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’Anniversary Day’ :: Kristine Kathryn Rusch Talks 9/11 and the Far Future

by Kilian Melloy
Thursday Jan 5, 2012

Science fiction is not the only genre in which Kristine Kathryn Rusch writes, and prodigiously so. But it's the genre for which she's best known... at least, under her own name. (Rusch maintains a healthy publication schedule under several pen names as well, and not only writes books but also runs a company that publishes them. She also writes "The Business Rusch," a column on the nuts-and-bolts commercial side of publishing.)

From sci-fi to fantasy to mysteries and romance novels, Rusch is something of a genre-hopping magpie; indeed, she has no natural inclination to confine herself to any particular stripe of writing, which comes in handy in the case of her "Retrieval Artist" series.

This line of books follows the cases of a hardboiled detective named Miles Flint. The books are set centuries in the future, when humanity has colonized the Moon and beyond, and begun to interact with alien races--beings so very unlike us that human beings are forever getting caught up in systems of law that make little sense to Earthlings, but that extraterrestrials take very seriously indeed. When a human being breaks an incomprehensible alien law, galactic treaties specify that he or she answer for it according to the aliens' own code of justice, which can mean death... or worse (such as the surrender of a convict's child to be raised by aliens).

For some, the only way out of such nightmarish legal quagmires is to disappear--retreat to some nook of the known universe and assume a new life and identity. But old lives are hard to abandon, and when the time comes for refugees from alien justice to be contacted, a special kind of detective is needed to track them down. That's what retrieval artists, like Miles Flint, do.

But Rusch's series, while set in a suitably grimy and dangerous universe, isn't just about Flint's cases--though the books would be colorful and adventuresome enough if that's all they dealt with, Rusch is a consummate world builder. Whether tacking the infinitely complex task or re-imagining our world if crucial historical events had played out differently, or constructing meticulous and comprehensive visions of future societies, Rusch seems to delight in the essential question asked by any writer--"What if...?"--and then following the avenues she carves out of endless possibility through their logical courses.

In the case of the eighth, and latest, book in the series, "Anniversary Day," terrorist events that unfolded in a previous installment recur with full force. In a way, "Anniversary Day" is a therapeutic novel, the dreaded, if fictional, falling of the other shoe that we, as a culture, have more than half expected in the decade since 9/11.

Rusch has always excelled at addressing contemporary concerns in a speculative setting (as her Hugo Award-winning novella "Millennium Babies," among a multitude of her other stories and novels, amply proves). EDGE, naturally, thought the timing of "Anniversary Day" was an artful means of addressing cultural angst over the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Rusch, in a wide-ranging interview conducted via email, revealed that there was more to the story.

To recap the new novel: Four years to the day after a terrorist bombing of Armstrong City, the domed lunar outpost where Flint lives and works, a coordinated series of assassinations begins. Noelle DiRicci, Flint's former partner from his police force days and now the Moon's head of security, finds herself in charge of the city and, as the endless day wears on with tragedy after tragedy, the entire government.

While Flint keeps his daughter close and works to help DiRicci, a number of characters familiar from earlier books step up to take center stage. Prominent among them is police detective Bartholomew Nyquist, a man for whom the yearly observance of the terrorist bombing brings back unpleasant memories--and whose psychological scars following an attempt on his own life run deep.

Fans of Rusch's Retrieval Artist series, already chomping at the bit because of "Anniversary Day's" cliffhanger ending, have plenty more to look forward to. Rusch filled EDGE in on the story so far, her other projects, and what's next.

Next: Fictional and Real World Anniversaries


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