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Raunch Reviews: The Stormlight Archive

Raunch Reviews: The Stormlight Archive

If you think about it, profanity is a strange invention. Much of its context depends entirely on the listener. What is considered vulgar or offensive in one culture may not be offensive in another. When the complexities from a person’s country, region, language, or religion are added, things can get even more perplexing. As long as there has been language, there has been profanity. There has also been stories. One of fiction’s responsibilities is to be a reflection of our reality—so, when worldbuilding, us speculative-fiction writers are often tasked with inventing creative curse words for our narratives. It adds a level of authenticity and—if done well—can help ground a world. Sometimes we’re successful. Often we’re not.

The evolution of language—slang, in particular—has long been an interest of mine. From its history, to its usage, and to the subtle shifts resulting from generations building upon (or outright ignoring) the language of the previous generations. Language continually changes, and so does slang and profanity.

I thought it would be fun to explore some of the faux-profanity writers have created for their stories—to examine them and issue judgments on how effective they are within the context of the work. For this, I want to welcome you to Raunch Reviews, a series wherein I will review and rate the faux-profanity from science fiction and fantasy properties.


Raunch Review: The Stormlight ArchiveThe Author: Brandon Sanderson
Work in Question: The Stormlight Archive
The “Profanity”: “Storm it”/”Storms”/”Storming”

In large part, I don’t think “storm” works as an expletive. On the surface, it certainly makes thematic sense within the source material: Roshar, the world of the series, is plagued by destructive “highstorms” that are part of everyday life. However, in usage, its weight as profanity starts to give. It feels derivative, almost modern, and the replacement of “storms” as a stand-in for something more offensive feels silly.

I classify foul language into three major categories—race/identity-based, vulgarities, and oaths. Race/identity-based terms are obvious, they’re slang focusing on a person’s race or identity, with the intention to dehumanize and belittle. Vulgarities reference reproductive organs, body parts, and sexual acts. Oaths are rooted in blasphemous speech, exclamations, or curses. Those are generally drawn from religious beliefs.

“Storms” and its variations don’t fall into any of these categories. “Storm” is a common enough word in the book, so it cannot be a vulgarity, nor is it a personal or racial insult. Likewise, it’s not a direct reference to a particular deity, so it fails as an impactful oath. It attempts to sit somewhere between vulgarity and oath and ends up doing neither successfully. Were Sanderson seeking a vulgarity, he could have easily drawn from his “safehand” lore (the covered left-hand of Alethi women, considered inappropriate to expose.) If he was attempting an oath, “by the Storms” or something similar would have made more logical sense. To his credit, he does occasionally use “Stormfather” (an oath referencing a former deity) and it fits the more traditional form of an oath.

But “storms” isn’t “Stormfather.” As a result, “storms” gets the distinction of being internally consistent, but is ultimately nowhere near as faux-offensive as it aspires.

Score:  (2.5)

There will be more to come. In the meantime, do you 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.


Friday Link Pack 03/08/14

Cover Reveal for Brandon Sanderson’s Words of Radiance by Michael Whelan

It’s time to share a few interesting links I have found throughout the week. Some of these I mention on Twitter, if you’re not already following me there, please do! Have a link I should feature in the upcoming link pack? Let me know!

Thanks Drew:

Big thank you to writer Drew Gerken (@worddrew) for picking up my slack and running with the Friday Link Pack in my absence. He found and shared a lot of great stuff. If you happened to miss it, make sure you hit up his blog and check it out. I know he plans on continuing posting link packs of his own. So give him a follow while you’re at it.

Writing:

101 Fabulous Plot Resources For Novelists
Okay, so it’s not really 101 things, but blogger and writing coach Molly Greene (@mollygreene) compiles a handy list of resource for plot discovery.

$14 Kindle Paperwhites
Amazon is offering a Kindle for the price of a trade paperback. $14 bucks a month for 4 months. No interest. No credit checks. Regardless about how you feel about Amazon or ebooks it’s a heck of a deal and a smart play from Amazon.

Can bestseller lists be bought?
The LA Times looks into a recent story where a church from Seattle paid an estimated $210,000 to ResultSource to make it’s senior pastor’s book Real Marriage a bestseller. Shady, yes. Stupid, totally. There’s a big difference between numbers and valuable numbers.

Art:

Here Amid the Wild Woods new works by Kari-Lise Alexander
When I last left you I mentioned Kari-Lise’s show Here Amid the Wild Woods was opening soon at Auguste Clown Gallery in Melbourne. Well it opened and it was incredibly successful. You can see the full show here. I believe there’s only one piece left and the gallery does have prints available.

Cover Reveal for Brandon Sanderson’s Words of Radiance by Michael Whelan
Despite my own vocal opinions about the book cover for Sanderson’s latest epic fantasy I have to admit Michael Whelan did a really good job explaining his process. He’s an incredibly talented illustrator and it’s cool to get a behind the scene’s look.

Random:

Big Hug Mug, a True Detective Playlist
So, I am obsessed with HBO’s True Detective, and not just because of the Robert W. Chambers connection (though that helps.) When Wilson Miner (@wilsonminer) put together a pretty incredible playlist I was stoked. It’s worth a listen, or like 75 listens in my case. (TEASER! I have a playlist coming for The Stars Were Right. I’m hoping to post it soon.)

TED – The Gentlemen Thief: The Art of Misdirection
If you could control someones attention what would you do with it? A great TED talk/presentation with a pretty stunning ending.

Lovecraft Story of the Week:

The Moon-Bog
Sometimes it’s best to leave well enough alone.

Farewell Gif of the Week:

Despite my joy I could tell something very wrong had happened.

Brandon Sanderson’s 2012 Lectures on Writing

Write About Dragons
A good friend of mine sent me this link a while back, I might have mentioned it on twitter, but  it was too good not to share here. If you’re not aware, Brandon Sanderson is the successor to Robert Jordan, the author who was selected by Jordan’s widow to finish his epic “Wheel of Time” series (which I haven’t read but I know people love.)

He gave these lectures at BYU and they are chock full of some really good info. I’ll embed the first class below, but do yourself a favor and spend some time watching all of them. If you can’t spare the time to watch the audio has also been made available to download.

The rest after the bump…

Continue reading Brandon Sanderson’s 2012 Lectures on Writing