Diversifying Your Worldbuilding: a gender identity post by Claudie Arseneault

Once again, I’m giving the floor to Claudie Arseneault! You might remember her from the Wings of Renewal blog tour, where she talked about solarpunk science fiction. Today, she’s here to share some gender-based worldbuilding and some important ideas about rejecting stale norms, from her upcoming fantasy novel City of Strife. Take it away, Claudie!

2000px-whitehead-link-alternative-sexuality-symbol

Diversifying Your Worldbuilding : How I Integrated Nonbinary Identities into Isandor’s Pantheon

A disclaimer: This is not a How To post. As a cis person, it’s not my place to say how one should or shouldn’t build to include nonbinary representation. But I wanted to share a look into how I approached worldbuilding to avoid excluding nonbinary identities from the world’s history.

When I first set myself to deepening the worldbuilding around Isandor, I knew I wanted flexibility to invent and create as I went, without the constraints of a) having established too much, or b) a rigid structure. This was particularly true of pantheons, as I’ve always loved polytheist fantasy worlds where each god had a handful of domains and no more. So I started building with the following structure: six core deities (Water, Air, Earth, Fire, Creation, Destruction), and demigods (mortals who, through remarkable connection to their domain, ascended to a divine status).

As I went to design each more precisely, however, I quickly fell into old patterns.

Should the Water deity be a man or a woman? What of each race? How can I avoid reproducing stereotypes of high fantasy worldbuilding?

Well, for one, I could fling “man or woman” into a fiery dumpster and never think like that again.

I have always felt like how you build your pantheon reflects how your universe exists—what is its “natural” state, and if gender is a social construct, it makes little sense for divine beings who existed at the dawn of times to start with one.

So, Decision #1 : all six core deities are essentially agender. There are gendered representation and titles for them, as varying cultures have focused on different aspects of each of the six core deities and their vision of them evolved through time. This is why Myrians refer to Keroth as ‘Firelord’ and imagine them as a thin white man, despite the much more common depiction of them as large and black. Decision #2: all of these six core deities use singular they/them, no matter the depiction.

This normalized the use of gender-neutral pronouns in my universe, or at least opened the door to it. I worried about dismissing neopronouns but quickly realized I had the rest of the pantheon to build, and demigods would all have been actual people before.

Decision #3: include nonbinary demigods with neopronouns to legitimize those, too. The first of those became Ren, the Luck deity, who comes up a lot in City of Strife (one of my central character is xir priest). Ren is bigender; xir gender switches between man and woman, and xe is known to have described it like the flip of a coin–you never know which you’ll get, or how long a stretch can last.

 

Beyond Ren, I knew I wanted to keep race-related deities. An elf watching over elves. A halfling for those. But since I didn’t want to build a pantheon for each race, I decided these demigods would be the very first leaders of their race. Thus, when the elves were created (elves of all skin colour), their leader was Alluma, the Elven Sheppard, and since this is the beginning and genders weren’t a thing, Alluma doesn’t have one either. The point here is that when I decided there would be no gender binary at the dawn of time, I naturally created space for nonbinary people. It’s even the most logical step!

I didn’t want my only nonbinary representation to be deities, though, so Decision #4: City of Strife also features a nonbinary character. They have a minor role in the first book, but the two other novels give them more pagetime.

Finally, Decision #5: there are at least two cultures in the world that have a completely different relationship to gender than male/female binary. They’re not really in Isandor except for brief mentions for research (I need to do more) and practicality (Isandor happens all in the same city and it’s FAR from them) but it seems to me that, if everyone started from the same no-gender ground, there was no way they’d all construct the same dichotomy–not unless it was imposed (lo and behold, the regions who have it all fell under one of two Empires through history).

It’s easy to worldbuild based on what we’ve always known and read, but it’s such a wasted opportunity to do better. Inclusivity isn’t just a single character. It goes deeper than that, to the very root of your universe.

This exercise taught me to question my worldbuilding reflexes. We live in a racist, homophobic, cissexist (to name a few) world. We’ve all read racist, homophobic, and cissexist fiction. The universes we create are, by consequence, racist, homophobic, and cissexist. Undoing that takes time and energy, it requires long reflexion, a hard look at yourself, and constant listening to the communities you’re trying to do right by.

