Another link of interest

Sarah McCarry interviews Sofia Samatar at

You speak multiple languages yourself—do you think your ability to move between them informs the way you approach fiction? Or nonfiction? Or are those different places for you?

Well, I don’t know if this is going to answer your question exactly, but it reminds me of a conversation I had with a colleague recently. He’d read A Stranger in Olondria, and he said that, as someone who doesn’t read fantasy or science fiction, he was pretty uncomfortable for the first few chapters. It was the names. The names were throwing him off. He was like, “I didn’t know whether I was supposed to memorize these names or whether they were important or what!” Eventually he realized that he could just go with the story and relax, and then he started enjoying it. That was so interesting to me, because I’ve never, ever been thrown off by weird names. You can give me the first page of a story that’s 50% bizarre names, and I’ll be like, “Cool.” I just read it as music, as atmosphere. I know that eventually the important stuff will float to the surface, and the less important stuff will sink. And it seems to me that that’s a valuable skill, to be able to keep your balance in uncertainty, and that in fact it’s what I ask from my students when I teach world literature. Don’t let foreign words or unfamiliar syntax throw you. Trust the story. It’s a language student’s skill too, because when you’re learning, you’re often terribly lost. So I do think there’s a connection between my love for languages and my love for speculative fiction. Both of them ask you to dwell in uncertainty. And I love that. Uncertainty is home for me. It’s the definitions that scare me.

One thought on “Another link of interest

  1. I think in some ways, people just read differently. It might be a male/female thing, it might be a Frequent Fantasy reader vs. a Never Fantasy Reader or even a Science Fiction reader, — something. The Boy reads that way – I can give him a book, and he’s flailing on about the NAMES and “who am I supposed to pay attention to!?” and I just… read. Eventually he stops flailing and finds the story, but I’m always intrigued by what stops people.

    I do think that if I ever wrote fantasy I wanted SF or non specfic loving people to read, I’d either leave out names until the fourth page, or introduce everyone around a table, and then have them refer to each other by titles, or something.

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