I’ve been writing again, every single day. Here, and also working on a short story. After a very long time where I couldn’t bring myself to write, one might think that I’d feel better to see some progress, some momentum. Instead, everything I write just reminds me how much I’m not writing, how much time has been wasted, how much more I could be doing. It’s counterproductive and unhelpful, and hopefully I can just ignore those voices and keep doing the work.
One thing that helps toward that end are the folks who work and slog away at writing with nothing to show for it, and after decades finally find some traction. If you keep putting in the work, you never know. One such writer is Ann Leckie. It took her a while to get a story published, and even longer to finish her first novel… then that novel won the Hugo, the Nebula, the Arthur C. Clarke Award, the Locus Award, and the British Science Fiction Association Award. That’s astounding. Keep putting in the work, you never know.
As for the book, I find it well deserving of all the accolades and praise. I won’t go into plot details, but it is a story of revenge and identity, set against a backdrop of a delightfully nuanced human empire many thousands of years in the future. The philosophies, class struggles, gender ideals, as well interactions between biological and artificial intelligences is beautifully imagined by Leckie. The world she has built is unapologetically complex and alien enough to our own to require some close reading early on to get what’s going on.
At times, Leckie’s story had me thinking on a massive scale, lamenting the ways power and injustice abound in our own world. Other times, it had me thinking on a profoundly personal scale, about the fact that each of us is made up of a seeming endless number of fragments that often only relate to one another through the narrative we choose for ourselves.
Leckie wrote something genuinely brilliant when she could have given up. She could have believed the conventional cultural bullshit that a 45 year old woman isn’t about to burst onto the literary scene. Instead, she said ‘Fuck it’ and kept doing the work. I’m glad she did.