What’s Wrong with English?

I have a confession to make. I wrote three “Contemporary Fantasy” novels. That’s not the confession. There is nothing at all with writing in a genre that you enjoy writing. I certainly enjoyed writing those books. In fact, I loved the “world building” – designing and describing the rules and the science in the dream world. Deciding what beings lived there, creating them, and describing them in vivid enough detail so that reader could see them was a blast.

No, my admission is that though writing fantasy is wonderful, I find reading most fantasy books torture.

Yes, I know, all the “experts” say you should write what you love to read the most. Well, I do that too. I write quite a bit of science fiction, my first love. And it’s not like I don’t have a history with the fantasy genre. I’ve read tons in my day. It’s just that most of it is so tiresome. For instance, Lord of Rings bored the pants off me. Perhaps that’s the problem: Tolkien’s genius spawned hordes of other writers, all who love world building and thing naming.

It’s the damned names that get me. All of the characters have odd names. Okay, I get that. You want me to know they aren’t on Earth, so instead of naming the protagonist Dave, you name him Argsafven na’ Quelsiqh.

<rant> The problem is I don’t fucking know how to pronounce Argsafven na’ Quelsiqh. And God forbid the person is normal, and has a nickname, like “Archie.” No, if all the names are pretentious that will show all the critics how serious your literature is. To make it worse, ordinary things are renamed too. I even have to learn the word for “word.”

I have no idea what monkey boy is saying, and I don't care. Yeah, I know he's an ape, who cares?
I have no idea what monkey boy is saying, and I don’t care.

Sweet Zombie Jeebus.

Yes, that is the main reason I hate reading fantasy. Pretentiousness and overly earnest language. Why in the name of all that’s holy is a book geared primarily to give its readers an escape so tirelessly serious? I don’t get it. And Sci Fi is no better.

Tonight’s rant was caused by Ursula K. LeGuin. I’m tired, antsy, and need something relaxing to stave off the anxiety. So I open my brand new (damaged in the box – thanks, frigging Amazon) copy of The Left Hand of Darkness. Know what I get? The Port of Erhenrang. Argaven XV. Karhiders from Karhide. Gossiwors. All in a fucking (literal) parade.

Dude(tte). It’s. Too. Much. Work.

I don’t want to have to remember all the weird place names. I don’t want to learn what a damn Gossiwor is. I just want to know the characters and the story. Why is this so hard? Robert Silverberg isn’t hard. Robert A. Heinlein isn’t hard. Anne McCaffrey wrote about dragons for Chrissakes and she wasn’t hard. You don’t have to make it a genealogy/linguistics/geology test. Yeah, I get there are geeks who love that shit. Guess what? Most humans aren’t geeks.

English ain't no picnic as it is. Do I need a second language in the book?
English ain’t no picnic as it is. Do I need a second language in the book?

</rant>

I will read LeGuin, because I’m reading ALL the Sci Fi masters before I die. But I’m no longer excited about the book. In my humble (and meaningless) opinion, the world building should sit beneath the story. There should be enough that the reader is taken there and doesn’t want to come back. Maybe in a Dystopian world it’s vivid enough that they can feel the oppression, the claustrophobia, the fear. But even then, the setting launches the action, propelling the characters headlong into the book. We are there with them.

Yeah, I know Gossiwors are instruments that “blow a thunderous, discordant blast.” But so are fucking bagpipes. Call it a fucking bagpipe. Of a fuckpipe. Save the vocabulary lesson for the things that matter. See, I’m reading the book because her characters have no set gender and can change at will. I wrote a story with a similar (though different) theme, and I’m curious if she deals with the psychology as I did. But instead, I’m learning new words for a fucking bagpipe.

Now if she's playing it, you can name it whatever the hell you want. Play that Gossiwor, baby.
Now if she’s playing it, you can name it whatever the hell you want. Play that Gossiwor, baby.

In Emprise, I have creatures called the “Leukrokotai.” Hard to pronounce. Silly name. I didn’t name them; they are actually mythical creatures. So when my characters mention them, they don’t call them by the long name. They call them “werehyenas” or “hyena guys.” See, that’s because in the real world, people are often less than deadly serious, and they try to make things easy on themselves.

I love reading a book and being absolutely lost in the world it creates. I just wish more authors would make the trip easy enough that I can leave my maps and encyclopedias at home.

Snorklefastium. (That means peace.)

P.S. Yes, I know the baby orangutan is an ape. What’s your point?

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4 Replies to “What’s Wrong with English?”

  1. LOL- I agree I get frustrated with odd names and then I finally make up how it should sound which is never what everyone else thinks it should sound like so then I’m afraid to talk about the book because I’ll sound like an idiot.

    1. I think I’m too anti-geek. In school, they punished me by making me go to classes with the smart kids. I’ve hated geek stuff ever since. And the cutesy names are too Dungeons and Dragons for my taste. #thuglife Heh.

  2. I’m guessing that a lot of fantasy authors are trying to make their world seem distinct and sophisticated — maybe to counter the old idea that fantasy is braindead schlock, or maybe just to make the reader feel like they’re learning a cool secret code. But I’m with you. Call a spade a spade, not a thvorbak, unless there’s a damn good reason to call it a thvorbak.

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