“Mind records are the one true forever”: Translation and Dead Languages in Marie Brennan’s Turning Darkness Into Light

@tk - I hope this is helpful for your writing :D I think it's fun to sit over old manuscripts with a grammar and a dictionary, which I recognize isn't something most people think is fun, and seeing that reflected so well in this book was such a delight!

A Prank on the Emperor? Names and Vocabulary in The Goblin Emperor

Pneumatic, the entire point of this exercise was to do it without looking at the Handbook in the back of the book to see how much I could reverse-engineer from the data I had.

“Such a relief, to have a language with the right words”: Native Tongue and Women’s Language

Women's speech like some of you mention (like in Japanese, with certain structures used by women, such as ending sentences with 'wa') are a different thing than La'adan. Some cultures have taboos around women saying certain things, like the names of older male relatives, so they have to refer to them in an indirect way. These are markers based in cultural norms.

Wub's point that once we name a thing, we give it form, is a good one, and I agree. Having words for genderfluidity or nonbinariness or asexuality gives people a framework to have a discussion around, which is extremely valuable. These concepts already existed, and the people they applied to wanted a better way to discuss them. I'm intimately familiar with the power the feeling of "there's a word for that? I'm not alone??" has.

This is, to me, a similar but non-identical idea to La'adan. Theorists looked at the existing terminology and came up with terms that worked better. (This is basically jargon in its strictest definition. A statistician's definition of the word "significant" is different than an English professor's.) Activists looked at the existing terminology and decided it was inadequate for their experience and started using terms that were better for them. People communicated these to each other, and with the internet, it became so much easier to do so. And now we have a flourishing vocabulary to talk about sexuality and the intersections of oppression. But it's all still within the framework of (US) English.

La'adan, however, is an entire separate language, like Russian is to English. The words and grammar are constructed to reflect things that women* find important. Some of the things it does are pretty neat and exist in real-world languages, like evidentiality: I know it because I saw it myself vs I know it because X saw it and told me vs I know it because X heard about it from Y and then told me. Is that inherently important to the state of being female? This is my skeptical face. Sure, it's cool, and it'd be interesting, but it's not crucial enough for my general expression that I need a specific affix to mark it. Like, we can already do that in English with the phrase "my friend told me" or "I read on Twitter." Is an affix more efficient? Yeah, probably, but evidentiality isn't something I need to indicate every time I talk about something.

Expressing Culture Through Language in A Memory Called Empire

@birgit a linguist is not a prescriptivist and is aware of language as it is used and how it changes over time. That said, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/visa

Lang Belta: The Language of The Expanse

@WOL hmmmmmmm, OE was already becoming analytical before the Danes, and the other modern Germanic languages also became more analytical than synthetic on their own without Danish influence or the suggestion that they're creoles. (I am very skeptical about English as any sort of creole. There is absolutely contact influence from both ON and middle(?) French, but a lot of the changes can't be distinguished from regular change that the rest of the Germanic family underwent.) 

Gothic had demonstrative pronouns which were not equivalent to definite articles, but in OE and OHG they sometimes were. OE nominal morphology was already collapsing (see the paradigm for, e.g. ceaster), so articles took the place of inflection. Verbal morphology was also leveling - see the unified plural. It simplified further, yes, and more than most of its cousins - with Dutch having the next-simplest, at 3 verb forms (1, 2/3, plural). Modern German has 5 (1/3 plural are identical). The synthetic passive was already almost gone in Gothic and was being replaced by the periphrastic (equivalent of) werden + participle that we see in modern German.

I have read Foreigner, and Cherryh is one of my favorite authors :D

(As a side note, I find listening to Dutch extremely frustrating because it sounds like words I should know but I don't and it's so close to being understandable. I can sort of read Dutch if I pretend it's weirdly-spelled German, but Dutch pronunciation is Very Different.)

Lang Belta: The Language of The Expanse

@Hector Thanks? I'm glad I can put my degrees to work ;)

@Sunspear Language change is SO cool and interesting, and there's an entire subfield dedicated to studying the cultural/sociological aspects (sociolinguistics), which has a further subfield that looks at variation and what that means (variationist socio). Bill Labov's New York department store study (fourth floor) was if not the earliest, certainly among the first, paper published in this field, and that was 1968. (the book chapter linked was published later.) In the last 50-odd years, the techniques have been refined and it's just SO COOL.

@Taberius Rex I think they still mention the belter nod being a shake of the hand (which I imagine like ASL yes) later in the series, but it isn't emphasized as much. That could be related to the belter body language already being established and the authors not wanting to 'waste' space on saying something they've said 300 times already (because there is a LOT of plot in the latest book, so more space for that).

@thumb I think I agree about the actors. The book feels natural but the show feels less convincing on occasion, though I don't have the ear for it that you do.

