Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Reality, Meet Fiction: Translation

Zion Church in Berlin, the site of one
 of a handful of
underground print shops in
communist East Berlin.
As you may have noticed, my posting schedule decreased for a while as I was gone in Germany. This is the first of (hopefully) several posts that was partially inspired by the trip. 


While most people in Germany speak a fair bit of English, there were a number of times where our group leader had to translate signs or tours for us, especially if the subject was rather technical or if we were along on a German-only tour. 

Whether it's just his personality or the fact that he's a physicist, our guide tended to shorten things quite a bit for us to understand. Occasionally, with my (very, very) limited amount of German, I could tell that he was omitting some parts of the narrative or making them more succinct for our understanding. (This was totally fine with me, because being in a country where pretty much everyone seems to be at least bi-lingual, it's embarrassing to admit that you only speak one language and I also felt like I was an inconvenience to native speakers by needing everything translated).

However, when translation got really interesting was when there was a flurry of back-and-forth rapid German between our group leader and the tour guide, followed by a quick consultation with another bi-lingual speaker in the group. The result of this conversation usually began with a statement in English something along the lines of, "I don't think you have a word for it, but it's a similar concept to..." followed by a few sentence description of what was probably one word in German. A couple of times, he also added, "It's pretty much untranslatable."

Even though I went into the trip realizing that different languages don't always have a word-for-word equivalence of concepts, it surprised me how frequently these exchanges occurred and how narrow one language can be for expressing ideas.


While it's common to see multiple languages used in fantasy books, I don't think I've run across the idea of something being lost in translation. It would be a cool concept to utilize more frequently.

What factors influence what each language in your story has vocabulary for? For example, a sea-faring society likely has more words for nautical and marine terms than a desert society. How can this cause confusion in translation between characters?

Are certain languages considered valuable to learn for economic or social reasons? Are others looked down upon for being local dialects?

Is there a trade language or a language that most characters are expected to learn? Do certain professions require training in a certain language? (Church work in the Middle Ages and Latin). What factors influence what language(s) your characters know--schooling, social class, occupation, country of residence, language spoken at home, age, etc.?

Are certain languages considered more difficult to learn? How are languages in your storyworld related? What history--conquests, trade, etc.--affects shared vocabulary or similar syntax?

Have you traveled to a country that doesn't speak your native language? What was the experience like?

Friday, August 25, 2017

Sequel Review: "Crown of Fire"

I'd strongly recommend reading Firebird and Fusion Fire prior to picking up this book. Check back in next week for a new series! As always, I've tried to keep this review spoiler free for both this book and the previous books. 

The Short:

Crown of Fire
Firebird Trilogy, #3

By: Kathy Tyers

4/5 Stars

What: Firebird and Brennen must face their own fears and flaws while trying to put down the most dangerous threat to the Federacy yet.

Recommended to those who like: Sci-fi/Space Opera, Christian, Space Battles

The Long:

Firebird was one of the first non-Star Wars sci-fi universes I read about that I felt that I could really fall in love with. In spite of focusing on just a couple of key characters, the universe feels spectacularly huge and rich. While this is the end of the original trilogy, it looks like there are two more books to read in the same universe, so I look forward to picking those up sometime in the future.

Regarding Crown of Fire, while it wasn’t my favorite in the trilogy, it was still a solid read. It was great to hear about the adventures of Firebird and Brennen again and to wrap up some plot points that had been introduced as early as the first book. However, I felt like there were still a couple loose ends that would have been nice to tie up. Maybe they’ll be finished off in the later two books?

One of the things I really appreciated about this trilogy was the fact that both Brennen and Firebird struggle with different character flaws throughout the trilogy, yet these flaws spring out of their own fundamental personalities. It destroys the common stereotype that Christian characters are perfect (or become perfect by the end of the first book and then no longer have any character development left).

As usual, the worldbuilding was fantastic and rich. The Christian themes of the book were a little stronger than in the earlier books, but still weren’t overwhelming.

The Bottom Line: I’d definitely recommend this series to fans of Christian science fiction who enjoy a bit of action and don’t mind some romance.                                                                                                        

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Changing Seasons

It's late summer here in the American Midwest. The air has a bit of a different smell to it in the morning, the bugs sound different than when I left for Germany, and there's a subtle darkening in the color of leaves on the trees. School supplies are everywhere in the supermarket and tailgating supplies are making their appearances. Soon it will be fall, the days will get colder and shorter, and it'll be time to break out my hoodies and my apple crisp recipe card.

When I was younger, I used to dislike the changing seasons, especially as summer transitioned to fall. Now I enjoy and appreciate the change in life it brings. (It may also have something to do with the fact that I no longer have high school in the fall. High school and I weren't the best of friends.)

 As I've grown older, I've also started to realize that life has its seasons, just as the year does.

Full confession: I didn't write anything this summer. I haven't even opened a word document to do some editing.

I used to rely on the summer to do the bulk of my editing and writing. It finally clicked for me that I can no longer do that; career jobs don't exactly give you two months out of the year with nothing to do. (Hello, Captain Obvious.) I'll have to figure out how to fit in writing and editing around my already busy schedule.

At first, I was angry about this change. You mean I can't just pound out 5k words a day for three months and take the other nine months off entirely?

Then came a wave of self-doubt. Is it worth it to be writing? Is this something to carry into my next season of life? Should I make time for it? I spent some time ruminating on it and decided that, yes, this is something I want to do.

There's too much I want to write about and dream about to not write.

