meow, cat, Siamese, catty

I Didn't Know I Knew That

In linguistics there's a concept called "native speaker intuitions" -- that sense of "rightness" we have about how sentences should be constructed in our native tongue. It's something that comes only during that initial period of brain plasticity in which we learn our first language, a plasticity which is no longer available for adult learners of second languages. Although neurologists and linguists are uncertain when exactly the brain loses that plasticity -- some say the end of early childhood, others say the hormonal changes of puberty, while a few suggest that it may last all the way into the early twenties, when the brain stops maturing -- it's clear that there is a point where it goes away, and rules must be consciously learned instead of absorbed by osmosis.

For instance, there's a rule in English that dictates the order in which adjectives must be arranged in modifying a single noun. Break it, and while the sentence is still comprehensible, it feels wrong, as if the words were dancing around in a mad boogie. Or the sentence were composed by a non-native speaker trying to appear fluent by speaking rapidly without having the mastery to back it up.

Interestingly, this is not just a rule of formal speech and writing. It's also followed in the most casual and colloquial speech -- yet some types of violations can be turned into non-violations by treating the out of place word as part of a compound word. For instance, in the article there is the example of "green great dragon" as a violation of the adjective-order rule. However, for someone familiar with fantasy literature can imagine a world in which there were a specific type of dragon known as a "great dragon," which comes in various colors. In that specific Secondary World, "green great dragon" would become a legitimate construction, although the author might well decide to use capitalization to show that "Great Dragon" is a specific type or tribe or nationality of the draconic kind (especially in a situation where dragons are sapient and have personhood on the same level as humans).
meow, cat, Siamese, catty

Hats Off to the Winner

Sanhita Mukherjee won last week's Indies Unlimited Flash Fiction Writing Challenge Readers' Choice Award. The text prompt was "Battle Ready" and the picture prompt was a knight in armor.

The story is a mite lit'ry for my tastes, but what I really like seeing is how she won sixteen votes out of a total of forty-two voters -- almost double the number of voters back in December when I first started participating. The more voters, the broader the pool of tastes, and the more likely that the participants can avoid the echo-chamber effect.
meow, cat, Siamese, catty

A Walk on the Weird Side of Memory Lane

I've been pushing forward on "My Old School", my effort for the Week 11 Odd Prompts writing challenge. My protagonist came back to her hometown for a former classmate's wedding anniversary and instead arrives at a school building she watched being torn down during her senior year of high school.

I ran out of time right about when she entered one of the classrooms and took a look around. Since then I've taken her downstairs to look around, where she also discovers things are back in place which were removed before the school closed.

So far the only weirdness beyond the return of the old school has been the lack of signal on her cellphone and getting a wrong number when she tries to call her friend on the school phone -- with no special information tone preceding the recording, much like she remembers from when she first learned how to use a phone, back when her family's farmhouse was still on a party line.

Now I've got to figure out where to go from here. The first thought that came to mind was time travel -- but it seems a little *too* obvious. The next possibility is a quantum bridge across paratime to a world where the district didn't stop using that school and it was never torn down, but that would require explaining the failure of that timeline to develop modern digital telephony.

I'm playing with her discovering the "world beneath the world" that I used to imagine when I was at the age that I went to that school -- but how and why would it become real? And even then, I have to figure out how to bring it to an ending that actually concludes, which means figuring some way back out of the rabbit hole beside "it was just a dream," which is one of those trick endings that work exactly once for each reader. I'm playing with ideas of quantum consciousness and some variation on Elon Musk's remarks that it is very likely that we do not in fact live in the base reality, but in some level of simulation.

For those who are curious, the school is an actual place. I found an old aerial photograph from 1972, right about the time I started kindergarten in it.
meow, cat, Siamese, catty

Heads Up -- Writing Challenge Voting

It's that time again -- the polls are open for this week's Indies Unlimited Flash Fiction Writing Challenge Readers' Choice Award. I'd love to earn your vote, but please read all the entries and vote for the one you really like best.

And please, pass the word to your friends on social media. I'd love to see this become a real *readers'* choice award, not just what the writers who hang out there like to read.

