Into The Unknown FAQs

  1. Yes, the narrator is deaf. No, I am not. N (I’ll get to that name in a moment) was initially hearing impaired but lost their hearing as time went on. This is clarified in chapter one (“we both knew I could not hear his words” and “I remembered reasonably well how to say that word aloud. I lost my hearing around twelve or thirteen, so I could not hear my own voice.”). I believe that inclusion of diverse characters is important and I tried to write this character as best I could. Yes, I did my research. No, I am not perfect.
  2. The narrator is intentionally unnamed. Wondering why? See the blog post [here]. You’ll see references to what should have been another post, but that post actually went unpublished. So, here goes.

Have you ever pictured a character with brown eyes, only to discover on page fifty that she has blue eyes?

This is a rather basic example, but bear with me for a moment. Because this is actually a huge pet peeve of mine.

I know sometimes this is done intentionally (I’m recalling a book where the writer didn’t reveal the narrator’s race until later on as a way to shatter stereotypes), but that tends to be the exception. When I started getting more serious about my own writing, I determined that I would never make that type of change or late reveal unintentionally. Most people who know me in person know that I have a very logical mind. What they don’t always pick up on is that I used to be able to recite my first book from memory. Or that I’m a secret type A. It is exceptionally rare for something in my books to be unintentional (since that means I f-ed up or failed to consider some possibility).

So, once I realized that there was no good way to introduce a character’s gender early in a short story I wrote for creative writing in college, I got creative. I wrote a de-gendered character. And I went all in.

First, I intentionally mixed up gendered mannerisms and language. Authors are actually more likely to use certain verbs for certain gendered characters. For example, see [here]. I mixed these verbs and neutralized the gendered mannerisms in both the POV character and in how the other character interacted with them. Then I decided to run a little experiment on my small group. None of them were told that I’d done this before reading my piece.

A little over half of my group thought the main POV character was male. The rest of them didn’t know or thought the character was female.

Experiment . . . a success?

That short story eventually turned into Will to Speak. But, in the meantime, I was intrigued by having written a de-gendered character. When I began writing Into the Unknown, I realized that there was no good way to introduce the POV character’s gender. So, I de-gendered the language and evolved the character’s voice from that base. N does arguably lean a bit feminine, but that’s due to the natural evolution of the character’s voice. I made a personal choice to keep the character unnamed.

There is, arguably, another reason at play here:

“All fiction is largely autobiographical, and much autobiography is, of course, fiction.” –P.D. James.

As I began exploring my own non-binary identity, I also began exploring how gendering and gendered understandings manifest in the world around me. I was especially interested in how I expressed and pushed back against the gendered lens I’d been socialized into. I could argue that the de-gendered voice I used as a base for the character’s voice is, in fact, a voice removed from the gender binary. In a way, that makes this character’s voice highly personal. N also reclaims a bit of femininity which is a process that I myself went through. There is nothing wrong with a gendered character having a gendered voice. But, as a non-binary author, I am in a unique position for creating differently gendered character voices. This is something that I definitely do intend to experiment with more in the future.

Note from the future: (Yes, I know, I’m including this when the original post is made. Trust me. I’m not a mind reader, but I can point out something now.) GT’s gender isn’t clearly revealed until later in Will to Speak, but their ambiguity is revealed early on. For example, Kitsy notes how odd GT’s attire is for a male avatar. I did this as a way to combat some stereotypes and add a wonderful splash of representation. So, yes, that later reveal is intentional.

Being sensible in how this world works

[Victory Dreams of Techno-Sleep]

(This is part of a science fiction world descript.)

This is a world where the dominant cultural attitude is being “sensible”.

What does that mean exactly? A lot of public shame and self-precautions, making the “sensible” decision, some generational angst (and angst in general), and the idea that people should know what they’re doing. That everything should just make sense.

Add in a profound distrust of technology among the cultural majority, except for when it’s too useful to ignore (like in agriculture and medical care). Also add in a rebellious subsect that flaunts their illegal tech. And a combination of attire that warrants its own post. (You can tell this comes from me dabbling in steampunk, right?)

And that is the basic premise.

Now for how society is set up.

The vast majority of this planet is one sprawling city. In practice, this works more like multiple cities that line up suburbs together. There are a variety of different districts, most notable among them the Capital District and the Parliament District. Each district functions almost independently, except for instances where they must cooperate or follow worldwide laws (which are practically nonexistent legally but prolific in practice). Members from each district (even the capital) do vote amongst themselves to elect, depending on population, at least one representative to this world’s Parliament. There are political parties, but they are notoriously disorganized to the point that most political candidates run as an independent, with some party name they created, or on the name of someone else who was already elected. However, this world’s Parliament only convenes for a few days once a year. (This is sensible since representatives are not paid for this work, so everyone does have other obligations.)

There are small sections of underdeveloped coastline and countryside. A lot of food production is actually done via technology, since even the most technophobic can recognize the necessity of this. Food production also occurs on a smaller scale in rooftop gardens and greenhouse spaces. However, it should be noted that the districts rarely grow very tall. Usually, they don’t top about four or five floors at the absolute  most.

There is minimal cost in food and housing. This is sensible, since everyone needs food and housing to stay alive. And keeping people alive is sensible since otherwise there would be more suffering.  Landlords do own property, but they tend to pride themselves on keeping costs low. Taxes are virtually nonexistent since public servants are either unpaid or their would-be jobs are handled via technology. Healthcare is another area where people pride themselves on keeping costs low, even in state hospitals (which are, in practice, independent entities). People do work and hold jobs, usually, but the average workday is (at most) maybe four hours for six days a week. To keep things simple, this world has the same number of weeks, days, and months as Earth.

However, to add in some complexity, years are counted by a person’s age. This means that, for example, someone will write the date by writing their own age. If it’s January 12, 2020, and someone was born in 1999, then they write the date as 12 Jan 21. The age of notable figures (such as Parliament members for a district, local celebrities, or heads of major companies) are used to maintain consistency on a larger scale. For example, an employee dating an official form for a company run by someone named Rubert Henson would write 12 Jan 47 R.H.

Yes, the year number changes on the person’s birthday (not on the calendar year). This is actually a big part of the celebrations.

There is almost no atmosphere pollution or speedy public transit (another reason to only have Parliament meetings once a year). People, even if they are not Ekzers, actually tend to be very creative in transportation. For more information, see [technologies seen and their restrictions]. Atmosphere filters do exist, but they look vaguely like wooden windmills. (Again, this is considered a technological necessity, albeit a debated one.)

I’ll probably add some more to this section later as this world evolves.


[There’s a joke in one of the red dwarf books about how Rimmer gets a girlfriend in an alternate reality. The only good thing he can really say about her and why he likes her is that she’s “sensible”, as he pendulums from foot to foot. I love that joke.]

[First post of 2020! :)]