Lang Belta: The Language of The Expanse

There was, for a while, a very popular but extremely wrong* theory that Middle English was a creole. The situation in the Danelaw was very extensive and deep contact, due to both power in the hands of the Danes and to intermarriage, but because Old English and Old Norse were both Germanic languages, they were typologically very similar, so any effects of one on the other would be hard to suss out. We know that Old English experienced strong cultural pressure from ON (Sarah Thomason's borrowing scale), because some core vocabulary was replaced, notably sister. English is a West Germanic language, and the West Gmc form is swester or schwester. Sister comes from the North Gmc systir. (In addition to taking both OE and ON, I read some pretty cool papers on language contact in the Danelaw for my MA exam.) (Thomason has some papers online: http://www-personal.umich.edu/~thomason/papers/papers.html


Language, Warfare, and the Brain as Computer: Babel-17

@Ben #13 - it's on my list! I'm working on getting a copy through my library.

The Signifier and the Signified: Semiotics and China Miéville’s Embassytown

The "why" for EzRa is hinted at in the book, but I don't think it's outright confirmed: the government wants to get more control of their planet, which means providing the ambassadors themselves, rather than letting them grow naturally. Or that was my takeaway from it. The "how" involved brain augmentation or something, and one of them was a great con man/cold reader.

(I didn't mention the whole "they cannot pronounce the other half of the name" when one of the ambassadors dies thing, and how that just ... well, it was a large part of the reason I quit reading it back in 2012.)

When Speech Is an Assault: Linguistics and First Contact in Peter Watts’ Blindsight

@dptullos/15 - To be fair, I was focusing exclusively on the linguistics-adjacent ideas, not doing lit crit or a plot summary - but I do agree that the plot serves mainly as a vehicle for "Look At These Cool Ideas!" 

“Law and order were nothing—not even words any longer”: Types of Aphasia and Octavia Butler’s “Speech Sounds”

@Carl - thank you! TIL! I am defo not a neurologist ;) I learned about Broca's and Wernicke's in relationship to strokes when I was in pharmacy school (some pathophys or other), but we didn't go very deep into neurology, for obvious reasons.

Linguistics in Arrival: Heptapods, Whiteboards, and Nonlinear Time

@ Jana - I liked Hoshi well enough, and the alien doctor was fun. I had to google to find out that Porthos was the dog, and that's fair, dogs are cute :D

Linguistics in Arrival: Heptapods, Whiteboards, and Nonlinear Time

@94, 96 - There was definitely a scene like that in B5, because I haven't seen Crusade. I want to say it was season 2, maybe early season 3, because it was Sheridan and Ivanova, and it was before all the plot started happening all the time. There were new aliens, and they had a big translation matrix to upload to B5, whose computers had to process it for their translator systems, and it was going to take another 4 hours, or something. Maybe these aliens had had contact with the Minbari, so there was already some sort of structure in place they could base translations around, so it wasn't their computers just trying to figure each other's languages out. I dunno. Probably still not very plausible, but there was a veneer of trying to make it not look like magic.

Re Hoshi - in the dozen or so episodes I watched, there was an attempt to depict some of the painful learning process on occasion, or showing the UT still learning and not being perfect. I'd expect that, especially in humanity's first forays into the black (since the Vulcans weren't sharing info). But there was just so much "OMG NO WTF WHY" that I stopped watching. (Well, also I hated half the characters and didn't care about the rest, so...)

Re UT in general - without it, there's no "alien civilization of the week" TV show, so it's a necessary evil. You can get more deeply into the perils of first contact and alien languages in novels, of course. But even with UT, make the handwavium plausible enough that it doesn't make people hit pause and yell about the nonsense. (I assume this is what physicists feel like a lot of the time. I know this is what medical types feel like when watching House or other hospital dramas.)

Linguistics in Arrival: Heptapods, Whiteboards, and Nonlinear Time

@sunspear/76 haha yeah, that sounds accurate :D

I'd never watched B5 before, and it was so good. I mean, yeah, it was totally 90s, and the Zima-sponsored episode sure was a thing that happened, but yeah. The politics were a bit too real.

And I liked the way they talked about languages, and their translator machines actually required data to work, and the computer took time to process it.

Linguistics in Arrival: Heptapods, Whiteboards, and Nonlinear Time

@74 - I only made it halfway through the first season of Enterprise before I decided to watch something else (Babylon 5), and I was initially cautiously optimistic about Hoshi. And then they had her say "I can almost hear the syntax" and I wanted to throw my tablet across the room. 

Linguistics in Arrival: Heptapods, Whiteboards, and Nonlinear Time

Hopdavid, there seems to be nothing that I or anyone else in this thread can say that will convince you, so I am not going to attempt to do so any further.

Linguistics in Arrival: Heptapods, Whiteboards, and Nonlinear Time

@45 - whoops, my bad. I'm not a big history buff, so I should probably have googled it.

Other people have commented on Hop's question as well as I can; I'm not sure where the disconnect is, except maybe birgit @48 hits on it: Cryptography is about the symbols, linguistics is about the language.

Besides, if it were just that easy to decipher unknown languages using cryptographic techniques, Linear A and the Voynich manuscript would be solved by now. Plus, two of the people who broke the PURPLE code in WW2 were unable to use their cryptanalytic techniques to decipher Mayan writing. 

Linguistics in Arrival: Heptapods, Whiteboards, and Nonlinear Time

@23 - The argument is explained well in the Language Log post and its comments, but here's a summary: A cryptographer or cryptanalyst works with known languages that are encoded in a way to hide what they're saying. The language and the cryptographic system must be known to both parties (encoder and decoder). This is why code talkers were so effective in WW2: Navajo was completely unknown to the Germans.

