Aliens in This World

An ordinary Catholic and a science fiction and fantasy fan.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Sacral Fantastica: Hot New Russian Subgenre

The Russian term "fantastica" includes science fiction (nauchniy fantastica, aka NF), fantasy (fentezi), and horror (uzhas) under its umbrella. For this reason, the subgenres are not separated quite so clearly as they are here. This does have its advantages. Detective fantastica and military fantastica are not separated by the minor detail of their type of settings, even though the intellectual interest in both -- seeing how detectives and soldiers deal with the challenges of a different setting and different rules -- is pretty much the same.

(Over here, Baen Books has made a lot of money by figuring out what kind of fantasy will appeal to the typical reader of Baen science fiction, and vice versa. There's a joke that says Baen fantasy features a beautiful woman in armor with a monster; but Baen science fiction features a beautiful woman in space armor with an exploding spaceship. This isn't so far off.)

So over in Russia, the huge numbers of new Christians are beginning to produce a hot new subgenre called "sacral fantastica". Ivan Moskvin provides a wonderful roundup of this process. Since it's from an actual magazine, I don't want to quote the whole thing. But there are some very good parts:

In the first half of the 90's, the Church was augmented by millions of intellectuals. They said, "It's the fashion." Intellectuals for whom this was only fashion soon turned aside. For others, "fashion" turned into life. The spiritual flowed from the process; considerably more people began to believe than the notorious 91 million. And for the most part, they didn't give a care how the whole world felt about their faith.

In essence, Rus had received a second baptism.

The sea of former atheist/agnostic/godless people started to ponder, which indicates their new state of soul. At all levels of existence. Including the literary one. Here's Chekhov. Here's Sholokhov. And here's Panferov, even. Is God in their texts? Are there angels and demons? Is there even a hint as to the possibility of a miracle? The peace of another world? But faith indicates that all this exists. So what are Chekhov, Sholokhov, Panferov, and the rest? Realists? Not a bit of it. It's one big lie, not realism.

The paradox is in the fact that a believing intellectual is being totally logical when he comes to a conclusion like this: "Angels exist, God exists; Christ suffered on the cross, the saints suffered; demons tempt unfortunate people to this day; and all of us expect judgement in the other world. But we see nothing in 'realistic literature' about all this. That means mystical Christian realism is in opposition to any other kind, whether critical or socialist."

Conclusion number two: "Postmodernism says nothing about this. The formal searching which appeared after postmodernism doesn't say anything about this. So why read all this pap?"

Conclusion number three: "What is out there for us? What can today's fine literature give us?" But he holds his tongue. And now, in this way, a very original intention naturally appears: "Let something fill the empty place!"

The article also points out that Russian fantasy before the Revolution included tons of religious content. But now fantasy itself is a relatively hot young genre in Russia, since science fiction was favored by the USSR and fantasy was relegated to kids' books. He feels that most subgenres of Russian fantasy exist solely because they existed elsewhere. So he regards pagan/esoteric fantasy as yet another example of this imitation, and not as truly Russian. However, he doesn't feel the need to point out the obvious, which is that Christian authors like Tolkien and Lewis have had a massive influence on most Russian fantasy writers and fans. Unfortunately, he also doesn't mention Western religious sf's influence (if any).

Moskvin dates the sacral fantastica movement as beginning with Yelena Khayetskaya's 1997 novel The Obscurantist (Mrakobes). Unexpectedly, her obscure novel was given the Bronze Snail Award by none other than Boris Strugatsky, known for his atheist science fiction. She followed up from 2001 - 2003 with the Languedoc Trilogy: Bertran from the Languedoc, Arnaut the Catalan, and Lady of Toulouse.

Meanwhile, Moskvin is quick to point out that you don't get a literary movement without fans and writer-participants. Fans appeared who called themselves the Bastion, and wanted to support good old-fashioned Russian values. This crew invented the term "sacral fantastica". They began by wanting only Orthodox-based fiction, but gradually decided to go for broader appeal (ie, Jewish mysticism was okay, too, but paganism was Right Out).

In 2000, an anthology called Sacral Fantastica appeared, with stories by Olga Yeliseyeva, Dmitriy Volodikhin, Maria Galina and Natalia Irtenina. They wrote more sacral fantastica after that. Many prominent critics began to support sacral fantastica; Vitaliy Kaplan even wrote the novel Circles in the Void.

Meanwhile, "neo-Gothic" fantasy which used certain sacral fantastica tropes, but was not primarily interested in religion, began to come out. Lukyanenko's Night Watch is the best example of this, and its success has produced many imitators. However, like Lukyanenko, many of the imitators have also gone on to write sacral fantastica.

At the same time, sacral fantastica began to turn into a marketing category, and the Sacral Fantastica anthology became an annual. The well-known fantasy writer Daliya Truskinovskaya wrote the Christian near future apocalyptic novel Make Way for God's Wrath (2003), which won the Ivan Kalita Award. Other notable sacral fantastica novels included: Victor Tochinov, Tsar of the Living (2003); Natalia Irtenina, The Labyrinth's Call (2004); and Vsevoloda Glukhovtseva and Andrey Samoilov, God of Twilight (2003). (It won't surprise any member of any fandom that it was exactly at the point when the subgenre's name became well known that people started arguing for brand new names for it, like "theocentric literature". Yeah, whatever, folks.)

Moskvin concludes that sacral fantastica "is still a very young cub. What kind of critter it will grow up to be, only God knows."

There's another informative sacral fantastica article on the same site, by C.I. Chuprinin. This article points out that the Bastion was founded by none other than Dmitriy Volodikhin. They quote him as basically saying, "Being a reactionary and a religious fanatic is a good thing. Being a progressive and an atheist is a bad thing."

Works named include: Vadim Nazarov, Circles on the Water (guardian angels); Vitaliy Kaplan, Circles in the Void (parallel universes and Christian teachings); Olga Yeliseyeva, Falcon on the Wrist (ancient gods); Maria Galina, A Lid for Abaddon (Jewish mysticism); Nataliya Mazova, Amber Name; Petr Amnuel, All Is Permitted; and Dmitriy Volodikhin, Tonight's Noon, To Kill a Peacemaker, and Children of the Panther.

So it looks like there's some very interesting stuff out there. I was also very amused to learn that Yelena Khayetskaya wrote the Russian novelization of that Crusade movie, Kingdom of Heaven. Anything she did to that tripe had to have been an improvement.

