by Bonnie Loshbaugh
Lila Nicholson’ photo documentary work with non-human species—sentient, presentient and entirely nonsentient—has gained her considerable fame on coffee tables across Known Space. When she takes an assignment with Amer Space’s largest conservation organization, the Diversity of Life Coalition, it seems simple enough. Travel to the planet of Kinmun, meet and greet with the local DLC chapter, take pictures of an adorably fury local species called alokoa, maybe help build the case for a presentient designation.
Only it’s rather difficult to follow your calling as a nature photographer when you’ve been kidnaped and locked in a hotel room.
There’s more than a little local politics around the alokoa and the land they live on. Soon it seems that everyone on Kinmun has a hidden agenda—even the alokoa have their secrets—but as long as she can hold onto her camera, our heroine is pretty sure she’ll make it through the day.
This debut novel by science writer Bonnie Loshbaugh was written with the legacy of the stainless steel rat and other pulp scifi adventures in mind, but tucks as a few serious conservation ideas into a lighthearted beach book.
Arielle: We’ve heard A LOT of science fiction and fantasy pitches. And at a certain point, most of them all meld together. This pitch does not. It stands out. It made me laugh, it made me intrigued, it made me want to enter this world. I can tell that you can write! You got me at “coffee tables around known space”. I also like the conservation angle that makes it more than just escapist reading. What’s missing: the actual plot. There is so little about what happens post-kidnap that I’m not sure where the book is going.
David: I think the story has so much going for it. You really create a new world for me, but I can totally relate to it. And I love the names that you have, Known Space, Diversity of Life Coalition, Amer Space. Those are cool, and make me believe that you can write this kind of lighthearted parody in the science fiction vein. It feels a little Kurt Vonneguty to me, in the best sense. He’s one of my favorite writers. But it does feel a little generic at times. “Our heroine is pretty sure she’ll make it through the day.” It’s not a very good climax for a pitch. I don’t quite get the sense of where the tension and danger and drama are going to come from. I would also like some more word pictures. I like to see what this adorable funny alokoa looks like, as well as some of the other species she photographs. I think it’s a very bad idea to call your book Untitled. It makes me think you can come up with a good title. That is part of your job.