Much like the swan paddling upstream, most action on the WIP is happening beneath the surface for now, so I thought I’d post a piece on the process of writing the book, the reasons behind some decisions. As I recently had a rather unusual review of the first two books in the series, highlighting the peculiarities of some of the language, I’ll explain my reasoning regarding that.
We know language is organic and subject to change from many different sources. In today’s world, words are being replaced with images; emojis are pictograms that might be seen as a sort of modern equivalent of ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs. I gather someone has produced a book, a story, consisting entirely of emojis! And txt spk, an almost incomprehensible language to many over-60s, is seeping into everyday use.
Consider, also, how usage ultimately allows words to take on whatever meaning most people give them. The Oxford English Dictionary was recently moved enough by public misuse to add a new meaning to a word it had previously held sacrosanct: ‘literally’ can now be legitimately used to mean ‘virtually’. A change that many will see as inevitable, no doubt. But I ask, ‘How do we now express, unambiguously, the idea of something being literal in the original sense of ‘representing the very words of the original’? There’s no synonym for ‘literal’ in this sense. But there are plenty of words to express the idea of ‘virtual’, so I see no need for the change.
But my point is that language isn’t static. It changes constantly.
To represent this movement in the books, which are set in futures between around 50 and 500 years hence, I made some changes to standard presentation. For example, all numbers are shown as figures; a trend already increasing. I abbreviate certain terms; ‘information’ is ‘info’, ‘technology’ is ‘tech’ etc. And, to differentiate the education experienced by those from the commercially driven settlement of Marzero and that encountered by the more advanced Marion settlement, I have the people of Marzero miss the ‘g’ from their gerunds. Such speech mannerisms are quite common to cultures where ‘correct’ language is considered a low priority, perhaps even seen as a form of elitism.
Also, in Blood Red Dust, which is written in the form of reports curated from various different sources, a few of the narratives are from people with very little education indeed and are almost incomprehensible. But a little imagination and consideration will generate meaning for most readers.
Having taken these decisions, I had to make sure the resultant text continues to be accessible. Whether I’ve succeeded is for readers to decide.
This is just one aspect of writing a story set in the future. There are more, and I’ll explore those in later posts.