Matthews, Susan R.
MATTHEWS, Susan R.
Born in Fort Benning, GA; Education: B.S.; Seattle University, M.B.A.
Auditor and author. Dependable Building Maintenance, Seattle, WA, janitor; Veterans Administration; Boeing Defense and Space Company, Seattle, WA, auditor. Military service: U.S. Army ROTC, two years of active duty as operations and security officer, fifteenth Combat Support Hospital, and chemical officer specializing in treatment under conditions of nuclear, biological, and radiological warfare, Fort Belvoir, VA.
Avalanche Soldier, Avon (New York, NY), 1999. Colony Fleet, Avon (New York, NY), 2000.
"JURISDICTION UNIVERSE" SERIES
An Exchange of Hostages, Avon Books, (New York, NY), 1997.
Prisoner of Conscience, Avon Books, (New York, NY), 1998.
Hour of Judgment, Avon Books, (New York, NY), 1999.
Angel of Destruction, ROC Science Fiction (New York, NY), 2001.
The Devil and Deep Space, ROC Science Fiction (New York, NY), 2002.
Contributor of short stories to Women Writing Science Fiction as Men, edited by Mike Resnick, DAW Science Fiction, New York, NY, 2003; New Faces in Science Fiction, edited by Mike Resnick, DAW Science Fiction, New York, NY, 2003; SF & Magic, edited by eluki bes shahar, 2003; Janis Ian's Universe, edited by Janis Ian and Mike Resnick, DAW Science Fiction, New York, NY, 2003; and Orycon 24 Program Book, November 2002.
WORK IN PROGRESS:
Warring States, fall, 2004.
In her career, Susan R. Matthews has gone from janitor to being an auditor at Boeing and acclaimed science fiction writer. Matthews told Linda Deneroff in an interview posted on the Susan R Matthews: SFAdventure Web site that being nominated for the 1998 John W. Campbell Award for her debut novel meant science fiction readers had noticed her. "Whether a person wins or loses the award," Matthews commented, "it's the fact of being nominated that's called me out from my peers, and so, although it may seem trite, it is actually the nomination itself which constitutes recognition. I cherish that."
Matthews, the fourth of six children in a military family, was born in the army barracks at Fort Benning, Georgia. She traveled with her family as her father—a Full Colonel in the Airborne Infantry and then the Special Forces—was assigned to posts in Kentucky, Germany, Idaho, North Carolina, and India. Matthews was thirteen when her father retired in Seattle, Washington. In a brief biography for EOS Online Convention, Matthews said moving every two years or so taught her to adjust to all types of environments, noting that geographic changes helped to "increas[e] … social skills." In addition, she commented that "being exposed to sometimes radically different ways of life stretches a person's brain at an early age, and gives you an immediate experience of the range of human suffering and potential."
Matthews was introduced to science fiction by a brother who subscribed to a science fiction book club, and one of the first books she read was Isaac Asimov's I, ROBOT. Next came books like The Voyage of theSpace Beagle, by A. E. Van Vogt. As an adolescent, she became a Star Trek, Dark Shadows and Strange Paradise follower, by which time she was already writing her own stories. "In high school," she commented in the EOS biography, "I tripped over Byronic heroes (The Sea Wolf, to begin) and fell hard."
Thinking she wanted to be a Presbyterian minister, Matthews enlisted in the army so the GI bill would help pay for her education. By the time she completed active duty, she had discarded the idea of the ministry, deciding her temperament would not suit the profession; she became a janitor instead. After leaving the army she wrote her first novel, which became the fifth in the "Jurisdiction Universe" series. "That was 1980," she commented in the EOS biography. "That draft looks pretty primitive to me now but it was a start, and I never stopped." While still holding a day job as an accountant, Matthews continued to write.
The first book in the "Jurisdiction Universe" series, An Exchange of Hostages, introduces protagonist Andrej Koscuisko, a young and talented surgeon who, against his will, becomes an inquisitor in a military orientation center in deep space. Reviewing the text for Bentcover, Dave Willoughby called An Exchange of Hostages a "disturbing yet powerful novel." Science Fiction Chronicle's Don D'Ammassa praised Matthews' writing but had qualms about the subject matter, noting that he "found it unpleasant to read to the end." Tom Easton wrote in Analog Science Fiction and Fact that Matthews's scenes of torture are "pretty explicit, but if your stomach can stand it, I think you'll find it a very satisfying experience."
The fifth book in the series, The Devil and Deep Space, finds Koscuisko—still the inquisitor and chief medical officer—commanding the Ragnarok Fleet ship and taking leave to visit the wife and son he has not seen for many years. However, a deadly training accident leaves Koscuisko's security team open to accusation from his enemies, setting them up for torture into admission of the crime. The Fleet's lieutenant sends the team on leave with Koscuisko. Meanwhile, a former foe offers him an opportunity to leave the Fleet forever. Koscuisko must choose between shedding the duties he has grown to hate or abandoning his best friends to the merciless Jurisdiction Law. "Matthews has a deep understanding of subcultures, whether military, religious or civilian," wrote A. M. Dellamonica for SciFi.com. "The deeply personal nature of this conflict, when combined with this author's as-always stellar characterization, engages sympathy at the deepest level possible."
When asked by Deneroff why she writes about Koscuisko, Matthews replied: "Andrej's situation is an ethical question that's interested me for a long time.… What particularly interests me about Andrej and his situation is the fact that he represents in extreme circumstances the same kind of ethical dilemmas that we deal with on a day-to-day basis, and tries out for all of us some of the strategies that we all use to figure out a way to behave reasonably and honorably and reconcile our behavior with things that are going on in our environment that we can't quite accept at the same time."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Analog Science Fiction and Fact, October, 1997, Tom Easton, review of An Exchange of Hostages, p. 148; September, 2000, Tom Easton, review of Avalanche Soldier, p. 135; June, 2001, Tom Easton, review of Colony Fleet, p. 133.
Booklist, October 1, 2001, Roberta Johnson, review of Angel of Destruction, p. 306; October 15, 2002, Regina Schroeder, review of The Devil and Deep Space, p. 395.
Science Fiction Chronicle, May, 1998, Don D'Ammassa, review of An Exchange of Hostages, p. 46.
Bentcover,http://www.bentcover.com/ (January 27, 2003), Dave Willoughby, review of An Exchange of Hostages.
EOS Online Convention,http://www.eventhorizon.com/ (June 11, 2003), "Susan R. Matthews Participant Biography."
SciFi.com,http://www.scifi.com/ (January 27, 2003), A. M. Dellamonica, review of Avalanche Soldier; Paul Di Filippo, review of Angel of Destruction; A. M. Dellamonica, review of The Devil and Deep Space.
SF Site,http://www.sfsite.com/ (January 27, 2003), Lisa DuMond, review of An Exchange of Hostages and Prisoner of Conscience; Kim Fawcett, Hour of Judgment; Lisa DuMond, Avalanche Soldier.
Susan R Matthews: SFAdventure,http://www.sff.net/ (January 27, 2003), biography of Susan R. Matthews; (June 11, 2003), Linda Deneroff, "Interview with Susan."*