De Romanicorum Theoriarum VI

Thoughts on (or at least easily relatable to) speculative fiction.
  • I am very curious to know why there are basically no aliens in science fiction who are half as alien to the modern Euro-American mindset as the average African or East Asian. If there were obvious conscious worldbuilding involved—the aliens had particular movements that paralleled the history of Western thought—I wouldn't mind it. But cultures in science fiction, whether they're a eugenicist military dictatorship, effete artisans of Byzantine complexity, an all-encompassing bureacracy, a rapacious merchant culture, a Proud Warrior Race—really any of the many space-versions of Nazis, Communists, or various caricatures of the Japanese—always have, except where it would directly interfere with their "hat", the mores of 21st century First World Anglophones from the Northern Hemisphere (okay, in Farscape they're from the Southern Hemisphere).

    I mean, hell, the closest even Farscape ever got to "don't take things from tombs, you'll get cursed" is a goofball, mummy's curse B-plot in one episode. But that's not how the belief works. You won't be cursed because curses were laid on graves to protect them. You'll be cursed because the dead don't like being stolen from, and their wrath ruins your luck. Again: Western assumption, that someone has to do something special before the supernatural happens. Plainly the Catholic priesthood is living rent-free inside your atheo-agnostico-Protty heads. Every other person on the planet thinks that that kind of stuff just happens, getting cursed is as natural as being pregnant because you had sex (yes, yes, the Tiwi—you're only proving my point, because the Tiwi not knowing where babies come from is freaking weird).
  • Logically, "demihuman" should refer to things like half-elves and half-orcs. The "demi" is the "demi" from "demitasse", it means "half". And while "demihuman" was coined in obvious imitation of "demigod", "demigod" refers to the half-divine nature of the being in question. It's also not any kind of actual mythological term, it was coined in the 16th century by Renaissance writers. The Greeks called those people "heroes"; they didn't need the divine-nature issue spelled out for them, because almost all the heroes of myth had cultic status.

    The "almost" implication may, perhaps, be viewed as insulting. A lot of stupid manga translators render the Japanese equivalent of "demihuman", ajin, as "subhuman" (the "A", 亜, means "second, next, after"...also "Asia")—it's probably related to that "subspecies" thing—and "demigods" are less than full gods. So how about "perihumans"? "Peri-" just means "close to, around", no direction specified; the Japanese equivalent would be "kinjin" or "konjin", written 近人 (unfortunately that is also the Chinese for "neighbor", but given the Japanese for "daughter" means "mother" in Chinese, and "OK" means "man of honor", I don't think we're setting any dangerous precedents here).
  • I realized, Song of Ice and Fire/Game of Thrones is just an unusual lag-time on mid-90s Darker and Edgier. The first book came out the year before Spawn got a live action movie and the same year that Rob Liefeld was hired to "re-envision" a number of iconic Marvel heroes, the year after the first Sin City trade came out, and during Mark Millar's run on Swamp Thing.

    So plainly, the pay-cable miniseries was not the way to go—though admittedly pay-cable soft-porn was a big 90s thing. But to truly capture the spirit of Martin's opus (it's really more a Bill the Cat), it should be a graphic novel from Image Comics (or Liefeld's other label, Awesome Comics, no really), written by Millar and drawn by Liefeld. Todd MacFarlane could make the action figures.
  • Saw the new Judge Dredd movie. It is much more like the comics, but that is not a point in its favor. Except everything and everyone in the comics was 80s-90s Comic Book Punk, a design movement also seen in Lobo, Dark Knight Returns, and Tank Girl. The movie? Only the Judges are not simply wearing our clothes, using our appliances, and driving our cars. And given even the Judges just wear the helmet, gun, and badge from the comics over off-the-rack biker safety-gear, it seems like the production designer (I checked, they actually did have one, Mark Digby) should've had a lot of free time to design future stuff. They also pretty much just took Phoenix or LA and Photoshopped a few slightly bigger buildings here and there. Uh...this, you should really have just blindly copied the comics on. Because Mega-City One is a claustrophobic urban hell where the ground is more or less invisible from where most of the action happens—your version is less claustrophobic than modern New York. The Stallone version actually did it pretty good. Or Coruscant in Star Wars.

