Author Profiles
Author Profile Index

This page includes the full text of some of the author profiles that have appeared in Tangent. There is also a handy index to help you locate which issue a particular author's profile appeared in.

Each self-written Author Profile runs between 1,200 and 1,500 words and is accompanied by a photo of the author.


Authors Profiled in Tangent
AuthorIssue #
Catherine Asaro10
Dale Bailey13
Alan Brennert11
Stephen L. Burns15
Michael Burstein15
Michael Cassutt11
Julia Ecklar11
Nicholas A. DiChario13
Paula E. Downing11
Eliot Fintushel10
Alexandra Elizabeth Honigsberg13
Jeffery D. Kooistra 13
Mary Soon Lee15
Ian MacLeod16
Holly Wade Matter12
Mark McLaughlin11
Kevin Andrew Murphy15
Linda Nagata12
Jamil Nasir12
Gregory Nichol16
John B. Rosenman12
Chuck Rothman16
Felicity Savage14
Sue Storm12
Bud Sparhawk10
Lois Tilton10
J.N. Williamson10
Don Webb11

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Ian R. Macleod (by Michael Swanwick)

photo

Dawn comes over the Territory. A rooster crows, and in the slums and shanty towns that cling to the coastline, swarms of raffish citizens pull themselves out of beds and hammocks and up from bar-room floors. Hung over, despairing, hopeful, resigned, strangely elated, each according to temperament, they prepare for another day, another book, another short story, another stab at literary success.

But the Territory is unimaginably vast and the settlements cover an insignificant fraction of its area. Away from the coast, paved roads turn to dirt and dwindle to rutted tracks and then to nothing. The jungle closes about them, moist, mysterious, unmapped. Few venture into the interior. It is perilous to cut new trails. There might be dragons.

Still, they go, two or three a year. Some who were great in their time dare too much and go too far. Orchids claim their bones. Others return broken and fearful, never again to stray from the safety of the known and formulaic. But some few come back with sacks of moonstones and strange tales of serpents that sing and of wise machines living in ruined cities that glow gently in the three-mooned night. And so the adventurers persist. Look quickly and you can see one such writer shouldering his rucksack and slipping quietly into green shadow.

His name is Ian MacLeod.

A writer at the outset of his career is a dim figure indeed, difficult to make out in any detail. MacLeod, however, has been around just long enough that he is starting to come into focus. He's been published in Asimov's and Interzone and F&SF and Weird Tales and who knows where else. He's had a story on the Nebula ballot. His first collection, Voyages by Starlight is forthcoming from Arkham House. Inch by painful inch, he's brought himself to the brink of that most coveted moment when the field must not only acknowledge his existence, but actually consider the merits of his work.

What facts are known about MacLeod are simple enough and broad in outline. He lives in a suburban community called Sutton Coldfield in the Midlands of Great Britain. He took a degree in law at Birmingham Polytechnic, put in ten years in the Civil Service, and is now a full-time writer. He writes primarily for the joy of it, but also as a means of enlightenment, a way to understand things about himself and others that intrigue or annoy or upset him. He admires Proust and Bradbury, Ballard and Le Guin, John Fowles and P.G. Wodehouse, Powers and Cabell and Clarke, Boris Pasternak and F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gene Wolfe and Sylvia Plath and George R.R. Martin, among others. He'd like to write like all of them, in all styles and about all things.

Turning to his fiction, however, a more specific picture begins to emerge. For no artist can write about all things equally well, and those things that manage to complete the long journey from idea to print are usually those that lie closest to the bone.

By testimony of his stories, then, MacLeod is particularly fascinated by or concerned with re-inventing, improving, changing, or redeeming the past; young love--older, mature love seems to him much rarer--and lost love; events that take place on an island; warm, sunlit places, blue sky and sea, white-walled towns; twilight; sleep; sex, generally enjoyed by the parties at the time, but compromised in some way; isolation, failure to communicate; family structures, generally damaged; the beautiful, mercurial woman; the dour, somewhat introverted man; the shortcomings of bureaucracies and other large organizations; and most particularly the land over the hill, the house with golden windows across the valley, the garden beyond the wall.

This last, the vision, sometimes tragic, sometimes sustaining, of a better world existing Elsewhere, seems to me central to MacLeod's art. Or maybe not. Reflecting on the lost and unobtainable, after all, has always been one of the prime driving engines of fiction. Still, time and again, his flawed and injured--which is to say, badly in need of what "story" provides--protagonists reach out yearningly for the distant and transcendent. And this is exactly what makes his stories core stuff, central to the enterprise of fantasy and science fiction. They grapple with the essential in ways that the mainstream cannot.

