Ann Leckie: Futuristic, Epic, Brilliant
Ann Leckie is a multi award-winning Science Fiction author, recently turned Fantasy author, living in Saint Louis, Missouri. The series that brought her to fame was the Imperial Radch trilogy that follows the sole survivor of a starship disaster, named Breq. Breq is an “ancillary,” which means that her mind has been linked to the artificial intelligence that exists within her space ship. However, when her ship is destroyed, her link is cut off, and she now pursues a god-like foe—Lord of the Radch.
Born in 1966, in Ohio, Ann grew up a Science Fiction reader. Her parents were at first a tad baffled by their daughter’s obsession, but when Ann decided SciFi would be her future, they were fully supportive. Leckie graduated with a degree in Music from Washington University in 1989. She was unsuccessful for a long while in publishing her writing but did manage to put forth one “bodice-ripper” in a romantic magazine called True Confessions.
Like many aspiring authors, Ann held down various jobs unrelated to writing; she’d been a waitress, a receptionist, a land-survey crewmember, and a recording engineer. When Ann Leckie became a stay-at-home mother, she found herself plotting her first novel. Ancillary Justice was drafted during the 2002 session of NaNoWriMo. In 2005, Leckie attended the reputable Clarion West—a Science Fiction writers workshop—where she studied under Octavia E. Butler during Butler’s last living year.
Leckie made a comment at Clarion West that heavily influenced her writing from that point on:
Wouldn’t it be cool if there was a society that genuinely didn’t care about gender?
During the following years, as her first novel was brewing, Leckie founded an online writing magazine called Giganotosaurus, edited a podcasting magazine called Podcastle, served one year as Vice President for the Science Fiction Writers of America, and started a blog.
The blog is still going today and there is almost a decade’s worth of fun things to find at AnnLeckie.com: essays, SciFi convention speeches, writing prompts, links of interests, and lots and lots of book recommendations. One post references a London band called Hats Off Gentlemen It’s Adequate who wrote a song titled “When I Was a Ship,” that was directly inspired by the spaceship in the Ancillary series.
All the while, as she developed her book, Ann’s question of gender lingered. She decided that her created society would be one that did not differentiate between male and female. The characters all referred to each other as “she.”
I’ve seen some folks complain that they can’t visualize any of the characters. Part of that is because I don’t generally do heavy-duty physical description anyway. You start out with an ‘I,’ and it’s almost like Schrodinger’s Cat. When I read a first-person story and the gender isn’t marked really soon, I settle on one or the other, because I live in this culture and speak this language. But I think I prefer a blank silhouette to an overly described one.
– Quoted from an interview with Locus Magazine
As Ancillary Justice is a story about a fractured, artificially intelligent mind, it also turns around the assumptions that are made regarding who is decidedly female and who is male. Or, to take matters further, what age says about a person. It’s a work that leads us beyond an external description and to consider, very carefully, the inner workings that fill us with life.
Ancillary Justice was purchased by Orbit in 2012 and from there, quickly rose in the opinions of the critics. This first book in the series won the Hugo Award, the Nebula Award, the Arthur C. Clarke Award, and the British Science Fiction Associate Award.
The following two books, Ancillary Sword and Ancillary Mercy, both won the Locus Award and were Nebula Award nominees. And Provenance was a nominee for both the Locus and the Hugo. Now, Leckie has turned her eyes to Fantasy with the release of her new book, The Raven Tower. Read about all of Ann’s books below.
“On a remote, icy planet, the soldier known as Breq is drawing closer to completing her quest.
Breq is both more than she seems and less than she was. Years ago, she was Justice of Toren—a colossal starship with an artificial intelligence linking thousands of corpse soldiers in the service of the Radch, the empire that conquered the galaxy.
An act of treason has ripped it all away, leaving her with only one fragile human body. And only one purpose—to revenge herself on Anaander Mianaai, many-bodied, near-immortal Lord of the Radch.“
“What if you once had thousands of bodies and near god-like technology at your disposal?
And what if all of it were ripped away?
The Lord of the Radch has given Breq command of the ship Mercy of Kalr and sent her to the only place she would have agreed to go—to Athoek Station, where Lieutenant Awn’s sister works in Horticulture.
Athoek was annexed some six hundred years ago, and by now everyone is fully civilized—or should be. But everything is not as tranquil as it appears. Old divisions are still troublesome, Athoek Station’s AI is unhappy with the situation, and it looks like the alien Presger might have taken an interest in what’s going on. With no guarantees that interest is benevolent.“
“For a moment, things seem to be under control for the soldier known as Breq. Then a search of Athoek Station’s slums turns up someone who shouldn’t exist—someone who might be an ancillary from a ship that’s been hiding beyond the empire’s reach for three thousand years. Meanwhile, a messenger from the alien and mysterious Presger empire arrives, as does Breq’s enemy, the divided Anaander Mianaai—ruler of an empire at war with itself.
Anaander is heavily armed and extremely unhappy with Breq. She could take her ship and crew and flee, but that would leave everyone at Athoek in terrible danger. Breq has a desperate plan. The odds aren’t good, but that’s never stopped her before.“
“A power-driven young woman has just one chance to secure the status she craves and regain priceless lost artifacts prized by her people. She must free their thief from a prison planet from which no one has ever returned.
Ingray and her charge will return to her home world to find their planet in political turmoil, at the heart of an escalating interstellar conflict. Together, they must make a new plan to salvage Ingray’s future, her family, and her world, before they are lost to her for good.“
The Raven Tower
“For centuries, the kingdom of Iraden has been protected by the god known as the Raven. He watches over his territory from atop a tower in the powerful port of Vastai. His will is enacted through the Raven’s Lease, a human ruler chosen by the god himself. His magic is sustained via blood sacrifice that every Lease must offer. And under the Raven’s watch, the city flourishes.
But the power of the Raven is weakening. A usurper has claimed the throne. The kingdom borders are tested by invaders who long for the prosperity that Vastai boasts. And they have made their own alliances with other gods.
It is into this unrest that the warrior Eolo—aide to Mawat, the true Lease—arrives. And in seeking to help Mawat reclaim his city, Eolo discovers that the Raven’s Tower holds a secret. Its foundations conceal a dark history that has been waiting to reveal itself… and to set in motion a chain of events that could destroy Iraden forever.“
Catch our vlog review here where we review The Raven Tower by Ann Leckie.