I don't mind the pay out that Nagata deserves, I'm just not sure how well her beautiful writing would translate.

LindaNagata6 karma

Thank you, and I do think that most of the books would be a challenge to translate into a movie. I once wrote a treatment for Limit of Vision and it turned out to be an interesting lesson in how much plot I would have to jettison to bring it into a film format. That said, I think The Red is easily the most film-friendly of my novels. I would love to see it move forward.

Dracosphinx1 karma

To be honest, I don't think I've read anything of hers. A lot of books would be much better suited to being made into episodic tv shows, similar to ASOIF. Two hours isn't really enough to bring out the depth of characters. But yeah, the Martian was written a lot like a screenplay.

LindaNagata4 karma

I agree that a series can often do a much better job at story telling. I like the mini-series format though, with a fixed number of episodes. That lets the writers tell a well-structured story with a distinct and meaningful end point.

Tucana6611 karma

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?

LindaNagata19 karma

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.

willyrocks698 karma

What's your opinion on this years Hugo's and all the puppy nonsense?

LindaNagata6 karma

Well, it was certainly good for a lot of Hugo publicity! I was at Worldcon in Spokane, and the atmosphere at the convention was terrific, very positive. And really, that's what I expected. Prior to the convention, I was amazed that some people were actually afraid to go, which is terribly sad.

To my knowledge, my work has never come anywhere close to being nominated for a Hugo. I wish it weren't so, but it is, and I can live with that. There are other awards out there. I think it's important to keep in mind that the Hugos are administered by people who've been at it for years, and who are really interested in what they do, and who read a lot of books. And anyone who doesn't agree with their choices is free to buy a membership, wade in, and nominate their own favorite books. My Hugo list would be different from the official list, but I'm always so far behind in my reading that I'd never be able to come up with a list in time. It takes a lot of dedication to be involved in an award process. And nominating books that you haven't read is not a legitimate part of that process. Recommending the books you've read and liked though -- that's what we need more people to do. Never forget how few people are actually involved in the process.

Here's the thing--the sad thing--it's a lot easier to get attention by being confrontational, negative, or angry. But much of the time, I think we're getting trolled. If someone says something negative on the Internet, do we really need to make them famous for it? Instead of calling out trollish comments, how about calling out the books we think are great? The books that contain the sort of plots/characters/action/themes we want to see? I try to do that on my blog, when I review books that I've really enjoyed. Check it out here: http://hahvi.net/?cat=273 They're not necessarily new books, but they're books I've particularly enjoyed.

OkolePlug7 karma

So...uh...are you the same Linda Nagata that was featured in Playboy Japan back in the 90's? Asking for a friend.

LindaNagata13 karma

Oh, the twenty-somethings... that's a rumor I've discussed on my blog. It's a post that still gets visits.

pacem_appellant6 karma

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.

LindaNagata8 karma

Thank you!

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.

Goatspawn6 karma

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?

LindaNagata10 karma

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!

tsanders_pgh5 karma

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'?

LindaNagata13 karma

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.

menamejmaw4 karma

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.

  1. What advice do you have for writers out there on finishing concepts that have been tabled?

  2. Who is your favorite character in Star Wars?

  3. 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.

  4. Do you read comic books/graphic novels? If so, favorite creators?

Thanks for your time and congratulations again!

LindaNagata10 karma

(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!)

menamejmaw3 karma

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!

LindaNagata9 karma

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.

tsanders_pgh3 karma

When you first began writing, was their one author's style you tried to emulate? or admired for their world building? character development etc...?

LindaNagata4 karma

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.

ddp3373 karma

What three things would you recommend a Hawaii public high-school student do to increase their chances of publishing success?

LindaNagata3 karma

Personally, I didn't start trying to write fiction until I finished college, but a lot of writers start early. So my first suggestion is to follow the usual rule: Write, finish what you write, and send it to an editor who might buy it. Try short stories first, so you don't get caught in the trap of working for years on a novel that ultimately turns out to be practice writing (you'll almost certainly do a practice novel anyway, but you can learn a lot by writing short stories).

