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Get Ancillary Mercy in ebook for $4.99

So, for I think the rest of the month, the ebook of Ancillary Mercy is on sale for $4.99. So if you don’t already have it, this would be an excellent opportunity to grab a copy. The sale is on at Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and Amazon.

Probably most of the people reading this already have a copy. But do you have a copy of N.K. Jemisin’s The Fifth Season? Have you read The Fifth Season yet? If not, why not? It is a most excellent book and I recommend it very, very highly. And it just so happens that The Fifth Season is also on sale (in ebook form). Here are links–Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and Amazon.

Guest Post: Juliette Wade takes a ridiculously close look at the worldbuilding of Ancillary Justice

Hello, dear readers! I haven’t been blogging much lately. I’m kind of busy writing a book! So today I’m hosting Juliette Wade, who not only writes great short fiction–check out this story at Clarkesworld if you haven’t already-she does the Dive Into Worldbuilding Hangouts, which, if you don’t know about those, check out the link at the end of the post! She’s also starting up a Patreon, and if anthropology and linguistics knowledge applied to sfnal writing and worldbuilding is something that appeals to you, you really should check that out. Links at the end of this post!

Juliette Wade takes a ridiculously close look at the worldbuilding of Ancillary Justice
posted by Juliette Wade

Thanks, Ann, for inviting me to the blog!

I’m here to talk about worldbuilding, and because this is Ann Leckie’s blog, I’ve decided to shine a spotlight – a ridiculously close spotlight – on the opening of Ancillary Justice.

What does that mean? It means I’m going to take a few paragraphs and break down exactly where the worldbuilding is taking place, piece by piece, showing you how Ann pulls you into her world. You’ve read these six paragraphs before, but you probably haven’t seen them this way.
Here we go!

Paragraph 1:

The body lay naked and facedown, a deathly gray, spatters of blood staining the snow around it. It was minus fifteen degrees Celcius and a storm had passed just hours before. The snow stretched smooth in the wan sunrise, only a few tracks leading into a nearby ice-block building. A tavern. Or what passed for a tavern in this town.

I’m going to start here with the word “The.” That little article has an important job, which is to tell you that “body” is something that someone already knows about. It’s as if someone just said “Wow, a body,” and then the story picked up an instant later. As readers, we are seeing it for the first time, but we can sense that observing someone outside the boundaries of the page. Thus, “the” implies the presence of a narrator. The first hint of a world comes with “the snow around it.” Our minds produce a snowy scene.

So far we could be on Earth, but we’re about to get more clues to correct our concept. Measuring temperature as “minus fifteen degrees Celcius” means that it’s pretty darned cold, and can hazard a guess that we’re not in the United States, where Fahrenheit measurement is more common. The next key piece is the “ice-block building,” and the fact that the narrator calls it “a tavern.” The only Earthly ice-block buildings we know have very specific terminology associated with them, so our expectation of familiarity has just been dislodged. Last is “Or what passed for a tavern in this town.” That sentence more firmly connects us to the narrator – despite the lack of any pronouns – by passing judgment on the building rather than just describing its appearance.

Paragraph 2:

There was something itchingly familiar about that outthrown arm, the line from shoulder down to hip. But it was hardly possible I knew this person. I didn’t know anyone here. This was the icy back end of a cold and isolated planet, as far from Radchaai ideas of civilization as it was possible to be. I was only here, on this planet, in this town, because I had urgent business of my own. Bodies in the street were none of my concern.

This paragraph keeps the narrator connection alive using the judgment inherent in “itchingly familiar.” Someone has to assess that familiarity; someone has to feel that itch, and get the sense of objection inherent in the word “but.”

Now, finally, we get a pronoun! “I” places us explicitly inside the thoughts of the narrator, and we see in this sentence that the narrator is a stranger to this snowy place. The next sentence gives us the biggest picture yet, keeping us grounded in the narrator’s perception of current location with the word “this,” but then calling it “a cold and isolated planet.” Now we can be certain that this is not Earth, and that the narrator has not only a sense of cosmology but a larger cultural concept where a planet can be judged as isolated from a perceived center. That invisible perceived center, then, is placed in parallel to “Radchaai ideas of civilization.” So Radchaai is the organizing, civilized center from which this planet is far and isolated. We can be certain that our narrator has the ability to travel between planets in the sentence that follows describing business.

I notice also that we have had absolutely no gender indicators about any character at this point, even though both the body and the narrator-protagonist have been established.

Paragraph 3:

Sometimes I don’t know why I do the things I do. Even after all this time it’s still a new thing not to know, not to have orders to follow from one moment to the next. So I can’t explain to you why I stopped and with one foot lifted the naked shoulder so I could see the person’s face.

The opening sentence of this paragraph is really important, because it speaks to another aspect of world that we might not initially notice as important. A protagonist’s identity is often quite easy to establish, because it falls in the realm of things readers expect. However, those who have read the book know that Breq is far from an expected protagonist. So it’s important that this sentence point out that “I don’t know why I do the things I do.” It makes the reader look around for unusual things about the narrator to explain why that might be the case. Then Ann establishes a contrast between “after all this time” and “still a new thing.” It doesn’t imply anything specific here, but later, it will fit in with Breq’s concept of twenty years being long-but-short in the context of her whole life. “Not to have orders to follow” is the next key phrase here, suggesting that the protagonist is someone who expects to receive orders.

Every suggestion limits the possible options for the protagonist’s identity. The fact that “I stopped and with one foot lifted the naked shoulder” shows that a sense of familiarity is not enough to inspire care for the body.

Paragraph 4:

Frozen, bruised, and bloody as she was, I knew her. Her name was Seivarden Vendaai, and a long time ago she had been one of my officers, a young lieutenant, eventually promoted to her own command, another ship. I had thought her a thousand years dead, but she was, undeniably, here. I crouched down and felt for a pulse, for the faintest stir of breath.

Here in paragraph four we find the first gendered pronouns: she, and her, used to refer to the person who has the body. We also find a name: Seivarden Vendaai. This is a name in a created language, like Radchaai which appeared earlier, further confirming the alien setting. The feeling we get from alien names has mostly to do with our instincts for sound combinations or word pieces and the emotions we associate with them, but these aren’t names that carry any recognizable pieces of our language.

The phrases “my officers” and “lieutenant” work with the earlier phrase about orders to suggest that the protagonist is a soldier – and also that military organization is a key feature of this world. “Another ship” is too ambiguous to be definitive about the protagonist’s identity, but we’re getting closer to it. “I had thought her a thousand years dead,” though, pushes us further out of normal expectation, because the protagonist has known this person twice over the course of a thousand years.

Paragraph 5:

Still alive


This is a short one, but it does something interesting for a reader’s involvement in the story. It suggests that these two characters will interact in the future, because it suggests that the protagonist bears some responsibility for keeping someone still alive from becoming not alive any more.

Paragraph 6:

Seivarden Vendaai was no concern of mine anymore, wasn’t my responsibility. And she had never been one of my favorite officers. I had obeyed her orders, of course, and she had never abused any ancillaries, never harmed any of my segments (as the occasional officer did). I had no reason to think badly of her. On the contrary, her manners were those of an educated, well-bred person of good family. Not toward me, of course – I wasn’t a person, I was a piece of equipment, a part of the ship. But I had never particularly cared for her.

Because of the implication of the previous tiny paragraph, it’s interesting that the protagonist immediately tries to deny responsibility here. Both this line and the next are full of judgment, which helps us stay connected with the protagonist’s identity despite the lack of description or gender. In the third sentence, we find the word “ancillaries” and the phrase “my segments.” Because Ann provides no explanation, she’s counting on readers to hold onto the new term “ancillary,” which we have seen before in the title, and actively look for its meaning. “My segments” tells us that the protagonist has segments – but we’re unlikely to suddenly decide she’s an arthropod! Why? First, because she has a foot to lift a shoulder with, and second, because when she sees a humanoid body she describes it as a “body” without marking it in any way as strange or alien.
The next piece returns us to the judgment of manners, which has some interesting aspects: first, the protagonist is able to judge education and breeding. The idea of good family is established as an important parameter for judging people (and it will be very influential throughout the book). It’s also interesting to notice that when Ann uses the pronouns “she” and “her”, she doesn’t then use gendered nouns like “woman,” but returns to the non-gendered “person” when describing “a person of good breeding.” This helps to set up the concept of feminine pronouns as being genderless by default.

