Still, after much heated debate, voting, counting, and recounting, the village council had decided that clairvoyance was more sacred than dementia and therefore should always be given the benefit of the doubt.Thomas Olde Heuvelt, The Ink Readers of Doi...
Sarah McCarry/Tor.com: Language itself is a character in A Stranger in Olondria, particularly in the different ways its characters relate to oral versus written histories, and the way the act of reading figures so prominently into the book. Did you set out to explore the ways oral and written traditions inform our ways of being in the world, or is that something that evolved as you worked on the book?
Sofia Samatar: It’s definitely something that evolved, as the whole book evolved! One thing about A Stranger in Olondria is that I spent over a decade writing it. I mean, I wrote the first draft in two years, but then I spent another 10 years on and off getting it into shape. That first draft was a monster. It was 220K words long—almost exactly twice as long as the published version. And that’s because my “writing process,” which I totally don’t recommend, involved having no outline, following the character around through tons of random cities, getting him into vague predicaments, getting him out again, introducing him to useless people, and deleting and deleting and deleting. I knew that there was a ghost, and that ghosts were illegal in Olondria, but that’s it. And through this arduous process of wandering through imagined country, I slowly brought in things I was experiencing at the time, and one of those was teaching English in South Sudan, where the mode of expression was primarily oral. I had a lot of ambivalence about that job, and the anxiety worked itself into the book. I wound up exploring how reading and writing, my favorite things in the world, things I’m used to thinking of as utterly good and right and true, are also tools of empire.
SMC/TOR: 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?
SS: 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.
Está já anunciado no sítio na Internet da iniciativa: a terceira edição do colóquio internacional de ficção científica e fantasia «Mensageiros das Estrelas» vai mesmo realizar-se, e, tal como as duas anteriores, em Novembro, mais concretamente nos dias 19, 20 e 21; e, como habitualmente, na Faculdade de Letras da […]
Um geek encerrado numa caverna algures naquele país maravilhoso onde se pode inventar o que se quiser que aparece logo um investidor estava com um problema: a ideia dele até parecia boa, até percebia da tecnologia, mas não aparecia nenhum milionário com bolsos fundos.