How do cold mages cook? (Q&A)

 

 

garputhefork asked: I can’t remember if this was addressed in book 1 (and I’ve been hoarding book 2 until the last book was released), but how the hell do cold mages cook anything? (Not that one would actually lower him/herself to take a turn in a kitchen…)

Thank you for the excellent question!

The kitchens of mage Houses are separate from the main part of the house where the cold mages live. House members who aren’t mages may work/live in areas heated directly by fireplaces and stoves, and they would certainly be assisted by servants (who would like do the scullery work, etc). These separate buildings are where the cooking is done (then transferred to the main house eating hall for meals). The hypocaust systems warm the main house (with the furnace sourced far enough away from the cold mages that their magic won’t put it out). Also, cold mages feel the cold less than non-mage people do, so they don’t need it quite as warm as you or I might.

This is addressed tangentially in book one and directly in book three.

Also, regarding cooking: I postulate that, based on my reading of cultural aspects, cooking is almost exclusively done by women and is a highly respected skill. A woman born into the House who has no mage ability but who is a good cook and a good “house administrator” (remember the mage Houses might have anywhere from 50 – 300+  members) would be respected and valued within the mage House and could attain additional status through her cooking and administration efforts. Again this is touched on tangentially in book three, and in book two as well (although in book two it’s not within the context of a mage House).

 

NOTE: When I held the Cold Steel Giveaway, I received many many questions, here on this WordPress site, on Livejournal, on Tumblr, and a few on goodreads. Over the next two months I’ll be answering the questions one or several (related ones) at a time, under the tag #Q&A

This question came from Tumblr and was originally answered there.

Discussion Spoiler Thread: Cold Steel & Spiritwalker Trilogy

Books are in people’s hands already so time to open up a thread for discussion of Cold Steel and the trilogy as a whole.

If you want to make a comment, ask a question, discuss where I can hear and join in or where you know you’ll be able to talk to other people who have read the books: This is the place.

If you prefer to talk where I can’t listen in, this is not the place (and there are plenty of great places to do that, too!)(I also totally get the desire/need to talk about a book where the author can’t hear).

There will be spoilers for the entire trilogy.

 

A quick reminder of appearances, listed in full in this post:

University Bookstore Seattle WA 7 pm Monday July 8

Powells-Cedar Hills Crossing Portland OR 7 pm Tuesday July 9.

 

I won’t be online much for the next few weeks but I will check this blog every day–and you may find me on Twitter (KateElliottSFF) and occasionally FB (Kate Elliott).

Writing a woman who eats what she wants without being shamed (Spiritwalker Monday 2)

The fourth giveaway winner is bee-ww-oh-bee. She asked:

Why did you choose to elaborate on Cat’s love of food? I thought it was interesting that we have a heroine who actually appreciates food. Was this in response to societies view on female bodies or did you just write it as part of her character?

 

Have a story: Continue reading

COLD STEEL events (readings/signings)(Spiritwalker Monday 6)

To support the release of the third and final volume of the Spiritwalker Trilogy I will be at the following bookstores/events:

Borderlands Books, San Francisco, CA: Thursday June 27 at 7 pm

with Katharine Kerr who will also have a new book out.

 

Mysterious Galaxy San Diego, Saturday June 29 at 2 pm

with Andy Duncan and Clarion students (should be fun AND educational).

 

New York CIty: NYRSF reading Tuesday July 2 (with E. C. Ambrose) at 7 pm

 

University Bookstore, Seattle, WA: Monday July 8 at 7 pm

 

Powells Beaverton, Portland OR: Tuesday July 9 at 7 pm

With Lilith Saintcrow!

 

All events will include reading from Cold Steel, from my forthcoming YA fantasy, and maybe even from the epic fantasy trilogy I’m currently working on, or possibly I will read a short story instead although that might necessitate you believing I can actually write a short story. Which I can. I totally can.

PLUS Q&A (you have to bring the Qs).

AND I will either have print copies of The Secret Journal of Beatrice Hassi Barahal available (art by the awesome Julie Dillon!!!!) OR if it is not yet finished I will have a rough version with some of the illustrations to display and a place to sign up with your email/address to get notification when the print and e-book versions are ready for purchase.

 

Please know that I would love to see you. Yes, you! Especially YOU!

And your friends, family, or indeed any passers-by you can snag off the street. If I’m not coming to a city near you, send friends or family who do live in the area. The more the merrier. If enough people come I will sing OR demonstrate how to paddle an outrigger canoe and punch sharks.

