Studies of Changing Words

I know, I haven’t completed a “Weird Science in the News” post in a very long while. However, I have continued to collect links to science-related articles. Two of these I wanted to share today.

The New York Times’ article “Your Brain on Fiction” is a two-page opinion piece that discusses the neuroscience of fiction. In summary, researchers are finding that fiction expands upon the real-life experiences of its readers.  Confirmation is nice, isn’t it?

In “Color-coded text reveals the foreign origins of your words” on i09, you can see how words from various places have formed into modern versions of the English language. My favorite part of this article is where it mentions Kinde’s future Website. His analytical program could really help when writing historically based fantasy and historical fiction. Maybe when it’s available, some of us will spend less time looking up the origin on every suspect word for such stories.

Further Reading

Papers from The Mar Lab

“What are the origins of the English Language?” answered by Merriam-Webster

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Reading Review – Winter of Women

Cover of Kristin Cashore's FireOnly men made my 2011 summer reading list. When I noticed this, I attempted to compose a list for the Fall of Females. That was more difficult than I’d expected.

I am very selective, and I was still in the mood for novel-length hard science fiction, which doesn’t seem to include many female authors.

On my shelves already are books by Octavia E. Butler, Deborah Chester, Ursula K. Le Guin, and Anne McCaffrey. My personal library also includes J. K. Rowling, Carrie Vaughn, and a handful of fantasy authors that aren’t as well known. A few novels by Diana Wynne Jones and Mercedes Lackey are still sadly on my wish list.

So, whose works did I still need to read?

I looked at CJ Cherryh, Connie Willis,…and Mary Shelley. The problem was that I started in autumn with Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Wow, was that painful. No one had warned me about Frankenstein’s loathsome personality and the amount of time that his monster spends admiring perfect people. I learned there’s a reason more contemporary authors have rewritten the story several times.

I didn’t take home another novel by a female author until January, when I decided to forgo Stephenie Meyer‘s The Host for Twilight with the goal of better understanding RITN’s target audience. I then moved on to more books in the fantasy romance and young-adult genres:

Fire and Graceling by Kristin Cashore

The Game (novella) and Hexwood by Diana Wynne Jones

Beauty and the Werewolf by Mercedes Lackey

Steel by Carrie Vaughn

Inside Job (novella) by Connie Willis

Twilight surprised me, Fire was a delight (and a stronger work than Graceling), Beauty and the Werewolf was a disappointment, and the rest were about what I’d expected.

What am I still missing out on? I’d love recommendations, especially for science fiction and young-adult romance.

Cool Down from the Summer of Sci-Fi

Hello! I’m alive and kicking. I’m anxious about blogging again; however, it’s officially autumn and time to talk about the results of my Summer of Sci-Fi.

Back in May, I chose nine, well-known science fiction books to read by the end of September. How did I do?

I faced a couple unexpected challenges, mainly with acquiring books. My city’s sole library announced that it’s infested with bed bugs, making all of its books, in my mind, potential carriers of the parasite.

There’s a library near where I work that has a surprisingly tiny offering of science fiction. Even when I was able to walk (despite a sprained ankle) and willing to pass by the disturbing regulars in the area – such as bored cat-callers with uncomfortably creative pick-up lines; lonely, drifting, drunken men who mistake my wary smile for an invitation to converse; and those especially annoying people who enjoy smoking on busy, public sidewalks – I still wasn’t able to get my hands on a few of the books from my list.

Fortunately, I did read:

Out of these, Fahrenheit 451 is easily my favorite, followed closely by A Canticle for Leibowitz. The Time Machine is probably the least impressive of the group–but then, I’m not fond of Victorian stories.

Still to be read:

The Forever War is next on my reading list, if I can find a convenient copy this week.

How about you? What was your favorite book this summer? Are you looking forward to reading a particular book this season?

Buzzzz…

That’s the sound of me flying through my land of shadows to yell out the cockpit a “Hello!” and “What? ‘What’s up?’ Well…”

My sister and her family (out-of-staters) might come to visit for Independence Day. In preparation, my husband and I must try harder to clean up every day until their potential day of arrival.

You see, they are allergic to furry pets. We have two.

My sister is also clutter intolerant. Unfortunately, my husband and I have more hobbies, fascinations, and professional commitments than we have any right to have and are therefore in the running for King and Queen of Non-Lethal Clutter.

In addition, we’re trying to think of what food normal Americans might appreciate. Not everyone likes Udon soup as much as I do.

While we’re preparing for family, we’re also preparing for a Korean martial arts tournament that we’ll co-host, our martial arts school’s autumn programs, and my out-of-state taekwondo test.

In remaining, uh, free time, I’m writing.

Ohh, okay. I’d landed the plane. Here’s the update on my fiction.

I’m expecting feedback tomorrow from a test reader on a short story draft that I’m itching to send to a market.

