Monday, March 25, 2013

Deep in the Heart of Taxes


As my blog title hints, tax preparation has been my main focus (read that: all consuming time-sucker) for the past week, so I have no major accomplishments to discuss, just some juicy tidbits and one minor rant to share.

And away we go...


So who or what is HUN and why is it attacking?

HUN my pet acronym for Horribly Unpronounceable Names. And they seem to be as prevalent in SF and SFR as Blister Bugs on Klendathu. (<<< Case in point. Can you name the SF classic that's from? No Googling.)

Have you ever noticed that SFR names often contain J, K, X, V or Z? And it appears that the unwritten rules of creating SF names also specifies the more unusual and unspeakable the better. Adding apostrophes and hyphenation only makes them more exotic. Right?

Not so much.

Just for fun, I surfed through some Amazon offerings in the SF genre and here's just a sampling of the HUN cross section:




The Zochtil  


Chigran Callnir system

Daulun Jongo




Krag Hegemony



Say what?

There seems to be a common school of thought that making futuristic words or names awkward and unrecognizable somehow make them seem more alien, non-human and thus, attractive. I don't think so, Tim. 

The current trend is to streamline words rather than make them more complex. For instance, gasoline is just gas. Automobiles are called autos or cars. Television is TV. Conversation is convo. Your vacation is your vacay. Details are deets. Yo, yo. Word. Ya feel me?

So why wouldn't this apply--may even moreso--to the future. 

True, aliens may speak in tongues that are difficult or impossible to say, but it seems more likely we would create our own terms instead of trying to phoneticize an alien language. Sort of like European colonists did when they slaughtered the names of native peoples, que no? That's why we non-natives say Window Rock and not Tseghahoodzani. 

So hat's off to the writers who are kind to readers by making their character names easy to say...and remember. Let's hear it for Sully, Han, Reza, Murphy (both of them) and Keir. 

And since we've been on the subject of making SFR more accessible to romance--and ALL--readers, wouldn't this be a good place to start? It's not dumbing-down, it's smarting up. If we're going to make SFR more appealing to a wider audience, let's make it more reader-friendly. I don't think Captain Mal would be a household name if Joss Whedon had dubbed him Captain Malfax'juri-kalos instead. Don't ya think?


So now its your turn? Have any pet HUNs you'd like to share?


Thanks to author D. L. Jackson for sharing this article on the dynamics of storytelling. Pixar storyboard artist Emma Coats shared her genius with Io9. 

Almost all of this advice applies directly to writing and it's fabulous, solid and lightbulb-inducing.

These were among my favorites:

  • #4  A concise, four sentence road map to story structure.
  • #6  A simple guideline to building fascinating characters.
  • #9  A fantastic technique to help you work past those brick walls your hit in plotting.
  • #11 This explains the golden rule of why you should "Just Write."
  • #12 An easy method to make your work fresh, spontaneous and surprising.
  • #19  Seventeen words with the power to take your storytelling from mediocre to stellar.

This article was both confirming and inspiring. Really! Give it a read. Jot down notes. Save some of these nuggets for days when you just can't seem to kick any words out. 

And tell me which of the 22 gems spoke to you?


Yes! The classic returns in incredible realD 3D and IMAX 3D on April 5th! Should make for an exciting re-watch of a now classic Crichton SF adventure. As if the charging T-Rex in the rearview mirror wasn't in-your-face enough, now you get to have diabolical dinos leap off the screen and into your lap.

I even have a quote form the highly quotable Jurassic Park on my office wall:

"Creation is an act of sheer will."

Works for a writer, for sure! What classic Jurassic Park lines were your faves? Is a shiny new 3D release enough to get you back into the theaters?


Today, Bonham's auctions in New York City will auction off rare and valuable Apollo mission space memorabilia, after a law was passed allowing astronauts to sell from their private collections.

[Link with video]

Reportedly included in the auction are the "space magna carta" document where the USA Apollo and Russian Soyuz missions pledged cooperation, effectively ending the cold war space race. It's expected to fetch up to $100,000. 

