Harris, Anne L. 1964–
Harris, Anne L. 1964–
PERSONAL: Born 1964. Education: Oakland University, Rochester, MI, degree in computer science.
ADDRESSES: Home—Detroit, MI. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Tor Books, 175 5th Ave., 14th Fl., New York, NY 10010.
CAREER: Writer. Has held numerous jobs, including working as an operations research analyst for the U.S. Department of Defense, and as a vegetarian cook, dry-cleaner, book store clerk, small-town reporter, and public relations writer.
AWARDS, HONORS: Spectrum Award for best novel dealing with gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered rights, for Accidental Creatures.
The Nature of Smoke, Tor Books (New York, NY), 1996.
Accidental Creatures, Tor Books (New York, NY), 1998.
Inventing Memory, Tor Books (New York, NY), 2004.
SIDELIGHTS: A science-fiction writer from the Detroit suburb of Royal Oak, Michigan, Anne L. Harris has made Detroit an important locale in her novels. Harris uses what she knows about Detroit to create the eerily transformed setting for her science fiction. Her debut, The Nature of Smoke, follows Magnolia from Detroit's devastation to the chaos of New York, where the teen soon falls into the hands of Dano, a sleazy pornography producer. Dano plans to broadcast a sex scene with Magnolia that will climax with her real-life murder; but Magnolia is less vulnerable than her years imply. During the live broadcast of Dano's snuff scene, she takes his knife and manages to kill him. Remus Rahul, a powerful scientist who has produced artificial life, sees Magnolia on television and wants to use her as a prototype for a cutting-edge android robot. Magnolia escapes him as well, but when she makes it to his Siberian industrial complex, she meets the pinnacle of his creations, Tumcari, a sort of aqua-man—part human and part aquatic. She also meets Cid, Tumcari's female co-creator. Ruhal tracks Magnolia to Siberia, discovering in the process that Cid has been experimenting in unsanctioned directions. Reviewers lauded The Nature of Smoke for its well-developed characterizations and interesting plot twists. A Kirkus Reviews contributor called the novel an "encouraging debut—flawed, furious, fizzing with ideas, and with a plot that bangs and crashes like boxcars in a switching yard." A Publishers Weekly critic considered the book to be "impressive," its plot "strong" and characters "substantial."
Harris followed The Nature of Smoke two years later with Accidental Creatures. The story takes place in Detroit in the middle of the twenty-first century, when imported "magnetic-levitation transports" have taken the place of gasoline-burning cars. As a result, the economy of the city has hit bottom. The fifty percent unemployment rate and gutted factories make Detroit a fine site for GeneSys, which manufactures biopolymers used for a vast range of materials out of huge vats filled with "growth medium." The trouble is that the growth medium is so rich in nutrients that it is toxic to the human workers who must dive into it to harvest the polymers. The workers wear special suits that are supposed to protect them, but they leak and leave them with life-threatening mutations and deformities. When the workers try to organize to demand better conditions, their leader, Ada, dies mysteriously. Ada's mutant sister, Chango, refuses to dive, even though it is the only paying job in town. But after her sister dies, she gets involved in GeneSys. Another key character is Helix, the adopted daughter of an important research scientist at GeneSys. Helix is a "sport," the mutant daughter of divers, who leaves home to try to test her independence and come to terms with her deformities. Paul Kershaw, reviewing the novel for the Detroit Free Press, called Accidental Creatures "darkly convincing." Chris Donner, who reviewed the novel online for the SF Site applauded its "powerful and believable story…. [Harris's] ability with language is obvious, and she quickly creates interesting characters and a riveting plot, all while taking a realistic look at what the future may hold."
In Inventing Memory the author tells the dual stories of two girls: Shula, a Mesopotamian slave girl from Erech who is chosen for a task by the goddess Inanna, and modern day Wendy, a bullied girl who designs a computer simulation of the city of Erech for her research into matriarchal societies. In the final "book" of the novel, the two worlds collide in what turns out to be a very dangerous experiment. Writing in the Library Journal, Jackie Cassada called Inventing Memory a "good choice for … fans of speculative fiction." Booklist contributor Regina Schroeder observed that "the teen ostracism that motivates Wendy's scholarship will resonate with many YA girls." A Publishers Weekly contributor concluded that the author "makes questing for the inner goddess look like child's play in this intriguing but sometimes uneasy mix of SF, romance and feminist fantasy."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, June 1, 1996, Carl Hays, review of The Nature of Smoke, p. 1682; July, 1998, John Mort, review of Accidental Creatures, p. 1867; March 1, 2004, Regina Schroeder, review of Inventing Memory, p. 1146.
Detroit Free Press, August 16, 1998, Paul Kershaw, review of Accidental Creatures, p. 7H.
Kirkus Reviews, April 15, 1996, review of The Nature of Smoke, p. 568; January 1, 2004, review of Inventing Memory, p. 18.
Library Journal, March 15, 2004, Jackie Cassada, review of Inventing Memory, p. 110.
Publishers Weekly, May 27, 1996, review of The Nature of Smoke, p. 69; August 24, 1998, review of Accidental Creatures, p. 54; February 9, 2004, review of Inventing Memory, p. 62.
SF Site, http://www.sfsite.com/ (November 11, 1998), Chris Donner, review of Accidental Creatures.