Archive for the ‘Brave New Words’ Category

Locus awards update

Thursday, April 24th, 2008

Locus has announced the finalists (the top five vote-getters in each category) for this year’s Locus Awards, and Brave New Words made the cut! The pool is impressive — I feel pretty honored to be ranked with the likes of Gene Wolfe*, Joanna Russ, and Barry Malzberg. The final results will be announced on June 21.

*I know, the Wolfe book is actually credited to the editor, Peter Wright, but the contents are mostly Wolfe himself.

The lexicographer responds to his critics, or, A defense of fanspeak

Tuesday, April 8th, 2008

Several reviewers have commented, in less than glowing terms, on my inclusion of fannish words in Brave New Words. (It’s also worth noting that some reviewers liked the fannish entries. I wonder, but have no way to really determine this, if the response has anything to do with the relative fannishness of the reviewer.) Generally speaking, one of the main things people like to do with dictionaries is complain about words that aren’t included that they think should be, or about words that are included that they think shouldn’t be. I even do this with other people’s dictionaries. It’s probably impossible not to, at least for someone interested enough in language to be reading a dictionary thoroughly enough to notice what’s missing/wrongly included, and is not really worth remarking on. Sometimes specific suggestions turn out to be good ones, too; there are several terms suggested by reviewers I’ll probably include in future editions (given the chance). But since we’re talking about a whole class of words, I thought it might be worth going into some of my reasoning for including the fannish entries, because I think it’s important. By “fannish” entries, I should add, I mean those that are from fanspeak, the slang or jargon of the science fiction and fantasy fan community.

There are multiple reasons, the least compelling of which is simply that, because of the OED’s SF citation project, I had the data. Another, slightly more compelling reason, is that at certain points, it’s extremely hard to differentiate between fannish and “critical” terms. (NB: the three major categories of terms in BNW are those coined in science fiction writing, those coined to refer to science fiction writing, and those coined by science fiction fans.) So any division between fannish and critical terms would necessarily be arbitrary. Also, I think that fanspeak is interesting, and it’s highly under-represented in mainstream dictionaries, including those dedicated to slang and jargon; those that do include it tend to do so badly.

That last one, in and of itself, would probably be enough justification for me to have included fanspeak. But one of the things that most excited me about writing BNW was the realization of just how many words that were coined in SF, about SF, and by fans, have spread into wider use, and how little that had been documented. (Obviously, the OED SF citation project is the major exception to this.) So I’d like to highlight a few terms, coined by fans, that have made the leap from fandom to the wider world. Some of these are very much a part of everyday speech; others have spread only into another subculture.

The big success storise are, of course, fanzine and zine. Fanzines originally referred only to SF and fantasy-related amateur publications. The earliest reference to non-SF use I have is from 1968, referring to a fanzine for Zane Grey fans, although this is surely too late. The shortened form zine came to mainstream prominence I’d guess in the late 1980’s, as part of a DIY, self-publishing subculture; the term itself has been around in SF fan use since 1944 (and almost certainly before then). Even fanmag has broken out into mainstream use, although I’d hazard a guess that it’s not as common as the other two.

The suffix -con, used in the names of conventions, has also been widely adopted; at first, by groups with ties to SF fandom like roleplaying games and comics, and later by others. A quick search for “computer conventions” reveals the existence of CodeCon and Wescon. I’d be willing to bet that the short form con has also started to seep out, but I don’t have any hard evidence for that (well, I’ve heard people refer to comics conventions as “cons”, but hearing it doesn’t get it into a dictionary).

Completism, the desire to possess (some might say unhealthy obsession with possession) a complete set of something, has spread from SF fandom to collectors of all stripes. [Completist has as well, it’s worth noting, although I failed to supply evidence for that fact in BNW. Oops.]

Ish, short for “issue”, was originally used to refer to issues of fanzines and SF magazines (what were called prozines), but the OED added an entry for it in 2004; only the first three citations pertain to SF.

Mundania, the realm of things non-fannish, has apparently found a foothold in neo-paganism (where it presumably means the realm of things non-pagan).