UPDATE: Thanks for the link, Amy! I'd like to extend a warm welcome to anyone visiting here for the first time, or the first time in a long time. Feel free to look around; you might also be interested in my post below on Sor Juana de la Cruz.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Third Bloggiversary!

I talked about it last week, but I forgot to celebrate it yesterday! (Too busy playing with Russian stuff.) So we'll just say that today is the first day of Anno Blogini 4.

Retook the IPIP

I'm in a much better mood today, so I retook the IPIP and got very different results!





..Activity Level...........52


























..Artistic Interests.......88





So I guess the key is to take it when you're in a decent mood and it's a nice sunny day. When you've actually eaten that day and had plenty of sleep and coffee, too.

Sor Juana: These Little Questions...

Apparently there's a massive new book called Hunger's Brides which weaves fictional academic adventure today with a fictionalization of the life of Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz, poet and natural philosopher. All well and good.

But you know, though they showed nice pictures of her convent and all...they didn't mention what kind of nun she was. In fact, I came to realize that nobody I remembered had ever mentioned what kind of nun she was. Dominican? Franciscan? Diocesan? What? And what was her order's spirituality and charism?

Well, thanks to a little Google-digging, I can now announce to you that Juana Ines Ramirez' novitiate with the Mexican edition of St. Teresa de Avila's crew of Discalced Carmelites didn't work out, but a year later she entered the female side of the monastic and contemplative Order of St. Jerome (the Jerónimos, aka the Hieronymites). The male side (Monjes Jerónimos) was founded in 1373, under the influence of great devotion to St. Jerome at the University of Salamanca. The female side (Monjas Jerónimas) was founded by Maria Garcias in 1375. Both sides of the order were favored by the Spanish kings and queens (they had a monastery at the Escorial), not to mention the king of Portugal. They were known for generous almsgiving and followed the Rule of St. Augustine. Both sides of the order also founded extremely productive convents in the New World.

The male order was suppressed in 1835 by the government. But the Hieronymite nuns in Spain had not been affected, and "with their help and prayers" in 1925, the monks were restored as an order. Just in time for several civil wars and our buddy Francisco Franco. So the monks didn't really get rolling again until 1969.

Currently, the men have two houses (here's the one at Yuste) and the women seventeen. There's also a couple related female orders: a Mexican branch, the Hieronymite religious of Puebla (Religiosas Jerónimas de Puebla -- 17 houses in Mexico and Venezuela), and an even more contemplative bunch of contemplatives, the Hieronymites of the Adoration (Jerónimas de la Adoración -- 3 houses in Spain and Mexico). So Sor Juana's sisters and brothers aren't doing too badly. They even have a magazine and several beatification causes going.

Here's the important bit: since they were into the learned and contentious St. Jerome, they were very much concerned with contemplation upon Holy Scripture. They also celebrated Jerome's friend and funder, the rich, learned, and peripatetic Roman widow St. Paula, and her even more learned daughter, Eustochium. They like hospitality, alms, and service. All this makes perfect sense for Sor Juana. But beyond that, they are concerned with silence and enclosure both as a gift given up to God and an aid to contemplating God; and that's the part of Sor Juana's story that modern people don't like.

Beyond that, I've always wondered just how close Sor Juana was to sainthood. I haven't read enough about her to really know, and certainly most of her biographers are concerned with hagiography of a much more secular sort. But I will say this: Jesus warned us that we would face persecution. Every saint I know got persecuted by somebody. If they were lucky enough not to be persecuted by people outside the Church, then people inside the Church do the job. So it's likely that Sor Juana was doing something right, especially since she was then given the grace of dying of plague while treating her sick sisters. (As a nun death, this really is pretty good.) So I really wish someone would do a spiritual biography of the woman. (Preferably in English.)

Also, although she did have remarkable learning, she was hardly alone in her mental world. It's likely that her initial attraction to the Discalced Carmelites was based on her own attraction to that learned and holy woman and font of pure Castilian poetry and prose, Teresa de Avila. She hadn't yet been named a saint, much less a doctor of the church, but her books and poetry were everywhere in the Spanish-speaking world. Moreover, she was from a Jewish background, and should have been an outsider in Spanish society. Instead, she remade it to suit herself, despite opposition from the Inquisition and false friends. But even now, Teresa's work is notoriously misunderstood as referring to frustrated human love, when in reality she is using the language of human love as a way to talk about something which is far greater and more difficult to describe. It is ironic that nowadays it is women academics who often read her as wrongly as her more envious sisters in the convent.

Juana's concerns are not the same as Teresa's, though she also is doing what she feels is her duty to God and her own soul. She, like Dorothy L. Sayers, approaches God and her life from an almost entirely intellectual perspective, though being clearly in touch with her emotions. She is not ashamed to have this intellectual perspective, and claimed that education and knowledge of science strengthened faith in God, even though approaching God mystically was the more acceptable nun style in her time.

Teresa and Juana's very uniqueness, and their bold acceptance of their difference from each other and all others, is exactly where their spiritual kinship lies. You will also notice that both bowed to stupid orders from authorities who perhaps did not deserve their obedience; but anyone who takes this obedience as a sign of their weakness or defeat gravely misunderstands what living a monastic life is all about. By obedience, they demonstrated self-mastery, not to mention loyalty to their vows and overwhelming trust in God. They accepted a small martyrdom, and thus demonstrated that they (with God's help) were bigger than their tormentors. You will also notice that for all their enemies' hard work, both Madre Teresa and Sor Juana are still in print. So who really won?

Perhaps it is relevant to relate that the Monjas Jerónimas, like their brother monks, were known for being an order which insisted on both proud bearing and humility of spirit. (And isn't that a Spanish combination!)

Another major misunderstanding of Juana's work is that, like other female poets and even just plain females throughout the ages, she wrote very affectionate notes to her best female friends. You know, at some point, we're going to have to stop calling every woman a lesbian or bisexual for engaging in this kind of perfectly natural behavior between heterosexual women. Just because our culture expects heterosexual women friends to be huggy toward each other but not to write each other poems, doesn't mean every other culture is that impoverished. Given all the heartfelt email chain letters and Xerox poetry on the subject of "You are my friend and you help me survive life" which are passed around among the women in my office and my circle of acquaintances, even our culture keeps trying to get out of this hole.

On the lighter side, I've often wondered what the woman who said Aristotle would have written more about science "if he'd been a cook" actually cooked in her kitchen. So of course, our Mexican friends have produced a redacted (for modern ingredients) edition of her own Mexican Baroque monastic recipe book ("recetario") called Sor Juana en la cocina. Here's a recipe from it which utilizes chemical principles.

