Monday, December 26, 2016

Monday Meanderings

Happy Holidays to all!  The days are (slowly) getting longer and sunlight is on its way.

Working on the edits for Scylla and Charybdis while writing Surgeburnt has made me aware of the similarities under the hood.  Both are very different worlds with even more diverse characters and plots, but - of course! - they come from the same mind, so some of the sensibilities and the assumptions that lead to world developments are similar.

One of those has made me very aware that I'm a bit obsessed with the book as a physical, unchanging entity - paper and ink.  I'm still a devoted reader of paper books:  I don't own an e-reader and will read on-screen only when absolutely necessary.  This is also partly why anthologies are my favored source for short fiction reading:  printed magazines have become increasingly rare, but anthologies have, if nothing else, a solid niche with most major publishers.

In the first draft of Scylla and Charybdis, I had no clear thought of giving Anaea an interest in books:  it was something that developed in the writing process.  In later drafts, and especially now as I'm working with an editor, I've been pushed to truly examine the allure.  Is it sensory, tactile, an experience beyond the words on the page?  Is it the fact that the printed page cannot be altered - at least, not in one specific volume?  A digital file can easily be altered.  A book, packed away safely, will have the same words, the same font, the same look centuries later.

In the world of Scylla and Charybdis, bookcraft is a fringe endeavor - much like people today enjoy constructing period costumes and trying to replicate authentic instruments.  It's a way of preserving the integrity of history.

As I did my worldbuilding for Surgeburnt, I knew I wanted to have ink-and-paper books in that setting as well - but perhaps more prominently.  I followed a similar line of thought, the idea that the virtue of a book is the fact it doesn't change to whim and fashion.  In the case of this setting, entertainment - television, movies, etc - became increasingly user-customized, with consumer input bombarding the system.  The job of the scriptwriter became to incorporate these whims into divergent storylines.

Much of history, though, involves backlash - a process of thesis and antithesis, finally resolved in synthesis.  (I used this idea in other parts of my worldbuilding as well.  For instance, in some ways, the Empire in Scylla and Charybdis has regressed from our current societal tendency to be constantly connected.  Being hard to reach / contact became a sign of status.)  In this way, people in the Surgeburnt world came back to books.

... and thus, the Order of Librarians rose to prominence.  A small group associated with the Library of Congress, their initial purview was merely preservation.  When the market demand for printed books resurged, they were ideally poised to meet the need and expand across the country.  They also formed a retrieval department tasked with hunting down and acquiring antique volumes by any means necessary.

With all of this, you might think I'm vehemently opposed to digital media.  I'm not:  I love the possibilities of internet research, and the fact that you can "shelve" a book in multiple categories offers huge possibilities for readers ... among so many other advantages.  But I think a case may be made, on the other hand, that I am obsessed with the paper book.

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