spoiler potential: caution: book questions.

Do not get into this page if you are trying to read a book. This is for after you’ve read it. Likewise follow the custom of putting a subject and then dropping down a number of lines to make it possible for a reader to duck out if they don’t want the information yet.

I will answer questions about pronunciation, etc, all the little questions I’m normally asked. I won’t discuss things that disturb my creative process, like where I’m going or such. You can theorize among yourselves.


  1. CJ

    😆 Finisterre is Latin for “Worldsend”, or “Edge of the World”, and is the name of two places, one in Spain, and one in France, that were reckoned to be as far as you could go westward
    in Europe without running out of land.

    • Walt

      Then there’s “Land’s End”, oddly in Great Britain, not Ireland, despite them knowing each other since at least Sr. Patrick.

  2. smartcat

    Yes, Proge, having studied Latin from eighth grade on, informed me of same after I asked here. Ah well, language is not my strong point…I just inferred from general knowledge.
    Was Finisterre named by the developers due to its position, or by the colonists after they were left to themselves?

  3. CJ

    By the developers, but I’m sure it acquired special meaning to the colonists.

  4. Jcrow9

    You know, CJ, with this electronics bleedover/harmonic/interference into the ambient (my interpretation) that you get on Finisterre, it almost makes me wonder if the ambient then operates on a measurable (accessible?) frequency or spectrum. Incurably nerdy engineer wonders…

  5. CJ

    😆 I’m pretty sure it’s exactly that. If it works, there is a mechanism by which it works. That’s why my ‘telepathy novel’ has some real strictures on who and what can and how it works.

    • Jcrow9

      Well, and the limited range for the humans to ‘handshake’ with the horses, too. Poor antenna design! (sniff)

  6. Spearmint

    Are the Finisterre books Alliance/Union?

    I’d think Union would have been swarming all over them- tape you can upload in realtime! To everyone! And the nighthorses aren’t exactly tractable, but it’s a heck of a lot easier then trying to figure out how, say, the caliban communicate.

    • CJ

      THey’re not necessarily NOT Alliance/Union, but some computer glitch must’ve swallowed the records. 😉

  7. philbrown

    May I ask some technical questions?
    What word processing program do you use? How do you organize your writing? I’m writing a mystery purely to see if I can do it and organization seems to be getting harder as I go along.
    Phil Brown

    • CJ

      You’ll find a lot of those answers over in the writing for fun and profit tab. An outline is a good thing, but I don’t outline like in English class. I just write down major landmarks along the road, things that have to happen.
      Part of the job of a mystery is to mislead, so you install landmarks that don’t necessarily pan out the way a reader expects.
      I use Word Perfect (Corel), a wp program favored by lawyers. It’s much more typist-friendly than MS Word. I occasionally use Word for a special application, and always tear my hair out in frustration with that program. The less I have to use it the happier I am.

  8. Reptile

    I utterly agree about Word Perfect. I hate Word, but, because Microsoft so often sabotages file conversions, I now have to use it, particularly in my secretarial work for my wife, who teaches social work.

    Rant, rant, GROWLLL:

    I have now switched to Mac but will probably have to upgrade to one with a an Intel processor PC so that I can run WP 8 under XP.

    I will never forgive MS for using Outllook about 10 years ago to, in effect, take over one’s computer and sabotage Word Perfect data base files (mainly addresses and salutations. Naively install Outlook and everytime one tried to call up a salutation, say for a student grad school recommendation, and the program would crash. I consulted experts on this, and the response was along the lines of “obviously…” Hours and hours and hours, days really, of time utterly wasted.

    I won’t even tell you what I had to go through to find a Mac OSX.5 compatible program (Power PC version) to convert thousands of old WP files (including student handouts, form letters, etc.) to a format Word would deign to read.

    But students can’t read even some Word programs when you post them.

    As a side note, I’ve done freelance proofing in the past for some law firms. In New York, because of like problems, most of them have been forced to switch over, at vast cost, to Word. And learn, to their vast regret, to strip out previous versions from files they ship to non-confidential sources.

