PPC in 2018

So 2017 has been an eventful year, and that’s just for me. I’ve written more in this single year than in the rest of my life combined, and I’ve found that I love that feeling. I love being able to escape this world and enter those that I create. I love looking over at my bookshelf (or, more often, stack) and seeing my own name on a cover.

There is a problem, though. I want to write more fiction, more stories and novels and books. Yet I don’t want to forsake my posts here. That’s a conundrum, because the schedule I’ve set for myself in 2018 doesn’t leave a lot of room to give this site the attention it deserves. For this year, I cut my posts down from 3 a week to 8 a month, and many of those were simple release announcements. Next year, as much as I hate to do it, I think I’ll have to make further cuts on this side of things.

So here’s how I see it. First off, release announcements are staying. They have to, because this site is my Internet home. It’s where I want to show off my creations. And that does mean I’ll continue linking to Patreon and the Kindle store, but so be it. Also, November Novel Month isn’t going anywhere. That’s my public declaration of my own progress, my single concession to ego.

As for original content on here, though, I don’t see how I’ll have time for too much of it. There are still a few posts I want to do, like more entries in the “Future Past” alt-history series, or more coding posts, or even picking up that “RPG town” thing I did this time last year. However, these are going to be more sporadic than before. There may be months where I make only a single post, others where I throw up 5 or more. I can’t guarantee anything yet, except that the volume will be lower than before. I’m sorry for that, but until I can work through these stories in my head that so long to be released, that’s how it has to be.

Let’s make a language, part 28c: Entertainment (Ardari)

Ardari, as usual, prefers creating native terms rather than borrowing. We see this in jevikön “television”, literally a “far seeing thing”, a fairly straightforward loan translation. (German does the same thing.) This process also shows up on the word list below in allgarògh “football”.

With the other words, you can see a lot of the derivational processes at work. Some words, such as rògh “bell” and rhòma “horn”, are onomatopoeic. A few, including drakön and tylyankön, are agents. The word for “match”, as in a single playing of a game, is rejnyn, which more literally translates as “a thing that is played”.

The “native-first” approach of Ardari extends far beyond this small set, as well. In some cases, however, there are matched pairs. A speaker of Ardari might talk about a kompyutör, but another could instead refer to his dätyekön. Both words mean the same thing, but the first is obviously borrowed (it would be used in, for example, advertisements), while the second is native-born.

Word list

  • actor: drakön (from dra “theater”)
  • art: käpi
  • artist: käpikön
  • athlete: avilkön
  • ball: rògh
  • bell: dola
  • doll: nanyi
  • drum: nang
  • football (or soccer): allgarògh
  • game: bynèr
  • horn: rhòma
  • match (game): rejnyn
  • music: tylyan
  • musician: tylyankön
  • song: azalli
  • sport: bynèrölad
  • story: gard
  • television: jevikön (from je-ivit-kön “far-seeing-thing”)
  • to defeat: tòve-
  • to lose: gru-
  • to play: rej-
  • to sing: ajang-
  • to win: twè-
  • toy: bèb

Otherworld talk 8

And so it ends. Well, the first season, at least. I’ll be revisiting the Otherworld for some time to come. But today, in the aftermath of Long Road’s End, let’s see how far we’ve come, and maybe where we’ll be going.


Each of the 7 main characters of the story grew. They learned, they improved—or so they like to think. The experience of the Otherworld was life-changing in most cases. In a few, it was instead life-affirming, but the principle is the same. After eighty days of living in a different world, a different culture, each takes something away.

Amy was the first character we saw, all the way back in Chapter 1 of Out of the Past. She spent most of her first morning in the Otherworld hiding in a corner, and she often had to be dragged or cajoled into helping with the overarching mission of survival. But that all changed with her first visit to the village of Alwan. The tiny town fit her like a glove, to the point where she learned to love her strange surroundings, and she most definitely went out on a high note. Now, she wants nothing more than to go back.