Fan fiction pretty much encompasses all manner of creative endeavor now, and is arguably a subculture in its own right, and much of the terminology now used by fanficcers of all stripes began in SF fandom, including fan fiction itself, fanfic and slash, fan fiction depicting an erotic relationship between fictional characters. (Heck, there’s even slash fiction about real people now. Once upon a time, this would merely have been called either pornography or erotica [when it wasn’t called libel], but now it’s called slash. Go figure.)

And, what is surely one of the most purely fannish items of all, the word ghod, which basically means “god”, somehow managed to creep into the underground comix scene.

This list is probably not exhaustive (I don’t seem to have maintained a handy list of them, so this is just off the top of my head), but should serve to illustrate the point. Which, briefly, is that fanspeak is both interesting and influential, and well worthy of being included in dictionaries of all stripes, let alone one specifically dedicated to the language of science fiction.

Hugo nomination!

Saturday, March 22nd, 2008

I’m incredibly pleased to announce that Brave New Words has been nominated for a Hugo award in the “Best Related Book” category. (For those of you who don’t follow the minutiae of SF awards, the “best related book” category is for:

Any work whose subject is related to the field of science fiction, fantasy, or fandom, appearing for the first time in book form during the previous calendar year, and which is either non-fiction or, if fictional, is noteworthy primarily for aspects other than the fictional text.

Full list of nominees is here:

Now the phrase “Hugo-nominated author” can be pre-pended to my name for the rest of my life! (And beyond, even!)


Wednesday, February 20th, 2008

This Saturday and Sunday I will be at WonderCon, sitting at the table of the estimable Steve Leiber and inestimable Sara Ryan. I’ll have books to sell and sign, so if you’re planning on attending, drop on by. I’ll probably only be at the table for a few hours each afternoon, so plan your day accordingly!

Locus recommended reading

Monday, February 4th, 2008

The annual Locus recommended reading list has been published online, and I’m incredibly happy to say that BNW has made the list.

Still more reviews

Monday, October 8th, 2007

Bunch of newish reviews here. Two from the blogosphere: Fawny and Concatenation (I’m especially happy about the latter — not because it’s a good review, but because it turns out he regularly reviews books in my beloved subgenre: non-fiction books about SF!).  And two from the book trades: Kirkus (opens a biggish PDF file, review is on page 14), which includes some pithy quotes by yours truly, and (one of the best so far) Booklist (not available online, alas, without you have a subscription), but it begins with the delightful sentence “One of those rare reference books that is both enjoyable to browse and useful as a reference tool, Brave New Worlds may be the best subject dictionary of 2007.”

Interview podcast

Tuesday, July 17th, 2007

Rick Kleffel interviewed me the other week for his podcast and radio show on KUSP, and has just put the podcast up (radio broadcast to follow). It was a fun interview, and will be my first-ever radio appearance!

Unexpected uses

Monday, June 25th, 2007

shsilver points out an important secondary use for BNW — in addition to looking up words, it’s a great time-sink for ego-scanning. I don’t have a livejournal account, so I can’t post comments to his thread, so Steven, if you’re reading this, Argentus also appears under -con1. And the main reason that Tom Smith isn’t cited for space marine is that my cassette of Who Let Him in Here? didn’t have a lyrics sheet. Although now I see that lyrics are online. Oh well.

SCI FI Wire interview

Wednesday, June 13th, 2007

My interview at SCI FI Wire is up: here.

More reviews

Tuesday, June 5th, 2007

Continuing our theme of shameless self-promotion, here are further laudatory reviews:

Orson Scott Card (he also brings up a general problem with citations, which is that the stated author of a work is assumed to have actually written every word quoted, which is not necessarily true–it’s a frequent complaint of authors that editors change their text, and some SF magazine editors were apparently notorious for it–but I know of no practical way around it; in addition, the point of listing an author is both to give credit and to allow readers to locate the source text, which becomes harder if no author is given)

Seattle Times

And the Times itself. Now that I’ve achieved such notoriety, I’m going to retire to Dover and keep cat macros.