Tag Archives: speculative fiction

Raunch Reviews: A Song of Ice and Fire

Raunch Reviews: A Song of Ice and Fire

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: A Song of Ice and FireThe Author: George R. R. Martin
Work in Question: A Song of Ice & Fire/Game of Thrones
The Profanity: “Seven Hells”

It’s easy to dismiss George R. R. Martin’s epic as just another fantasy. After all, it has all the trappings. But Martin likes to ground these in a grim reality that make the struggles and conflict on the page feel real—almost historical. This is especially incorporated through his in-world religions as well. From the strange faces of the old gods carved into the sides of weirwood trees, to the Drowned God of the men of the Iron Isles, and to the Andal’s Faith of the Seven—with any faith, oaths generally follow. So it’s no surprise Martin went with “seven hells” as his inworld mild-profanity replacement.

As a mild oath, it’s fine. Seven kingdoms, seven gods, seven heavens, seven hells—it makes sense. Likewise, it doesn’t stray too far from English’s own oaths, so there is a recognition factor that comes into play. The familiarity of this profanity is understandable, as in his writing Martin tends to stick reasonably close to actual real-world history and mythology in his work. That makes his bleak world feel more adjacent to our own which works in its favor. All that said, while this is recognizable, it’s not especially original. But it’s not a word to pull you out of the story. Instead, it allows you to glide right past one grim tragedy and onto the next.

Score:  (3.0)

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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: Harry Potter

Raunch Reviews: Harry Potter

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: Harry PotterThe Author: J. K. Rowling
Work in Question: The Harry Potter Series
The Profanity: “Mudblood”

One of the many duties of successful speculative fiction is to work as a mirror on reality, and ultimately, humanity. Sometimes that mirror can reflect more serious subjects. So, it’s no surprise that something like bigotry would become a topic, even in a series like Harry Potter. While there have been a great many articles written about the successes and failures of the metaphor, the goal here is to examine the word itself.

Enter “mudblood.” It is a slur for a magical person born of parents who have no magic ability of their own. Considered highly offensive, it gets slung around a lot in the series by bullies, villains, and the propaganda arm of the fascist state. Clearly coded like racial profanity, the word is designed to dehumanize (or dewizardize, in this case), and the connotations manifest throughout the series. In fact, the entire story across all seven books largely consists of the titular hero and his pals battling against a villain who believes all of wizardkind should be “pure-bloods.” (We can trace this back to Salazar Slytherin—the goth racist who founded Slytherin House and thought the school should only teach those of pure wizard-blood. Then he left when no one agreed with him. He was basically the Morrissey of Hogwarts.) It’s important to recognize the context of “mudblood” in relation to the overall struggle; it’s not just a word bandied about by meanies, it has plot connotations as well.

As a term, it’s evocative of modern racial profanity. Used within the realm of speculative fiction, it does its part to hold up the mirror, and as faux-profanity it does this effectively.

Score: Half Swear (4.5)

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: Bas-Lag

Raunch Reviews: Bas-Lag

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: Bas-Lag

The Author: China Miéville
Work in Question: The Bas-Lag Cycle
The Profanity: “Jabber”/ “By Jabber”/ “Jabber &^%!”

I’m going to be honest, I really like “Jabber.” The word comes from the Bas-Lagian pietist Saint Jabber who is apparently some sort of deity within the world. That makes this term a straightforward oath and easily accessible to most English speaking populations (where blasphemous oaths like this are commonplace). Plus there’s something that rolls off the tongue with “Jabber.” It’s easy to say, doesn’t need to be shortened, and feels natural when read. Likewise, it can be coupled with other vulgarities, therefore expanding its use. One slight mark against it, however, is the lack of any worshipers. Most of the characters in Miéville’s book aren’t the church-going type, but even among the background we don’t see much in the way of a Church of St. Jabber. There’s an area of slums in the city-state of New Crobuzon named St. Jabber’s Mound but otherwise, it’s fairly quiet. So while “Jabber” is grounded within in-world history—any real offense is lost on the reader.

Score: Empty Swear (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 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.


Lessons from the Shadows

Lessons from the Shadows

Recently, I was asked by fellow author H.M. Jones if I’d write a guest post for her blog. She and I both enjoy writing darker fantasy, and I wanted to stay centered around that theme. The result was Lessons from the Shadows. Here’s how the post starts:

“It wasn’t until college that I discovered H.P. Lovecraft, but I had been reading authors influenced by his work for years, Robert E. Howard, Stephen King, and Clive Barker. The dark, weird, and mysterious always enchanted me. I was drawn to the shadows; something there tapped into my core emotions and excited me. Lovecraft and I are very different. He speaks of the “fear of the unknown,” which inspired him; for me, it was not fear but a fascination. I’m not scared of “things beyond.” When I started writing, I found myself attracted to those concepts…”

Be sure to read the rest of the post over at H.M. Jones’ blog. I talk anticipation, character, worldbuilding, and more. It was satisfying to take a moment to ponder on what I had learned since starting this process. I hope you enjoy the post (and find it useful.) We also did a little interview which is at the end of the article, if you want to know more about my literary heroes and inspirations don’t miss it.

Also, make sure to check out H.M.’s work including her latest novel: Monochrome. (Which is currently sitting on my Kindle.) While you’re at it be sure to look into her other work as well: short stories, poetry, and graphic novels.