I don’t read as much sci-fi as I should for an aspiring sci-fi novelist. I began addressing this a couple years ago by reading Hugo Award winners, starting with The Three Body Problem…which was good but scared me on an existential level. My second try was Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice, a book I’d seen countless times window shopping in Barnes and Noble. I’ve read all three books in her Imperial Radch trilogy since then, and learned about myself as a writer in the process; they were also great books, which is why I picked up Leckie’s latest novel, Provenance.
What catches my attention in Leckie’s stories is the significance of family ties, obligations, and identities to her protagonists. Provenance continues that tradition by introducing Ingray, adopted daughter of a career politician, who fears being disowned. Ingray’s also desperate to avoid humiliation at the hands of her far more capable brother. So what does she do? Ingray participates in a prison smuggling op that’s supposed to help her find stolen war relics, which she ultimately wants to hand over to her mother. Of course, this plan is derailed immediately, setting readers up for a story which, as far as the first couple chapters indicate, has more levity than the metaphysically concerned Imperial Radch books.
To my surprise, family is significant to much of my storytelling as well. I don’t come from prestige or politics: I’m the son of an immigrant mom and first-gen dad, divorced many years ago. My siblings and I talk sparingly. I was rarely home as a kid, always with my friends, and being welcome into their families. My protagonists, in turn, seem obsessed with forming families, reconciliation, and reuniting with people. Correlation doesn’t equate to causation, but it’s hard to ignore the fact I’m probably writing what I know, you know? Writing about family is perhaps a form of catharsis, a means for my typically unexplored emotional landscape to emerge.
In summary, Ann Leckie is cool, and family is important, even if you don’t realize just how important it is. I must confess this “Book Backlog” series was supposed to cover books I had in my house but never got around to finishing. I don’t own Provenance, I’m borrowing it from the library, which means I’ve already put off accomplishing my original goal.
Here’s to more procrastinating!