10 Questions with Hugo Award Winner Laura J. Mixon (@LauraJMG)
This Author Spotlight
LAURA J. MIXON
SF novelist and Hugo-winning blogger Laura J. Mixon wrote her first story for her own amusement at age eight. At age 11, she discovered science fiction in the local library and never looked back. Her popular SF thriller Up Against It came out from Tor Books (as M. J. Locke) in 2011 and is due for re-release soon as part of an upcoming trilogy. Set among the asteroids, it is the first book of WAVE, a series of novels
Author of six novels and assorted shorter works, including the highly acclaimed cyberpunk trilogy AVATARS DANCE (Glass Houses, Proxies, and Burning the Ice).
She and fellow SF writer Steven Gould stabbed the cake/tied the knot at WeddingCon in early 1989. They have collaborated on one novel and two world-class daughters, now grown (who might even be spotted wandering the halls of certain cons and costuming events). They now live in New Mexico with their daughters.
She is an environmental engineer and served two years in Kenya in the Peace Corps. Her work is often associated with the cyberpunk movement, and has been the focus of academic studies on the intersection of technology, feminism, and gender. She is a graduate of the Clarion writing workshop and an instructor at the Viable Paradise genre writing workshop on Martha's Vineyard. She blogs occasionally at laurajmixon.com and feralsapient.com and tweets as @LauraJMG.
1.How did you get into writing and why do you write?
I grew up in the late sixties and early seventies in a neighborhood with a lot of kids, and my favorite game was Pretend. We were a roving pack of AR players, back when AR was all in your head. We riffed off of Star Trek, Land of the Giants, Lost in Space, and the Avengers (the British spies version with Diana Rigg, ohmigod) and The Man /Girl from U.N.C.L.E, those creepy Saturday matinees like The Twilight Zone and The Man with Xray Vision. We had the best adventures.
The one thing that really bugged me, though, was that I had no control over the plot. The other kids all had their own ideas about what was supposed to happen, and when I’d say, for instance, “Bang! You’re dead,” they’d jump back up and say, “No, I’m not!” So I started writing my stories down.
Little did I know what I was letting myself in for; my own characters have even LESS desire to behave. Hah!
2.What do you like best (or least) about writing?
I think it’s the same thing that drew me to Pretend when I was a kid. That desire to be transported into another world. To be surprised by the unexpected things that happen to my characters, and how they respond. That sense of wonder and delight you get when everything seems chaotic and out of control, and suddenly it all clicks into place and you see that deeper pattern.
3.What is your writing process? IE do you outline? Do you stick to a daily word or page count, write 7 days a week, etc?
For the world building, I tend to put a lot of work into research and design. For the characters and plot, I’m a mostly-pantser. I have a few high points I know I want to hit, but the main pleasure I get from writing comes from being surprised by what I discover as I write.
4.Who are some other writers you read and admire, regardless of whether they are commercially “successful?”
Oh, my God, there are so many great writers out there!
The other writers in this bundle are all pretty awesome. My husband Steve and I have always been fans of Lisa Mason, Linda Nagata, and Walter Jon Williams, and now I’ve bought the AI Storybundle and am eager to read yours and Kathleen Ann Goonan’s as well.
I also had the pleasure of being on the Philip K. Dick jury a couple of years ago, and discovered several writers I loved. I could go on and on about all six of the books on the nominees list. We had a hard time narrowing the list down to six. Here’s the list. You’re in for a treat!
You have to check out the winner, Meg Elison’s The Book of the Unnamed Midwife. And the special citation winner, Jennifer Marie Brissett’s Elysium, blew my freakin mind. So much creativity in the worldbuilding, characters I loved, and masterful control over her prose. Highly recommended.
I also love Cory Doctorow’s stuff. His Little Brother series is magnificent. For the Win made me cry my eyes out.
Martha Wells’s Raksura series is sooooo goooood. Anything by Nalo Hopkinson.
Marko Kloos’s Frontlines series, and Curtis Chen’s Waypoint Kangaroo. Charlie Jane Anders’s All the Birds in the Sky.
And Andrea Hairston’s fantasies! She has a new one out, Wild Do Magic for Small Change. Wonderful.
5.Should the question mark in the above question be inside or outside the quotes?
Outside, dammit! sayeth the engineer. The writer in me shrugs; whatever—I’m in it for the fun and glory and adventure. Just be consistent with that punctuation stuff and use it to tell a great story, and I’m yours.
6.What’s your stance on the Oxford Comma?
Pro. I’ll fight you.
7.What is your book Glass Houses about and how did it come to fruition?