I used to think that I would pay for my college by writing a great self-published book. That seems silly now. Indeed, the idea of just making something worthy of being published (self-pubbed or otherwise) seems daunting. It's a responsibility. Something to do right or not at all, because it would bear my name on it.

But that doesn't mean that things don't need to be written, because they do. It's how I process the world; I see things through stories, through characters on a page.

I think I still have a lot of growing to do; in fact, I hope I do. It'd be rather sad if I never matured past my young adult self. But I think that it's time I accepted that I'm moving into a different season of life. One where writing is less about influencing people and more about putting out a kernel of truth, even if it just sits on my hard drive and only affects me. One where writing isn't something to pass the time when bored, but something essential to who I am.

It's time to appreciate where I've been, but also to embrace where I'm going. And if that seasonal change brings hoodie
weather, I'm all for it.

How have your thoughts on writing changed as you've grown older?

If you're curious about what I've been up to lately, you can check out my updated biography under the "About Me" tab.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Friday Fiction Fix: "Out of the Silent Planet"

I'm back! Thanks for your patience as I was away. Normal posting will resume this upcoming week, with a miscellaneous post on Tuesdays and a book review on Fridays. 

The Short:

Out of the Silent Planet
Space Trilogy #1

By: C.S. Lewis

4.5/5 Stars

What: Interplanetary kidnapping leads a professor to question his knowledge of the universe.

Recommended to those who like: Sci-fi, contemplative reads, Christian

The Long:

One of my English teachers in high school recommended the space trilogy to me. I read the first book and then never finished the rest of the series due to getting hooked on Ted Dekker later in the summer. Now I’ve returned to the series with the intention of finishing it sooner rather than later. Now a few years older, I was able to appreciate the book considerably more than I had been able to in high school.

Ransom is a professor on holiday, taking a tour of the British countryside. However, a series of events leads to his kidnapping, not just across the world, but between worlds. He must come to grips with his own mortality, the reality of life outside of earth, and the possibility that there is something even bigger than himself afoot in the universe.

The book is very contemplative in nature—a true English teacher book recommendation. It doesn’t have much action, and much of the plot is spent in dialogue or explanation of the planet. However, it’s still an engaging read if you’re in the right mood for it.

In some respects, it’s closer to The Screwtape Letters than The Chronicles of Narnia, but it’s still set up as a novel. It does have a strong Christian slant on it, though I wouldn’t consider it to be “preachy”.

The Bottom Line: A contemplative read recommended to fans of slower-paced Christian sci-fi. 

Friday, August 11, 2017

Flashback Friday: First Year Books

Are you a newcomer to the blog? I might not be posting new book reviews while I'm away, but you can certainly check out some of my old reviews! Here are some books from the first year of the blog that I'd love to re-read.

Resistance, by Jaye L. Knight.

5/5 Stars. Christian Allegorical Fantasy.

A half-breed man struggles with his own humanity while a young woman strives to maintain her faith in the den of the enemy.

Hero, Second Class by Mitchell Bonds.

4/5 Stars. Christian Humor/Fantasy.

A young man is apprenticed to a hero, trying to increase his classification. As always, there seems to be an arch-villain in the way.

The Word Reclaimed, by Steve Rsaza.

4/5 Stars. Christian Science Fiction.

Amid a spacewreck, the last known copy of the Bible is discovered. 

What book would you love to re-read?

Friday, August 4, 2017

Friday Fiction Fix: "Divergent"

The Short:


By: Veronica Roth

4.5/5 Stars

What: Forced to choose between five factions that each represent a defining attribute, a young woman must face some of her worst fears.

Recommended to those who like: Young adult, Clean/Christian?, dystopian, post-apocalyptic.

Reader’s Warning: Brief language (PG), references to intimate relations (PG to mild PG-13)

The Long:

Once I get back from my trip, I look forward to doing a more thorough discussion of this book. It might not be overly remarkable on its own, but its status as a secular book written by an author who is rather open about her faith is intriguing.

Alas, I shall have to stick to a quick review for today. Ready? Here we go!

In post-apocalyptic Chicago, people are divided by what character trait they value most highly. Beatrice has lived among the selfless Abnegation group for her entire life, but when it’s time for her to choose what group she will ultimately spend the rest of her life with, she faces a deep internal conflict and some of her worst fears.

I found that this book provided some interesting food for thought, which was somewhat surprising. I went into expecting a fast read (which it was), with too much insta-love (mostly accurate), and maybe a couple good action scenes (also accurate). I didn’t expect the questions about the basis of morality that it raised and the conflicts between different value systems, not to mention well-woven commentary on the human condition. However, it was artfully done.

The story was somewhat predictable at a couple of points, and I would have loved to have seen some more in-depth character development of a few of the side characters. I would gladly read the second book just to get a more expanded vision of the post-apocalyptic world. We’re given just the right taste of it to be satisfying while also creating a thirst for more.

As aforementioned, the story was a little too heavy on the love element for my taste. It was still more reasonable than many YA books, for which I was thankful.

The writing was snappy and tight overall, which made for a very quick and easy read that would appeal to teens who don’t even enjoy reading (if I had to guess. I mean, I’ve always enjoyed reading, so I might not be the best person to ask).

While Christianity is not directly involved in this story, the author begins her acknowledgements with a specifically Christian message, and many of the elements of the story reflect a Christian point of view. It certainly makes an intriguing read.

The Bottom Line: A clean dystopian story for mature teens and up, this quick read with good worldbuilding and worthwhile dilemmas is actually worth a bit of the hype.