Catherine Asaro

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Catherine Asaro
Born (1955-11-06) November 6, 1955 (age 61)
Oakland, California, United States
Occupation Writer
Nationality American
Education Chemistry, physics, chemical physics
Alma mater UCLA, Harvard University
Genre Science fiction, fantasy
Notable works Saga of the Skolian Empire
Notable awards Nebula Award
2001, 2008

Catherine Ann Asaro is an American science fiction and fantasy author. She is best known for her books about the Ruby Dynasty, called the Saga of the Skolian Empire.


Catherine Asaro was born on November 6, 1955[1] in Oakland, California and grew up in El Cerrito, California. She attended Kennedy High School in Richmond, California as part of the Richmond Voluntary Integration Plan. She has a B.S. with highest honors in chemistry from UCLA, an M.A. in physics, and a PhD in chemical physics, both from Harvard University.[2] When not writing and making appearances at conventions and signings, Asaro teaches math, physics, and chemistry.[3] She is the director of the Chesapeake Math Program and has coached various nationally ranked teams with home, private, and public school students, in particular the Howard Area Homeschoolers and the Chesapeake teams for national tournaments such as the Princeton and Harvard-MIT competitions. She also teaches a gifted program in math and science at the Yang Academy in Gaithersburg, Maryland. Her students have placed at the top levels in numerous national competitions, including the United States of America Mathematical Olympiad (USAMO) and the United States of America Mathematical Talent Search (USAMTS).[4][5][6]

Asaro is a member of SIGMA, a think tank of speculative writers that advises the government as to future trends affecting national security.[7] She is also known for her advocacy of bringing girls and women into STEM fields and for challenging gender roles and literary expectations in her fiction.[8][9] She has been an invited speaker or visiting professor for various institutions, including the National Academy of Sciences, Harvard, Georgetown University, NASA, The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), The Global Competitiveness Forum in Saudi Arabia, the New Zealand National ConText Writer's program, the University of Maryland, the US Naval Academy, and many other institutions.[10][11][12][13][14][15][16]

A former ballet and jazz dancer, Catherine Asaro has performed with dance companies and in musicals on both coasts and in Ohio. She founded and served as artistic director and a principal dancer for two dance groups at Harvard: The Mainly Jazz Dance Company and the Harvard University Ballet. After she graduated, her undergraduate students took over Mainly Jazz and made it into a club at the college.

She has completed two terms as president of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) (2003–2005) and during her tenure established the Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy.[7][17]

Her husband is John Kendall Cannizzo, an astrophysicist at NASA.[18] They have one daughter, a ballet dancer who studied maths at the University of Cambridge and UC Berkeley.[19][20]

Catherine Asaro is the daughter of Frank Asaro, the nuclear chemist who discovered the iridium anomaly that led the team of Luis Alvarez, Walter Alvarez, Frank Asaro, and Helen Michel to postulate that an asteroid collided with the Earth 66 million years ago and caused mass extinctions, including the demise of the dinosaurs.

Saga of the Skolian Empire series[edit]

The Saga of the Skolian Empire, informally called the Skolian Saga, is a series of science fiction novels, novelettes and novellas revolving around characters from an interstellar empire known as the Skolian Empire and their power struggle with the rival Eubian Concord. The plot of the book unfolds over several generations of characters and revolves around political intrigues, but also contains subplots regarding romance, physics, bio-enhancements, and virtual computer networks.

Mathematical fiction and hard science fiction[edit]

Asaro is known as a hard science fiction writer for the scientific depth of her work. The amount of science varies from book to book, with novels such as Primary Inversion, The Radiant Seas, and Spherical Harmonic on the most scientifically dense end of the spectrum, including elements such as equations and diagrams of quantum mechanical wave functions and Klein bottles. Stanley Schmidt, the long time editor of Analog magazine, wrote that Primary Inversion is "an impressive first novel; not just a good story, but the kind of speculation we too seldom see – really new science that just might be possible." Asaro is noted as one of the few female science fiction writers who also has a doctorate in hard science, in Asaro's case a PhD from Harvard in theoretical Chemical Physics.[21]