Poetry class materials. These are pretty good, but the movie thing is all made up. Also, I think "fertilizes herself with her own humors", in the rose villancica, is best understood as speaking of blood, sweat and tears acting as fertilizer, not in terms of actual pollination or fertilization. So it's not as radical feminist a statement as all that.

A good short biography of the good sister.

The Cervantes Biblioteca Virtual. In Spanish. But much easier to read from than the Sor Juana Project.

Some Sor Juana sonnets and translations of them.

Primero sueño (First Dream): a supremely complex rhyme scheme and a storyline about a soul seeking complete knowledge of the universe or at least a single thing; but failing to accomplish this, being awoken by the Sun. Not so much a rebuke to the intellect as an acknowledgement that in this world, you really can't know it all. (But of course you have know quite a lot to know just how much you don't know....)

A poem she wrote to someone snarking at her illegitimacy.

Bio and links to online sources.

Sor Juana's Page In Spanish. A scholar protesting postmodern interpretations of her work. Soriano has written both a Thomist analysis of Sor Juana's "First Dream" and a whole spiritual biography emphasizing her intellectual humility versus contemporaries' intellectual pride. Of course, they are both in Spanish. Sigh.

And last of all, a very good poetic essay about the lady by Morton Marcus


Thursday, August 25, 2005

"Cross on the Mountain" essay

This is my translation of an essay by now-pro fantasy writer Natalia Mazova which I found online. I can't guarantee that all the sociology and history jargon is translated correctly. I don't speak Academese in English, so Academese po-Russkiy is Right Out. However, I think there are some very interesting and useful ideas here. Enjoy.

"Cross on the Mountain,
or On the Lord God's Secret Service"

an essay by Natalia Mazova, 2000.

"You see there, on the mountain, the HQ raised
Around three thousand soldiers?
Go visit it!
But when you tire, come back --
To work in GB, to work in GB,
To work in GB with me...."

-- Vadim Kazakov

The text of this article, originally, was an expanded dissent against the old Constantina Krylova article, "Russian fantasy: Between Empire and Steppe". For those who haven't read or don't remember this work, I will recap her basic theses.

It goes like this: Western fantasy, as was long ago explained to us in that "Piruge" by Sapkovskiy, all comes from the archetypes of the legends of King Arthur, who has his own inclusive European "progress myth", i.e., about the truth given out to those who have not yet tasted this satisfaction. Recently, as a contrast to this myth, an Eastern myth formed (more precisely, an Asian-Eastern), the "ancient source of knowledge myth", i.e., about the heritage of the past, which is the main property of Eastern civilization. However, Russia does not have its own distinct fantasy precisely because the "native heroes in no way defended the chivalrous law of honor, and even more, did not perform the tea ceremony". The Russian mind is not directed toward the present or the past, but into the future.

Up to this point, I agreed with the worthy Krylova, though with some reservations. But after this she started to discuss Russia's oppression, between Byzantium in the West and the nomads to the East, and also about the mythological consequences of this oppression....

Right away, I want to specify that I am a convinced follower of L.N. Gumileva and a supporter of the "civilizational" (also called the "national-sociological") analysis of history. For that reason, for me it was all too obvious that:

A) Byzantium -- is not quite the West (in the sense of not being part of European civilization), since, like us, it had the ideal of civilization's high value as a positive, whereas the West has it in the negative;

B) it's even more obvious that the nomads were not by any means the kind of Eastern civilization in which ancient wisdom and tea ceremonies are to be found, since they never had in their civilization a positive concept of a harmonious system ("conformity", according to V. Rybakov's terminology).

C) Finally, Kievan/Slavic Russia, according to ethnogeny theory, is not our ethnos at all, but an inertia phase of the previous one. Our ethnos and stereotypes of behavior began with the building of Moscow.

And at this moment, enlightenment came upon me: yes, indeed, it seems like the inclusive myth used subsequently as a basis for fantasy is always drawn from the ascent phase of this ethnos; moreover, in a very high degree from the phase of hidden ascent!

Specifically, this is the moment when a new people realizes that they are something different than all that is around them, and all that came before. In fact, the Arthurian cycle of legends corresponds to exactly this stage of Europe's development. Our Prince Vladimir coupled with Olga/Helga -- are an inheritance from the previous ethnos, and therefore is also "they don't disappear" together with the three bogatyrs and the whole pagan Slavic pantheon.

So, what formed the attitude of our native Russian/Muscovite ethnos in this phase, that is, somewhere from the 13th to 15th centuries?

First, it had been Christian for a long time and with stability. And if those same Celts had happened to drop a even one single goddess (eg, Brigit) into the number of the saints, then charge all Paganism's expenses to Demonology's account. However, the place in history for the Sword in the Stone -- had been occupied once and for all by the story of the Cross on the Mountain, while the place of the Knights of the Round Table by the apostles, i.e., the missionaries. (Poor, poor Andrezej Sapkovskiy in his Catholic Poland! If he only knew how Christian myths sink into folklore and in that, can convert the minds of people not stupefied by too much learning! They don't have the archetype of this in Poland; in Holy Russia, there are too many to be able to fit them in a cart.)

In the second place, it was wonderfully aware that it had obtained Paradise thanks to Byzantium, and therefore it treated it accordingly. Probably exactly as the Dunadan of Arnor and Gondor felt about Numenor and its legacies: the land of the kings of old... Or in our case, of the saints -- this doesn't change the essence of this approach.

However, the nomads were not completely received as a "deadly east wind"; this is exactly the influence of western cultural infiltration, what Gumileva called the "black legend". More likely, they already had taken up the same place in our legendary layer as the Saracens in Europe's: an enemy, yes, but an "old and dear" one. (An uninvited guest was worse than a Tatar, and whoever in that epoch was worse for Russia than a Tatar -- is three times worse for ourselves...)

And in the third and last place, exactly in the 15th century was when Byzantium finally fell to the Turks' attack. What's more, there occurred what is known in historical grammars of the old Russian tongue as the elegantly-named Southern Slavic influence. Simply put, the greater part of the Byzantine intellectuals fled to the only place which remained Orthodox -- to Russia.

And maybe, without themselves wanting it, it gave our people their main sense of meaning -- to be the last and only stronghold of the True Faith. "Two Romes fell, the third is lost, a fourth there will not be be!" But what sort of Rome is taken as an archetype? First of all, the Eternal City, the city equal to the world, and located in the center of the world. In other words -- the City-for-All.

