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Thursday, 11 July 2013

The hindrance with hermaphrodites, or, the problem with gender-neutral pronouns

... is that there aren't any in the English language. (He/Him/His is often used, but I see them as purely masculine).

Seriously, I have a species which breeds asexually, by budding off a child, and therefore has no gender distinction.

So how to refer to them in singular, since 'they' is most definitely plural?

I've always been of the impression that him/her or he/she is an abomination. Fine in a contract, but they do not belong in a work of fiction. I hear that Gary Jennings circumvented this problem by using him or her interchangeably. Although I consider this to be an effective workaround, I feel it doesn't actually help the issue.

(I, I, I, I'm being very egotistical today, methinks)

I recently read a terms of service (and promptly lost the damned site), which used 'xe' in place of he/she, and 'xir' in place of him/her (her/him always seemed more appropriate to me, being in alphabetical order and all). With very little extra research (thank you wikipedia. You may be too unreliable for academic papers, but you're good enough for me), I stumbled across this site, which rates the various proposed systems according to Ease of Pronunciation, Distinction From Other Pronouns, and Gender Neutrality.

It doesn't draw any definitive conclusions, but it certainly helped as a guide (it even has a table of usage for each system, and reproduces the first chapter of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland using each). It drew me to Spivak pronouns (ey/eir/em), which although were not rated highly, seemed to be the most understandable with no exposure to such pronouns (think they/their/them, it's basically singularisation of the plurals).

And so, ey/eir/em it is. I liked the aesthetic appeal of xe/xyr/xem (for science fiction it looks appropriately alien), but I have to think of an eventual standard, and fathomability to other readers. I mean, they're not all going to be me. I mean, I hope not.

Crikey that would kind of creepy. A Moon-esque scenario, perhaps? Or a future populated entirely of different versions of myself, à la Red Dwarf? NOTHING WOULD EVER GET DONE! Constant arguments, attempted one-upmanship, debating, and despite understanding that working together would be beneficial, no trust could be placed in the other for reasons of "that's what I would do in his shoes".

"But I'm YOU!"
"We're all me."
"Wait, does that mean I am you, or you are me?"
*stab*
"Ow. Who lost a knife?"
"Oh, there it is."
"What was that for?"
"He would've done the same to me!"
"I've just set my hand on fire again. Or is it the first time, I'm not sure. Which of us is prime?"
"Fucking Spartacus."

Interestingly enough, 'à la' is actually a shortening of 'à la manière de' which, if my sources are to be believed, means 'in the manner of'. So it's English usage is correct. Although apparently it also translates as 'how to' (loved that show).

I'm going to sign off now, before things get weird.

Mike 9 (or is it 6? They really need to underline these post-its)

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

I have a fan. It sounds like a jet engine and I can't sleep with it on.

I was going to say it's as hot as balls out there, but I looked it up, and it is some way off that. It's not everyday I get to think "Actually, how hot should balls be?"

It's 95°F/35°C, if you were wondering. And since it's only 80°F/27°C here, the comparison is invalid.

Being a cold weather person though, I might as well be walking on the sun.

It has been 1 year, 7 months and 8 days since my last post. I have seen 100 hour working weeks, 10am-6am shifts, moved twice and set my hand one fire at least once. I have been promoted, almost punched a coworker and bought a cast iron teapot specifically for my green tea. And a glass one for my black and red teas. And a tassimo machine. I have never drunk so much coffee.

And I haven't been able to write a single word. I've been tired, manic, depressed, poisoned, exhausted, elated, heavily caffeinated (I spelt that right first time. Slightly proud), giggly and have had insomnia related hallucinations. I am now, however, on a 4on-4off working week. Although to start with it was more 6on-2off, my work has since balanced out, and I have been appreciating the extra time at the weekends.

To cut an already abridged story shorter, I'm starting to feel more like my old, crotchety, sardonic self again. And as such, I've decided to start over with From The Ashes Part1. I'm not rushing head-and-arse first into the prose stage. I'm going to remove the chapters already up, and starting over.

In the beginning there was a database. And it was in a good, free OpenOffice format. Should anyone decide to use this (feel free, it's an amalgamation of ideas from across the web), I'd recommend making a copy for each story line. That way it shouldn't get too messy.

This is where I'm starting. I'm going to flesh out every character until I know them better than they could possibly know themselves. I've created a form to make it easier to follow (I thought about putting in drop down boxes and stuff, but then I thought "How difficult is it to type 'male'?") and enter.

This could potentially take months. But, however long it takes, my writing will be better off as a result. I'd imagine the more characters I fill out, the easier and quicker it will become. And once I've finished the characters, I'll need the tech, environments, cultures (this one I could probably do with starting now, along with species and the likes. It will help with the character creation); I might try for an extensive list of plot points, but who knows, by that stage the story may just flow out.

Anyway, onwards!

Mike 'myfaceismeltingohgodwhoinventedhayfeveriwantthemended' Barlow

P.S. It was this article from Writing Exercises which spurred me on to update my seemingly rather bare character profiles.