I plan to attend the Sirens Conference in Oregon in October (it’s a wonderful small conference — come if you can!) but besides that the events listed above will be my only appearances in public venues/conventions this year (as far as I know).

 

A note on bookstore events: I’m signing at four well regarded and valued independent bookstores. You may bring personal books from home for me to sign. It is not required to buy (for example) Cold Steel or any book from the bookstore but it is always a strong show of support for independent bookstores if you can and do buy a copy of my newest book or, indeed, any book while you’re there (whether or not it is one of mine).

If you’re not able to make the event, I do always sign stock at each bookstore so you can order a signed copy afterward. If you contact any of the bookstores IN ADVANCE you can reserve a book and get it signed to you at the event (by me! not some random book signing gnome).

Character Study: Catherine Barahal (Spiritwalker Monday 8)

Over on her blog, N.K. Jemisin did a series of character studies for some of the characters in her Inheritance Trilogy. Here’s one, for Itempas.

I decided to borrow the “character study” idea for today’s post so  I could combine it with a question I was recently asked: What was your thought process for the creation of Cat? (LS)

Warning: There will be spoilers later in this post for Cold Magic and Cold Fire, but the first part is fairly general.

 

First, I wanted Cat to be physically confident, someone who knows when to run and when to stand her ground, and who isn’t afraid of a physical challenge. At the same time I wanted her to NOT be a person whose feelings are bottled up; Cat is very free with her feelings, she laughs and cries easily and does not judge herself for having strong feelings.

That is the initial contrast I was going for: She is both physically confident *and* emotionally confident in the sense that she doesn’t try to hide, disguise, or be embarrassed by her emotions nor does she see being emotional as something inherently weak. She wears her heart on her sleeve and she is not afraid of a challenge.

I did not want her to be a girl who needs to be rescued; I wanted her to be a young woman able to rescue herself (and others). I did not want her anger to be debilitating or shameful; I wanted her anger (when it manifests) to be clean and pure. I did not want her to be coy or retiring; I wanted her to be forthright, curious, and fully engaged in exploring all the aspects of herself that commonly unfold as people come into adulthood, like her sexual feelings, her growing understanding of how politics and the world works and her place within the world, and her concern for and loyalty toward others. I wanted her to judge injustice harshly but to feel compassion even for people who may have hurt her. I wanted her to display a sense of the absurd and to have the capacity to see joy in the world.

Most of all I wanted her to speak for herself because I wanted readers to read about a character who believes in her own voice, as I hope we all can learn to believe in our own voices.

That last turned out to be easy because the book is written in her first person narration. All I had to do was move my own “voice” aside and let the book emerge in her voice. One of the most interesting things about writing in Cat’s voice is that she’s funny. My usual serious-business epic fantasy writing voice is not funny so it has been an illuminating experience writing books that people tell me make them laugh out loud at moments.

 

Spoilers for Cold Magic and Cold Fire follow. Continue reading

On the efficacy of cold magic (Spiritwalker Monday 11)

On the efficacy of cold magic, with an aside to cold mages and their antipathy to technology.

By Habibah ibnah Alhamrai, natural philosopher and lecturer at the University of Expedition

 It is well known that the great mage Houses are anathema to the technologies developed and developing in the Amerikes, especially those so abundantly useful in Expedition and other areas where the technologies have been employed. One might assume that the cause of this antipathy might be that much of these technologies are the handiwork of the Trolls, and that the mage have, in general, an inborn hatred or even natural dislike for their species. One would be totally mistaken.

The mages do not care about the Trolls except that they create and perpetrate many new technologies that the mages find repulsive, or rather that they find unuseable and from which they are repulsed. Part of this is undoubtedly physical, but some may be psychological in the sheer inescapability of their being cold mages. A common example of this physical repulsion can be seen in nearly any locale where gas light has been installed and is currently enhancing the environs of most normal citizens. We know that gas light is produced in lamps designed specifically to allow small amounts of gas to expand inside the globe and ignite and burn, thereby providing light and a bit of heat. The heat in this case is useless as the globes are high above the street, but the light, because of that height, shines down upon the ground and illuminates the surrounding area.

But watch a carriage carrying a cold mage through the streets and it is easy to see the problem. As the carriage approaches the light, the light dims. When the carriage is beneath the lamp, the light is nearly invisible. And when the carriage passes, only then does the light begin to brighten and eventually burn to its natural state.

It is widely known that cold mage houses are heated by an indirect method originally invented and employed by the Romans. It might be thought that they use this old style through some propensity toward ancient knowledge. That thought would be wrong. While it is unclear if the cold mages themselves would actually suffer much from the coldness, their spouses and children are not possessed of their abilities and certainly will. Therefore, cold mage manors must be heated in some way. This indirect method, though in some ways less efficient than direct heating by stove or fireplace, is nonetheless the only method available in an abode where cold mages reside. These Roman heat pipes are just that, pipes beneath the floors of the rooms that carry hot water or air. The heat source must be located somewhere away from the main house so that the cold magic cannot reach it, as not only will a cold mage put out a fire in near proximity, but it will also be impossible to relight the fire until the cold mage has departed. Generally, the mage houses place the fire building up hill from the house at a spring location so that water can be heated and then flow naturally down to the manor house itself. As far as can be understood, cold mages have had difficulty with fire for their entire existence, but, since little is known about the early days of the cold mages, little can be said as to how they adapted to their difficulties and adopted the Roman methods.

On the essence of cold magic, its spontaneous generation and use.

Cold magic is not an old ability. It did not exist during the height of the Roman hegemony. During that time, while various magics undoubtedly existed, cold magic did not. It is only due to the Salt Plague that cold magic could come into existence. One need not repeat here the history of the salt plague or the ghouls that emerged and destroyed entire civilizations. Nor the subsequent migrations and resettlements. The history may be read in any one of many treatises, but a simple explanation may be found in the workman-like discourse found in “Concerning the Mande Peoples of Western Africa Who Were Forced by Necessity to Abandon Their Homeland and Settle in Europe Just South of the Ice Shelf,” by Catharine Hassi Barahal of the famous Hassi Barahal Kena’ani lineage.

Let it be said that one fortuitous result of the plague, or rather the migration caused by the plague, is that the Mande from Africa met the Celtic druids of the north. Obviously, not all Mande were equal in either wealth or magic. The wealthy of the Mande married into the princely Celtic houses of the north, while those possessing magic found the Celtic druids to be of a kind, joined together with their societies and their houses. The combination led to the emergence of strong mages who had the ability to wield the power of the ice. This merging of two disparate elements formed the mage Houses.

However, not all or every merging of Mande with Celt produced or to this day produce cold mages and not all cold mages are equal. Because cold magic does not show up at birth, and because all joining does not produce a cold mage, the current mages have taken to occasionally plowing somewhat far from home and only reaping the outcome if it seems favorable. At this point, the lineages of the Celtic druids and the Mande run throughout many of the villages and towns within their realms so where a cold mage will appear is unknown. The biology of this phenomenon is undoubtedly fascinating but is not yet understood.

It is widely known that scholars believe that magic could be explicated on scientific principle if only those who handle magic were not so secretive.  It is my thesis that much of cold magic can be explicated using only the principles of natural history and the sciences without the aid of the mages. In fact, help from the mages would probably serve only to further confuse.

For example, it is widely held by the mages and others that the source of cold magic is in the spirit world. That the source of the vast energies available to the mages is somewhere hidden in that world. The path to that energy may be in the spirit world, but the source of the power is the ice that covers the entire northern portion of our planet and on whose edge we settle. It is doubtful that if the Celtic druids had been the ones forced from their homes to settle in the Mande area of Africa that cold mages would today exist. Perhaps in that environ, the essence and control of fire magic might have become dominant. However, the vagaries of the gods forced the Mande to the north to sit on the edge of the source of their great power.

“The history of the world begins in ice, and it will end in ice.”

The Celtic bards and Mande djeliw of the north say this, but they do not know how correct they are. The Romans may have believed the world began in fire, but now, ice rules, as do the cold mages. The power of cold is extraordinary. Anyone in the proximity of a cold mage releasing his power will attest to this. Area wide storms of wind, ice and snow rain down upon those in the path of a cold mage’s ire. Liquid freezes and solid objects become so cold they brittlize and shatter. Through the spirit world and into the ice the mages reach, releasing the power. The ice is the ultimate source.

This is why one of the few things that a powerful cold mage fears is the Wild Hunt. The Wild Hunt will identify mages who overstep their bonds, who use their power too much, too often or too impulsively, and sweep down and remove that mage from the mix. We can not know the machination of those in the Wild Hunt nor the rest of their ilk, but they monitor and punish not just simple mortals, but the cold mages, for those of the Wild Hunt own the ice.

