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Working name of US author Patricia Oren Kearney Cadigan (1953- ), who began publishing sf with "Death from Exposure" for Shayol #2, February 1978; this Semiprozine, which she edited throughout its existence (1977-1985), was remarkable both for the quality of stories it published and for its production values. She later assembled much of her best shorter work in Patterns: Stories (coll 1989), where its cumulative effect is very considerable; later stories appear in Home by the Sea (coll 1992) and Dirty Work: Stories (coll 1993). From the beginning, Cadigan has been a writer who makes use of her venues – usually Near-Future, usually urban, and usually Californian though often intensified by a sense of windswept, prairie desolation – as highly charged gauntlets which her protagonists do not so much run as cling to, surviving somehow. It is an effect also to be found in the stories assembled in Letters from Home (anth 1991) with Karen Joy Fowler and Pat Murphy, each contributing her own tales.
Unfortunately Cadigan's first novel, Mindplayers (fixup 1987), failed to sustain the intensity of her shorter work, treating in simplistic fashion a vision of the human mind as constituted of sequences of internal psychodramas into which a healer may literally enter, given the proper Dream Hacking tools. The idea, which had been intensely and punishingly examined by Roger Zelazny in The Dream Master (1966), is not in any sense sophisticated by the can-do Metaphysic underlying the premise as Cadigan described it 20 years later. Her next novel, Synners (1991), on the other hand, takes full advantage of its considerable length to translate the street-wise, Cyberpunk involvedness of her best short fiction into a comprehensive vision – racingly told, linguistically acute, simultaneously pell-mell and precise in its detailing – of a world dominated by the intricacies of the human/Computer interface; it won the Arthur C Clarke Award in 1992. The plot, which is extremely complicated, is an early exploration of the interface disease trope, where computer viruses which pass for AIs are beginning to cause numerous human deaths and to fragment human Identity; authors like Eugene Byrne have subsequently exhausted, for the time being, the imaginative possibilities of this concept, though, it may be, Cadigan's work will increasingly seem to have been prescient, in some part through the sense of entrapment it conveys. Certainly her immersion of her female protagonists in traditionally masculine venues – though she does not explicitly write Feminist sf – has had a salutary effect on both readers and any writer who wishes to continue to explore Cyberpunk.
Like William Gibson's cyberpunk novels – and unlike Bruce Sterling's – Synners offers no sense that the Conceptual Breakthroughs that proliferate throughout the text will in any significant sense transform the overwhelming urbanized world, though there is some hint that the system may begin to fail through its own internal imbalances. At the heart of Synners is the burning presence of a future which offers little release. Cadigan's third novel, Fools (1992) – which won her second Arthur C Clarke Award in 1995 – exercises a virtuoso concision on similar material, through examining a Near-Future environment in which memories are marketable and promiscuously insertable, and individual brains become arenas in which various selves engage in agonistic fugues with each other.
Cadigan's next significant work is the Doré Konstantin series, comprising Tea from an Empty Cup (1998) and Dervish is Digital (2000), in which the dark colours of the typical Cyberpunk future are conveyed through unrelievedly noir tones, as Near Future detective Konstantin, gradually becoming streetwise with the Virtual Reality domains that now proliferate, engages in complex Identity games with perps and victims, sometimes Japanese. Though the series is fast and not infrequently witty, there is a sense that Cadigan has exhausted, at least for the time being, the potentials of the 1980s-tinged marriage of Cyberspace and Virtual Reality. Nevertheless she won the 2013 novelette Hugo for "The Girl-Thing Who Went Out for Sushi" (in Edge of Infinity, anth 2012, ed Jonathan Strahan). [JC]
see also: Locus Award; Machines; Psychology; Seiun Award.
born Schenectady, New York: 10 September 1953
collections and stories
Alita: Battle Angel
works as editor
Entry from The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction edited by John Clute, David Langford, Peter Nicholls and Graham Sleight.
Accessed 12:11 pm on 27 May 2020.