Tag Archives: Neal Stephenson

The Turkey City Lexicon

My normal source of political news has been on lockdown recently, so I’ve been having to look elsewhere for information and reading material.  This has led to a good deal of stumbling across unexpected but interesting items like this:

Turkey City Lexicon, A Primer for SF Workshops

Feel free to skip over the introductions and go right down to the good part, which is a list of science fiction writer jargon often heard at writing workshops, along with definitions.  For instance,

“Call a Rabbit a Smeerp“

A cheap technique for false exoticism, in which common elements of the real world are re-named for a fantastic milieu without any real alteration in their basic nature or behavior. “Smeerps” are especially common in fantasy worlds, where people often ride exotic steeds that look and act just like horses. (Attributed to James Blish.)


False Humanity

An ailment endemic to genre writing, in which soap-opera elements of purported human interest are stuffed into the story willy-nilly, whether or not they advance the plot or contribute to the point of the story. The actions of such characters convey an itchy sense of irrelevance, for the author has invented their problems out of whole cloth, so as to have something to emote about.

(Many current day TV writers could take a hint or two from that one.)


The Grubby Apartment Story

Similar to the “poor me” story, this autobiographical effort features a miserably quasi-bohemian writer, living in urban angst in a grubby apartment. The story commonly stars the author’s friends in thin disguises — friends who may also be the author’s workshop companions, to their considerable alarm.

There’s a whole slew of these things. Pretty interesting, often funny.

When you’re done reading those, go back up to Bruce Sterling’s intro section and have a go at it as well; its description of how a typical SF writing workshop works is pretty amusing.

I suppose why this stuff caught my interest at this moment in time is because I’ve been toying lately with the idea of writing a novel. Of course, I have no idea how I would go about doing that, nor how on earth I would find the time.  Maybe I could give up sleeping.

A more likely scenario is that I’ll get my eyeglasses updated and start reading fiction for pleasure again.  It’s been quite a while.  I used to be an avid reader, one of those who was always in the process of reading a book.  As soon as one book was done, I’d start the next one; there was never a day where I wasn’t currently reading something. But that started to fall by the wayside a number of years ago, and more recently I’ve gotten so thoroughly out of the habit that I have no idea how I used to find so much time for it. The last fiction novel I managed to get all the way through was Neal Stephenson’s Anathem, which I read two or three years ago I think.

Anyway, I’m going to add the Turkey City Lexicon to the sidebar links and see how that sits.