While I can not explain to you how the mages channel their power from the ice, nor whether that power is limited or limitless, I can explain their use of that power and why they themselves have a repulsion to fire and technology. We all know how fire can change metals in the forge or pottery in the kiln, but cold can do the same if wielded by a skilled mage. Take glass for example. For most of us, a broken pane of glass can only be repaired by remelting and pouring a new pane, but a cold mage can take those shards and knit them into a whole. How can this be done with cold rather than heat? We know that glass is amorphous, if the two edges are held together, the mage can make the components at the edges move and intertwine thereby fusing them together with intense cold. In this case, there are no crystals to reunite or layers to re-adhere. Just as the masses of ice on the glaciers move, melt and reform under the great mass of the ice, so a mage’s touch can cold press the glass into reforming.

One does not often see a mage re-forming glass, but one does see the effects of a mage’s presence on fire and technology. The principles of fire are well understood, but a short explanation is appropriate here. In general, heat, from a fire, friction of rubbing, concentrated sunlight or striking of flint on steel warms the material to be burned, and when the temperature rises sufficiently for the substance to become gaseous, the material ignites. The material remains lit and burns because the fire of burning itself provides more gaseous fuel for the fire. An easy example to see is a candle.  An ember transferred from the fireplace ignites the wick which burns rapidly until it approaches the wax. The wax melts, moves up the wick, evaporates and ignites and the process continues until there is no wax left.

When mages enter areas where there is fire of any kind, the intense cold presence around them sucks all the warmth from the area. The flame can no longer consume the material, be it wood, candle wax or gas, because the heat is drawn into the mage and the fire dies. Fires cannot be lit in the presence of a mage because the cold aura prevents any of the materials from igniting. Even if a spark from flint can be created, the materials will not burn.
The effect of this sucking of energy on a fireplace fire or candle are transient and while the mages dislike them, they are merely annoying. The presence of large furnaces, like the ones created in Expedition to run the boilers that power the factories, contain much more energy, and while the mages have a similar effect on a factory as they do on a candle, the great heat absorbed by the mages is no longer simply annoying, but can begin to eat into their very essence. This, I believe, is why the mage Houses are so opposed to the new technologies. They fear first, that the presence of so much technology producing so much heat will interfere with their magic, but they fear foremost that the technology will become all pervasive and interfere with their well being, melting them and eroding them from inside.

 

###

@ A’ndrea Messer 2010

Science writer A’ndrea Messer wrote this piece “in the style of” an early 19th century paper or lecture. The character Habibah ibnah Alhamrai appears in Cold Fire.

A’ndrea and her colleagues at the Research Communications unit of The Pennsylvania State University have a blog: Research Matters.

The Creole of Expedition: Part Two: Creating the Creole (Spiritwalker Monday 13)

As I worked on Cold Fire, I asked myself this question: Do I use a creole to represent the local language of Expedition or do I write people’s speech to be indistinguishable from Cat’s own?

There’s a lot more about how and why I asked and answered the question in Part One, which you can find here.

Ultimately I decided to use a creole to represent the speech of Expedition. At this point I had to ask myself a second question: Given that I am not a native speaker of nor intimately familiar with any of the actual Caribbean creoles spoken today or in historical times, how do I write a creole that will seem authentic within the text without being a clumsy imitation or offensive parody of actual creoles?

Let me first give a couple of quick definitions.

Oxford Dictionaries defines a pidgin as “a grammatically simplified form of a language, used for communication between people not sharing a common language. Pidgins have a limited vocabulary, some elements of which are taken from local languages, and are not native languages, but arise out of language contact between speakers of other languages.”

A creole, on the other hand, is “a mother tongue formed from the contact of two languages through an earlier pidgin stage.” (I would add “two or more” because that was certainly the case in Hawaii. Lest you wonder, Hawaiian Pidgin is a creole.)

A dominant culture: Taino.

My friend and fellow writer Katharine Kerr has done a great deal of research in linguistics (her Deverry epic fantasy series is a superb example of what you can do with language in a fantasy sequence that spans hundreds of years), so I asked for her advice. We both knew I could not possibly replicate any of the existing or historical Caribbean creoles and, in any case, given that the Spiritwalker Trilogy posits an extremely alternate history, the actual historical creoles would not fit regardless.

She suggested that I devise a creole unique to Expedition

Kerr wrote, “The dominant language in any creole is that of the dominant culture. What is your dominant culture?”

The city of Expedition was founded by a Malian fleet supplemented by Phoenician navigators and sailors. The fleet’s chief language would be a variant of modern day Bambara with some Punic loan words. But any trans-Atlantic trade and intercourse with Europa would be heavily influenced by the presence of Latin as the lingua franca (trade language) of continental Europa. However, because Expedition is a small territory on the island of Kiskeya (Hispaniola), the regional dominant culture in which it exists would that of the Taino because the Antilles (Caribbean) in this alternate universe is ruled by the Taino.