And even then… Chances are I missed something. I’m still learning–I will always be learning. But building the structure of Isandor’s pantheon and diverging from the binary was fun. Breaking apart cissexist tropes opened great possibilities while still keeping some aspects of old-school high fantasy I wanted, and I hope the end result is a universe where my nonbinary readers will feel not only acknowledged, but welcomed.

If you want to check out the novel itself, it comes out this February 22nd! (LINK) And if you want more authors who do great things reinvestigating certain worldbuilding tropes, I suggest B.R. Sanders. Their novel, Ariah, contains rich cultures with various forms of family structures and approaches to romance and sex.

Feel free to share any cool ways you broke a problematic trope in your worldbuilding, too!

 


 

Claudie Arseneault is an asexual and aromantic-spectrum writer hailing from the very-French Québec City. Her long studies in biochemistry and immunology often sneak back into her science-fiction, and her love for sprawling casts invariably turns her novels into multi-storylined wonders. The most recent, City of Strife, comes out on February 22, 2017! Claudie is a founding member of The Kraken Collective and is well-known for her involvement in solarpunk, her database of aro and ace characters in speculative fiction, and her unending love of squids. Find out more on her website!


Is blood thicker than water?

I grew up hearing the expression, “Blood is thicker than water”. Meaning that a person’s family is more important — and more reliable — than their friends.

greyscalefamily

But the funny thing about idioms is that they change over time. A quick look at Wikipedia shows various ideas of blood thickness. There’s an interesting Arabian idea of blood (as in the blood-brother you’ve sworn loyalty to) being thicker than milk (suckled together).

 

But the alternate version I heard first was this one: “The blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb”. Which means the polar opposite of “blood is thicker than water”: it means that the relationships we choose are stronger than the relationships we’re just born into. I found it striking that the expression changed meaning completely — but hey, that’s the power of language. Phrasing matters.

More than that, I think that “blood of the covenant” idea is the more truthful one. Some people are born into abusive families who hurt them and stifle their potential. Some people are born into families they don’t hate, but also don’t really get along with. Ironically, relatives don’t always relate to each other. It’s great if you truly connect with your blood family, but if you don’t, there’s no good reason to prioritize DNA connections over the found friends who actually love and support you.

My stance shows clearly in the Stories of Aligare. In that world, a family is whoever you care about. Homes can be a patchwork of different people and connections. It’s fine if they’re not biologically related to you — or even if they’re a dramatically different species. Peregrine the korvi loves his adopted ferrin friends more than anything. Tenver the ferrin considers Constezza the korvi to be his mother. And as the years go by, Rue the aemet rearranges her definition of her nuclear family:

“I’m glad [Feor the dog] went to you,” Mother admitted. She worked an arm behind Rue, to put a love-soft hand on Rue’s shell. “You two match. Two is a half-measure of luck, you know.”

“You match?” Denelend hopped closer, tipping his head. “Oh, your names? Aemet names mean things, don’t they?”

“They do. Come on, Denelend — have a rest, dear. We’ve got plenty of light.”

Mother paused until Denelend was seated by her booted feet, patiently enduring while Feor sniffed him over. It was growing less strange to think of this gathering as the Tennel family — one with found friends woven in, a ferrin and a korvi and now a dog, too.

                                                                                    —Render (A story of Aligare), Chapter 7

I find that sort of attitude fulfilling to write about — as opposed to the more common fantasy ideas of family lineage and bastard children, which seem to breed nastiness and judgement. I think we can all use as many covenants as we can get.

 


What it means when Aligare folk say “anypace”

Image

Aligare folk get around at their own pace.

In our English language conversations, sometimes we want to suggest that the details aren’t really important. We might indicate this with an interjection — like “anyway”, or “at any rate”. In Aligare society, people express the same sentiment, but they don’t typically say “anyway” or “at any rate”. Instead, they say “at any pace” — or “anypace” for short.

Judellie blew a jet of smoke through her grinning teeth. “He doesn’t sound so good to me.”

Rue couldn’t help a smile. “You shouldn’t say things like that. Not where folk can hear you, anypace.”

     -Chapter 5 of Render (A story of Aligare)

 

As Felixi turned away, he nodded. It was a movement brief as a heartbeat, but Rue felt it an accomplishment anypace.

    -Chapter 9 of Render (A story of Aligare)

 

Why this detail? Well, I thought it was important that these non-human folk have a few minor — but striking — differences from our Earth conversations. They’re supposed to be understandable, but not fully familiar. How better to do that than with some simple turns of phrase we don’t usually use? I know I’ve never heard another human say, “That’s what I think, at any pace.”

