Writing dense descriptions and generative rhetoric.

Aside from “What’s best in life?” there are two sentences from the Conan stories that are more or less widely known, even outside REH fans. The most likely winner would be

“Barbarism is the natural state of mankind,” the borderer said, still staring somberly at the Cimmerian. “Civilization is unnatural. It is a whim of circumstance.”

But I’d say the second is this from the introduction in The Phoenix on the Sword:

“Hither came Conan, The Cimmerian, black-haired, sullen-eyes, sword in hand, a thief, a reaver, a slayer, with gigantic melancholies and gigantic mirth, to tread the jeweled thrones of the Earth under his sandaled feet.”

That is just a sentence, but it’s hard to imagine a more apt and densely-packed description of Conan. It is also widely different from the usual way of writing descriptions (or writing, in general.)

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Nounfall Adverbborn, or The only type of naming convention in fantasy and nerdom

Although slightly silly and inconsequential, the issue in this post points to a more important (philosophical even!) question about the human mind and its relation to speech and language: why do people speak (and write) the way they do? Are we rational agents who, as if homunculi living inside our own skulls, have an idea, and then have to rationally choose the best way to express it? Or are we more like Skinnerian rats who use the words and expressions we use because these have been socioally reinforced and happen to be more effective to achieve a goal we might not even be completely aware of? My experience doing posts about writing and language, as well as observing how people write in what are heavily Skinnerian domains (social media,) makes me think truth points towards the latter. After all, who has never noticed a new expression that everybody seems to be using all of a sudden?

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Goodbye, and Hello.

To keep this relatively short while trying not to degenerate into worthless drama: I’m out. Of where? Now that’s a good question. Of whatever BS has been going on for the past 4-6 years, which has been a complete waste of time for me. Maybe for you it has been a time of great productivity and self-discovery, in which case, congratulations, but for me and, I’m sure, many others, this has been quite useless.

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Reading the Hugos (2020): A Catalog of Storms

This is the final nominee (Disregard that, I actually forgot not just to review another one, but actually to read it! There’s still one more story left) for this year’s short story Hugo Awards, A Catalog of Storms, by Fran Wilde. If you were expecting a roaring end to this review series, you are going to be disappointed.

Fran Wilde wrote years ago one of the few Hugo stories I actually liked, mostly due to its raw, angry energy and somewhat autobiographical content, but A Catalog of Storms has none of those things as far as I can see. To me, it feels like a by-the-book Hugo finalists: wandering, dreamy, with florid language, oozing with magic realism, and with barely any plot or real tension.

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Reading the Hugos (2020) Blood is Another Word for Hunger

This is the fifth of the Hugo finalists and, probably, the most important one. If you could distill the Hugo short fiction category into a platonic form, it would look very similar to this piece, Blood is Another Word for Hunger by Rivers Solomon. And now I have to review it.

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Reading the Hugos (2020) Ten Excerpts from an Annotated… oh God that’s a long title.

Some particular trends in genre literature have become obvious during the past few years. One of them is the use of Brobdingnagian titles, a compulsion to write paragraph-long titles, some of whom even give away the plot. I suspect this may have started as a quirky, ironic thing to do, but I don’t think it’s funny unless you are lampooning or referencing some stuffy style like academic papers or writing comedy. And, to be fair, that’s to some extent what this story is doing—referencing, not the comedy.

The complete title of this very short piece by Nibedita Sen is Ten Excerpts from an Annotated Bibliography on the Cannibal Women of Ratnabar Island, which is way less interesting than my alternative title: The lesbian cannibal she-devils of Ratnabar Island. It’s mating season… and they want your blood!

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Reading the Hugos (2020) Do Not Look Back, My Lion

I wasn’t sure if this year I would bother writing these analyses of the Hugo short story finalists. Although my experience has usually been that close to 90% of them are bad, at least they are bad in an interesting way. This year they are mostly bad and boring. Besides, to be honest, I don’t care that much about writing anymore. But these reviews of mine are sort of a blog tradition, so here they are once more. I think, however, that this may be the last year I do these. It’s neither worth it nor funny.

If you have stumbled upon this without knowing what I’m talking about: The Hugo Awards is one of the most prestigious literary awards in science fiction and fantasy. Also, they nominate a lot of crap, but it’s from that fact that the hilarity ensues.

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On commas. This is a post about boring commas—like, with what kind of exciting title do you think I’m going to come up with?

I occasionally proofread texts, and adding missing commas probably takes up half of my time. Removing superfluous ones is a smaller issue, but it’s a close contender. The third, if anyone is interested, is surely missing hyphens in compound adjectives. So, this will be a post about commas and, since they are related, semi-colons. However, the goal is not to remember any list of 8, 10, or 17 seemingly arbitrary rules but to understand the underlying logic, which exists.

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