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Ancestry
AJ
ann_leckie

The conversation that sparked this post is pretty old by now, and was not ever at any point directed to my attention–which I appreciate–and so I will not be linking to it. And honestly, it was a perfectly fine conversation that I had no objection to. But I just wanted to grouse a little bit, about one small thing.

And I want to say up front, I have no problem with any reader having any opinion of my work that seems good to them. Even less problem with people discussing my work. If I run across such conversations I generally try not to get involved, unless I’m tagged in, or someone says something like “I really would love to hear Ann Leckie answer this question!” And even then I might not answer unless directly addressed. So, discuss away, I take no offense.

But every now and then I get a little irk on. And in this conversation, it was asserted that in order to really understand Ancillary Justice it was important to understand its antecedents–the works it was descended from. So of course one had to know how it related to Iain Banks.

Now, Banks was a great loss to the field. And I can see why people compare my work to his. But Banks’ work was not the direct ancestor of mine. Before I finished AJ I had only ever read Consider Phlebas, and that after a fair amount of foundational work had already been done for my own book. (I’ve now also read The Hydrogen Sonata, and want very much to read more of his work.) Banks was not someone I felt I was in conversation with while writing the Ancillary books.

If you want a direct ancestor to AJ, you want to be looking at the work of C.J. Cherryh. And I can’t help but notice that though some folks have pointed this out, it doesn’t seem to stick.

Maybe the people who keep not mentioning Cherryh haven’t read her. If that’s the case, I urge them to remedy that ASAP.

Thank you for listening to my tiny moment of annoyance.

Mirrored from Ann Leckie.


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I can see Cherryh as your writing ancestor. Everything she writes (that I've read) is wrestling with problems of ethics. Not as nakedly as the ethical problems in Cecilia Holand, who I'd also consider a writing ancestor of yours (though I am ignorant about whether you've read her), and there are lots of other issues foregrounded and then there's all that plot and character stuff, but when I push aside all the matter of the fiction, the thing that's at the core for Cherryh and I think for you is the problem of how conscious beings can and must deal with each other and then go on living with themselves afterward.

Oh, I have never read Cecilia Holand! Where should I start?

I read her early novels as they came out, while I was in high school, and I'm partial to reading authors in chronological order, but I might more reasonably recommend the ones that are still vivid in my mind so many years later.

She had a fully-developed voice from first publication. Floating Worlds is her extremely alien and oddly militaristic SF, and still my favorite after several re-readings. I think everything else she's written is historical fiction, strongly influenced by Icelandic sagas and that pre-modern trope of always describing what people do but rarely speculating on why they do it or what they think. The Earl, Two Ravens, Great Maria; all political intrigue. One of the things I like most about her is that her protagonists are never sure of success; they're just sure they need to do the work.

I should buy her more recent work and catch up.

A couple of LJ friends have mentioned her work in relation to yours, and one has urged me to read her. I definitely have her in mind as someone to read after I finish reading this series of yours.

(And at least one of those LJ friends is just a reader and a fan)

So there are some who make the connection on their own and it does stick. (hashtag, take heart)

Oh that's good to hear!

And Cherryh is awesome.

So, there are people who are convinced that your work is heavily influenced by a male author that you weren't particularly influenced by, and ignore the fact that it was heavily influenced by a different, female author, despite people pointing that out? Sounds an instance of subtle but insidious societal misogyny.

I guess I can see how some people would look at a work with a main character who is an AI running a starship and immediately think of Banks, who is awesome, and particularly famous for his AIs running starships. But I never noticed anything particularly similar about your work and Banks, aside from that you both did a good job of writing starship AIs. And I'm sure I've read other writers both male and female writing about starship AIs.

To me, the really fresh sci-fi concept in your novels was the one mind/multiple bodies thing, with odd things happening when the bodies spread far apart. The other writer that made me think of was Vernor Vinge and his alien race the Tines, which also have multiple bodies sharing a mind. But I wouldn't assume you were influenced by Vinge or that one must read Vinge first before reading your work!

Having read a lot of Banks and a lot of Cherryh (obviously, in the latter case), your work reminded me of Cherryh's right off the bat.

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