Therefore the first thing I decided was that a number of Taino words and phrases would be present as part of the every day language. These would be reinforced (insofar as I could) with elements of Taino culture that would have become part of the society of Expedition in that way cultures adapt, adopt, and blend to become something unique to a specific place. I could only pick a couple of things to give Taino names lest the plethora of new words become overwhelming for the reader, so besides words we already use in English that are of Taino derivation such as hurricane, hammock, and papaya, I highlighted Taino elements which would matter to the plot.

Taino words that are part of Expedition’s creole include:
maku (foreigner)
opia (spirit of an ancestor)
areito (dance, song, or festival)
batey (ceremonial plaza often associated with a local version of the ball game that was known throughout the Caribbean and Central American region). As an historical note I should mention that in the Dominican Republic the word batey came to mean the company towns associated with sugar cane fields and processing.
cemi (a sacred object)
behique/behica (shaman)(also used as meaning a fire mage)
cacique/cacica (chief; ruler; king/ female king of the same)
cobo (queen conch)
Some fish: pargo, cachicata, cajaya, anolis, carite, guinchos, barracudas
Bahama is a Taino place name. So possibly (likely) is Cuba (a shortened form of an older name), Habana, Boriken (Puerto Rico), and Kiskeya itself (the island we know as Hispaniola divided now into Haiti (from the Taino Ayiti) and the Dominican Republic).

The creole continuum.

However, the creole could not just be a peppering of words foreign to the English I was writing in. The creole as Cat heard it would have not just differences in vocabulary but differences in grammar, in word choice, and in the rhythms of its speech.

Fortunately through the miracle of the internet I had previously made the acquaintance of Dr. Fragano Ledgister, a professor at Clark Atlanta University and himself Anglo-Jamaican. In a similar way to Dr. Kustis Nishimura allowing me to pick his brains about the physics of cold magic and fire magic, Dr. Ledgister was exceedingly generous in answering my questions, offering insight both into language and into the Caribbean as he knows it, and it is really through his offices that I was able to develop the creole as it appears on the page.

As well, many details of the Caribbean are present because of things he shared with me, and while that is a subject for another post I will briefly mention that he introduced me to the many varieties of fruit commonly enjoyed on the islands that are not as well known elsewhere and which play such an important role in Andevai’s courtship of Cat.

Dr. Ledgister discussed the work of Mervyn Alleyne.

Alleyne’s classification of Jamaican English is that it operates at three levels: the hierolect, Standard Jamaican English, that differs from the international (British or American) standard primarily in terms of minor differences of vocabulary and usage. The mesolect, or generally understood creole, spoken by most people and heavily influenced by the standard language. The basilect, “di real raw-chaw Patwa” as my friend Hugh Martin put it, spoken by rural people and the less educated. Each level of language is going to be used in different social contexts.

Therefore there are three versions of the creole, an acrolect (the term that has replaced Alleyne’s hierolect), a mesolect, and a basilect.

Abby, on Salt Island, is a country gal. She speaks the basilect. She (and her brother, met on the airship) are the only people Cat encounters who speak the basilect. It is characterized by having a simpler grammar and more archaic elements. Besides including all the features of the mesolect, it drops linking verbs (except ‘shall’) and drops the “th” sound to “dat” and “di” and so on. Also, basilect speakers do not use past tense, only present tense (more on verb use below).

Almost all the people of Expedition speak the mesolect, the most common form that Cat hears. I’ll elaborate on its development below.

The acrolect is spoken by the most high status families in the old city of Expedition; technically, the Taino nobles speak the acrolect since they speak what might be termed “formal Latin”–that is, Taino who are not Expeditioners never speak in the creole. For instance, at the dinner party at townhouse in Expedition where General Camjiata is staying, the son of a Keita merchant house speaks mostly with “correct english” but ‘yee’ and ‘shall’ are still present in his speech.

People of Taino ancestry who are Expeditioners speak the creole the same as any other Expeditioners.

“Maku” (foreigners) are usually distinguished by not speaking the creole, although I  allowed a few usages to creep into the speech of foreign-born residents of Expedition, most commonly the use of “gal” for “girl” or “woman,” the use of “yee” for “you,” and the generic use of “shall” as an all purpose verb (more on those below).

The building blocks.

I wanted to write a simplified creole that would not be too difficult for readers to parse or too distracting.

