Mixon, Laura J.
MIXON, Laura J.
PERSONAL: Born in NM; married Steven Gould (a database programmer and science fiction writer); children: Emma Marie, Carita Elizabeth. Education: University of New Mexico, B.S. (cum laude), 1979; attended Texas A&M University (graduate studies), 1979-80; attended Michigan State University's Clarion Science Fiction Writing Workshop, 1981. Hobbies and other interests: Piano, ethnic and historical dance, scuba diving, Aikido, reading.
CAREER: Writer and engineer. Dow Chemical, TX, research engineer; General Electric, Albuquerque, NM, machine shop environmental manager; Salomon, Inc., New York, NY, vice president for environmental affairs; ERM, environmental engineering consultant, 2001—; freelance science fiction writer. Peace Corps, Kenya, Africa, volunteer and teacher of math, English, and science.
MEMBER: Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA).
Astropilots, Scholastic, Inc. (New York, NY), 1987.
Glass Houses (originally serialized in Analog, 1991), Tor (New York, NY), 1992.
(With husband, Steven Gould) Greenwar, Forge (New York, NY), 1997.
Proxies, Tor (New York, NY), 1998.
Burning the Ice, Tor (New York, NY), 2002.
Contributor of short fiction to magazines such as Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine and Analog.
Contributor to anthologies such as Card Sharks, Baen (New York, NY), 1993; Marked Cards, Baen (New York, NY), 1994; and Worldmakers, edited by Gardner Dozois, St. Martin's Griffin (New York, NY), 2001.
SIDELIGHTS: Laura J. Mixon wrote and illustrated her own mystery-thriller and futuristic tales when she was still a child. "I discovered a love of writing when I completed my first 'novel' (five pages, with crayon illustrations) at the age of eight," she commented on her Web page. A later discovery—of Clifford D. Simak's Ring around the Sun, at age eleven—ignited a lifelong interest in reading and writing science fiction. A chemical engineer, Mixon has worked in polymer research and in the environmental field. In addition, she created and managed the environmental affairs department for Salomon, Inc., the parent company of Salomon Smith Barney. Mixon also served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Kenya for two years in the early 1980s. "In early 1995 I retired to pursue my writing career full-time and raise my kids, and in 2001, when the kids headed to school full-time, I headed back into environmental engineering," Mixon wrote on her home page.
Mixon's first published science fiction novel, Astropilots, was written for young adults. In this story, a young cadet named Jason, who attends the top training academy for intergalactic pilots, is nearly killed by an unscrupulous classmate. After healing from the ordeal, Jason plots revenge. Still a teenager because of the effects space traveling has had on him, Jason returns to the academy and enlists the aid of a new friend. He outwits his old foe, now a grown-up villain who has advanced in the academy's administrative ranks and is bent on destroying the movement toward universal peace. Karen S. Ellis in Kliatt called this "easy and exciting reading" and admired Mixon's handling of complex subjects, including her explanation of the effects that space travel has on people and the passage of time. Writing in School Library Journal, Renee Steinberg considered the work less than challenging but noted that teenage fans of the science fiction genre might enjoy it.
Jackie Cassada in Library Journal praised the "razor-sharp prose" of Mixon's next effort, the "part cyberpunk, part mystery" Glass Houses. Wilson Library Bulletin reviewer Gene LaFaille recommended that readers "buckle up before beginning" the book, because "this is one novel that comes on like gang-busters." Ruby, the reclusive heroine of this gritty novel, lives in New York, NY in the twenty-first century. Her livelihood depends upon a squad of robots that she mentally directs to conduct salvage operations for her in the dangerously polluted city. Ruby's efforts to scavenge whatever salable artifacts she can find barely keep her out of poverty, and lead her to steal diamonds and papers (including a will) from a dead man. Her life is put in danger when the will embroils her in a disinheritance scheme directed by the man's widow. This novel "captures the grungy high-tech future with tight prose and a clarity of vision usually associated with veteran authors," Elliott Swanson remarked in Booklist. Swanson found this story and the high-tech environment Mixon has created understandable and accessible.
Mixon's third work, Greenwar, written with her husband, Steven Gould, was pronounced "a real page turner" and an "environmental action thriller" by Grant A. Fredericksen of the Library Journal. Greenwar tells about the troubles of Emma Tooke, an executive whose company extracts energy and food from the sea. In the course of the novel, the company's off-shore facility is threatened by a hurricane, bankruptcy, and an attack by eco-terrorists. Although judged by a reviewer for Publishers Weekly to be jargon-filled and confusing, Greenwar was deemed to hold readers' interest by Roland Green in Booklist. Green also applauded the plot's sound balancing of elements, ranging from villainy to virtue.