I need to choose where to send another short story. The previous market–sheesh, what was I thinking? My story wouldn’t have ever fit there. At least the slush reader dug my story out of the pile relatively quickly.

DeCo continues to give me a headache; I think that’s why it exists. The part of me that cares about test readers’ feelings currently wants to cut a side-character than a darker part of me has viciously woven into the main plot. I think removing the character’s thread will allow for a stronger–and less demoralizing–story. However, I feel that removing him is wrong.

It’s a heart versus head issue. Are these issues ever resolved?

The Grind: An Update

A bad attitude waited for me at home–my own bad attitude. For the first few days back from my recent trip, I felt like I was being ground down again to an exhausted impersonator who had taken vacation two weeks ago. With help from coworkers, friends, my husband, and the pleasant weather, I managed to find enough calm moments to lose that feeling.

Moving Mars (from my summer reading list) is moving slowly. I’m not particularly fond of the protagonist, and the proportions of character and milieu aren’t working for me. Perhaps I’m reading the novel too slowly to see how the parts fit together.

I’m again working on DeCo (adult sci-fi novel). Two generous friends test-read the first chapter and helped me determine which information can be presented earlier in the opening.

My sister generously offered to type RITN (young-adult sci-fi/romance novel) for me–as soon as I can bring myself to send it her.

A couple short stories have progressed–one went to a new market (magazine) after its latest rejection and I’ve been polishing another that hasn’t yet gone to a market. Those are my writing accomplishments.

Summer of Science Fiction

It’s embarrassing; I write science fiction but feel like a stranger to sci-fi classics. (By the way, I know not everyone likes the term “sci-fi”. That’s too bad.)

Later this week, I’ll leave for an out-of-state visit to see family. I’m expecting down time. (Down time! Imagine!) And I realized: What could be a better opportunity than a vacation to start three months of literary exploration?

From now until the end of August, I will read for the first time (all the way through) the following nine, well-known books.

I, Robot by Isaac Asimov

Moving Mars by Greg Bear

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Mission of Gravity by Hal Clement

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick

The Forever War by Joe Haldeman

A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller, Jr.

Ringworld by Larry Niven

The Time Machine by H.G. Wells

I’m not sure which I’ll start with…it will depend on how much room is in my suitcase and on the selection at my sister’s library. However, I’m eager to read them all.

Have you read any of these books? What did you think?

MileHiCon 42: The Answer

What was the answer to the Ultimate Question of what to do on an otherwise mundane day?

Last Saturday, it was MileHiCon.

Somehow, I forgot to bring a towel. Not only did the absence of this item embarrass me–as it showed I’d made no effort to fit into the crowd–but also a towel would have been handy at a cold-season convention.

No one else seemed to mind, freeing me to enjoy myself. Here’s a summary of a few of the day’s activities.

Out of the seven opportunities to attend panels, I attended two–both full of good information and entertainment.

The first panel was “Scoring in the Elevator: Writing a Good Two-Sentence Pitch”. Moderated like a workshop rather than a lecture, it went over the scheduled time by more than an hour to allow everybody in the room a chance to make a pitch.

I listened–and sporadically threw out comments–as the five panelists led the group in picking apart each verbose draft pitch, drilling the draft’s author for information on his or her novel, and then molding carefully selected phrases into pitches of roughly 20 words. (The goal was to create 14-word pitches, but each finished around 20.)

Every draft sounded like a back cover blurb–vague and gimmicky–but reformed into a quick answer to “What is your story about?” that included seemingly-casual hints of background, character, and conflict.

Galaxy NGC4746
Halo around galaxy NGC 4746 - Photo courtesy of NASA

After a lunch with friends, I attended my second panel: “Surviving Clarion”.

The panelists addressed not only Clarion Writers’ Workshop and its siblings but also Odyssey (the Fantasy Writing Workshop) and the short but frequent workshops hosted in Oregon by Dean Wesley Smith.

Six-week programs (i.e., Clarion and Odyssey) share much in common by the way of horror, yet they seem to offer similar benefits as multiple one-week workshops. I realized that important questions to ask before applying to multiple-day, full-commitment workshop are, What kind of experience am I looking for? and Can I honestly sacrifice the required time and sanity?

The con more or less concluded for me with excellent readings by Eric James Stone and Matthew Rotundo.

I enjoyed the different reading styles of the two science fiction authors. Stone read a few of his new, unpublished flash stories and one recently published flash from a electronic…handheld device…while recording himself with what I think was his cell phone.  Rotundo read a standard-length short story (currently available from Escape Pod) from 8.5″ by 11″ white, paper pages and casually paused for a couple water breaks.

Both authors provided treats for those of us who showed up to listen. Stone offered a choice of one publication from an assortment of Analog Science Fiction & Fact issues and books showcasing his work. Rotundo’s wife swept in with party snacks. It was the best reading session I’ve attended anywhere.

It was an extra-ordinary day.