J.R.H. Lawless is joining us today to talk about his novel Always Greener. Here’s the publisher’s description:
Life’s biggest victim, please step up and claim your prize!
A smash-hit reality show is offering a lifetime of luxury to the one person living the world’s worst life, and now everyone is out to prove just how bad they’ve got it.
Want in? All you’ve got to do is accept ocular implants that let the whole world see life through your eyes, twenty-four hour a day, seven days a week.
Fortunately, there’s still one person who hasn’t lost faith in all humanity. The show’s ever-smiling host is determined to wring some tiny bit of meaning out of this twisted competition and your unhappy existence.
There has to be a purpose behind all this misery.
What’s his favorite bit?
My debut, ALWAYS GREENER, is like an onion plucked from a field by a cantankerous green ogre — it’s a layered book.
It is a dark comedy Science Fiction story about reality entertainment and the even more jaded society we’re heading towards, in the not-so-distant future, if we don’t do something about it. Beneath the humour and the glitzy plot, it is therefore also a deeply political book. It is a book about the battle between an individual’s fundamental optimism, their faith in humanity, and the part society pushes them to play in an uncaring, dehumanising machine. It is the first book in a series that will explore all these themes in greater depth.
But my favourite bit is probably the layer at the core of the Shrekian onion that is ALWAYS GREENER: The etymological footnotes.
At the bottom of many pages — and in fact, right from the book’s tiny « Fun Fact » prologue-style quip — ALWAYS GREENER uses footnotes to touch briefly on the origins and connotations of some of the story’s most interesting words.
It might be my favourite bit — but, more importantly, does it work? Every reader will have to judge that for themselves, and I was only too aware when writing and editing that every single footnote needs to carry enough weight and value to justify the risk of pulling the reader out of the natural flow of the story.
Here are a few of the juicy etymology bits you’ll find between the covers — hopefully enough to give you a taste, and maybe even want to pick up the book to see the rest for yourself!
The words entertainment and religion share the exact same etymological meaning: “that which minds together”
Conspirator — “breathing together”. Ultimately, we are all conspirators.
Education — To educate is “to lead out of”. It says nothing about “into what or where,” “by whom,” or “to what end.”
Enema — “throwing in”, though techniques may have evolved somewhat since Proto Indo-European times.
Perk — Diminutive of “perquisite” or, in Latin, that which is “thoroughly sought after.” Perks aren’t some sort of side benefit; they are the main event.
The words we use, in speech and in fiction, often carry their own, inner meaning that can illuminate their use — or, at the very least, provide a bit of a chuckle. My wager, throughout the series that starts with ALWAYS GREENER and carries on with THE RUDE EYE OF REBELLION, also coming out from Uproar Books in Fall 2020, is that enough readers will enjoy the word-play and the odd glimpse of revelation to make it worthwhile.
But even if nobody else ends up liking my little etymology footnotes, they will remain my own favourite bit.
J.R.H. Lawless is an SF author from Atlantic Canada who blends comedy with political themes — drawing heavily, in both cases, on his experience as a lawyer and as Secretary General of a Parliamentary group at the French National Assembly. A member of SFWA and Codex Writers, his short fiction has been published in many professional venues, including foreign sales. He is also a craft article contributor to the SFWA blog, the SFWA Bulletin, and Tor.com. His debut novel, Always Greener, is now available from Uproar Books, and the sequel, The Rude Eye of Rebellion, comes out in Fall 2020. He is represented by Marisa Corvisiero at the Corvisiero Literary Agency, and would love to hear from you on Twitter, over at @SpaceLawyerSF!