Tag Archives: sci-fi

Raunch Review: Firefly

Raunch Review: Firefly

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: Firefly
Raunch Review: Firefly
The Author: Joss Whedon
Work in Question: Firefly
The Profanity: “Gorram”

Joss Whedon’s much-beloved Firefly did a lot of fascinating things with language. The mixing of refined Mandarin Chinese with backcountry dialects helped layer a world with a myriad of linguistic possibilities. Throughout the series, we see this intermingling of language with many characters shifting between English and Mandarin as they talk. While many bits of “profanity” are uttered in Mandarin, the word we’re looking at today isn’t one of them.

The minced oath “gorram” crops up a lot. Unlike the interplay of language, this term happens to be more of an exploration of linguistic drift borrowing from a more blasphemous origin and becoming a bit of a minced oath. (Not unlike “by golly,” “gadzooks,” “holy moley,” and “jeepers,” before it.) From a language standpoint, drift is essential. The English we speak today would sound like a foreign language to English speakers from five hundred years ago. So it’s easy to see how five hundred years in the future common parlance has shifted and corrupted further. Language tends to drift towards ease—words are simplified and shortened; binary becoming singular is a common occurrence. We see that with “gorram”—a drifting portmanteau of “god” and “damnation.”

As it stands as both a minced oath, a curse, and an example of linguistic drift “gorram” is a fantastic example of faux profanity. While you couldn’t do it for the entire show—it’d be impossible to understand—it’s nice to see little touches like this sprinkled throughout. They help a world feel as though it’s evolved; it gives it a sense of history.

So “gorram” does Firefly justice. But, you might be interested to know while generally attributed to Firefly, that short-run series wasn’t the first use of “gorram” in the English lexicon. Its origins are actually much older.

Score: Half Swear (5.0)

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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.


Raunch Review: District 9

Raunch Review: District 9

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: District 9
Raunch Review: District 9
The Author: Neill Blomkamp & Terri Tatchell
Work in Question: District 9
The Profanity: “Prawn”

Often when standard words are used as faux-profanity, they tend to rate poorly. But, today we’ll see where those common words can become an exception.

In the world of Neill Blomkamp’s District 9, alien refugees arrived on earth above Johannesburg, South Africa circa 1982. Thirty years later, the aliens live in an enormous slum outside of the city. The lessons in the story are immediately apparent; this is a movie about xenophobia, bigotry, classism, and segregation. Even the title, District 9, is a not-so-subtle reference to the notorious District Six that existed in Cape Town during South Africa’s apartheid. These themes are an undercurrent to the plot. It’s evident in the way aliens are treated, and we see it in the language surrounding them. The word “prawn” is used as a slur to refer to the bug-like aliens— “prawn” also happens to be the name for a large African cricket. One that’s considered a pest. The symbolism is easy to see.

Racist slurs and bigoted epithets are designed to dehumanize. The moment one can think of someone else as an “other” is the moment you no longer have to care about their well being. It removes empathy. It dissuades guilt. The victim ceases to be a person. We see that at work here. This is why the use of “prawn” in this context is so pernicious. By calling the aliens “prawns,” the humans in the story don’t have to see them as people. They’re just big bugs. Why do they deserve respect? Why do they deserve a voice? After all, they’re just a bunch of stupid criminals draining the resources of the state—they’re only pests.

One of the jobs of fiction is to shine a mirror on society, to force us to reflect on our successes and ponder our failures. Faux-profanity can do that as well, building a world and giving it a bite, and in the case of District 9, it does so with aplomb.

Score: Half Swear (5.0)

🤬 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.


Raunch Reviews: Farscape

Raunch Review: Farscape

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 Reviews: Farscape
Raunch Reviews: Farscape
The Author: Rockne S. O’Bannon
Work in Question: Farscape
The Profanity: “Dren”

If there is one series that gets requested for Raunch Reviews all the time, it’s Farscape. For the uninitiated, it’s a cult Australian-American sci-fi show filled with great story, fully realized characters, incredible muppets, and not-so-incredible faux profanities. Which leads us to today’s word of choice: “dren.”

Ha! I bet you thought I was going to focus on “frell!” But no! I pulled a fast one on you and switched it up. Why? Well, because “frell” is bad—it’s used in confusing ways and is born from the same onus as “frak” nothing more than a slip around censors. Those don’t rank highly on Raunch Reviews. In comparison, the word “dren” is much more elegant, if not stinkier.

First, its use is not original (we have to be honest it’s another censor-slip/replacer-word), and, similar to its real-world comparisons, it’s idiomatic. “Dren” is used as a vulgarity, meaning essentially an “unwanted substance or act.” It’s easy to pick up on its English counterpart when it’s used in phrases like “piece of dren.” But, unlike “frak” and “frell” it doesn’t follow similar patterns in pronunciation and it spelled nothing like its real-world counterpart. I think that’s important. For these sorts of faux-vulgarities, you want them to be punchy—longer words drift and shrink, becoming manageable enough to work as modifiers. “Dren” does that—and it does it pretty well.

If you’re going to make poop jokes, at least get creative with it and the writers of Farscape did exactly that in this case. Creativity goes a long way and while this is still a censor-slip, it’s a more creative censor-slip. The uniqueness and originality set it apart from others, so “dren” gains some points for that.

Score: Half Swear (3.0)

🤬 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.


An ECCC 2019 Debriefing

An ECCC 2019 Debriefing

This past weekend I joined thousands of others in attending the 17th annual Emerald City Comic Con in my hometown of Seattle, Washington. It’s incredible how far this show has come. This year I attended two days, Friday and Saturday alongside my friend and fellow writer Steve Toutonghi. (The paperback for his novel Side Life lands on April 9th, and you can and should preorder it now.)

