Join my newsletter and receive chapter one of Ancillary Mercy!

So it’s coming up on 48 hours since I had electricity at home. I’ve been in sporadic contact with the outside world via my phone (kept charged with my collection of external batteries, all of which are pretty much drained at this point. They would have lasted longer but the 19 yr old discovered Pokemon Go and with the power out all over the place we might as well go out and walk, right?), but today I’ve gone to the library and am availing myself of an outlet and the free wifi so I can catch up with emails that really need more of a reply than is convenient to type on a tiny touchscreen. If you need to get hold of me, I will be difficult to find until the power goes on again.

Which may be a few days yet. The other day a brief storm blew through, mostly no big deal but there were very high winds on the leading edge, and lots of trees and power lines went down all over the place. The electric folks are scrambling to get everyone reconnected, but there are a lot of places unconnected.

I didn’t need the AC anyway! (If I say that often enough I might believe it.) Possibly worse than being without AC or even fans in July is the fact that I had just bought a bunch of food and put it in the basement freezer. I’ve put as much as I can on ice in coolers, and we’re cooking things like raw chicken, or ground meat and icing those cooked, because those are the riskiest to store raw when your refrigeration is unreliable. On the down side, this was stuff meant to last for a few weeks; three hours before the storm rolled through I’d gone to Time For Dinner, a place where you make a bunch of pre-planned main dishes, package them up and take them home and put them in your freezer. Then whenever you just don’t feel like doing anything for dinner but you want something good, you pull one out and throw it in the oven or on the grill or whatever. It was my first visit there. And there’s other stuff in the fridge and freezer that’s definitely a loss. On the up side, dang the TfD stuff tastes good. A+ will visit again. And the basement freezer needed defrosting anyway.

Still, it’s seriously annoying. It’s throwing off my work routine and making me difficult to contact. Sorry about that–there isn’t much to do except try to get to the library when I can.

So, for I think the rest of the month, the ebook of Ancillary Mercy is on sale for $4.99. So if you don’t already have it, this would be an excellent opportunity to grab a copy. The sale is on at Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and Amazon.

Probably most of the people reading this already have a copy. But do you have a copy of N.K. Jemisin’s The Fifth Season? Have you read The Fifth Season yet? If not, why not? It is a most excellent book and I recommend it very, very highly. And it just so happens that The Fifth Season is also on sale (in ebook form). Here are links–Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and Amazon.

Hello, dear readers! I haven’t been blogging much lately. I’m kind of busy writing a book! So today I’m hosting Juliette Wade, who not only writes great short fiction–check out this story at Clarkesworld if you haven’t already-she does the Dive Into Worldbuilding Hangouts, which, if you don’t know about those, check out the link at the end of the post! She’s also starting up a Patreon, and if anthropology and linguistics knowledge applied to sfnal writing and worldbuilding is something that appeals to you, you really should check that out. Links at the end of this post!

Juliette Wade takes a ridiculously close look at the worldbuilding of Ancillary Justice
posted by Juliette Wade

Thanks, Ann, for inviting me to the blog!

I’m here to talk about worldbuilding, and because this is Ann Leckie’s blog, I’ve decided to shine a spotlight – a ridiculously close spotlight – on the opening of Ancillary Justice.

What does that mean? It means I’m going to take a few paragraphs and break down exactly where the worldbuilding is taking place, piece by piece, showing you how Ann pulls you into her world. You’ve read these six paragraphs before, but you probably haven’t seen them this way.
Here we go!

Paragraph 1:

The body lay naked and facedown, a deathly gray, spatters of blood staining the snow around it. It was minus fifteen degrees Celcius and a storm had passed just hours before. The snow stretched smooth in the wan sunrise, only a few tracks leading into a nearby ice-block building. A tavern. Or what passed for a tavern in this town.