    Also, the only reason to make a movie that graphically violent is if you think it's going to impress the eighth graders, maybe get them to let you sit with them at the big-kid table. And if you must have extremely detailed shots of people being blown apart, it might behoove you to study the differences between humans and nematodes. I refer to the fact that people have bones—even if you reduce someone to the consistency of peanut butter, it's going to be crunchy-style. (Also, Slo-Mo was basically Red Eye (or Bloody Eye), from the very first episode of Cowboy Bebop, and, given its particular neurologial effects, it should not be primarily a recreational drug but a performance-enhancing one, and thus could've made for a much better final confrontation.)
  • I wonder if I should actually have a paragraph explaining that the translators in my books combine rules-based with statistical corpus-analysis? We can't do that yet—checking our rules against a corpus or our statistical against rules—because of hardware constraints, but 24th century technology is just a bit more capable.

    Google Translate uses a statistical algorithm rather than rules-based, and while rules-based breaks down with long sentences, Google Translate generally can't even do a single, one-clause Chinese or Japanese sentence without spitting out gibberish. Half the time when it does Chinese, it would've done better with a literal word-for-word translation—many English-based creoles (Jamaican Patois, for instance) work almost exactly like literally-translated Chinese, and most English speakers have only occasional difficulties understanding those when they're not spelled phonetically.

    When your translator's algorithm yields a worse result than literal word-for-word, your algorithm is broken. Sorry.
  • I was thinking about the fact that ideas are not bound by the limits of material commodities. Analyzed in those terms, the "marketplace of ideas" (to use a phrase that should be banned) is roughly a post-scarcity economy. And that made me realize why post-scarcity economies don't and can't actually exist, and why so many of the people who think they could also fall for the Glazier's Fallacy. The issue is opportunity costs. Even ideas have those, in a way: if you think one thing is true, you can no longer think that of its contradictions. If you fix broken windows, that's time you can't use making new windows.

    Of course, most of the idiots who prattle about post-scarcity economies also think immortality is achievable through technology. The less stupid of them think it will be by mind-uploading, and I've talked about the problems with that. The more stupid think it can be achieved by medicine, only for some reason they always imagine it as a one-time deal, rather than perpetually needing to re-apply (probably quite invasive) anti-aging treatments. Think vampires, not Olympian gods—"You'll never grow old, Michael, and you'll never die. But you must feed ." Just like how, though cars and planes have essentially ended food-scarcity (except in places with Communist or nonexistent governments), once-worthless petroleum is now the foundation of entire national economies. Every elimination of scarcity brings a new scarcity, connected to the means by which the old one was eliminated.
  • I have elsewhere talked about "alpha males", which properly means "married men with children", but I haven't mentioned "beta males". You know what's funny about it? In 9/10 of your interactions, the most dominant person is the beta, and cannot aspire to anything higher. A beta, in a wolf-pack (where the idea comes from) is the eldest or otherwise most dominant child (beta males are eldest sons, beta females eldest daughters). It's usually an adult from a previous litter of the alpha pair. It tends to its younger siblings, and gets to eat before they do.

    Now, as I've said, "society" is just a peace-treaty between families not to kill each other over territory. This peace is maintained by treating unrelated conspecifics, who are not being sought as mates, as kin. And since in the vast majority of such interactions, nobody stands to you as a father or a child, the only relationship is siblings (again, "spirit of brotherhood" is entirely accurate). The beta is the most dominant sibling, so properly, a person who dominates socially without becoming a father figure should not be called an alpha (fe)male, but a beta.

    Interestingly, the Chinese word for "Mister", that gives us "sensei" in Japanese, literally means "eldest brother".
  • On the subject of "put some damn work into your xenobiology", have you seen the more recent reconstructions of pterosaurs? The main length of their forelegs (which were only wings when they took off, which they apparently did by jumping) was their metacarpals! Seriously, they have a fairly short upper arm, then a short forearm, and then the bones of their hands make up at least the same length as the previous two joints combined.

    This, of course, looks freakish, like their forelimbs are backwards dog-legs with the toes on backwards. The load-bearing part of their foreleg was just the first three fingers (the fourth being the one that supports the wing), and they had a weird little bone that might be a modified hand- or wrist-bone or might be something pterosaurs evolved all on their own, probably with help from shoggoths. The weird thing is, while their wrists were so freaky long? Their hind feet were plantigrade. Lovecraftian giraffe-crocodile in the front, black bear in the back, like some twisted walking mullet.

    The reason this is important, of course, is we never thought an animal would use its metacarpals the way dogs use their metatarsals. Think of possible modifications to the basic "four limbs, head full of sensory-organs" that's very likely for alien life, at least when designing alien animals if not for designing aliens themselves.
  • But hey, what about, say, trilateral or pentilateral or n-lateral symmetries, for aliens? I confess to being doubtful. A very few animals, almost none of them with anything you'd really call a brain, and some plants, have that kind of rotational symmetry.

