Thursday, December 8, 2011
Double Topic: Update on Permission Grind; Language in the 30th Century
"The Termite Queen" has 85 chapters total. I am seriously considering publishing it in 2 volumes, one three months or so before the other. Of the 85 chapters, 32 would take up the first volume and 53 the second. Of the total 85 I have now cleared 65 epigraphs; they are either public domain or I've actually received permission to publish. That leaves a hard core of 20 (only 4 of which are in the 1st volume), some of which I have requests out on and some of which I'm going to give up on and find a different quotation. You've no idea how picky these publishers can be! I'll just give one example. I've given up on the Anglo-Saxon poem "The Seafarer" for the chapter where they launch into space and I've substituted another line from Tagore's "On the Seashore." The only decent translation of "The Seafarer" that I can find is the Gavin bone version in my medieval literature in translation textbook from college. It was published in l943, so it's under copyright and it's Oxford UP. The larger the publisher, the more bureaucratic hoops they make you jump through! OUP's application form is about a mile long and furthermore it says something like, "Absolutely no permission to publish will be granted unless the book has a publisher." I assume they mean a traditional professional publisher with a name, an office, etc. Hoity-toity! I guess that puts the self-publisher out of the picture! I'm not going to go through that sort of rigmarole for four lines of poetry!
Then on some of the ones where I have only one quotation by an author, I'm going to find something else. It'll take a little work, but there are hundred of years worth of great authors in the public domain. On the one quotation from the "Aeneid," (where Aeneas follows the Sybil into the underworld, used for the chapter where Kaitrin follows the Shshi Seer into the termite fortress for the first time), I'm going to use the John Dryden translation. It isn't quite as direct as the modern Rolfe Humphries, but nobody can fault Dryden for being a bad poet. I'm going to take the two "Odyssey" quotations from the Harvard Classics through Bartleby. And I have one quotation from the "Iliad" where I still have to ferret out an older translation. Some of the modern poets I'm also going to replace - Ezra Pound, e.g. I think his copyright situation is confused and I'm afraid to tackle it. And the two from Auden - I haven't made up my mind about those yet. I sure do like the quotes that I picked.
So you can see I still have a good bit of work to do.
Now, a word about the English language in the 30th century. This question was asked of me by somebody who read "Monster." Why do I spell names so peculiarly? Was it to suggest that this is a time in the distant future? Well, that's more or less it. The thing is, obviously the English language is going to change a lot over the next 800-1000 years. Think how much it's changed since the 14th century, when Chaucer wrote. And 300 years before that, it didn't even resemble modern day English. But I'm not enough of a linguistic scholar to foresee how English might be spoken and written in the 30th century, and even if I could construct something, writing in it would be absurd, because nobody would be able to understand what I was writing. So I have to write in 20th-21st century English. (The only book I know - there are probably more - where an author tries to write in a future English is "Riddley Walker" by Russell Hoban, published 1980. It's laid in a post-Apocalytical Britain, where mankind is just beginning to reinvent technology, starting unfortunately with gun powder. I was fascinated with that book!)
So I thought, how could I suggest that the language has changed? One way is to alter spelling of place names. So Washington becomes Washinten and Oklahoma has shrunk to Okloh and Ann Arbor is Anarber and London is Lunden. Texas is Teyhas. Africa is Afrik. Etc. I do the same with author's names in some cases. Shakespeare becomes Shaksper (that's not so far-fetched because the name wasn't spelled consistently in his lifetime. Wikipeda gives a dozen or so spellings, including Shaksper). As for names of languages, English is now Inj (in the 28th century it was Inge), Greek is Griek, etc. It's King Ather, not King Arthur. You get the idea.
And then I also use folk etymology a lot. That's a situation where people take a word that makes no sense to them and turn it into something they can understand. A classic example is the Purgatoire River in Colorado. It became the Picketwire. So the extinct Komodo dragon has become the commando dragon. One of my favorites: Arizona had become Aridzone. And the Lagrange points - the places at certain angles between the Earth and the Moon or the Earth and the Sun where objects will stay put and be unaffected by gravity - have become the Longrange points.
I believe the meanings will be perfectly clear to the reader, who can't expect everything to be "normal" in a book laid so far in the future. But in a way I'm glad I'm self-publishing, because I won't have to contend with a copy editor who keeps changing my spellings!