    Enough off topic

  9. Reptile

    Amazing how bad experiences with computers distract form one’s intended subject. I’ve never written fiction, but have written plenty of 800; 1,200; 1,500 word articles, plus co-authored journal articles. Edited and copy-edited vast millions of words, etc.

    As CJ says, I find those English lesson outlines purely an after-the-fact phenomenon. You may have a lot of notes, interviews, research, etc., and sometimes writing down a few key words indicating points you want to cover may be helpful, but beyong d that I don’t see how it is possible to outline in advance, at east with my limited type of brain.

    How can you outline something before you write it (know what you’re going to say)? This actually was a problem in school, especially when I lacked the discipline to write the paper in advance and then turn in the outline when it was due. (others may be able to work differently). John Ciardi, a poet, translator, and brilliant Saturday Review columnist, once confessed to having the same problem, but he DID have the discipline to write the papers early and thus pass Freshman composition.

    I also confess to having spent two days writing and rewriting the lede to an article on, say, mortgages before I could finish the piece (maybe in a couple of hours). Sometimes you think you know what you’re going to do/say but only discover you don’t in the writing. For an article, I find that usually once the lede is properly done, the rest will flow easily.

    The logic of fiction, which is more directly an appeal to emotions and immersion in the story, must have its equivalents, but I doubt it’s exactly the same. The architecture of the storytelling of even long non-fiction articles strikes me as something quite different, if hard to put into words. A non-fiction writer always has (must have) implicit reference to fact, to actual event, data, logic, description of actual place, etc. as the prime source of authority to make demands on the reader’s attention. Often an explicitly didactic end is involved (Should I refinance my mortgage? Should we go to war? Should I take aspirin, ibuprofen, or acetomenophin for the pain from a broken foot? This is how you sand a parquet floor.) and the reader wants to know the answer.

    The fiction writer must, it seems to me, first of all be able to (develop the skill?) to tell stories that interest other people. And the fiction writer is only incidentally gifted with the ability to call upon the non-fiction writer’s recourse to authority of interest in the “facts” to entice the reader’s interest.

    Or so it seems to this once English major, currently unemployed non-fiction writer.

  10. philospher77

    This may be better off in one of the other posts, but can I please beg you to never again give books one word titles? You cannot know how many times I had to hold off on picking up a Foreigner book because I needed to go home and find out if I had that particular one. And I can never remember all the titles, or what order they go in. For some reason, having more than one word makes it much easier to remember.

  11. Asad Sayeed

    So what does the ateva-on-the-street currently think of humans? Is the mystery gone now? The reality disappointingly mundane?

    • CJ

      Most have only seen them on tv, and the ‘them’ is mostly Bren. Bren still gets weird letters: mostly his staff handles them. There is a faction of atevi who does not like the creeping ‘influence’ of humans, but Bren has his fans, some of whom appreciate his influence, others that just think a child-sized adult is cute.

      • Asad Sayeed

        OK, but we have now had closer contact with atevi workers going to the station, etc. Has this had any effect on atevi culture or perception of humans? It was just my impression that that’s how the atevi public saw humans at the beginning of the series, but we seem to be something like 15 years away from that and book and real time and impressions must have changed. I keep thinking about this question because it seems to me that the whole future of the human presence on the atevi planet seems to hinge on this.

  12. NosenDove

    I saw a policeman cite a teen.


    I just finished redoing the three volume series – I was not aware that it has been published as one volume.

    Very interesting – I listened in very small bites and had an opportunity to really think about it over a multi-week period.

    I still have difficulties with the concept of the Azi but I have a better appreciation of the work.

    Clearly Ms. Cherryh has written a book which, imho, belongs on the same shelf with Brave New World, On the Beach, and 1984. A frightening look at the far future and a typical CJ Cherryh keep em on the edge until the last word book.

    I am awaiting the new work in paperback.

