Books – physical books, stories contained within pages and ink – play a small but vital role in Scylla and Charybdis. This is, admittedly, a product of personal bias: as a reader, I am devoted to the book you can hold, the tactile sensation, the subtle scent. I am a highly kinesthetic person and related to the world via movement, touch, and the intangible “feel” of things. (Just to prove Mother Nature can have a twisted sense of humor, I also have an ocular-motor dysfunction: a disconnect in my eye-hand coordination.)
The world of Scylla and Charybdis is highly digitized, and nowhere is this more evident than on Themiscyra space station. Fleeing the chaos of a dying universe (or so it seemed), the women of the station preserved few physical books, and those have been locked up in climate controlled chambers. Anaea has seen them only through glass. Removed from the days of pure survival, the space station has made room for the arts and has a rich repertoire of entertainment – often in the form of holo movies – but books are not part of that reality.
In the broader universe, there is room for this niche art, for physical printing, and even new volumes. For Anaea, part of the charm of books is the fact that they are unchanging; an electronic fictional work might be updated to adhere to the tastes of the times, but an old Harlequin (… not an actual example) still has the same flowery language and heaving bosoms it always did. For someone whose world is in upheaval, there’s comfort in that stability.
There are a few specific books referenced throughout. One of them, Falling Stars, is an Earth science fiction novel, written pre-colonization, which inspired the popular name of one of the colonized planets. Given that science fiction geeks are already naming astrological bodies, it didn’t seem that much of a stretch.
My editor encouraged me to quote a few of these books. At first, I was uncertain about this: the imaginary book always has a mystique, and can an excerpt ever live up to what the reader imagines the content might be? But I decided to tackle it, and I was pleased with the results.
There’s also a reference to a compendium of zombie stories, because why not. It can’t all be great literature.