A linguist works with a language they don't know in order to describe it. German isn't an encryption of English; neither is Xhosa or Russian or Tagalog. They're languages with their own sets of vocabulary and rules. Linguists who do field work have techniques to elicit basic vocabulary and sentences (My name is Sarah, this is a dog, I like to eat apples), then build up to more and more complex vocabulary and sentences.

@21 - I didn't know that. That's cool!

Linguistics in Arrival: Heptapods, Whiteboards, and Nonlinear Time

@2/CLB I can respect that :) When I rewatched it for this post, I reminded myself of the plot points and the time aspects and all that at the beginning, preparing myself to be critical, then I got caught up in the emotional beats of the story, which is probably why the big premise being whack didn't bother me.

@3 - Being able to think in a foreign language is a crucial part of becoming fluent (I am also a college language teacher), but it doesn't make me German to be able to do so. I'm guessing the "rewiring" they talk about in the movie relates to Chomsky's Universal Grammar/X-bar/minimalist syntax, which has to choose different parameter settings for different languages. (I am not a syntactician, and I am not a fan of generative syntax to begin with, but that's a completely different blog post. And a huge controversy in linguistics, tbh.)

@5 - I read the short story to compare it to the movie, and the detail on the field work was even better. I didn't want to be repetitive, though, so I didn't include it here. The story was different in some pretty significant ways, and I think they both worked for their medium. The ending in the story would have been confusing and unsatisfying in a movie, and the movie was perhaps too pat for prose.

@7 - I don't disagree! The point of this was to give my opinion on whether the execution of the what-if part could overcome my natural skepticism toward the premise, and it did. That, and to point out all the things it did right re field work and what popular conceptions of linguists.

@9 - I think that's why I was able to set aside my skepticism. The emotional beats landed right.

Good Fiction, Questionable Science: The Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis

@141 - That also makes sense, and is probably more accurate!

This video about a Mayan language (which is tenseless - and according to strong S-W would mean that they can't conceive of time) was in my youtube recommendations today. (Spoiler: they use aspect and mood to demarcate times.) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ttq0S4cuIHA

Good Fiction, Questionable Science: The Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis

@136 CLB - that worked, thanks for the suggestion! I thought maybe it was a browser extension doing weird/annoying things, since I couldn't get it to load on my phone or tablet, either, but clearing the cache worked.

Good Fiction, Questionable Science: The Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis

Hello all, for some reason, my computer isn't showing me any comments unless I open an incognito window, so I have gotten far behind on the comments :(

A general note - I am not a devotee of Chomsky by any means. His universal grammar is a useful model, but I don't think that's how the brain literally works. I will change my mind if a neuroscientist can prove it, but, well. Ethics and all.

Note the second: the books I read are dependent upon what I can get from my libraries. Fortunately, Georgia has a network of libraries that do ILL to each other, and I have access to a university library.

@85 - I have just opened your Tamarian grammar page, and I will be looking at it eagerly! Also, please look forward to my July column, which will be on Arrival. AND I really want to write about cursing (and worldbuilding through it and slang) at some point, because it is a really cool topic.

@90 - there is a very common popular notion that multilingualism makes you think differently and that sort of thing; it is extremely questionable in reality.

@94 - I'm sorry you feel that way. This is the first post in what is going to be an ongoing column, in which I will be discussing a variety of linguistics-oriented SFF. It's not an academic paper, nor do I have the available word count to write a 10-15-page paper with references. I did link, however, to posts by prominent linguists. Embassytown is on the schedule for September, and I have my article drafted. (Gotta get ahead while I still have time to read before the semester starts and I have 3 classes to teach.)

@105 - Interesting! I don't follow her twitter account, so I didn't see that tweet. The link I see is that Breq is incapable of telling whether people are male or female because their language doesn't use gendered pronouns. If that's not what she intended with that idea, it's the one that came across to me. It's true that people whose native languages don't use gendered pronouns have trouble using he and she appropriately in English, but they can say "man" and "woman."
*apologies for the extremely binary nature of this; languages are annoying.

@108 - thank you, yes, that's what I was saying :)

@112 - A lot of research into creoles looks at word order (with SVO being the most common because it's "easiest", but you could also argue that SOV is just as easy). I don't know about this particular study, but it sounds interesting.

@118 - Aha! Yes, that makes sense. And thanks for the link!

@127 - I remember reading about general exposure to nouns vs verbs in infancy/toddlerhood varying in different languages in my language acquisition class. I think English was heavy on the nouns, in part because caregivers emphasize them ("Oh, do you want the doggy? Here's the doggy!" with stress on the doggy). (So put me in the "not convinced/need way more evidence" camp.)

Good Fiction, Questionable Science: The Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis

@61 - the summary by @66 is my thinking. There is no evidence that language can shape cognition (although Piaget's model of language acquisition follows the stages of cognitive development - which is discussed in Tomasello 1996 (https://www.karger.com/article/pdf/278478; behind a paywall). I'm not different when I speak German than when I speak English; I don't think about things differently in each language. Different words have different connotations, of course, like cherry tree in the US, aside from "pretty flowers" and maybe "Japan," is associated with George Washington, while in Germany, a Kirschbaum has fruit that's sweeter in the neighbor's yard (rather than grass being greener), and some people aren't good to eat cherries with. (I love idioms.)