Going from all of the above outline, I formulated three archetypes inherent in the containing myth of our ethnos. (What's more, I made this deliberately lofty -- it's myth, after all.)

A) For them, in order to save the world, is sacrificed a Savior, but not a savior. However, the real meaning of his acts are -- Triumph after Sacrifice; and his weapon itself -- not a sword, but the Word.

B) There were Kings of Old, in whose hands was the True Light -- but they fell. However, their descendants rejected their inheritance, except for a few, and these few, from now on, stand on that wall which separates existence from nonexistence.

C) On these few is founded the City-for-All, which they know -- is only the shadow of the shadow of the True City; however, it works with no less success than the True one. Specifically, all roads lead here for those who want to become one of those sharing the inheritance.

It's not hard to see that the given archetypal complex has not been realized in full measure in any one work of Russian fantasy, yes, not in all of fantasy, either. The whole Numenorean line in the professor's work is built on the second and third archetypes, and I give him a deep bow for that. But nevertheless, the Professor is English and Catholic. The motif of the legacy of the kings of old is very beautifully defeated by Lev Vershinin in his "Return of the King" (I originally borrowed the terminology from there; indeed, I love this narrative almost as much as if I'd written it myself). As far as Triumph after Sacrifice is concerned, these motifs undoubtedly exist in Nienna's The Black Book of Arda, but it's not hard to notice that the Sacrifice there is large, and here there is clearly a strain against triumph.

(All these conclusions were made in July 2000. Since then, "sacral fantasy" has arisen, but also, in essence, it has begun to work with the archetype "participation in the Wall-at-the-Edge-of-Darkness".)

However, our nation has always been famous for a conscious that doesn't always fully track our subconscious glitches. Which is why the line actively giving us this archetypal complex has been present in our fantastica since olden times, but in this situation has barely managed to penetrate into our fantasy.

This -- is the progressor motif in that classic form in which we encounter it in the Brothers Strugatsky.

In the ideal -- in him is very much our own traditional messianism. Indeed, the progressor carries not an "ideal world order", but a world of unconditional truth, towards which he is working by right of what dwells within him, and in essence using the Word. On the use of weapons, more or less rigid prohibitions are imposed. And the difference between the "white burden" and its carrier is exactly the same as that of Savior from savior.

(At one of the Zilantcon seminars when the discussion turned to progressor-ism, I asked, is someone considered a progressor of men who never has lived by the ideal he preaches, but who is confident of its existence? To me, the answer was obvious, but the community's opinion interested me. Alas, there didn't turn out to be any opinion at all in the community on this score....)

But unfortunately, the progressors differed from the apostles precisely in the fact that they are not holy, and so doubt, not without reason, that their deaths will serve the triumph of the ideal preached by them. And their own logic is in this -- the sacrificial spirit must not harm effectiveness. For this reason precisely, the activities of any good progressor are always compared to the activities of a good intelligence officer -- conspiracy, agents of influence, and all the other stuff. Finally, if the Lord God has a Spetsnaz, as my co-author Dmitriy Volodikhin loves to say, why would he not also have reconnoiterers?

Alas, this line in our fantastica is as compromised by its many inadequate incarnations as by the general ruin in brains. For this reason, many have a completely different concept built from the term "progressor", a far more unpleasant rank associated with it. That whoever doesn't like the word can't use it -- a change in labels doesn't change the Essence. Here, Sergey Lukyanenko (also subconsciously, not otherwise) has hit on a good idea -- the "Regressor" -- a person returning civilization, which is going in its own development somewhere that's not there, to the place from which this "not there" itself began. Such a mission is personally very much after the hearts of myself and my friends, and sometimes in jest we even call ourselves the Regressors' Committee...

Here, on this collection we may also construct our national fantasy: service to the Light, when there is no other leader besides God; a legacy from the world before, lovely but ruined; the center of the universe, where one might find a share in the highest powers; and a chosen group which works in places covered in shadow, forced to frequently hide its appearance, but little by little, step by step, changing the world toward the best.

No, I call on noone to sit down and start writing this way, and only this way. I also am aware of what kind of world I live in, and I know how far the erosion of our national worldview has come. I'm willing to believe that a text written on the basis of these archetypes could be felt by the reader to be even worse than the crowded aftertaste of the sequential adventures of Vodkolava...

I just would very much like to read something like this somewhere. But as C.S. Lewis said in an analogous situation, "It was nowhere, so I had to do it myself."

My comments on this essay:

First off, Russia is hardly the only country in which religion is part of its folklore. Indeed, I would be very surprised if "Catholic Poland" doesn't have such legends. The Brothers Grimm's famous collection of fairy tales includes stories in which Jesus wanders the earth with St. Peter. The Devil also wanders about their book, looking for souls but defeated by shrewd peasants and old soldiers. I'm fairly sure I've read similar tales from all sorts of places. Spain's chivalry, by necessity, is all bound up with religion, and of course we all know the more entertaining Irish hagiographies, which include St. Muirgen the mermaid and St. Ailbe (who was raised by wolves). Maybe this heritage of religious folklore hasn't been given much attention by fantasy writers up till now -- in fact, I know it hasn't. But it's there and there's plenty of it, whether or not it's being used.

So if the Cross has really taken the place of Arthur, you have to ask what's different in Russia from all other long-Christian countries, why non-Russian religious folklore doesn't come to Mazova's mind, why mainstream fantasy writers have shied off from all religious folklore, and why Sapkovsky and Krylova didn't include religious folklore in their ideas.

(You also can ask yourself why Russians love this Third Rome idea so much, especially when the original Rome is alive and well, and Moscow clearly has so much more to offer the world as itself.)

Second, it's pretty obvious why Lukyanenko's Night Watch has made a lot of money. (His book came our in 1998, btw; the film in 2004.) I also think it's an impossible statement, that one about the Strugatskys' myth of progressors, since of course it's closely related to the Communist theme of inevitable historical evolution, but also to the general sf myth of progress (promulgated in the US by folks who were mostly in some measure influenced by Communism, as we of course know). Again, this isn't a dig at anyone or even the idea of progress and "progressors"; it's fact.

Third, I'd be a lot less worried by an English or American writer comparing God's chosen people to intelligence officers or special forces. This is not to taunt anyone, mind you -- Mazova and Russian fandom are hardly responsible for everything that's ever happened in Russian history -- and I expect that Russian people would be just as nervous if I made such a comparison to the CIA. (And if I comment about how the Russian "Our Father" talks about the coming of God's empire, they could always counter with the American religio-political belief in "manifest destiny". But there it is.)

