Books. Covers. Judging.

About writing in general, but I'm a explain the title first. You may have come across the pointless, unreasoning taboo "don't use a made-up word in the title". Uh-huh. But, uh, we're writing science fiction. Screw you.

World of Ptavvs and Languages of Pao might want a word. But the undisputed world-champion of flipping off that rule is C. J. Cherryh, whose output, other than the "Foreigner" books and Exile's Gate, is almost entirely composed of stories with weird words in the titles. "Chanur" in three, "kif", "Kutath", "Shon'jir", "Kesrith", "Shiuan", "Ivrel", "Azeroth"—and Shon'jir has a superfluous Esperanto apostrophe (madam, really!). Even the might-be-expected-to-have-normal-English-titles Rapprochement/Merchanter stories have it; "Downbelow" isn't a word, and neither are "Cyteen" or "Merchanter". Then again there is 40,000 in Gehenna, and Gehenna's at least in the dictionary (but why would anyone give a colony that ill-omened name?).

Also, Silmarillion. Which is, in fact, just a description of the book's subject. But, uh, in Elvish. Because that was how Tolkien rolled, bitches.
  • I was thinking, if you were to give the Silmarillion a Japanese subtitle, would it be Seimeisekki, specifically 晴明石記, "Account of the Pure Light Stones"? It's the literal translation of "Silmarillion" (actually the "ki" part is "Quenta", but...).

    And hey, why does Elvish use the same word as Spanish for "account"?

  • I think it's funny, a bunch of people, talking about writing female characters and "The Chick" archetype, have said "woman isn't a job." Yes it is, and one that makes whatever pays the bills into a sidelight. Thing is, "man" is too, it's just not a job your civilization recognizes.

    Go read some yankee manga—Beelzebub is a tolerably good one—and you'll discover what I mean. "Man" is a job that's two-thirds National Guard, one-third contract attorney, and occasionally dabbles in furniture-moving and grief counseling.

  • The idea of "voice" in fiction is interesting. I think I do a pretty good job of expressing my aliens in the "voice" of the sections where they're the POV characters (I use limited third, because I write in modern English). One thing nobody ever mentions is to use shortcuts, like the fact my felinoids refer to the pelage on your head as "mane", and don't have any idioms for "sweet" (they say "tender" instead).

    Personally another shortcut I use is the aliens use their own units for times, distances/lengths, and weights. Because I hate to break it to you, but other than the Planck units, which are imprecise at best, all units are arbitrary, and there is no rational reason for aliens to use SI or customary units from earth.

    Also, samurai dramas give units in ri and shaku, despite Japan being as metricized as any European country. And their audience copes like grownups.

  • Another thing I've noticed is, all my characters, with a very few exceptions, are me. "The part of me that hates being jerked around", or "the part of me that wishes it could solve all problems by killing", etc., but they're all me. It's not a problem if an author uses self-inserts—because that's the same as characterization, the only mind an author knows anything about is his own. It's a problem when the author only uses his idealized self-insert, and doesn't know there are other ideals others might prefer—and has that idealized self-insert winning over straw opponents.

    Incidentally, I noticed both my SF story's female POV characters are kinda basket cases. But then again, it does take place after a war, and wars are harder on women even when they aren't directly threatened by the fighting—because most soldiers are men, if nothing else, therefore "the people left behind" is a naturally sex-skewed category.

  • Interesting idea over on Superhero Nation about how superpowers might affect one's worldview (anyone else reminded of Niven's thing about how Clark Kent was probably near kindergarten before he understood objects have surfaces?). But I'm not sure I'd agree about telepaths being cynical, although I wholeheartedly endorse telepaths occasionally mentioning others' thoughts as if they'd been spoken aloud. And not just because I have a felinoid telepath occasionally do that when he's overworked (which is real bad, in his order's code—"can press charges" bad).

    But I don't think a telepath would necessarily be cynical, and not just because "he might read nice people's minds". Everyone has impulses (rightly or wrongly) they'd prefer (also rightly or wrongly) others not see. The only people whose minds wouldn't reveal a treasure trove of unkindness are people with mental illnesses like Williams Syndrome that make them congenital ultra-ingenues.

    No, the reason telepathy won't result in cynicism is telepaths, just to get a moment's peace by shutting off their power, would probably be very aware of their minds and thoughts. So they would know that every ugliness they see in others' minds is present in their own. Of course there's still self-delusion and hypocrisy, but telepaths probably wouldn't be any more cynical than any other man of the world. Or at least they'd include themselves in their misanthropy.

  • Apparently people don't like writing in weird accents? I, myself, only don't like it done badly, but then again I am a dialect fetishist. I have dialogue in Cajun English, Cajun French, Mexican Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese (actually almost all the Romance languages in my SF book are the New World dialects), Osaka Japanese, Busan Korean, Austrian German, Canadian English, British English (Cockney, Estuary, and RP), Afrikaner English, Jamaican English, and Jamaican Creole. That last one is going to get me hate mail, because Jamaican Creole looks an awful lot like stereotypical "African broken English", but, uh, yeah, most stereotypes are an idiot's version of a real thing.

    And you can use accents for characterization. My werewolf main, for instance, was born in the Czech Republic but raised here, but he speaks Czech at home; he has a very slight accent and sometimes drops articles, then catches himself and says them again. The priest makes fun of him for it, because he spoke Polish at home but learned not to drop articles ("I had the same issue but I got over it" is one of the few times you're allowed to make fun of someone, sez I). Another werewolf has a thicker Czech accent, where he basically dispenses with articles altogether, and makes past participles with "to be" rather than "to have" (because that's what Czech does)—"I am caught him" instead of "I have caught him", etc.

  • RE: Voice again, I have a villain (who starts becoming progressively more anti-villain while remaining a prick) whose dialogue I'm proud of. He's very much not a nice guy, but he fires off lines like "Passion 'droids, schoolgirl outfits. The less said about this, the better."

    I don't know, "not uninterested in society at large" is a type of villain I hadn't seen before.

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