Almost as thrilling as the news that Pat Cadigan has just won the Hugo Award for her novelette "The Girl-Thing Who Went Out for Sushi" from the anthology Edge of Infinity, is the realization that this is Pat's first Hugo. Well-deserved, and damned well-earned!
As hard to believe as that is, it's equally hard for me to believe that her career now extends more thana third of a century , back to her first stories in fan publications. Her career, like most writers' careers, has had its ups and downs, but the trajectory of that career — always a different thing from the temporal reality of any writer's career — has remained in the ascendant.
That she was — and is — a writer of large ambition has been clear from the moment, in the early '80s when her "Deadpan Allie" stories began to appear, although it was probably her "Pretty Boy Crossover" that really began her breakout from new writer to major writer.
The Allie stories formed the kernel of her first novel, Mindplayers (1987), with its killer opening:
I did it on a dare. The type of thing where you know it's a mistake but you do it anyway because it seems to be Mistake Time.
No mistaking that voice and what it had to say — there was a writer in the room.
It was around this time too, maybe slightly before, that she became known as the "Queen of Cyberpunk." That she was, but so much more as well. Just how much more would begin to made clear as her second and third novels appeared, a year apart, in the early '90s.
That second novel, Synners (1991) pushed cyberpunk — and then some — in half a dozen simultaneous and simultaneously different directions, a huge leap in both craft and art over Mindplayers, and a major novel by any standards, not just those of cyberpunk.There was not a more complex, or more complexly provocative SF novel in the 1990s. It is the richest of her novels so far.
Her third, Fools (1992), pushed matters of identity (real and virtual) even further. Though smaller in scope and girth than Synners, Fools marked another advance in Pat Cadigan's craft, not to mention her art, and may be the best of her books (ditto "so far"), although Synners may still have the edge for me in the sheer size of the ambition that powers its narrative..
Throughout the 90s she continued to write exceptionally good short fiction, for OMNI and elsewhere. She proved herself a fine nonfiction writer as well, as her 1995 "Carnival Diablo" piece, written for me at OMNI (actually it was written for OMNI's readers, who were the prime beficiaries as they were of the Cadigan fiction OMNI and OMNI Online published, but I'll bask in whatever reflective [sic] glory I can).
Approaching and then entering the new century/millennium, Pat Cadigan began ringing changes, some subtle, some audacious, on her explorations of virtual lives (and deaths) and virtual responsibilities, not to mention the nature of the virtual world's effects on the real world we were increasingly using our virtual connections to distance ourselves from. Her set of matched novels, Tea From an Empty Cup (1998), and Dervish is Digital (2001), marries -- and consummates the marriage! — of cyberpunk with procedural noir. The novels have a gritty reality and an even grittier virtual reality. They deserve to be better known than they are. Caveat (sorta): I am one of the dedicatees of Tea, which doesn't affect at all the esteem with which I regard that novel.
Throughout all of this, Pat Cadigan was (and is) a working writer as well as a gifted and ambitious one. Much of her work over the past decade has been on assignment, movie tie-in novels, movie tie-in nonfiction, round-robin fiction, and more. She brings to each of those projects an impressive professionalism, delivering precisely the goods and then some that the publishers commissioned.
Throughout all of this, too, Pat has continued to produce a body of short fiction that is among the very best of her generation — and any other for that matter. Her stories continue to be highlights of the magazines and original anthologies in which they appear, as they are of the best of the Year anthologies they also inevitably (well, almost inevitably) appear in.
"The Girl-Thing Who Went Out for Sushi," in fact, can be found in Gardener Dzois' latest Best Science Fiction of the Year, along with a couple of hundred thousand words of other terrific SF.
Her gifts for short fiction are even larger than her novelistic gifts, as any reader of the collections Patterns, Home by the Sea, or Dirty Work discovers quickly. It is high time for a collection or two of her recent work, and past high time for a Best of Pat Cadigan.
What sets Pat's fiction apart is that for all the sharp edges, unflinching toughness, awareness of just how rotten humans can be, there is a humanity, a heart, that is most often revealed in a blood-fierce anger and rage at what we do to each other, and what our creations are doing to us. She hates much of what she sees in the world around her, and transmutes into the worlds she builds, but she hates it with love, and not gently.
Se can also be a very funny writer, and also not gently.
A wonderful writer, and a magnificent human being, one whom I am proud to call friend, as I also call her equally magnificent husband, the original one-and-only-they-broke-the-mold-when-they-made-him Christopher Fowler. Theirs is one of the best marriages I know of. Pat's son Robert Fenner is a grown man now, but based on who I to got know a little when I spent some time with him when he was a boy, I have no doubt that he is a fine man.
Now Pat is a Hugo winner, and about damned time. "The Girl-Thing Who Went Out for Sushi" (love that title!) may signal a new direction in her work, being set in a meticulously built and vividly realized outer solar system some time from now. It is interesting to see Pat working in space, as it were, and working it and its venue(s) as thoroughly and as originally as she has every other venue she has turned her talents to. Check out the story's opening:
Nine decs into her second hitch Fry hit a berg in the Main ring and broke her leg. And she didn’t just splinter the bone — compound fracture! Yow!
No mistaking that voice either — it's Pat Cadigan's.
It is clear that after three decades of gathering strength and power as a writer, Pat Cadigan is in the springtime of her career.I look forward to the blossoming and growing seasons ahead.
Still known as the "Queen of Cyberpunk," my own feeling is that Pat Cadigan is the Queen of whatever she wants to choose to become the Queen of, and long may she reign.