We writers worry about unusual things. Nitpicky details that we suspect no one besides us will notice, but we worry anyway. One such detail is highly specific to science fiction and fantasy writers: do we capitalize the names of our alien or fantastic races and species?
In the Unbound series there are multiple species of sentient creatures, including humans. But see what I did there? We don’t capitalize “humans”–we capitalize political names, like American or British, but not humans. (Or cats, or dogs, or horses, for that matter.) It’s always caught my eye and yanked me out of a story when one is capitalized but the other isn’t, yet it yanks me out when humans is capitalized to be consistent with other species’ names.
In the novella, Insurrection, the two species are capitalized: Ir’drakhon and Iridelli. (Yes, I know they both start with “I”–there’s a story there, too, which I’ll probably tell someday). But in the novella, there are no humans, so it feels right, and helps keep them distinctive. And when it was first published in the Writers of the Future, the editor, the famous Algis Budrys, left it that way, so I’m leaving it that way–it feels right to keep that consistent.
But for the novels?
I went back and forth over this for months, running “find and replace” multiple times, changing them all to capped. Then back to not capped. Then capped…Then I broke out the wine.
I went to my favorite books and series that have multiple species and looked at what those authors did.
Two examples stand out and hopefully illustrate the problem: Tanya Huff, in her wonderful Confederation series, is consistent in capitalizing her aliens and humans alike. C.J. Cherryh, in the long-running Foreigner series capitalizes none of them. Both work in their books.
In the end, I landed on no capitalization for the species, but capitalization for the political affiliations or origins.
Kor is an ir’drakhon, from the Ir’drakhon Empire, and Merika is a Demari human. In books two and three, the lorca, Ori, is from the planet Lorani…etc.
It’s probably not something you would notice, unless you read Incursion very soon after reading Insurrection, (“I” words again, sigh). But since I’m hoping you will read them close together, you may notice it and be curious.
And, ahem. If you haven’t read Insurrection yet–you can get it free right here…and Incursion is due out in September.
Do you have a preference? When has one or the other not worked for you? Tell me your thoughts, grasshopper…