Natalia Mazova

First off, the woman's name is really spelled Nataliya Mazova. But since Natalia is a pretty standard English transliteration of the name, I'm going with that.

Natalia Mikhailovna Mazova doesn't seem to have a webpage. From various convention photo pages, I gather that she lives in St. Petersburg. She co-wrote Golden Sun (2002), a pirate/fugitive princess fantasy set on the terraformed Moon, with Dmitri Volodikhin. Some of the stories included in her first novel, The Green Flame's Confession (2002), have been up on the net since 1997 at least. So she's pretty much a fan turned pro.

She does have three reviews up on, one of which schools the young Mercedes Lackey for Arrow's Flight with a precision and thoroughness that I wish had come under Lackey's own eyes many years ago.

It also includes the following pithy remark: "For some reason, when they take up feminism -- from Ursula Le Guin to Marion Zimmer Bradley -- they all try to trample their heroines into the mud, to make them almost man's property, in order to show how women then rise from the mud and do man's work...the fight for women's rights is more important for the author than those rights themselves...."

Mazova also has two essays up, both of which are well worth reading or translating: "The Fairy Tale Couple, or the Icebergs of Domestic Fantasy" (ie, Russian fantasy), and "Cross on the Mountain, or the Lord God's Secret Service". In the latter, she goes into the importance of religion and the "regressor" in contemporary Russian ideals, and mentions the existence of a "sacral fantasy" subgenre. Definitely something to look into. Elsewhere we find her essay "Bronze Dragon and Silver Lynx, or The Sociologist Knows Everything".

Also, she and Volodikhin have a gaming essay up on -- "To Return with Fire in Your Palms: Fantasy in the Role-Playing Game Subculture". This begins with the authors important to LARPs, and then goes on to mention many of Russia's distinguished gamer-filkers by name -- though in their fanfic-writing personas. They go on to analyze what makes "internal" gamer literature work for gamers (and not for outsiders), and why people write that way (to maximize emotional involvement). But unlike many surveys of fanfic, it ends in the hope of learning how to transfer the good bits of fanfic to outside literature, and its ideals to the world. They call it the dream of bringing back this "invisible fire" from the other side in your hands, and changing the conditions here so that it will never go out.

Finally, many of Mazova's Tolkien poems are still available on the Net under her handle Tallae, at and Elinor's Archive.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

The Green Flame's Confession

This is a really, really odd couple of excerpts, and what's odder, they come right after each other. The first excerpt is the book's prologue, which is told mostly in third person. It gives the impression of being taken from two related short stories.

The second excerpt is the first chapter, which mostly consists of one incredibly long run-on sentence. Russians love run-on sentences and their language leans toward them, but as I told Joy -- if Faulkner had been born Russian, he'd still be saying, "This is one really long sentence!" I don't always have a lot of patience for experimental prose, but if the experiments work, I'm all for 'em. I think you'll enjoy it, too.

On to the cover blurb.

The Green Flame's Confession
by Natalia Mazova, 2002

She was born in the world which those who live in other Essences call Quiet Dock -- first with slight disdain, then with a hint of envy. Already for eighty years this world, which moves unhurriedly along the road of technological progress, has not known war; but its inhabitants had to pay a high price for this, introducing severe limits on birth rates.

Girls not passing the test will never know the joy of motherhood; young people turn away from them, for "Who needs a woman incapable of giving children life?" So when the sickly girl Lind, who had practically no chance to be chosen, discovered in herself the gifts of the Motalish, the wanderers among Essence worlds, she left her native Rugiland with no particular regret.

"Natalia Mazova's prose belongs to a rare variety of the fantastic -- esoteric fantasy. The wanderings of the Motalish and magichki on exotic worlds, her adventures and battles, conceal beneath them a profound level of meaning. This level is saturated with signs and symbols. Before anything else, it pays for the reader to get acclimated. Then he will succeed in catching the whisper of the elements, reading the inscriptions left on the fabric of the universe by circles of power and encoded by Natalia Mazova."

--- Dmitri Volodikhin

Taste of Russian Fantastica -- The Green Flame's Confession, Prologue

From The Green Flame's Confession, by Nataliya Mazova.



...She came to herself already in the corridor. Even the very same, very young nurse with an expression of professional boredom on her painted face pecked her on the cheek.

"Well, it's all still nothing, nothing," she sentenced her, not even trying to pretend sympathy. "And how would you have a baby? It'd be even sicker...."

She tried to sit down. She managed it with difficulty.

"Not your business," she enunciated right in the medsister's face. "If I will... You don't have any kind of problem with this thing -- how many can you have, two or three?"

"Really, how can you laugh!...You little chick, you snotnose...."

The door creaked, as somehow her mother slid out of the office sideways. Her correct face's features looked as if she'd powdered it with hopelessness.

"Get dressed, my grief," was all she said to her daughter, and she understood at once: no chance. Her last hope had melted away, and in a year she could expect the inevitable Operation.

The whole way home, her mother was silent. She was silent, too. The slashing pain between her legs was unbearable, but she already was used to the fact that she didn't deserve pity. She very much wanted to cry; she herself did not understand what was forcing her to stay in control.

Still in the elevator, her mother turned to her and threw, in a voice chiming with tears, "Just try not to end school with a medal now! You won't get into the institute -- your father can't begin to feed you, you can believe me!"


She's home, waiting until after Mother is hidden in the kitchen and her sisters have taken their seats in front of the television to watch a serial. Then very quietly from the table, from under heaps of old letters and pre-prepared postcards, she extracted the old photograph.

On a snow-powdered parapet of the ancient Pleskavskoy fortress, he stood, turning toward her, a young man with tightly curled hair the color of honey, with an elusive smile in his squinting golden eyes. A blue sports jacket, on his neck a colored handkerchief -- so they'd dressed, fifteen years ago... Mother hid this photograph from Father -- and not without reason.

Father... Who are you and where are you, Lazor Ugnelis, MY real father? This giddy romance of her mother had lasted less than a month -- exactly as long as the passage to Gintar. But in eight months exactly, to the day, of her appearance in the world, came the telegram: "AVE MARILLIYA CALL GIRL LINDA"

How had he known that this would be a she, and not a son? How did he guess the exact day --- the day of St. Eleanor, Gintar's Keeper?

