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Monthly Archives: June 2013

You pick up a fantasy or sci fi book, or your ipad or kindle, and you start reading about a different world. The characters start speaking, and you can understand them, because they’re speaking English. But what are the chances of a culture that developed independently of English speaking countries on earth speaking the exact same language? Very, very unlikely, except for some cases which I’ll talk about in a bit. So how can we understand the people of middle earth or Luke Skywalker in a galaxy far far away? The same way we can understand a biography about Napoleon. We assume that it is not necessarily English, but that it is translated so we can understand it. Because no one is going to want to learn a new language, probably made up, just to read a book for pleasure. Heck, no author is going to make up an entire language just to write a book for pleasure (Tolkien excepted). But authors often want to show that their world is different than ours, so they make up words for a fictional language to add flavor to their world. If you happen to speak a different language, you probably realize that there are words that don’t translate very well into English, that have a concept that is hard to express in English. So sometimes these words are defined but left as they are, because the word is better left compact in a different language than expressed as complex concept in English. Example: Ohana, which in Hawaii is the concept of family, including extended family, and the concept emphasizes that families are bound together and members must cooperate and remember one another. So in Lilo and Stitch, if every time that word was replaced with the definition, the movie would be a lot more awkward and two times as long. This same idea can be used in made up languages. Usually, it is pointless to actually have people speak in their language, especially if the viewpoint character doesn’t understand it, because then the reader won’t understand, and if the viewpoint character does understand, he might as well translate directly for the reader. So it is best for the author to use different languages sparingly, letting the reader know that not everyone speaks English in their world, but not distract the reader too much. Plus, if they try too hard, there will probably be discrepancies that a reader might catch.
The only time that English should be used as English is when it has some relation to our world, like in science fiction going out to other worlds or fantasy being transported to a magical world.
Another thing that must happen in these stories is explain how different cultures with different languages get along. There have been conflicts over misunderstandings, or people treated badly because they don’t speak the dominant language. It is not realistic for the main character to be a super soldier who knows five languages which just happen to help him make friends with his enemies. I learned Spanish. It was not easy. Very few people, especially if they are learning once they are adults, can take on five languages. Learning a language is not easy, and that effort should be reflected in the story. The story can be much richer if learning a language is not easy and done by everyone. In fantasy or science fiction, there can be more interesting ways of using language. For example, Han Solo can understand Chewie and vice versa, but it appears neither can actually form the sounds for words in the other’s language. So any time there are several cultures, there should be different languages or dialects and some way to communicate, whether by computer or magic, or just hard work learning.


Inferno (Robert Langdon, #4)Inferno by Dan Brown

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book follows the same pattern as Dan Brown’s other Robert Langdon books: Robert Langdon has to solve some mystery and stop some bad guy, who loves to play scavenger hunt with old Christian artwork, who have hidden meanings, and for some reason, there’s a time limit, there’s a girl he has to explain everything to, and there’s a betrayal. Robert Langdon wakes up in Florence, doesn’t know how he got there, and people are trying to kill him. He has a mini projector that shows a painting, The Map of Hell, based on Dante’s Divine Comedy, and from some changes in that, he goes off looking for more paintings and artworks. This book, he’s accompanied by another beautiful girl, since he can’t keep a relationship from the other books. This girl is Sienna, who supposedly has an IQ of 208, making her smarter than Albert Einstein and Isaac Newton, but she sure doesn’t seem like it. Robert is always showing her up with his knowledge, and she basically follows him, figuring out a few things along the way but mostly serving as way for Robert to show how smart and awesome he is. Despite all Brown’s talk in the Da Vinci Code about the sacred feminine and the Catholic church repressing females, his characters seem kind of misogynistic as well. The enemy of the book is a genius billionaire man who realizes the world is overpopulated and the population has to be reduced to 4 billion, or else we’ll run out of resources and all die, and he decides to take manners into his own hands. He likes to quote the Divine Comedy, but the work itself doesn’t really fit in with anything, just as imagery of people dying and suffering. It’s not like the Da Vinci Code where the works of art supposedly suggest that Jesus had a wife and children, not that I really believe that’s what Leonardo, who lived 1500 years after Christ, was trying to say. SPOILER ALERT: (view spoiler)[The whole scavenger hunt in Inferno is a total waste, as the plague had already been released and nothing Robert Langdon does has any effect on the plague, and the people he’s running from are on his side. (hide spoiler)] Despite the thriller part of this book, which feels kind of forced, especially once the revelations at the end come in, it eventually disappoints, not really offering what I think is a realistic solution to the problem of overpopulation. In the end, these books feel like hyper fast tours of different musuems and artwork in a certain place, ie: France, Washington, and Italy. The plots and quests for knowledge feel forced and pointless after getting to the end, but the journey to the end is gripping and interesting, and there is some educational material, mixed with conspiracy theories. Fun, but not to be taken seriously.