Next, get out into the world and do things. Go places. Fill the creative well, meet people, learn.

And finally-- don't hate me for this-- learn a marketable skill. Writing is a tough gig with no guarantees of success. Have a skill that will let you pay the rent and eat on a regular basis.

keithjohnston713 karma

Which do you prefer writing? Far future science fiction or near future?

LindaNagata7 karma

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.

tacofuckers2 karma

  1. What is your favorite hike?
  2. Have you tried Burger King's Halloween Whopper?

LindaNagata5 karma

(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!

ambiveillant2 karma

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.

LindaNagata6 karma


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.

ghouse10142 karma

Do you have any advice for an aspiring SF/military fiction writer? I'm working on the first draft of my first novel.

Would you recommend pursuing traditional publishing before attempting to self publish?

Thanks for you time.

LindaNagata3 karma

Here's wishing you luck with your novel! These days, I don't think anyone knows the best route to getting a career started. Very few writers find success with the first novel they write. In the old days, we called these "trunk novels" or "closet novels" because the manuscript (hard copy) would get shoved in a trunk in the attic, or in the back of a closet, never to be looked at again. I do suggest you find a freelance editor to work with, one who is willing to work with your style, not one who is out to rewrite you. You'll learn a lot faster that way. I wish I'd done this in the early days.

Once you're satisfied with the manuscript, try querying agents, see what happens. And then write the next book.

You can always self-publish, and in the end that might be the best option, but you'll likely do better at self-publishing if you have two or three books that you can release over a short span of time, so why not sample the traditional route while you're writing more books?

There is no best way in this business. Marko Kloos did very well at self publishing his military series, and then went on to traditional. So you never know. Good luck!

fatalecs2 karma

How'd you get your book noticed?

LindaNagata2 karma

I had an advantage that's not available to new writers. I had started my career in traditional publishing, and while I'd been out of the writing scene for many years when I published THE RED, there were still people who knew me, and who were interested in seeing another science fiction novel from me. Also, I'd started writing and selling short stories again around 2011, so my name was out there in genre-land as someone who was active. If you're interested at all in reading/writing short stories, I recommend it, especially if you're self publishing, because it will get you credibility in the genre, and it will help you make connections. This isn't the only route, but it's something to consider.

XodusEagle1 karma

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.

LindaNagata2 karma

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.

XodusEagle2 karma

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!

LindaNagata2 karma

Agreed. Larry Rostant's covers really are terrific.

symmetry811 karma

I remember that the way I first got interested in your books was seeing a quote from The Bohr Maker either in the Alpha Centauri video game or the strategy guide. Was that authorized and if so is there any sort of story behind it? Love your books.

LindaNagata2 karma

Someone mentioned this to me once! I don't remember that it was "authorized," but if it's just a quote, I don't think that's a problem. And it struck me as pretty cool. Now that I know it got you to look into the books, even better!

CelestialSnake1 karma

A "Naga" is considered to be a Snake god/godess in eastern religions. Since your last name is nagata, that means you must be a snake goddess. Were you previously aware of being a Serpentine Queen?

LindaNagata4 karma

I was not! I thought I was more strongly associated with scorpions--and after all, we have that awesome constellation in the night sky.

vi_warshawski0 karma

i should not be up this late linda nagata since i got school tomorrow but i have sleep problems sometimes. anyway i never heard of you but you seem nice and talented and i want to maybe try your book? is it too hard for a middle school reading level?

anyway congratulations on getting nominated. that must be really cool for you!

LindaNagata2 karma

I'd recommend my novel Skye Object 3270a, which was written for a middle-school audience. There is a print version, but you can get it as an ebook. If you like that, you might want to try Memory. This is an adult novel, but it's been popular with older high school students too.