Why “Ancillary” Review of Books?

an·cil·lar·y /ăn-sə-lĕr′ē/


1. providing necessary support to the primary activities or operation of an organization, system, etc.


1. a person whose work provides necessary support to the primary activities of an organization, system, etc.

Why “Ancillary”? — Source Material

In the unending pursuit of knowledge, emphasis has long been placed, often rightly so, on source texts—“primary” texts—to provide immediate, first-hand accounts and ideas. For the historian, these primary sources might take the form of diary entries and letters; for the activist, speeches and interviews. For the social scientist, datasets, surveys, and statistics may offer the valuable information needed to unravel a particular problem. Primary sources are, frequently, the foundations upon which new understandings of the world may and must be built.

Yet academia, by its nature, requires the maintenance of a perpetual system of removal, revival, and recycle. That new scholarship must offer more. That it must build upon the work done by those who have come before, and indeed by those who have written and experienced and lived before, is unquestionable. Secondary scholarship must thus apply the theory, the new thoughts and ideas that primary sources, by their very nature, can’t. In doing so, secondary scholarship—ancillary scholarship—underpins the promise of academia that goes far beyond the institutional structure of the academy. It is the will to create and develop new research that draws together a perpetual, unceasing community of talented scholars, writers, artists and theorists keen to bring fresh ideas and new life to the texts and sources of the past. It is the secondary, the ancillary, scholarship that offers the promise of immortality to the author and their work.

And while ARB doesn’t promise fawning praise, only smart criticism and worthwhile engagement, we see it as our duty to the literary world to make sure the conversations that matter are heard and remembered.

Why “Ancillary”? — The SFF Imaginary

Certainly the most obvious flash of recognition to SFF readers is that of Ann Leckie’s multiple award-winning Imperial Radch trilogy, where the word “Ancillary” features in the title of each book. While the ancillaries of Leckie’s series—cyborg extensions of an AI mind—are representative of the deaths of their human hosts in service of a military-imperial project, they are also emulated by their human peers for their stoic unflappability. The far-reaching “limbs” of the AI mind to which they are extensions, ancillaries perform the crucial tasks that the sentient, though house-bound intelligence cannot.

ARB does the work others aren’t doing, bringing together various limbs of our collective intelligence in criticism, writing, and other fields to imagine utopian ends across SFF, cultural studies, and more.

Why “Ancillary”? — Transhumanism

To think of Ann Leckie’s novels—Ancillary Justice, Ancillary Sword, and Ancillary Mercy—is to consider the relationship between organic life and technology. Already tech is used to enhance our lives—there are countless ways in which humanity of the 21st century relies on the crucial and harmonious affiliation between these two spheres—so much so that perhaps it is useful to consider the organic and the synthetic a symbiotic coupling. Technological advances offer the promise of potential—the promise of change—and by extension the offer of a chance to hack that fleshy corporeality of the body into something reflective of the self—something uniquely you. In this way can tech operate as an individual’s own ancillary: here to “provide necessary support” in the process of creation, turning what has been constructed for an individual into what the individual constructs for themselves.

In much the same way ARB seeks to support you, the creators of exciting new writing in fiction and nonfiction, as well as those who transform original content with the important criticism so necessary to the continuation of conversations that can change the world.

Become an Ancillary Today

Interested? Read more about us here.

We want you to become an ancillary, too. Join us here.

Not sure where to start? Check out our monthly calls for reviews and essays for examples of books and topics!

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