Tag Archives: sci-fi

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)

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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: A Clockwork Orange

Raunch Review: A Clockwork Orange

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: A Clockwork Orange

The Author: Anthony Burgess
Work in Question: A Clockwork Orange
The Profanity: “Yarbles”

The evolution of language is a large part of profanity. What is considered obscene changes over the years, and can seem silly to following generations. One of the most famous examples of this was the word “leg” which, during the Victorian era, was considered obscene. (“Limb” became the de-facto replacement when discussing one’s extremities.) It’s strange to think about now, but that evolution influences the effectiveness of profanity. It’s very much a product of its time. That same evolution should apply to fictional swearing as well.

Enter “yarbles,” Anthony Burgess’ offering into the lexicon of faux-profanity. Uttered by the milkplus-fueled street toughs who prowl the streets of a retro-futuristic London, this word is used as a vulgarity for male genitalia. Burgess, a linguist as well as a writer, based much of the unique language in a Russian-influenced argot he called “Nadsat” (which translates to -teen). “Yarbles” is based on the Russian word аблоко (jabloko) which translates as “apple.” Within English, we often see words get anglicized as they shift and change over time. With that anglicization, a word will inherit new pronunciations and often evolve new meanings. We see that with “yarbles.”

“Yarbles,” as a result, is subversive—so perfect that they slapped it on the first edition cover! It carries that hint of naughtiness which sharpens its use as a vulgarity. It has a history and an evolution. Its visceral nature fits within the context of the novel, and it’s wielded perfectly by the book’s protagonist, Alex. In almost every way, it can be viewed as a gold standard for faux-profanity.

Score:  (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: Warhammer 40k

Raunch Review: Warhammer 40k

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: Warhammer 40kThe Author: Dan Abnett
Work in Question: Warhammer 40k – Gaunt’s Ghosts
The Profanity: “feth”/“fething”/“fether”

Warhammer 40k’s backstory is complicated. So, let’s set the scene. The word “feth” comes from the planet Tanith, a now-dead world in the Warhammer 40k universe. Taken from the name of a forest spirit said to inhabit Tanith’s now-deceased Nalwood trees, “feth” is generally uttered as a vulgarity by Tanith’s survivors. That usage is interesting: typically, within language, the names of deities (or names in general) tend to be uttered as oaths. Yet, that isn’t the case here, to further complicate the usage, the term is mainly used by the survivors from that dead world: a military regiment known as the Tanith First-and-Only. They’re observed combining the word with others the way one would with vulgarities, epithets such as: “fething gakhead” and “tread fethers.”

While I like the added aspect of history, that doesn’t work. It’s inconsistent with language’s evolution. The fact that a grieving unit of survivors exclusively use the word further muddies things. It’s odd that the whole group would choose the name of a forest spirit from a beloved homeland and adopt it as a vulgarity. As a vulgarity, it has no impact. If anything, it’d make more sense to be generally accepted by survivors as a compliment. The name itself doesn’t mean anything offensive. If it were used as an oath, however, “feth” would have scored much higher.

Score:  (1.5)

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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: Mork & Mindy/Starsiege: Tribes

Raunch Review: Mork & Mindy/Starsiege: Tribes

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: Mork & Mindy/Starsiege: Tribes

The Author: Garry Marshall and Dynamix
Work in Question: Mork & Mindy/Starsiege: Tribes
The Profanity: “Shazbot”

It’s rare for a fictional profanity to transcend its original source material and find new life in other properties. But that’s what we find with 1978’s Mork & Mindy’s “shazbot.” The word serves as a stand-in for a vulgarity; first uttered in the show’s opening credits but used occasionally throughout the series. Like “frak,” its generational cousin, “shazbot” first reads as a wink to the audience and a slip around the censors. But it has a silly quality—”frak” is intended to sound like the word it’s replacing. “Shazbot” isn’t. It’s nonsense for nonsense sake. A joke. With his performance as Mork, Robin Williams did a phenomenal job playing up the silliness and as a result, “shazbot” never resonates as profanity.

