Writing Fantasy Profanity

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Don’t mix up your Bantha Poodoo with your Nerf Herders! Getting swearing right is important.

It’s writer Wednesday and today we are going to delve into the risque topic of fantasy profanity. Well, ok, it’s not all that risque. In fact, the reason many people like fantasy novels is that there is rarely ever any swearing.

Instead, we enter the world of alternate swearing. In a fantasy world there are different beliefs and different cultural practices that lead to different terms being considered profane, just like different English speaking countries have distinct swear words. Saying ‘bollocks’ or ‘bloody’ in the US barely gets an eyebrow raise because most people don’t know what they mean.

Using standard swearing in a fantasy novel doesn’t make sense because you wouldn’t expect an alternate civilization to develop the same swear words. When they are used they pull the reader from the narrative – a big NO NO.

Let’s see how these titles handle swearing –

Mazerunner, James Dashner: (I’m talking about the book, not the movie) The Gladers those who live withing the maze use ‘shuck’ and ‘clunk’ ans their stronger swears.

  • Clunk is a direct replacement for sh%t and comes directly from the sound made when using the rustic bathroom – and yes, this is explained in the book.
  • Shuck rhymes with fu%k for a reason.
  • Other slang includes: shank, slim it, slinthead, greenbean, jacked, and bloody.

Wheel of Time, Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson: There are a plethora of these, for the complete list, check out the wiki. These words are tied directly to the world where much of the protagonists history includes blood, fire, and magic. The most popular swear words are the following:

  • Flaming used much like we use ‘damn’ and expresses anger or hatred toward something or someone.
  • Blasted a slightly stronger version of ‘flaming’
  • Light used as an exclamation similar to how we use ‘god’
  • Burn (me, you, etc) is also similiar to damn and is used when people are upset
  • Blood and Ashes expresses anger and disgust.

Star Wars Universe: While this is sci/fi the same rules apply – it’s not our world or culture so the swear words would be different. I was actually surprised at how many of these there are, for a complete run down, including origins and definitions, check out this article.

  • F-bomb substitutes: crink/crinking, farkled. kark/karking, kriff/kriffing, krong, Skrog/skrogging, snark/snarking (no relation to today’s snarky).
  • S-word substitutes: druk, dwang, Holy Sith!, shab, shavit.
  • Other Insults: Bantha poodoo, e chu ta, hutt-spawn, laserbrain/blaster brain, lurdo, nerf herder, schutta, sculag, sleemo, son of a blaster, stoopa, vong.

Needless to say, there are many ways to handle swearing in your world.  The more deeply embedded into the culture and world, the better these insults will be.  If your world has a lot of water elements then there should be some water related swearing and insults, wethead, salt and slime, salty, bilge, etc. A desert culture would use a different set that evoked images of heat, dry, and stench.

Whatever you do, make it meaningful. Random words used as swear words won’t affect your reader nearly as much as words that have a history and a purpose.

Happy Writing!

Movie of the Month: Interstellar

interstellar-3840x2160This month’s featured movie is the sci-fi adventure Interstellar, a hard-hitting space drama that’s torn between the efforts to save humanity and one man’s fight to stay connected to his family.

If you like movies similar to Inception, where there is plenty of brain bending to make the story work, then Interstellar is right up your alley. It’s not as far out as Cloud Atlas, so don’t worry – but there are a few 2001: Space Odyssey type elements floating around that make it a little strange.

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Matthew McConaughey plays Cooper, a pilot turned corn farmer in Earth’s last desperate attempt to continue to feed itself. Humanity is indeed on the brink as blight kills off crops, much like the great potato famine. It is clear that the situation is not going to improve and so an undercover NASA program is tasked to find a way of preserving the human race.

Their solution is to find a new world to colonize. Sounds simple enough, right? Wrong. The nearest habitable worlds are light years away and any efforts to find them are futile simply because of the amount of time it would take. Interstellar had a whole team of astrophysicists figure out how it could be done and then used their calculations to generate the imagery in the film, cool eh?

In Interstellar, there is a singularity located conveniently within our solar system that leads to a different system with several potential habitable worlds. However, due to a bunch of theory of relativity issues, any landfall the explorers make results in epic time loss for those on earth and also anyone who remains on the ship. This results in a very fast paced film as Cooper fights for every second lost in order to reunite with his daughter.

