My Extended Death
—A serialized novelette from the worlds of the Human Legion—
Since 2002, I have been writing about the worlds of the White Knights and the descendants of the million human children that they demanded in the Vancouver Accords. Of these, I’ve written several non-human stories, first drafting My Extended Death in 2007, several years before I started writing what became Marine Cadet. When I wanted an allied but alien creature to blast away at in the training exercise that kicks off the Human Legion series, I soon realized that I didn’t need my cadets to face generic sci fi bugs because I already had an alien species from My Extended Death, and many pages of background notes that had fed into the novelette’s background.
The inspiration for writing about a hive creature came very much from the author Stephen Baxter at NewCon 2 in Northampton, England, who was promoting his excellent novel Coalescent with a talk about HG Wells and hive insects both real and in science fiction. In fact, he was so engaged by topics that obviously fascinated him that he barely mentioned his book. If you get a chance to see Stephen Baxter at a science fiction convention, take it.
I hit a problem and an opportunity right away because my aliens have no concept of gender – an idea that fascinates Pedro in the Human Legion books. Using gender pronouns made no sense to me at all, and referring to fleshed-out characters as ‘it’ was too cold and distant. So I used sie for he/she and ser for his/her. It never occurred to me that a decade later, some people would react as if I was trying to make some kind of political statement; it just felt the right way to get a little inside the heads of these aliens so I could tell the story from their perspective.
As I write these words a dozen years later, terms such as ‘non-binary’ have become commonplace, as has the idea that some people want to you to address them using their preferred pronouns. The world has moved on at warp speed.
I’m sure some of that was going on back in 2007, but it was too obscure to come up on Google at the time. I did some online searches to see how other people tackled the same issue but didn’t find much. What I did find was a long history of people trying and failing to introduce non-gendered personal pronouns that stretches back to at least the 19th century, and decades-worth of science fiction authors playing around with hard-baked cultural assumptions. Because that’s what we do 😉
Tim C. Taylor — July 2019
Text (c) 2015 by Tim C. Taylor. All rights reserved. Alien insect image (c) bluecrayola / Shutterstock