Dr. Ledgister pointed out that

A creole has a streamlined grammar because it starts out as a pidgin or lingua franca before becoming a birth tongue. (Pidgins combining a language of rule and vocabulary and grammar elements from several subordinate languages encourages simplicity.) It’s also liable to contain archaisms because it will retain terms from when it was first formed (Jamaican speech still has words last used in standard English in the 17th century, like peradventure).

With his help I focused on four elements (besides the presence of Taino words) to highlight which would thus distinguish the Expedition creole (in its mesolect form) from the language Cat speaks:
1. verbs and verb tenses
2. pronouns
3. word choice (substitute words and archaisms)
4. speech rhythms

Verbs

Simplifying grammar meant simplifying verb tenses. I need to emphasize that a simplified grammar used in a creole does not mean that the speakers of creole are ignorant, stupid, ill-educated, or demeaned; it is an element of the creole.

Dr. Ledgister: “One example of this is that verbs don’t decline. You have Abby say [in an early draft] “I does not like it that this man Drake, this maku, decides so quickly to make yee his sweet” where a Jamaican would say “Me doh like it dat dis man Drake decide so fas/ to make you his gyal” and a Trinidadian would say “Ah don’ like it dat dis man Drake decide so quick dat you his sweet girl.” My point here is that the verbs don’t decline.

In the final published draft, Abby says, “I don’ like dat dis man Drake decide so quick to make yee he sweet gal.”

I came up with a simplified set of rules for myself to follow as I wrote:

1. Present tense should use the infinitive in all cases (without the “to” unless the “to” is called for). So: “we have” “he have” “you have”
2. While technically it should be “we be” and “you be,” I use “is” (because it is easier for speakers of standard English to read).
“I am” becomes “I’s.” “You are” becomes “you’s.”
We and they “is” depends but is often “We’s” or “they’s.”
“It is” and “It was” are contracted into “’tis” and “’twas”
3. Simple past works pretty much as in English.

I could have done more with the verbs but I figured that was enough.

Pronouns

Originally I had this challenging and exciting idea that the basilect (as spoken by Abby) would use Bambara pronouns to reflect the Malian ancestry of the majority of the early settlers in Expedition. But when I tried to write it, it just became impenetrable.

Instead I adapted the Bambara ‘you’–rendered as “i” (ee) in English transcription–by turning “you” into “yee.” Yee is used throughout all forms of the creole, my one hat tip to Bambara pronouns. I left all other subject pronouns the same as they are in American English.

Object pronouns I left generally the same, although on a case by case basis and depending on the rhythm of the sentence, the object pronoun could be replaced with the subject pronoun.

The possessive is generally replaced by the subject pronoun — “his book” becomes “he book” except in the case of “I” in which the object pronoun “me book” is used.

Word Choice (replacement words & archaisms):

Replacements words (words commonly used differently than we might use them):

GAL: “girl” (as in old enough to have sex) or “young woman” is always replaced by “gal” which becomes the local equivalent of an all-purpose term for girls/women in the general ages of 15 – late 20s.

Older people will usually refer to young adult males (ages circa 15 – 25, depending on the age of the older person) as “lad.”  Young men refer to other young men as “men” and to young women their own age as “gals.”  Young women, the same.

SHALL: this is an all purpose verb used where appropriate and often in place of verbs like “would” “ought” and so on.
DON’ : replaces “don’t” or “do not”
In general I tried to avoid “do” (and Abby, using the basilect, never uses “do”) but sometimes I left it in because it got too convoluted or hard to understand or choppy to take it out.
Instead of THINK people generally use RECKON

Archaisms:

People use some older locutions and/or regional words like “peradventure” and “arseness.”

In case you are wondering where “arseness” comes from, here a quote from our correspondence: “I just grabbed my copy of (Richard) Allsopp and was struck as I opened it by the Trinidadian term “arseness” for “stupidity” (or as most West Indians would say “stupidness”),  that’s worth using!” And indeed it was!

Rhythm

When I had all these things in place, the rhythm took care of itself.

The grammatical patterns, the pronouns, and the adapted words themselves began to structure how people spoke. Once that happened, the rhythm of their speech took on a distinctive flavor and inflection. By the time I had finished writing Cold Fire, the people of Expedition had a way of speaking that sounded “natural” to my ear and that, more importantly, did not have the same rhythm as the speech used by Cat and other Europans.

Conclusions

There is a lot more detail I could go into but this post is already quite long. One of the best parts about corresponding with Fragano Ledgister was getting to read his anecdotes. [If you ever get a chance, ask him about meeting C. L. R. James.]

