Fantasist's Scroll

Fun, Fiction and Strange Things from the Desk of the Fantasist.


Review: Facts About The World’s Lanuages

Filed under: — Posted by the Fantasist during the Hour of the Rooster which is in the early evening.
The moon is a Third Quarter Moon

This is the coolest book since the first encyclopedia!
To me, it is, anyway. I’ve been borrowing a friend’s copy of Facts About The World’s Languages and really enjoying it. I saw it on the shelf at his house back around Thanksgiving time and fell in love with it. It’s a little rich for my blood, right now, but I know that I’ll eventually get a copy. In a nutshell, Facts About The World’s Languages has basic phological and morphological thumbnails of virtually all the world’s known languages. It is super, super cool to see the phonogical analysis of major languages all laid out in easy-to-read tables and summarized in neat, little paragraphs. For one thing, it pretty well shows people making up their own languages how to layout such a description. For another, it’s providing me fodder for my own ideas about language creation. Best of all, it’s helping me do the hard parts, choosing a phonology and displaying it for others to read! That, for some reason, is the hardest damn thing for me. I just have a really hard time getting my head around the different labels for the syllabic descriptors. Frankly, I just can’t remember the difference between a labiodental consonant and a straight labial consonant and all that sort of thing. I guess it doesn’t really matter that much, but it bothers me.
In any case, this is the coolest bit of language-related inspiration that I’ve seen in a very long time. It neatly lays out complicated morphological systems in a way that makes sense to me. And, the short histories of the various languages are fascinating, as well. But, these thumbnails go into fairly good detail. For instance, they include influences from other languages, the probable evolution of the language, as well as the geographical history of the language. Really, it’s completely captivating.
In short, Facts About The World’s Languages is a great book that will be the object of lust and envy of every conlanger who sees it on your shelf. Go buy one!


Review: Science of Breath

Filed under: — Posted by the Fantasist during the Hour of the Hare which is in the early morning.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

I re-read the Science of Breath last week.
For a skinny, little book it sure is packed full of information. Those yogis really pay a lot of attention to the details of everyday physical life. We all breath, but how often do we actually contemplate our breathing? The Science of Breath asks us to do just that. What’s more, it offers the most correct way of breathing for maximum health and benefit. It also gives the yoga student breathing exercises that help revitalize, reinvigorate and recharge themselves on many different levels. I re-read the book to refamiliarize myself with those breathing exercises which, over the years, I have found extremely helpfull in times of stress. As one might imagine, they are very meditative in nature and I found them quite relaxing.
This little, 90-page book is now a bit of a challenge to get, but well worth the effort. (Oh, and don’t be fooled by the other books of the same title. The one to get is the one by Yogi Ramacharaka.)


Review: The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove

Filed under: — Posted by the Fantasist during the Hour of the Hare which is in the early morning.
The moon is Waning Crescent

Okay, so I’ve been reading a lot of Christopher Moore lately!
It’s the upside to travelling for work, actually, having all that time to read on the plane or in airports. I took advantage of it to read another delightful tale by Moore, titled The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove. Obviously, the story is about a large lizard, but it’s not quite what you might think. It’s actually a love story.
The story follows the antics of Moore’s favorite fictional town as the local psychiatrist decides to make up for past apathy by putting all her patients on sugar-pills instead of their regular medication. Throw in a giant sea-lizard, a hidden drug lab, a Mississippi Blues man, and a former B-movie star and you get classic Moore. This time around we get to see some old friends from Practical Demonkeeping, too, like Howard Phillips, occult owner of the local diner and “The Hammer/Nailgun”, super-geek police computer specialist and source of lots of interesting information. Oddly enough, the main “love story” is between the fallen movie star and the sea-creature. Though, there are actually several love stories going on all at once. There’s a little bit of everything in The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove and so many sub-plots it’ll make your head spin. But, in a good way.

