Because the only thing more terrifying than velociraptors are velociraptors that can fly.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Language of the Dying Earth

Lately I've been on a Jack Vance kick, specifically his Dying Earth stories. They are delightful. Like Walter Moer's Zamonia stories, Vance's Dying Earth stories are picaresque--following the rather meandering adventures of roguish characters with great attention paid to seemingly irrelevant details.

But really "irrelevant" is only applicable if one subscribes to the notion that everything within a story must serve the plot or characterization. And I do not. Nor does Jack Vance, as Mr. Vance is more than willing to spend long sections of his story carefully describing in close detail minutiae of his world, from the history of the singing fish swimming in the pond passed by the protagonist, or the specific series and color taken on by a stream of wine as it pours from the mouth of an enchanted wine ewer.

Plus the words he uses...I love reading Vance on my Kindle because I can move its cursor to hover over a word and give me the definition. I consider myself to have a rather wide vocabulary, so I probably only use it once or twice in a given novel. With Vance's work, I use it at least once a page, sometimes more. Vance uses old, archaic words, many of which can be deciphered from context, but by no means all of them. But that's one of the reasons I like reading his work. I know know that "brummagem" is a dismissive word akin to "gewgaw," and "badinage" means "idle chatter." They're not words I'd use in everyday conversation, sure, but I like to spice up my own writing now and then with some fun words, and Vance is a great place to get them.

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