Not everyone will agree that the creole in Cold Fire works, nor need they do so. But for my part, considering it as an experiment and as a challenge for me as a writer, I felt good about the final result. Whatever else and no matter how it holds up, I am glad to have pushed myself past what I was comfortable attempting to write. In certain ways, making the effort was its own reward.

A Valentine’s Day snippet from Cold Steel (Spiritwalker)

This brief scene appears in Cold Steel and is appropriate as a themed snippet for Valentine’s Day.

If you have read Cold Fire the scene contains no spoilers because the event it references takes place in Cold Fire.

To set the stage at its most basic level, our heroine Cat is dreaming:

Continue reading

Cold Steel, Crown of Stars News, & A Reprise: Five Ways of Seeing Andevai (Spiritwalker Monday 21)

Page proofs of COLD STEEL are complete and turned in.

The over-abundance of orange post-its has to do with a typesetting glitch (which I have been given to understand is already corrected).

This officially is the cleanest set of page proofs I’ve ever gone over. In a 597 page manuscript I personally found only four mistakes (the official proofreader called attention to a couple of other things for a total of perhaps 8 mistakes). The rest are small changes I made because I cannot stop niggling with the manuscript. Substituting one noun because I had repeated a different noun four times. Replacing a slightly clunky line of dialogue with a sharper snarkier one. And so on.

BUT IT IS NOW DONE. In other words, I can’t change anything else even if I wanted to.

Meanwhile, sometime later this week Orbit UK will be announcing the release of all seven of the Crown of Stars books in digital editions. They asked me to write up a Crown of Stars Retrospective post (in whatever manner I wanted to retrospect the series), and composing that short essay took all my post-writing time for the week. So I still have not completed the second part of the post on the Creole of Expedition (Part One here). In fact, I have no Monday post ready to go at all, and thus because I determined to post every Monday like I promised, I decided here today to reprise a post from May 2011 in which I group the most common reactions to Andevai as he appears in Cold Magic into five basic descriptions. I did this because reactions were very divided, and also because I knew once Cold Fire came out, I would likely get a new set of reactions.

Here they are, five ways of seeing Andevai (behind a cut so those who remember the post can, if they wish, skip it): Continue reading

The Creole of Expedition: Part One, Setting the Stage and Asking the Question (Spiritwalker Monday 23)

When I began writing volume two in the Spiritwalker Trilogy, Cold Fire, I knew the plot would take my protagonist, Cat Barahal, to the Caribbean. Because the Spiritwalker books are a version of alternate history, I also knew that the 19th century Caribbean in this universe would have a different power dynamic from the 19th century Caribbean in our own world.

For one thing, in the Spiritwalker world the Americas were not colonized by the European powers. (As it happens, the European powers as we know them do not exist.) Among many other consequences, this meant that the Taino and other peoples who populated the Greater Antilles were *not* devastated by disease, forced labor, slavery, and various attempts to erase and subsume their cultures. They continued to expand and thrive.

I had already established (if not explicitly in book one then in my own notes) that a fleet from the beleaguered Empire of Mali had reached the Caribbean two centuries before the main story begins and founded up a settlement. With these refugees from Mali came also Phoenician sailors and merchants, and later they were joined by Roman sailors and merchants and immigrants as well as by Celtic immigrants, Iberian immigrants, and other people who had left Europa for one reason or another to make a new life elsewhere. Clutches of trolls, the feathered people, had migrated south from their ancestral homelands in North America.

Together these settlers had established Expedition Territory as a small autonomous territory within (and with the permission of and through a treaty with) the greater Taino empire, which I decided had by this time absorbed all the islands greater and lesser of the Caribbean.

In the Spiritwalker world, Europans refer to the area as the Antilles rather than the Caribbean. I used Antilles in preference to Caribbean because I felt it would be more clear to readers that the cultures they would meet here would not be the same as the cultures many in the USA and elsewhere most often refer to as “the Caribbean.” The word Antilles has its own long history, and with a Latin (Romance language) based etymology and what is possibly an origination in old Iberia, it fit well enough the altered history.

However, it also made sense to me that, given the several centuries’ separation and with the slow sea travel of the time and with a different blend of languages present within Expedition, the speech of the people in Expedition would be noticeably different than the speech Cat had grown up with in her own home city of Adurnam.

