Let’s honestly admit something that has been left unsaid for too long: glossaries are put there for idiots.
At least that what it seems like. Does any book really need an explanation of the words and acronyms at the end of the book?
Wait, some actually do?
Look, I know… world building, unique words, and unknown organizations, all of that can pile up. But if an author NEEDS to put a glossary in the back in order to make the whole thing understandable, then I think the fault lies with the author.
I realize that it’s a tricky thing to write fiction that takes place so far off into the future that none of the institutions we recognize exist; that a vital part of world building is having unrecognizable societies and words. But can’t it be done without just shoving all the definitions to the back of the book and letting the reader figure it out on their own?
Few people like having to rush to a dictionary while reading, and I imagine just the same number of readers love breaking a narrative to learn what NSHSUED or RIDS are acronyms for.
I suppose a ton of fake words and acronyms give verisimilitude to the world. One can’t expect the reader to intuit that the IRTSU controls the LHA in the middle of the 23rd century, or that the Resgarmin Beasts control the Kramblangin of Urnita. A guide might be necessary to explain what all of this gobbledygook means
So there is occasionally a place for a glossary.
OR, as a writer, you can just find a good, clever way to introduce all of the information they need into the story without resorting to a custom “Cliffs Notes” shoved into the back of your carefully crafted story. I think you’re good and clever. You can do it!
A writer’s gotta what they’ve gotta do to keep the story moving. But, speaking as a reader, I’m not going to the back of the book until I’ve finished reading it. I’m taking the scenic route. If an author can’t be bothered to introduce me to the concepts along the way, I don’t think it’s on me to fill in the blanks.
NSHSUED: The New Stamford Housing Service Under the Educational Department. It is a 22nd century bureaucratic organization that regulates the dispersal of page three of the standard seventeen-page housing contract through the various vetting organizations that determine whether or not the applicant deserves to have page four of the contract sent to the various other departments.
RIDS: Retroactive Intestinal Dystopia Syndrome. A nasty stomach virus that causes the upper and lower tract to be run under a brutal dictatorship under a rogue nanobot. Due to the contradictory nature of time travel, a person usually suffers under this virus before they actually get it.
IRTSU: Interbacclauriate Roundtable of Testimonial Science Universities. A quarterly meeting of the vice-deans and chief administrative bursars of the coalition of Fourteen Testimonial Science Universities (FTSU). These meetings are meant to settle the standards of teaching Testimonial Science to anyone weak-willed enough to listen. The actual purpose of the IRTSU is to leave town and drink in an expensive hotel.
FTSU: Weren’t you paying attention to the previous entry?
Testimonial Science: A branch of religion that applies the foundation of the scientific method to religion, then totally discards the results.
LHA: The Lakefront Housing Authority. The LHA is a collection of elected Lakefront residents. They meet yearly to settle acceptable front lawn grass lengths, prepare the residents for the “Red Day,” and review landscaping and pool care contracts.
Red Day: The prophesized day of reckoning, wherein the sun will turn red, the moon shine as if covered in blood, and the very leaves of the trees transform into razor-edged shurikens that seek out the lives of the pure. After five weeks of torment, the three cowboys will travel from the east, reducing the homes of the unfaithful into piles of ash that scream and shriek long after the sites have finished burning. It is vital to review any caretaking contracts before the inception of the Red Day.
Resgarmin Beast: A large, intelligent, mythological animal. It is a 20 ft. long beaver with the paws of a lion and the nose of a different beaver.
Kramblangin: A mystical order of knights and ladies whose principal goal (pacifism) is really a front for their bottomless cowardice. Their motto is “Nelfeglin Parsen Fletchiim,” which is ancient Kelvin for “Please, Not the face!”
Kelvin: An ancient, extinct people. Their proclivity to building pre-ruined monuments and purposefully eroded houses of worship have led scholars to believe that they were a society of “drama queens.” Their language lives on, if only to hide the intentions of anyone who uses it and pretend towards a scholarship that they never earned.
Urnita: A large monarchical country bordered by two large rivers and some bad neighbors. The history of Urnita is replete with war, horror, rape, murder, theft, and fiduciary clumsiness. This means that the general citizen of Urnita is exhausted, unable to keep up with current events, and just wants to have an undisturbed lie down.
Cliffs Notes: A greatly shortened summary of a work. It is the result of wringing every single drop of art or enjoyment out of a story and leaving you, the reader, with the desiccated husk of an idea. Good for bullshitting your way through a test you should have studied for, bad for everything else. Being proud of reading a Cliffs Notes version of a novel is like being proud of being really fast at sex.