    • tulrose

      I checked the new one out of the library and when the paperback shows up I’ll buy it. I extended it twice, the maximum, so that I could read it quickly and then re-read to savour it.

  13. smartcat

    “….others who think a child size adult is cute.” As atevi/human society opens up is there a possibility of atevi hiring humans for their amusement value….sort of in the manner of dwarfs at royal courts?

  14. philospher77

    This isn’t so much a book spoiler question, but more of a “the strangest things make my think of CJ” comment. I was recently rewatching “Torchwood – Children of Earth”, and I have to say that the aliens, when they finally show up, are in a scene that is strongly reminiscent of the tc’a in Compact space. Sheets of transparent material dividing the two poisonous atmospheres? Check. Strange leathery beings glimpsed amid swirls of fog? Check. Strange random movements that may or may not be part of teh communication process? Check. Uncertain translations provided by a computer interface? Check. (Although this was a computer with speakers, and the alien did not have a 7 part brain.)

    But really, I have to wonder if whoever designed that scene had been reading your books.

  15. Spearmint

    I’ve always felt that Babylon 5 was a poor man’s Meetpoint Station in a lot of ways. Rotation based gravity (even though it makes no sense because B5 species clearly have anti-grav?)? Check. Divided into oxy and methane sides? Check. Multiple unfriendly races converging to trade? Check. Poorly thought out alliances between factions plotting to betray one another? Check. Stationmaster with incredibly bad judgment captured and tortured by the boys in black? Check.

  16. Spiderdavon

    In the defense of B5, humans didn’t have AG (see their clunky warships) and B5 was human-built. I will agree on the Stationmaster though – senior officers don’t put themselves in harms way. Star Trek had the same problem. As far as “Children of Earth” goes, I was reminded more of the Guild Navigators in Dune.
    If we’re looking at CJC similarities, Stargate came after the Morgaine books, and I’ve often wondered if that’s where the concept came from.

  17. Sgt Saturn

    In regard to B5, if you steal from one source, it’s plagiarism; if you steal from many, it’s research. The list of B5 ‘sources’ goes back, at least, to Doc Smith, who was writing stf before most of us on this site were even born. Same with ‘stargates’. I seem to recall an Andre Norton book from the 1950’s …

  18. Spiderdavon

    Most sci-fi shows are pretty derivative. Look at Farscape – echoes of B5, Blake’s 7, Lost in Space, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, Star Trek – the list goes on. It’s not wrong to take inspiration from those who have gone before as long as you can put a fresh twist to it.

    • Walt

      “The list of B5 ’sources’ goes back, at least, to Doc Smith…”

      Back to Homer, IIRC.

  19. Spearmint

    Oh, I’ve always thought it rather to Mr. Straczynski’s credit that he appears to have cribbed his station design from Ms. Cherryh- it proves he read some actual science fiction at one point.

    The problem arises when you copy your sources so closely- say, by repeating speeches from “1984” verbatim- that your viewers cannot help but mentally play the original side-by-side with your derivative as they view it. If your work is of equal quality to the original, then you’re in the clear; Finisterre never suffered by a comparison to Valdemar. If, on the other hand, you cannot write as well as Orwell- and few of us can- you may not want to borrow his dialogue.

    But I’m afraid we’re derailing the thread.

  20. Walt

    Interesting, Spearmint: I have to agree that JMS went close to 1984, but authors have the whole can-you-catch-the-reference shtick–and honestly, doesn’t it have to be pretty simple now that readers don’t all have classical liberal educations? You want the reader to get the aha, and if you make the puzzle too hard, they won’t get the payoff.

    Anent station designs, in the A-U universe, CJ’s brilliant design has ships coming in at a tangent to the station and docking at race-normal gee*. While B5 launched Starfuries from gee areas, everything else went in/out through the central bay, just like 2001, or countless other stations, back (AFAIK) to the first rotating artificial gravity station concept. Even ‘Furies did not recover in a gee area.