In a deeper sense, though, “anypace” reflects the understanding between Aligare’s three peoplekinds. Everyone has their own skill sets and abilities, and their own ways of arriving at a destination. Everyone is different; Aligare society always tries to respect that. So when someone says, “at any pace”, they basically mean to say, “However we get there and however long it takes, we’re arriving at the same conclusion.” It’s acknowledging that there’s no One Right Way to get goals accomplished.

But still, it’s a casual phrase. Aligare folk don’t think about the significance as much as I do.

 

Related articles:

◦  The power of one descriptive word (heidicvlach.com)

Korvitongue (heidicvlach.com)

Teas and tisanes: what’s in a name? (heidicvlach.com)


Origin of the term “adventurer”

When I write, I spend a lot of time cross-referencing the subtler meanings of words. Mostly with the Macbook’s dictionary/thesaurus function, which gives a nice rundown of a word’s linguistic and social origins. Sometimes a word’s connotations surprise me — like when I found that adventurer can be a term of disapproval.

Adventurer comes from the French term adventurier, meaning “venture upon”. It originally meant “gambler”, but became associated with mercenary soldiers, swashbucklers and all manner of wandering rogues who got into shady situations.

pirate-clipart

Nowadays, when we think of adventure, we tend to think of some rousing quest with a positive motivation. We think of going out, seeing the world and having an exhilarating experience. Maybe an experience that changes you for the better. Adventure is the term that’s supposed to entice you toward a book or a video game — because why wouldn’t we want to hang out with an adventurous person? They’re the cool ones.

 

Does this mean we English-speakers are more open-minded than we used to be? Maybe less concerned with keeping our heads down and not causing a scene? Maybe less afraid of the unconventional? Or maybe travel is just less dangerous than it used to be in colonial times. The shady gambling aspect of adventure isn’t so strong in a world where casual tourists can hop on a plane and take a guided tour of another country. Maybe we miss the glamorous aspect of risking one’s life to break new ground — although centuries ago, travel certainly wasn’t a glamorous process for the people partaking in it. We just like to imagine it that way.

 

I can’t imagine disapproving of adventurers. But then, I’m always looking for the next unusual thing to get my fingerprints all over, so of course I think we should take chances and see new sights. It’s good to know where the term adventurer came from, even if it’s like finding old skeletons.

 

Related articles:

Moodiness: a part of real life, not fiction (heidicvlach.com)

The worldbuilding of my favourite game series, Pikmin (heidicvlach.com)

Flying characters in fantasy and sci-fi (heidicvlach.com)


The power of one descriptive word

Yesterday, there was a minor fire in my apartment building. I don’t know the full story but apparently, something electrical shorted out in a utility closet. The fire was limited to that closet, and the superintendent put out with fire extinguishers before the fire trucks arrived. No one was hurt — unless the superintendent’s slightly singed hair counts. There’s a few thousand dollars’ worth of smoke damage but everyone who lives in the building is safe and still has a home.

That’s not what you’d assume based on the local news. Early reports described this event as a “blaze”. When I imagine a “blaze”, I imagine something like this:

burninghouse

That’s the conclusion many other people drew, as well. The sight of fire trucks and water hoses (which were brought into the building as a cautionary measure) only supported the idea that there was an ongoing, serious fire. Residents of the building were inundated with phone calls from worried relatives asking if they were alright. Some were even told, “Your house is on fire!” by people who had only heard a rumour of a terrifying, life-destroying “blaze”. Today, I even heard people saying that they heard the building “burned down”.

Crazy, huh? A poor choice of words can send a community into an absolute panic. For an older example, consider the story of Martian canals. An Italian astronomer described canali on the surface of Mars, an idea translated into English as “canals”. Canals are often man-made, so this choice of word fueled the idea that there are Martian aliens with full-fledged civilizations. People ended up getting very panicky indeed about the idea of Martians invading Earth.

Of course, when people aren’t sure what’s truth and what’s fiction, one word can easily seem to signal danger. Our animals instincts tell us to take potential threats seriously. Words still have power in fiction, but it’s a more subdued and enjoyable power. In a clearly fictional framework, a word like “blaze” can give the reader a jolt of imagery and emotion in the same way a roller coaster gives us a safe, controlled thrill.