The argument that language shapes the way you think because you can't conceive of something unless you have a word for it ... that's Aquinas' reasoning for why god exists: humans can conceive of something greater than themselves, therefore god exists. (NB: I learned about Aquinas in a class I took around 1995. This may be a pithy oversimplification. A review of wikipedia suggest that this was college-me's takeaway of the Tertia Via.)

There's also the aspect that a lot of use of S-W (especially the original "studies" of the time system in Hopi, which, turns out, is actually very wrong) gives off an air of "studying the noble savages who think so differently from us, isn't that just charming/quaint/hilarious," and it doesn't sit well with me. Perhaps this has gotten better in recent years (a lot of early linguists & philologists were pretty damn colonialist and patronizing, not to mention sexist, and some still are, but the field by and large has progressed a great deal).

Anyway. Society shapes culture. Culture reifies society. Language supports both society and culture. Teasing these threads apart is probably impossible. The guy who invented Loglan tried, but, well.

Good Fiction, Questionable Science: The Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis

@49 - *nod* The cognitive hurdles are definitely something to take into consideration for new concepts. Weak Sapir-Whorf might be real. We just don't have a good way to tease apart the threads of language and culture.

One thing I think is really fun about English is contrastive focus reduplication. The most famous paper on this is called "the salad-salad paper," and you can read it here. Basically, English speakers have a way to distinguish between the prototypical X and a specialized X, like "Are you bringing a salad-salad or a potato salad?" or "do you LIKE HIM like him?" It's really neat. When languages have reduplication, it's often used for emphasis, but also plural marking (like in Japanese). I am not expert enough in world languages to say whether English is unique in using it for contrastive focus.

Good Fiction, Questionable Science: The Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis

And a side note - I'm not going to be focusing exclusively on Sapir-Whorf in this series, but since it comes up a lot, I thought I'd start with a brief intro on that. Swears to evade the censors (frak, frell) and fannish slang are on my radar, too, along with universal translation and general depictions of linguist(ic)s in SF. When I have time to re-read it, the Foreigner series is definitely something I want to talk about, and I'm planning to look at Belter creole in the Expanse.

My current list will get me well into 2 years at this point :D

Good Fiction, Questionable Science: The Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis

@32 - I have, and I've used it in class :D (In the chapter where students learn about occupations and majors, because it's funny and it hurts their brains.)

@39 - That's already on my list! It's available through my local library system *and* at the university library, even. (The tricky part about a lot of this column is going to be getting my hands on some of the more obscure and older titles.)

Good Fiction, Questionable Science: The Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis

@20 - that is a question I don't have an answer for!  I don't think anyone does. People argue against Koko having truly acquired language because she seemed to mimic other people's reactions to things. I am definitely not an expert on Koko! There are probably people arguing one side or the other around the internet. Language acquisition isn't my specialty, though I've had a class in it.

back to @21 and Tolkien: I am definitely not an expert in Tolkienian languages, though I sat in on a 3-week intensive about them. The way he designed the Feanorian tengwar was 10000% the way a linguist would do it (and he did the same thing with the runic scripts). And if you look at European (Latin-based) scripts, there's very little rhyme or reason to most of the letters. Sure, ok, B is a P with an extra bump, but the lowercase versions are flipped over, and then you have d...  Basically, he did it for the #aesthetic. 

On to the problem of language change among elves. Tolkien knew this would present a problem and an inconsistency, so he wrote an essay called "Dangweth Pengolod" to address it. It's published in The Peoples of Middle Earth. It's difficult to summarize, because it's written in the voice of an elf and is very ... florid, shall we say. It has to do with memory, basically? But also the elves did it consciously to choose new sounds that were more #aesthetic. 

Good Fiction, Questionable Science: The Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis

@11 - Do you have any examples in books? I also think that would be interesting, but I'm blanking on examples.

@13 - The Germanic root that led to town in English, tuin in Dutch and Zaun in German is neat, because it originally meant fence, enclosure. In English, it became the thing that is enclosed, in Dutch a fenced-in area (garden), and in German it's still the fence. (I think etymology is pretty neat.)

@17 - I'm mostly thinking of the pronoun situation in AJ. It is slightly parallel to real-world languages without gendered pronouns (which leads to people saying "my uncle" and "she"), but in the real world, people still have a distinction between male and female relatives, for example, like mother or father. It's been a while since I read it, but that definitely tripped my "I don't think it would work that way, but I could potentially be convinced" switch.

@21, 27 - The short version of verb classes is approximately this: Historically speaking, strong verbs (the ones who take an -en in the participle) followed a CVC pattern in their root, which changed in each principal part (present, past singular, past plural, participle). What the consonants and vowels were determines which verb class they fell into. This, of course, became extremely messy over time, where the nice, tidy categories of Old High German get muddled by Middle High, and in modern German, it's even worse.

The class I verbs are eg reiten - ritt - geritten, treiben  - trieb - getrieben. Class II includes bieten - bot - geboten. Class III is the singen - sang - gesungen group, and IV is nehmen - nahm - genommen. V is geben - gab - gegeben (but also weben - wob - gewoben - that's one of the messy parts).