Finally, Ann changes it up again with “Not toward me, of course – I wasn’t a person, I was a piece of equipment, a part of the ship.” So the protagonist, still as yet nameless, doesn’t expect manners. The protagonist is clearly a humanoid person as we would understand it, but explicitly defined as not a person, a piece of equipment, a part of the ship. If we go back at this point and look again at the way that Seivarden’s identity is described, we start to get a surprisingly good picture of the nature of the narrator’s identity, just from these tiny clues. We also have a pretty big mystery about society and identity to help us keep turning the pages.

This is what Ann is able to accomplish in the course of six paragraphs. When we read, we don’t typically notice any of it on a conscious level, but each word and phrase is doing its worldbuilding work inside our heads.

Juliette Wade hosts the Dive into Worldbuilding show on Google Hangouts, where she uses her academic expertise in anthropology and linguistics to take discussions of worldbuilding topics beyond the expected. Her short fiction explores language and culture issues across the genres of fantasy and science fiction. She has appeared in Clarkesworld, Fantasy&Science Fiction, and Analog magazines.
If you’re a fan of worldbuilding and want to take your skills further, you can also become a part of the
Dive into Worldbuilding workshop. Join Juliette’s Patreon and get brainstorming prompts, research links, exclusive peeks into research topics, or even get Juliette to help you with your work directly.

Guest Post by Rachel Swirsky: Confounding Bullies by Raising Money for LGBTQ HealthCare

This is a guest post by Rachel Swirsky:

Thanks to my friend, Ann, for letting me use her blog. I’m Rachel Swirsky, and some years ago, I wrote a short story called, “If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love.” It rather upset some folks who have been raising great ruckus about it since. As a response, I’ve started a Making Lemons into Jokes campaign—a fundraiser through my patreon to benefit some of the people they’ve been nastiest toward, LGBTQIAA folks who are already at the bottom of a heap made of bullshit.

Since I’m here on Ann’s blog, I’ll point out that if we reach our $600 stretch goal, she and I, along with writers John Chu, Adam-Troy Castro, Ken Liu, Juliette Wade, and Alyssa Wong, will write a story together about dinosaurs. I really want this to happen, so I hope we reach the goal. We’ve got about a week left to go!

If you want the whole story behind the fundraiser, you can read it here– But here’s what I have to say today:

There’s advice I’ve heard all my life. You’ve probably heard it, too.

In elementary school, it was “ignore the bullies.” It never seemed to work.

These days, it’s “ignore the trolls.” (And let’s not mince words – trolls are just another kind of bully.) And it doesn’t work now, either.

Why? Because bullies don’t need you.

Bullies might enjoy it when you get angry, or cry, or whatever else they want you to do. They’re the kind of people who like that. It’s foreign to my personality, and I can’t understand it, but there it is. But they don’t need it. What they need is the laughing and baying of their own hounds. They’re showing off for each other, pissing on the trees to show just how terribly big they are.

This leads to the fundamental dichotomy of bullies.

First, that they are actually capable of doing damage. A dog crapping on the carpet still leaves crap on the carpet. And if they’re all crowding into your living room to crap on you, then that’s a lot of crap. Being covered in crap won’t break your bones, but it’s not nothing. Otherwise, a lot more people would spend their free time rolling around in crap. And sometimes they do bite—someone shows up with a gun at a gym or a hair salon, or brags on a message board about a murder that shows up later in the news, or makes a “performance art” video threatening to kill a woman and driving her out of her home.

But second, they’re ridiculous. I mean, really. The kind of people who think “I can crap on things and that makes me really important!!” are not serious people. They are somewhere on the scale from scabies to anthrax. You don’t really want to scratch all the time, and you certainly don’t want to take high-powered antibiotics, but it’s not like crabs who crawl through pubic hair are something you regard as impressive.

Sometimes we try to toggle those back and forth. Can lard the living room with crap versus hilarious clowns. But they’re both.

So, you do the same thing you do when the two-year-old pulls off her diaper and pees on the floor. You clean it up, and you laugh.

In elementary school, sometimes I’d turn around and face the bullies, and laugh at what they were saying. “You realize that’s not even a coherent insult, right?”

Bullies can hurt people. That’s what “If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love” is about, and perhaps why it makes bullies howl. But you know what else it’s done? It’s inspired hundreds of people to come to me and tell me about their experiences being bullied as kids or being hated as adults, being pummeled or harassed, and how they’ve moved past it. How “Dinosaur” has been cathartic for them, has helped them realize they aren’t alone.