And again, there’s that underlying current of a spiritual search. A search for meaning and love in a sad, drab world. Surprisingly, despite opening with an apparent suicide and lots of mental anguish, including a somewhat dark look at psychotherapy, it’s really an upbeat and fun book. As always, Moore manages to tie everything together and end on a rather happy note. Again, The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove is a great book, like everything by Christopher Moore, and I cannot reccomend it enough.


Review: Coyote Blue

Filed under: — Posted by the Fantasist during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning.
The moon is a Third Quarter Moon

I love Christopher Moore’s writing!
Of course, that’s neither anything new or particularly startling since he’s a best-selling author. He writes mainly light comedic fantasy, which is just what I need these days, so I’ve been churning through quite a bit of his work. One of the things that I like about Mr. Moore’s work is that he always seems to have an undercurrent of spirituality in all his work. Coyote Blue is no exception. The “hero” of Coyote Blue is a severly repressed Crow (from the American Indian tribe, not the bird) named “Samson Hunter”. Though, actually, his real name is Samson Hunts Alone. He’s living in the White world, hiding from a terrible secret he left behind on the Crow reservation. And, he’s one of Coyote’s chosen. Of course, in his “White” persona, a chameleon-like insurance salesman, he denies everything Crow, including his family’s association with the traditonal trickster god.
Unfortunately for him, his shaman uncle is still looking for Samson. And Coyote hears the call. As you might have guessed, when the trickster god takes an interest in your life, things get a little confusing. Not to mention dangerous. It all works out in the end, of course, though someone dies and poor Samson’s life is completely torn apart. Oddly enough, it’s a happy ending.

Well, I won’t spoil the book with too much plot, but Moore takes us on a journey of rediscovery and spirituality. One of the things I liked about the book was that it was a non-standard, non-JudeoChristian exploration of spirituality. And, from what I’ve read of American Indian religion, it’s fairly accurate, too. It’s both fun and funny. Coyote Blue was light-hearted enough to make it a pleasure to read, but deep enough to keep me coming back for more. I heartily reccomend it.


Review: Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom

Filed under: — Posted by the Fantasist during the Hour of the Hare which is in the early morning.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

Okay, here’s another good one.

Though, this is very, very different from Blood Sucking Fiends. I haven’t read anything by Cory Doctrow before, but Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom won awards and has gotten great reviews, so I thought I’d try it. I have to admit, it was pretty damn good. I haven’t read much real science-fiction lately, just a bunch of fantasy, so it was a refreshing change.

The story is set in the far future where people make backup copies of their consciousness which can be downloaded into cloned bodies. This, of course, virtually eliminates death since a new clone can be grown that is much younger than the recently departed. Also, in this brave new world Doctrow has created, money has been replaced by a kind of reputation measurement called a “Whuffie”. If you have lots of Whuffie, you can get good meals at good restaurants. If you don’t have Whuffie, you can wait in line to get nutrient pap from a vending machine. So, with that in mind…
The story is set in Disney World where competing groups of “ad-hocs” (ad-hoc groups of like minded and motivated people) are trying to impose their various visions on the theme park. The story focuses on the battle for Liberty Square, in particular the Hall of Presidents and the Haunted Mansion. It’s actually a very interesting political thriller, in that sense, but always with the well-thought-out science-fiction underpinnings and, again my favorite thing, the sub-plot of human relations. It’s actually sort of hard to describe this book adaquately without giving too much away, but it’s well worth the read. It’s not funny like Blood Sucking Fiends was, but it is very engaging in a more intellectual way. And, most importantly, it was good and distracting!

In any case, it’s a good book and worth spending the money, even at this most consumer time of year.


Review: Blood Sucking Fiends

Filed under: — Posted by the Fantasist during the Hour of the Hare which is in the early morning.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

I’ve been reading a lot of fiction lately.