Classes VI and VII are unique to the Germanic languages. Class VI is the fahren - fuhr - gefahren group. Class VII used to form its past tense through reduplication, which is evident in Gothic haitan - haihait - haitans. But reduplication fell out of use in the other Germanic languages, and class VII created its own, new pattern of vowel change, such as heißen - hieß - geheißen, lassen - ließ - gelassen. 

I hope this helps (and it's a very superficial overview). The wikipedia article "Germanic strong verb" is quite good and very detailed, if you're interested in a deeper explanation.

@23 - I really want to play with Darmok and Jalad. I love that episode. Idioms are a fascinating subject, and they're so weird. They don't stand up to literal translation for the most part, and sometimes that can lead to humor. I wrote a paper one semester on bilingual German-English humor on the internet (tumblr, specifically), and how much of it is related to overly literal translations of things for the lulz.

Good Fiction, Questionable Science: The Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis

@1 - Thanks! I admit that computer was an off-the-cuff example. But there still had to be a shift from the concept as person who computes to a machine that computes.

@3 - There's not really a difference in whether a language expresses something in 5 words vs 2. Take German for example: the one thing everyone knows about German is that you can smash words together into a frankenword, which then takes several words, or even a sentence, in English. It's more efficient, perhaps, but it doesn't say anything inherent about the culture it comes from. (Think "40 words for snow.")

@everyone leaving their favorite linguistic SF books, thank you! I have a list, but I'm always looking for more.

@10 - I remember reading about that and thinking it was cool, but I don't have any details on them. Natural languages do SO MANY cool things!

Babylon 5 Is the Greatest, Most Terrible SF Series

I just watched B5 for the first time (20 years late to the party). I'd already heard most of the major plot points and spoilers and the like, because pretty much everyone I know loves it (and they were entertained by my periodic live tweeting). Plus, you know, tumblr gifsets.

As far as the politics goes, watching the rise of a fascist, xenophobic regime from my couch in the US in 2019 was not a particularly comfortable experience. A lot of it felt all too real and plausible.

The CGI and sets were painfully 90s, like BabCom ran on Windows 3.1 (or 95 at the latest). That isn't necessarily a bad thing - I was in HS and college in the 90s and have a lot of nostalgia for some of it, though the episode sponsored by Zima sure is a thing that exists... A lot of the acting, especially in S1, was extreme amateur hour, mostly the visitor-of-the-week plots, but there was enough substance overall to keep me entertained. Then the plot kicked into gear and wooo boy.

Anyway, I enjoyed it and would watch it again.

Nnedi Okorafor Prize Pack Sweepstakes!

I've heard so many good things, but I've never read these.

