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Author Topic: The Absurdity of English in Other Worlds Fantasy  (Read 6755 times)

Offline Raptori

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Re: The Absurdity of English in Other Worlds Fantasy
« Reply #15 on: March 13, 2015, 11:31:36 AM »
We can't forget Christopher Paolini. He created two whole languages if I remember correctly.
Just on a side note, I was talking with a friend about how I thought his world building was excellent and actually interesting, which I don't find many authors can do. Most of the time I get bored in descriptions unless there's something heavily unique about the place. We both agree that not many people seem to talk about him, or give him enough credit. Of course this is just my opinion, but I feel like he should be on the list of one of the best authors, but he never seems to pop up. Not only was his story and world building pretty awesome, but his age makes it even more amazing.
Interesting, I've never read Eragon but pretty much everything I've heard about it says it wasn't all that good. Lots of criticism about bad plotting, bad writing, and an unoriginal setting; very little praise that isn't prefaced by mentions of his age...  :-\


Is this a correct plot summary?  :o
Spoiler for Hiden:
Princess flees, trying to keep precious item out of the evil emperor's hands. Boy finds item. Bad guys burn down his farm and kill his uncle. Old mysterious man helps him, and turns out to be part of a secret order of knights to which boy's (now evil) father belonged. Gives boy father's sword and takes him (eventually) to princess, then dies tragically. Boy learns how to fly X-Wings (er, dragons) and goes to take on his father and the evil emperor.
« Last Edit: March 13, 2015, 11:58:14 AM by Raptori »
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Offline Anna Smith-Spark

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Re: The Absurdity of English in Other Worlds Fantasy
« Reply #16 on: March 13, 2015, 04:39:37 PM »
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Offline ultamentkiller

Re: The Absurdity of English in Other Worlds Fantasy
« Reply #17 on: March 13, 2015, 10:26:36 PM »
We can't forget Christopher Paolini. He created two whole languages if I remember correctly.
Just on a side note, I was talking with a friend about how I thought his world building was excellent and actually interesting, which I don't find many authors can do. Most of the time I get bored in descriptions unless there's something heavily unique about the place. We both agree that not many people seem to talk about him, or give him enough credit. Of course this is just my opinion, but I feel like he should be on the list of one of the best authors, but he never seems to pop up. Not only was his story and world building pretty awesome, but his age makes it even more amazing.
Interesting, I've never read Eragon but pretty much everything I've heard about it says it wasn't all that good. Lots of criticism about bad plotting, bad writing, and an unoriginal setting; very little praise that isn't prefaced by mentions of his age...  :-\


Is this a correct plot summary?  :o
Spoiler for Hiden:
Princess flees, trying to keep precious item out of the evil emperor's hands. Boy finds item. Bad guys burn down his farm and kill his uncle. Old mysterious man helps him, and turns out to be part of a secret order of knights to which boy's (now evil) father belonged. Gives boy father's sword and takes him (eventually) to princess, then dies tragically. Boy learns how to fly X-Wings (er, dragons) and goes to take on his father and the evil emperor.
It's much more complex than that. It seems that way at first, but things change drastically. I never thought to compare it to Star Wars, but I guess you could...
It's not necessarily for his plot that I find Inheritance so interesting. It's the world, the characters, the concept... stuff like that. Also, he wrote this when he was a teenager, and for it to be as good as it is, I feel like it just deserves more attention. Is it comparable to Brent Weeks or Brandon Sanderson or any person like that? No, because their plots are superior.
Also, I read it while growing up. So for me, there's the sentimental factor as well. It brings back memories, and is probably the closest I came around that time to a "real fantasy" novel.

Offline Elfy

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Re: The Absurdity of English in Other Worlds Fantasy
« Reply #18 on: March 13, 2015, 11:33:07 PM »
what about using "fake archaic" English?

I have no problem using titles for people that are for nobility or gentility, but to me is seems that fake archaic should only be used for scenes that are archaic compared to the main timeline of the story.

BTW, I recently learned that thee and thou were the less-formal words and "You" is the more formal.

