Steven Shrewsbury is guest posting today on a great topic one that I sure agree on. Way back when did people use the word shit? Well I don’t know when the word shit came into existence but I’m guessing it’s equivalent has been around since the time of the dinosaurs. Yep some T-Rex looked down at his stumpy little arms and said well FUCK IT! How am I going to high five someones face with these things? Then he roared SHIIIIITTTTTTTTTT and some poor little dino crapped itself and dropped dead this made T-Rex happy. Okay that didn’t happen but the point it if you’re writing a book now about a very angry T-Rex you’re not going to write roar roar you’ll write using the words you know shit, bitch and cock will be in there so why are some people so damn fussy about books set in a certain time and the “right” word being used? I don’t know but they are probably a big stick in the mud. I’ll let Steven tell you about it because my T-Rex analogy may have thrown it all off a bit lol
ARE THEM ACCURATE FIGHTIN’ WORDS?
Steven L. Shrewsbury
I’d like to say a few words about the use of modern worlds in fantasy fiction settings. Recently, I got taken to task, lightly, by a reviewer who thought my use of ‘modern’ phrases/slang/words in a setting many years ago was out of line. Now, nobody ‘dissed’ anyone, but the use of words like ‘ya’ or swear words were there. For the latter, well, two instances spring to mind.
George Carlin saying the only thing wrong with the dirty words that guy is using is that he isn’t using enough of them. The other was fantasy/horror writer Karl Edward Wagner, dealing with editors saying he shouldn’t say SHIT in a book set thousands of years ago because the word didn’t exist yet. Karl replied, and I’ll paraphrase, “I’m sure when a man fell down and hit the ground face first, he didn’t scream FORSOOTH!” He put the word in his readers would understand.
I let the naughty words fly in OVERKILL and THRALL for the same reason. A reader will get what is being said and yes, such bawdy terms weren’t in use before the great flood, but I’m also pretty sure the King James English wasn’t, either. And that line of talk is just honky freakin’ dory with most readers of such fiction. All of the conventions and trappings of the dark ages and thereafter, all exist in countless high/heroic/fantasy books. Swords seem common on each world and so are the ingredients in Mead, stew, the texture of fabrics, and the color of the sky, but DON’T say FUCK if you are angry or to ‘splain the act of copulation itself. I must confess that in real life I have never referred to the main portion of my male genitals as my MANHOOD. Not once. But say DICK, COCK or PRICK you better be referring to Richard, the rooster salesman who has splinters.
By the way, wonder why we can comprehend the words spoken on alternate worlds like those in GAME OF THRONES or WHEEL OF TIME? How dare they speak English. Granted, my folks probably sound more American, but since mostly Americans will be reading the stories, it works out all right.
In the end, it’s all fiction, folks. These tales really didn’t happen. Enjoy the story and laugh or be grossed out. If a dirty joke or the use of a character with bad speaking habits so offends you, well, there are other ways for you to stretch a literary dollar. Bad grammar isn’t forgivable, but not everyone speaks the same in a tale nor do they in real life. I know a guy at work who uses the word FUCK as a noun, verb, adverb, adjective and probably a few other ways. In OVERKILL I had a character speak like that, every other word was filthy. I had a boss once who thought that by not speaking in contractions he’d sound smarter. He didn’t.
In fiction, as with talking to people in general, we all have our own tastes. If a line of words or talk is too complicated, we tune it out. If the words are offensive, we tend to turn away and make a mental note to not go that way again. Nevertheless, not all works of fiction can be cookie cutter correct to the Oxford Speech Society. It’s great if they make sense, but sometimes, the real world isn’t pretty and the characters in it are harsh. If I decided to write a story about a bunch of scholars who were stuffy, that’d be a boring tale until someone decided to kill someone else or screw the librarian. Folks do bad things and that makes stories brighten with color. Come to think of it, the Bible picked up once the snake arrived.
So the next time you read a book, enjoy, lighten up, and try to escape the mundane world of walls that so confine ya.