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Frequently Asked Questions

There are some questions I seem to get over and over again, so I’m going to put them, and the answers, here.

Q: How do you pronounce [character name]?

So, with some exceptions, I actually tried very hard to keep the spelling of names consistent so that it would be fairly easy to figure out how to pronounce them. This turns out not to have been terribly effective. Sorry.

Basically, vowels are all more or less Latin-ish. Ah, eh, ih, oh, oo. C is, I’m pretty sure, always hard. G can go either way. (Geck is hard g, Giarod is soft) Ch is like “cheese” or “chess.”

Where two vowels occur together, just say one after the other. So ei would be like eh-ih, or basically like a long a in English. Ai is ah-ih, so like a long I. That double a is just a slightly longer ah.

Stress is nearly always on the second to last syllable–this was by accident and I didn’t notice it until I was pronouncing names for the folks who did the US audiobook of Justice. (That US audiobook of Ancillary Justice has the pronunciations straight from me, btw.) There are a few exceptions–Mianaai and Vendaai are among them. Stress is on that “aai” for those names, but “Radchaai” has its stress on the first syllable.

I pronounce a final “e” like “eh” so I say that e on the end of Dlique.

Raughd–I treat the gh like an f. Omaugh–I don’t say the gh at all. I have no idea why I did this. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

Rrrrrr is hands-down my least pronounceable name (I try hard to make them all pronounceable, this was a deliberate exception). I just say “rrrrrrrr” like, the sound of the letter R.

All that said, Radch space is huge and contains any number of languages that have been assimilated to varying degrees. There are all sorts of regional accents and dialects. So however you’re pronouncing things is probably right somewhere.

Q: Why is Ancillary Sword not called Mercy? There wasn’t much sword in it!

When I originally conceived of the trilogy, the three titles were ship names. So when I finished Justice and started querying agents, the ms title was Justice of Toren. Book two was going to be Sword of Atagaris, and book three Mercy of Kalr. My agent felt that Justice of Toren wasn’t a particularly good title, and suggested Ancillary Justice instead. I agreed, pleased that my original justice/sword/mercy scheme could remain in place.

By the time I finished Sword, Sword of Atagaris wasn’t as prominent a character as I had intended it to be. But I felt–and still feel–that Sword was not an appropriate title for the third book, and so resisted suggestions to switch them around.

Q: I don’t get the thing about the gender. Why are the Radchaai all “she”? Is it because they’re all women? I don’t understand why some characters are called “she” in some places and “he” in others.

The use of “she” was intended as a translation convention–the Radchaai language not only doesn’t use gendered pronouns for people (quite a lot of existing languages don’t, as it happens), but gender is not relevant to them. So if, say, here on Earth we were translating something from Finnish, which doesn’t use gendered pronouns, we’d have to figure out what gender to use when transferring those pronouns to English, which do require gender. In the case of Finnish, which isn’t (so far as I know) spoken in a culture where gender is irrelevant, there are several other cues to give us that information: names, particular articles of clothing, etc.

If I’m translating something out of Radchaai, however, there are no such cues. So for convenience, I “translate” them all as “she.” This does not imply anything about the gender of any particular person. It’s just that whenever Breq (or another character) is speaking Radchaai, that’s the way the pronoun they’re using is translated.

When Breq–or another character–is speaking another language, however, some people might be referred to with masculine pronouns.

Q: Okay, but then why did you use words like “Lord” and “Sir” which are masculine?

For a general explanation of why I choose any particular word, please see this blog post.

Q: So, then, what gender is [Character]?

I probably don’t know. Because it didn’t matter to the story and because of the pronoun choice I’d made, I didn’t have to figure it out.

Q: Why did you block me on Twitter?

I’ve written about this here and followed it up here.

Q: Are you related to the author Robert Leckie?

Yes. Though it would take some work on my part to figure out how. Which I’m not particularly interested in doing. But anyone with the surname “Leckie” is related to me in some way. As always in such cases, this has its positive features and its less-positive ones.