I've updated my Mapping Resources for Authors (and GMs)

A New Hybrid Solution for Creating Fantasy Maps

Just a quick note to let everyone know that I’ve updated my ‘Mapping Resources for Authors (and GMs)’ guide this afternoon. It’s a minor update, but one I wanted to specifically call out. You’ll find a handy new hybrid tool from Red Blob Games that builds some of the most stunning fantasy maps on the fly—it might be the best out there right now. So if you’re working on a project (or if you’re just a map enthusiast), you really owe it to yourself to swing on by and check it out.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

The Human Heart in Conflict with Itself

The Human Heart in Conflict with Itself

“…the young man or woman writing today has forgotten the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself which alone can make good writing because only that is worth writing about, worth the agony and the sweat.”

William FaulknerBanquet speech


I came across this quote when looking through some old posts and I wanted to share it on its own. Earlier this year, I referenced it when discussing how ‘Your Fave is Problematic—That’s Okay’ and it works well in that context. That said, it’s still wonderful separate from the point I was making about challenging fiction. If we’re not writing about that central conflict, then why are we writing? (FWIW, I recommend reading the whole speech.)

Raunch Review: Fantastic Mr. Fox

Raunch Review: Fantastic Mr. Fox

Raunch Reviews is a series about profanity. Not real profanity, but speculative swearing. Authors often try to incorporate original, innovative forms of profanity into our own fantastical works as a way to expand the worlds we build. Sometimes we’re successful. Often we’re not. In this series, I examine the faux-profanity from various works of sci-fi and fantasy, judge their effectiveness, and rate them on an unscientific and purely subjective scale. This is Raunch Reviews, welcome.


Raunch Review: Fantastic Mr. FoxThe Author: Wes Anderson
Work in Question: Fantastic Mr. Fox
The Profanity: “cuss”

Okay, before we get into this one, I think it’s helpful to see it in use.

It’s hard to look at Fantastic Mr. Fox and not address the aesthetic aspects. It’s a technical masterpiece which tells a simple story based on a Roald Dahl novel from 1974. “Cuss” never appears in the original source material—this is a product of the screenplay. Like most Wes Anderson films, there is as much style as there is substance, and there are layers that shouldn’t be ignored.

“Cuss,” in this case, is fascinating. It’s used as a profanity; it assuredly runs the gamut and replaces other much more offensive words—but never of the same type. At one point it’s an oath, a vulgarity in other moments, and it can even be licentious: it doesn’t matter, and that’s the point. “Cuss” replaces everything. But it does this in a way that is more amusing than offensive. Where “frak” was a clear attempt to get around censors, and “shazbot” was goofy foolishness played for laughs, “cuss” ends up being a subtle (and effective) commentary (that also happens to be played for laughs).

“Cuss” by itself means nothing outside of its recognized definition. But when it describes nonsense, it becomes nonsense. It becomes a parody; it pokes fun and recognizes the absurdity and duality inherent in language, and in this way it transcends faux-profanity.

So, where does that leave me in a series in which I rate the effectiveness of faux-profanity? “Cuss” is effective as commentary, but as profanity, it falls short. And I think that’s the point.

Score: No Score, you sly fox 😒

 


Previous Raunch Reviews


Have a suggestion for Raunch Reviews? It can be any made up slang word from a book, television show, or movie. You can email me directly with your recommendation or leave a comment below. I’ll need to spend time with the property before I’ll feel confident reviewing it, so give me a little time. I have a lot of books to read.


 

Why Are Bad Words Bad?

Why Are Bad Words Bad

I’ve been running a series of post called Raunch Reviews where I examine the effectiveness of fictional swearing. While doing some research for a few upcoming posts, I came across this Vsauce video from 2013 does an outstanding job of breaking down the evolution of language and how it influenced modern profanity. If you’re interested in etymology it’s very much worth spending the ten minutes to give it a watch.

The Steven Pinker lecture mentioned in the video, ‘The Stuff of Thought: Language as a window into human nature,’ is an even more in-depth breakdown of the history and evolution of cursing. It’s long but worth watching if you have the time. Probably not at work though, I would flag it NSFW even though it’s an academic lecture on swearing. So consider yourself warned if that’s a problem.

The Stars Were Right is a BookNest SPFBO Semi-Finalist

My SPFBO Journey Has Come to an End

Can’t win ’em all and that’s okay. It was always a bit of a longshot. Yesterday, I was informed that my novel The Stars Were Right was eliminated from the SPFBO. C’est la vie. While I would have loved to win, I’m not upset. It was fun to participate and to get even this far in the contest was pretty exciting. Plus, participating helped me discover a whole swath of great new books and a welcoming community.