Of course, having people speak like surfer dudes is probably worse than fake archaic.
Eddings did that with one of the races in the Belgariad. The name escapes me now, but they were chivalric knights. I suspect he got it largely wrong and while I thought it fitted when I first read the books, it dated badly and I had to gloss over most of it on a reread. Edison wrote The Worm Ouroboros using a faux Jacobean English, I understand what he was doing, but made it pretty tough going as a read and parts of it were almost unintelligible to a modern reader.
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Offline jefGoelz

Re: The Absurdity of English in Other Worlds Fantasy
« Reply #19 on: March 14, 2015, 12:56:38 AM »

 Eddison (fixed) wrote The Worm Ouroboros using a faux Jacobean English, I understand what he was doing, but made it pretty tough going as a read and parts of it were almost unintelligible to a modern reader.

I never finished it.  One of the very few books I've purchased, but didn't read to the end.

Offline Nyki Blatchley

Re: The Absurdity of English in Other Worlds Fantasy
« Reply #20 on: March 14, 2015, 01:10:14 AM »

 Eddison (fixed) wrote The Worm Ouroboros using a faux Jacobean English, I understand what he was doing, but made it pretty tough going as a read and parts of it were almost unintelligible to a modern reader.

I never finished it.  One of the very few books I've purchased, but didn't read to the end.

I loved it, but it does have a good many faults, his use of the archaic language being one of them (though William Hope Hodgson did it even worse in The Night Land). In my opinion, the best use of archaic language throughout by a fantasy writer was William Morris, who tended to write in a 15th century form. It takes a little getting used to, but it's actually very readable when you're into it.

In general, I'd agree with only using archaic English to represent language that seems archaic to the POV. I'm sure there are excellent exceptions, but I stick to that as a rule of thumb.

Offline Raptori

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Re: The Absurdity of English in Other Worlds Fantasy
« Reply #21 on: March 14, 2015, 07:06:38 AM »
We can't forget Christopher Paolini. He created two whole languages if I remember correctly.
Just on a side note, I was talking with a friend about how I thought his world building was excellent and actually interesting, which I don't find many authors can do. Most of the time I get bored in descriptions unless there's something heavily unique about the place. We both agree that not many people seem to talk about him, or give him enough credit. Of course this is just my opinion, but I feel like he should be on the list of one of the best authors, but he never seems to pop up. Not only was his story and world building pretty awesome, but his age makes it even more amazing.
Interesting, I've never read Eragon but pretty much everything I've heard about it says it wasn't all that good. Lots of criticism about bad plotting, bad writing, and an unoriginal setting; very little praise that isn't prefaced by mentions of his age...  :-\


Is this a correct plot summary?  :o
Spoiler for Hiden:
Princess flees, trying to keep precious item out of the evil emperor's hands. Boy finds item. Bad guys burn down his farm and kill his uncle. Old mysterious man helps him, and turns out to be part of a secret order of knights to which boy's (now evil) father belonged. Gives boy father's sword and takes him (eventually) to princess, then dies tragically. Boy learns how to fly X-Wings (er, dragons) and goes to take on his father and the evil emperor.
It's much more complex than that. It seems that way at first, but things change drastically. I never thought to compare it to Star Wars, but I guess you could...
It's not necessarily for his plot that I find Inheritance so interesting. It's the world, the characters, the concept... stuff like that. Also, he wrote this when he was a teenager, and for it to be as good as it is, I feel like it just deserves more attention. Is it comparable to Brent Weeks or Brandon Sanderson or any person like that? No, because their plots are superior.
Also, I read it while growing up. So for me, there's the sentimental factor as well. It brings back memories, and is probably the closest I came around that time to a "real fantasy" novel.
Yeah of course, but that's always the case when you outline a plot, and that does sound insanely close to such a famous story. The people who bring up that criticism often say that there is very little innovation added to that template as well  :-\

Funnily enough, I actually find Sanderson's books to be really flawed, so if Eragon is like him but with an inferior plot then it probably isn't for me. That said, I really like several of Sanderson's books... Didn't really enjoy Brent Weeks much. I'm finding it hard to find books that are good enough to keep me interested, at the moment the bar is set pretty high for me.

And yeah, "good for a teenager" is not a selling point for me - I couldn't care less about the author, so when fans say that kind of thing it simply implies that they are aware of flaws but like it in spite of them. In pretty much every positive review I've read, they've mentioned his age, so it doesn't look good.

I think that's probably the biggest thing - books you read while getting into the genre will always hold a special place for you, and for obvious reasons you won't be aware of much that is cliched if there is anything.
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Offline ArcaneArtsVelho

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Re: The Absurdity of English in Other Worlds Fantasy
« Reply #22 on: March 14, 2015, 01:46:32 PM »
English names work when you have a "default homeland" for your protagonist, from which they venture out into a larger and magical world. If no one culture is recognizably western European and distrinct from the others, I don't it really works to have one culture use English place names but all the others don't.
A lot of fantasy is of the second type. Mine quite definitely is, since the "familiar" culture is different stories can be anywhere in the same world, and at any period. Giving one country English names would be absurd, and giving them all English names would be horrible. None of my countries have English (or any other RW) names.