It’s the last third of the film that gets a little screwy. The explorers find themselves in a hopeless situation. There is no way to return important data back to earth for NASA’s colony ship to be able to break free from the surface (another plot strand…) and there is no way for the explorers to survive on the current alien world. They have to decide if they are going to sacrifice themselves to save humanity or save themselves but doom civilization.

interstellar-anne-hathawayThe only way to get the needed data back is to send a probe into the black hole. Cooper and Amelia (played by Anne Hathaway) must separate to give the greatest chance at success.  Amelia’s ship has colonizing equipment to set up another home world and can ensure the survival of the species should the worst outcome happen, so her success is critical. Cooper takes the other part of the ship and heads into the blackhole.

He ends in a time bent fifth dimentional tesseract that enables him to pass on the needed information to NASA. I said it got trippy –  this is the epicenter of trippy here and why I reference Space Odyssey.  Turns out that all the strange phenomenon that they had seen in the beginning of the film was actually Cooper in the fifth dimension trying to communicate with his daughter in the past.

Do I recommend Interstellar? Yes, with caution. This is a film meant for people who love to think in an abstract and twisted way. Those who just like a good story that doesn’t demand much of the watcher will find themselves lost and confused quickly. If you like time travel paradoxes, you’ll like it. If you don’t, then I wouldn’t recommend it.

New Trailer Release: Star Wars, the Force Awakens

Possibly the biggest thing that happened in the fantasy/scifi world this weekend is the release of the teaser trailer for the newest chapter in the Star Wars saga – if there was something bigger, fill me in.

Star Wars, the Force Awakens (episode 7, for those who are still counting) occurs 30 years after Return of the Jedi where the Death Star is taken out once and for all by the Rebel Alliance and Luke confronts Darth Vader and learns of his true lineage.  It ends with the big party in the Ewok forest and life is good, or is it?

No real spoilers have leaked about this newest chapter but there are tons of theories floating around.  Obviously there is some threat that requires the Jedi to return in force to handle it, most likely the Sith, since they are they only bad guys from the first six movies that could exist and grow stronger over the thirty year gap in the story. To face this threat the Jedi are going to need to do something to be sure they are strong enough to win.

Some of our favorite players are returning to their respective roles including: Harrison Ford (Han Solo), Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia), Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker), Anthony Daniels (C3PO), Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca), and Kenny Baker (R2-D2).

This episode is both directed and written in part by the illustrious and trend setting J.J. Abrams who brought new life into the Star Trek universe with his work on the movies Star Trek and Star Trek into Darkness. Let’s hope he can do the same for the Star Wars universe as well. And hey, who doesn’t love more lens flares?

Thankfully, John Williams has been enlisted once more to create the awesome music that has always been a part of the Star Wars saga. I’d be angry if they had found someone else, although I would love to see what Hans Zimmer or James Horner would have come up with.

Here is the link, enjoy!

Official Teaser Trailer #1:

 

 

 

What is Cosplay?

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Brilliant cosplay of Princess Mononoke based on the Miyasaki film of the same name.

photo credit: Anna Fischer via photopin cc

Cosplay, or costume play, has been around for ages.  As long as there have been iconic characters who inspire, there have been people who want to dress up like them. As children we used to dress up and pretend to be princesses, cowboys, and fairies to name a few. Every year for Halloween we celebrate our alter egos and indulge in a bit of self indulgent dress up. It’s fun, harmless, and a chance to pretend we are someone or something different than our ordinary selves.

Cosplay gives players both old and young a chance to enter this alternate persona and escape the pressures of the real world for a while.  I imagine it is not unlike the escapism of reading a really good book that pulls the reader into the pages and doesn’t let them go until it’s over, or that awesome movie that is so appealing in its story and artistic imagery that you can’t help but sit riveted to the chair.

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Xena, the warrior princess, with one of her macho friends.

photo credit: fabiogis50 via photopin cc

The holy grail for cosplayers is Comic Con.  Not only are cosplayers allowed they are encouraged to come in their most elaborate costumes for a chance at prizes and photo ops.  When Comic Con comes to town it is not uncommon to see the casts from popular sci fi and manga riding public transit and wandering around downtown.

These costumes can be as simple as one or two items worn casually over normal dress or as complicated as full body suits of hand crafted armor.  Those devoted to their cosplay spend hundreds of hours creating costuming and props. Some will spend a small fortune in creating the perfect look.  It is a passion.  If you have a friend who is into cosplay expect to see lots of pictures and hear some pretty cool stories.

I love the idea of cosplay. Having the chance to be part of a different world and spend time with fascinating people is very appealing. That’s the reason I write fantasy, it gives me the chance to be a part of a different world and meet fascinating people, both real and imagined.