|I found this picture at North American Victorian Studies Assoc.|
No artist was given or further credit,
but it certainly sums up Victorian sentimentality
Can you believe that a number of people who have read my series The Labors of Ki'shto'ba Huge-Head, and also its precursor, my novel The Termite Queen, have told me they have teared up or even wept at certain points of the stories? I take that as a great compliment. My characters are mostly giant extraterrestrial termites (called the Shshi) -- bristly, rather stinky bugs with no facial expressions beyond what their antennae can convey and strange habits like eating their primary dung in order to extract all the nutrients and also recycling their dead by eating them and thus conserving the protein. How can you cry over such repulsive creatures?
The fact that you can proves that I made them "human" -- I made them relatable to the human psyche. I read a SF book once (and frankly I can't remember the name of the book or its author now) that had an extraterrestrial race that was amphibious -- big frog-like creatures that spawned in water. It was narrated from the point of view of the humans who had made first contact with that race, and I never could feel any relationship to them -- they remained remote and just too "alien."
I think mine is successful partly because I tell the story from the point of view of the Shshi. In The Termite Queen the point of view switches between the human anthropological team and the Shshi with whom first contact is being made, but the Ki'shto'ba series is narrated entirely from the Shshi perspective, allowing the reader to delve into their essence. The reader can identify with creatures who have moral principles (or lack them, or are misguided), who care deeply about each other and the foundations of their way of life, who work together, rejoice when something good happens and grieve over loss. They live full, realistic lives, which means not everything can always work out the way the reader might like. That can make the reader say, "Not this character! How could the author do that to this innocent character?" and that can bring on tears.
I consider tears of that sort to be genuine emotion, and genuine emotion cannot be characterized as sentimentality. Just killing off a character does not make me weep -- you've got to care about the character that was killed. That's why we have "red shirts" -- because we need a surrogate for the main characters in whom we have a lot invested. I can't give anybody instructions on how to make the reader care -- I'm not much of a teacher of writing skills -- but I seem to have succeeded with everybody who has read the entire Ki'shto'ba series. Heck, I even succeeded with myself -- if I read some of the painful parts after being away from them for a while, I end up weeping over them every time!
Why don't you give my books a try and see for yourselves if I succeeded?