MacLeod's worlds have that rare and wonderful quality of being spacious enough to contain everything--joy and despair, children and skyscrapers and power breakfasts, small jokes and great empires, wooden ships and surgical lasers alike. All told with a bright inventiveness and in a lively, varied, and even (when it suits his purposes) playful prose style.

MacLeod's best work is characterized by high contrast, a mixture of horror and enchantment, of fierce anger and great beauty. In worlds where enormous forces are inexorably at work, such beauty may be invisible to the inhabitants, but it is very much in evidence on the page.

And here I must stop.

To what ends MacLeod puts his highly-contrasted, angry, and beautiful engines of transcendence, his readers will have to discover for themselves. For beyond this point I refuse to generalize. Each story carries its own weight of intent and emotion, serves its own purposes, plants its own incendiary devices. For the sake of those of you who have not yet read his work, I've been careful to say nothing about any particular story--though I have favorites--because the single greatest pleasure of discovering a writer is that for once, briefly, it's possible to approach his work without the burden of experience, with innocent eye and a glad willingness to be surprised.

I had a dream the other night. I'm in a bar swapping lies with Lucius Shepard and Geoff Ryman and this guy who claims to be J.G. Ballard, but since I've never met the man, who knows? We're drinking Red Stripe and there's something by Robert Fripp on the jukebox. Maybe I'm getting a little loud.

Suddenly the door slams open and somebody we've never seen before staggers in. He's got that wide-eyed jungle look to him and he holds up both hands, cupped. They're brimming with what might be moonstones and then again may only be chestnuts. He has to swallow before he can speak and when he does speak, just one word comes out.

Look.

Read Michael A. Burstein's Author Profile
Read Felicity Savage's Author Profile


Felicity Savage

photo I recently became enamoured of a parlor game by means of which you can find out a lot about someone, and not incidentally let them know the real deal with you. "List the top five words that define you as a person. Nouns. No adjectives." When it's my turn, I'll say triumphantly, "Writer! Writer! Writer! Writer! Writer!"

I don't have much motivation. It's hard for me to make myself do anything I don't want to. The masochism of most academics, professionals, and athletes fascinates and distresses me. I'm an obsessive, but I don't obsess about my career. In high school I flirted with compulsive behavior -- if I didn't manage to cross the street on DON'T WALK I'd have to try again and again; if I wasn't the last to leave a classroom I'd inevitably be humiliated in my next class, etc., etc. Nowadays I don't drink but I smoke too much, and I have an eating disorder. It isn't pleasant to live with, but it does, I know, function as a safety valve for my personality. I see my writing as a Conradian river on which I'm steaming through life, peering at the jungle through binoculars, casting anchor in overhung coves to party all night with the natives. If I were to get obsessive about that, I'd find myself in the rapids, between high cliffs, with nothing to see.

Every day I sit down and write and that's all there is to it. Last spring I went to Jamaica without my word-processor; by the end of a week, I was hallucinating giants in broad daylight, dragons made of Lite Brite colored dots in the dark, my imagination bursting the boiler. This winter, I'm going to Kenya, but I'm taking the PowerBook!

I've worked on my fiction every single day since I was fourteen. That was the year my mother died, and my two brothers and I relocated to America to live with an aunt. Going to high school in Massachussetts was hell. New York has been a four-year orgy of discovery. I can't say I've become an American, but I am a city girl -- I grew up in sparsely populated regions of Ireland and Scotland, and now if I have to spend any length of time in the countryside, I turn into a haughty, sniveling wreck yearning for hot coffee and fresh flowers at four in the morning. Harlem, where I live now, feeds me that psychic and physical energy I seem to lack in isolation. I see cities as forums for the development of our self-awareness. 24-7 delis, 7-52 club scenes, the plausibility of parading around all day in heels, velvet, and vinyl -- it all helps us forget we're just animals, it frees us, in my mind, to contemplate the possibility of ennobling our spirits.

In Cambridge, MA, between the ages of 14 and 17, I wrote 700,000 words of veiled autobiography with little literary merit. Humility Garden, my first published book, is still veiled autobiography, but thanks to the gorgeous people at Clarion '92, it's a book as well. Then while I was writing the sequel, Delta City, due out in February from ROC, an extraordinary thing happened! I realized I wasn't just transcribing a story, I was creating a novel, a form which can be crafted, shaped, and manipulated! I applied that revelation to short stories and sold four to F&SF, two to tomorrow, and one to Century.