Polls will close promptly at 5PM Pacific Time on Thursday.
meow, cat, Siamese, catty

Writing Challenges

My Odd Prompts writing challenge over at More Odds than Ends was from Brena Bock:

You keep hearing Elvis Presley songs, and they’re appropriate to the situation. What’s going on? “You ain’t nothing but a hound dog…”

It seemed to fit with the new project I'm doing, so I put it up over at Shepardsport Pirate Radio (for which I'm still seeking a suitably science fictional or space feeling theme, while working with a non-existent budget). But I'll also cross-post here:


Listening to Shepardsport Pirate Radio in your office could be tricky here in the Roosa Barracks, since Grissom City was still trying to stay cozy with the Administration. But Peter Caudell had enough family over there on Farside that he liked to keep it on, even if he had to keep the volume low or listen on headphones. Which was a lot easier these days than it had been back in the days before Bluetooth.

And right now he was just as glad he’d picked the completely private option, because something seriously strange was going on over there. For starters, they were playing way too much Elvis. It would’ve been one thing if this were a Sunday morning, because that was Payton Shaw’s program, the Church of the Blessed Elvis. Two hours of nothing but the Man from Memphis.

But today was a rather ordinary Tuesday. Everything he could see was showing ordinary levels of traffic in cislunar space, and the Sun was behaving itself quite nicely. None of the messy coronal mass ejections that seemed to be characteristic of a solar minimum and could wreck havoc with space activities.

So why did so many songs by Elvis Presley keep showing up on their playlist? Even in the Classic Rock program in the afternoon, Spruance Del Curtin tended to favor acts from the 70s and 80s, but today he’d played half a dozen Elvis songs.

And now that the disco program was on, Spencer Dawes was playing that cover of “A Little Less Conversation.” What was that band’s name? Something-or-other XL, Peter had never paid much attention because disco wasn’t his kind of music. Was it worth the risk to go online to the Shepardsport Pirate Radio website and check their official playlist?

Still, it bothered him just enough to be a persistent itch at the back of his mind. Maybe he ought to make a few discreet inquiries to his clone-brothers over there, see if any of them had heard anything. Too bad none of them had landed a position on the station staff, which was a shame when one considered Scott Carpenter’s fondness for music.

Worst case, there was always Payton Shaw. Sure, he was a Cooper, but the clones of the Mercury Seven did stick together.


This week I also managed to do the Indies Unlimited Flash Fiction Writing Challenge, getting my contribution in just under the wire on the deadline. My effort deals with cheater codes in a future full-sensory-immersion computer gaming environment.

If you want to participate in next week's Odd Prompts challenge, just send your prompt to It can be a phrase, a few verses of poetry, a picture, whatever -- just make it evocative.

And Indies Unlimited will have their next picture and word prompt up on Saturday.

Have fun!
meow, cat, Siamese, catty

New Vignette Challenges

This week it's not me that's running late, for a change.

Over at Sarah Hoyt's blog there's a new vignette challenge, delayed by a day. My effort takes a look at what happens to the generation gap when not only life, but youth, can be extended indefinitely.

And marycatelli has her own vignette challenge on her LiveJournal. It's back at Shepardsport, with Steffi Roderick's ongoing struggles with people going wild with typography.

Meanwhile, I'm finally getting the Shepardsport Pirate Radio website set up, after I figured out how to get the PHP on my webhosting account upgraded. I've got some background pages I need to put up to provide some more context, as well as links to some of my other websites, and I really need to find a good theme that creates a sense of an sf-nal setting. But it looks like I'm going to have plenty of time now that we're supposed to be staying home except for essential trips.
meow, cat, Siamese, catty

Bittercon: Ethics and Politics in Anime

Even if Eville-con had been able to take place, by now it would've been long since over, and even the vendors and the staff packed out and gone. But here's one last interesting panel discussion topic: how are ethics and politics handled in anime?

Way back when I was first discovering Robotech, the US adaptation of three different anime series into a single narrative arc, I remember reading an essay about the adaptation being complicated by how US audiences tend to think of animated works as being for younger audiences, which made it tricky to deal with some of the more complex and complicated parts of the storyline without setting off the Moral Guardians. For instance, there were character deaths, which raised concern that they could be too upsetting for the expected audience. There were also complex moral choices in which there was no clear right answer, often as a result of overlapping and competing loyalties making contradictory demands on the character.

Now that anime and manga are being translated without adaptation for American audiences, we're seeing more works that include significant ethical complexity, as well as more dramas that focus upon the politics of the imagined world, for instance, the drama of a royal court, rather than the typical action-adventure or romance that a lot of people think of when they're talking about anime and manga.