Also up for auction are notes from the ill-fated Apollo 13 mission, deemed the "Successful Failure" where an explosion in space aborted plans to land on the Moon but did culminate in the safe return of the three astronauts to Earth, despite enormous obstacles. Among the items up for bid are the actual hand-scribbled notes from the mission.

Items from Buzz Aldrin's collection--including checklists and an item described as an "asset from the lunar surface"--were also reported to be among the items available, although Buzz Aldrin himself refuted this in another report.


If you're a SFR writer or author, or simply interested in the mysteries of space, Donna's article VOYAGER POISED ON THE EDGE OF FOREVER is a must read! It appears "galloping around the cosmos" may be much more mysterious and complex than even our brightest minds imagined. What great story fodder this is! Many kudos on another blog masterpiece, Donna.

Pippa, loved your take on a SF classic, DISCOVERING FIREFLY, which sparked quite a discussion. Blending western and SF tropes seemed to work well for this breakthrough TV-evolved-into-motion-picture phenomena, but that doesn't mean it's wholly captivating to everyone.

Sharon, my thoughts and hopes are with you as this week unfolds with all its opportunities and challenges. 


Please stop by Spacefreighters Lounge tomorrow, Tuesday, March 26th, as we celebrate the tiara-crowning of another crop of Golden Heart finalists, and contemplate not having a Spacefreighters co-blogger in the GH competition for the first time in several years. (Though that's not to say we may not have a stake in the day!) We'll be here to post the GH announcements as they unfold, congratulate peers and acquaintances, and answer questions for first timer Golden Heart finalists. (Trust us, you may not realize what great but mind-spinning fortune has just befallen you!) Yup, we've been around this racetrack a few turns, and we'll be happy to share our veteran's tips with those just jumping behind the wheel for the first time. 'Til then!

~~~ * ~~~


  1. I've seen the Pixar list several times. Every single point is great advice.

    I live in Louisiana, where we pronounce strange words with a French accent. I freely admit to using some of the older French words as inspiration for some of my alien names. One of them is Na'var Manchac. Taken from Navarre Avenue in New Orleans and the Manchac Swamp between New Orleans and Baton Rouge.

    Funny part is I don't do it consciously. Didn't realize that's what I'd done with Na'var until I was looking at maps with my CP planning her N.O. research trip.

    One of my favorite parts of writing SF is being able to make up anything I want. But I do take care to make sure it's pronounceable.

  2. Favorite Jurassic Park line: "Life finds a way."

    Came to mind in my reading of a fabulous new nonfic book on the history of transgenic organisms (yes, there is a HISTORY now), and how companies come up with "failsafe" ways to make sure transgenics don't make it into the wild.

  3. I think I read the PIXAR thing a while back (unless this is a new one, I shall go and check). They know how to make a good story so any advice from them has got to be worth reading.
    I pretty much loved every line Dr Ian Malcolm had but the one that summed up JP for me from him was "your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn't stop to think if they should." It also reminds me of Misa Buckley's recent post on whether the science in science fiction matters (caused quite a discussion in the group, and Greta van der Rol has just done a blog post about her take on that). I remember JP got a lot of stick over some of its science, such as describing the raptors as travelling at cheetah speed, and the fact that T-Rex actually has excellent vision, so keeping still wouldn't 'hide' you. Does knowing that spoil the story for me? No. But I try for accuracy in my books (but keep the tech light because I am worried I'll get it wrong and get spanked for it) so maybe it should bother me. I'm torn. I feel there should be so creative leeway in fiction, but one person pointed out it perpetuates the fallacies. As Greta pointed out in her post, movies do that all the time.

  4. And weird names - I hate that too because trying to say them properly in my head pulls me out of the story, but I'm probably just as guilty. Hubs told me off for my Metraxi names in Keir (T'rill, S'rano etc). Although thinking about it, isn't that what Anne McCaffrey did for her dragon riders? Wow, I'd forgotten! O.o


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