At any rate, Papochka, whoever you might have been, even a Qua demon from a Koguriskan fairy tale -- the absence of your genotype from the local polyclinic has broken your daughter's whole life. And so to her, like the daughters of a father unknown -- no more than one child. But in addition, there was her body's build -- born a month premature, her whole life now she'd been ten percent under the minimum weight standard -- and on top of that, her pain threshold was too low...

No one will ever take her to wife. Who needs a woman who's not able to give children life?!

From the room reached the friendly laughter of her little sisters. Here were snakes who would never have similar problems -- all three excellent Rugian bodies, athletic, with good family trees and nice-sounding nicknames, all taken from the same serial: Maestina, Dzidra, Aldona... Leopold Kovensky did everything magnificently well, not excluding daughters.

Another business -- she, the eldest. Her last name was Ugnela, which means Oppressed. Neither skis nor a bicycle nor even dance classes... And who now needs her Qualen beauty, her only inheritance besides her name? Beauty, already for a year growing beyond doubt, and promising to unfurl into something more...

But it was known, however, to whom it belonged. A beautiful woman, with whom love would leave no consequences...

It grew dark beyond the window. She took from the table a green candle shaped like a squirrel, the symbol of this year. Looking over at the door, she touched her fingers to the wick -- and here, over the candle, flared a small trembling flame.

Ugnela! She was proud of this name, and of the fact that by her looks, she took after her incomprehensible father. And on no account would she ever trade her name for the respectable-sounding surname Kovenska.

She climbed onto the chair, wishing to put the light up higher -- and again felt the sharp pain between her legs.

"I hate it!" she exclaimed in a frenzy, standing on the chair and holding the light in her outstretched hand. "I hate this gucking Rugiland! And I hate President Vitoriy, with his cursed program of genepool retention! And I hate this whole happy Kovensky family, too! And your box with its idiotic serial, and the institute, and the chemistry of our heredity, and this whole world!!! Lord, if you really exist, tell me -- is there really nowhere in the universe where I could live this way, like myself, and not as they need to?! I want that place! I want it!"

(She then still threw that word around very lightly -- 'hate' -- since she wasn't yet seventeen. It was desirable to all of us at this happy age to die as beautiful as possible, and to watch as our nearest and dearest cry over our coffin...)

She abruptly pulled down her hand with the light -- and suddenly froze with astonishment, looking with widened eyes at what hung before her in the air... hard to say what this was. As if the room, sinking into half-dusk, was only an image on linen, but that someone had slashed onto the linen with a knife, and through the cuts peeked the sky, the radiance of day....

"What's this?" she pronounced confusedly. And as if replying to this question, before her mental gaze was drawn a picture: a forest, a clearing by a stream, above which leaned rowans with berries barely beginning to turn yellow... and on the grass by the stream sits a small girl with an eyes-on-the-floor face, and she plays a sad song on her flute.

She put the light on the table. Once more, she glanced at the door. "Deceitful, insidious snake! Know, however -- he is mine and mine alone!" came the hysterical female howl from the television set. The bright area trembled as if frightened, but it didn't go anywhere -- on the contrary, it was as if it became wider still. It seemed to her that she might squeeze through...

She extended her hand to the shelf, and took from there her cherished notebook, on the cover of which was scratched in rough letters, MY VERSES. HEE HEE! She pulled out the last clean sheet and hurriedly wrote on it, "Mom, I went to take a walk. I'll try to get back for supper." She lingered another second, then pushed the notebook under the belt of her pants, squinted... and stepped off the chair.

She didn't know that NEVERMORE would she return to this room, in which nothing was changed after her going. Here was only a light that at once went out, as just after her going, according to the law of the Source, the breach in the fabric of the universe repaired itself.


The guards on the stairs leading into the Tower of Shadows nervously glanced to the east -- from there a raincloud was moving toward the City, but over the stairs was neither awning nor magic shield. Not all that fun to stand sentry when cold streams of rain come down at you which drain your body heat in two minutes....

A gust of wind twisted on the asphalt the dried scales of poplar leaves and lashed sand taken from who-knew-where onto Delv's cheek.

"What if we went inside," he flung at Giar. "In the very end, we aren't an honor guard, but Guards meeting guests. But what kind of guests could there be in this rain...."

"Let's wait a little yet," answered Giar. "When it pours, then we'll hide. For all you know, maybe, someone of theirs might be coming here after their Name." He pointed with fascination in the direction of several passersby hurrying themselves somewhere. Her, for example."

Giar, as always, was not mistaken. A girl of eighteen years, who on her way bit alternately from two servings of different sorts of ice cream, stopped at the lower stairway, looking at the guards in challenge. The wind tugged from her arms a rust-colored raincoat which very much wanted to be called a curtain.

"Do you need to come in this for the True Name?" she awkwardly stated to Delva. Before this, her appearance had been cocksure.

"Here," he answered darkly. They irritated him, the pink drops of melting ice cream which the girl had dripped onto the steps of the stair and onto her shoes; they irritated him, these shoes of hers, probably not cleaned since the moment of purchase. "Only, for all the saints, eat first, and then enter!"

With that same surprising mixture of awkwardness and impudence, she sat down on the steps of the stairs and started hastily licking up her ice cream.

"What, did they drive you out of your regular den?" inquired Giar venomously, looking at her.

"Hih o hem?" she answered, her mouth full.

"Well, your refuge of free wanderers not wanting to register themselves in the Circle of Light," explained Giar. "For a newbie, you stick out too much."

"I don't understand what you're talking about." The girl at long last was able to swallow what had prevented her from speaking. "I'm from the witch school; our Peggy chased me over here with kicks. However, I didn't fight her, either. Must means must."

"Well, this is still nothing," sighed Giar. "Fine, a clear Purpose, count Names up till now as nothing, and now name your Essence."


"It calls itself in appearance the world from which you came."

"One of the City Essences. You call it Quiet Dock."

"Sign of the Blood Cell." Delv strung it out pensively. "Then it's understandable where you got so...unkempt. Not all that often we get people from there..."

"The rare bird will fly up to the middle of the River, if she flies from the source." The girl finished her ice creams and took to licking her slender fingers.

"If she flies according to the Source's Law," specified Delv. "Go, get registered, witch," and already to her back running up the stairs, "By the way, silver pomade doesn't suit you at all. Your hair really needs gold...."

Turning, the girl stuck out her tongue.

The hall was drowned in half-dusk. Only in the corner gleamed yellow a small lamp over a table, at which sat a small plain woman in a severe violet garment. On the table lay a huge open book bound in wood with golden hinges. Next to it, from an inkpot projected a feather of some unidentified, but judging by this, very beautiful, bird.