I’m going to start here with the word “The.” That little article has an important job, which is to tell you that “body” is something that someone already knows about. It’s as if someone just said “Wow, a body,” and then the story picked up an instant later. As readers, we are seeing it for the first time, but we can sense that observing someone outside the boundaries of the page. Thus, “the” implies the presence of a narrator. The first hint of a world comes with “the snow around it.” Our minds produce a snowy scene.

So far we could be on Earth, but we’re about to get more clues to correct our concept. Measuring temperature as “minus fifteen degrees Celcius” means that it’s pretty darned cold, and can hazard a guess that we’re not in the United States, where Fahrenheit measurement is more common. The next key piece is the “ice-block building,” and the fact that the narrator calls it “a tavern.” The only Earthly ice-block buildings we know have very specific terminology associated with them, so our expectation of familiarity has just been dislodged. Last is “Or what passed for a tavern in this town.” That sentence more firmly connects us to the narrator – despite the lack of any pronouns – by passing judgment on the building rather than just describing its appearance.

Paragraph 2:

There was something itchingly familiar about that outthrown arm, the line from shoulder down to hip. But it was hardly possible I knew this person. I didn’t know anyone here. This was the icy back end of a cold and isolated planet, as far from Radchaai ideas of civilization as it was possible to be. I was only here, on this planet, in this town, because I had urgent business of my own. Bodies in the street were none of my concern.

This paragraph keeps the narrator connection alive using the judgment inherent in “itchingly familiar.” Someone has to assess that familiarity; someone has to feel that itch, and get the sense of objection inherent in the word “but.”

Now, finally, we get a pronoun! “I” places us explicitly inside the thoughts of the narrator, and we see in this sentence that the narrator is a stranger to this snowy place. The next sentence gives us the biggest picture yet, keeping us grounded in the narrator’s perception of current location with the word “this,” but then calling it “a cold and isolated planet.” Now we can be certain that this is not Earth, and that the narrator has not only a sense of cosmology but a larger cultural concept where a planet can be judged as isolated from a perceived center. That invisible perceived center, then, is placed in parallel to “Radchaai ideas of civilization.” So Radchaai is the organizing, civilized center from which this planet is far and isolated. We can be certain that our narrator has the ability to travel between planets in the sentence that follows describing business.

I notice also that we have had absolutely no gender indicators about any character at this point, even though both the body and the narrator-protagonist have been established.

Paragraph 3:

Sometimes I don’t know why I do the things I do. Even after all this time it’s still a new thing not to know, not to have orders to follow from one moment to the next. So I can’t explain to you why I stopped and with one foot lifted the naked shoulder so I could see the person’s face.

The opening sentence of this paragraph is really important, because it speaks to another aspect of world that we might not initially notice as important. A protagonist’s identity is often quite easy to establish, because it falls in the realm of things readers expect. However, those who have read the book know that Breq is far from an expected protagonist. So it’s important that this sentence point out that “I don’t know why I do the things I do.” It makes the reader look around for unusual things about the narrator to explain why that might be the case. Then Ann establishes a contrast between “after all this time” and “still a new thing.” It doesn’t imply anything specific here, but later, it will fit in with Breq’s concept of twenty years being long-but-short in the context of her whole life. “Not to have orders to follow” is the next key phrase here, suggesting that the protagonist is someone who expects to receive orders.

Every suggestion limits the possible options for the protagonist’s identity. The fact that “I stopped and with one foot lifted the naked shoulder” shows that a sense of familiarity is not enough to inspire care for the body.

Paragraph 4:

Frozen, bruised, and bloody as she was, I knew her. Her name was Seivarden Vendaai, and a long time ago she had been one of my officers, a young lieutenant, eventually promoted to her own command, another ship. I had thought her a thousand years dead, but she was, undeniably, here. I crouched down and felt for a pulse, for the faintest stir of breath.

