Janet Kagan was the author of, in my humble opinion, one of the best Star Trek novels out there: Uhura’s Song [Mysterious Galaxy | B&N | Amazon]. She also wrote the original SF novel Hellspark [Mysterious Galaxy | B&N | Amazon] as well as a collection called Mirabile [Mysterious Galaxy | B&N | Amazon] and a Hugo-winning story “The Nutcracker Coup.” There’s a warmth to her writing that I absolutely love.
Janet was the first professional writer I talked to when I began trying to break in. I’m not sure how I got the courage to contact her, but we ended up swapping a number of e-mails over the years. She offered advice and shared her own experiences, and even provided a wonderful blurb for Goblin Quest.
Close readers will notice several references to Janet in Mermaid’s Madness. The map includes the Kagan Sea, and in chapter one, the ships Saint Tocohl and Lord Lynn Margaret are both named after characters from Hellspark.
She died two years ago this week. Here’s an excerpt from the post I wrote when I learned she was gone:
One of the things she did was to offer a personalized, hand-made card to anyone who would donate blood. She was a small woman, and the Red Cross wouldn’t let her donate, so this was her way of supporting them. My mother (a regular donor) got in touch with her, and asked if she could send a card to me instead. I still have it.
Of course, this led to Janet and my mother becoming friends. When I sneakily arranged to have Janet send mom a signed copy of Hellspark for her birthday, Janet threw in a hardcover first edition of Uhura’s Song as well. That’s just who she was.
It’s hard to explain how much her encouragement and support meant to me as a struggling newbie. I occasionally still find myself wishing I could e-mail her about hitting #1 on the Locus bestseller list, or how well the goblin books were doing in Germany. Like a little kid showing his parents the A+ he got on his diorama for school.
She’s who I think of when writers talk about paying it forward, and someone I aspire to be like as I try to step into the role of helping other new writers. I miss her.