[image description: A very old (and somewhat ragged) book cover features a woman in medieval attire with a quill pen in its lower right corner. She leans back – as though exhausted – on a blue and gold checkered tablecloth where an open ink bottle rests. Her pen is dripping past the words ‘psst! do look about the WHOLE page, won’t you please’. The book is surrounded and held tight by a rubber band under which, a piece of worn paper reads, “170, Anne O’Tate – small god of the Footnotes”]
(* As we begin, Anne would like you to note that there is no footnote in her official portrait; she simply entreats all who enter her august presence to look at their surroundings with care, lest smaller aspects of the situation be missed. Do not trouble yourself in seeking something which is not there.)
Anne arose when the first storyteller realized that something had been omitted from their recitation. Something small but vital, while not vital enough to justify hauling the entire tale back to an earlier point in its telling. Something that could be popped in as a verbal aside, or later, when the tale was written down*, as a footnote.
(*Footnotes are so named because they historically appear at the bottom of the page, where they can all too easily be overlooked, rather than being included inline with the text, as they are here. You are permitted to deviate from the norm, when you speak of gods.)
Some consider her a pedantic god, devoted to a precision that is unrealistic when language meets the living, more concerned with the proper placement of punctuation than with the flow of narrative. Those people couldn’t be more wrong. She wants things to be understood, yes, she wants citations and credit where credit is due, but she removes herself and her additions to the text from the main flow of the tale so as not to disrupt. Were she pedantic, she would insist that what she has to say is all that matters. Anne has never done such a thing.
The footnote is a treasure, a crumb of context and additional information beyond price*. If her work is viewed by some as unimportant in these modern times, Anne will only smile and note that every hyperlink falls within her domain; she is archaic and modern at the same time, and she will endure long after many other gods of literary device are gone, faded into memory and prayer.
(* Although some editors will happily tell you the price of every single footnote, what it costs to place and typeset, why they are better left avoided.)
Join Lee Moyer (Icon) and Seanan McGuire (Story) Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for a guide to the many small deities who manage our modern world: