TT Linse creates a future she would like to live in
The language of corpses, the first in the Mechalium Space 1 trilogy, is TT Linse’s celebration of science fiction. As the daughter of a Wyoming farmer, the genre offered her an escape and a bond with relatives with whom she frequently disagreed, but with whom she shared a love of science fiction. “We grew up in the 1880s.” She’s joking, of course, but with regret. Her parents were ranchers, ‘very ‘Old West’. †
Linse, the youngest of seven, describes life on the farm as ‘patriarchal’. “If you’re a girl and you were born on a ranch, it’s a difficult situation,” she recalls. “Boys and men are preferred, and so, being a smart girl, I looked around and thought: How can I have legitimacy, how can I make sure people listen to what I say? The way I did it, I tried to become a man… I hunted, drank beer, watched football and drove trucks. It was so weird…[existence]- you are not a man, but you are certainly not a woman. I have since recovered.”
Iconic Western authors Zane Gray and Louis L’Amour were predictably popular in her household, but her father and brothers also loved SF. That is not as strange as it sounds, Linse notes. “Early sci-fi has a distinctive cadence and a lofty, almost biblical way of storytelling, like a western. And they have a hero in control… who saves the day. †
Her own passion for the genre was sparked by her brother, who had a subscription to the Science Fiction Book Club. Inspired by Wayne Douglas Barlowe’s book Barlowe’s Guide to Aliens, she and two of her brothers created their own creatures. “Creating worlds and…characters absolutely fascinated me,” she says. Her first story, written at age 10, a time travel story called “The Silver Medallion”, had a bit of SF to it.
Linse worked on the family farm and worked as a waitress during high school. Once she graduated, she attended the University of Wyoming, where it took 13 years to complete her undergraduate degree in English. “I was definitely an emotional wreck,” she says. “If you had a bad childhood, you don’t know you’re an emotional wreck.” Counseling, women’s studies courses, some distance from her family, and a stable marriage, she says, helped her heal. “A lot of hard work and soul-searching [happened] too, and the writing has always helped,” she adds.
Linse was initially attracted to literary fiction. As Tamara Linse she wrote a collection of short stories, How to be a mana novel, Deep Thingsand a historical novel, The imagined corners of the earth† She also resets British classics like Pride and Prejudice in modern-day Wyoming in the YA Wyoming Chronicles series.
Then came the 2016 election. “I had a bit of a slump,” she admits of those four years where she didn’t write a word. “I saw what was to come. It is the natural culmination, the logical conclusion, of many forces in American life and politics. It destroyed me. People are not [who] I thought so, and now I know what it felt like to be in Germany in the 1920s.”
But last year, while working from home, she rekindled her long-dormant desire to write a science fiction novel. The result was: The language of corpsesThat Kirkus Reviews hailed as “a powerful launch of a new SF series that promises a wealth of ingenious concepts… Some speculation here (particularly regarding the nature of intelligence, biologically native or artificial) could have taught Isaac Asimov a thing or two. “
In this inaugural part, Linse skilfully tackles a provocative world construction. It is 2728. Faison Gates allow beings (humans or mechs) to instantly teleport through the 300 solid planets and environments by jumping from one body to another, be it male, female or intersex. “In all my work”, says Linse, “I am fascinated by gender.”
The novel mainly focuses on three characters: Jazari, a “xenolinguistic”; Eala, a scientist’ and ZD777, a biologically generated body in a forgotten habitat that fails in its orbit around Neptune. Tension mounts as Jazari and Eala race to save ZD777:
Anger shot through Eala. Jazari had to grow up a bit and think about things other than herself and who she was focused on at the time. She interrupted: If I can put my life on hold and put seventy-five light-years into this ancient mecha and risk my life to help you, you can wait twenty minutes to save another essence. Jazari’s resolute focus on the goal of saving ZD777 was admirable, but she seemed ready to sacrifice everything else, including her humanity, to do it.
Linse has created a provocative future that, while hardly utopian, is a departure from the dystopian. “If I imagined a future,” she says, “I wanted to imagine one” [I’d] want to live.”
Of her writing process, Linse calls herself a meticulous researcher and writer. “I’m not one to go through the seat of my pants,” she says. “I have that western laconic style; I tend to subscribe and come back and add more. I have notebooks with my drawings of what a galaxy or a new creature will look like.”
Of the characters that populate The language of corpses, Linse says she identifies most with Eala. “I’ve always been a good girl,” she admits with a laugh. “When I was in high school, I had a social studies teacher. He took us to a farm of honor, which was a halfway house. We got the psychological profile. Mine came back with, “You want everyone to get along.” To this day it is absolutely true.”
Linse, who still lives in Wyoming (“I never got past Laramie,” she jokes) is an editor at the University of Wyoming Foundation, a nonprofit organization. She is halfway through the second part of the Mechalium Space 1 series. The evolution of corpsesfollowed by The chaos of corpses†
The language of corpses made Kirkus’ Best Indie Books of 2021 list, “which is absolutely amazing,” Linse says. “Publishing yourself is a challenge, but it’s a control freak’s dream. You have control over all elements, from writing to creating your own cover. But it’s your responsibility to get it out there.”
Donald Liebenson is a writer from Chicago.