sunset singularity

In Search of Non-binary Language

Writing the Spaceport series crashed me into the inadequacy of the English Language.

I’ve always been a bit of a grammar geek. I may not always get it right, but I care.

Then I began writing alien characters. In Spaceport, these aliens are not “other” but are instead people, individuals, that the humans come to understand and work with. The pronoun “it” is completely inappropriate in this context.

Perhaps I am a bit Victorian, but I do not think that it is appropriate to discuss anyone’s sexual identity, preference, or practice in polite society. This is not judging someone’s existence, this is merely accepting that sex does not generally belong in the early stages of polite conversation. Can you imagine going up to an alien and asking about their sexual habits in the first conversation?

In college, we used s/he as a pronoun in formal writing. It seems not to have caught on.

Given that I want to write a fairly chatty story, I think these will just get in the way:

  • Ey/em/eir/eirs
  • Ne/nem/nir/nirs
  • Xe/xem/xyr/xyrs
  • Ze/hir/hir/hirs
  • Ze/zir/zir/zirs

“Ey is over there. Ne wants something to eat, but I’m not sure what xe eats. Does anyone know what ze eats?”

My poor alien would starve to death because all of the humans would be completely distracted trying to sort out what that pronoun means. Sorry, no food for you until we know your kind’s mating rituals so we can use the appropriate pronoun, if we even have one.

They/them/their seems to be the accepted alternative in modern language. Except that I was taught it was grammatically incorrect to use those pronouns for a single individual. I have struggled with they/them for a few months, because I know that when I start writing this way the grammar police will attack.

Fortunately language is fluid. Language changes over time. And my language is changing. As an author, I can choose how my writing will influence the language in the future.

While debating this issue, I became a big fan of several on-line shows starring Sam de Leve (Shield of Tomorrow and now Callisto6). I’ve known many individuals whose sexuality does not match my own, but Sam is the first person I’ve come across who includes their pronouns in their introduction. This is becoming a common modern practice, especially among the younger people that Spaceport is intended for. Sam is brave and funny and creative.

When I tell friends about programs that Sam stars in, I find myself tripping over pronouns and being looked at strangely, because apparently I’ve suddenly lost my ability to use language correctly.

I find myself backed right into the same corner as I am in my writing.

I’ve reached a decision.

They/them/their is now singular as well as plural.

If this bothers the grammar police, I suggest they rewrite the grammar guides.

2019 update. I’m so glad that the grammar police were listening. They is now considered both singular and plural. Check it out…it is in the dictionary.

NaNo 2017 winner badge

50,000 words

I did it! “Shipping Out” is now a full rough draft, written in one month.

In this novel, Tanner goes to school to learn how his world can become a productive member of the Galactic Alliance. When he gets partnered for intercultural interactions with a 3 foot tall, pink, sentient tree species who can kill him with one hand, he begins to wonder what he has signed up for. Especially when she calls him a plant-eating troll and decides the universe would be better off without his species!

Like all of the Spaceport novels, this one was a lot of fun to write, populated by a variety of individuals that make me wonder what is going on in my subconscious! Surprisingly no spiders in this one, yet, but I don’t think I should write a book without at least one spider in it…if only just for amusement’s sake.

Now back to real life for a bit!

viewport with Earth below

NaNo 2017


I have not completed my writing goals for this year.

I’d hoped to have 3 novels edited by now. I’ve done 3 chapters of the first novel.

And yet, I couldn’t resist doing NaNo again this year. If all goes well, I’ll have a 4th novel that needs drastic editing in a month.

You can watch my stats as the month progresses.

Clean as You Bake (or What I Learned from NaNoWriMo)

I learned something important about myself today while baking cookies for a pot luck. I love baking, but I haven’t done a lot of it lately since I’ve been a bit under the weather.

As I was happily dropping ingredients into the mixer, I took the no longer needed measuring cup to the sink, gave it a quick rinse and dropped it into the dishwasher.

Back at the mixer, I put each ingredient away as soon as it was used.

By the time I was done, my kitchen looked the same as when I’d started, except now there was a plate of cookies all wrapped and ready to go, sitting on the counter.

If I didn’t wrap them, I’d eat them.

And if I didn’t clean while I was cooking, my kitchen would be a wreck.

Now most people would think, “So what’s wrong with that? You just clean it when you are done.”

But I know me. It would be days before I cleaned that kitchen.

My family would probably wind up cleaning it for me.

No, I’m not a slob, either.

But if I see a big mess, I lose heart and wander back to bed.

I have fibromyalgia and chronic low energy. Translation: when I do stuff, I hurt.

My energy has to be focused and used wisely. Once I’ve accomplished the task, I’m going to flop on the sofa with my computer.

See? That’s where I am now.

Well, actually, I’m on the floor next to the sofa…but I’ll get back up there eventually. I can see the computer better from down here. Don’t ask.

So, what does any of this blather have to do with NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month, also known as November)?

I’ve completed 3 novels through NaNo. I love NaNo.

But wait, you say, you haven’t published any of them!

Yep. Because they’re a mess.

And it turns out that I’m not good at cleaning up that big of a mess, either. I pick up the book, flip through it, and then remember why I had to put it down last time. The POV is a mess. Usually, when I write, I clean up that sort of thing as I go.

But not with NaNo.

Somehow, I need to create a new work pattern that involves writing fast, but also cleaning the big messes as I go.

My goal for 2017 is to finish cleaning at least the first of those novels.

It’s already passed the “read this and tell me not to torture the world with it” stage. My brutally honest guinea pig said it is a keeper.

Once I sort out the POV and a couple of gaping plot holes.

So…how am I going to write so that I end up with a publishable story all wrapped and ready to go, sitting on my computer, rather than the cyclone remnants currently inhabiting my hard drive?

Maybe I’ll have that figured out by the time I’m done editing the third Spaceport novel.

Happy New Year!

Beams of Light on a Golden Lake

This stunning Earth image taken by the Expedition 47 crew on May 31, 2016, from the International Space Station looks from northwestern China on the bottom into eastern Kazakhstan. The large lake in Kazakhstan with golden sun glint is the crescent-shaped Lake Balkhash, the second largest lake in Central Asia. via NASA

Atlantis on STS-101 Mission

Flames from the solid rocket boosters lit up the clouds of smoke and steam trailing behind shuttle Atlantis on May 19, 2000, as it lifted off on mission STS-101. It was the shuttle program’s third space station assembly flight, and first space flight for astronaut Jeff Williams, currently aboard the station as a member of the Expedition 47 crew. via NASA