Asaro is also noted for including sophisticated mathematical concepts in her fiction. The method of space travel used in the Skolian Empire books comes from a paper Asaro wrote on complex variables and special relativity that appeared in the American Journal of Physics.[22][23] The novel Spherical Harmonic involves an imagined universe based on the Hilbert space described by the spherical harmonic eigenfunctions that solve the Laplace Equation, and some prose in the book is written in the shape of the sinusoidal waves found in the spherical harmonics.[24] Her novel The Quantum Rose is an allegory to quantum scattering theory and is dedicated to her doctoral advisors and mentors in the subject, Alex Dalgarno, Kate Kirby, and Eric J. Heller.[25] The novella "Aurora in Four Voices" includes topics ranging from Fourier series to integration problems in calculus. In essays in the back of some of her novels, Asaro explains the mathematical and physics basis of the ideas used in the books, in particular Spherical Harmonic, The Quantum Rose, and The Moon's Shadow. In the anthology Aurora in Four Voices (which includes the novella of the same name), Asaro describes the mathematical basis of several stories in the anthology, including the use of Fourier transforms, Riemann sheets, and complex numbers in "The SpaceTime Pool."[26]

The Diamond Star Project[edit]

The Diamond Star Project is a collaboration between Catherine Asaro and the rock musicians Point Valid. The project resulted in a CD, Diamond Star (Starflight Music, April 2009), which is a "soundtrack" for the book, Diamond Star (Baen Books). The novel tells the story of Del-Kurj, a Ruby Dynasty prince who would rather be a rock singer than sit on the throne. The lyrics to the songs appear in the novel Diamond Star and were the inspiration for the CD.[27]

Point Valid with Catherine Asaro (2008)

Point Valid is an alternative band originating in Baltimore, Maryland, with Hayim Ani on vocals and guitar, Adam Leve on drums and Max Vidaver on guitar. Ani wrote most of the music for the CD, and Asaro wrote most of the lyrics, as well as music for three songs. Ani also contributed three original compositions, both music and lyrics. Most of the vocals are by Ani, with a few by Asaro. The CD has twelve songs, eleven originals and a cover of "Sound of Silence." Asaro, who didn't know how to sing, took voice lessons in preparation for the recordings, and continues to train and perform. Asaro has described how the collaboration inspired her work, as exemplified by the song "Emeralds," which she wasn't able to finish until she and Ani were in the studio recording his vocals.[28]

During 2009, the Diamond Star Project expanded to include Donald Wolcott, a jazz pianist who accompanied Asaro in concerts.[28][29] In 2010, Starflight Music released the EP Goodbye Note by Asaro and Wolcott, which includes the song "No Answers with in Paradisum" from the Diamond Star soundtrack, rewritten and sung by Asaro.[30] In 2010, Marty Pell joined the Diamond Star Project as an additional pianist,[31] and in 2011, Greg Adams replaced Wolcott as Asaro's primary accompanist.[32] In 2013, Asaro and Adams recorded Paul Levinson's "Looking for Sunsets (in the Early Morning)"[33]



  • Catch the Lightning, winner, Sapphire Award, best novel, 1997
  • Catch the Lightning, winner, UTC Readers Choice Award, best novel, 1997
  • The Radiant Seas, winner, RT Book Club Reviewer's Choice Award, Best Science Fiction Novel 1999
  • "Aurora in Four Voices", winner, AnLab (Analog Reader's Poll), 1999 (also Hugo and Nebula nominee)
  • "Aurora in Four Voices", winner, HOMer Award, best novella
  • "Aurora in Four Voices", winner Sapphire Award, best novella
  • The Veiled Web, winner, HOMer Award, best novel, 2000
  • The Veiled Web, winner, Prism Award, best novel, 2000
  • The Veiled Web, winner, National Reader's Choice Award, 2000
  • The Quantum Rose, winner, Nebula Award for Best Novel 2001[34]
  • The Quantum Rose, winner, Affaire de Coeur Award, Best Science Fiction (2001)
  • "A Roll of the Dice", winner, AnLab (Analog Reader's Poll), 2001 (also Hugo and Nebula nominee)
  • "A Roll of the Dice", winner, HOMer, 2001
  • Spherical Harmonic, winner, Affaire de Coeur Reader/Writer Poll for Best Futuristic (2002)
  • Ascendant Sun, winner, RT Book Club Reviewer's Choice Award, Best Science Fiction Novel 2003
  • Skyfall, winner, RT Book Club Reviewer's Choice Award, Best Science Fiction Novel 2003 (also RITA nominee)
  • "Walk in Silence", winner, AnLab (Analog Reader's Poll), 2004 (also Hugo and Nebula nominee)
  • "Walk in Silence", winner, Prism Award, best novella, 2004
  • Outstanding Achievement Award, WRW, Washington D.C., 2005
  • "The City of Cries", winner, Prism Award, Best Novella, 2006
  • "The City of Cries", winner, Prism Award, The Best of the Best, 2006
  • "The City of Cries", winner, Book Buyers Best, novella, 2006
  • "The Space-Time Pool," winner, Nebula Award for Best Novella 2008[34]
  • "The Space-Time Pool," second place, AnLab (Analog Reader's Poll), 2008
  • "Deep Snows," Nominee, Best R&B Music Video, World Music and Independent Film Festival, 2012
  • "The Pyre of New Day," Nebula nominee, best novelette, 2012
  • The Wallace S. North, Jr., PE Award for Contributions to the Maryland State Mathcounts Program, 2017


