The Igor system: what goes around, comes around

I used the phrase “Igor system” to someone the other day and got a blank look…

Igor, servant to Dr Frankenstein

The phrase I use is from Terry Pratchett, who has a mostly-related family of characters who are the typical mad-scientist helper: they’re all called Igor (well, it’s not confusing to them), like green bubbly things, talk with a lithp, are pretty good at self-surgery, and swap body parts.

And it’s the body parts where the phrase comes from; you take care of your heart, because it was your dad’s, and someone else could use it after you. You accept the help from an Igor when you’ve had an accident and need a new arm, or a finger, or a liver – and then when it comes to it, you pay that on. You give what’s needed, “because what goes around, comes around.”

And I think it works really well for both the writing community, and for life.

I help a writer who’s just starting out because I was there, once – and so I’ll check over her submissions and help with copy-edits and grammar and how to put names in headers because it pays it forward. I’ll buy a chocolate bar for a friend because hey, it’s been that sort of day. I’ll do my best to listen and support and give that extra bit of help, even when it might be tedious or tiring or something I don’t have to do – because I was there, or I will be, or because it’s the right thing.

And I’m seeing it come back. I’m getting so much support from my colleagues within the writing industry, and I can’t pay that back in any conventional sense – and so I’ll pay it forward: when I’m there, at their stage, with their knowledge – I’ll pay it on to someone who needs it. I’ll recommend books I love and support authors I enjoy and do my best to put energy into things that need the support, because somehow, it’ll come back to me. It’s a version of karma, I guess, but I try to direct it; because I don’t always have the unspecified energy to spend doing randomly good deeds, I try to use that energy where I know I can help most.

So I do my best to live by the Igor system – and if you ever hear me use the phrase, that’s what it is!

Author: kate

Kate Coe is an editor, book reviewer and writer of fiction & fantasy. She writes the sparkpunk GreenSky series and blogs at When she's not working, she fills her spare time in between writing with web design, gaming, geeky cross-stitch and DIY (which may or may not involve destroying things). She also reads far fewer books that she would like to, but possibly more than she really has time for.