But on the floor in the center of the hall lay the Circle of Light, falling from who knew where -- no matter how much you strain your brain, you won't see its source; there is no projector there nor skylight.

Mystic... Like everything here.

The girl in the rust-colored raincoat stopped at the very edge of light and shadow, looking over the hall space with silent admiration. It seemed that any minute now she would take off beneath the ceiling, there, where restlessly her inexperienced glance turned.

"Come over here," the voice of the woman in violet sounded behind her back. The girl hurriedly obeyed.

"They call me Udarda; I'm the Keeper of the Circle," the small woman introduced herself importantly. "And what do they call you?"

"They call me Elend," answered the girl quietly. "Passport name -- Linda-Eleanor Ugnela, but the passport's not from this Essence."

"An understandable thing. Where born?"

"Quiet Dock Essence, a version of the City named Dveris -- the capital of Rugiland."

"The precise period which you've already dashed about through the worlds?"

"Eleven months. After this time, I didn't return home again."

"Too long, let's say right off, for autonomous wandering... Do you have any patron in the Essences?"

"Yes, Margarita, Princess Eskharskaya, the head of the so-called Welsh school of witches... But why do you ask all this? You're not writing anything in the book!"

"Your arrival is noted in the skies," answered Udarda incomprehensibly. "Before you enter the Circle, I advise you to leave outside those things which you would be sorry to lose, since the Circle will remake you according to the Original Concept, and nothing will survive in the mirror whirlpool."

"I don't have anything like that -- maybe that money belt..." The girl undid the thing she'd mentioned and carefully laid it on the book. "Nothing to me if it stays here; so far, I...."

"Let it lay. Go."

For an instant she froze by the boundary of the luminescent spot, touching it with the nose of her shoe. Nothing happened, but she got the strange feeling of bright light and high wind beating into her face. She put out her hand -- her fingers looked as if poured from silver -- and only then she laughed to step onto the illuminated space. Her thin figure, lit from all sides, flared clearly in the beam, but the black pupil of shadow did not pierce the iris of the circle of light. At this moment, she seemed to Udarda to be standing on the palm of the One Who created light and all the universe, as if they might have called him (or her?). Slowly, as on a strange stage, she went down onto one elbow in the center of the Circle....

And then...

She raised her head. The hall wasn't there. Instead of this, around her danced a stream of some kind of strange images, as if she'd appeared in a mirrored revolving well. Something was carried elusively in the mirror bent around her, and it seemed to her that she saw and understood all, but there just -- what bad luck! -- were not in human language such words and concepts as would be adequate to describe this. Strange images birthed in her brain but here they disappeared, as if waves had washed them away from the edge of the surf.

By chance lowering her eyes, she saw that she stood on a carpet of fallen autumn leaves. From where, indeed? It was May now. She lowered her hands, longing to touch these strange leaves and be sure that they were no illusions, no trick of the light. For some reason, this was very important.

And then the mirrored delirium-dance ceased as suddenly as it began. She saw her own reflection... Hers?

The young woman in the mirror was at minimum six, seven years older than the one standing in the Circle, if you could generally talk about her age. The dark hair flowing onto her arms poured off gold and copper at once, and her emerald eyes were brighter than the stones in her headband. She was dressed in a dark green dress of whimsical cut, embroidered in autumn leaves of all colors on the edges of her hem and around her decolletage. Her thin, sharp beauty was like autumn bitterness, the smell of chrysanthemums, the taste of exquisite wine... And she who stood and looked at this vision understood that she saw her very own face, but far more elegantly finished -- all her life she had subconsciously wanted to be just like that, but she didn't know how. She smiled timidly -- and the one in the mirror smiled fervidly and slyly in answer.

Growing bolder, she raised her hands in a wave, drew in her shoulders, bent her body in a dancing movement -- and the lovely reflection repeated the same with readiness, eyes sparkling joyfully. Then she put her hands forward -- and realized that she did not see them. Her invisible hands touched the mirror...passed through it...and now already her hands hands were in green sleeves, bound about the wrists with thin gold chains.

*Who are you?*

*I -- this is you.*

*But who am I? What am I called? What am I like?*

*Elend!* swept between the mirrors with the sound of a ringing chime.

*Elend...Elen-dis, Elen-dis Ar-ginol...* My Name is -- Elendis Arginol, Elend Nettle.

A smile from the mirror -- a golden reflection of sunset in August. In her there was unusual, madly merry, fearless power: well, now!...

YES -- THIS IS I....

And She stepped into me... I stepped straight into the glass, into my own completion, longing to find her from now on and for never, and now this copper and green was no longer a reflection, but I, I myself, with little tongues of green flame which for a moment flared up above my eyebrows....

*Not now," loudly said a voice somewhere within me. *You will become her, but until then you still need to live. Only life experience will crown you with this flaming crown, and until then....*

But until then I stand beyond the limits of the Circle of Light, the same as I'd come here with my uneaten ice creams; and infinitely different, as if I'd stepped into the circle a painting on the wall, and left it three-dimensional and come to life. And what's more, I am wearing quite different clothing -- pale green, glowing....

I turn to the table with the book and see Udarda coming from behind it, whose eyes blaze strangely somehow in the half-dusk. Now it's obvious that she limps strongly to the left side, as if one foot were shorter than the other. And I guess by her face that she now sees on my head that crown of green flame.

"Wait." With a bow, she gives me my old money belt. "Now you may tell me your Name."

"My Name is -- Elendis Arginol," I say, and hear how my voice has changed, how pure and free it sounds....

When I go out to the street, the first drops of rain are just kissing the excited asphalt. Those Guards who'd teased me upon entering, had already had time to move to the upper stairs, under the roof, but they stand all in that same solemn stance. As soon as I just come between them, both throw up their swords, saluting me. But I am so overflowing with celebration -- I did it! -- that I assume this is as must be.

My Name -- Elendis Arginol!

Taste of Russian Fantastica: The Green Flame's Confession, Part 1, Chapter 1

From The Green Flame's Confession, by Nataliya Mazova.

Steps to Initiation

Keep still, when sound my Words
And like a flag, dress twists in wind,
But after -- lips find lips
And let me forget that again I've no right!
Grass and flame. Flame and grass...