Here in paragraph four we find the first gendered pronouns: she, and her, used to refer to the person who has the body. We also find a name: Seivarden Vendaai. This is a name in a created language, like Radchaai which appeared earlier, further confirming the alien setting. The feeling we get from alien names has mostly to do with our instincts for sound combinations or word pieces and the emotions we associate with them, but these aren’t names that carry any recognizable pieces of our language.

The phrases “my officers” and “lieutenant” work with the earlier phrase about orders to suggest that the protagonist is a soldier – and also that military organization is a key feature of this world. “Another ship” is too ambiguous to be definitive about the protagonist’s identity, but we’re getting closer to it. “I had thought her a thousand years dead,” though, pushes us further out of normal expectation, because the protagonist has known this person twice over the course of a thousand years.

Paragraph 5:

Still alive

.

This is a short one, but it does something interesting for a reader’s involvement in the story. It suggests that these two characters will interact in the future, because it suggests that the protagonist bears some responsibility for keeping someone still alive from becoming not alive any more.

Paragraph 6:

Seivarden Vendaai was no concern of mine anymore, wasn’t my responsibility. And she had never been one of my favorite officers. I had obeyed her orders, of course, and she had never abused any ancillaries, never harmed any of my segments (as the occasional officer did). I had no reason to think badly of her. On the contrary, her manners were those of an educated, well-bred person of good family. Not toward me, of course – I wasn’t a person, I was a piece of equipment, a part of the ship. But I had never particularly cared for her.

Because of the implication of the previous tiny paragraph, it’s interesting that the protagonist immediately tries to deny responsibility here. Both this line and the next are full of judgment, which helps us stay connected with the protagonist’s identity despite the lack of description or gender. In the third sentence, we find the word “ancillaries” and the phrase “my segments.” Because Ann provides no explanation, she’s counting on readers to hold onto the new term “ancillary,” which we have seen before in the title, and actively look for its meaning. “My segments” tells us that the protagonist has segments – but we’re unlikely to suddenly decide she’s an arthropod! Why? First, because she has a foot to lift a shoulder with, and second, because when she sees a humanoid body she describes it as a “body” without marking it in any way as strange or alien.
The next piece returns us to the judgment of manners, which has some interesting aspects: first, the protagonist is able to judge education and breeding. The idea of good family is established as an important parameter for judging people (and it will be very influential throughout the book). It’s also interesting to notice that when Ann uses the pronouns “she” and “her”, she doesn’t then use gendered nouns like “woman,” but returns to the non-gendered “person” when describing “a person of good breeding.” This helps to set up the concept of feminine pronouns as being genderless by default.

Finally, Ann changes it up again with “Not toward me, of course – I wasn’t a person, I was a piece of equipment, a part of the ship.” So the protagonist, still as yet nameless, doesn’t expect manners. The protagonist is clearly a humanoid person as we would understand it, but explicitly defined as not a person, a piece of equipment, a part of the ship. If we go back at this point and look again at the way that Seivarden’s identity is described, we start to get a surprisingly good picture of the nature of the narrator’s identity, just from these tiny clues. We also have a pretty big mystery about society and identity to help us keep turning the pages.

This is what Ann is able to accomplish in the course of six paragraphs. When we read, we don’t typically notice any of it on a conscious level, but each word and phrase is doing its worldbuilding work inside our heads.

Juliette Wade hosts the Dive into Worldbuilding show on Google Hangouts, where she uses her academic expertise in anthropology and linguistics to take discussions of worldbuilding topics beyond the expected. Her short fiction explores language and culture issues across the genres of fantasy and science fiction. She has appeared in Clarkesworld, Fantasy&Science Fiction, and Analog magazines.
If you’re a fan of worldbuilding and want to take your skills further, you can also become a part of the
Dive into Worldbuilding workshop. Join Juliette’s Patreon and get brainstorming prompts, research links, exclusive peeks into research topics, or even get Juliette to help you with your work directly. https://www.patreon.com/JulietteWade

When I was a child, I had several Dream Jobs. I wanted to be an astronaut, of course, and I also considered careers in paleontology and archaeology. But high, very high on my list was “any job where people will pay me to read, or failing that, give me lots of free books.”