    Pretty much nothing but cnidarians, things we used to think were the same as cnidarians, and echinoderms has rotational symmetry, and the echinoderms have bilateral as larvae. I think it might have to do with gravity; "up" and "down" are the same for every animal on the planet, and most echinoderms, cnidarians, and ctenophores, like plants, largely orient toward up and down motion (think how jellyfish or sea cucumbers move). Other animals move forward and back, instead, but still inside a gravity well, so four of their dimensions are determined for them, hence bilateral symmetry. Maybe it's a rule that organisms are symmetrical only across an axis that isn't determined for them by motion (gravity is motion)?

    And I think if a creature is not going to be a flying mushroom (seriously, think about what jellyfish actually do—and sea anemones aren't even moving mushrooms), it's unlikely to orient toward vertical motion (the orientation of vegetation), and thus unlikely to develop radial symmetry. And if it does have a lifestyle where being shaped like a mushroom is helpful, why's it develop brains?


Finally Fresh Enough

I've looked and looked and looked and could never find video of Herbert West's most quintessential speech, the one from Bride of Re-Animator that I quoted before. Now I did.
I also found out it is possible to include an end-time in an embedded Youtube link.

This, incidentally, is why Jeffrey Combs is the best mad scientist ever.


Stuff and Stuff IV

Material culture thoughts, mostly fictional/speculative.
  • I have been misled for years! I had always thought that one tried to catch an opponent's sword with the edge of one's own, but no, you use the flat (possibly the back, if your sword is single-edged). The term in German longsword fighting (the best-documented historic style in Europe) is "mit der Flech", literally "with the flat". I had been inappropriately analogizing from how you block with your arm in unarmed fighting, but steel is much more flexible than bone...except when it's been hardened to create a cutting edge, and then, because "hard = brittle", you can actually create fractures that will spread till your blade shatters.

    I guess it just goes to demonstrate the cardinal rule: research, research, research. I need to go have a look through several things I've written (also make it clearer that swordsman don't so much "block" as parry, i.e. deflect, more the sort of thing associated with, say, wihng cheun rather than karate—something I have always known, but been somewhat careless about conveying).
  • Why do people act like caseless ammunition is some huge sci-fi innovation? The Franco-Prussian War was fought with caseless ammunition, the Dreyse and Chassepot "needle" rifles (named for the shape of their firing pins), whose cartridges had paper wrappers that burned up when the round was fired. I don't know how well the paper burned, or if it fouled the barrel, but plainly it worked well enough "to be going on with", as the British expression goes.

    I imagine, however, that the paper wrapper, which didn't keep the powder dry and could probably get messed up any number of other ways, was just another variable you didn't need on the battlefield, and so they replaced it with brass. Those were also single-shot guns, you couldn't load multiple paper cartridges from a magazine.
  • Was thinking of maybe redoing my story so the zledo are using handheld railguns, but there are definite physical limits to that tech. And the metric-patching guns have far more wiggle-room, we know just a skosh more about magnets than we do about using the Casimir effect to create negative-mass exotic matter and patch together stress-energy tensor metrics. Also, I don't think we (or anyone else) are ever gonna have rail-pistols, again, "definite physical limits".

    One idea I've seen kicked around is a one- or two-shot anti-tank railgun, basically a purely kinetic recoilless gun. One problem, though: the means by which "recoilless" was achieved for rockets probably aren't available with a railgun. The exhaust, after all, pushes the gun forward as the projectile leaves it, keeping the shooter from being knocked back (which is why it's dangerous to stand behind someone who has one, unless becoming a demonstration of the Kzinti Lesson appeals to you).
  • Know what the bike-helmet of the future might well look like? A stocking cap. We're actually making them in limited numbers now, for things like snowboarding. They have a layer of shear-thickening fluid inside them. I would really like to know if the shear-thickening fluid in question, trademarked as "d3o", has to be bright orange, or if they just chose to make it bright orange because they're awesome.

