Dedications can be difficult to write. Acknowledgements aren’t exactly easy either, but you can ramble on there if you need to, but a dedication needs to be succinct. One or two names, maybe an extra couple of words.
I can’t remember where it was that I heard this, but when I was thinking about the dedication for Void Black Shadow someone, somewhere, said that if you’re struggling to think of who to dedicate your book to, think of the person who that book wouldn’t have been possible without. This stuck with me, partly because it’s exactly what I did with Killing Gravity. Killing Gravity is dedicated to Ella, my cat, because without her Mars never would have had Seven, and if Mars didn’t have Seven, it could have been a very different book… maybe a book that no one would have wanted to publish. She’s sitting on my lap right now as I write this – a fiercely independent (ish), apex (ish) predator who may, on occasion, choose to bless you with her presence. I think that’s why we love cats so much (those of us that do, anyway) – they make it very apparent that they don’t need you, so any attention or affection they give you feels earned…
With Void Black Shadow though, it took me a little while to realise who it should be dedicated to. It’s not much of a spoiler to say that part of the book is set in a prison, and I kind of went back and forth on what sort of prison it should be. A part of me wanted to make it Prisoner-esque, but that simply wasn’t going to work for the sort of universe I’d created. Slowly it occurred to me that there were some modern, real-life concerns that I wanted to touch on in the book.
There’s a large section in the middle of the book that took direct inspiration from Gregory Whitehead’s audio piece titled On The Shore Dimly Seen. I can’t recommend it highly enough, though be warned – it’s based on the leaked documents pertaining to the “no-touch” torture techniques used at Guantanamo Bay, and as such, it’s not easy listening.
You may be wondering then, why I didn’t dedicate the book to Gregory Whitehead. Well, there would be no On The Shore Dimly Seen without the documents that Chelsea Manning leaked, at grave personal risk. As haunted and affected by OTSDS as I was, Whitehead didn’t risk everything to create it. He didn’t spend time in prison for it. He didn’t have to endure the court of public opinion whilst going through what must surely be one of the hardest parts of a person’s life.
I don’t know that Chelsea Manning is necessarily a hero, and I certainly don’t think she’s perfect (or that she should be vehemently condemned by The Left* for any imperfections), but I do think she held a mirror up to us in the West and showed us for the disgusting, hateful, inhuman beasts we can be. That we are. That takes strength. That takes honour.
So, Void Black Shadow is dedicated to Chelsea Manning. Though with everything she must have gone through before her sentence was commuted, I hope she never reads it.
*I’m a total left-wing pinko, but sometimes we seem to eagerly inhabit the stereotype that others constructed about us.