Reader, it turns out that I now have such a job. And in some ways it is exactly as awesome as I had dreamed. More awesome! And yet. Now that I get books sent to me for free on a regular basis (nothing like Scalzi gets, but still, it’s a couple a week in my email or in my PO box), I do not have time to read them all.

I do try to read them! Because, I mean. It’s just, it takes me a while, because I have so much other job-related reading to do.

Anyway. I get books. And I read them, if slowly. And sometimes I enjoy them quite a bit! Like for instance.

Borderline, by Mishell Baker. This is I think what the kids call urban fantasy. Which mostly isn’t my sort of thing–I’ve got nothing against it, but it usually doesn’t do a lot for me. I’m pretty sure I’m not its target audience. But I enjoyed Borderline quite a lot. And this is the part where I should say why I enjoyed it, but I am remarkably bad at doing that. I can talk about things that caught my eye–the protagonist has Borderline Personality Disorder, which is treated pretty matter-of-factly, without romanticizing or demonizing the character or her illness. The other characters were nicely drawn as well, I thought, and I enjoyed the Hollywood setting (though to be honest, Hollywood might as well be Faery itself as far as I’m concerned). If you enjoy urban fantasy, you should check this out. If you aren’t a UF reader, well, maybe check it out anyway, because it’s a lot of fun.

Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee. If you’ve read any of Yoon’s short fiction, you know he’s fabulous. I confess myself partial to “The Winged City,” which I bought for GigaNotoSaurus several years ago. Now he’s got a novel coming out, and it’s (unsurprisingly) excellent. It’s out June 14, but I got an ARC and boy am I glad I did. Here’s a blurb I found at the Amazon listing:

“I love Yoon’s work! Ninefox Gambit is solidly and satisfyingly full of battles and political intrigue, in a beautifully built far-future that manages to be human and alien at the same time. It should be a treat for readers already familiar with Yoon’s excellent short fiction, and an extra treat for readers finding Yoon’s work for the first time.”

Every word of that is true. I know because I wrote that blurb myself.  Honestly, you should read this as soon as you can. And you should check out Yoon’s short fiction as well.

This is a guest post by Rachel Swirsky:

Thanks to my friend, Ann, for letting me use her blog. I’m Rachel Swirsky, and some years ago, I wrote a short story called, “If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love.” It rather upset some folks who have been raising great ruckus about it since. As a response, I’ve started a Making Lemons into Jokes campaign—a fundraiser through my patreon to benefit some of the people they’ve been nastiest toward, LGBTQIAA folks who are already at the bottom of a heap made of bullshit.

Since I’m here on Ann’s blog, I’ll point out that if we reach our $600 stretch goal, she and I, along with writers John Chu, Adam-Troy Castro, Ken Liu, Juliette Wade, and Alyssa Wong, will write a story together about dinosaurs. I really want this to happen, so I hope we reach the goal. We’ve got about a week left to go!

If you want the whole story behind the fundraiser, you can read it here– https://www.patreon.com/posts/posteriors-for-5477113. But here’s what I have to say today:

There’s advice I’ve heard all my life. You’ve probably heard it, too.

In elementary school, it was “ignore the bullies.” It never seemed to work.

These days, it’s “ignore the trolls.” (And let’s not mince words – trolls are just another kind of bully.) And it doesn’t work now, either.

Why? Because bullies don’t need you.

Bullies might enjoy it when you get angry, or cry, or whatever else they want you to do. They’re the kind of people who like that. It’s foreign to my personality, and I can’t understand it, but there it is. But they don’t need it. What they need is the laughing and baying of their own hounds. They’re showing off for each other, pissing on the trees to show just how terribly big they are.

