Implication-Butler is not being obscure; she is being clear.


Butler is not being obscure; she is being clear. While the term “seed villages” goes unexplained, we are told that this is merely one of them and that Doro thinks of more than one seed village as “his.” Furthermore, “seed village” is not a wholly obscure term. We know what a village is; we know what seed means when it’s used as an adjective. Seed potatoes, for instance, are small potatoes or parts of potatoes that are planted in the ground to grow into larger ones. By implication, Doro is somehow using villages as seed—or perhaps he has the villagers growing seeds for him. We aren’t sure, but we do know that Doro is working on growing something and that he has more than one village involved in it.

This, again, is one of the protocols of reading SF. The reader is expected to extrapolate, to find the implied information contained in new words. The classic example is Robert A. Heinlein’s phrase “The door dilated,” from Beyond This Horizon. No explanation of the technology; the character doesn’t exclaim, “Good heavens! A dilating door!” Instead, the reader is told not only that doors in this place dilate like irises, opening in all directions at once, but also that the character takes this fact for granted. The implication is that many—perhaps all—doors in this place dilate and that they have been doing it for long enough that nobody pays attention to it anymore.

The SF writer is thus able to imply far more information than he actually states; the SF reader will pick up most or all of these implications. This is one reason why you must be so rigorous about creating your worlds to quite a deep level of detail, because your readers will constantly be leaping past what you actually say to find the implications of what you’re saying—and if you haven’t thought things through to that level, they’ll catch you being sloppy or silly or just plain wrong.

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