Jeff doesn’t have to go back; he’s already there. That’s a complete turnaround from the timid, nerdy linguist having nightmares of being left behind, but he’s got a very good reason. Okay, two reasons, the second being that he’s a young man who’s been snared by a borderline nymphomaniac. At least he realizes that much, and he does remember his goal in the coming months: to learn everything he can about the locals and their history, so the next group won’t have to go in blind.

Jenn doesn’t want to stay in the Otherworld, but she doesn’t mind visiting every year—but only if she’s in charge. Her biggest discoveries about herself were that yearning to be a leader and her faith. Put the two together, and she’s the most like the last group of people to find a whole new world full of Indians. But she did prove herself, and she wants the chance to do so again. Whether that’s as a leader, explorer, or missionary, she doesn’t really care.

Ryan was his own sort of leader. He had the charisma Jenn lacked, and he used that to immerse himself more in the local culture. That, in essence, was his plan all along, but he was really the only one out of the group who could pull it off. Maybe he spent two months on a summer construction job, but he feels those were productive months. Even his injury didn’t stop him; in reality, it gave him a new respect for the abilities of the natives. And now he sees the Otherworld as an opportunity to prove himself to, well, himself.

Lee, of course, had the most dramatic time of it. He sprained his ankle while falling into a lake, got married to a thief, saw her get abducted, rescued her, and made an enemy in his new home. His most important aspect remains his race—he’s the closest to the locals of anyone—but he spun that into an advantage. Now, he’s among people like those he always to meet, and he’s becoming one of them. In a way, his story is almost done, but those around him will have their tales to tell.

Alex started out as the geek of the squad, and so he remains. But he was able to take that and run with it, because the natives don’t see him as a nerd, but a wise, intelligent man. A teacher. One of them hopes to see him as much more, which leaves him baffled, but his experience in the Otherworld is all about learning and teaching. It may not be his kind of adventure, and he went through a rough middle portion of the journey. Since that didn’t kill him, he hopes it will make him stronger. It certainly made him thinner.

Ashley, last of our original seven, began her stay in the Otherworld as the feminist outraged at being stuck in a society dominated by men. She made friends—almost all women—because that’s how she is. And her specialty was sociology, so she felt it her duty to learn as much about the local culture as possible. That brought about her two most surprising revelations. For the native culture does, in its own way, like women just as much as men…and so does she. For Ashley, the hardest part will be dealing with these discoveries without letting them consume her.

Still to come

The remaining four members of the expedition didn’t get as much screen time, but they’re not forgotten, and that leads us into the plan for the future. There will be a Season 2. Right now, it’s titled Return to the Otherworld, though that may change.

Before that, however, I have a series of 6 shorter novellas, A Bridge Between Worlds. These cover the intervening time, because, if you’ll recall, there’s still nine months to go before the next time anybody can go through the gateway in Mexico. I didn’t want to pick things up then, as I’m not really a fan of skipping ahead like that, so this was my solution.

First up is “The Code Breaker”, centered around Lee and Nimiesa as they deal with troubles in their home and their potentially growing family. This one builds on some of the storylines first introduced in Episodes 7 and 8, as well as setting the stage for the rest of the “bridge” stories and Season 2.

That’s followed by “The Red Magician”, which, as you may expect, is Ayla’s story; Niel, the native student first met in Episode 6, has a supporting role as he tries to figure her out while she’s figuring out how best to bring science to a world that doesn’t really want it.

Next up is “The Control Variable”. This one’s a bit out of place, as it’s set on Earth. Following Amy and Alex, it’s almost a bit of a travelogue. They’re coming to terms with their journey, but also going around the country in search of the other Altea sites. Do they find them? You’ll see.

Fourth on the list is “The Dark Continent”, which only has a single point of view: Damonte. Except for that brief interlude at the end of Episode 8, he’s been missing for quite a while now. This is his story, almost completely apart from the others, and it’s our first real chance to get into his mind. As it turns out, that place can be darker than his skin, as he’s haunted by his last real encounter with the rest of the expedition.