Anime on the Front Lines
@radynski: My first thought was, "YAY LOGH!"
Anime on the Front Lines
I love Mac 7, for reasons I can't explain. It starts slow, and it's weird, but Fire Bomber. Frontier, though, that's some damn good mecha anime. With all the references to original Macross* (and Ozma's a Fire Bomber fan XD ). I don't know if people count Macross as military. It's got mecha and beam spam (and lots of the Itano Circus) and model kits, but it's also about pop music and high school. The original Macross meanders a good bit, but the subsequent ones (excluding 7) meander less. *When Ranka sings Ai o Oboteimasu ka during the climactic battle... ho boy. Chills. I'd love to write about the 08th MS Team, which is all front line, all gritty, on Earth. And Shiro Amada kicks ass with a BALL in the opening scenes. BALL. A robotic ball with arms and a crappy gun. (Except the last episode, which is the two most annoying characters on a Journey. With ghosts.)
Anime on the Front Lines
No Macross or Yamato? Or are they too space opera-y to make the cut? Macross Plus is Top Gun in space (with a hologram music idol). IMO, the best parts of the Gundam franchise are the 08th MS Team (UC/0079) and Gundam oo (not UC). My favorite Gundam series is 0083 Stardust Memory, mainly because the villain is a badass who knows how to get sh*t done. (Because it's my favorite doesn't mean I think it's the best.) G Gundam is amazing for its sheer ludicrousness, though. A couple years ago, a short series based on another set of novels by Yoshiki Tanaka came out, called Tytania. It's got the same epicness as LOGH, except it's only 13 or 14 episodes. And it's in a much more modern art style... (PS: Reinhard (not Reinheld) von Musel/Lohengramm, depending on when in the series you're talking about. Once he takes posession of the Brunhild, he's Lohengramm.)
Admirals and Amazons: Women in Military Science Fiction
Re a1ay @31: There's tons of military SF/space opera out of Japan. - The entire Gundam franchise. The UC timeline has a lot of Japanese names (Kou Uraki, Amuro Ray) in the lead, and then there's the mangled keysmash names (Casval Rem Deikun, Dozle Zabi). The non-UC timelines are more keysmash names, with the exceptions of G Gundam and Gundam 00. - The Macross franchise. Original Macross starred Lin Minmei and Hikaru Ichijou, as well as Roy Fokker. (You may have seem it as part of Robotech, with Lynn Minmay and Rick Hunter.) -Legend of Galactic Heroes. 110-episode space opera, starring future quasi-Germans vs future quasi-Americans. Reinhard von Lohengramm vs Yang Wen-li. -Tytania. 14 episode space opera by the team that made LOGH. Names seem quasi-European in origin. -Space Battleship Yamato (Star Blazers in the US). Very Japanese, culturally speaking. The original (sea) battleship Yamato was Japan's last hope during WW2, sent out on a mission no one expected it to return from. (I'd link wikipedia, but they're down for the day.) (There's also, for example, Space Pirate Captain Harlock, which is space operatic in nature, but I don't think quite what's intended by the question.)
Vote in the Tor.com 2011 Readers’ Choice Awards
Novels Germline by TC McCarthy Broken by Susan Jane Bigelow Pilgrim of the Sky by Natania Barron Shorts The Changeling's Lament by Shira Lipkin (poem)
Is Alternate History SF?
@firkin: Is Kaiser Friedrich III not dying of throat cancer 99 days into his reign obscure enough for you? ;) He was a much more liberal man than his son, Wilhelm II, and less prone to starting wars. I haven't read any of the Turtledove, because its subject matter doesn't appeal to me. When I have time to read fiction again, I might borrow one from the library.
Is Alternate History SF?
Mris, I'm hitting that wall myself. I'm working on an alternate early 20th century Germany, as a backstory for my long-timeline space opera, and I'm finding that among my friends (college-educated, mostly SF nerds), knowledge of German history in 1900 is, uh, minimal at best. (I took a poll in my LJ. It was enlightening.) Do you mind if I contact you privately about Finnish history? It is relevant to my interests (and timeline.) I also think AH is in the spec fic umbrella. Social science is still science. Though I like war stories and political stories, so that's the part I geek about.
The upspoken and the unspeakable: Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go
I don't have anything particularly profound to say, but I really liked this book. It was definitely uncomfortable, but it was so amazingly real. I described it to my friends as "a beautiful punch to the gut." The class issues in Britain that you mention are interesting; being American I hadn't noticed that aspect.
Choose again, and change: Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan saga
IVAN. Preferably not getting married and catching the baby fever. (Up through Memory, he's shown little to no interest in settling down. Beyond that, my recollection is hazy since I've only read the subsequent books once each. OK, and maybe I'm biased because I like the forever bachelor character.)
She’s getting away! Lois McMaster Bujold’s A Civil Campaign
@ Will #4: Oh, yes. I think LMB has given hints regarding that in the past (ie, the next Miles book is Aral's death.) Hmm, considering how much I adore Ivan, I really ought to read this book again. And Byerly. OK, I don't *adore* By, but he's a lot more complicated than he appears. And I like how he interacts with Ivan. Something I sort of noticed: The Vorrutyers are generally portrayed as being a lot more ... deviant than the norm. Are all (or even most) of the canonically bisexual characters from that family? (There's one notably who isn't.)
One birth, one death, and all the acts of pain and will between: Lois Mcmaster Bujold’s Barrayar
That would make more sense, Ursula. But then Barrayar wouldn't have 17 little uterine replicators floating around. So it's a plot hole for convenience's sake?
One birth, one death, and all the acts of pain and will between: Lois Mcmaster Bujold’s Barrayar
Fangirl, you're right. (It's been too long since I read Barrayar!) I'd probably been distracted by someone else's line of reasoning and forgot that major part of the plot. (Really; my brain works in funny ways.)
The Red-Boot Diaries: Marvel Divas
Why did I click on the link and read into the comment threads? The discussion between "Jon L." and Jennifer deGuzman is making me want to beat my head against my desk. A sample, from Jon's comment: Jennifer de Guzman: "Jon L., Amy's assertion that men and women have different experiences of the world and that might translate into more skilled handling of certain stories is absolutely not nonsense." I disagree. It's nonsense because the contextual suggestion is that gender in this instance trumps quality. As I already stated, men and women have more in common than the small amount of differences that separate them. *headdesk*
