J.R.H. Lawless is joining us today to talk about their novel, The Rude Eye of Rebellion. Here’s the publisher’s description:
If only fools think they can change the world,
then a fool is the only one who can.
Life doesn’t pick winners and losers. That’s for the corporations to decide. And they picked Liam Argyle for a carefree life of fame and fortune as host of the world’s most popular reality show competition.
Unfortunately, Liam doesn’t do carefree. After two seasons of parading about the world’s biggest victims on The Grass is Greener, he’s been forced to put a happy face on one tragedy too many-and he won’t turn a blind eye to the horrors of the corporate dystopian world of the 2070s any longer.
Now, Liam is out to destroy the very people who made him a star. Even if he fails, he vows he’ll never be a feckless pawn of the industrial-military-entertainment-culinary-janitorial complex ever again!
…and this time, he means it.
What’s J.R.H. Lawless’ favorite bit?
The Rude Eye of Rebellion starts with a corpse, and as the warning hashtag on the cover states, It Gets Worse from there.
Even more so than in the first book in the General Buzz series, Always Greener, I therefore felt it was vital—both for myself throughout the writing and editing process as well as for the reader—to lace all the horrible, absurd and yet tragically realistic experiences in the book with as much dark humor and wordplay, as many puns and quirky etymology footnotes as editorially possible.
I was fortunate enough to get the chance to speak about my very favorite bit, the footnotes showing the weird and often hilarious etymologies behind some of the words we use, in these columns after the release of Always Greener, early this year. And while many of these word origins are genuinely funny—or at least very rude—others survived the culling process and made it onto the pages of Rude Eye because the etymology research revealed something special and full of meaning, even beyond the scope of the word itself.
I’d like to take this opportunity to explore a few of these fascinating etymologies with you all, here.
“Demeanor”, for instance, is a word full of pomp and circumstance that I was amazed to discover comes from the Latin minari, meaning “to threaten” and, even better, “to drive a herd of animals”. It is the same root as “to menace”, which goes a long way to explain the battle scenes at the end of The Phantom Menace.
Rude Eye and Always Greener take place in a cyberpunk setting, and the control of data is a central worldbuilding element. Imagine how surprised I was, then, to discover that the word “archive”, which my main character goes spelunking into, was not originally the elephant’s graveyard were all the facts and files of our lives go to die. It is, in fact, the exact opposite: the “first place, origin” or arkhē in Greek, which became a term for government, and thereby for government buildings, the same ones that house public records—hence, archive.
Speaking of government, I was oddly pleased, as a former parliamentary group secretary general at the French National Assembly in Paris, to discover that the good Docteur Guillotin most certainly did not invent the “wood of justice” death machine that ended up bearing his name. He was in fact a noted Revolutionary human rights activist and opponent to the death penalty, and only inspired the guillotine in that his complaints were what forced others to create a more “humane” alternative for capital punishment. However, what I was most pleased to learn about was Docteur Guillotin’s true invention: the seating in our French parliament at the Palais Bourbon, with the royalists on the right side of the hemicycle and the revolutionaries on the left, which still gives us our “right wing” and “left wing” today.
And as a practicing lawyer, I was naturally tickled to note that the word “testimony” specifically refers to the biblical Ten Commandments, which is a bit ironic since Moses famously received the Commandments at the top of a mountain when nobody else was around to bear witness. That’s sort of the whole point of being a prophet.
I could not end this article without saying a few words about the origin of the book’s title, The Rude Eye of Rebellion. Always Greener and Rude Eye are based around a future reality show where contestants from around the world broadcast 24/7 through ocular implants to try to prove they have the world’s worst life and are the 2070s’ biggest victim. By the grace of public domain, I was able to purloin a fitting Shakespeare expression from The Life and Death of King John which I absolutely love and am surprised has not seen any use in modern times.
The Rude Eye of Rebellion an especially apt title for the novel, not just because it links the ocular lens technology and the rebellion against the corporate world-state status quo which both drive the story, but also because of where the expression appears in King John: on the battlefield, where a relatively minor character, the French Count Melun, uses his dying words to warn the English rebel lords against treason, and thereby sways the course of the entire invasion of England. The idea that a single person in the right place, at the right time, can change the course of history is the heart of the entire General Buzz series.
I hope you enjoyed this little walk down etymology lane at least a fraction as much as I did. If so, then rest assured that the General Buzz series is far from over, and will always contain as many fascinating etymological footnotes as I can convince my editor to let me include.
*If you post a picture on Twitter with the hardcover of The Rude Eye of Rebellion, I will send you a postcard with a limerick using any 3 words you give me.
The Rude Eye of Rebellion NetGalley (eARCs still available!)
J.R.H. Lawless is a bestselling SF author from Atlantic Canada who blends comedy with political themes — drawing heavily, in both cases, on their experience as a lawyer and as Secretary General of a Parliamentary group at the French National Assembly. A member of SFWA and Codex Writers, their short fiction has been published in professional venues, including foreign sales. They are also a craft article contributor to the SFWA blog, the SFWA Bulletin, and Tor.com. Their debut novel, ALWAYS GREENER, and the sequel THE RUDE EYE OF REBELLION, both released this year from Uproar Books, and are also Tantor Media audiobooks. They are represented by Marisa Corvisiero, and would love to hear from you on Twitter, over at @SpaceLawyerSF!