First — Nalini’s ANGELS’ BLOOD is up against Larissa Ione’s ECSTASY UNVEILED (another awesome book, but she must STILL BE CRUSHED!!!) in the DABWAHA tournament. You can vote for your favorite here.
When I was around thirteen or so, one of my favorite romance books was… this one.
And I still love it, actually. It featured one of the first kickass women I’d read in a romance: Tedra de Arr, a Krystrani (or something like that — I don’t have the book beside me, so sorry if that’s misspelled) security agent. Sure, the barbarian dude she meets overpowers her and turns her into a slave, but who cares about that? She has a Vulcan neck pinch technique! (But she can’t use it on him because his muscles are so thick and hard — no joke.)
So, so wrong. But I love it anyway.
But even when I was thirteen, there was a section that popped out at me as really, really wrong. After Tedra meets the hero, whose name is Challen, she makes an observation about his personality that goes something like this :
It seemed fitting that his name only lacked two letters and it would be “challenge.”
And my thirteen-year-old brain split into two parts, and the conversation the sides had with each other went something like this:
-Um, how is that possible unless Tedra is speaking English? She’s Krystrani. Why would she spell something the same way as in English?
-Well, the worldbuilding indicates that all of the planets were originally colonized from Earth, anyway, and this is two-thousandish years later. Maybe Lindsey is trying to tell us that even though they call the language Krystrani, it’s really just English.
-But why not just say that? Like have a section where they reference ancient film footage and everyone in the footage speaks the same language she does now?
-Well, maybe Lindsey wanted to be subtle about it, and let the reader realize through this “challenge” line that they are speaking English?
-Yeah, or maybe it’s just a big fat mistake.
The thirty-plus-year-old in me has pretty much accepted that the “hey, they aren’t really speaking English” thing was simply never considered … or if it was, the choice was made to disregard that detail so that the “challenge” observation could be made. As an author, I make the first mistake all of the time — sometimes you just don’t know what you don’t know. I try not to do the second (you wouldn’t believe how many jokes I’ve thrown out simply because they didn’t fit the character or the worldbuilding.)
But I run into the What if she’s subtly trying to tell us the language is the same as English? problem all of the time. I’ll put in details that are wrong, simply to show how the worldbuilding is different from “real” world … and then forget that a reader’s brain might split in two, and not read that detail as something that’s part of the world, but something that’s simply wrong.
The easiest fix for that is the But why not just say that? one. A moment where the character comments on how normal that ‘wrong’ detail is. (Sometimes I forget, that, alas.)
So, I’m curious — has there ever been a detail in an alternate world that totally jerked you out of the story, and you still aren’t sure if it was a part of the worldbuilding or just a terrible mistake? Or, can you think of a great detail that struck you as the perfect way to illustrate We’re not in Kansas anymore?
And how many of you still love barbarians in space?
*I know — the pun in the title is almost unforgivably wrong. What can I say? It’s been a long, long week.