This is my old identity, actually: Lois McMaster Bujold’s Memory
@Hatgirl: Me too! (I secretly hope he remains a bachelor indefinitely. He's never really expressed interest in the whole "heirs" thing, but there's the issue of his mom.) @Jo: Oh, yes. The entire section where Illyan is in the hospital is marvelous. I always find myself laughing when he discovers maps and pocket recorders and calls them "prosthetic memory." And "It even remembers things you never knew before!" Simon's amazement and Miles' "oh, duh, of *course* maps..." are so wonderfully balanced. (Blatant self-promotion: I finally got my post on Memory up.)
This is my old identity, actually: Lois McMaster Bujold’s Memory
@Hatgirl: The foreshadowing hits you over the head when you know what's going to happen, doesn't it? I also love the donkey conversation. If it weren't a long stretch of dialogue, I'd use that as my signature. (I'm an unapologetic Ivan fangirl. People have called me nuts for that, but I adore Ivan. Harumph.)
This is my old identity, actually: Lois McMaster Bujold’s Memory
@Otter #20: Oh, yeah. Also, Gregor's scene with Haroche in the jail: That's some powerful stuff. "That's what rage looks like." And parts of Miles' trip back to Silvy Vale. *sniffle*
This is my old identity, actually: Lois McMaster Bujold’s Memory
@TomScudder #13: Belike. I don't read mysteries (that is to say, I don't peruse the shelf labeled "mystery" to find a book to read) and the whole whodunnit was a shocker the first time I read it. The next time, and the one after, and when I read it last week, the foreshadowing was a lot more obvious: Anything done twice is tradition re investigating the murder of the ImpSec boss you're replacing; well, that especially. (Sometimes, I have to force myself not to pick the book up, because I'll inevitably sit down and start reading it. Which isn't always the thing I should be doing ;) )
This is my old identity, actually: Lois McMaster Bujold’s Memory
"Ivan, you idiot" makes me ... smile? laugh a little? It's almost a break in the heaviness of that scene - because even when Simon is incapacitated, he can't catch a break (poor Ivan.) It's not a particularly funny scene, not at all; it's just, I don't know, dark humor? A wry little twist of the knife? I can see why it makes other people cry, though.
This is my old identity, actually: Lois McMaster Bujold’s Memory
Memory is one possible place for the story to end. It's a capstone for all that's gone before. This might explain why I haven't re-read the subsequent volumes more than once each, but I've read Memory so many times. (And I totally agree: this is the worst place to start the series, despite being IMO the best of them all.) It's also a very nice companion piece to The Mountains of Mourning: We meet Harra again, see the Raina Csurik school and Silvy Vale with electricity. And the theme of Miles finding Lord Vorkosigan is strong in both. I love Ivan in this one. He's the ass Miles can trust absolutely (to haul those high explosives.) I've used "Money, power, sex ... and elephants" as my signature for *years*.
Luck is something you make for yourself: Lois McMaster Bujold’s Cetaganda
@Yrf, Barrayar was colonized by people from Earth, who presumably didn't forget 3000 years of history, including feudalism and how to address royalty. It's not at all surprising that they've got similar forms of address, since they've got roots in the same Earth history, even if the Cetas would rather forget it.
All true wealth is biological: Lois McMaster Bujold’s Mirror Dance
I don't skip any of the painful scenes, despite my distinct embarrassment squick. I read them all, every painful moment. @hawkwing: I've read Memory so many times. I'm in the middle of it right now. (Well, 2/3 maybe. Just back from V. Surleau and fishing.) I love it; it's my favorite of them all. I could read it a million times. I haven't re-read ACC, though. I don't know why not; it's fine, and I've since developed a taste for Heyer, but it doesn't suck me in like Memory does.
One birth, one death, and all the acts of pain and will between: Lois Mcmaster Bujold’s Barrayar
@19: I understand completely what you mean, and I agree, being a woman on Barrayar is like being served a nice shit sandwich. But: if Cordelia isn't there, moving things behind the scenes with Alys, life will never get better for Barrayaran women. Cordelia had a major role in raising the Emperor, and I have little doubt that she gave him a lot of Betan ideas about sexuality and equal rights. And Miles - who spent a lot of time on Beta and is going to be highly placed in Gregor's government. Yes, I agree, going from relatively egalitarian Beta to bizarro feudal, patriarchal Barrayar is a definite downgrade. I doubt I'd personally make that choice, but Cordelia did, for whatever reason. And Barrayar is feeling the waves of her decision, will be feeling them for generations to come. Re the replicators: it's been a while since I read it, but I seem to recall the reasoning being that the Escobaran women didn't want them, so someone had to take care of them. And since it was the fault of Barrayarans, they got to deal with it. A bit of reparations.
Kings: “Insurrection”
Urgh. Saturday night is death time slot. Thanks, NBC. Maybe if you give your writers a little talking-to, they'll make the main characters more compelling and less generically bland. Please? Not that I'm usually doing anything Saturday nights anyway. And if I miss it, there's NBC.com.
Hard on his superiors: Lois McMaster Bujold’s The Vor Game
Joe @7 - It does seem a bit contrived/plot ex machina that Greg and Miles wind up together. But considering how many coincidental meetings happen in real life, my suspension of disbelief isn't completely broken. It is kind of a retread, inasmuch as "look, mercenaries! Miles has to win them over (again) and thwart an invasion!" is what happened in TWA, but Miles is a little different, a little older, and has (hopefully) picked up some skills in the Academy to back up his bluster. This is the first chronological-order (and publication order? I think?) book where Gregor takes a lead. Sure, he's got an arc in TWA, but it's almost in the background. I like how he grows up in the book. You can see in later books (Memory comes to mind) the results of his determination to be Emperor Gregor: Symbol/Leader but still try to make room for Gregor Vorbarra. And he gets good at being Emperor Gregor, if he's still haunted by the ghosts of his father and great-grandfather.
