Sunday, July 22, 2007

My novel as podcasts

Last spring Harald, my first novel, was published by Baen. One friend who had heard me doing oral storytelling in the SCA commented that it read better if he imagined it in my storytelling voice. So, through the marvels of modern technology and the cooperation of my publisher ... .

The first section of Harald, the prologue and the first nine chapters, read by me, is now available as podcasts. Comments are welcome; I've done a lot of oral storytelling but this is my first venture into doing it online and I don't know how well it works. If people like it I'll do some more of it.


Anonymous said...

I bought Harald a few weeks ago and started reading it recently. I feel a bit stupid and ignorant for asking, but: what do you call a "cat" (merooow)? Is it short for a cat-aphract like the Persian heavy cavalry? Is it some kind of feline banner? This has been troubling me a lot and prevented me from really getting into the story so far.

I'm eager to listen to the podcasts as soon as I figure this out ^^.

Matt Brubeck said...

Yes, it's short for cataphract. (Was there a glossary at the back of Harald, or am I just making that up?)

Anonymous said...

I felt stupid and ignorant and now I feel even worse :-/
After posting the previous comment, I've had an urge to search for Harald + cataphract and it turns out this is implied in one of the very first sentences of the prologue. I missed it and was lost afterwards.

Jonathan said...

There's a glossary at the back of my copy. It says "Cat: (Cataphract) Heavy horse archer/lancer."

I wasn't genuinely confused on reading the book, but I find it a bit disturbing when an abbreviation is also a valid word with a completely different meaning. For instance, Americans refer to petrol as gasoline and then abbreviate it to "gas". It's not a gas, dammit, it's a liquid.

On the subject of the podcasts, maybe I'll try listening (out of curiosity) if I can figure out how podcasts work. But in general I prefer to read books: I read faster than anyone speaks.

David Friedman said...

Jonathan notes that "cat" is explained in the glossary.

I don't assume most readers will start with that. However, on the first page of the book, we have:

Lamellar coat, worn and dusty, bow one side the saddle, quiver the other, helmet off, eyes wide and alert in a young face under dark hair. A Northvales cataphract, headed home. The cat glanced at Aliana, gave a friendly nod, said nothing.

That was supposed to make it obvious that "cat" was short for "cataphract" and that a "cataphract" was some sort of a person, perhaps a kind of warrior, associated with the Northvales. Pretty clearly it didn't work for all readers.

Jonathan adds:

"but I find it a bit disturbing when an abbreviation is also a valid word with a completely different meaning."

In this case, there's a reason for it. The Northvales is a very individualistic society, as should become clear in reading the book; calling warriors from the Northvales "cats" is supposed to fit with that.

Similarly for the "wolves." In each case, there is an in story reason for the short form--the badge of the wolves is the royal badge of a wolf's head, since they were originally the royal messengers--and an out of story reason for the choice.

Jonathan said...

A reader of whatever intelligence could accidentally miss the clue in the text, and many people wouldn't think to look for a glossary at the back of a novel, so there's no need for the anonymous reader above to feel bad about it.

However, in principle, the text introduces the abbreviation well enough; and the glossary is there as a fall-back.

Thanks for the justification of the "cat" abbreviation. My complaint was only intended to be mild.

I've now figured out how to get a podcast in iTunes, and listened to the book's prologue. It's a more leisurely way of experiencing fiction, and may have some advantages, but for now I feel more comfortable reading text myself in the usual way. Occasionally I fail to catch a word because I'm not an American, and your accent takes some getting used to. No offence intended, you might have the same trouble with mine...

Anonymous said...

Thanks David for this. I drive one hour to work and one hour back and listening to you beats any radio show.

Michael Roberts said...

I like the podcasts. My only real interest in the book was because I like listening to you, so I never bothered until I saw this post :)

I think you should do the rest, so I can listen to it, too. (Although I may actually get a copy now that I'm interested)

The story is much less outside my interests than I expected from the various blurbs. It's clear that the writer really knows of, not just about, which is maybe why some people think you haven't described the world or the characters enough... Most people probably haven't tried eating under those circumstances frequently enough to grasp the implications :)

I like the style, but I do think it's overdone, a bit more texture would be nice, particularly in the narration. You are expecting a lot of your audience, but I can see why... it might be more a problem of narrowing your audience than of expecting too much of them.

I like the "cat" thing. I very much like the characters.

so there.


Daniel A. Nagy said...

Unbelievable. I have never listened to David speaking before this podcast; neither live nor on recording, though I have read quite a few of his writings.

Unbelievable as it may sound, the voice in my head which I assigned to David turned out to be identical to his actual voice. It was surprisingly unsurprising.

Anyhow, thank you David for the entertainment!

Matt Brubeck said...

You may already know this, Prof Friedman, but you were name-checked in Ken MacLeod's latest novel. (A character's bookshelf is described as including "Friedman pére and fils, Galbraiths likewise...")

I remember discussing MacLeod's The Stone Canal at the ABL party with you several years ago.

Anonymous said...

daniel: same here... could it be that humans are good at inferring voice from facial/cranial features, some of which are apparent in David's picture?

Anonymous said...
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Jonathan said...

arthur b.: could it be that humans are good at inferring voice from facial/cranial features?

Funny, I don't seem to have this ability. But I'm a bit distracted at the moment, I can't remember where I parked my flying saucer...