30 April 2006
Sarah Monette (whose novel Mélusine you really, really need to read - honestly, you do) started a discussion in her LiveJournal a couple of days back (under the heading The Moss-Troll Problem) about the use of analogy in SF and fantasy. A large part of our job consists of comparing things to other things, but we end up often inventing both sides of that equation, because the reader's familiar frame of reference is unavailable: you can't write about the missionary position in a world without missionaries. Etc.
There's a whole lot of stuff that that leads on to, and I'm not going to summarise it here; but I've just hit it again this morning, and I noticed because I've been thinking about it, but it occurs to me that I probably hit it on a daily basis, it's that much a part of this particular job.
Specifically, this morning, I have a boy about to tell a story, and his voice is sliding into that kind of familiar half-chant that storytellers use on the street; and I was going to say 'hypnotic', but paused and thought no, this is a historical fantasy and 'mesmeric' is earlier, which it is - but it's not early enough, in historical terms my story predates Mesmer, and this is in any case a fantasy, a world without Mesmer. So I want to go back to 'hypnotic', but now I'm anxious, because that's a nineteenth-century coinage, from a scientific context that my story really precludes. Which leaves me without a word for it: which is ridiculous, because the thing itself has been around at least as long as magic and religion and ritual have been recorded, and presumably longer. Nevertheless, there seems not to be a legitimate English word that I can legitimately use: 'entrancing' and its synonyms have a whole different list of connotations, which I do not want. Bah, humbug.
And now - what with writing about it and all - I've spent half an hour on this, one adjective in a sentence that can frankly live without it; and people wonder why it takes so long to write a book...
© Chaz Brenchley 2006
Reproduced here by permission of Chaz Brenchley, who asserts his moral right to be identified as the author of this work.