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WhatdidItellyou-HQTime travel
Recently I saw the movie Man of Steel. There’s plenty of destruction, people die, New York or some clone of it takes a beating, and everyone wishes things went back to how they were. But they don’t. People have to live with the damage, unless of course they were part of the damage and they died. This contrasts the movie Superman 1 (which I never saw all the way, but I heard enough about it from my parents and others (including Wikipedia) to know how it ends). In that movie, people, including Lois Lane, die. Superman, so upset, flies around the planet against its spin, so fast that he reverses the movement of the earth and turns back time, undoing everything that was done. Now this is one of the most ridiculous methods of time travel I’ve ever heard of. Obviously the movement of time is not dependent on Earth’s rotation, that’s just a measure of time, not time itself. So it’s good to know that the new Superman doesn’t have time travel powers as well.
As far fetched as Superman’s time travel was, all the other forms of time travel we’ve seen in fiction is pretty much just as farfetched, because we don’t really have any idea how to travel through time, except by going forward. With relativity, if you go really close to the speed of light, perception of time changes, and you experience it slower than normal, so a journey of a hundred years only seems like 10, or whatnot. Theoretically. Especially since we’ve never built anything that could take people anywhere near that, and don’t know if we would survive in those conditions. Some people think that if you went faster than light, you would go back in time. But since that’s impossible, time travel seems only in the realm of science fiction or fantasy. After all, if it were possible, wouldn’t people from the future come visit us? Or are we too boring?
But how many of us wish we could? Instead of living with mistakes, taking responsibility for our actions, we could go in the past, tell our younger selves to express love to the girl of our dreams that we were too afraid to talk to, or conversely, go back and stop ourselves from expressing that love and being made a fool of. Go back in time and invest in Apple (and sell stock at the high point). Go back and meet our great great grandparents when they were little kids. Go back and sell Gameboys to barbarians and once they’re addicted, keep them under your control by selling batteries. Go back and witness the signing of the declaration of independence, before they drive you out of there. Change history if you want. Assassinate Hitler. Wouldn’t all of that be fun?
Most time travel tales have unintended consequences for that, though. Kill your grandpa and you cease to exist. Step on a butterfly and the world is completely different. Speaking of butterflies, there’s the movie The Butterfly Effect, which has a man going back in time to try to save his girlfriend from abuse and other fates, but each time, something gets messed up, and his present life, or hers, is not what he wanted. Eventually he just convinces her to move away from him. Kind of sad. These tales are cautionary, asking us to really think that if we changed one thing, if our lives would really be better. Maybe in some cases, like saving the life of a loved one, possibly. But it might not in others.
One thing to think about, if time travel were real, is how it works. Most versions are full of paradoxes. In Final Fantasy 8, Squall goes into the future, then at the end, goes into the past, overshooting his mark a bit. He comes in contact with his orphanage matron and gives her the ideas she needed to create SeeD, which he is a part of. But he already was part of it, even though he helped create it. So how did it start? If he hadn’t gone back, he wouldn’t have been part of an organization that didn’t exist, but he only went back in time because of the events that happened because he was part of the organization. Confusing. Or would it be possible to kill your grandpa, because then you wouldn’t exist to kill him? For people who think about these things, they figure the only way to avoid the paradoxes is through having different dimensions or realities. Going back in time would create a new one for you, while you would disappear from the old one. Being independent from the new one, you could go kill your grandpa, because you came from a different dimension where your grandpa lived long enough to have your parents, who had you. In the multiverse theory of science, there are infinite numbers of universes, which means an infinite number of possibilities, some where you just made a slightly different decision, or someone in the past, or anything slightly different, as well as more extreme differences, where mass and galaxies don’t even exist because the laws of physics are slightly different. Who knows if it would be possible to go dimension hopping? You could go to a universe where the only difference is that you did something slightly different in your past.
Most people are plagued by things they did in the past, and wish they could change them. Anyone who says they have no regrets is either perfect or lying. Other people want to go back to a time when they thought things were better, like in their youth, although if they were to go back and be plagued with hormones again, they would probably think differently. So while time travel is an interesting fantasy and let’s you play ‘What if?’, I generally don’t like time travel stories because it makes things less permanent, makes decisions inconsequential, and can get really confusing. Having stories where characters actually have to deal with their problems, no matter how messy they might be, instead of running away from them, is more satisfying.