It was an out-take—a sort of side story—that emerged while I was writing Proxies, my novel in the same series. Ruby Kubick, a lesbian waldo operator who used her robotic drones to avoid going outside or interacting with anyone in person, sprang to life in my head, and she just wouldn’t go away. But her story didn’t fit inside the other work, which was already too big. So I gave her her own story.
Ruby is a young woman in a future, drowned New York City, about a century or so from now. She has direct brain interface tech, which she uses to control a set of junkyard robots, and uses them to scrape out a living doing salvage. On one operation during a storm, she discovers a wealthy man who got stranded in a decrepit high-rise. She attempts to rescue him, and things go badly awry from there…
It’s a noir-ish mystery-adventure, and also a story about Ruby, who has fallen for a woman who doesn’t love her back, working on how to take control of her own fate, and get out of this trap she’s in, this sticky web of life circumstances and choices she’s made whose consequences she couldn’t have predicted.
8.What’s your current writing project?
Thanks for asking! :D I have a few nifty projects I’m having fun with.
My publisher and I want to do at least two more books in my Wave series, along with a re-release of the first book, Up Against It. The series is about a middle-future, partially-settled solar system, with rogue AI and humans of various sorts trying to survive. UAI starts with a disaster that puts the asteroid colony at risk, and turns into a political thriller. It’s sometimes compared to James S.A. Corey’s The Expanse, as their book and mine came out about the same time and feature asteroids and rogue tech and races against time… nyeh heh heh…
I’m also nearly done with a near-future SF novel about the space race to Mars, and a young woman who gets caught up in the events. It’s called Child Left Behind.
I read an early draft of the first few scenes back in 2013 at SF in SF (SF in SF, if you haven’t heard of it, is a sort of happy-hour—interviews and readings—style event hosted by Terry Bisson and organized by Rina Weisman and Rick Kleffel. It is a BLAST, and if you’re ever in the Bay area, definitely go).
Here’s Rick’s write-up about our event (my entry’s the second one down), and if you want a taste of my work in progress (nearly done now!), you can hear me read an early version of the first chapter here.
I’ve also been working on a cool project in George R.R. Martin’s Wild Cards universe, but am sworn to secrecy there, for now… I’ll let you know when and if I can reveal the details!
9.What book(s) are you currently reading?
One of the great perqs of being a writer is knowing other writers—which means having access to works hot off the writer’s keyboard! I’ve managed to snare an advance reading copy of Annalee Newitz’s Autonomous, which I’ve just started.
Up next is Nalo Hopkinson’s The Blackheart Man. I’d gotten to read snippets of it while she was working on it, so I’m very excited to read the finished work!
10.Who or what inspires your writing?
The people who came before. Ursula K. LeGuin and Samuel R. Delany and Robert A Heinlein and Clifford D. Simak and C.L. Moore. Bradbury and Asimov and Williamson and Butler. Tanith Lee and Mary Shelley and H. G. Wells and so many others. Their stories helped me know how much bigger and weirder and full of wonders the world was than I could ever have imagined, at a time when I desperately needed to know that.
The people coming up now. Newer writers, young and old, emerging into the spotlight of readers’ attention—people of so many cultural backgrounds and identities that have been under-represented in the past, beginning to achieve recognition after being kept in the shadows for far too long. Telling new stories. Showing us thrilling new ways to tell the old ones.
The people who will come after.
I believe the literature of the fantastic is not just unbelievably cool and fun to read; it also plays a crucial role in helping guide us in our efforts to curate a multi-cultural, sustainable future. An ecologically healthy planet, a future welcoming and plentiful, with room for all our hopes and dreams.
So yeah. All that mushy “boldly-go-holding-hands” stuff.
Finally, is there anything you’d care to add? Please also include where people can read your published stories, buy your book, etc.
Nope, all good! You can get copies of my Avatars Dance series, as well as Up Against It, which I wrote as M. J. Locke, as e-books on Amazon or iTunes or Barnes and Noble. I have a novelette about climate change, “True North,” in Welcome to the Greenhouse, as M. J. Locke, and I’m on Twitter, mostly ranting about fascists these days (mixed in with the occasional cool science gif, photo, or link and book squee), as @LauraJMG. Stop by and say hey.
Thank you, Laura, for all the info, links, and insight! Please visit again when UAI, Child Left Behind, and the GRRM top-secret project is/are ready! We'd love to learn more.
Be sure to see Laura's Glass Houses in the Artificial Intelligence StoryBundle if it's still available. Otherwise, visit her online and anywhere books are sold!