This leads to the fundamental dichotomy of bullies.

First, that they are actually capable of doing damage. A dog crapping on the carpet still leaves crap on the carpet. And if they’re all crowding into your living room to crap on you, then that’s a lot of crap. Being covered in crap won’t break your bones, but it’s not nothing. Otherwise, a lot more people would spend their free time rolling around in crap. And sometimes they do bite—someone shows up with a gun at a gym or a hair salon, or brags on a message board about a murder that shows up later in the news, or makes a “performance art” video threatening to kill a woman and driving her out of her home.

But second, they’re ridiculous. I mean, really. The kind of people who think “I can crap on things and that makes me really important!!” are not serious people. They are somewhere on the scale from scabies to anthrax. You don’t really want to scratch all the time, and you certainly don’t want to take high-powered antibiotics, but it’s not like crabs who crawl through pubic hair are something you regard as impressive.

Sometimes we try to toggle those back and forth. Can lard the living room with crap versus hilarious clowns. But they’re both.

So, you do the same thing you do when the two-year-old pulls off her diaper and pees on the floor. You clean it up, and you laugh.

In elementary school, sometimes I’d turn around and face the bullies, and laugh at what they were saying. “You realize that’s not even a coherent insult, right?”

Bullies can hurt people. That’s what “If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love” is about, and perhaps why it makes bullies howl. But you know what else it’s done? It’s inspired hundreds of people to come to me and tell me about their experiences being bullied as kids or being hated as adults, being pummeled or harassed, and how they’ve moved past it. How “Dinosaur” has been cathartic for them, has helped them realize they aren’t alone.

Bullies aren’t the only ones who can travel in groups. We have our bonding and our strength. And at its best, it can be fun, and silly. It can destroy hatred with humor and positive energy. It can emphasize kindness and compassion. I believe in the power of humor, and I believe in the power of people clasping hands to help other people.

Don’t get me wrong. Humor won’t stop the bullies either. We’re always going to have to spend our time walking carefully around some amount of crap on the carpet. But humor reveals that the emperor is not only naked, but not even an emperor—as often as not, he’s some poor, pathetic exiled criminal, dreaming of ruling the world with an army of poltergeists and toddlers.

Don’t let them make us forget: they are morally weak, and they are outnumbered. And they’re hilarious.

Comments are closed on this entry.

So, Barnes and Noble is having a sale! Three adult paperbacks for thirty bucks.

Now, it’s likely all of y’all reading this have already read the Ancillary trilogy. But, see, have you read N.K. Jemisin’s The Fifth Season? Because if you haven’t, there is a hole in your life that you probably didn’t know was there.

Nebula-winner Uprooted is part of the same deal. So is Emma Newman’s Planetfall. Have you not read Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell yet? Because that one is freaking awesome. The Expanse books are on there, and oooooh look, The City & The City. Seriously, that one is amazing.

Here are the books in the deal sorted by title–there are lots–and you can also grab the little dropdown thingy up there and sort it by author.

And no, really, you should all read The Fifth Season if you haven’t already.

I’m in the middle of getting ready to go to Chicago this weekend for the Nebulas, but I just got word that prints of Lauren Saint Onge’s wonderful cover art for the Subterranean special editions of the Ancilary books are available for purchase.

Screenshot 2016-05-10 18.03.11

Just personally, I love these. I already have the Ancillary Justice cover hanging on my wall, it is now only a matter of time before it is joined by Sword and Mercy. If you want one or more of these on your wall, well, here they are!

So, uh, this is a thing that happened. I mean, not just Ancillary Mercy being a finalist, which is super awesome (and thank you to the readers who voted for it!), but also, look at the novelette category.

