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Janet Kagan

Janet Megson Kagan never reached the lofty literary strata of the Steven Kings or Robert Heinleins of the world, so she does fit in with our philosophy of remembering the lesser-known luminaries of science fiction. But her inclusion on these pages is also a personal indulgence on my part, because she wrote two of my favorite novels of all time (“Uhura’s Song,” 1985, and “Hellspark,” 1988) – and because she became a friend.

 

Janet was born on April 18, 1946 in New Jersey. She is primarily known as a short story author, her work appearing in most of the best sci-fi magazines published, including Analog, Asimov’s Science Fiction, and others.

 

She and her husband, Ricky, were fixtures in the New York Sci-Fi scene in the 1970’s and ‘80’s, but Janet came to my attention first with her 1985 novel “Uhura’s Song,” one of Pocketbook’s Star Trek novels; it is #21 in that long-running series of books. “Uhura’s Song” tells the story of Kirk’s Enterprise on a desperate mission to save a closely-allied race of felinoids – a search literally based on a song. A search aided and abetted by a small, brilliant, determined whirlwind of a character who keeps surprising her shipmates – up to the very end.

 

 

In 1988 Tor Books published a marvelous story of intrigue, culture clash, unexpected violence and wondrous new worlds – “Hellspark.” You’re dropped into a universe of the very far future, with a mouthy computer, religious fanatics, delightful characters from widely-divergent cultures – and all the potentially-lethal trouble a universe can throw at them. It is at once a rousing adventure story and a telling commentary on the human condition and human foibles.

 

 

A series of Janet’s short stories (her "Mother Jones" stories) were re-published in novel form in 1991 under the name “Mirabile.” These stories were all set in the same universe involving the same people – and prove that colony ships can be just as adventuresome as any other.

 

 

Janet also won the prestigious Hugo Award for the Best Novelette of 1993 with “The Nutcracker Coup,” published in December of 1992 in Asimov’s Science Fiction magazine.

 

After I’d read “Hellspark” a couple dozen times, I found an email for Janet and wrote her a rather fan-boyish note, with a couple serious questions thrown in – and to my delight she responded. We began a correspondence that lasted several years. We shared Janet’s love of cats and the antics of her troop, who never seemed to tire of garlic chicken or hard-boiled eggs. We shared recipes. And Janet encouraged both my wife and myself to enter the National Novel Writing Month contest (www.nanowrimo.com – it’s a race to write 50,000 words in the month of November), and my wife (who had never before written anything longer than a letter) actually won the first time out. It took me a few years of attempts before I hit the magic number, but I did, finally.

 

In the mid-2000’s, we became aware that Janet was not well. She told us of bouts with Lyme Disease, but we did not know how frail she was becoming; she’d also been diagnosed with emphysema and other related conditions. In the early hours of March 1, 2008, Janet lost her battle with acute COPD, and those of us who counted her as a friend, mentor, and cheerleader lost a strong, positive, and encouraging voice – and the world of science fiction lost a unique creative vision.

 

Although an accomplished photographer herself, Janet was also notoriously camera-shy; she claimed not to understand why anyone would be interested in her aging, elfin form. This image, taken at a "Winter Solstice" celebration some years ago, is probably the best picture I’ve seen of her.

 

 

Written by John Pickard

 

JANET KAGAN'S SLIGHTLY INCOMPLETE BIBLIOGRAPHY

(from janetkagan.com)

 

"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
UHURAS LIED
    German translation of above (by Andreas Brandhorst?)
    Heyne Bucher, '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

 

#"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
    SCIENCE FICTION BOOK CLUB

 

"Mischief in the Spaceways"
    introduction to the work of James H. Schmitz
    THE BEST OF JAMES H. SCHMITZ
    NESFA Press, 1991

 

"Love Our Lockwood"
    ALTERNATE PRESIDENTS, ed. Mike Resnick & Martin H. Greenberg
    Tor, Feb 1992
    Science Fiction Book Club

 

"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
    also reprinted in HUGO AND NEBULA AWARD WINNERS FROM ASIMOV'S SCIENCE FICTION,
    edited by 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

 

"The Stubbornest Broad on Earth"
    ASIMOV'S SCIENCE FICTION, Feb '98