Focused on final Render edits as I am, it was just a bit bizarre for a word choice to jar my daily life so powerfully. While I’m thinking carefully about terminology like Aligare magic, people out there are picking the words broadcast over national news networks and sometimes those people choose poorly. What a double-edged blade language is.


Korvitongue

In the ancient Aligare world, korvi and aemets each developed a spoken language. But as the peoplekinds interacted and grew closer together, it became clear that aemet mouths couldn’t make the rolled sounds of the korvi language. They just didn’t have the hardware to do anything but mangle korvi words.

 

Gosh, friend. You're pretty bad at this.

Gosh, friend. You’re pretty bad at this.

 

Fortunately, aemet language didn’t have that issue. Korvi (and ferrin, for that matter) could speak it just fine. Out of courtesy as much as practicality, aemettongue became the default language. It’s now called commontongue and it’s considered everyone’s language.

 

I know, I know. “Commontongue” is the most cliched thing I could possibly name a fantasy language. But in this case, I figured it was best to call a spade a spade. Aligare society would consider it very positive that the three peoplekinds have a language in common. For the purposes of my stories, English represents commontongue — although commontongue isn’t English, per se. Just a language with a similar structure and sound profile.

 

As for korvitongue, it does exist. Sort of. I’m not methodical enough to build speakable languages as a fun hobby, but I have dabbled in conlang enough to determine the rough basics of korvitongue. It’s heavily based on the Romance languages, and that’s why korvi names often sound French, Italian or Spanish.

 

Remedy and Ravel didn’t really need korvitongue. It was just a background element, something korvi were implied to speak among other korvi in the Hotrock tunnels. An early draft of Remedy had Tillian interpreting korvitongue messages, but it simply wasn’t a necessary element to the story. That’s a common downfall of invented fantasy languages. Unless the linguistic culture is strongly relevant to the story, there’s little reason to give the reader grammar lessons or make them boggle at foreign words.

 

In Render, korvitongue will be shuffling a step closer to the limelight. Judellie of Cherez is a korvi with a strong korvitongue accent. She just kind of manifested that way in my head. Many korvi speak with a very slight accent, but it’s rare to have a really marked accent like Judellie does. Under stress or excitement, she might forget a vocabulary word or stop using contractions. So what’s her story? Why didn’t she learn commontongue during the early childhood period of greatest fluency? Good questions. As a character, Judellie is mostly a manifestation of being korvi. She’s easygoing but fierce, social but independant. She’s a foil and a role model to Rue, the aemet who sometimes feels like she was born the wrong species.

 

Inventing a language is a great way to indicate, “This is a fantasy world, things are different here”. And it’s a technique I do want to use more in the Aligare world. Not too much. Just as the linguistic equivalent of sprinkles on the cupcake.


Tea and tisanes: what’s in a name?

In the Aligare world, people prepare tea. Warm, steeped beverages are very popular. They’re comforting, and that means that offering a visitor some tea is perceived as a kind gesture.

Masala Chai 039

 

From the author’s end, though? I had a lot of semantic trouble with this simple custom. You see, in our world, “tea” refers to the tea plant, Camellia sinensis. We colloquially call it “tea” when we’re drinking a cup of hot steeped plants, but that’s not always accurate. Caffeine-free “herbal tea” isn’t tea at all. If you’re drinking chamomile or peppermint or any blend that doesn’t contain tea, it’s called a tisane. (As a waitress, I struggle to bite my tongue when people ask for “normal tea” as opposed to “herbal tea”.)

 

But as much as I wanted to use accurate terminology in my Stories of Aligare, few people know the difference between tea and tisanes. If I had my non-human folk talking about drinking some tisane, I’m sure the average reader would be annoyed that I didn’t explain what this invented fictional drink is. And if I explained the difference between tea and tisanes, it would seem like an unnecessarily big deal. The difference between tea and tisane is not a plot point in Remedy or any other story. When I’m writing my human-free world and introducing new ideas to the reader, I need to be careful to pick my battles — and hot beverage terminology isn’t important enough to fight over.

 

So when aemets, korvi and ferrin make a hot drink out of steeped plant matter, it’s called “tea”. The tea plant does exist in their world, but it’s called camellia. And, actually, camellia isn’t primarily used for drinks.

 

“I’ve got some camellia,” [Rose] said.