Yeah, my story “Another Word for World” is a finalist for the Locus Awards this year. Like novel, the other works in the category are pretty amazing stuff, so I’m counting them just being on that finalist list as wins on my personal scoreboard. But “Another Word for World” has the distinction of being the very first time any short fiction of mine has been shortlisted for any sort of award. I mean, I’ve seen individuals say, here and there, “Oh, I’m going to recc/nominate “[Shortfic]” by Ann Leckie this year, I really loved it” (and enjoyed the heck out of seeing that, and tucked those away to remind me to keep going during long spells of rejection), but this is the first time a story of mine has actually made the cut.

So, I’m kind of giddy about that!

“Another Word for World” appeared in Future Visions, by the way, which is full of great stories by amazing authors. You can download the whole thing for free and read them all, not just mine!

The other day, while I was reading a (published) work of fiction, I came across a passage that seemed to me was a result of the author being determined to write the piece in 3rd person limited, but wanting very badly to do something that would have benefitted very much from the piece being in omniscient POV. Instead, the author had kluged together an awkward workaround.

I would have been a bit less dismayed to see such a thing if it had not been for the context of the way new writers are nearly always taught about POV. I’ve not infrequently seen advice to avoid omni altogether, either because it’s difficult and therefore only for experts, or because readers aren’t used to it, or because editors won’t or don’t buy works using that POV. Specific advice for handling POV is nearly always advice for handling 3rd person limited, though it’s often articulated only as advice for handling POV, period. Writers who use that advice as their default template for handling POV will find themselves faced with difficulties if they attempt omni–hence, perhaps, the common wisdom that omni is hard to do, though once you realize that your POV technique isn’t POV technique but 3rd person limited technique, it becomes much easier. And then, of course, writers trained up on the features of 3rd person limited as “good POV” will read through that framework as well, which makes pieces written in omni look like they’re just full of incompetent POV slips and if it works anyway, well that’s because the writer “knew how to break the rules.”

***

Excuse me, I had to take a few calming breaths after typing the “know how to break the rules” thing. Look, if you can break it and the story still works–if lots and lots of writers break it and those stories still work–it is not a rule. There are not actually any rules. Okay? Okay.

I’ve dealt with the “omniscient is too difficult to attempt” bullshit previously.

Now, let’s talk about common POV advice. The one, basic precept a newbie writer learns is that while you’re in the POV of a particular character, the text should only reflect what that character might know or actually think. This is good as far as it goes–it’s not the whole ballgame, but it’ll keep you from making the most obvious missteps. Asking yourself, as you write each sentence, “Would Star Ranger Samantha actually know or think this?” will keep you from slipping out of her POV. So far, so good.

Then there’s advice to avoid headhopping. This is also excellent advice–for 3rd person limited. Switching in and out of characters’ heads without warning is disorienting and confusing in that context. If you want to have more than one POV character in a 3rd person limited piece, you need to signal each POV switch so that your reader doesn’t have to stop and puzzle out whose thoughts they’re reading, not even for an instant. A scene break is conventional, but there are other ways to do it. (And a scene break by itself isn’t enough–you want to open that next paragraph with a sentence–or maybe even just a few words–that will re-orient the reader to the new POV.)

But what if you want the POV of more than one person in a single scene? There are ways to do this without a scene break in limited 3rd, though you want to be careful with them, they require very close control of your POV, and a very careful consideration of how you’re moving the reader from character to character. I’m not going to say don’t try it–on the contrary, do try it! You’ll come out of it with better control of POV and the flow of information to the reader. But you know what can give your reader the thoughts of multiple characters in a single scene without so much as breaking a sweat?

That’s right. Omniscient.

On twitter, Alex Clark-McGlenn suggested (if I understood correctly) that one of the problems with omni was an inherent lack of tension:

Since in omni the narrator knows all, why isn’t the narrative giving you this or that or the other piece of information? The reader, perhaps, rather than feeling enthralled feels manipulated. Or the omniscient voice, since it would know who the murderer was (to take an unsubtle example) must naturally mention that at some point, and there’s the end of suspense.

