Kill the Babelfish

A stimulating and intensely interesting discussion of the problem of languages and universal translators in fictional settings.

[press x to talk]

Universal translators are quite possibly the laziest deus ex machina out there. Honestly, even hand-waving some kind of superpower to understand all forms of communication has more merit behind it, but universal translators in all shapes and sizes are everywhere, and I really, really wish they weren’t.

On the other hand, though, I understand fully and completely why they are as prolific as they are: no one speaks a million fictional languages.

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From the mouths of babes

Because I’m giving the whole NaNo thing a serious effort this year, I’ve wrestled my introverted hide over to the coffee shop at the end of the block for tonight’s scheduled write-in.

This is the face of an author plotting mischief against her characters. (It's also the face of a person using Instagram filters to hide her lingering disfigurations from last month's tumble.)

This is the face of an author plotting mischief against her characters. (It’s also the face of a person using Instagram filters to hide her lingering disfigurations from last month’s tumble.)

There are three young people sitting at the table next to mine. One of them is trying to draw while the other two keep asking him questions.

“What do you like to draw?” one of the girls said, peering over his sketchpad.

He sighed in that particular teenaged way we all know and replied, in a perfect deadpan, “What does a fisherman like to fish?”

Not only did that fluster the girl so much she had no idea how to keep pestering him, but it is also such an amazing response that I think I’ll be stealing it the next time I get frustrated because someone asks me what I like to write when they can see perfectly well that I’m trying to actually write.

It’s NaNoWriMo for the first time

It’s November, which means it’s time for those so insanely inclined to churn out a 50,000-word novel in 30 days in the name of arting like a motherfucker. In years past, I learned that November is my own personal novel-less month and that signing up for NaNo is only ever a sure path to disappointment and self-loathing.

However, THIS YEAR is different. All of the things that have traditionally demanded my time and attention in November are no longer a factor. On top of that, I’ve got the full support of the people I live with, which is a new and exciting condition for me.

In other words, LET’S DO THIS.

As a novelist, I’m somewhere on the Pantser end of the writing style spectrum, with only very slight Architect tendencies. Which is to say, I’ll come up with a few ideas about the general structure, and hope that all of the details fill themselves in as I go. The fact that I’ve never hit 50K by November 30th might be related to this approach in some way, but I concede nothing. When I make too solid a plan, I find my creativity constrained by its boundaries to the point of immobility. There’s a sweet spot somewhere in the middle, and sometimes that boundary has to be renegotiated on a chapter-by-chapter basis. The real problem with NaNo is having only 30 days in which to perform these negotiations.

How do you novel?

What I Wish Everyone Knew About Sylvia Plath

“For Sylvia, writing a poem was like solving a puzzle – it meant turning it this way and that way, trying to fit the words together just right. She was dogged about it. Once a project was started, she wouldn’t or couldn’t give up on it. One thing that Ted Hughes wrote about her has always stuck with me:

“‘To my knowledge, [Plath] never scrapped any of her poetic efforts. With one or two exceptions, she brought every piece she worked on to some final form acceptable to her, rejecting at most the odd verse, or a false head or a false tail. Her attitude to her verse was artisan-like: if she couldn’t get a table out of the material, she was quite happy to get a chair, or even a toy. The end product for her was not so much a successful poem, as something that had temporarily exhausted her ingenuity.’

“I think about this quote a lot. Whenever I am in the middle of working on something and I am angry and frustrated because it’s not going the way I want, I stop and ask myself, ‘If this is not going to be a table, can it be a chair instead?'”

The Belle Jar

Today is Sylvia Plath’s birthday. She would have been 83 years old today. Maybe in an alternate reality she’s living in a cottage somewhere at the edge of the cold, grey Atlantic where she paints and writes and keeps a hive or two full of bees. Or maybe that’s what the afterlife looks like for her, not that she believed in an afterlife. Is it wrong to wish something on someone if they don’t believe in it? Probably.

You don’t have to be much of a detective to figure out that I love Sylvia Plath. My blog is named after her only novel. I have an embroidered portrait of her on my dining room wall. I even have a necklace with a tiny gold inscription of that old brag of her heart: I am. I am. I am. I’m obviously a pretty big fan.

But I’m a fan for different reasons than you…

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Let’s concentrate on the good news

The good news is that autumn is here and I got some incredible photos at the park this week, and I’m loving the hell out of getting to actually watch the season change.