I don’t talk about this in the text (and I realize that it is contradiction regardless because I am writing in English), but in Adurnam *theoretically* the basic Latin foundation of the common language is heavily influenced by local Celtic and Bambara dialects with elements of Phoenician blended in. Cat also speaks a modern version of the Punic dialect that would have developed in Qart Hadast (Carthage) and later adapted to Gadir (Cadiz) where the Hassi Barahal family has made its base for many generations, but I never had time to deal with her multi-lingual capabilities because it doesn’t really come up in the story. She would also have studied a “schoolbook” form of Latin which would be known among all literate people and which would be in general use for correspondence. This “formal Latin” is the foundation for the common trade language.

My assumption had to be that many people who live in cities speak more than one language and understand multiple dialects as a matter of course, and that villages who are governed by legal clientage to a mage House or princely clan will have at least some members of the village who can speak their masters’ language as well as communicate with outsiders and people passing through in a local pidgin version of the trade language. Only in the most isolated villages would you find monolingual people, and even then there would surely be peddlers who came through periodically bringing with them goods, stories, and bits and pieces of the outside world in the form of scraps of a more cosmopolitan language.

Regardless, once Cat reached Expedition it was clear she would hear a language that she could partly understand but which would sound very different to her ear. Even if I presupposed (as I did) that in the Antilles Latin had retained its place as the basis for the common trade language with a strong Phoenician secondary influence, the other secondary influencing languages would be present in different proportions. In Expedition, Celtic dialects would be weak while a variant of what is Bambara in our world would be strong. Additionally, because the dominant culture in the region is the Taino Empire, the language of the Taino would certainly have made its mark on the language that developed in Expedition even if it did not replace it, and many people would speak both the creole and “standard Taino” as a matter of necessity.

As I worked on Cold Fire, I had to face this crucial question: Do I use a creole to represent the local language of Expedition or do I write people’s speech to be indistinguishable from Cat’s own?

Using a creole would create several significant problems.

One, of course, is simply the extra effort for a reader who is not familiar with the creole to read and parse (for example) “dat is di way dem chat” as opposed to “that is the way they talk.” There is a certain amount of learning curve to get comfortable with the vocabulary, grammar, and rhythm of a creole, and that is a lot to ask of a reader.

Second, writing dialogue in a dialect or creole that one is not intimately familiar with is difficult to pull off and easy to do poorly. It may come across as insulting and appropriative, as awkward or demeaning. It may seem to some readers that the speakers of the creole are being made to look ignorant and ill-educated because they are not using grammar “correctly” (although they are in fact using a streamlined grammar rather than standard grammar because a creole has a functional grammar and is not a marker of ignorance or stupidity).

For these reasons, I was extremely hesitant to try to use a creole for the local speech in Expedition. Given that I am not a native speaker of nor intimately familiar with any of the actual Caribbean creoles spoken today or in historical times, how could I possibly write a creole that would feel authentic within the text and would not be disrespectful to indigenous speakers of creoles?

Set against those objections there rose answering responses.

Cat is a visitor to Expedition, not a local. What she hears will sound different to her ear. If I simply wrote people talking the same way she did, the story and her experience would lose much of the sense of being a truly different place from where she grew up. Instead of a foreign city, it would just be her city with a different backdrop. While that would be the safe choice, it would also be the blandest and weakest choice. And it would be disrespectful in a different way.

The actual historical presence and importance to literature, music, culture, religion, and history of the many Caribbean creoles must not be ignored. The Caribbean is a vibrant and vital cultural sea. To not even give a nod to the reality of the Caribbean we know in our world simply because it would be hard to do so seemed wrong to me. As disrespectful and appropriative as it can be to hamfootedly write clunky bad dialogue with precious dialect-isms, it seemed more disrespectful to me to erase the existence of creole altogether.

I knew that, regardless, Cat’s experiences in Expedition would be filtered through her point of view, her limited knowledge, and her presence there as a foreigner. That gave me a little leeway.

In the end, I decided I had to use *a* creole.

My answer was to use not an extant creole–which I could not pull off–but to create a creole for the Antilles of the Spiritwalker world that would echo and draw from the English-dominant creoles of our Caribbean but would have its own blend of borrowed words, rhythms, and grammar and one furthermore influenced by the Taino language and empire that surrounds Expedition Territory.

Does the creole in Cold Fire work? I don’t believe that is my question to answer. For some readers it will work; others will find it problematic or annoying. I did my best, that’s all I can say for sure.

In retrospect, looking back, I would do it again the same way. Not because I think I did it well (or not well) or even necessarily right but because I did what I felt I had to do to make the culture of Expedition feel like a real place with its own history and set of traditions, a culture that has developed over time because of the particular circumstances of its founding, setting, and development.

 

Link to the second part of The Creole of Expedition: Part Two, Defining and Creating a Creole (Spiritwalker Monday 13).