Classifying writing

So we’re getting close to another November, and that means it’s time to get to some serious writing business. Tomorrow, I’ll start, and I hope to reach the magic 50,000 mark once again. This time around, I’ll give a lot more story detail in my daily updates, along with the running word counts.

The novel I’m writing this year has the working title Nocturne, and it’s my first real attempt at book-length fantasy of the “traditional” style. It’ll have magic and mystery and all that stuff. And unlike my Linear Anthology series, it’ll be a “full-length” novel.

But what does that even mean? What’s the difference between a novel and a novella? And where do short stories fit in? Sure, there is significant overlap, and you can say it’s really a continuum; you can have short novels and long novellas. But for an objective metric, a first approximation, we can use the same measurement that every NaNoWriMo participant will be looking at come tomorrow: word count.

Taking the length of one of my works, I divide it into one of three categories: novel, novella, or short story. The numbers I use are pretty simple, and they’re loosely based on the NaNoWriMo “50,000 words” milestone.

  • A novel, for me, is a work that is at least 50,000 words. Preferably, I want it to be 60,000+, but that’s for a very specific reason: I consider my Otherworld series (I’ll start posting those to supporters in the coming months) to be made up of novellas, but some of them run as high as 59,000 words. This is where the stylistic argument comes in. Oh, and there’s no real upper limit, either. The longest work I’ve written weighs in at about 250K, and it’s still a novel. A ponderous tome indeed, but a novel all the same.

  • A novella is shorter, no more than 50-60K. It has to be a minimum of 15,000, though 20,000 is better. (The mathematically inclined reader will notice a pattern here.) By the 20K standard, I don’t actually have any novellas written yet, but I’ll remedy that soon enough.

  • Finally, I consider a short story to be anything under the minimum for a novella. Thus, it can range up to 20,000 words, though anything over 15K is pushing it. (If you prefer a category of “novelette”, then you can slot it in here as 5-15K or 6-20K, with short stories being even shorter than that.) My short stories, however, often have a lot more plot and worldbuilding than you’d expect from something with that name.

So, to sum up, it looks like this:

Type Length (5) Length (6)
Short story < 15,000 < 20,000
Novelette* 5,000-15,000 6,000-20,000
Novella 15,000-50,000 20,000-60,000
Novel > 50,000 > 60,000

Pick which progression you want to follow, and there you go. If you like the novelette category, use its minimum as the maximum for short stories. And don’t neglect the style differences between the different types of work. They’re what led me to make two different classifications in the first place. Novels have more subplots, for example, and I want a novella to be long enough that it has the depth to hook me, but not so long that I can’t read it in one sitting.

Now, it’s onward to November. Can I do this for the fifth straight year? Stay tuned!

Let’s make a language, part 20c: Animals (Ardari)

For Ardari, most of what was previously said about Isian still applies. It’s a Eurasian culture with Eurasian animals and little contact with the New World, sub-Saharan Africa, or Australia. As such, it has a lot of native terms for the animals common to Europe and western Asia (not as much the East, though), but most of its words for more exotic animals are borrowed, like èlfang “elephant”.

Where Ardari differs is in the way it treats gender. As a language with three functional genders, the sex of an animal becomes grammatically important. This is especially so in the case of common barnyard animals, where there is a lot of suppletion rather than derivation. Chickens are kukya, unless they’re hens, in which case they become tyemi. Cows are mughi, a bull is an arda, and the generic “cattle” comes out as an inflected form of khawm. A male dog is rhasa, but a female is sëdi. (Note that the latter word doesn’t have the same pejorative connotations as its English equivalent.)

Some other domestic animals show a more derivation-like approach. Horses can be koza “stallion” or kozi “mare”, or you can refer to them by the generic puld “horse”. Ducks are gèr, gèra, or gèri (neuter, masculine, and feminine, respectively). Similarly, goats are ägya or ägi; the slight difference in spelling is a quirk of Ardari orthography.

Finally, a few animals native to the region where Ardari is spoken are grammatically of a single gender. Cats (avbi) are always feminine, as are birds (pèdi) and spiders (visti). Rabbits (mèpa) and snakes (synga), on the other hand, are masculine by default, as are animals (blèda) in general. (Most others are neuter, but all of them can be “converted” by changing the inflection patterns.)

Beyond the mere grammatical minutiae, there’s not much to say about Ardari that wasn’t already said about Isian. They have about the same things in their menagerie. Ardari does, however, have far more words for specific types of animals, particularly those the speakers know well. Maybe we’ll see some of those later in the series.