    (Also, CJ–and perhaps you’ve written this in a book I haven’t read–a ship could spiral in at, say, 1/2 gee to hit the 1 gee rotating section, without the passengers enduring any zero gee. This whole design is so interesting, I’ve spent much time thinking of alternate designs–yours for the asking, CJ, with any IP release you want.)

    *gee: it ain’t gee (gravity) it’s acceleration, simulating gravity. I know: gee is ~10 m/s, the acceleration of Earth gravity. But this makes much more sense when talking about taking 5 gees than it does gee areas and zero gee areas for a race that doesn’t have a homeworld with gravity at 1 gee. (Please don’t think about this, CJ: my trauma. Too much time empathizing with my parents’ aerospace work! Yes, both: Dad on Apollo; Mom on the Shuttle. Oh! Was I staying away from aerospace!? LOL!)

    • Jcrow9

      CJ (and Walt), I’ve always had a conceptual discontinuity (brain fart) in re: the whole docking process. Tangential approach requires a lot of lateral elbow room, which means adjacent docks aren’t all that adjacent–you need a fair amount of room to stick your nose in there and capture the boom or cone, at least if you’re going to do it at a reasonably slow speed. Of course, a large-enough diameter wheel makes for a rather stately rotational speed and correspondingly slower rim speed. If you’re gonna stuff a few hundred thousand souls aboard the station, you need a pretty large wheel.
      But the part I have always struggled with is the ship’s orientation wrt the station once docked. Based on the text and illos of your books, CJ, particularly Downbelow Station, the ship at rest in dock has its long axis parallel with the rotational axis of the station. This has its drawbacks (such as most of the personnel volume being inaccessible in dock), but it means the ship is undergoing ungodly stresses at one G in dock. It’s not clear to me how much, if any, of the ship’s length is ‘submerged’ into the wall of the station, but it appears to be almost nil. That means, in effect, zero length of ship is involved in keeping the mass of the ship at right angles to the induced G. “Space Age Materials” my eye, it’s hard to imagine any structure handling that load. Any braces extending from the station wall would have to be impractically long. It’s like holding a broom up parallel to the floor by holding onto only the last inch of handle–and at that, the massive cargo and engineering spaces would be comparatively far down the ‘handle.’ I had always envisioned ships docking radially to the station, as their structure is already designed for longitudinal stresses of boost–and you can access all the pressurized volume, if only by walking on the walls in non-swing sections.
      One seeks understanding! Such is life inside what passes for my mind….

      • GreenWyvern

        Jcrow9 wrote: “a large-enough diameter wheel makes for a rather stately rotational speed and correspondingly slower rim speed.”


        v = sqrt(ar)

        where v = tangential velocity, a = centripetal acceleration, r = radius

        So the larger the radius of the wheel, the faster the rim speed if you want to keep the acceleration constant. If you double the radius, the tangential velocity increases by a factor of ~ 1.4 for the same acceleration.

        • Jcrow9

          Let me put it this way–would you rather shoot an approach in your spaceship to a station with 1 G rim acceleration where radius is 40m or 400m?

          • GreenWyvern

            To Jcrow9: Obviously 40m. The rim of a 40m radius wheel would be moving past you at 20m/s, and the rim of a 400m radius wheel would be moving past you at 63m/s, more than 3 times as fast.

    • CJ

      Some enterprising computer wizzes at a convention room party had written a docking program you could actually fly, and a few people could actually dock with the station. Most crashed. I almost made it. 😉 Of course, refreshments at the convention parties may not have helped navigation.

      It’s been a long time since I worked with this system, but the ship inserts a probe into the extendable docking cone, which is a station mechanism that can be somewhat adjusted to match up with the ship: the ship once captured is hauled in and snugged firmly to the station body by attachments at several points. The personnel access, cargo loading port, and various of the essential conduit-connections, are all configured to mate up to the docking cone,which is pretty large.

      Mallory’s precipitate undock created all sorts of mayhem, and one heckuva repair bill.

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