It was Father’s, a cache of tea-plant meant to dye his clothes a rare sepia shade. He had thanked the friend who gifted it – then he told Rose, in murmured confidence, that camellia was wasted as dye when it made such a fine energizing tonic.

Remedy, a story of Aligare, Chapter 8

 

The point I’m getting at is that Aligare folk drink tea, but it’s not the cup of milk, sugar and caffeine many humans think of as tea. And the Aligare world doesn’t have coffee trees. So, um. If humans were welcomed into an Aligare home, we would be welcomed warmly but we might find it hard to get up in the morning.


The smoot and other weird ways to measure

This post originally appeared on my Blogger account. So you might find it familiar!

 

There’s a unit of measurement called the smoot. You might find it while telling Google Earth which units to give distances in. The smoot sits in a pull-down menu along with more familiar measures like miles and kilometers — which is interesting because what the heck is a smoot? (Other than a reason to bicker with your autocorrect software. No, TextEdit, I don’t mean “smote”.)

According to Wikipedia, a smoot is equivalent to 5 feet, 7 inches or 1.7 metres. Which is the height of Mr. Oliver R. Smoot, a graduate of Masschusetts Institute of Technology. He and his fraternity buddies invented the unit of measurement as part of a prank. Over 50 years later, their painted smoot markings on Harvard Bridge are still used as points of reference by locals.

measuringsmoot

smootdedication

When Google offers measurements in smoots, it’s not really for practical purposes. It’s an obscure joke. The smoot was never intended to be taken seriously and people seem to find the whole thing amusing. Could that be that why this measurement endured far longer than most frat stunts?

Maybe it’s like how the foot has endured as a unit of measurement. Using a man’s foot as a unit of measure must have been practical in ancient times, but it’s a bit silly to hold things against the nearest adult man’s feet nowadays. Why are feet an acceptable form of measurement while smoots are a weird joke? Neither of them are more absurd than using a metre, which is defined as 1) one ten-millionth of the distance from the equator to the North Pole, or 2) the distance light travels through a vacuum in 1/299 792 458 of a second. How the heck am I supposed to measure a piece of string against THAT?

But then again, it’s not like I could have Mr. Smoot follow me around in case I need to measure things. I doubt it’s possible for a standard of measurement to be immediately practical and relevant in all situations. We’re better off picking some arbitrary length, making metresticks/yardsticks to measure with, and calling it a day.

For my Aligare world, I have the characters measure short distances in “knuckles”, which is the distance between two of a person’s knuckles.

knucklewidth

Like so.

It’s about 1 inch/2.5 cm. Hand width is similar between korvi and aemets. Ferrin have small paw-hands so for the sake of clarity, they use the span of three knuckle bones, not two. Everyone knows that a knuckle is a very rough measurement, so they’ll specify whether this knuckle of mint stems is generous or skimpy.

Other measurement units are the “hank”, the average height of a cotton plant (about 5 feet/1.5 metres). And a “stone’s throw” which is, well, anywhere between 2 metres and 20. Without a government or a monarchy to impose specifics, everything is taken with a grain of salt. Or five grains. Sometimes.

Units of measurement exist so that people have some constants to relate to. Humans have a lot of ways to measure, I’m guessing because we’re an awfully competitive and curious bunch — but any sentient being needs a way to talk about length and distance, even if those units aren’t precise. Each unit has its intended audience, and we can convert measures to fill in the gaps. As the smoot proves, a unit of measure doesn’t need to be universal to be useful; that’s the long and short of it.


Are utopian and dystopian worlds even possible?

I used to struggle to explain the Aligare world, particularly when trying to pitch it to editors or other Actual Publishing People. Aemets, korvi and ferrin work together. That means they don’t have senseless wars, or petty racist hate, or plots to kill an authority figure and seize power. They work together — which some people interpret as, “So, everything is perfect? That’s boring.”

And I used to sit there stunned at the thousand-mile logic leap that just happened. If a world isn’t completely overwhelmed with social problems, it must be flawlessly happy? I’m … I’m pretty sure there are stages in between, you guys.

Part of the issue might be the vocabulary. We often describe troubled societies as “dystopias” and seemingly peaceful ones as “utopias”. From my Macbook’s Dictionary function:

Dystopia:
An imagined place or state in which everything is unpleasant or bad, typically a totalitarian or environmentally degraded one. The opposite of Utopia.

Utopia:
An imagined place or state of things in which everything is perfect. The word was first used in the book Utopia (1516) by Sir Thomas More. The opposite of dystopia.