Word list

A word of note here: most of these nouns follow the typical pattern for Ardari. Those ending in -a inflect as masculine, while nouns in -i are feminine, and consonant-stems are neuter. Where words are listed as gèr(a/i), that indicates a gendered pair or triplet, where the only differences are the final vowel and the inflection pattern. Words noted as “grammatically feminine” or “grammatically masculine” are fixed to those genders.

General terms
  • animal: blèda
  • den: mès
  • insect: khind
  • mammal: metyarn
  • nest: plèz
  • tame: okyan
  • wild: fendall
Specific animals
  • ant: äng
  • bear: murk
  • bee: bin
  • bird: pèdi
  • butterfly: vipyam
  • cat: avbi
  • chicken: kukya (m.), tyemi (f.)
  • cow/bull: arda (m.), mughi (f.), khawm (n.)
  • deer: ylap
  • dog: rhasa (m.), sëdi (f.)
  • dragon: osmal
  • duck: gèr(a/i)
  • elephant: èlfang
  • fish: sum
  • fly: chagh
  • fox: pèz(a/i)
  • frog: rhymi (grammatically feminine)
  • goat: ägya (m.), ägi (f.)
  • horse: koz(a/i) (m./f.), puld (n.)
  • lizard: jèrz
  • mouse: sik
  • pig: rupa (m.), fowri (f.)
  • rabbit: mèpa (grammatically masculine)
  • sheep: dwen (n.), dwena (m.), illi (f.)
  • snake: synga (grammatically masculine)
  • spider: visti (grammatically feminine)
  • wolf: vugh
  • worm: gyud

Gamification and coding

One of the big trends this decade has been gamification. By turning everyday tasks into games, the theory goes, a person’s natural competitive streak will be triggered, causing that person to put more effort into accomplishing the task, and accomplishing it well. Companies do it with their employees, web forums have begun to implement it for their users and moderators, and so on.

It was only a matter of time before someone brought it to programming. Actually, that happened years ago. Coding competitions have been around a long time, but I saw a link to CodinGame the other day, and that got me thinking.

Games people play

The idea behind gamification isn’t hard to understand. Humans are competitive by nature. We like to win, to be better than the rest. And we really like it when there’s an objective measure of just how much better we are. The Olympics weren’t that long ago, and how many of you remember watching in anticipation, staring at the world records in the corner of the screen? How often were you on the edge of your seat, waiting for the judges’ scores to pop up?

It’s not just sports, though. Most games have some element of scoring, some record of accomplishment. In Monopoly, for example, you’ve got an obvious one: the amount of money in front of you. (Unless you’re playing one of those newer versions with the credit cards, in which case, why?) In video games, tables of high scores have existed for decades, especially in arcade games. And we wanted to set those high scores so bad, because that brought a small measure of fame. Everyone could see that MHP (or whatever) was the best at that game, at least until somebody posted a better score.

Today, when we play over the Internet instead of in public, we have online leaderboards instead, but the principle is the same. It drives us to improve, to reach for that top spot. (Story time: While my brother was working at Amazon a few years ago, I spent about three hours on his XBox, playing Forza 4 and trying to set a record in one of its weekly challenges, a quarter-mile drag race. It was some of the most fun and satisfying gameplay I’ve ever had, even though I never got higher than about 26th.)

Achievements are another popular aspect of modern games, and they work the same way. As Pokemon taught us: you gotta catch ’em all! And that’s how it is with achievements. We see that list, those empty spots, and we have goals. We have something to strive for.

That’s what gamification is. It’s the transfer of that competitive urge, that desire to complete a set or simply win, to mundane work. By adding points and trophies and collectibles, we transform drudgery into entertainment. Whether at school, on the job, or in a social setting, these artificial goals effectively make us believe we’re playing a game. Games are fun, right? So if we make the boring stuff into a game, then it magically becomes fun! Well, maybe. It doesn’t always work, and it’s not for everybody.

Games without frontiers

In theory, almost anything can be gamified, but we’re talking about programming here, so let’s stick to that. How can we make writing computer programs into a game? There are a few obvious answers. One is to make a game about coding, as with else heart.break() or TIS-100. That works, but it’s very much a niche. Another option is adding subtle programming abilities into an otherwise unrelated game. Minecraft has redstone, for example, which allows you to build logic gates, the building blocks of computing, while Final Fantasy XII gave players a bit of power to program their AI-controlled party members. In those cases, however, the programming part is not the focus. It’s an aside, sometimes an unwelcome one.

True gamification of coding, as CodinGame does, is different. It’s more of a series of programming challenges, each with objective measures of success and prowess. Code has to be correct, first and foremost. It has to do what it was designed to do. It’s also good if it’s fast; given two identically correct programs, the faster one is usually considered better. Space is another factor—smaller is generally better—and you can come up with other metrics. (“Lines of code”, by the way, is not a very good one.)

Once you have a way of measuring the “score”, you’re halfway to making a game of it. Post the scores publicly, and watch as coders eagerly train at their craft for no other reason than to move up a spot or two. It’s almost like magic!

Can it work, though? I don’t know. It works for a lot of people, but not everyone. We’re not all the same. Some of us don’t have that competitive streak, or we don’t act on it. For them, gamification is a waste of time. But for the rest of the populace, it can create a reason to learn, a reason to want to learn. That’s something the world could use a lot more of, so I say it’s worth a shot.

Social Liberty: Issues

A theory of government is useless unless it has a connection to the real world. If it does not make practical suggestions and predictions, if it does not yield practical advice, then it is nothing more than a thought experiment. To alleviate such concerns, this post will explore some of the ways a government founded on the Doctrine of Social Liberty would handle some of the most pressing issues of today. The format will be different than usual, with each issue given its own section. Also, while the government described in this piece is theoretical, it is not implausible.


Social Liberty, with the Principles of Cooperation and Equality, sees immigration as a good thing, on the whole. A nation should not isolate itself from all the others. However, it also recognizes that some immigrants are bad actors. Under the Principle of Purpose, therefore, it must take steps to ensure that its citizens’ safety is not compromised by incoming persons.

A Social Liberty government is not allowed to perform racial profiling for the purpose of immigration control—or, indeed, for any purpose at all. And the Right of Faith, something that all states following the Doctrine would observe, also bars profiling based on religion. Instead, this government is required to perform more rigorous tests, including behavioral, background, and psychological checks on all immigrants. For most, these are, at worst, a mild inconvenience; in many cases, they can be done automatically, before the immigration process even begins. It is only when the more basic tests show an anomaly that more serious scrutiny is warranted.

Illegal immigration, on the other hand, can be taken one of two ways. First, it can be seen as an attack on sovereignty. Under the Principle of Purpose, it would be the role of government to respond swiftly at this threat to safety. A contrasting view would see it instead as a violation of the Principle of Cooperation: such immigrants are working against the system chosen by the citizens of the state. The result is the same in either case. Although Social Liberty respects the rights of all mankind, it does not give carte blanche to those seeking to enter a state by subterfuge. By creating a fair, just means of legal immigration, instead of the security theater common today, it would eliminate a major cause of illegal immigration, limiting it only to those who have ulterior motives and thus making harsher punishment socially acceptable.


With the Principles of Purpose and Cooperation, it is easy to envision Social Liberty as a recipe for socialism. This is by design. A representative government is free to implement whatever economic measures its people are willing to approve, but there will always be a sizable segment of the populace without access or ability to work for a living. Whether through injury, handicap, situation, or lifestyle, a portion of the state will be unemployed. It is then up to the government to provide for that segment’s health needs.

Social Liberty, then, is fully compatible with a large welfare state, including universal health care, a universal basic income, and many other measures. However, it can also be reconciled with a more capitalistic approach. The Principle of Purpose only states that a government protects the health and well-being of its constituents. It need not provide for them, if private interests can do so more cheaply and efficiently. Rather, its purpose would then be to ensure that these private means remain in place, and that they do not infringe upon the Rights of the populace. This last part is necessary because, although Social Liberty largely refrains from interference in interpersonal relations, the object here is a function of government. Thus, government must not, by its own inaction, allow for its Principles to be violated within its own sphere.


A Social Liberty government must have a means of defense. It does not, however, require an outsized military-industrial complex, massive expenditures for research and development, or an arsenal capable of destroying the entire world many times over. In short, such a state needs only as much military might as to fulfill its obligations under the Principle of Purpose and those it creates under international agreements.

In addition, as a government following the Doctrine is expected to refrain from offensive, imperialistic warfare, its military actions will be more limited in their scope. Once the primary objectives are achieved, there is no need to continue fighting. Thus, further engagement becomes more and more likely to fall outside the dictates of the Principle of Purpose. When a state is fighting not for its own defense—or that of its allies—then it is no longer serving the needs of its citizenry.

Social justice

Although the phrases are similar, Social Liberty is not intended to advance the cause of social justice. True justice is a matter for government—one of the instances where it is allowed to interfere with interpersonal relations. If rights are being violated, that is a matter for the state to judge. The people are allowed and encouraged to speak their minds, to not associate with those they deem unacceptable; this is simply a restatement of the Right of Free Expression that any Social Liberty government is expected to uphold.

People are not, however, allowed to restrict the same right for another. A concerted effort to deny free expression to an individual or group is a case where government intervention is both required and welcome. The Doctrine of Social Liberty is blind to “privilege”; it treats all such cases equally, because to do otherwise would run afoul of the Principle of Equality.


This concludes the brief look at the Doctrine of Social Liberty, a new vision for a government of, by, and for the people. Founded on the principles of logic and reason, it is intended to be a guiding focus for change, whether evolutionary or revolutionary. It is also an ideal, one that may never truly be achieved. If it is, then I believe that the resulting system of government would be one better suited for today’s world than any that has been tried before. We must all work together, though, always keeping our ultimate goal in mind. To stray from the path is to invite tyranny, inequality, and infighting that will destroy us. But by cooperating, we can reach greater heights, perhaps even the greatest.

Magic and tech: government

Fantasy’s association with the High Middle Ages has the unfortunate side effect of locking the entire genre into the feudal monarchy of medieval Europe, specifically England. True, there are counterexamples, and the subgenre of “flintlock fantasy”, set in the Renaissance and Enlightenment periods, allows authors to explore other varieties of government, but the classic of kings and lords and knights is still prominent. Does it have to be?

No, it doesn’t. It’s just the default option. We’re used to reading feudal fantasy, so that’s what we think of when we consider the genre. But, as I’ve written before, it’s not the only way to go.

This series, however, is about magic and technology, not politics. So how does magic affect government? Well, we’ll see. First, though, a warning: unlike most other posts in the series, this one will skip right to the meat of the question. My earlier post on fantasy governments (linked above) does a good enough job of explaining the kinds of government available.

The rule of magic

In our magical realm, we don’t have some of the stranger varieties of magic. Total surveillance, for example, isn’t feasible. Precognition is out. Remember, we’re working with a much more down-to-earth system of arcane art.

That also means that wizards aren’t all-powerful. Although it’s obvious that government would utilize magic, it won’t be dominated by it. There simply isn’t the power, nor are there enough practitioners. We’re in that sweet spot where magic isn’t strong enough to take over, but it will still have a sizable influence. In that, it’s a bit like lobbying in our own time.

What it can do, however, is make the government more modern, just as it does for most other aspects of society. Kings kept power because they had it. Some used their power to increase that same power, leading to absolute monarchies like France and Russia. Others had checks on royal prerogative, such as England or the elected rulers of central Europe.

Magic will be another check on power. The government can’t regulate or repress all aspects of it, and it knows that. The only other option is to accept magic for what it is, to work with it rather than against it. So that’s what our magical realm does. By accepting that there is a segment of the population (the wizards) with strength out of proportion to its size, the government takes a reduction in its own power for the sake of stability.

Rulers understand that a wizard could, if he so chose, assassinate them easily. That fear is a motivator, a damper on the inevitable slide towards tyranny. Thus, we have a system that does not become an absolute dictatorship. Our magical society is not an empire whose reins are held in one pair of hands.

But magic is also a counter to heredity. While it may be passed down from parents to their children, it can also occur in “wild” form. If anyone can potentially become a mage, from the royal family to the lowest beggar, but there’s no guarantee that mages will give their status to the next generation, then there can’t be an arcane aristocracy. A preexisting mundane one remains, but it is weakening.

In historical Europe, the Black Death was one of the causes of the manorial system’s downfall; for our fantasy realm, the discovery and harnessing of magic fulfills the same purpose. Magic decreases the need for labor, freeing lower-class citizens from the restraints of land-working. As they spend more time idle, there’s less cause to tie them to the land of a manor lord. Cities are growing, trades flourishing, exactly as in the later 14th century and into the 15th.

Our magical realm isn’t a republic, but it is showing signs of moving in that direction. Both the mages (from their magic) and the growing middle class (from their newfound freedom of social movement) have asked for a share of the governing. They’re still willing to defer to their king, but not to submit before him. Thus, a parliamentary monarchy is in the process of forming, as in medieval England.

On a more local level, while some lords retain their power, the cities are often experimenting with elected governors and mayors. Typically, these are, in fact, mages; they’re considered good candidates because they are obviously both intelligent and restrained. Mundane people can hold office, but they have to be exceptional. Institutionalized elections are in the future, but ad hoc representation is taking hold.

Summing up

So that’s where we stand. Our magical kingdom isn’t ruled by a tyrant, whether an iron-fisted dictator or a grand, evil wizard. It’s rather more like what we’re used to, and closer to today than “then”. And things are only going to get better. Just as magic has compressed the scientific advancement of a few centuries into the span of decades, it’s doing the same for government. True representative government may not be that far off.

This is largely because of the ground rules we’ve made. Since magic isn’t world-shattering in its power, and it’s too common to be confined to a small cabal, the conditions for a “thaumatocracy” just aren’t there. Instead, we get something that’s marginally ahead of the “high” fantasy still stuck in the 1200s, something more like a post-gunpowder, pre-modern setting. Think less Agincourt and more Yorktown. With magic, we come closer to Reformation and Revolution, because the world is moving, and it will take government along for the ride.

Let’s make a language, part 20b: Animals (Isian)

We’ve previously seen that Isian is a language of the Old World. That means it’ll have a generally Eurasian stock of native animal terms. Isian speakers have many of the familiar domesticated animals, such as the dog (hu) and cat (her). Beasts of burden include the horse (tawl, only the most general term), among others, while tame meat usually comes from the tu “cow” (plural form tus for bulls, tur for cows) or the jeg “pig”. The speakers also enjoy many types of fish (pach), and sheep (lini, with the same gendered plurals as tu) are raised for both wool and meat.

Birds (firini) are also well-represented in the lexicon. Two of the more important ones are the choch “chicken” (a hen is a chay, plural chayr) and the duck. The latter has two words: masculine hanka and feminine hadi (plural hadir), with the feminine form being the default.

Isian’s speakers don’t like insects (eketi) any more than we do, but they’ve given names to some of the more common ones. Flies, mikhi, are everywhere in their land, as are iti “ants”. But not all insects are creepy-crawlies. There’s also the fifal “butterfly”, an object of beauty, and the source of delicious honey, the disi “bee”.

Out in the molad “wild” lands, there are even more animals. Plenty of Isian men hunt for onte “deer”. Some prefer smaller game, however, like the habas “rabbit” or hule “fox” (plural hules). Only the bravest or most foolhardy would go after the gor “bear”, though.

Finally, the speakers of Isian know that a certain segment of fauna has something in common with humans. Dogs, cats, cows, and goats (cawat or cawar) all produce milk for their young; the latter two also make it for human consumption. These are the melembini “mammals”, a compound literally meaning “milk-animal”.

General Terms
  • animal: embin
  • den: hosh
  • insect: eket
  • mammal: melembin
  • nest: seb
  • tame: caso
  • wild: molad
Specific animals
  • ant: it
  • bear: gor
  • bee: disi
  • bird: firin
  • butterfly: fifal
  • cat: her
  • chicken: choch (chay(r) “hen”)
  • cow/bull: tu(r) (f.), tu(s) (m.)
  • deer: onte(s)
  • dog: hu
  • dragon: varoc
  • duck: hanka(t) (m.), hadi(r) (f.)
  • elephant: alifan (borrowed)
  • fish: pach
  • fly: mikh
  • fox: hule(s)
  • frog: irpa
  • goat: cawa(t/r)
  • horse: tawl (generic)
  • lizard: dolcot
  • mouse: hish
  • pig: jeg
  • rabbit: habas
  • sheep: lini(t/r)
  • snake: shulbis
  • spider: bidrin
  • wolf: hoga
  • worm: um

Procedural terrain generation in 3D

I promised a look at generating 3D terrain procedurally, and now I’m delivering. This time around, we’ll look at the diamond-square algorithm, a kind of 3D extension of the midpoint displacement method we saw before.

Diamond-square is another way of generating fractal terrain, and it has been popular for a couple of decades. Old terrain generators like Terragen used it, and new programs continue to make use of this classic algorithm.

How to do it

Now, on a line segment, it’s easy to find the midpoint: just average together the ends. For a 2D plane (the source of our 3D heightmap), it’s not that much harder. But a simple midpoint displacement, as we did before, can cause severe “creasing” effects that render our terrain very unnatural, very obviously made by a computer. We don’t want that. That’s where the diamond in diamond-square comes in, as well see.

First things first, we need an array of points to represent our map. This can be as big as you like, but an array of size 2^n^+1 works best (in other words, something like 129, 257, or 1025). If you use that, then the highest index of the array will be 2^n^, and the midpoint 2^n-1^. Very easy to work with, especially once we get into the recursion. As before, we stop when we reach the bottom, which would be when we’ve run through every pixel. (If you’re paying attention, you know this makes diamond-square O(n²). Don’t worry, it’s not as bad as it seems.)

Like 2D midpoint displacement, we need a set of initial endpoints. Since we’re working with a 2D plane, we require 4 of them, one at each corner. We’ll average these together at the midpoint (the exact center of the map), and give the result a little nudge up or down, just like last time. This is the “diamond” step; if you look at the illustration on the Wikipedia page linked above, you’ll see why it’s called that.

Next comes the “square” step. We’ve got five points: 4 corners, 1 midpoint. This creates four diamonds (though we’ll sometimes have to overlap them). For each of these, we want to find the center of that, and displace it by a random amount. In coordinates, for a map of size 2n+1, our “square” center is at (n,n), and the “diamond” centers are (0,n), (2n,n), (n,0), and (n,2n).

We’ll repeat this process as long as necessary, alternating ever smaller diamonds and squares. Each time around, we’ll lower the range of our random displacement to make things smoother. At the end, we’ll have a full heightmap, with every point being at an elevation relatively close to the average of its neighbors. In other words, not too many sharp drop-offs. It looks somewhat natural, although I’ll admit that grayscale diamond-square heightmaps tend to resemble clouds to my eyes. Put them in 3D, though, and they look a lot better.

Tricks and traps

As with 2D midpoint displacement, diamond-square displacement has one major knob to tweak: smoothness. It works the same here as there: the less range given to the displacement, the smoother the resulting terrain.

But we’re working with a world now, so there’s more to it than that. One thing that most terrain generators allow is a “sea level” setting. One height is chosen as sea level, and everything below it is underwater. With a high sea level, the effect is something like an archipelago of volcanic islands sitting in an ocean. Lower values create the sense of mountains and valley lakes.

On the downside, diamond-square isn’t immune to the creasing mentioned above. The alternating diamond and square steps are meant to spread it around, but they don’t get rid of it entirely. However, a bit of post-processing can help with that, if it’s too much of a problem. (Or you can always say it’s natural, that your terrain really is sitting on a geological fault.)

The biggest disadvantage of any random displacement algorithm is its randomness, and that’s a lot harder to remove. If you’re procedurally generating terrain for a game, for example, and you use this method, you’re stuck with it. You can’t even change the RNG, because that will give a whole new set of values from the world seed. (This is not limited to purely random generation, however; any algorithm change will render old worlds obsolete. It actually happened with some early versions of Minecraft. To name one prominent example, the map used for the Achievement Hunter Let’s Play series is nearly impossible to recreate because of changes to the generator.) Your options there are limited. Either never, ever change the algorithm, or find some way to keep the old versions in the code for compatibility.

If you can live with those caveats, then procedural generation isn’t a problem. But there’s far more to it than simple randomness. In a later post, we’ll look at more predictable methods of content generation. These have the advantage that they’re easily reconstructible from a seed—as long as you use the same algorithm or sequence of them—so you still all the same benefits of procedural code. And they’re also more amenable to something other than terrain generation, as we shall see. Until then, whether you’re making maps or psychedelic images, have fun!

Social Liberty: Relations

A person does not exist in a vacuum, and neither can a government. We are all connected, whether in our relationships to each other or by the ways we interact with society at large—our society, as well as others. Thus, a proper system of government must recognize these relationships if it is to fulfill its purpose.

There are three main types of relation that are of interest to a governing body: those between two people, those between two governments, and those between a person and the government. We will look at each of these in turn.

Interpersonal relations, those between two members of the same society, are the simplest to handle under the Doctrine of Social Liberty. As the Doctrine’s principles of good government define only those aspects necessary for a stable state, Social Liberty effectively takes no sides. It is not entirely silent on the issue; rather, interpersonal relations are considered private matters, only becoming of importance to the government if and when natural or granted rights become an issue.

One case where this can happen is in contracts. Under most circumstances, Social Liberty considers a contract willingly entered and in good faith negotiated to be entirely outside the scope of government interference. A citizen may waive some of his rights to another, and it is of no consequence to the state. However, a contract may not be designed to break laws, so the government can be asked to intervene to determine if an agreement is unlawful. Similarly, contracts of adhesion—where one party is essentially forced into unfair terms, with no opportunity for negotiation—do become matters for a Social Liberty government, as they are an attack on the founding principles of the state, namely, the Principle of Purpose: onerous contracts affect the liberties and well-being of those parties bound by them.

Other obvious instances where government interference in interpersonal relations is acceptable to the Doctrine include cases of abusive behavior—whether to children or adults—injury through negligence, and most abuses of authority. In general, you may sign away your rights, but you may not take those of another.

International relations are at the other extreme. Here, as a government represents its populace, it has near total control over negotiations and agreements. Within the confines of the Principles, a state may agree on behalf of its people to any number of treaties, trade deals, international conventions, and offers or requests for aid. The populace decides whether these measures are appropriate through the mechanisms of representation, and it should be understood (via the Principle of Evolution) that these international agreements are always subject to renegotiation, should they no longer serve their stated purpose.

It is far easier to enumerate those international actions a Social Liberty government cannot take. It cannot, for example, declare a war for the sole purpose of obtaining land or resources. Nor can it impose sanctions on other nations or regions based on their race, religion, or even their own system of government. And it cannot work to overthrow regimes, as there is no possible explanation for such an act that does not conflict with the Principle of Necessity.

Finally, we must look at the interactions between a person and the government. These are subject to the Principles as well as the Rights, Laws, and Responsibilities of the nation-state. In fact, such interactions are entirely governed by them. Thus, there is little to be said about them here. A government must treat its citizens in accordance with its defining Principles and its code of Laws, while citizens must follow those Laws and uphold their own Responsibilities. Anything else is a violation of the social contract between governed and governing.

However, there are always corner cases, so-called gray areas. It is up to a specific state to clearly delineate these outliers. The Doctrine itself must remain silent on them, as they are often highly situational. For example, what are the intrinsic factors of the Principle of Equality? One can imagine a world in which science has provided the ability to alter skin color at will. Here, “race”, in the sense of color, is no longer an intrinsic factor. Therefore, it does not qualify for the Principle of Equality. Potentially, the same could be true of many other factors we would consider intrinsic, such as sex or other genetic indicators.

It is by relating to others that we experience more of the world. Thus, a government must respect those relations. It must understand them. Sometimes, it must make its own. The Doctrine of Social Liberty recognizes these necessities. Its Principles confine and constrain the government’s role in these relationships, defining that role as the minimum needed to function while upholding the rights of all.

Happy birthday to me

You may have noticed there’s something new over there on the sidebar: a link to Patreon. Yep, I finally did it. Now, if you want, you can support my writing on a monthly basis, instead of the “whenever I put something out for sale” schedule I’ve been doing. And I hope you will.

I’m still working out the kinks, but here’s what I’ve got so far:

  • $1/month: This gets you basically anything I’ve put up for sale, like Before I Wake or any future novels. On top of that, I’ll throw in the occasional short story. Oh, and everything will always be DRM-free, so you don’t have to worry about that.

  • $3/month: Here’s where the real fun starts. For this much, you get not only my novel-length works, but also the short stories and novellas I’m not quite ready to put on, say, Kindle Direct. Even with those that I do end up selling, you’ll get them much earlier.

  • $10/month: This is quite a bit of money, and I doubt I’m as valuable as, for example, your Netflix subscription. But if you’re willing, I’ll definitely count you as one of my supporters. Literally. I’ll put you in the credits. And if that’s not enough, I plan on doing stories chosen by you. Starting at this level, you’ll get a full vote on those.

  • $30/month: The big one. While I could certainly add tiers higher than this, this is the limit both of what I feel comfortable asking (actually, that’s closer to $3 than $30) and of what I can legitimately do. If you’re giving me this much money, then you deserve a special reward. Therefore, anybody who contributes at this highest level will get 3 votes on my “supporter” stories. And they’ll get to appear in one of my stories. You know, a cameo. (If I’m feeling particularly generous, I’ll write some gruesome way for you to die or something. I don’t know.)

Now, you can absolutely put up more than $30 a month, but you don’t get any extra bonuses besides that warm, fuzzy feeling of helping somebody out. But even if you can’t quite afford that, every little bit helps. Every dollar you pledge is one that I didn’t have before. And I have to thank you for that.

(Note: Last year, I think I posted at 5:38 PM. If so, then I screwed up. I was actually born at 5:48, which unfortunately doesn’t have the same electoral significance. Oh, well.)

Let’s make a language, part 20a: Animals (Intro)

The fauna to plants’ flora, animals are those living beings that move. That’s not exactly a scientific definition, but it suffices for linguistic purposes. Plants just sit there, except when their leaves are falling or their seeds are blowing through the air. Animals, by contrast, are mobile. They walk or fly or slither or swim. They hunt, and they eat. From the perspective of language, they’re more like us.

Just as languages will have words describing plants, they will have a large portion of their vocabulary devoted to talking about animals. Think about how many names of animals you know. More than likely, you can probably recall a hundred or more. (Ubuntu managed to pick one for every letter of the alphabet, although they had to resort to a few obscure ones, like “eft” and “quetzal”.) Add to that the number of terms for animals’ body parts, their young, their meat, and you’ve got a laundry list of language.

The words a given tongue will have for animals can be roughly divided based on a familiar rule: those animals that are known to a language’s culture for a long time are more likely to have native names. Hence, English has dogs and cats natively, but it has to borrow raccoons and koi. “Foreign” animals get foreign or descriptive names, octopus being an example of the latter. And the more obscure ones often have compound names…when they didn’t have to settle for scientific ones. (Interestingly, this is one way linguistic historians can track the movement of a speech group. If they borrowed a name for a “local” animal, then they might not have always been in a place to get to know it.)

Domesticated animals

Those animals that have been domesticated will have the biggest chunk of vocabulary dedicated to them. Not only are there the general terms for an instance of the kind (dog, horse, etc.), but these are more likely to have gender differences even if the language doesn’t normally distinguish gender. In English, for example, we have pairs like horse/mare or bull/cow, where one of the gender-specific words is also the generic, and we also see three-way distinctions such as the generic chicken, male rooster (or cock), and female hen.

Domestic animals can also earn special words for their young. Sometimes, these are derived from the “adult” word: chick, kitten. Others are unrelated: puppy, pony. Note that these are not the same as diminutives. Those refer to smaller animals, not necessarily younger ones.

Languages may also give this type of animal a whole associated vocabulary. Breeding is a popular topic, as seen from words like thoroughbred or mutt. Purpose, for working animals, is often denoted by compounding—lapdog, workhorse—but separate terms can arise, e.g., an ox is merely a specialized kind of cattle.

These animals are also more likely to provide us with a number of metaphorical and analogous words or phrases. We can speak of someone being hounded after, then being cowed into submission. A coward is a chicken, while someone feigning death is playing possum. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander, as the saying goes—a rare bit of gender equality. The list goes on.

Wild animals

Those common yet untamed animals will be referred to by a different sort of terminology, but most of it will remain “native”, rather than borrowed. It’s still possible to have gender differences, but it’s more likely that the non-default sex will have a derived name: lion, lioness. Young may have dedicated words, but they probably won’t be specific to a single kind of animal. Bears and tigers both have cubs.

The rest of the vocabulary will be affected to the same, lesser, degree by wild animals. Some of the important ones get immortalized in metaphor (snake in the grass) or even slang (bear, as referring to a specific type of gay man). But they won’t be all that common.

Exotic animals

Even rarer are those animals which don’t really exist in the “natural” sphere of a language’s influence. For English, this includes anything out of the Americas, Africa, or Australia, along with quite a bit of Asia. These animals are much more likely to be called by borrowed names. Indigenous peoples gave us our words for a great many animals. As an American, I can point to raccoons, opossums, and moose, among others. An Australian would instead hold up the kangaroo, dingo, and wallaby, while South Americans and Africans can provide their own examples.

Another option (and this is, in fact, where many of the indigenous names come from) is onomatopoeia. Animals can earn names that resemble the sounds they make. It’d be like us calling a cow moo. Although that sounds strange, plenty of languages do just that.

Finally, a more scientifically advanced culture may try to give a name to everything. Our scientific names (or binomial names) serve to identify every living thing on Earth, including animals, plants, bacteria, and more. They are rigorously rational and mechanical, however, and every one of them is invented. (Not only that, but they’re then shoehorned into an entirely different language, Latin.) For a future language, possibly one needing to name alien species, this is an attractive option.

Mythological creatures

Not every animal named in a language actually exists. Some come from mythology and imagination. Greek myth, thanks to its influence on classical education throughout the West, has given us quite a few “creature” names: phoenix, basilisk, Pegasus, centaur. Dragons are common to many parts of the world, as are giants, which may be important enough to earn their own word. Elves, fairies, and anything else you can think of will fit in this section, as well.

Creatures of myth and legend can be named in any way. Many are derived terms (basilisk coming from the Ancient Greek word for “king”, wyvern from a dialectal form cognate to “viper”, werewolf combining “wolf” with an old term for “man”), but some are original. Sometimes, an entire “race” of creatures can be named after their mythological founder, as is the case with Pegasus.

Animal nature

Animals are very important to our lives. One of the ways we show that is by including them in such a large part of our language. Even the most generic terms have use, as we can speak of animal magnetism or the reptilian part of a brain. More specifically, an animal that we see every day, that we interact with regularly, will insinuate itself into our speech. We’ll compare things to it, judge others by it. And when we meet a new creature, we’ll give it a new name. Sometimes, we’ll relate it to what we already know. Other times, we’ll simply call it as the locals do. And that’s fine, too.

Still to come

After the usual Isian and Ardari posts, we’ll get back to more human concerns by looking at ways to work. Along the way, we’ll (finally!) pick up some more verbs, something we’ve been sorely lacking. I hope you’re having fun, because even though this is the 20th entry in the series, we’re not even close to done.