...Sometimes, in such minutes as this, I feel sharply the whole improbability of that life I live, and willy-nilly, in sneaks the thought that perhaps there wasn't anything like this, that it's all just been thought up out of depression by a plain young woman, well over twenty, killing time every day in idiotic work which nobody can understand why it's necessary, simply general work, with no relation to the higher education which she once achieved, and this education also isn't needed by anyone -- neither by her, nor by her admirers, who change with every season and persistently do not want to become husbands -- and if not with this notion, then she would disastrously fill her life with something, because already each morning at awakening she wants to ask the question -- but why did I wake up at all, and wants nothing more than only to fall asleep and never, never, nevermore be roused, to remain in the madeup world; no, however, such women make up something entirely other, even if she is so clever as not to be satisfied with cheap happiness from a serial, they imagine themselves to be lovely queens or, if she wants a lover, then courtesans, and everything further goes according to the diagram -- trinkets, admirers, clashing swords and other delights found in pseudo-historical romances, and there must be a tall dark man with gray eyes and the title of Count wherever there's no title of Count, and who's up to his ears, as they say, in love... I know, I know... but for me a fantasy wouldn't be enough, yes, even for someone whom such fantasy was necessary, when, regardless of the whole fairyland life, it's necessary all the same to get money somewhere for a piece of bread and cheese and new shoes, because no so-called power frees one from obeying the elementary law of life, yes, even as I explain to this simple mortal that no, I am not the Ruler of Fire, I am simply fire which has assumed the form of a woman to think and act with awareness, and to call me the Ruler of Fire is as ridiculous as to call a man upon his appearance the Tsar of Nature, I'm a simple woman all the same, though also fire, but this fire also needs to eat, to drink, to sleep, to rest, to love and be loved... that's some kind of word -- 'informagic', it sounds so weighty, right away both scientific and mystical, but this is how to explain to people not knowing what such participation of all Essences and in particular some of its aspects, but really this is so simple, and the business isn't even in me, each of you has his element with which he is connected, and to harmonize with it very simply, you only need to want -- and then anyone like me will light a fire with a touch, or slide along the water like Tin, or fly low above the earth like Tali, snatching the dying summer grasses with his toes... to each his own, you simply don't need to long for another, and you only need to believe in yourself and in the fact that you are loved by the universe... well, yes, this is already no kind of woman's novel, but just a novel... tick them off -- starlit nights, cold dew, herbs of witchcraft, steel sword, true horse, bonfire in the gloom, what else is there... very ridiculous, that also this they devise all that existence of women they carry as a treasure from adolescence until the end of their lives, but for the greater part of this life sit at home and know they don't know what kind of problems in these conditions that quite minimal hygiene would be, and how you behave like a beast in its absence, and how in real life it's cold to sleep covered by your raincoat, and it already feels like too long's been spent in a woodless and waterless camping place -- not like being in Eden at all... in general, you can't say it better than Noddi: what kind of mermaids are there, you, my God, you expect only rotten herrings! -- but even this isn't the main thing, but the main thing is that I grew up in a world where also such words as that I didn't know -- romantic, all these swords with herbs, black and green and silver, I first ran into all this when I was only seventeen, and all this didn't become the main thing for me, then what for me was no nothing more important than people and Words with Rhythm, no, I'm no kind of romantic, I'm a realist... in the state, as Ierg loves to say, so that if it's already come first, then the woman's novel for me, according to the large picture, is even more organic, especially since all the actual faces in the chapter with me are beautiful and unhappy, completely according to genre standards, and no need to cover your yawn with your hand, since the greater the person's need for happiness the harder this will be to obtain, but what seems beauty, that almost all of us Motalish have, and with our abilities to play with attractive appearance isn't seen only on those who are absolutely in the shed, and almost nobody is on the shed, because in unknown places it's better to be attractive and informed than repellent and unknowledgeable, her the latter better spend their time sitting at home and imagining the stars, forest, and lover-counts, without trying to bring their dreams to life and without complicating their neighbor's existence... or to change for the better, since the lot of the poor in spirit -- is to obediently await the promised kingdom of Heaven, but the lot of those who are rich in spirit -- is to bring His coming nearer to the extent of his power and depravity... of course not, this is not about my own self, but about you -- yes, ABOUT YOU! What, you still don't believe all this?

Then... then visualize a train station in any city of the Kagad type -- a hundred thousand residents, but in this case, a large railroad junction. Picture yourself there somewhere between two and five in the morning -- the brief time when it is clean and calm there; people anxiously sleeping on the wide wooden benches waiting for their train; the trains themselves, from all the surrounding countries, the arrival of which they announce in three languages and the color of which one can only guess in the bad light of the lamps... in this situation, only a mindless stump won't sense the Motalish, at least for a moment. And further, visualize the all night bar at this station, practically empty -- two, there of the little "masters of life", yes, and those half-asleep -- but sparking color-music in time are the Hobo Princess or Gypsy and Bandit types. And here, when in drowsiness nothing will remain except these songs, also will arise the sharp and spicy desire to step under this auroras and be turned about, embracing someone's waist... Now then, know this: I already go! I already was with you, I put my hand on your shoulder, turned around -- and you met my glance! Now I -- am the Dancing Flame, and I am at your service, I am ready not to fall silent until morning, if you ask....

What, you want it begun from the beginning? As said one instructor at the Avillon Academy of Culture -- "You expect that the student will begin right away in his career, and instead of this, he starts from the Birth of Christ...." But to you, that means I need to start there exactly... Then I need to begin very far away -- as I turned out to be, during Fletcher's lifetime. A marvelous story in every respect....

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

A Fun Site!

Margo's Magical Letter Page deals with sound symbolism. This is one of the more interesting areas of linguistics these days. This site straddles the line between enthusiastic pursuit of truth and having too much time on one's hands...but hey, who am I to criticize a fellow language geek? Especially if she managed to get academic credit and published books out of it?

Sound meaning does tend to predispose referents, but does not largely determine them. That is, you can't predict what a word will refer to based on its sound, but you can predict that a high percentage of words beginning with /b/ in every language will involve explosions, birth and loud noises. You can also predict that if a word referring to a sound begins with /b/, the sound will either begin abruptly or be very loud or usually both. Sound affects meaning in every word in every language.

Fun stuff! I particularly enjoyed her The Hidden Meaning in Your Name page.

Monday, August 22, 2005


My percentile results on a very long personality test (via Dappled Things). I don't come off very well, as you can see; this is probably the worst I've ever done on a personality test. I'm not sure how accurate it is for folks like me, who tend to grade themselves very harshly, though. Maybe I'm just having a really bad day. I hope. I don't particularly want to be the person below.

..Activity Level...........16




..Artistic Interests.......77
..Liberalism............... 1