Writers: DON’T DO THIS

okay, reading a deeply awesome Ancient Rome-set gladiator school book. Great characterisation, interesting plot, good side characters, made the story flow properly without making it seem like you’ve dumped all the research on the readers heads…


whenever the writer mentioned the gladiator training school, they used ‘ludus’ instead of ‘training school’, and when it came to clothing, ‘subligar’ instead of ‘loincloth’.


It literally brought me up with a jolt every time.

SERIOUSLY.  Don’t use words there’s a translation for when everyone’s speaking the same language.  A specific type of boat?  I see your trireme in the bay, it looks very menacing.  A specific weapon? Just don’t wave that trident near me. Type of wine? Pass the Falernian.  Just… not everyday items.  It just makes you look like you want to show that you did research when we can see you did your research already. A subligar’s not a bloody toga.  Everyone knows what a toga is, we literally don’t have any other word for ‘giant piece of cloth that you drape and wind around your entire body’.  But we do have a word for a loincloth.

I looked up ludus after finishing the book to confirm it meant what I thought it did.  I’d figured it out by context, but why didn’t you just use ‘training school’?  And worse sin by editor: ‘subligar’ and ‘ludus’ were italicised.  To draw even more attention to it.  You weren’t using ’panem’ every time you mentioned them eating bread.


writing scientific discoveries in historical fiction

Was reading a historical romance where a scientist was working on one of the early versions of a telegraph system. A lot of historical fiction with inventors makes the mistake of ‘x inventing this years before history officially said it was but it got burnt/ never recognised’.

Which… no. Scientists didn’t work in a vacuum. They were constantly corresponding with each other and publishing in journals, and a lot of them worked on similar ideas as the technology and understanding of processes advanced. Oftentimes, the ‘inventor’ whose name goes down in history is the one who made the breakthrough and got it patented/ recognised (leaving aside serial patenter Thomas Edison). F’r instance, there were a LOT of telegraph systems already around in the 1830s, and the credit for the invention is split between the UK and the US – William Cooke and Charles Wheatstone in the UK and Samuel Morse, Leonard Gale and Alfred Vail in the US. The UK team’s telegraph system was being used for railway signalling, and was based on a system of five magnetic needles that could be pointed around a panel of letters and numbers by using an electric current. Samuel Morse developed morse code and was the first to do a sentence & get the infrastructure down. He had the science ready in the late 1830s but US was cash strapped so no-one had the money for extensive pipe works so delayed to 1844.

Back to the book: satisfying as a portrayal of someone working on telegraph science and making some breakthroughs in sending electrical impulses over wires for messages but not the same ones as Morse and Cooke and Wheatstone (one important stumbling block observed in the book was that a lot of the shorting out was being caused by having too many wires, one for each letter). Most importantly it was very clear on how breakthroughs aren’t made in isolation – correspondence, applying others’ work in an unexpected way, etc.  Not to mention believed in the scientific method of repeating the experiment to see if you get the same result.

Random thoughts re: famous literary/ music/ artworks inspired by dreams and nightmares

okay, so it’s well known that a lot of Lovecraft’s work was inspired by his childhood hatreds, allergies and nightmares. (with added massive racism)

Paul McCartney was apparently convinced that he heard the first bars of Yesterday in a dream.

Stephen King’s Dreamcatcher was inspired by a dream.

Plenty of works have been inspired by dreams, nightmares, your childhood nightmares…

My mate was talking about this yesterday.

Me: ‘if I based it on mine, they’d all resemble sleep paralysis, except I always knew there was no-one in the room with me, so no incubi or aliens.’

him: ‘what are the symptoms again?’ *recounts* ‘That sounds an awful lot like what happens to Kitty Pryde and Jean Grey in Dark Phoenix Saga.‘

us: ‘Dear Chris Claremont, we have questions about your adolescent sleep patterns.’