Decades later, the word would be revived making an appearance in Dynamix’s Starsiege: Tribes game series. Either emoted by the player or uttered automatically when a player’s character is killed, the word was so beloved by the fanbase it quickly became a meme. But, like on Mork & Mindy, the word remained a gag; it was a punchline, and largely unoffensive.

As a faux-profanity, “shazbot” is lacking. It has no bite and lacks any weighty resonance. While “shazbot” has been found charming by multiple generations, it’s certainly not offensive nor does it feign as being offensive, as a result, it works much better as a goofy joke.

Score:  (2.0)

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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 Reviews: Battlestar Galactica

Raunch Reviews: Battlestar Galactica

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: Battlestar GalacticaThe Authors: Glen A. LarsonRonald D. MooreDavid Eick
Work in Question: Battlestar Galactica (1978 & 2003)
The Profanity: “Frak”

As far as worldbuilding goes, Battlestar Galactica is a hodgepodge. It blends all manners of stuff: Ancient Greek gods, modern mythology, faster-than-light travel, politics, fear of the internet, murderous robots, weird visions, spaceship dogfights, strange paper with missing corners, and underwear worn over tee shirts. Yet despite its silliness, the 2003 reboot remained internally consistent and for a long time and—at least for its first two seasons—it was some of the best sci-fi on television. As a result, some of the silly points become charming, but sadly, “frak” isn’t one of them.

The word first appeared in the original series (1978) where it was initially spelled “frack”  — it wasn’t until later (2003) that producers changed it to “frak” to make it a four-letter word. (Gasp!) It’s clear what it’s meant to replace, but it comes across more immature than serious. I dislike one-to-one replacement words, they’re lazy. There’s plenty of circumstances from the backstory that could have been effectively tapped for the purposes of faux-profanity. “Frak” is adolescent in tone, does little for the world, and effectively reads as an overt and clumsily minced-oath—nothing more than an attempt at sneaking naughty content past the censors. We all know what they were saying… well, except for KFC.

Score:  (1.0)

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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.


Reading Recommendation: Join by Steve Toutonghi

Join by Steve Toutonghi

“Join is a searing, ballistic plunge into the mysteries of identity and mortality. Its ingenious core is revealed and amplified by high voltage suspense and murder. Delicious.”

Katherine Dunn, Geek Love

If that quote doesn’t make you want to read this book, you’re probably dead. I’m happy to say that today is the launch of Join by author Steve Toutonghi. Now before I continue, full disclosure: Steve is a friend of mine, a former co-worker (and boss), and I was lucky enough to be an early a beta reader of the manuscript that became Join.

Join is good, it’s real good, and you should buy and read it. As I mentioned in my review on Goodreads, Join reminds me of the work of Philip K. Dick, Kurt Vonnegut, or, more recently, Jeff VanderMeer. A strange and cerebral tale that is both intimate and engaging. The story is set on a familiar near-future Earth that has been ravaged by extreme weather events. In this setting, we find ourselves confronted with the technology of Join: the merging of individual’s consciousnesses (and bodies) into a single person with the memories comprised of each former individual. The Join technology is the crux of the story, the partial cause of tragic events on a personal and, ultimately, global scale. Throughout the novel, Steve takes us on a journey into the ramifications of Join, masterfully weaving beautiful prose with his dark humor, while examining ideas of individualism, mortality, gender, and consciousness.

A great novel doesn’t have to provide answers, often all it needs to do to achieve greatness is asks the right questions. The thing I like—and this is something a lot of authors can glean from this book—is Steve’s use of restraint. This was something that was present even in early drafts. Steve goes just far enough, poking and prodding at ideas and asking difficult questions. Ultimately this tactic challenges us the reader to provide the final answers. As a result, the story left me dwelling on Join’s themes long after it had ended.

Join a beautiful first book, and one I am happy and excited to recommend. It arrives today from Soho Press, and you can purchase it pretty much everywhere: Amazon, Barnes & NobleIndieBound, and more. I’m sure you local library or independent bookstore can get it as well. Make sure to follow Steve on Twitter and check out his website at stevetoutonghi.com. When you’ve finished, make sure to leave a review on Goodreads.