Jul 27, 2022 2 min read

Letter stories, epics of a different kind, & four sexes

Morning fellow Frivolous!

I recently came across a couple articles around "epistolary fiction," which is a high-flying way to say fiction written in the form of letters, documents, logs, or some sort of correspondence. In sci-fi this often takes the form of a daily log that a spaceship crew member posts to the ship's archives which then get beamed back home. The Martian by Andy Weir is an epistolary. The Griffin and Sabine Trilogy by Nick Bantok is an epistolary (and fun because each book is actually a collection of envelopes with letters and postcards stuffed inside).

The format is fun to read and challenging to write. One's limited to what the POV character knows, and for a sufficiently large scoped novel you might have to write from multiple points of view. The benefit is that the character's voice is inseparable from the narrative, which, to me feels like it would help me "live" with the character as I'm writing the story. I enjoy this format because when done right, these are mysteries that need to be unraveled but they are most often character driven stories.

If you have any good stories you've read that are in this format - email me. I'd love to get a list to share out to the group.

Without further ado, here are this week's picks of interest.

The Moonday Letters by Emmi Itäranta

Speaking of epistolaries, this book came out earlier month and the combination of a mystery and the format its written in is very compelling. It's starts with the disappearing of Sol, whose wife Lumi sets out to find them. The more Lumi starts searching, the more she finds mysteries across an affluent Mars and a depleted Earth. The letters-and-extracts format makes for an intimate reading which slowly unveils secrets, hidden agendas, and underground environmental groups.

The idea of multiple sexes via The Disappearing Spoon

I've been researching different ways a species would reproduce and how choice around the matter would manifest itself in alien societies. During that research I came across this gem of an episode by Sam Kean of The Disappearing Spoon. He talks about a bird, here on our planet, that has four sexes. Check it out. It's expanded my thinking about the subject.

Separately, take a look at Marah Hardt's Sex in the Sea for similar research around how sex and reproduction is so varied on our own planet.

An Epic of Different Proportions via Daniel Abraham

Daniel Abraham is perhaps known best for being one half of James S.A. Corey of The Expanse series fame. But, in his copious amounts of spare time, he recently published the first in his Kithamar Trilogy, Age of Ash. While I haven't read it yet, I found this Locus article in which Abraham talks about how this epic he's written is different from other epics, and it's added to my reasons to want to read it.

It reminds me a little bit of The Dervish House by Ian McDonald: a lush narrative of a city, centered around a single event that moves the characters and reader, but each chapter introduces a different perspective of the same spacetime.

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