Hard on his superiors: Lois McMaster Bujold’s The Vor Game
@Robo: heh; following links from site a to site b can be a tricky thing ;) But yeah, I find that the geek world is pretty dern small anymore. I always used to be skeptical of the propensity in fiction for people to run into people they knew or friends of friends in completely random places, until I started meeting people (at cons, say) who know people I also know, from different places. What's the likelihood Miles would have gotten on the same shuttle as Gregor? Or that he would run into somebody like Metzov? Possibly not as small as I used to believe. To try to drag the discussion back to the topic at hand, kicking and screaming if need be. ;)
Hard on his superiors: Lois McMaster Bujold’s The Vor Game
I really liked Gregor's arc in this book. Sure, it was the more minor side of things, since Miles is our POV guy, but Gregor grows up here. He had some spine-strengthening in TWA (where the manipulations of others are laid bare), but here, he goes from wanting to quit to ... not so much resigned to his position, but seeing how much is dependent on him not just doing his job, but being Gregor Vorbarra, the symbol, whatever that may cost Gregor Vorbarra, the person. I never paid much attention to Miles' arc. Sure, I like the hyperactive little shit (I just got to the start of the action in Memory), but his arc doesn't stick out much in my memories of the book. @Robotech - Huh, I thought your domain sounded familiar, so I went there. A couple of my friends are longtime readers of UF and NXE. Small world?
Kings: “Insurrection”
@jaspax *snrk* Yes, writers, PLEASE give David something more interesting to do than stand around and look cute-and-gobsmacked or cute-and-constipated.
Weeping for her enemies: Lois McMaster Bujold’s Shards of Honor
Hi, Lois - I'm not sure this will help any, but here's why my husband hasn't read any of your books, despite my telling him they're awesome and he totally should: He reads very slowly, and the prospect of getting into a series with 14 books in it (though there's only going to be 1 more for quite some time, if I understand what you've said correctly) is rather daunting. He's also concerned that he'll lose a week or more of evenings after being sucked in ;) He did enjoy MoM when I read it out loud to him last week, but it hasn't sparked a reading frenzy yet.
Why he must not fail: Lois McMaster Bujold’s The Borders of Infinity
I'm so glad it became a Miles Vorkosigan series, not Naismith! The series would have been very different, indeed. I read tMoM out loud to my husband, whom I've been trying to lure in for years now, unsuccessfully ("I don't have time to read a 14-novel series!"), and he enjoyed it. I caught him laughing at the funny parts (Dea and the horse, for example). Jo's comment @13 hit me with a dash of insight: Memory is my absolute favorite, because there's so much internal Miles, Miles growing up, and realizing he can't trade his heart for his heart's desire. Barrayar is in him, and he's going to change this place he loves, his home, his heart, into something more beautiful, more perfect (more egalitarian, even.) Mountains is the same story, in a way: Miles loves Barrayar, the barbaric backwater dirtball that eats its young. But change is coming, inexorably, inevitably. "So the infanticide is actually a murder," said Pym; Miles thought it was an interesting turn of phrase, my poor Barrayar. (Linking myself again: Novellas I Love: tMoM I'm reading Memory for the next installment. Slow going, since I have a thousand other things to do. I don't know how Jo is going through these so quickly!)
Why he must not fail: Lois McMaster Bujold’s The Borders of Infinity
Bah, I totally disagree, Joe!Charles. I love TVG, but I'll save the argument until Jo gets there ;) tMoM is so incredibly perfect. There are two passages that make me cry every damn time: the scene where Miles is passing his judgment and telling Harra the name he proposes for the school, and the very last paragraph, where Miles is talking to Raina. Borders of Infinity (as collected in Miles Errant) was the first story I read after Cordelia's Honor. It was ... well, I have to say it was quite a surprise when the Dendarii came, because I didn't have that a-ha of knowing about them beforehand. Like the people imprisoned on Dagoola IV. Labyrinth doesn't stand out much for me. It's not a bad story, by no means, but it's not one that jumps off the pages. Conni
“What can he have more but the kingdom?”
I'm wondering if they're going to stick with the vindictive Old Testament god, with Silas' line about "Does something beautiful have to die to make you happy?"
Forward Momentum: Lois McMaster Bujold’s The Warrior’s Apprentice
JoeNotCharles, that makes sense. I've heard the same about the dinner party scene in A Civil Campaign. And I think knowing just how badly Miles is about to screw himself over makes those opening chapters that much harder. On the topic of reading out of order, I read ACC before KOMARR. Which sort of spoiled, basically, the entire plot of Komarr. But I survived ;)
Forward Momentum: Lois McMaster Bujold’s The Warrior’s Apprentice
SoonLee @5 - Oh yes. It's the next one that'll cost ya! ($7.99 plus shipping ;) ) Re various comments: why do people dislike the opening of MEMORY? I just read the first 4 chapters last night, and it wasn't ... bad, just a lot of infodump, I guess? I skim all the backstory parts, anyway.
Tussling with Tolkien: Lois McMaster Bujold’s The Sharing Knife: Horizon
phil @15 - Oh, my. I agree. And poor Ivan will only be getting more and more Vor maidens paraded in front of him, so Alys can get him married. (I hope he remains a bachelor, personally.)
Forward Momentum: Lois McMaster Bujold’s The Warrior’s Apprentice
I love the Vorkosigan series. My friend got me hooked with Cordelia's Honor, and like Otter, MEMORY is my favorite, with THE VOR GAME a very close second. TWA is fun, and I adore how Miles accidentally acquires a set of mercenaries and doesn't realize the implications until much later, long after Ivan shows up. Vorloupoulos' law indeed! I think I'm going to use The Mountains of Mourning to lure people in, since it's a) short, b) freely available on the internet, and c) a perfect encapsulation of the barbaric ball of rock called Barrayar. (I blogged about TMoM yesterday, actually.)

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