I didn’t take a ton of photos this time. My iPhone is starting to show its age, and I am less inclined to snap photos as I wander. Besides, photographers more talented than I have it handled. If you want to see the cosplay, SYFY Wire did an excellent job covering the scene. They have galleries for Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, and Day 4. I recommend checking ‘em out.


🌤 Friday

Elmore Leonard always said to avoid opening with the weather, but I’m going to do it anyway. Sorry, Mr. Leonard. This past weekend was the first true spring weekend in Seattle, and it was gorgeous. I have to admit I felt a little guilty hiding away inside an enormous convention center rather than being outside. But I pushed those feelings aside and bathed myself in the glow of fluorescent lighting.

Steve and I tend to spend most of our time at the convention around the Writers Block—an extension near Artist Alley with a focus on the literary. That said—in the past few years, throughout the show I’ve noticed more of a book presence. It’s been great to see.

Sci-Fi Adrenaline Rush – (Left to Right) Rob Hart, Peter Tieryas, Madeleine Roux, moderator Jason M. Hough

The highlight of the days was attending “Sci-Fi Adrenaline Rush” moderated by Jason M. Hough with Madeleine Roux, Peter Tieryas, and Rob Hart. The topic centered on high-tension action within science fiction, but when Q&A happened, it became a discussion on craft. Everyone one of the authors had solid advice, and the audience came with some great questions. Really makes me think there should be a regular forum for this sort of discussion at ECCC—a re-occurring panel where people can ask the authors how they approach writing.

After the panel, Steve and I chatted with each of them briefly. When I got home, I bought Roux’s House of Furies, Tieryas’ United States of Japan and preordered Hart’s The Warehouse. I’m looking forward to reading all of them.

The cosplay was unbelievable

☀️ Saturday

We began our day with a game show style panel hosted by author Myke Cole. He did an excellent job, and the audience was lively and invested—the goal was to stump the panelists and overall the audience did just that. That said when it comes to game show formats, I think I prefer the pop-culture Battle Royale competition that Matt Youngmark hosts at Norwescon.

I found a Brom!
I found a Brom!

I spent quite a bit of time wandering the show floor on Saturday. Speaking of Matt Youngmark, I picked up the latest novel in his Futhermucking Classics trilogy from his table. (Managed to score the last copy! Yay me!) They’re always a fun read and Matt has a great sense of humor. I also saw my pal Brom and checked out some of the work of other local artists in the Homegrown section.

The best panel I attended on day two “The Thrill of the Chase” a discussion on YA Thrillers with April Henry, Cat Winters, Deb Caletti, Parker Peevyhouse, and Paula Stokes. There was a lot here, some discussion about craft and approach to thrillers in general. There was a question regarding the drama that seems to vortex around the YA space—and how the authors themselves handle that while writing dark subject matter. Most of them said they ignored it, and that most YA readers don’t pay much attention to Twitter. That makes sense, after all when one is outside of an echo chamber you don’t usually hear anything. A good reminder.

The Thrill of the Chase – (Left to Right) moderator Avrey (whose last name I couldn’t find/remember—Sorry!), Deb Caletti, Cat Winters, April Henry, Paula Stokes, and Parker Peevyhouse

I wasn’t feeling so great Sunday morning, and I had a manuscript to fight with, so I ended up staying home and working on the last day. Unfortunately, I missed a few folks (Sorry, Lars!) which bummed me out. One of the best parts about conventions like ECCC is hanging out with cool and likeminded people.

Overall, I enjoyed my time at ECCC. I do wish there were more craft related discussions—nerding out can be great, but it’s nice to hear others experiences working in the industry. I feel like if I go again, I need to participate more—at the very least run a table. Otherwise, I tend to be aimless and a little restless. (I know, I know, I said as much last year. But I mean it this time.)

Thanks for a great convention Emerald City—it was a lot of fun. I’m sure I’ll see you again.


Have a convention you’d like me to attend? Let me know by leaving a comment or sending me an email. Remember, You can keep track of where I’ll be and read previous convention debriefing over on my Upcoming Appearances page.


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Raunch Review: Friday

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: Friday
The Author: Robert A. Heinlein
Work in Question: Friday
The Profanity: “Slitch”

Heinlein has had his share of fans and detractors, and certainly, Friday isn’t his best-loved book by either group. (A few years ago, Jo Walton wrote a great review for Tor.com, ‘The worst book I love: Robert Heinlein’s Friday,’ which is worth reading.) Within the near-future world of the novel, there a pernicious vulgarity which we’re going to examine today. The word: “slitch.” Regardless of your Heinlein hot-take—something about this vulgarity works too well.

In the novel, the titular Friday —an “Artificial Person” or “AP”— must pass in the near-future world as a human, despite being genetically engineered and possessing mental and physical abilities which far exceed a normal person. There’s a lot of hate and bigotry toward APs. And throughout Friday, we see a world where society is built upon intolerance. In an environment like this, creating a portmanteau like “slitch” fits. (I’ll let you figure out its roots.)

“Slitch” builds off history — twisting and combining a pair of vulgarities we, the reader, recognize while still creating a new word. Its score is slightly held back because understanding its roots require a working knowledge of our modern vulgarities. (We value pure originality here at Raunch Reviews.) But, it feels as icky as its history and its link to the past goes a long way toward creating an effective piece of faux-profanity.

Score:  (4.0)

🤬 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.