Long Overdue

(I think that title gets to qualify as a play on words since I’m a librarian. Even if that fact is apropos of nothing.)

It’s been forever! But how interesting is it to read yet another variation on “boy, I should update more often”? Not very. Instead, I should perhaps talk about writing, eh wot?

April is National Poetry Month. This has me thinking not so much about writing actual poetry, though most of my novels contain poems and/or songs, as about poetic language. Isn’t it funny how some concepts – in particular, some objects – have become “poetic”? They’re dramatic. They’re symbolic. They have connotations all their own, such that people center images of them on book covers in a pointed fashion to convey, all on their own, some sense of the book. (Or, post-Twilight, there’s the “disembodied hands cupping the object” school, but of late I find this largely supplanted by the “girl in an impractical dress and usually also an impractical pose” and the “close-up of a face” schools.)

But! What this made me thing is that these things must be shaped by culture in some interesting ways. Like, say, wolves. Wolves have got some major metaphor going on in Western culture. They have drama attached to rival that of roses, or ravens, or apples. But this makes sense, because in many Western countries, for a long time, wolves were an actual menace, if not to people, then to their livelihoods. And they could, if properly motivated and not properly discouraged, actually eat one’s person. So they acquired this “scary bad guy” dimension. They were threatening. If the publishing industry of the time had supported putting pictures on book covers, then slapping a wolf on their would probably serve to indicate one of two things:

“Mmm, you and/or your livestock and/or your loved ones are tasty, and this is a horror story.” (Photo by AinaM)


“I am stalking you and talking to all my wolfy friends in eerie howls about how good you will taste, and this is a work of suspense.”

Whereas today, thanks to the rarity of wolves, they have acquired a tragic mystique, and our book covers are more along the lines of:

“I am among the last of my kind, and I feel it keenly, and this is a paranormal romance.”

Meanwhile, I’m guessing that countries that don’t have wolves involved in their natural histories don’t attach these kinds of meanings to them, either. (Their book covers would be like, “I’m some kind of fluffy dog, I think.”) They might, on the other hand, attach great significance to, say, jaguars. This, I think, is fun to consider when building a fantasy culture. Which objects – plants, animals, devices – mean something special to them, and why?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *