A little Kyrnie/Shadows of the Sun Progress

Well, I’ve gone through the first of two critiques, much to my delight and dismay.  As is usual, there were things I didn’t agree with or can’t apply, and things that just clicked right off.  For example, I made a change to the beginning that brought a character’s POV to the front, but then failed to change the initial starting place.  This means you meet her in the first chapter, and then nothing for the first 40k.  Sigh.
So, my hopes of “yes, it’s perfect,” were dashed horribly and I haven’t even read all the second crit yet :).
On the other hand, there were wondrous moments when the comments made it clear that I was successful in tormenting the reader along with my characters.  If there was ever an argument for “reader-focused” comments, this is it.  I have no doubt about what worked along with what didn’t, and got the thrill of knowing it not just worked but worked well.
The end result is that I still have some work ahead of me, but it’s nothing in comparison to previous edits and shouldn’t change the integrity so much that I feel another crit pass is necessary.  Though I do have to wait until I finish reading the second crit to know for sure :).
And just to give you something more to chew on than just a status report, here’s one of the quibbles from the crit that I agreed with but still dismissed.  There’s no good answer that I can see :p.
The question was regarding the use of male and female to designate the characters when not repeating their name, similar to how we would use man and woman as an alternative if they were human.
Now, man and woman were out simply because my characters are alien.  Not only would it bug my sense of accuracy, but it could also make readers complacent about the alien cultures so that when things happened that are somewhat non-human, they’d stand out more and distract the reader.
The alternative of offering “native” words that filled the same purpose hit me on the accuracy once again.  If all words are translated except those that have no equivalent, as they must be because the book is not written in the Nismorani language, then it implies that their genders are somehow different than human ones, which in this book they are not.  Additionally, the structure would have to be introduced in the beginning, where readers are already hit with a number of foreign words and concepts to absorb.  This last bit opens a concern that readers would be drawn out of the story as they tried to remember if this word meant the plural, the male, the female, or singular of the people.  The male and female would be noticeable in context assuming a she/he followed soon after, but whether it’s a people or a gender would be less clear as either could be there.
I asked my boys for suggestions, because I couldn’t come up with anything better than the two above.  My oldest came up with a wonderful suggestion.  Since the first sapient group the reader is introduced to is monkey-like, why not use the gender terms for monkeys?  This would have two benefits: it would solve the problem above, and fix a monkey image in the reader’s head.  So, I went out and researched the monkey terms.  Guess what they are?  Male and female :p.  Bah.
So anyway, while I agree that male and female sound odd at first and take some getting used to, I had to ignore the issue because the cure was worse than the disease.  Have any of you run into this trouble?  And if so what did you do about it?

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4 Responses to A little Kyrnie/Shadows of the Sun Progress

  1. mikandra says:

    I have had the same problem. I used male and female, and kept using these words despite a flood of commentary from reviewers. In the end, I was like you, and ignored it. I’ve since had some feedback from editors and agents. None of them mentioned this as a stumbling block.

    Go figure.

    • marfisk says:

      In this case my critter did say he was being hyper-sensitive. I just went the rounds on it because I’d prefer a more elegant solution myself :).

      But it’s good to hear editors and agents don’t flag it :).

      Thanks :).

  2. We loves us some anthropology. :))

    I think this is the appropriate time and place to say that I’ve read something like thirty novels so far this year, including two excellent NYT bestseller listers, and Shadows of the Sun is the best-told and most enjoyable story of all them. I hope fervently that someone in the industry has the good sense to pick up this book and run with it!

    • marfisk says:

      David, you are SO good for my spirits. I know Shadows is going to be a tough sell cause it’s long and SF, but I hope you’re right about the story. Story wins over all. Now if I can just get an agent to read it :D.

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