But, I’m going to dole out the reviews on separate days this week!
It’s been hard to motivate myself to write relavant entries on this blog, especially when I’m writing on the other blog, so I’m milking my review entries. I had been reading a linguistics book, but the divorce thing, along with the holidays, made it just too hard to read non-fiction for a bit. So, instead, I turned to Christopher Moore’s Blood Sucking Fiends. I’ve read several of his books before and Mr. Moore never fails to delight. This was no exception.

The story, in short, is about a somewhat insecure young woman who is turned into a vampire, in San Francisco, and has to learn to cope with it. Along the way, we find out about a young writer who becomes her modern-day Renfield. We also meet a cast of characters that are truly charming, amusing and Moore-eseque. Mr. Moore has a way of creating characters that just tickles me to no end. They’re funny and tragic and real in a way that few authors seem to be able to duplicate. Oh, this is a comedy, BTW. In fact, as far as I know, everything Mr. Moore writes is, more or less, a comedy. But that works, since life is pretty funny.
The story is a rolicking ride through both San Francisco and the vampire myth. Virtually every aspect is explored, primarily from the standpoint of a fledgling vampire and her “ghoul”. But, we also get a look at the human condition and relationships and, yes, even a bit of sex. It’s all pretty light-hearted, of course, which is Mr. Moore’s style and, frankly, why I turned to him in my despair.

In short, this is a very fun, light, funny book that also has a deeper message about love, loss and life. Or, if you prefer, un-life. I cannot reccomend it enough. It’s the perfect antidote to the holiday blues!


Conlangs and Generators

Filed under: — Posted by the Fantasist during the Hour of the Dog which is in the evening time.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

Hey, look, new stuff!

Okay, so my life has been a little crazy the past couple of weeks and I haven’t been posting too much new stuff. Well, there’s a person I know from several lists on-line who was so inspired by my conlang generators that he made his own. His name is Nikhil Sinha, and one of his websites is Azukania. Also, a direct link to his PERL word generator is here. For more information about Azgen, Nikhil’s word generator you can go to his Azgen Information Page.
Great work, Nikhil! We need more people making word generators out there!


Review: Code of Bushido

Filed under: — Posted by the Fantasist during the Hour of the Hare which is in the early morning.
The moon is a New Moon

The male version of the “bodice ripper”.

Let me preface this review with the simple statement that this is: a) Not the kind of book I usually read, b) There is almost nothing about real “bushido” in the book, and c) Was purchased at a used book store for less than a dollar. Okay, I admit that I was looking for something different, and not too challenging to read, but I was hoping for more.
I finished Code of Bushido by Don Pendelton this week. This is from a series of “men’s fiction” (no, that’s not a euphemism for pornography!) called SuperBolan, which is named after the main character, Mack Bolan. It’s about as low-brow as you can get and still be reading books that don’t have illustrations.
The characterisation is weak and the rest of the writing is worse. Everyone is a giant characature of actual characters. Mack Bolan is a stereotypical, steely-eyed, tough-guy fighting a shadow war against terrorists for the CIA. He’s the ultimate dark hero. A professional killer who’s out there killing the bad guys and keeping America safe. Yes, it’s really that heavy-handed.

But, setting all that aside. It was entertaining. Entertaining in the same way that, say, a Sylvester Stalone movie is. Lots of action, a little mostly bad dialog and not much else. But, I didn’t have to think about it. It was what it was. There wasn’t any really deep social message here, just action and lots of it. So, it was an oddly soothing change of pace for me. The only really annoying thing was the totally wrong presentation of bushido and traditional Japanese culture. This author has obviously never read anything about bushido, or any of the traditional martial arts, or even talked to anyone with more than a passing interest in Japanese culture.
So, while I can’t reccomend this book in all good conscience, if you’re in the mood for mindless mayhem and a break from anything too heavy, this might just get the job done.

But, to counter the “low-brow-ness” of Code of Bushido, I started reading The Science of Words. Nothing like some good linguistics to wash the filth off!

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