Today I am so pleased to welcome S.I. Clarke to Joyfully Jay. S.I. has come to talk to us about her latest release, The Left Hand of Dog. She has also brought along a great giveaway. Please join me in giving her a big welcome!

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Darmok and Jalad Were Right About Everything

In October of 2020, I sat down to write an extremely silly novel – something that would take my mind off … well, off life, the universe, and everything. My goal in writing The Left Hand of Dog was to write a fun book. But at the same time, I wanted to play with certain ideas, one of which was communication.

I had this question in my head that I wanted to explore: How much of our communication relies on shared history, culture, and biology?

I love the universal translators in Star Trek. They just work. All the time. But then I remember watching the TNG episode, Darmok, when I was a kid. And it started me thinking. Our communication relies on a shared understanding of language, yes. But it’s so much more than just that.

Think about it – you meet someone who speaks the same language as you. But if they come from a different culture, it can serve as hindrance to effective communication. When I was 19, I spent a summer working in Germany. My new colleagues were mostly British. The one other Canadian spoke fluent German and never hung around with the rest of the Anglo-group. I remember one day I said to a woman, ‘I really like your touque.’ She stared at me like I was from another planet.

In The Left Hand of Dog, I explored the various ways a universal translator could add to confusion as well as clearing it up. In this extract, Lem is attempting to place an order for lunch – and it all goes horribly wrong.

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Everyone looked at me, but I couldn’t think what I wanted so I just snatched at the first idea that wandered through the void of my mind. ‘Can I have a Welsh rarebit, please?’

Aurora faded almost to invisibility. ‘I’m sorry, Lem. I must have misheard. You want to eat a bunnyboo? I know they held you captive against your will, but that seems a bit of an overreaction, no?’

It took me a second to figure out that the translator must have gone wrong. ‘No, not a rabbit, a rarebit.’ BB looked at me blankly, Spock tilted her head to the side, and Aurora shifted into a magenta hue. ‘I know it sounds like I’m saying the same word, but they’re not. They’re er … homophones. Two different words that sound the same, but have different meanings like Greece and grease or er … four candles and fork handles.’

Bexley appeared at the doorway, twirling her mane around her hand-hoof. ‘There are four lights?’

BB shuffled around, making her preparations. ‘Your language uses the same word to mean more than one thing? Is there a shortage of sounds that your species can make?’

I nodded at Bexley’s question and shrugged at BB’s – then remembered they wouldn’t understand either of those responses. ‘Sorry, yes, we reuse words. Sometimes they’re spelt the same and sometimes not, but yes. Anyway, I don’t know why we do it. It’s not logical – but who ever said the human race was logical?’

Fuchsia was still her dominant colour, but the rest of Aurora’s rainbow began to emerge. ‘Ah, I see. Well, I shall endeavour to create a reneging bunnyboo for you, whatever it might be.’

#

These days, I’ve been living in the UK for more than a decade. But even still, I’ll occasionally drop a Canadianism that gets me funny looks.

And that’s even before we get to idioms… A few years ago, a new one entered our national vocabulary: a dead cat. At first, it was used in its full form: to throw a dead cat on the table. Wikipedia describes it as ‘the introduction of a dramatic, shocking, or sensationalist topic to divert discourse away from a more damaging topic.’

Nowadays, whenever the government (whichever government since they all do it) announces something, people can just look at one another and say ‘It’s a dead cat, mate.’ And we all know what we mean by that – but if someone just landed from another planet – they might start looking for an actual deceased feline.

And heaven forbid you should confuse a dead cat with a dead parrot. They are very much not the same thing.

Can you imagine how confusing it would all be to someone who spoke perfect English but had no cultural context?


Blurb

left hand of dog coverEscaping intergalactic kidnappers has never been quite so ridiculous.

When Lem and her faithful dog, Spock, retreat from the city for a few days of hiking in Algonquin Park, the last thing they expect is to be kidnapped by aliens. No, scratch that. The last thing they expect is to be kidnapped by a bunch of strangely adorable intergalactic bounty hunters aboard a ship called the Teapot.

Falling in with an unlikely group of allies – including a talking horse, a sarcastic robot, an overly anxious giant parrot, and a cloud of sentient glitter gas – Lem and the gang must devise a cunning plan to escape their captors and make it back home safely.

But things won’t be as easy as they first seem. Lost in deep space and running out of fuel, this chaotic crew are faced with the daunting task of navigating an alien planet, breaking into a space station, and discovering the real reason they’re all there…

Packed with preposterous scenarios, quirky characters, and oodles of humour, The Left Hand of Dog tackles complex subjects such as gender, the need to belong, and the importance of honest communication. Perfect for fans of Charlie Jane Anders’ Victories Greater than Death – especially ones who enjoy endless references to Red Dwarf, Star Trek, and Doctor Who. This book will show you that the universe is a very strange place indeed.

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Bio

SI ClarkeSI CLARKE is a Canadian misanthrope who lives in Deptford, sarf ees London. She shares her home with her partner and an assortment of waifs and strays. When not writing convoluted, inefficient stories, she spends her time telling financial services firms to behave more efficiently. When not doing either of those things, she can be found in the pub or shouting at people online – occasionally practising efficiency by doing both at once.

As someone who’s neurodivergent, an immigrant, and the proud owner of an invisible disability, she strives to present a diverse array of characters in her stories.


Giveaway

SI Clarke is giving away four eBooks with this blog tour:

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