Now I'm 20, and I'm working on a monstrous, daemonic new series of four, maybe five books to be published by HarperPrism, which aims to do no less than redefine fantasy and simultaneously offer an explanation for the 20th century. I've tried to model each installment on the thriller as defined by le Carre, Martin Cruz Smith, and Iain Banks. One theme of the series is the unstoppable force/immovable object conflict between determinism and pure dumb luck. Another is religion. I've called Humility Garden et al. "theosophical fantasies" and that holds true for all my fiction. I was brought up as a devout Christian Scientist and I can't stop thinking about the role of belief and faith in all of our lives, even though God doesn't always come into it any more.

I'm incapable of watching TV or sitting through a movie. My childhood entertainments were the old ones: books and music. My mother always had classical playing, even when we lived in a caravan and had to run the tape-recorder off a car battery. When I was nine and my brother Darragh was five, we lived on Baleshare, a tiny island in the Outer Hebrides, and we had to take "Hector's big bus" to school on North Uist. The older kids would coax Hector to play their cassettes. I had no idea who sang "Hungry Like The Wolf," "Billie Jean," or "Like A Virgin" (which I interpreted as "Like a birdie / Flying high up in the sky / O0-oo-oo-oo, like a birdie"), but I remember wishing the ride was longer. Then, when we moved back to Ireland, I became a bit of a prig -- took classical guitar lessons, wanted to be a concert guitarist, expressed open contempt for my friends' pop tastes. In America, however, this horror of liking what my friends did operated differently. It pushed me away from the MTV zombie-flock, started m

One of the reasons I'm suspicious of multiculturalism is because it assumes everyone has a culture as defined by the media. I'm the daughter of a Southern baby boomer who met my father, a Viennese truck driver, in Paris, and raised her children in Ireland, Scotland, and France, not in that order; now I'm an immigrant to the USA. Show me someone who shares by cultural experience, and I'll show you a fictional character! One of the things I think I can bring to the sf/f dialogue is this inside knowledge I have of the simultaneous globalization and balkanization of culture which has characterized the late 20th century, and will grow more pronounced in the future. The end result will be billions of cultures of one, who can only communicate in the iconic shorthand of a media 99 o/o of them don't control.

The entertainment industries are largely responsible for this phenomenon. The importance of entertainment can't be overstated: it may not make and break economies, but it shapes the people who do!. And in history, civilizations are revealed by their chosen entertainments. Greek drama, No plays, yellow journalism, public human sacrifices. Krik? Krak! We're cogs in the gigantic English-language entertainment machine that's already steam-rollered its way across the world. I won't go so far as to say we have a responsibility, but we have the privilege of power. 5 billion people's mouths are open, their eyes closed. What are we going to feed them? It's an incredible honor to be a writer, to have the chance to place your very own secret-recipe concoction -- be it Wonder Bread or vitamins -- on the waiter's tray, and hope to hell the blind diners ignore the scent of Hollywood souffle strategically placed under their noses.

In the corner, watching their fingers explore the trays, listening to them heap abuse on the poor waiters, I'm thinking: I know all about filling your stomach.

Read Michael A. Burstein's Author Profile
Read Ian R. MacLeod's Author Profile


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Michael A. Burstein

photo Less than two years ago I was a hopeful wannabe writer. I had been trying to sell a science fiction story since I was 14, and had seriously started up again when I was 22. Since then, I've done the following:

It's pretty much a safe bet to say that most of you reading this have never heard of me before. By now, I've probably hooked half of you into reading this, hoping to find out how I had such fast success, in hopes of emulating it. I've also probably driven the other half of you away with my semi- obnoxious list of recent successes.

Well, for those of you who stuck around, I'm afraid I have no great secret to success. I just seem to be leading a charmed life. But if it's of any interest at all, I can tell you a little bit about the path I took which led me to where I am now.


I grew up, as I'm sure a lot of us did, reading science fiction. Somewhere I got it into my head to be a physicist, and so when I left New York City for Boston to attend college, it was to study Physics. I got my degree in 1991, and then went on to graduate school.

Graduate school made me realize that I didn't want to be a physicist.

Now, during all this formal education, I did try writing stories once or twice. I was inspired by my high school friend Charles Ardai, who has written quite a few excellent mystery and horror stories, and was even nominated for the Shamus Award. I kept thinking that maybe I could produce something halfway decent.

I think you know the drill. Rejection slip after rejection slip. I left graduate school in 1993 with my M.A. and returned to NYC to teach for two years. And it was during that time that I garnered my first personal rejection letter, a note from Stan Schmidt of Analog. From then on, every piece of drivel that I wrote was sent to him for a first look, since I knew he was taking me seriously.

And so it was because of his own insight (an insight that is impossible for me to understand, now that I look back on some of the atrocities I commited to paper), that he managed to publish a Hugo nominated story by a neo.


