May 23

Worldbuilding Wednesday 5/23/18: Eurospy

The Cold War just got hotter. Typical poster (note the Sean Connery
look-alike) for a Eurospy film.

 

In the early 1960s James Bond was the coolest fictional character ever. He weathered life-threatening situations with humor and aplomb, handled fisticuffs as well as martinis and expensive suits, and was always able to bed beautiful women. Dr. No, released in 1964, inspired a whole trend of spy movies and parodies of spy movies, like Casino Royale (1967) and Doris Day’s The Glass Bottom Boat. Such movies drew from their cultural roots in the Cold War and rendered its very real dangers into fantasy. The U.S. had knock-off secret agents Matt Helm, Flint, and Napoleon Solo, and the Europeans a whole subgenre of cheaply produced, exploitive — and thus terribly fun — movies known collectively as Eurospy. (The Glorious Trash pulp fiction site reviews a bunch of them here.)

Characters in Eurospy films were always running from one country to another and referencing obscure Cold War people, places, and things. If you’re writing a historical thriller set in those times, a parody, or a spy spoof, here’s some randomly generated creations you can use.

Eurospy Names


FRANCE

Parembrys

Osseilles

Chegboux

Gruyrobles

ENGLAND

Wistonden

Chesscastle

Liverwood

Stousetint

GERMANY

Ruthenhofft

Viermaisse

Brumbergnen

Gürlin

RUSSIA

Kuniv

Vosdrozh

Ulskygrod

Pelyabinsk

NETHERLANDS

Imsverdam

Drusjfels

Untwerth

Unydhoven

FINLAND

Hjarinki

Sjasa

Peinajika

Soesjoki

SPAIN

Rudras

Murmad

Igoza

Palananca

CZECHOSLOVAKIA

Schagia

Vnodzka

Znojri

Plebyrny

TURKEY

Aurasymky

Issayul

Byapsari

Zamukallu

 

 

May 21

Aliens

Ecstasy of the deepest kind.

May 16

Worldbuilding Wednesday 5/16/18: Plague and Pestilence

Plague Doctor, by ChainclawofBloodClan

 

Many fantasies are set in a never-never-land of times gone by. Usually it’s Medieval Europe. But the Roman Empire, Bronze Age Britain, and Dynastic Egypt also get their times in the sun. All have one thing in common: the dearth of plagues. Which, admittedly, are hard to incorporate into uplifting adventure stories. They’re depressing, and tend to kill a lot of people, characters included, and thus derail plots and quests.

Diseases are easier to find as local color or plot devices. John Norman’s Gor series had a leprosy-like disease called Dar-Kosis, and Harry Potter, Dragon Pox. Grayscale features in George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series.

Should you need a quaintly named disease, plague or pestilence for plot purposes, here’s a randomly generated list of them.

Plagues


The Brown Wasting

Putrid Croup

Scratchpphleg

Black Ptomordis

Grim Pox

Agfulo

Red Colic

Heartblind

Brown Scurvinia

Black Choke

Spotted Chrothenia

Sprondophy

Wheat Hives

Blue Bulbs

Screaming Spasms

Softbones

Blue Chromordis

Ditch Grippe

Dancing Parula

Camp Death

Yellow Rot

Sprondopsy

Agenza

Laughing Boils

Black Cerewad

Dog’s Eye Effluvia

Cyanlera

Herpenza

Ureacropsy

Centipede Curse

Rotting Fever

Ceregra

Land Flux

Thin Plague

Dragon Catarrh

Rotting Canker

Catchscrat

Scrotflora

Red Malaise

Blood Fever

Liver Cramps

Scarlet Blindness

Summer Contagion

Scrotthae

Paraenza

White Chill

Brown Cropsy

Gringopsy

Dyspraxis

Sponge Pox

Speckled Plague

Scarlet Twitch

Blue Septis

Crock Hives

Bulbsy

Pule Ague

May 14

Wooden Figures

Daphne’s curse was sometimes extended to both sexes.

May 09

Worldbuilding Wednesday 5/9/18: The Wild West

I’m going to guess this cowgirl just busted her bare-chested (but chaps-wearing)
boyfriend out of a Mexican jail.

 

Yippee ki yay! The Western is a uniquely American form of cinema and literature taking its plot, characters, and setting from the American Old West in the years 1850 to 1900. Cowboys (and cowgirls) ride horses, bear rifles and revolvers, and often live a nomadic life drifting through small towns, ranches, saloons, and military forts in the arid, dry landscapes west of the Rio Grande. Common themes are pursuing justice, solving crimes, or searching for treasure or missing loved ones. Westerns were popular up to the 1960s, but fell out of favor as America catapulted itself into the space age. In recent years, there’s been a resurgence as classic plots are refreshed for a more cynical and irreverent age. Steampunk, for example, draws as much from Old West style and technology as from Victorian Age England; the terribly written, but sumptuously art directed, Will Smith movie Wild Wild West, with its giant steam-powered tarantula and floofy dance-hall costumes for the villain’s henchwomen, was a seminal influence.

If you’re writing a Western but are stumped for names, here’s some you can use.

 

Wild West Names


 

COWBOYS AND COWGIRLS

Irma Wells

Pearl King

Frank Hawk

Chicken Dinner Katie

Johnny Ten Feathers

Samuel Savage

Whiskey Emmeline

One-Shot Hezekiah

Henry Carver

Hank Laplante

Two Dollar Kitty

Birdie McClancy

Rusty Savage

Dutch McMurphy

TOWNS AND SETTLEMENTS

Gypsy Well

Cokeville

Antelope Path

Horsehead City

Devil’s Mile

Sunday Skillet Junction

Cowboy Coffee

Pronghorn Nose

Dog Path

Black Hawk Township

Buzzard Foot

White Horse City

Gringo Pueblo

Mule Spirit

PLACES

Happy Papoose Ridge

Chinaman Flats

Red Elk Falls

The Devil’s Frying Pan

Thunderbird Spring

Blackbird Summit

Twenty Mile Canyon

Iron Ore Gully

Fool’s Gold Mesa

The Axe Handle Trail

Rattlesnake Heaven

Mormon Ford

Quagmire Spring

White Antelope Valley

 

 

May 07

Those Greek Kids

My, what a nice cock you have.

May 03

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda [Review]

Simon vs. The Homo Spaiens AgendaSimon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda

by Becky Albertalli
Balzer + Bray, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, 2015

 

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda was one of the happiest books I’ve read this year. Recently released as a movie, it originally came out in 2015, earning a well-deserved place on YA must-read lists for its depiction of a gay protagonist.

It’s also the best use of first person present I’ve read so far.

Simon, a young man starting his junior year of high school, has a trio of close friends, a loving family, and is generally secure about his life save for one thing — he is gay but hasn’t told anyone yet. (Amusingly, he discovered he was gay by crushing on Daniel Radcliff’s portrayal of Harry Potter.) The only one who knows is a mysterious poster, also gay, on his school’s website forum whom he calls Blue; as the two correspond Simon develops a crush on him as well as the desire to meet.

It’s lightweight stuff, but surprisingly deep. There’s musings about growing up in general and having one’s understanding of the world deepen – discovering hidden sides to others as they mature and grow beyond stereotypes, and gradually Simon’s waking up occurs as well. In his world coming out is not the tension-fraught horror it would have been in a 1970s or 80s book, as Simon’s friends and family are liberal and accepting. It’s that he doesn’t want all the fuss, and perhaps, the work of growing up that comes with it. He also develops real feelings for Blue and there’s a lot of comedy as he tries to discover who Blue really is.

There’s also a subplot in that the class clown is blackmailing him because he knows of Blue’s and Simon’s secret exchanges – in return for keeping quiet, he wants Simons help in breaking the ice with his own crush, one of Simon’s female friends. In keeping with the sweet nature of the book, the blackmail is not of the thuggish or leering variety, but of the “Hey, let’s do a guy a favor” sort. Simon resents it, but it’s also made clear to the reader that these are basically nice kids.

It’s an introspective book. Nothing terrible happens around the coming-out theme; the worst is some jeering at a school musical Simon’s performing in that is quickly dealt with by the teacher. But it was very profound, mostly because of the author’s voice. Simon is one of those rare books where a YA first person present POV is done well, in that I believe a real character is talking to me, and not a mouthpiece of the author’s to lend “immediacy” but winds up reading like a screenplay with I’s subbed in for third person pronouns. Simon’s POV is limited and since he doesn’t care about playing to his audience, he leaves us much to infer about his life. For example, he’s is involved in a school production of Oliver! but doesn’t describe the plot to us, just that there’s Fagin and orphans and music. This was very refreshing to me compared to books like Red Queen and Children of Blood and Bone, where it’s clear the narrator is a stand-in for the author who’s pulling the strings to set the scene. Simon is not trying to manipulate us for tension and stakes. These flow out naturally from what he says and how he feels.

Also refreshingly, Simon doesn’t gasp, grunt, guzzle, heave for breath, or describe other physiological responses ad infinitum as first person present writers also tend to do.

If there is a weakness to the book, it’s that Simon’s situation is all rather sanguine. There’s realism there, but nothing nasty. I’d could be I’m just projecting, though. Teens of the 2010s enjoy a different familial situation than the ones of the 1960s and 1970s, where children were often pitted against parents and expected to become independent and get away from them as soon as possible.

A sweet read, and worth doing so just for examining the technique of a YA writer who GOT IT RIGHT.

 

May 02

Worldbuilding Wednesday 5/2/18: States of Confusion (New England)

An alternate history version of New England

 

Imaginary U.S. States are not as widely used in fiction as imaginary countries are, even though their pedigree is longer. Anthony Trollope created one of the first, Mickewa, for his satirical novel The American Senator in 1877, and Vladimir Nabokov the fictional state of Udana for Lolita.  Thomas Wolfe contributed Catawba, based on South Carolina, for Look Homeward, Angel. Writers of alternate history have contributed, such as Harry Turtledove’s Deseret (Utah), Houston (a part of Texas), Sequoyah (a part of Florida?), and Franklin (Kentucky.) Spanning alternate history and mainstream blockbuster, James Michener created Fremont, a fictional Midwest state, for his fictional retelling of the American Space program, Space. (It also featured an astronaut dying on the moon.)

Here’s some randomly generated variations on the names of New England states for your own storytelling purposes.

Imaginary US States, New England Region


 

MAINE

Saine

Myne

Faime

Miese

Mirin

Marwen

Quaine

Blaine

NEW HAMPSHIRE

New Harpshire

New Hamgrave

New Hampfast

Newhammock

New Hempcup

New Humpblister

New Champenny

New Thampbury

VERMONT

Vermecht

Unquont

Lanemont

Verdont

Gavelmort

Vermody

Milkmont

Vartront

 

MASSACHUSETTS

Massafarret

Mastachustuk

Mabranasett

Missichewitts

Massarusetts

Mastthrucker

Malschusepps

Mashachusëte

RHODE ISLAND

Rhuvar Island

Rhodaea

Rhodu Isle

Rodeforest

Rhordele Island

Drode Fort

Rhiketto Isle

Rhody Island

CONNECTICUT

Connarctica

Contelludon

Orcetigut

Conneactacad

Conocticut

Coppercut

Connactacart

Narcticut

 

Apr 30

Skeleton Dance

Tibetan Skeleton Dance costume late 19th or early 20th century.

Apr 25

Worldbuilding Wednesday 4/26/18: Pern

BRREEeeeeeee! I’m never wearing clothes — or seatbelts — again!

 

Anne McCaffrey wrote a long-running series of books about the backward planet of Pern and its giant, telepathic dragons used to combat “thread” – an invasive space spore that filtered down from an adjacent orbiting body — by burning from the air with their fiery breath. Pern had a pseudo-Medieval culture and the dragons a hive one in which one golden Queen dragon lays all the eggs, which the young men of the weyrs – cavelike mountain holdings where the dragons and caretakers are quartered – vie to impress (or “Impress”) so they can be their riders.

Though the first book, Dragonflight, was exciting enough, there was enough that bugged me about the series that I stopped reading at The White Dragon, the last book in the original trilogy. Mainly that, only men got to ride the dragons. If you were a female and wanted some glory, you had to impress the single Queen dragon, and if you failed you were fated to be a  drudge, slut, or “woman of the lower caverns” whatever the hell that was. (Yes, I know in later books girls were allowed in to impress baby Greens; but the fighting wings were still overwhelmingly male. I also never read the Harper books which probably went into more depth on the culture.) Pretty much the only way a woman could have any power, respect, or agency in the books was to impress a Queen dragon… not very fair, and not very likely, considering how rare Queen eggs were and how much politicking went into who was chosen to be present at the hatching. And even then, once a woman became a Queen rider and Weyrwoman, her power remained tied up with her sexuality. Eventually the books devolved into one big soap opera, rather dragon opera, with a lot of talk, talk, talk, talkity talk talk about weyr politics and who was mating with who and who should be mating with who, with romance novel tropes that were truly atrocious.

On the positive side, the books gave us a distinct naming system for the dragons, their riders, and their women. Dragon’s names always end in th, and can be one or two, or three syllables. Men shorten their names when they become riders, dropping the first vowel and adding an apostrophe. And women’s names were simple, feminine, and easy to pronounce in a Hanna-Barbera cartoon way.

Names of Pern


 

DRAGONS

Zorth

Pilth

Maath

Trilth

Yevairth

Dvoruth

Aneith

Anianth

Hareith

Ignanth

Vermath

Yevaath

Ureuth

Semaeth

Zizorth

Eliarth

Urolth

Surth

Shraath

Valth

Zazth

Sreth

Omiath

Augith

Gonioth

Nureith

Saziath

Torauth

Nouth

Balth

Zirth

Torth

Sharth

Dauth

Corzath

Zitreith

Komarth

Tazonth

RIDERS

B’vyr

N’misch

Sh’od

T’bet

K’tas

V’pir

Sh’kar

R’zint

M’kal

N’rol

Z’mer

B’chan

U’har

Y’glen

A’gris

Y’sil

A’karl

A’kiv

E’zen

L’wen

M’ver

M’eard

T’oth

Sh’san

B’rius

G’rian

Th’arch

D’vril

R’san

R’vril

P’zer

V’chel

D’ath

D’art

N’ston

R’yet

T’ker

Z’mek

WEYRWOMEN

Chansa

Toria

Kata

Mella

Bredda

Sella

Britha

Tria

Rwyn

Rudra

Sora

Sanje

Lupella

Wista

Zella

Rinda

Khaela

Talisa

Lina

Lilla

Censa

Ruitha

Salina

Shensa

Willata

Retta

Rhoirsa

Yilva

Luta

Felga

Jitha

Leuda

Shaline

Selan

Sydris

Sambra

Dastra

Nikka

 

 

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