If there is a Common Speech (that might or might not expand over multiple countries or cultures) which is replaced with English to make the book readable, wouldn't it be logical that most or at least some places had English names within the area of influence of said language?

Of course, if there are places that are older than the common language or somehow separated from the history of the language (or the culture or even group of cultures that use the language), they could (/should?) have their names in different languages.

I don't even know if I'm making any sense...  :-\
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Offline JMack

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Re: The Absurdity of English in Other Worlds Fantasy
« Reply #23 on: March 14, 2015, 01:53:23 PM »
If there is a Common Speech (that might or might not expand over multiple countries or cultures) which is replaced with English to make the book readable, wouldn't it be logical that most or at least some places had English names within the area of influence of said language?

Of course, if there are places that are older than the common language or somehow separated from the history of the language (or the culture or even group of cultures that use the language), they could (/should?) have their names in different languages.

I don't even know if I'm making any sense...  :-\
You're making total sense. I think it's a useful and common conceit that allows us to get past the "language barrier" and focus on the fun, the characters and the conflict.  Of course, worldbuilding/revealing is also part of the fun for many folks, so really good use of these cheats, tropes and absurdities is the ticket.
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Offline Nyki Blatchley

Re: The Absurdity of English in Other Worlds Fantasy
« Reply #24 on: March 14, 2015, 02:00:05 PM »
English names work when you have a "default homeland" for your protagonist, from which they venture out into a larger and magical world. If no one culture is recognizably western European and distrinct from the others, I don't it really works to have one culture use English place names but all the others don't.
A lot of fantasy is of the second type. Mine quite definitely is, since the "familiar" culture is different stories can be anywhere in the same world, and at any period. Giving one country English names would be absurd, and giving them all English names would be horrible. None of my countries have English (or any other RW) names.

If there is a Common Speech (that might or might not expand over multiple countries or cultures) which is replaced with English to make the book readable, wouldn't it be logical that most or at least some places had English names within the area of influence of said language?

Of course, if there are places that are older than the common language or somehow separated from the history of the language (or the culture or even group of cultures that use the language), they could (/should?) have their names in different languages.

I don't even know if I'm making any sense...  :-\
It's unlikely that a common speech would be more than a relatively local phenomenon - it wouldn't be something that spread all over a world, unless communications were as least as good as the modern RW. The extent to which that would affect naming would depend on why it spread. Latin influenced place-names to some extent in western Europe, as have English, Spanish and French in the modern world (though still leaving a lot of older names) but that's specifically bound up with empire-building and colonialism. Common languages for regions are far more likely to be used as lingua francas for trading purposes, and aren't usually the mother tongue of the people who speak them. They might create the occasional new place-name in the common tongue, but that would be the exception.

In any case, thinking of it globally, which common tongue do you represent by English? If you were approaching our mediaeval era on that basis, you might use Arabic for the Middle East, Chinese for East Asia, Mayan for Central America etc. You couldn't represent them all by English.

Offline Raptori

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Re: The Absurdity of English in Other Worlds Fantasy
« Reply #25 on: March 14, 2015, 02:08:23 PM »
It's unlikely that a common speech would be more than a relatively local phenomenon - it wouldn't be something that spread all over a world, unless communications were as least as good as the modern RW. The extent to which that would affect naming would depend on why it spread. Latin influenced place-names to some extent in western Europe, as have English, Spanish and French in the modern world (though still leaving a lot of older names) but that's specifically bound up with empire-building and colonialism. Common languages for regions are far more likely to be used as lingua francas for trading purposes, and aren't usually the mother tongue of the people who speak them. They might create the occasional new place-name in the common tongue, but that would be the exception.

In any case, thinking of it globally, which common tongue do you represent by English? If you were approaching our mediaeval era on that basis, you might use Arabic for the Middle East, Chinese for East Asia, Mayan for Central America etc. You couldn't represent them all by English.
Yeah I was going to mention communication technology. It actually affects a lot more than some people think, not least the maximum sustainable size of nations and the spread of culture.
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Offline jefGoelz

Re: The Absurdity of English in Other Worlds Fantasy
« Reply #26 on: March 15, 2015, 12:49:47 AM »
It's unlikely that a common speech would be more than a relatively local phenomenon - it wouldn't be something that spread all over a world, unless communications were as least as good as the modern RW.
It's simple to justify:
(1) Humans didn't disperse until after they had a written language with well-established rules. And there are plenty of opportunities for barriers to dispersion in a fantasy world.
(2) Language was a gift of the gods.

Offline Nyki Blatchley

Re: The Absurdity of English in Other Worlds Fantasy
« Reply #27 on: March 17, 2015, 01:34:19 AM »
It's unlikely that a common speech would be more than a relatively local phenomenon - it wouldn't be something that spread all over a world, unless communications were as least as good as the modern RW.
It's simple to justify:
(1) Humans didn't disperse until after they had a written language with well-established rules. And there are plenty of opportunities for barriers to dispersion in a fantasy world.
(2) Language was a gift of the gods.
Well, if you wanted to have a world like that, fine, but I was thinking of a world that's developed in a more natural way. It's certainly not the kind of set-up that could be considered standard, just an option you could justify if you really wanted to. Personally I don't.

Offline ArcaneArtsVelho

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Re: The Absurdity of English in Other Worlds Fantasy
« Reply #28 on: March 17, 2015, 11:38:55 AM »
It's unlikely that a common speech would be more than a relatively local phenomenon - it wouldn't be something that spread all over a world, unless communications were as least as good as the modern RW.
It's simple to justify:
(1) Humans didn't disperse until after they had a written language with well-established rules. And there are plenty of opportunities for barriers to dispersion in a fantasy world.
(2) Language was a gift of the gods.
Well, if you wanted to have a world like that, fine, but I was thinking of a world that's developed in a more natural way. It's certainly not the kind of set-up that could be considered standard, just an option you could justify if you really wanted to. Personally I don't.
The problem is that we only have our own world as a reference. Sure, our world is what's "natural" to us when it comes to languages, cultures, history, and whatnot, but who knows if that's the only way. What I'm trying to say (and failing?) is that it's called FANTASY for a reason. Fantasy worlds don't have to (or even shouldn't) be realistic in the same way that the world we live in is. In fantasy the writer should imagine a world with its own realism. After that, it's very much a matter of opinion (of the readers), of course, what makes sense in that world.

Alternate history is an altogether different beast, but since it doesn't really pertain to the topic (Other Worlds), I won't go there.

In any case, thinking of it globally, which common tongue do you represent by English? If you were approaching our mediaeval era on that basis, you might use Arabic for the Middle East, Chinese for East Asia, Mayan for Central America etc. You couldn't represent them all by English.
The common tongue that is the most prominent in your story, I would say. At least that would seem to me like the most sensible thing to do in a fantasy book for English audiences.


Opinions differ, but that's (more or less) mine.
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Offline Raptori

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Re: The Absurdity of English in Other Worlds Fantasy
« Reply #29 on: March 17, 2015, 11:45:53 AM »
The problem is that we only have our own world as a reference. Sure, our world is what's "natural" to us when it comes to languages, cultures, history, and whatnot, but who knows if that's the only way. What I'm trying to say (and failing?) is that it's called FANTASY for a reason. Fantasy worlds don't have to (or even shouldn't) be realistic in the same way that the world we live in is. In fantasy the writer should imagine a world with its own realism. After that, it's very much a matter of opinion (of the readers), of course, what makes sense in that world.

Alternate history is an altogether different beast, but since it doesn't really pertain to the topic (Other Worlds), I won't go there.
Yeah I agree with all this - part of the appeal of secondary world fantasy is that you can do whatever you want with the world. Is Middle Earth realistic? Discworld? Depends whether "realism" equates to "normal" or "internally consistent" in your opinion.

The common tongue that is the most prominent in your story, I would say. At least that would seem to me like the most sensible thing to do in a fantasy book for English audiences.
As an extension of this, what about different accents within the same language? What we plan to do is something we noticed in Robin Hobb's books (one character in the Liveships in particular): the characters who you're currently writing about have the "normal" accent and are written in plain english; the characters from elsewhere have a noticeably different accent. In Hobb's books set in the Six Duchies, the people there are written as speaking perfectly normally, whereas in the Liveships trilogy there's a character from the six duchies with a heavy accent which reminds me of Scottish accents. That's how it works in real life, and it works well in books too - it's all about perspective.
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