    Another idea that I'm definitely going to add to my book (the city where most of the first and third ones take place is at its planet's equator) is refrigerated clothes. The technology we currently only use in pro-sports mascot suits and movie costumes would be quite a boon to the populace of warmer climes—not only for the sake of fashion (and not getting your legs shredded by brush or bit by snakes) but also in terms of ecology. Coolant linings, if properly disposed once they wear out, almost certainly have less ecological impact than air-conditioning a whole office building.
  • In the interest of pointing out to people that giant robots are not unrealistic (though their portrayal usually is), consider the following. Titanium alloy as used in armor plating is much less dense than steel, 4.45 g/cm3 to dense steel's 8.05. A known walking robot like Asimo is 48 kg and 1.3 m tall (a human as small as Asimo would weigh 30 kg, an Asimo the size of a human would weigh 165 kg). If, for simplicity's sake, we assume that all of Asimo except the battery (6 kg) is made of automotive magnesium alloy, density 1.8 g/cm3, then replacing it all with armor-grade titanium gives us an Asimo massing 103.8 kg. Making that 10 meters tall would give a mass 455 times greater ((10/1.3)3), which comes to 47.26 megagrams, the same mass as an M60 Patton tank.

    Of course, no actual military hardware is made entirely of armor; even most tanks are made, in many of their components, of the aforementioned automotive magnesium alloy, with only a relatively thin shell of armor. It's entirely realistic for a mecha to be 10 meters tall and mass 25-30 tons. Given that automotive alloy is only 70% denser than a human body (1.06 g/cm3), it may well be more realistic to model a walking robot as a man in a suit of armor. A human being averages 70 kg and 1.73 meters tall; a man made of automotive alloy would mass 119 kg. A suit of full plate armor made of titanium alloy would mass 11 kg (steel armor is 20 kg), bringing an armored magnesium man's mass to 130 kg. Making him 10 meters tall increases his mass 193 times, to 25.11 megagrams, the mass of a Bradley (which is a light-to-medium tank in everything but treads and lacking a big main cannon).
  • So...a bunch of people think we're going to 3D-print our clothes in the future. I doubt it, since 3D-printers are never going to be "one in every household" affairs, any more than laser-etchers or lathes are, and there is more to fashion than "personal expression" (actually, "personal expression" is virtually nonexistent in fashion, the only thing fashion generally "expresses" is in-group identification). Remember how, parallel with electronic books, we were all going to get paper books printed to-order at bookstores? Yeah, that didn't happen either.

    Which is not to say no garments will come out of 3D printers. Custom clothes will probably expand well outside their current tiny market share, being so much simpler now. A certain amount of self-indulgence is probably likely at some point—all of society now being in the position of aristocrats with tailors on retainer. We may be looking forward to fashion-movements as weird as the ones that France had just after the Terror, like the Muscadins and the Incroyables, only probably without the political element.

    Also? We might print underwear, or more to the point bras—I have two sisters, do you my fellow dudes know what a hassle bras are? Apparently they are sized on somewhat the same basis as Eastern Bloc computer parts, only without the uniformity, and even the alleged authorities disagree with each other over how much to round a given measurement ("nearest inch? or two inches?" being apparently a hotly debated point). Plus manufacturers appear not to believe that certain size combinations exist, much like how in my youth I could never find pants that were long enough that weren't too loose at the waist.
  • This article pretty much speaks for itself, and is extremely interesting. I know I unconsciously incorporated most of that "gestural vocabulary" when my characters interact with volumetric displays—even the alien ones. I'm a little ashamed of myself for not having consciously designed a gestural interface, but then again I probably would've gone with most of the same ideas anyway. I mean, how is an alien going to dismiss something, if he's using his hands (or hand-analogues)? Well, he's going to wave it off, dogs understand that gesture.

    Of course, when people complain that aliens have the same gestures as humans, it's almost completely beside the point to ask them if they know that a particular gesture is only found in a particular culture, or is unique to humans. Of course they don't, learning about other cultures and animal behavior is hard, and sometimes involves discovering that some things are universal. It's much easier to congratulate themselves on "knowing" that everything about their culture is only found in their culture, and everyone else's culture is completely different. That's why to this day nobody from Europe has even been able to gesticulate his meaning to a Korean, Zulu, or Zuñi, nor vice-versa, let alone actually learn each other's languages. Right?
  • It looks like we're not going to be getting away from silicon as an information-storage material any time soon. Mostly because the next gen of optical storage, probably never be replaced, involves laser-etching nanostructural changes into quartz. And quartz, as we all know, is silicon dioxide (little pieces of it are called "sand").

    I kinda want to stab every single journalist who reported on this, as well as whoever decided to call it "superman memory crystal". A lot of stabbing to get through, I realize. But dammit, it's made of quartz, that doesn't mean it looks like a freaking trigonal crystal, so why did every single media outlet (and again, seemingly the scientists themselves) go out of their way to make the public picture the Fortress of Freaking Solitude?

