Friday, February 20, 2009

Workshop: More thoughts

I'd like to open this post with a thank you to those who have replied to my rather vague and cryptic questions of the last post. I'm happy to hear that this workshop has helped in some respects - but while I'm a staunch supporter of consciousness-raising, I am hoping I can offer a few concrete suggestions on the projects you all have described to me. Since this is the first workshop I've offered on the topic of language design, I've been feeling my way a little, and I'm grateful for your patience.

Here is where I have arrived in my thoughts on the various projects, and my suggestions for what you might submit to me:

pyraxis: I'm happy to see you thinking through the phonology of rsakki and systematizing the names. I appreciate you posting the excerpt, also. I wonder if you could show me a short (up to 250 words) excerpt which demonstrates the rsakki interacting with non-rsakki, perhaps showing some of the ways you indicate language contrasts.

wordjinn: I'm happy to see you thinking through how to express the various nuances of the djinni speech. Since I was most intrigued by the idea of sung vs. spoken and spoken vs. telepathically communicated, I'd like to see a short (up to 250 words) sample conversation which involves some of these distinctions - hopefully also one that hints at the main conflicts of your story.

K: I'm happy to see you thinking about the relation of language and culture to your story on so many different levels. I was very intrigued by the idea of the contrast between languages that Kei has to bridge, so if you could I'd like you to try making a list of phrases that might be used for social purposes among the Eyans - trying of course to let the content of these phrases indicate people's attitudes toward various types (psychic and non-psychic) of communication. Here's an idea that might start you off: see if you can construct a compliment or two, something you'd say in admiration of someone else's restraint, for example. Or perhaps an insult that deals with insincerity of emotional projection.

David: I'm happy to see you attempting a project so thoroughly permeated by language. There are so many things I could ask about that I find it a bit daunting, but I think I'd most appreciate it if you could give me a rough timeline of language development among the arcati. Points that I'd really like to see you address would be:
1. Why language use evolved among the arcati before the inundation (why did they need to speak? Why was it adaptively successful to communicate using the auditory or visual channel that they do?
2. What form written language took before the inundation
3. From the point of view of a genetic engineer, how they planned to deal with the problem of living and communicating underwater
4. From the point of view of a genetic engineer, how they justified a complete abandonment of air-breathing capability (or not).
5. What kind of attempts were made to preserve written information through the inundation (waterproof floating libraries :-) ?)

Catreona: I'm really happy that you've found the workshop to be illuminating. I feel for you in the story dilemma that you're facing - but I feel strongly that it's important to face such issues and work through them. While your story may emerge different, you may find that it becomes stronger and more compelling for you as well as others. I don't want to put you under pressure for a final product here, because after all this is all about making the story better. If you feel you would be better served by explaining the premise problem you're facing, then feel free to do so. I'll leave it up to you - but you should know this: none of the effort spent on a story is ever wasted. I have enormous quantities of text that I've created that no one will ever see, but all those words have served to deepen my understanding of created worlds and writing, and sometimes I'll find phrases or concepts I hated to discard showing up in unexpected places in my newer work.

Thanks, everyone. I'd like to see replies from all of you by the end of Wednesday if that's not too much of an imposition. In the meantime I'll try to compose some posts that have been inspired by our discussions in this workshop.

More soon...