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19841984 by George Orwell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Some people think that George Orwell got everything right, just missed the date by 30 years (that it should be 2014). I’m here to tell you that that is false and ridiculous. How could anyone ever believe that? First of all, this is complete science fiction. I mean, look at the technology in the book. It’s all based on spying on you. There are TVs that look back at you. As if that were possible. (By the way, did you hear about the awesome Xbox One, where the Kinect can monitor your heartbeat, hands, and eyes? They say it needs to connect to the internet every 24 hours, as well, I guess for updates or things like that. Surely not to upload your data. We know we can trust this, because it’s made by Microsoft, a good ol’ American company.) In the book, there’s also microphones everywhere, capturing your conversations. Lining the streets and country with microphones would be impossible, and would catch all the noise that wasn’t wanted, like footsteps and crickets. If only people used devices to talk into, that would make recording conversations much easier. Now, aside from technology, it would be impossible for our government to ever be so corrupt and untransparent. There’s no way we would listen to political messages that told us everything was ok, things were getting better, and try to indoctrinate us to their side. Plus, we have two political parties, they only had one. For us to revert to only one, the one in power would have to abuse that power to supress the other side. That would never happen. Orwell got it wrong in that he completely missed the internet, where we can speak out and do whatever we want anonymously, and no one would ever collect data on what we do with the internet in order to monitor conversations or try to sell us stuff. Nope, I know I’m safe with Facebook. And we all know that if we found out the government was spying on us, we would never tolerate it. For that to happen, some big event, a disaster, would have to strike terror in our hearts, and then maybe the government would step in, supposedly for our safety. But nothing like that has happened, nor will it, since we all love each other and everyone loves the United States. I hope you all realize that this book is obsolete and doesn’t even deserve mention anymore, as Orwell got everything wrong. We all know our biggest threat is a Korean man who has nuclear missiles, and our government is doing everything they can to stop him.
Please leave comments on this post. At the very least, let the NSA agent who’s monitoring you while you read this know you recognize his hard work and dedication.
Not doing so would be rude.

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For any of you have been following my blog, you probably have noticed my short stories. Well, now they are available in one place, conveniently in ebook format (soon to come to kindle as well). It includes all the short stories on this blog, including the full version of Fallen (known as Apple on this site). The book also comes with the covers I’ve made, as well as the prologue for book one of Sage Eyes. Hope you enjoy, please support!

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