    Besides, everyone knows that's Kryptonian sunstone, not quartz.


Family Resemblance?

So I was reading bioethics blogs, trying to jumpstart the creative process (I needed to revise a bioethics issue in one of my SF books), and I came across a quote.
Every human being should have not only that right but the passionate duty to reach out with all his or her strength to help others, even if it involves such controversial technology as cloning. If that means playing God, then it is playing God in a good way.
Michael West, Ph.D., Advanced Cell Technologies; therapeutic cloning advocate
I'm guessing this is a scion of the Arkham Wests? Is his PhD from Miskatonic?
Blasphemy? Before what? God? A God repulsed by the miserable humanity He created in His own image? I will not be shackled by the failures of your God. The only blasphemy is to wallow in insignificance. I have taken the refuse of your God's failures and I have triumphed. There! THERE is my creation!
Herbert West, Bride of Reanimator


(Unnamed scifi thoughts post)

Self-explanatory really.
  • Because I read a lot of speculative fiction, with other species in it, I keep seeing people use "subspecies" to mean "inferior species". And seriously, where the hell would you get the idea that's what it means? Do you also think "subdivision" is a euphemism for "ghetto"? Do you think a "subcommittee" is where they stick the bureaucrats they don't like, with leaky roofs and old equipment in its meeting rooms?

    I realize that prepositional idioms are weird, but nobody not exerting deliberate effort to be offended would make this error. If you think "he's under you" and "he's beneath you" are the same thing...then you have been trained to treat synonyms as entirely interchangeable in all circumstances! A vile habit inculcated by thesauruses—devil's catechisms!

    ...Sorry, got a bit excited there, I realized the root of the problem as I was writing about it. Thesauruses, ancient enemy of man, once again you sow misery wherever you go.
  • There appears to be universal agreement among science fiction bloggers that science fiction requires adherence to the "Enlightenment" worldview. Very often they speak of the Enlightenment as inventing the idea of "modern progress", whereas every civilization before it had looked back to a Golden Age in the past. Leftists see in the Enlightenment the beginnings of their own egalitarianism; Libertarians locate the ideal of limited government in its thought.

    But...some of us have actually learned history. The Enlightenment was just the second (terminal) phase of Renaissance Classicism; all of its thinkers looked back to a Golden Age, either in the Classical era or in some imaginary prehistory of the "Noble Savage". It was the age of political absolutism, its most quintessential figures being aspiring utopian dictators like Rousseau and Voltaire or cynical despots like Frederick II von Hohenzollern and Joseph II von Hapsburg. It was also the age of the blood-and-soil nation-state, when minority languages were systematically denigrated, sometimes (as in Ireland and many Native Americans) almost to the point of eradication, and when the central government's culture was imposed on all its subjects by compulsory education.

    Of course, given that everyone who talks this way is treating the Enlightenment as a Golden Age, in direct contradiction of what they claim is the whole point of the Enlightenment, it seems unlikely they'll notice a few measly contradictory facts. (Another of the facts they will ignore is that "modern" and "progress" are both Medieval concepts—the Medievals having much less of the "Golden Age" belief than the Enlightenment, since all the eras they could look back to were pagan...and they saw man in the unfallen state as inferior to man in the redeemed state, kindly recall that their favorite paradox was "felix pecca Adae", the "fortunate sin of Adam".)
  • A lot of soft-SF fans, rightly defensive over their stuff's genre cred, try to say "Oh, well, economics and sociology and anthropology are sciences too!" Well and good, quite true...now can I trouble you to point me to a single work of soft science fiction that actually incorporates them?

    Seriously, the vast majority of soft science fiction is based on the unexamined orthodoxies of some political theory. Most of the time it's leftist—socialist, post-colonial, feminist, etc.—but sometimes it's Libertarian. I cannot think of any soft science fiction that is actually based on the "soft" sciences themselves, certainly never without a heavy Lysenkoist admixture.
  • I have said elsewhere that most of the complaining about cliches is actually substituting "have I seen this before?" (a very easy question to answer) for "is this worth a tinker's damn?" (much more complex). And I stand by it, because there is not a single "cliche" that isn't one for a reason, you can even do fantasy prophecies and Chosen Ones well (hint, study the history of fatalism).