At the center of Mixon's literary concerns and themes are tool-making and environment-shaping, reported Jay Kay Klein in Analog Science Fiction & Fact. "The big questions are what will we make of our world, and will it still be livable," Klein elaborated. Mixon has viewed her writing as a craft, stringing words together like beads, by which she creates objects useful to other people, Klein recounted.
In Proxies, Mixon explores a near-future world in which "politics and science collide over the future of human aspirations," observed Jackie Cassada in Library Journal. Awash with high technology, the planet is plagued by global warming but balances on the cusp of the first interstellar exploration mission. A secret experimental project creates proxies, artificial human bodies controlled by neural links to the minds of creche-born people with profound disabilities and birth defects. The creche-born humans have lived all their lives sealed within life-support tanks and manufactured mental environments, and their interaction with the outside world is through the proxy bodies. When a rogue proxy endangers a senator's daughter, the project's exposure is imminent. To protect their experiment and the creche-born humans supporting the proxies, project scientists hijack the starship Exodus before it heads to deep space. A Publishers Weekly reviewer called Proxies "an unusual combo of cyberpunk, hard-SF and techno-thriller that's distinguished by brisk pacing, creative world building, and deft handling of characters." Mixon's "gritty, even grimly amusing look at everyday life in the near-future is downright chilling, however, and will please dour futurist readers," observed John Mort in Booklist.
The proxies appear again in Burning the Ice. Two hundred years after heading into interstellar space, the proxies have established a colony of clones on Brimstone, the ice-covered moon of the giant planet Fire. The proxies have allegedly moved on to other worlds. The colonists eke out a living while working to terraform the frozen moon. Each colonist has a cloned twin, except for Manda, a "singleton" whose clone died. Although Manda suffered socially and emotionally as a singleton in clone society, she grew up tough, independent, and resourceful. A key player in the terraforming effort, Manda discovers immense sources of heat under Brimstone's oceans, as well as a prodigious native lifeform. However, an earthquake kills several colonists and causes severe equipment damage, leaving the colony struggling for survival. And the proxies, it seems, haven't left the area after all, but still have intricate, possibly malign plans for the Brimstone colony.
"The novel's first-contact scenario, threatening destruction of colonizers and indigenes alike, is splendidly realized, and its engaging portrayal of interhuman conflict is even better," wrote Regina Schroeder in Booklist. "The novel's real strength lies in the author's depiction of the future society, with its complex system of degrees of kinship, social obligations and controls, sexual morals, and even appropriate pronouns," commented a Publishers Weekly reviewer. Similarly, Paul Di Filippo, writing on the Scifi.com Web site, noted that Mixon "creates a world that is inherently believable and lived in." Victoria McManus, reviewing the book on the SFRevu Web site, observed that "the culture Mixon has invented takes some time to comprehend when reading, because it is so complex, but once inevitable disaster strikes, the book takes off." A Kirkus Reviews critic called Burning the Ice "overstuffed but beautifully thought out: tense, complex, and spellbinding."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature, 1975-91, Thomson Gale (Detroit, MI), 1992.
Analog Science Fiction & Fact, December 15, 1991, Jay Kay Klein, p. 158.
Booklist, May 15, 1992, Elliott Swanson, review of Glass Houses, p. 1668; June 15, 1997, Roland Green, review of Greenwar, p. 1658; August, 1998, John Mort, review of Proxies, p. 1979; August, 2002, Regina Schroeder, review of Burning the Ice, p. 1937.
Kirkus Reviews, June 15, 2002, review of Burning the Ice, p. 848.
Kliatt, September, 1987, Karen S. Ellis, review of Astropilots, p. 26.
Library Journal, May 15, 1992, Jackie Cassada, review of Glass Houses, p. 123; June 1, 1997, Grant A. Fredericksen, review of Greenwar, pp. 146, 148; September 15, 1998, Jackie Cassada, review of Proxies, pp. 116-117; August, 2002, Jackie Cassada, review of Burning the Ice, p. 151.
Publishers Weekly, June 9, 1997, review of Greenwar, p. 39; August 10, 1998, review of Proxies, p. 374; July 29, 2002, review of Burning the Ice, p. 59.
School Library Journal, February, 1988, Renee Steinberg, review of Astropilots, p. 74.
Voice of Youth Advocates, June, 1999, review of Proxies, p. 107.
Wilson Library Bulletin, December, 1992, Gene LaFaille, review of Glass Houses, pp. 94-95.
Bookbrowser Web site, http://www.bookbrowser.com/ (August 3, 2002), Harriet Klausner, review of Burning the Ice.
Laura J. Mixon Home Page, http://www.digitalnoir.com (August 26, 2005).
Scifi.com Web site, http://www.scifi.com/ (February 17, 2004), Paul Di Filippo, "Off the Shelf," review of Burning the Ice.
SFRevu Web site, http://www.sfrevu.com/ (September, 2002), Victoria McManus, review of Burning the Ice.*