Following that is “The Lessons Learned”. That one is Jeff’s story, as he delves into the history of the natives, hoping to find references to the even older Altea. But it’s also a story for Irai, because she has a tale to tell. Her chapters are a marked contrast to, say, Nimiesa’s; though they’re essentially in the same situation (in love with an Earthling), they treat it in two very different ways.

And last we come to “The Candle’s Flame”. The final bridge between Seasons 1 and 2 remains set in Mexico, following the other interplanetary couple: Ramón and Etanya. He brought her back with him for a reason, and this story is that reason. It’s also the only one of the set where it’s the native who’s the main character, but there’s a good reason for that: she’s the one out of place. She’s learning about a whole new world, and doesn’t that sound familiar?

This set of stories will come out through 2018. Hopefully, they’ll tide you over until I can finish Season 2. I’m hard at work on that, though, so you shouldn’t have to wait too long. I hope you’ve enjoyed this journey of mine. It’s had its highs and lows, its ups and downs, but I like to think I’ve created something great. No, I want to think I’m still creating it, because there are many more stories to be told in the Otherworld.

Release: Long Road’s End (Chronicles of the Otherworld 8)

So here it is. We’re at the end of our road, our long road. Appropriately enough, Episode 8 of Chronicles of the Otherworld is the season finale, and it’s titled Long Road’s End.

The end is in sight.

Over two months ago, eleven students found themselves stranded in another world. Now, they have made it their second home, but the time has come to return to their first. Before that, all that remains is a week-long holiday. A festival. Surely nothing can go wrong now, can it?

The trials are not done, and the members of the expedition know that nothing is set in stone. Until they are safely on Earth once more, anything can happen. And what if some of them don’t want to go back?

I hope you’ve had fun. I know I have. I took this journey long ago, but I feel I’ve been reliving it over these past few months, and not only because I’ve reread the series many, many times since then. Whatever your December holiday of choice, I hope you’re having a good one, and consider this last story of 2017 my gift to you. Yes, you have to pay for it, and you can only get it as a Patreon exclusive, but I’d say that 8 novel-length stories (a total of over 400,000 words) for only $3 is a good deal. And if you don’t like them, you can always find a reader in your family who does.

This may be the end of Chronicles of the Otherworld, but it’s most certainly not the end of the Otherworld setting. Join me in 2018 for A Bridge Between Worlds, and keep checking back here and on Patreon for info on Season 2, Return to the Otherworld. Thank you, and enjoy the rest of the year.

Let’s make a language, part 28b: Entertainment (Isian)

Isian speakers have a fairly developed art history, including music, performance, dance, and song. Games, sports, and athletic competitions are also common, though they weren’t really organized until modern times and foreign influence came along. Most of the obvious stuff is there, though, from balls to drums to paints.

One linguistic peculiarity is that some of the “agent” terms are actually compounds, and they can be a little funny. The word for “athlete”, esposam, is a slightly altered compound of espot (a borrowing of “sport”), combined with sam “man”. On the other hand, the words for “artist”, dohas, and “musician”, etihas, are constructed from the root has “person”. This is historically significant: while most forms of art have always been open to Isian speakers of either sex, organized sports started as men-only, and the terminology involved reflects this.

Today, of course, there are a lot more borrowed words for entertainment. Telefishon is one such, but Isian has also borrowed terms for movies and much more. Usually, these come from American English, but British English and even French also appear.