So, I disagree that tension is a product of concealing information from the reader. You get tension a couple of different ways, and one of them does involve controlling the rate of information the reader gets, but that’s not exactly the same thing as “concealing” that information. Just knowing what’s going to happen isn’t always going to kill tension. Now, if you’re handling your omniscient POV badly, yeah, it’s going to kick the reader out of the story enough that they wonder why the heck the narrator is hiding this or that. And if you’re trained up as a writer to think that limited 3rd is the one true POV, you’re maybe not going to handle omni very well.

There’s a tendency to think of omni as though it’s basically 3rd limited except you can headhop all you want and throw in whatever info you want, and of course that’s difficult because it violates everything one has learned about doing POV well–heck, when you try doing that, the results aren’t good at all, and so how the heck does it work, when it works???

But it’s really very simple. Omniscient always has a narrator. That narrator, by the way, is not always literally omniscient in the sense that they know everything there is to know in the universe. They are omniscient for the purposes of the story.

Sometimes that narrator is named–sometimes they declare themselves the narrator from the start, and tell you who they are. Sometimes the narrator is essentially a version of the actual author of the story. Sometimes they stand so far in the background you hardly know there’s a narrator at all, but they’re there.

But the story is always being told from the POV of that narrator, who just happens to know a whole lot about the circumstances of the story, for whatever reason. They’re telling you the story, commenting on it, judging it, maybe even making snarky remarks about it. But the story is being filtered through the perceptions of that narrator.

Once you know that, omni becomes more or less a snap. Well, barring the actual details of execution, which will probably take some practice, but it’s no longer as puzzling as it might have been. Decide who’s telling the story–you don’t have to tell the reader up front, you just have to know, yourself; you don’t have to have a name or history for them, you just need to have a feel for who they are and how they’d tell this story–and then have them tell it. No matter how many characters’ thoughts you report, you’re never violating that narrator’s POV. You’re not headhopping, you’re still in your narrator’s head.

Let me be clear, there’s nothing wrong with 3rd person limited POV. But it’s not the only way to go.

Now, is it true that editors won’t buy it, or that readers won’t read it? I suspect there’s not as much published in omni, but is that because editors won’t buy it, or because writers don’t write in it, or when they do they handle it badly because they’re thinking of it as multi-limited 3rd with unrestrained headhopping?

And as for readers–you learn to read particular sorts of things by reading those sorts of things. If no one is writing omni, readers won’t be used to it. If you want readers to appreciate works in omniscient, well, you have to give them well-written examples of it to read. Editors are readers. It’s possible some younger editors may well have limited experience reading work in omniscient. I’m guessing about that, I don’t know for certain.

You can throw up your hands and say that the only thing to do is to write thing things editors are used to and likely to buy. You know, if you want. You do you, I’m not here to tell you how to manage your career. But I don’t think that’s the best course to take, I think if you give editors and other readers a really well-done example of something they’re not used to, they’ll be interested and intrigued. I don’t think we’re helpless in the face of What The Reader Expects.

This leads me to wonder how we got into a situation where, at least in SFF, limited 3rd is the One True POV. And I saw this tweet:

And I’ve been chewing on it. Here’s the thing: limited 3rd seems to just…come out of the air. There appears to be nothing between the story and the reader, just the raw facts of the character’s thoughts and impressions, just reality somehow arriving onto the page. Except it’s not–that reality is framed, carefully pruned and curated by the writer. It pretends to be an objective camera-view of the story. Except, even a camera isn’t actually objective. Things are edited, or left out of the frame, very carefully, to produce the film. It’s not raw truth, it’s carefully shaped.

There are advantages to doing this–limited 3rd can give you a particularly strong immediacy, can put you deep into a character’s experience, and that’s awesome. That’s possible to do with omni, of course, but it’s one of the things limited 3rd does best.