Bullies aren’t the only ones who can travel in groups. We have our bonding and our strength. And at its best, it can be fun, and silly. It can destroy hatred with humor and positive energy. It can emphasize kindness and compassion. I believe in the power of humor, and I believe in the power of people clasping hands to help other people.

Don’t get me wrong. Humor won’t stop the bullies either. We’re always going to have to spend our time walking carefully around some amount of crap on the carpet. But humor reveals that the emperor is not only naked, but not even an emperor—as often as not, he’s some poor, pathetic exiled criminal, dreaming of ruling the world with an army of poltergeists and toddlers.

Don’t let them make us forget: they are morally weak, and they are outnumbered. And they’re hilarious.

Comments are closed on this entry.

Super Fast Scandinavia Post!

So! This will have to be much shorter than I wanted it to be, since I got home from my fabulous week-long Scandinavia Mini-Tour last night, and this morning a bunch of heavy wet snow did something fatal to my internet access at home, so I’m typing this at a cafe.

Anyway! Over the last week I’ve been in Oslo, and in Stockholm! I visited Outland, where I talked to readers and signed books. I also visited the Oslo public library and was interviewed by Norwegian author and translator Ørjan Karlsson–and also got to answer questions from the audience. It was a wonderful time, and I had a blast! I did manage to get lost on at least one occasion, but that was okay, it just meant I saw more of Oslo than I would have otherwise. Thanks to all the folks who suggested I visit the Vigelandsparken, which was very unusual and cool. (It was on my way back from there that I got lost, so it was a day full of adventure!) At any rate, my stay in Oslo was great fun, I met wonderful people and had a lovely time. And Outland is a wonderful store, the folks in Oslo are super lucky!

Then I flew to Stockholm, so I could sign books at Science Fiction Bokhandeln. Which, it turns out, is also a wonderful bookstore! I met even more wonderful folks, signed a lot of books, answered questions, and generally had a great time. I also got to have supper with the two winners of a contest the store had held–the prize was having supper with me and a few other folks. Thanks, Anna and Anders! It was great to meet you and I really enjoyed getting to hang out with you.

I left both places loaded with gifts–mostly tea, Anna, I had some of the Earl Grey for breakfast this morning!–and had a chance to try new food (I think I need to see if the international grocery here carries brown cheese….) and just generally had a wonderful time. I really, really hope I have a chance to go back some time.

Future Visions

So, out today is an anthology called Future Visions: Original Science Fiction Stories Inspired by Microsoft.

Check out the authors involved! Elizabeth Bear! Greg Bear! Jack McDevitt! Seanan McGuire! Wait, who’s this Ann Leckie person?

It’s me!

Yes, there’s a new, by me story in this anthology, which you can download starting today. There should be direct links to the various places you can download it, if you click on that link above. And, I know it says “near future” but honestly, near future isn’t really my preferred playground, so that’s not really what I gave them. But, you know, I had a good time writing it and I hope you enjoy it! And I don’t doubt you’ll enjoy the other stories.

Incidentally. While I was working on my story, I had my usual problems with titles. I finished the thing and was still casting around for a good title, and a friend of mine said, “Hey, why not look through Elise Matheson’s stuff!” Because Elise makes lovely jewelry and often gives it wonderful names. The names are half the fun, really–I’ve done a couple of her Haiku Earring Parties at Wiscon, where you pick up a pair of earrings off the table and Elise gives you a title. Grab an index card, write a haiku that fits that title, give that to Elise for her approval and the earrings are yours. It’s great fun.

Anyway. I scrolled through Elise’s shinies page. And I came across a pair of earrings called “Everything a World Can Hold.” Lovely title, right? Lovely earrings. It didn’t quite fit the story, but it was the best I could do. So I typed that across the top of the ms and sent it in, with a note that I wasn’t sure about the title and would be more than willing to entertain other suggestions.

The editor replied that he couldn’t wait to read the story, but he thought it was a fabulous title! Which it is, of course. Just maybe not for that particular story. The editor, once he’d read the story, admitted as much. After some discussion, we arrived at “Another Word for World.”

Oh, and I bought the earrings.

Anyway. Future Visions: Original Science Fiction Stories Inspired by Microsoft. Check it out!

I really ought to do a FAQ one of these days

One of the questions in it would be “Are you related to Robert Leckie?”

And the answer is, yes, I am. Just how exactly, I have no idea, though if I put some serious effort into it I could very likely find out.

