Creator / Janet Kagan

Janet Kagan (1946 - 2008) was an American science fiction writer. Her works include three books — Hellspark, Mirabile, and the Star Trek Expanded Universe novel Uhura's Song — and a large number of short stories, including the Hugo Award winner "The Nutcracker Coup".

Works by Janet Kagan provide examples of:

  • Common Tongue: In Hellspark, the common language is called GalLing' (presumably from "galactic lingua franca"); it's an artificially-constructed language, and one of its design features is that it only uses phonemes common to all human languages, so that anybody can speak it without difficulty.
  • Cool Old Lady: Mama Jason in Mirabile
  • Embarrassing First Name: Eben in "Standing in the Spirit". (His mother was a fan of A Christmas Carol, and didn't consider the schoolyard bullying potential.)
  • Guile Hero: The hero of Hellspark, Tocohl, like everyone in her culture, has been extensively trained in cultural understanding and adaptation, so as to be able to speak to people with not only the right words but also the right gestures, customs, etc. to put them at ease. On top of this, she adds her own ingenuity to become a great diplomat, tricking people into doing the right thing, as when she convinces one team member, who had been offending another team member by going around barefoot, that boots would be fashionable. The resolution of the whole plot turns on trickery.
  • I Know Your True Name: In Hellspark, Yn shamans can do magic on people whose true name they know.
  • Instant A.I., Just Add Water: Maggy in Hellspark
  • Intrepid Merchant: The protagonist, and many of the other Hellsparks, in Hellspark.
  • Language of Truth: In Hellspark, it is technically possible to lie in Jenji, but the language is structured to provide as much accuracy and detail as possible, and is backed up by cultural and religious penalties for lying. Several times characters refer to speaking in Jenji as synonymous to telling the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
  • No Indoor Voice: Mabob from Mirabile with his hundred-plus decibel GRONK! The speed at which Annie trains him to acquire an indoor voice is the first clue to his real nature: He's not just a native animal, but a proto-sapient.
  • Our Nudity Is Different: In Hellspark, the Janisetti consider the feet to be a private part; walking around with no shoes on can get a person arrested for public indecency.
  • Patchwork Story: Mirabile is composed of previously-published short stories.
  • Planet of Hats: Played with in Hellspark, where each of the planetary cultures has a distinctive quirk, but it's not the be-all and end-all of any character's personality.
  • Rousseau Was Right
  • Schizo Tech: In Mirabile, justified in that the book is set on a third-generation (and very poorly populated) Terran colony that came from generation ships. The colonists tend to live like 19th-century homesteaders, but have access to high technology, albeit in very limited quantity. Also present with the Sivaoans in Uhura's Song. Turns out they were Luddite aesthetics that make up for their lack of a high tech infrastructure with photographic memories, and the related Eeiaoans were a technology-embracing splinter group that was exiled from Sivao.
  • Shaming the Mob: One chapter of Mirabile deals with mysterious forest fires, and at one point the townsfolk want to leave a man they think has been setting the fires to die in them. Susan puts herself between the mob and the man and tells them off, personally calling out a couple she thinks should know better. She doesn't stop them, but she does hold them long enough for Annie to get there and break things up with force of personality and a "persuader" full of rock salt.
  • Starfish Robots: The 'arachne' (multi-legged robot drone) in Hellspark.
  • Team Pet: Unique in her works, Annie and Leo get one late in Mirabile, in the form of a particularly weird alien "bird" with a hundred-decibel built-in airhorn. He's named "Thingamabob" (or just "Mabob"), is very friendly and sociable, and an extremely efficient hunter of vermin. It also turns out he's very close to, if not outright, sentient, at least as smart as Toothless from How to Train Your Dragon.
  • Traumatic Haircut: In "The Nutcracker Coup"
  • Yet Another Christmas Carol: "Standing in the Spirit" is about a Dickens fan regaining her Christmas spirit with some supernatural intervention. It's a lot more creative than the usual 'you will be visited by three spirits' retread, though.