Word List

  • actor: satrim (from satri “to perform”)
  • art: do
  • artist: dohas (lit. “art-person”
  • athlete: esposam (lit. “sport-man”)
  • ball: mo
  • bell: ben
  • doll: kedi(r)
  • drum: gon
  • football (or soccer): puscamo
  • game: wana
  • horn: chiran
  • match (game): empe
  • music: eti
  • musician: etihas (lit. “music-person”)
  • song: anli
  • sport: espot (borrowing)
  • story: toyen
  • television: telefishon (borrowing)
  • to defeat: tocore
  • to lose: dos
  • to play: bela
  • to sing: seri
  • to win: gil
  • toy: eney

Modern C++ for systems, part 2

C++ was always a decent language for low-level programming. Maybe not the best, but far from the worst. Now, with Modern C++, it gets even better. Newer versions of the standard have simplified some of the more complex portions of the language, while playing to its strengths. In this post, we’ll look at a couple of these strengths, and see how modern versions of C++ only make them that much stronger.


How a language treats the types of values is one of its defining characteristics. At the highest levels (JavaScript, PHP, etc.), types can be so loosely defined that you barely even know they’re there…until they blow up in your face. But on a lower level, when you want to eke out just a little more performance, or where safety is of the essence, you want a strong type system.

C++ provides this in multiple ways, but older C++ was…not exactly fun about it. Variables had to have their types explicitly specified, and some of those type names could run to absurd lengths, especially once templates got involved. Sure, you had typedef to help you out, but that really only worked once you knew which type you were looking for. It was ugly. You could very easily end up with something hard to write, harder to read, and nearly impossible to maintain.

No more. That’s thanks to type inference, something already present in a number of strongly-typed languages, but brought into the core of C++ in 2011. Now, instead of trying to remember exactly how to write std::vector<MyClass>::iterator, you can just do this:

auto it { myVector.begin() };

The compiler can tell what type it should have, and you probably neither need nor care to know. For temporaries with ridiculously long type names, auto is invaluable.

But it’s good everywhere, and not only because it saves keystrokes. It’s safer, too, because declaring an auto variable without initializing it is an error. (How could it not be?) So you know that, no matter what, a variable declared auto will always have a valid value for its type. Maybe that won’t be the right value, but defined is almost always better than undefined.

The downside, of course, is that the compiler may not get the right hints, so you may need to give it a little help. Some examples:

auto n { 42 }; // type is int
auto un { 42u }; // type is unsigned int

auto db { 2.0 }; // type is double
auto fl { 2.0f }; // type is float

auto cstr { "foo" }; // type is const char *

// (C++14) ""s literal form
auto stdstr { "bar"s }; // type is std::string

That last form, added in C++14, requires a bit of setup before you can use it:

#include <string>
using namespace std::string_literals;

But that’s okay. It’s not too onerous, and it doesn’t really hurt compilation times or code size. After all, you’re probably going to be using C++ standard strings anyway. They’re far safer than C-style strings, and we’re after safety, right?

That’s key, because one of the benefits of Modern C++ over C is its increased safety. Type safety, prevention and warning of common coding errors, we want these at the lowest level. And if we can get them while decreasing code complexity? Of course we’ll take that.

Using the compiler

Unlike more “dynamic” languages, C++ uses a compiler. That does add a step in the build cycle, but we can use this step to take care of some things that would otherwise slow us down at run-time. Languages like JavaScript don’t get this benefit, so you’re stuck using minifiers and JIT and other tricks to squeeze every ounce of performance out of the system. With the intermediate step of compilation, however, C++ allows us to do a lot of work before our final product is even created.

In past versions, that meant one thing and one thing only: templates. And templates are great, until you get into some of the hairier kinds of metaprogramming. (Look at the source code to Boost…if you dare.) Templates enable us to do generic programming, but they’re easy to abuse and misuse.

With Modern C++, we’ve got something even better. First off, compilers are smarter now. They have to be, in order to handle the complexities of the language and standard library. (People complain that C++ is too complex, but modern versions have hidden a lot of that in the underbelly of the compiler.)

More important, though, is the notion of constant expressions. Every compiler worth the name can take an expression like 2 + 2 and reduce it to its known value of 4, but Modern C++ takes it to a whole new level. Now, compilers can take some amazing leaps in calculating and reducing expressions. (See that same video I mentioned in Part 1 if you don’t believe me.)