    But for some reason, a lot of the things people say are cliches, are no more cliche than "things fall down instead of sideways" ("down" is "the direction that things fall", sorry). This seems to be more of a problem in science fiction—I've gone over how aliens are actually fairly likely to have endoskeletons, four limbs, and heads that have all their sensory organs on them, and are going to have emotions and instincts comparable to ours; and how every attempt to do something else in science fiction has pretty much resulted in reinventing the wheel, only going with an octagon instead of a circle.

    I just read a blog where a person complains about rocket ships being unrealistic, because we now do everything virtually. Now, this was not a science fiction blog, this was one of the stinking mundanes, but can you actually get to the age of majority in this society and not know about the light-speed limit, and the massive scale of space? Mars is four minutes away at its closest point, for radio signals. The nearest star is four years. There is no way to do anything in space-travel "virtually" without actually schlepping to the place where you want to do it.
  • It occurs to me to wonder if, perhaps, some things are obscured by our limited perspective. This is occasioned by people praising the astronomical alignment of Aztec and Mayan sites—which alignments are also features of advanced Neolithic sites in the Old World, e.g. Stonehenge. The people of Neolithic Eurasia also built great megalithic sites, some of them comparable to to Mayan or Aztec ones (Göbekli Tepe, for example), and also lacked the wheel. It could well be, in other words, that those cultures had astronomy (and perhaps even math) as advanced as that of the Maya or Aztecs, and simply abandoned it when they developed algorithmic math and the wheel. Possibly the ritual life that was centered on sites like Stonehenge and Göbekli Tepe was rendered obsolete by new cults brought in with the increased trade that wagons made possible, or maybe the cults themselves decayed since they could ship in food when the crops were bad.

    Most young people now are much worse at math than the generation immediately preceding the invention of calculators. As a new technology (and algorithms are a technology) comes in, it may make skills associated with the old one atrophy; nobody nowadays is capable of making even the most routine item of Neolithic flint cutlery, and you don't know much about caring for horses, now do you? People in the 40s and 50s wrote science fiction about future generations that were illiterate, because everything was recorded—I want to say they were wrong, because reading things is so much easier, but the number of people who seem to prefer videos to transcripts suggests I might be in a (sane) minority on that. Nevertheless, think about what skills a society may abandon as its technology changes. Also, the fact that we cannot see the Neolithic origins of civilization in the Old World (which should objectively be called that because it is 5 times the age of the New World, in terms of human habitation) suggests boundless possibilities to any science fiction writer worth his salt.
  • One with a taste for social pathology might find an interesting subject in the endless, wearisome provinciality of the token-mongering PCniks. Would you believe their actual objection to the ethnic mix of Star Trek casts is that there's only ever one black person and one Asian? Rather than, what should offend far more, that everyone is an American? Sulu's from Hawaii, Harry Kim is from San Francisco, Hoshi Sato is from...California, I think...can anyone writing Star Trek find "Asia" on a map? All the white people except Chekov, O'Brien, and Picard are from America. The black people are uniformly African-American, except in the first series, which had both Uhura and Doctor Mbenga.

    Also? There's a whole continent that is completely ignored: where the hell is Latin America in Star Trek? For that matter, India? Southeast Asia? The only person whose ethnicity isn't "Anglo as hell" is the doctor in DS9, who's Levantine of some description (Syrian, I want to say?). Voyager had two Hispanic actors, but one of them plays a "half-Klingon" (treated as full), and the other is their offensive television Indian, Chakotay, and the only time we remember he's Native is when there's some kind of "vision quest" no Pacific Northwest culture has—and I'm pretty sure they don't do facial tattooing, either, that's Sioux women.

    While we're on the subject, "uhuru" is the Swahili word for "freedom", I don't know if it's ever used as a girl's name but if it were it wouldn't end in "a", can we maybe not impose a Western European naming pattern on a totally unrelated language? (That one doesn't even go for Greek or Sanskrit, "systema" and "chandra" are both masculine nouns.) "Hoshi" is seldom used as a girl's name on its own—Japanese names are usually two kanji, that's only one, and the single-kanji ones almost always have three syllables. That kanji also has much more common name-readings, like "Akari" and "Kirara" (the latter literally means "twinkly", but it's written with the kanji for "star"). Don't even get me started on "Sulu", which (leaving the "L does not exist" issue to one side) is like naming a Mexican character "Hacer".
  • Finally, my brother and I were re-watching Farscape, and I realized, the "vaguely-Eastern female vocals = space" thing, visible in things like Halo and BSG and a bajillion other things, starts with that show.