So, I'm poking at the next novel. Some particular goals:
- A small story: about a manageable number of characters, keeping the world-shattering events down to a modest number. (Marriage of Insects and Sythyry's Vacation are small stories.)
- Something that has some chance of being saleable. Specific
- Recognizably fantasy instead of the fantasy/sf blend I seem to indulge in usually. At least, as much fantasy as World Tree is.
- Not so much emphasis on potentially-disturbing stuff.
- Minimal sex. (Yeah, I know that sex sells, but not the way I write it)
- Minimal war. (Yeah, I know that war sells too, but war isn't a small story.)
- Totally in my style, and playing to my strengths.
- Specific influences currently in mind: Cordwainer Smith's Instrumentality of Man; Roger Zelazny's Amber (first series); Alan Dean Foster's The Tar-Aiym Krang. The first two are among my favorites. Krang is not; I read it once in the mid-70's, and found it adequate.
The backstory of the setting concerns two species from different worlds. The first is the couatl, winged feathered serpents, who learned how to slither delicately between worlds (which few species can do). They were clever and friendly and gentle, and were explorers and traders, and learned much in their travels and became very civilized. In time they came to the world of the lammasu, mighty winged lions. The lammasu were not gentle. They learned the power of throwing open the gates between worlds, and they went forth and conquered a thousand worlds. Including the coatls, of course.
I'm kind of thinking of the coatls as very loosely like classical Greece, and the lammasu as very loosely like classical Rome at its peak -- and like the Instrumentality of Man from Cordwainer Smith. The domain of the lammasu is run with ruthless benevolence. The lammasu try to make it a decent place to live, for nearly everyone. This is a strategic point: it cuts way down on rebellions and other troubles. And the lammasu intend their empire to last forever. (As of the start of the story, it has been around for centuries and is quite robust.)
So here's the fussing of the day: vocabulary.
I am thinking that the vocabulary of inter-world travel will come from the coatls, since they did it first, and the vocabulary of empire will come from the lammasu. I have a modest number of technical terms in mind. I could just use "gate" or "portal" as the way you leave one world and come to the next, but that's so overworked I dunno. Anyways, I am considering trying to abuse the Nahuatl language for couatl words and the Sumerian language for lammasu ones.
I'm making some attempt to pay attention to actual Nahuatl and Sumerian. I'm ultimately more concerned with literary use than linguistic purity.
"š" is pronounced "sh". There are a few other odd letters that scholars use for Sumerian (ģ for an ng sound); I might use some of them too.
So here's my core vocabulary.
|calac||couatl||gate||Portal between tlalli. A calac leads from one tlalli to the next.|
|coatl||coatl||winged serpent||One of the older, more powerful, and more civilized species|
|Ensi||lammasu||governor||Nešgeš-appointed governor of a tlalli|
|gi-nun||lammasu||slave||Subject of Nešgeš, but without the priveleges of a mašda. (About 5%)|
|lugal||lammasu||lord||One of the most important people of the Nešgeš. (80% of lugals are lammasu)|
|mašda||lammasu||commoner||Citizen of the Nešgeš. (About 95% of the subjects of the Nešgeš are mašda)|
|Nešgeš||lammasu||empire; instrumentality||The empire of the lammasu, controlling dozens of ohtli and thousands of tlalli|
|ohtli||couatl||road||A string of tlalli connected by calacs|
|tlalli||couatl||land; worldlet||The region readily reachable by a calac. Usually a populated country some 50-100 miles in diameter. Generally much smaller than a whole world.|
And here're some specific questions. I'm doing this as a LJ-quiz because it's all scales.
What do you think of the vocabulary? (1 = hate; 10 = like)
What do you think of the assertion "Familiar standard terms ("gate", "realm") are better than flavorful esoteric ones ("calac", "tlalli")." (1 = disagree = go for the flavorful ones ; 10 = agree = use standard ones. )
What do you think of the assertion ""coatl" and "lammasu" sound like D D monsters. Don't use those words." (1 = disagree = the words are fine ; 10 = agree = the words are too gamey )
What do you think of the assertion "" (1 = disagree = ; 10 = agree = )
What do you think of the assertion "Trying to keep linguistically honest with respect to a dead language and a fairly obscure one is silly, and of no value to the reader." (1 = disagree = Sumerian and Nahuatl are cool and flavorful ; 10 = agree = There's no point to using Sumerian and Nahuatl )
What do you think of the assertion "Accent marks should be avoided at all cost! Write 'sh' instead of 'š'!" (1 = disagree = 'š' makes it look all foreign and exotic! ; 10 = agree = Don't make it randomly harder on the reader! )
What do you think of the assertion "Having the history echoed in the vocabulary is kind of cool" (1 = disagree = Do you really expect readers to care about that sort of detail? ; 10 = agree = The more intellectual consistency, the better! )