“Leckie” is one of those names–anyone with that name is related to me in some way. So this answer goes for any other [X] Leckie you might be curious about–yes, I am related to them, though I may or may not know precisely how, or even know (until you mention them to me) that they exist.

Pre-Order Bonus–Chapters 2 & 3 of Ancillary Mercy

Maybe you noticed a little while ago that this website was unreachable? Yeah, that’s because Orbit sent out a newsletter email letting subscribers know that if they’d pre-ordered Ancillary Mercy, they could fill out this form and get Chapters 2 & 3.

And the website was promptly overwhelmed. Y’all are the best! No, seriously. But I put up the Clockpunk Studios signal and because they’re so super awesome, they fixed things up. I will probably be beefing up my hosting plan sometime in the near future, but for now things should work okay.

Anyhow. The important part of this is–if you’ve pre-ordered Ancillary Mercy, you can read Chapters 2 & 3 by filling out this form.

Get a jump on reading Ancillary Mercy

Regular readers already know about the “sign up for my newsletter, get Chapter One of Ancillary Mercy now” thing. But just in case, I’m going to post about it again. Lots of people at my reading Sunday, and at my signing, didn’t know about it. So.

Basically, if you sign up you’ll get emails maybe three or four times a year with information like upcoming releases, opportunities for pre-order goodies, or appearance dates.

And if you subscribe to it now, you’ll get access to all of Chapter 1 of Ancillary Mercy. Like, today.

So if that sounds good to you, enter your email below, and if everything works the way it should, that’ll end up with Chapter 1 being sent to the email you give.


Sometime soon–maybe the next week or two–you’ll be able to present proof of your having pre-ordered Ancillary Mercy and get (within a day or so, I understand) access to Chapters Two and Three! As soon as that form goes live I will blog about it here, so watch this space!

In the meantime, a few people have already read those first three chapters. Four lucky people at my reading in Spokane went home with pages. I hope they enjoyed them!

Also, if you’ve been following me on Tumblr, you know I had some swag made up. I gave out lots of it at Sasquan, so much that I actually ran myself out of Translator Dlique pins. I have ordered another batch. I plan to give them out in person over the next two months, and after October I’ll go back to listing Awn Elming pins, along with the Translator pins, in my Etsy store. The temp tattoos–they’re silver, there are two, one says “Justice of Toren” and the other says “One Esk 19”–are small enough that they’ll fit in a SASE, and I have a lot of them. So if you want some (and/or maybe if you want an autographed bookplate) send me a SASE with a note telling me you want tattoos (or a bookplate, or whatever) and I’ll pop a few in your envelope and drop it in the mail for you. (Address at the link–scroll down beneath the contact form.)

A Brief Note About the Audio Versions of the Ancillary Books

So, because I get questions about this, in various forms.

The US audiobook of Ancillary Justice was made by a company called Recorded Books. They set up a phone call with me to go over pronunciations, so Celeste Ciulla pronounces everything the way that I would. Any tunes, however, are her own and not mine–I didn’t provide music! I haven’t listened to the whole audiobook, and so don’t know if she used the actual tune of “the person with weapons” (aka L’homme Arme) or made her own. I think Ms Ciulla has a lovely voice, though, and I was very pleased with what I heard. (Yes, I know, Breq doesn’t have a lovely voice, but do you really want to listen to a whole novel read in a not-lovely voice? It’s an interesting question, and might be fun to figure out how to pull off, but I was happy to have Ms Ciulla do the book.)

After the US audiobook of Justice had been out a while, Orbit UK decided to do an audiobook. They sent me links to a bunch of samples of prospective narrators, and when I heard Adjoa Andoh’s, I went, “Right, her!” I was really pleased they A)listened to my preference and B) got her to do it. I love her voice and what I’ve heard of her reading. Nobody consulted me about pronunciations, though, so they’re different from the US one. And once again, I didn’t provide any tunes (I don’t have any, really, except for the “real” songs), and am curious whether L’homme Arme actually got used.

When Sword came out, they decided to use Ms Andoh’s reading for both the US and the UK. Which pleased me because, like I said, I love her reading. I gather it’s kind of disconcerting for US listeners who’d gotten used to Ms Ciulla’s reading. And, once again, I did not provide any tunes! I was asked recently on Tumblr if I had a tune for the “Oh Tree” song, and I don’t, but Ms Andoh does!

I don’t know what’s up with Mercy, but I am really hoping Adjoa Andoh has agreed to do it.