Fantasy and Language

And as I only got about four and a half hours of sleep (if not less), I say this post title aloud to myself as “Phamtasy and Language”. That has no bearing on anything, I just think I talk funny.

While trying to decide what to write about today, I did what I usually do. Ask Dither to think of a topic for me. I mean, delegate. He pointed out that I had already thought of something yesterday, I had just failed to bother anyone other than him with it.

Right now I’m trying to read the eleven library books that I have checked out on my Overdrive accounts, so that I can get on some of my paperbacks or at least some of the ebooks I own. (darn neophilia) Therefore, I am currently reading at least three books. One of them I’ll probably finish today, since Arthur Slade has the great talent of being able to write a smooth, easily digested and enjoyed narrative. Another, I am afraid will be a bit of a slog.

One of the reasons for the latter is that there are two sides to the perspective. The first is that of the main character, a little girl named Midge. She’s not a new entry into the catalogue of iconic fictional characters, but I like her, and her story is, if not epic, then at least pleasant and sufficiently engaging. There’s a little too much nicey-nice, but that doesn’t really detract.

The other side is that of (s0 far) random fantasy fodder characters. I’ve gotten to two instances of this additional perspective, and the focal character was different each time. This contrasts very, very poorly with Midge’s indepth characterisation. She has a nice spotlight effect. The right amount of attention placed on her. This is just… random.

To add to that impression of randomness, the second instance of fantasyman starts… doing that… that thing. That thing that some fantasy novels just cannot help. Dumping language on the reader. Often meaningless jibjabbery that’s basically there to scream, “THIS IS MY SPESHAL WURLD I MAED UP LOOKIT” in place of world-building that anyone might actually want to read.

It’s especially apparent that this is unnecessary when you are getting sentences like this:

It was a hotchi-witchi — a hedgehog.

I read that, and all I could think was, “Why make up that idiotic word if you’re just going to define it?” It serves no useful purpose. It looks dumb. It adds nothing to the story.

It gets so that none of the fantasy words have any purpose or meaning, which is very bad news when they are supposed to have purpose or meaning. I suspect that in this book, the terms for different clans or types of fey creatures (or whatever inane word was maladroitly coined to refer to fey) are important. But I just can’t be arsed.

I’m not saying that people shouldn’t make up words to define things in their fantasy worlds. I just wish they’d use the practise to a bloody purpose. Instead of just dropping junk about and insisting that it’s compost. Clive Barker did it to wonderful effect in the Abarat books. I could even see the roots of the words he made up, sometimes.

(btw, reading The Various, by Steve Augarde)


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