We have these concise, evocative words for the polar extremes of society. But how do we describe a society with a plausible mixture of problems and good points? There isn’t a snappy term. It’s just a society. And when we’re trying to sum up a story in one compelling sentence, we don’t have space to talk about every facet of economics and social interaction. It’s easier to just say that it’s a world where everything is terrible. I’m wondering if that’s part of why dystopias are so popular nowadays: they’re easy to describe and easy to market.

Pictures like this are worth a thousand words, after all.

But I’m not convinced that our fictional dystopias are true dystopias. Is it possible for every single thing to be simultaneously bad? Can the author decisively say that no one in an entire fictional country has anything good going on in their lives? I haven’t read the Hunger Games series but it’s often described as a dystopia, and from what I understand, Katniss is able to go out into the forest and hunt animals for food. Some fictional societies don’t have any unspoiled forest left and are dependant on processed food. They’d probably consider Katniss very lucky.

In the same way, I don’t think fictional utopias are really possible, either. Nothing goes according to plan 100% of the time, and they say that in a true compromise, no one gets exactly what they want. My stories of Aligare are an exploration of that. Sure, the three peoplekinds don’t openly try to murder each other, but they still need to distribute supplies in times of plague where there isn’t enough to go around. People still need to balance their personal desires with the needs of their communities. Peregrine loves Tillian but thinks that pushing her away to live her own life will ultimately be better. Doing the right thing isn’t always easy.

I guess we just want fiction to be simpler than real life. There are plenty of misconceptions that certain Earth countries are purely good or bad, so fictional places must be even easier to make assumptions about. And if we’re going to escape into a story, why not go to a place where the world can be easily defined? That’s a fantasy in itself.

At any rate, my Aligare world is positive but not perfect. I’ve been working on how to describe that.


Human vocabulary and when to avoid it

We live in a human world. Obviously, right? Humans are the only sentient beings with a broadly established culture — that we know of, anyway. Homo sapiens has grown up on Earth completely alone with ourselves.

I think this isolation has made humans …arrogant? Complacent? Not used to addressing other sentients in a respectful way, at any rate. We’ve declared ourselves the pinnacle of all Earth life, and because no other race is here to say, “That’s not true”, clearly it is true. Anything other than a human must be an “animal” or a “monster” or an “alien” — all terms that double as insults.

Personhood can be a fragile distinction in our minds.

Because we’ve gotten used to thinking of a human as a “person”. A thinking, feeling “person” is therefore assumed to be a human. This prejudice is encoded in our language — because who’s going to complain about it? Orcs? Mermaids? Vulcans? Here in 2012 Earth? It’s not like non-human sentients are real, we tell ourselves. But in speculative fiction, who you call a “person” and who you call a “monster” might just be a big deal. Remove a few basic assumptions of our language and suddenly, it can feel like a very different world.

I’ve thought carefully about my word choice in the Aligare world. “People” is indeed used to reference all sentient beings. In our world, “people” came from the Latin root persona, referring to an actor’s role in a play. Once a term for Roman gods and mythical folk, now taken full circle into my fantasy series! Since the three Aligare peoplekinds play important roles in each other’s lives, I felt that “people” worked. And actually, they’re just as likely to use terms like “fellows” or “kin” or “neighbours”, instead of anything so sterile as “people”.

It got trickier when I wanted to bring up the idea of “humane” treatment, or the imperfection we describe as “only human”. That human-specific root word was something I needed to, erm. Root out. Aligare folk just ended up speaking more clearly about their values and weaknesses, instead of assuming that their species name says it all. They talk about morals, and treating each other well.

Tillian held tight to the electricity inside her, and straightened to match Peregrine.
“We have to help them,” she said. “It’s only right.”
“No one with a mind or a heart refuses to help when the demon [illness] shows up.You saw the Reyardine stop thinking of his own pouch contents for a moment, and I doubt he does that often. When something like this occurs, it’s only a matter of what there is to give.”

–Tillian and Peregrine, Chapter 7 of Remedy

After all this thought, I’m sure you can imagine how annoyed I get when my characters are called “animals” or anything similar! I really think this is something worth spending time on, thinking about how to be respectful to people who don’t exist. Because then we’ll remember to be respectful to people who do exist. And if fae or aliens do show up on our doorstep, then we’ll have a better idea of what to say.