Naomi Kritzer is joining us today to talk about her novel, Liberty’s Daughter. Here’s the publisher’s description:
Beck Garrison lives on a seastead – an archipelago of constructed platforms and old cruise ships, assembled by libertarian separatists a generation ago. She’s grown up comfortable and sheltered, but starts doing odd jobs for pocket money.
To her surprise, she finds that she’s the only detective that a debt slave can afford to hire to track down the woman’s missing sister. When she tackles this investigation, she learns things about life on the other side of the waterline – not to mention about herself and her father – that she did not expect. And she finds out that some people will stop at nothing to protect their secrets . . .
What’s Naomi’s favorite bit?
Liberty’s Daughter is a fix-up – much of it was written as sequential short stories. The stories always formed a complete arc, but I wrote them episodically, one at a time, over the course of several years.
The book is set on a seastead – a set of human-made islands set up as micronations. The first story introduced Beck, a teenage girl who’s grown up there, the daughter of one of the wealthy and influential men, so she’s got a lot of privilege and plenty of protection but not, in fact, a lot of autonomy. The first story ends with Beck grounded for a month, aware for the first time that her father has been lying to her for most of her life. She’s also had her eyes opened to the conditions the functionally enslaved “bond workers” live with while providing the seastead with its labor force.
Where to go from there? I decided that in the next story, we should see the bond workers trying to organize a union. Which union out there would plausibly show up somewhere that legal protection is quite literally for sale to the highest bidder?
Obviously the answer was the Industrial Workers of the World – the Wobblies.The IWW was founded in the early 20th century, and even if you’re unfamiliar with them, you’ve probably heard their slogan (“An injury to one is an injury to all”) and seen their black cat symbol (the “sabcat” or “sabo-tabby,” an angry black cat that’s a symbol of direct action.) Despite schisms, repression, and scapegoating during the red scare, the IWW is still around, and will probably still be around in the 50-years-into-the-future of Liberty’s Daughter. They were clearly the union that was going to be best-equipped to do union organizing in the sort of no-holds-barred environment of the seastead.
Because the power brokers of the seastead have options that are not available to corporations in the US – from explicit intimidation to open violence. One night, they have one of the organizers murdered. But a woman he recruited immediately steps up to fill his shoes, saying that they can’t silence everyone – “Because they depend on us! … we do every scrap of unpleasant work that’s too dangerous or boring or unpleasant or demeaning for the wealthy and privileged here to dirty their hands with! If they silence us all, they’ll be stuck doing it themselves.” And she organizes a slowdown – or, as the IWW calls it, the “collective withdrawal of efficiency.” (Another thing the black cat symbolizes.)
Things get messier from there: the oligarchs of the seastead think they have a science fictional option for union busting, but this quickly bites them in the butt. The messier things get on the seastead, though, the more the privileged groups opt to climb onto boats and flee the disaster. By the end of the book, the workers are in charge – though, as an aid worker points out, they’re in charge of the worst mess in the western hemisphere. The union organizer says that it might be a falling-down house, “but it is our falling-down house.” Rebuilding can happen, but with the workers in charge.
I have a lot of faith in the ability of communities to work together for a better world – that winds up being what most of my stories are about, and this book is no exception.
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NAOMI KRITZER is a science fiction and fantasy writer living in St. Paul, Minnesota. Her fiction has won the Hugo Award, the Lodestar Award, the Edgar Award, the Locus Award, and the Minnesota Book Award. Her last book before this one was Chaos on
CatNet, which was a sequel to Catfishing on Cat-Net. She also has a collection of short fiction called Cat Pictures Please and Other Stories. You can find Naomi online at naomikritzer.com