Omni, on the other hand, draws at least a little attention to the fact that you’re getting not raw truth, but someone’s interpretation of events. You’re getting the same with limited 3rd, of course, it’s just that the fact that the author is doing just that–presenting you not with utterly objective fact but with their take on the story–is concealed.

I think that in some parts of SF there is a particular value placed on the idea of Objective Truth. There’s no such thing, actually. I mean, yes, there are things that are true about the world–two plus two equals four, and the sun is about eight light-minutes from the earth, and objects in motion stay in motion unless some other force acts on them, and things like that, those are all facts. But stories? Stories, even stories arranged entirely out of facts, well, those arrangements aren’t somehow naturally occurring truths, but interpretations, thoughts about the world that come from a particular point of view–that is, the author’s. Some other author might have (almost certainly would have) arranged those facts differently, with very different results.

Limited 3rd conceals this–it conceals the fact that the story has not come from out of nowhere, some objectively factual place, but from the point of view of the author, with all its inherent assumptions and biases.

And if, as a writer, it’s the only POV you know how to use, and any others are deprecated, it conceals this fact from you, the writer, as well.

I’m not saying there’s anything inherently wrong with limited 3rd. Heck, the thing I’m working on now is in limited 3rd. Just, it’s not the only way to go. And it’s worth learning how to use others. It’s worth your time to spend some thought on how those others actually work, and to read things written in them and try to see how they’re put together.

This is getting long, and I have other thoughts, but I should stop here. But, in summary: no POV is inherently good or bad, they all have advantages and disadvantages. Don’t feel stuck with limited 3rd if you want to do something another POV would do better. All are worth learning, all are worth practicing. They’re all tools worth having in your box. Why limit yourself?

I just spent an awesome week in Japan, and an awesome weekend at Hal-Con, where I was a guest of honor! It was pretty excellent. It’s a fairly small convention, well-run, and they took great care of me. Which was extra-important considering I speak about two words of Japanese; I can, if pressed, say “Hello” and “Thank you.”

The convention put together a book of several pieces of my short fiction, translated into Japanese:

The Endangered Camp

With a fabulous dinosaur on the cover, and lovely illustrations inside, all by my fellow GoH Nozomu Tamaki.

It was an honor and a pleasure to meet everyone. The convention staff did a great job–I know even for a small con there’s a lot of work involved, and most of it will be invisible if you do it right.

The convention was the perfect finish to a week of doing touristy things–I wanted to see at least a little of Japan while I was there. I highly recommend the Edo Tokyo Museum, if you like museums, which I do. And I stayed at an onsen in Gora and took hot spring baths and ate wonderful food (and leveled up my previously more-or-less adequate chopstick skillz). By the time I got to the con, I could eat without (mostly) embarrassing myself, and my sleep schedule was on the verge of adjusting to the fourteen-hour time difference (just in time to fly back home and do it again!), though not quite there.

I don’t tend to take a lot of pictures, unless I’m explicitly doing research on something and think I need pics for future reference, but I did take one or two of the view out my hotel window in Numazu:

2016-04-18 05.23.19

And one of some lovely fish-shaped cakes a reader gave me as a gift:

2016-04-18 08.27.06

Okay, those aren’t really cakes. The two in the middle are pancakes with bean paste inside, and the top and bottom ones are a kind of wafer-cookie sandwich, also filled with bean paste. Still. Close enough.

I will close out with some frozen coelacanths, from the aquarium in Numazu, which was one of the venues for the GoH dinner on Saturday night:

Screenshot 2016-04-21 09.46.14

If your mind works like mine does, you will want to know that the tour guide at the aquarium informed us that coelacanth doesn’t taste like much of anything, and is very oily and gristly (ISTR the exact description was “like chewing on a toothbrush”). That wasn’t firsthand information, but the guide could tell us from her own experience that giant isopod, when cooked, tastes like chicken.

Thanks again to the folks at Hal-Con, for inviting me and for all their hard work to make the weekend such a success!