The bad news is that I paid for those photos with a nasty fall resulting in some pretty severe road pizza.

So let’s look at these pretty photos of Pittsburgh in autumn while I gargle this hot salt water and apply a fresh coat of antiseptic to what used to be my face.












the last shot before I quite literally face-planted

Totally worth it.

Delicious Divorce Cake

The internet certainly has changed the world we live in. The rules of social engagement are different now and still shifting. It’s hard to navigate them at the best of times, especially when you’re autistic; throw social media into the mix and everything I think I know about the correct way to handle people and the delivery of news is… possibly wrong? Maybe? Or maybe I’m a trailblazer in the quest to open up new ways for us introverts to talk to people without having to actually talk to them?

Ahem. Getting off track.

This year has seen some massive changes in my life. Massive. Whom do you tell first? To whom must you speak privately before it’s a gaffe to talk about it on the Book of Face? Which things do you talk about? Which are none of the public’s business? How do you write publicly about private subjects that you nevertheless feel you should be open about for the greater good? (Pause while you echo, “The greater gooooooood.”)

Which is all to say that, finally having satisfied the (I believe) expected protocol of letting my private feed in on some of the massive things I’ve been working on this year, I think it is now acceptable to speak in public spaces as well.

As I stated some weeks ago, I finally escaped my own personal Hell in Arizona. To put it delicately, that Hell consisted of more than simply the location. It was ruled over by a particular person with whom I am no longer legally entangled, as of this month. Consider the suggestion box open as far as what type of cake is most appropriate for celebrating Sweet Sweet Freedom.

Big things happened on the road to that escape; it’s been a busy year. The upshot is that I am in a much better place, surrounded by good people, I’m safe and happy, and I’ve just finished editing the w-i-p – which is now no longer a w-i-p! This final draft is ready to be shopped, baby.

Onward and upward.

You are cordially not uninvited

A while back, I made a post about my friend Jamie Wyman’s Kickstarter campaign to publish the sequel to her urban fantasy novel Wild Card. We got it done and the world has since been enriched by the existence of that sequel — Unveiled.

So guess what?


Guys, I’m so excited about this series I can’t even tell you how excited I am. We’ve got trickster gods, we’ve got technomancy, we’ve got romance and good old UST. We’ve got explosions, break-ins, swordfights, smart-mouthed satyrs, female IT professionals with attitude, PLOT TWISTS, and we’ve got all of this happening in modern-day Las Vegas to the running narrative of a heroine with a snarky inner voice that just gets snarkier the more the gods decide to mess with her.

What I’m trying to say is I really want to read the next book. Will you help make that dream a reality?

UNINVITED: The Third Book in the Etudes in C# Series


These books are so good. You won’t regret it.

This isn’t really a post

It occurs to me that I haven’t updated the blog in so long that people probably think I’ve abandoned it. Or that I’ve invented a one-way time machine, noped out of 2015 for a year when we’re finally not still debating over whether some kinds of people should be considered objectively and legally better than other kinds of people, and will never be heard from again. Or that every device with which I connect to the internet was eaten by giant bear-sharks.

Happily, none of these are the case.

I have, however, been having an extraordinarily busy and stressful few months. The busy is finally over and the stressful soon will be too. By the end of this month, I should be in a position to write an actual update and then get on with business as usual. By which I mean, poking the blog with a stick every few weeks (rather than months) when I realize I should probably remind people that I exist.

So consider this post a placeholder. More to come.

But in the interim, I can drop one piece of good news: I am now a resident of Pittsburgh, PA. The desert and I are no more.

You Might Be a Writer If…

These are all too true.

Kristen Lamb's Blog

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A lot of “stuff” has been going on in my life lately. Hard stuff. Heavy stuff. The kind of stuff that just makes me want to write massacre scenes….except I am so brain dead I had to google how to spell “massacre.”

Masicker? Missucker?

WHAT AM I DOING???? *breaks down sobbing*

I am supposed to be an adult an expert okay, maybe functionally literate. Fine, I give up! I have nothing left to saaaaayyyyyy. I am all out of woooords *builds pillow fort*.

I figured it’s time for a bit of levity. Heck, I need a good laugh. How about you guys?

We writers are different *eye twitches* for sure, but the world would be SO boring without us. Am I the only person who watches Discovery ID and critiques the killers?

You are putting the body THERE? Do you just WANT to go to prison? Why did you STAB…

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