Aliette de Bodard has won the BSFA Award for Best Short Fiction, as well as Writers of the Future. She has also been nominated for the Hugo, Nebula and Campbell Award. Her Aztec mystery-fantasies, Servant of the Underworld, Harbinger of the Storm, and the forthcoming Master of the House of Darts, are published by Angry Robot, worldwide. Her short fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in a number of venues, such as Interzone, Realms of Fantasy, Asimov’s, and The Year’s Best Science Fiction.
Everyone has strengths and weaknesses–not only characters but writers, too. We have natural abilities, as well as things we are less good at: when I started out, I could effortlessly plot–the rhythm of a story was something I could understand instinctively, and I had very little trouble with pacing my stories. I had, however, very little eye for a smaller kind of rhythm, the one found in sentences; and it took me several years of reading Ursula Le Guin, Patricia McKillip and various English poets before I could understand the basic musicality of the language.
Strengths and weaknesses do not remain static: I used to have lots of trouble with exposition, struggling to remove infodumps from my narration, and to offer up information to the reader at a point where they needed it. Writing story after story, and being critiqued, led me to becoming better and better at exposition. It is very clear to me when I pull out early stories such as the very first Obsidian and Blood ones: “Obsidian Shards” has a very complex background, but exposition is delivered in large chunks, at a time in the narration when the reader needs it. This ensures that the relevant information is present, but it’s a clumsy technique. By contrast, when I wrote the last Obsidian and Blood book, Master of the House of Darts (more than four years after writing “Obsidian Shards”), I handled exposition in more subtle and fluid ways: I inserted worldbuilding into the way my characters breathed and thought, touched up my dialogue with typical expressions from the Aztec culture, and broke up descriptions into smaller chunks that brought atmosphere to a scene without overwhelming it. It’s evident, looking at both pieces of writing side by side, that in four years I have progressed immeasurably as a writer, by adding to my strengths. (more…)