This week’s Danger Gal Friday profile is of Major Catherine Li, from Chris Moriarty’s Science Fiction novel SPIN STATE, a Philip K Dick Award and Prometheus Award nominee.

Spin State by Chris MoriartySince I’ve recently started reading the sequel, SPIN CONTROL, I realized that I never have profiled Catherine Li. Mostly this is due to the fact that this book is so dense — it’s detective noir hard science fiction with a gender and sexuality subtext — that no review or profile I write could successfully cover the scope of it. But I’ll do my best.

First off, I wasn’t kidding about this being hard science fiction. The core technology in the story centers on quantum entanglement, and Moriarty did her homework with seven pages of end notes citing scientific papers on the topic. I read this book way back in 2005, and compared it as many have to Richard Morgan’s ALTERED CARBON:

Morgan’s and Moriarty’s debut books are often compared to one another, which is why I read one after the other. UN Peacekeeper Catherine Li is a clone, and she’s covered that fact well, but maybe not well enough when she’s sent back home to solve the murder of physicist Hannah Sharifi — from the same clone bank as Li. There are definite similarities between SPIN STATE and ALTERED CARBON, but they’re vastly different books. I especially liked Moriarty’s concept of “streamspace,” effectively a virt environment like the Matrix, but one enabled by quantum entanglement. And yes, I had to read this book with a dictionary in hand, but that’s what I liked about it.

Catherine Li fits the Danger Gal profile in several different ways. First off, she breaks with many hard science fiction and detective noir stories by just being a female protagonist. She’s actually in charge of getting to the bottom of the mystery, rather than being the girl sidekick with a gun.

I don’t have the book in front of me as I write this, but I also seem to remember Li being vaguely Asian, as is Hannah Sharifi since the two of them are clones from the same source. Li’s appearance doesn’t fall in line with the typical stereotype of what’s deemed as feminine attractiveness, either, namely that she’s shaved her head. This plays well against the gender and sexuality issues in this novel encapsulated by Li’s affair with Bella, a beautiful pawn of the Syndicates and the UN, and Li’s on-going relationship with Cohen, an artificial intelligence who “shunts” into humans of both male and female genders.

So, in Li we have a protagonist who challenges gender, ethnicity, appearance, and sexuality expectations. That’s a superfecta of story elements I haven’t seen very often. (See if that word show up on Free Rice. . .)

This was a challenging read that I enjoyed. This book takes on the big Science Fiction “What if?” question on both scientific and social issues. So far I’m about a quarter into its sequel, SPIN CONTROL, and enjoying it just as much. Li and Cohen evidently show up at some point in the sequel and I’m looking forward to that. I’ve included links to two more reviews of this book, for those who want to know more.

Off the Shelf Review by Paul Witcover
Eagle Review by Russ Allbery

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This was a hard list to put together. You can see all of the Danger Gal Friday profiles here.

1. Lt. Cmdr. Jadzia Dax
2. Wonder Woman
3. Princess Leia Organa
4. Raina Bowen
5. Sgt. Geniveve “Jenny” Casey
6. Captain Chasidah “Chaz” Bergren
7. Bree “Banzai” Maguire
8. Vickie Nelson
9. Lt. Connie Murphy
10. Parrish Plessis
11. Teyla Emmagan
12. Zoe Washburne
13. Primary Sauscony “Soz” Valdoria

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

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Weekly Roundup

Ding dong. Apple calling. Perhaps in the ongoing quest of companies to maximize marketing to women, Apple has welcomed Avon cosmetics CEO Andrea Jung to its board. WIRED magazine muses on the possibilities. Just please, Apple, don’t make a pink Hello Kitty rhinestone encrusted iMac or iPod. I beg you. I kind of resent the idea that manufacturers seem to think that making something pink is the best way to market their products to women. According to WIRED, “Jung is the first woman to sit on Apple’s board in a decade.”

ScarlettThe new io9 blog is talking about temporary hotels. Kind of reminds me of William Gibson’s coffins in NEUROMANCER.

If you’re looking for new shows to watch during the writer’s strike, and you missed the boat on LOST, ABC is offering all three seasons online, for free, in HD. (By way of SFUpdates.)

There’s a GI Joe movie in the works! Is Barbie going to make a cameo? Seriously, I can’t wait to see what they do with the Shana Mae “Scarlet” O’Hara character, which IMDB says will be played by Rachel Nichols. I have friends who have been trying for years to get me to read comics and I’ve never been able to get into it. I may have to change course on that, since Scarlett would make a great Danger Gal profile, not to mention The Baroness Anastasia.

The Literary Assassin and I have been having a great conversation about female characters in the Star Wars universe in the comments to my recent Danger Gal profile of Princess Leia Organa.

Carole McDonnell over at the Fiction Beyond The Ordinary group blog has a good article “In defense of romance,” about why she writes and reads Romance.

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Separated At Birth?

Javier Bardem and Jeffrey Dean Morgan. Who knew? Wow. Bardem is that guy from Love in the Time of Cholera, but he looks so very different in that movie.

Javier Bardem, Jeffrey Dean Morgan

OK, now back to our regularly scheduled programming.

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