Birthday Reviews: Connie Willis’s “D.A.”
Connie Willis was born on December 31, 1945.
Willis has won the Hugo Award eleven times and the Nebula Award seven times. Her joint winners include the short story “Even the Queen,” the novelette “Fire Watch,” the novella “The Last of the Winnebagos,” and the novel Doomsday Book and the two-part novel Blackout/All Clear. Her Nebula only wins were the short story “A Letter from the Clearys” and the novelette “At the Rialto.” Her Hugo wins were for the short stories “Death on the Nile” and “The Soul Selects Her Own Society: Invasion and Repulsion: A Chronological Reinterpretation of Two of Emily Dickinson’s Poems: A Wellsian Perspective,” the novellas “The Winds of Marble Arch,” “Inside Job,” and “All Seated on the Ground,” and the novel To Say Nothing of the Dog. Her novel Lincoln’s Dreams won the John W. Campbell Memorial Award. To Say Nothing of the Dog also won the Prix Ozone, Kurd Lasswitz Preis, and Ignotus Award. Doomsday Book also won the Ignotus and Kurd Lasswitz. Willis won additional Ignotus Awards for the stories “Even the Queen,” “Why the World Didn’t End Last Tuesday,” and in 2000, her stories “Nonstop to Portales” and “Chance” tied each other.
Willis won the Forry Award from LASFS in 1999 and was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2009. In 2011 she received the Robert A. Heinlein Award from the Heinlein Society. She was named a Grand Master by SFWA in 2012. Willis was the guest of honor at LACon IV, the 64th Worldcon, held in Los Angeles in 2006 and served as Toastmaster at the 2011 World Fantasy Con in San Diego.
“D.A.” was written for the anthology Space Cadets, published in coordination with LACon IV, the Worldcon, in 2006 where Willis was guest of honor and edited by Mike Resnick. It was selected by Jonathan Strahan for The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year: Volume One and was also reprinted as a chapbook by Subterranean Press in 2007. In 2018 it was included in the Connie Willis collection Terra Incognita, published by Del Rey.
In the distant future, Theodora is a high school student whose goal is to get into UCLA, unlike most of the students in her class who hope to get an appointment to become a cadet at the Academy to go into space. Unfortunately for her classmates, only 300 people are selected for the Academy each year, so when one of the students at Theodora’s school is selected, it is a major event and a mandatory assembly is held. To everyone’s surprise, Theodora is announced as the lucky appointee, despite the fact that she never applied and didn’t go through the interview process.
The strongest points of the story are when Willis looks at Theodora’s attempts to figure out how she managed to get into the Academy and get acclimatized, or fight against getting acclimatized, to life in outer space. Her only lifeline and support is her friend Kimkim, back on Earth and using her prodigious hacking skills to open a line of communication with Theodora and try to help her work her way through the Academy.