There is still a lot of the contest left as the 10 blogs whittle down the original three hundred to the ten finalists. Winner will be announced next year. I want to extend a hearty thank you to the team at BookNest for reading my little book, and Rob J. Hayes for reviewing it and choosing it as a semi-finalist.

You can continue to follow the contest’s progress over on Mark Lawrence’s blog. Good luck to everyone still in the running. I’ll be over here watching and cheering from the sidelines.

H.P. Lovecraft Really Liked Sending Christmas Poetry

H.P. Lovecraft Really Liked Sending Christmas Poetry

Hey, it’s December 2nd, how’d that happen? For a while now, I’ve taken the holiday season as an opportunity to share some of Lovecraft’s more seasonal, often strange, and always festive poetry. I even put a handy guide together last year. Many of these poems are filled with inside jokes and were written for specific individuals (and sometimes cats.)

But there was one poem that, until recently, I hadn’t been able to track down. Lovecraft’s 1918 verse: To the A.H.S.P.C., on Receipt of the Christmas Pippinhplovecraft.com, my go-to respiratory didn’t have it, and it wasn’t in any of the books in my collections. After some searching, I finally found a copy on the Hungarian site hplovecraft.hu and I present it here as written.


 To the A.H.S.P.C., on Receipt
of the Christmas Pippin

Like some astronomer, whose dazzled gaze
Looks for a star, but finds the moon’s bright rays,
The carping critick trembles with surprise
As the new Pippin greets his awestruck eyes!
Precocious train, whose infant genius glows
In faultless verse and Addisonian prose;
Whose countless talents scintillate and shine
Thro’ polish’d paragraph and lustrous line;
What ag’d assemblage can compare with you?—
Your gifts so many, yet your years so few!
High o’er the band euphonious HARPER tow’rs,
Blest with a poet’s and a cynic’s pow’rs;
Who can with equal skill and vigour shew
A press club’s virtues, and November’s snow,
And hold with majesty the office of a MOE.
Not less in altitude, nor less in wit,
See mighty GALPIN on his dais sit;
Swiftest of bards, whose hasting pen can trace
Impromptu numbers—foremost in the race!
From him we turn to THAYER—refulgent star—
(Tho’ inter nos methinks we turn not far:)
Experience gleams thro’ each pathetic verse—
O leer ye not—some day you’ll suffer worse!
But see!—above the present’s tawdry theme
Soars a fleet WING, with high auspicious dream;
Prophetic singer! ere thy lines are done,
Rejoicing Freedom views the vanquish’d Hun!
All hail, FRANCISCO, who canst rhyme so well
Of the once-potent autocrat of h***:
Proud Lucifer a rival King must own,
Who keeps his evil, tho’ he lose his throne!
Now comes the prose, but sure, the change is slight
When we behold YEED’S ethereal flight:
With airy grace she sails celestial deeps,
And finds the wealth that pleasing Fancy keeps.
More fancy shines as we admiring look
At Santa’s tale—Pieria’s undamm’d brook;
With tranquil tide the stream melodious flows,
And poesy beams thro’ the faultless prose.
The page now blazes with collegiate fire,
As M. PATRICIA smites the sounding lyre;
In classic halls a virtuous phantom see,
To mould the lives of heroes soon to be!
Christmas again! This time a RYAN’S quill
Describes the w. k. season of good will;
Each reader praises, as his eyes behold
A noble theme, and classic style, unroll’d.
Such are the parts—what language can we find
To sing the merits of the whole combin’d?
Superlatives in vain the critick tries
In praise of aught so witty and so wise
Old age, with friendly grandpaternal glance,
Surveys each prodigy in swift advance:
If in the youthful mind such art appears,
What heights of glory wait your riper years?


As far as Lovecraftian holiday verse goes, it’s not my favorite (that honor goes to Yule Horror.) I have no idea why “hell” is censored when he uses it freely in other work. (Call of Cthulhu comes to mind, among others.) Maybe the AHSPC was more prudish?

For those wondering: a “pippin” is a type of apple, not a 90s NBA star. I’m guessing the capitalized words are names calling out members of the AHSPC. Galpin shows up in other works as well (and was reportedly the inspiration for Old Bugs.) Lovecraft didn’t stop with this poem, he also wrote a similar one thanking the AHSPC for the May Pippin. Because of course.

All this and much much more is collected in S. T. Joshi’s The Ancient Track: The Complete Poetical Works of H. P. Lovecraft so if you’re hankering for more of Lovecraft’s weird verse, it’s a solid collection and a good place to start (and end actually, it has everything.)


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