I want to talk a little about where "TeleAbsence" came from. At a convention a few years back, I was on a panel about what we might expect in the year 2001, when one of the panelists suggested that one thing we could all agree on was that by the year 2001, everyone would have an e-mail address.

Two of us disagreed.

Now don't get me wrong. I've been surfing the Internet since before that metaphor was used (1987, if you must know; and yes, I hear some of you calling me a youngster), and I love e- mail. It's kept me in touch with a lot of friends, and I've made a lot of new ones whom I would never have known otherwise. (I'm at mab@world.std.com if you want to drop me a line.) But this guy was claiming that there would be a world of information out there, free for the taking.

Oh, sure, it would be free. After you pay for your computer, and your modem, and your phone line...and let's not forget your commercial Internet provider, assuming you're not a college student or working in the computer field.

I decided to write a story pointing out that just because the technology is out there, it doesn't mean that it's going to get to everyone who might need it. The Internet wasn't SF anymore, but I'm a teacher, so I thought, what if I created a classroom metaphor for the Internet? Say, a Virtual Reality classroom, where students from all over the world could jack in and interact, even if they really lived miles apart.

My original notes on this story played up an angle that I soon dropped. The VR classoom seemed like a good solution for violence in schools, and I thought of writing a story about a media scientist whose teacher friend is killed by such violence, and how she develops the idea of VR schools to solve the problem. But it was depressing to open a story with a funeral.

What if, on the other hand, I projected this into the future? After all, my point was that just because the technology was there, it did not mean that it would go to the people who needed it. What if these telepresence schools were set up as private schools, because the government couldn't afford to fund them, and what if one day an economically disadvantaged kid whose neighborhood school is lousy finds a pair of virtual spex, and sneaks into the telepresence school because he wants to learn?

Hence the title, "TeleAbsence," with an intercapped A because it was the only way I could think of to get people to pronounce the title correctly without a hyphen. Besides, last time I checked Wired magazine, intercapping was in.

I don't remember when I started writing "TeleAbsence," but the first version ended much too quickly. Stan Schmidt sent it back for a rewrite. I drew out the conflict, kept the original happy ending, and got another revision request.

Thank God for Howard Waldrop at Clarion. He pointed out to me that the way I was ending the story missed the point I was trying to make. I wanted things to work out well for Tony, the kid in the story, and I ended up letting him stay in telepresence school twice before realizing that doing so drained the story of its emotional impact. So no, Tony doesn't get what everyone wants for him, but the story ends happily. (See for yourself if you want; in the ultimate irony, I've made the story available on my web page, http://world.std.com/~mab.) #

Back to me, I guess. Last June, I got married, and moved once again from NYC to Boston, where my wife Nomi and I had decided to live. It's still a city, but more manageable than New York is. And I'm still teaching Physics (and Mathematics) as my dayjob.

I'm also still writing. A year after my first two sales, I made a third sale, a short-short, which allowed me to join SFWA as an Active Member. I proceeded to submit a list of works that I recommended for the Nebula. Although a writer, I am also still very much a reader of science fiction, and I still find myself in awe of the writers I admire.

The writing is starting to become more successful, too, and not just on the award scale. When I was at Clarion, I had this idea that I really wanted to turn into a story -- what if the abandoned Superconducting Supercollider started hiccuping, and the project (which died when its funding was cut) was renewed? (This is the kind of thing high energy physicists would fantasize over.) I wrote a 3,000 word version of this story, then called "Collisions With Reality," at Clarion. It didn't really work, and I spent almost two years trying to figure out just what this story needed.

Now, I'm the kind of writer who needs a workshop for constant improvement. I've been blessed with a wonderful group in the Boston area, called Critical Mass, which already had its share of success before I happened on the scene. I finally figured out what the story needed, and the members of Critical Mass helped me make it work. "TeleAbsence" may have already been published when I joined them, but if not for that group, "Broken Symmetry" would still be languishing in my computer as a 3,000 word failure instead of a 12,000 word sale, my first novelette. It'll be in Analog sometime soon.

My next project -- a novel, which I hope to write this summer. There are some advantages to being a high school teacher.


Last November Joe & Gay Haldeman invited my wife and me over to their Cambridge apartment for a Clarion alumni party. I vividly remember drooling over Joe's 1995 Hugo Award for Best Short Story. It's a beautiful, gleaming rocket statue, as all Hugos are, and I thought to myself, "Well, maybe someday, I'd be up for one of these."

I guess someday has arrived, a little sooner than I expected. But isn't that what science fiction is all about?


Read Ian R. MacLeod's Author Profile
Read Felicity Savage's Author Profile

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Last revised Friday July 18 1997