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  • Writer's pictureJoe Pace

Favorite Non-Fiction Books, #28: A Sea of Words

Yardarm to yardarm

I'm finding myself in a bit of a reference kick right now - I'm sure we'll get back to narratives, memoirs, and traditional histories soon. But I've been listening to O'Brian's Aubrey/Maturin series on audiobook, and my mind is full this morning of phrases and jargon from the age of sail, tempting me to strap back into the all-but-finished sequel to Lost Harvest. Between the Mutiny on the Bounty and the Hornblower books, O'Brian's work is one of the great inspirations for the Lost Harvest trilogy, for the tone and tenor of the world I tried to create. The conceit that the British Empire endured into the star-faring future, retaining aspects of culture and language from years gone by has been one of the most fun aspects of writing these books - and one of the most challenging.

That's where references come in, and none more valuable than Dean King's fanboy labor of love to create this lexicon of names, places, terms, and other phrases that populate O'Brian's nautical world. A quick thumbing-through of this book can yield the right mixture of rum and water to produce grog, how the Navy List worked, the use of trunnions to aim a cannon, and names of ships and sailors ready for reappropriation to the future. It's enjoyable just to immerse in the language sometimes, and to allow the muse to strike through a stray word or name.

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