  1. ^ "Catherine Asaro - Summary Bibliography". Retrieved 14 December 2014. 
  2. ^ "Catherine Asaro - Author Information, Books, and News". Retrieved 2015-07-23. 
  3. ^ She’s a Harvard PhD and Author of 26 Novels. She’ll Also Get Your Kids to Like Math.
  4. ^ Chesapeake Math Program
  5. ^ "Community". Art of Problem Solving. Retrieved 2015-07-23. 
  6. ^ "ARML 2008 Division B". Archived from the original on March 4, 2016. Retrieved 2015-07-24. 
  7. ^ a b Archived December 12, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
  8. ^ "Women in SF&F Month: Catherine Asaro | Fantasy Cafe | Reviews of Fantasy and Science Fiction Books". Retrieved 2015-07-23. 
  9. ^ Robin Reid. "Women in Science Fiction and Fantasy by Robin Reid — Reviews, Discussion, Bookclubs, Lists". Retrieved 2015-07-23. 
  10. ^ "DC Art Science Evening Rendezvous (DASER)". 2013-10-17. Retrieved 2015-07-23. 
  11. ^ "Vericon". Geek Mountain State. 2011-03-14. Retrieved 2015-07-23. 
  12. ^ Coombs, Brittany (2011-02-24). "The Dogs That Can Do Algebra | gnovis". Retrieved 2015-07-23. 
  13. ^ Archived February 21, 2014, at the Wayback Machine.
  14. ^ "Where's My Flying Car? Science, Science Fiction, and a Changing Vision of the Future | AAAS - The World's Largest General Scientific Society". AAAS. 2014-02-14. Retrieved 2015-07-23. 
  15. ^ "Press Releases". SIGMA Forum. Retrieved 2015-07-23. 
  16. ^ "Writer's Workshop with Catherine Asaro!". February 16, 2011. Archived from the original on February 27, 2013. Retrieved 2015-07-23. 
  17. ^ "Andre Norton Award Archives". SFWA. Retrieved 2015-07-23. 
  18. ^ "Home Page - Astrophysics Science Division - 660". 2014-08-21. Retrieved 2015-07-23. 
  19. ^ "X-Ray Variability : Quasi-periodic Oscillations" (PDF). Retrieved 2015-07-24. 
  20. ^ "YAGP 2005 – GREENVILLE, SC SEMI-FINAL | Youth America Grand Prix". 2005-04-01. Retrieved 2015-07-23. 
  21. ^ "Projecting the Shadow: The Cyborg Hero in American Film, Janice Hocker Rushing and Thomas S. Frentz. 1995. The University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL. 256 pages. $45.00 hc; $14.95 pb". 1997-08-01. Retrieved 2015-07-23. 
  22. ^ Am. J. Phys, 64 (4), April 1996, 421
  23. ^ "Catherine Asaro". 2014-04-11. Retrieved 2015-07-23. 
  24. ^ "Spherical Harmonic: A Novel in the Saga of the Skolian Empire - Catherine Asaro". Retrieved 2015-07-23. 
  25. ^[dead link]
  26. ^ "Math Essay Updated March 2012.pdf - Google Drive". Retrieved 2015-07-23. 
  27. ^ "Blog – Fast Forward: Contemporary Science Fiction". Retrieved 2015-07-23. 
  28. ^ a b Alasdair Wilkins (May 1, 2009). "Catherine Asaro Rocks Out For Her Latest Science Fiction Epic". Retrieved May 4, 2009. 
  29. ^ Charles Tan (April 22, 2009). "Catherine Asaro 2009 Interview". Archived from the original on April 27, 2009. Retrieved May 5, 2009. 
  30. ^ "Asaro and Wolcott | Goodbye Note | CD Baby Music Store". Retrieved 2015-07-23. 
  31. ^ "Catherine Asaro - Various appearances 2011". Facebook. 2011-02-24. Retrieved 2015-07-23. 
  32. ^ Carl Sagan. "We live in a society exquisitely dependent on science and technology in which hardly anyone knows anything about science and technolnogy" (PDF). Retrieved 2015-07-24. 
  33. ^ "Catherine Asaro sings Looking for Sunsets (in the Early Morning) demo of Paul Levinson song - Play on N1M". Retrieved 2017-03-14. 
  34. ^ a b "Nebula Awards". Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. Retrieved September 4, 2012. 

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