And it only gets better, because we have constexpr to let us make our own functions that the compiler can treat as constant. The obvious ways to use this capability are the old standbys (factorials, translation tables, etc.), but almost anything can fit into a constexpr function, as long as it doesn’t depend on data not available at the time of compilation. With C++14 and 17, it only gets better, as those did away with the requirement of writing everything as a single return statement.

With const and constexpr, plus the power of templates and even metaprogramming libraries like Boost’s Hana, Modern C++ has a powerful tool that most other programming environments can’t match. Best of all, it comes with essentially no additional run-time cost, whether space or speed. For low levels, where both of those are at a premium, that’s exactly what we want. And the syntax has been cleaned up greatly since the old days. (Error messages are still a bit iffy, but they’re working on that.)

Plenty of other recent changes have eased the workload for low-level coding, even as the high levels have become ever simpler. I haven’t even mentioned some of the best parts of C++17, for instance, like constexpr-if and if initializers. But that’s okay. C++ is a big language. It’s got something for everybody. Later, we’ll actually start looking at ways it helps make our code safer and smarter.

On deserts

Arrakis. Tatooine. Mars. The desert is a compelling setting in science fiction. Some of our greatest stories are told against the backdrop of dry, baked rock and harsh sands. And that is by no means limited to the scientific. No, all types of literature have ventured into the desert for a good tale. Modern fantasy (Deadhouse Gates, The Thousand Names) loves the setting. Movies old (Lawrence of Arabia) and new (The Mummy) find it to be the most spectacular of scenery.

Why? What is it that draws us to the desert, this most inhospitable of climes? And how, as writers, can we make use of that? Read on for my thoughts on the matter.

Full of emptiness

One definition of “desert” is any region averaging less than 250 mm (10 inches) of annual rainfall. That doesn’t require extreme heat, like the Sahara or the Mojave; the Gobi is a desert, as is Antarctica, but you’d never confuse either of those for hot. This lack of precipitation, though, makes the desert what it is: a seemingly barren, lifeless stretch of emptiness.

But we know it isn’t. Life on Earth is ubiquitous, finding a foothold everywhere we look. Even in the harshest, driest regions, life finds a way. Dig down into the Sonora or Atacama, and you’ll find bacteria. And on the macro scale, you often have cacti, carrion birds, and the like. So the desert isn’t lifeless. It just looks that way compared to a lush grassland.

Already, we see one part of the desert’s allure. That emptiness, that loneliness, can be a powerful reflection of the same feelings within oneself. Here we see a place not conducive to the kind of life we live, and that leaves us feeling alone. Deserted, to put it bluntly.

Deserts evoke loneliness not just for the lack of notable flora and fauna, but also for the lack of civilization. Maybe it’s different for, say, Bedouins, but Westerners, I think, see a desert as a stretch of nothing. We see endless sands, perhaps some broken hills, and the occasional oasis. It’s not like in more hospitable lands, where we can walk a mile or two to find a new farm or town. Even in older days, when civilization wasn’t as urbanized, when populations weren’t as densely packed, you didn’t have such barren wilderness between settlements.

Thus, a desert is, in a sense, a metaphor. Someone lost in the desert is alone, wandering. Cut off from civilization, from the simple pleasure of another person’s company. That’s powerful.

Warning signs

Deserts are also dangerous. Not just from the heat or lack of water, but what wildlife there is tends to be aggressive and deadly. It has to be, in order to survive. So deserts are the abode of scorpions and snakes, of prickly, poisonous plants. That, again, draws us to them.

Maybe that doesn’t make sense at first, but think about it. Some of the most gripping tales of humanity are those of survival. That’s why we can have a movie like 127 Hours, or a whole subgenre of reality TV dedicated to people wandering around lost in places no sane person would ever go, drinking their own urine and eating whatever insects landed on them during their first nap in three days. We like seeing people survive. We want to see the odds beaten.

Nowhere on Earth are the odds more stacked against us than the desert. There’s almost nothing to eat, nothing to drink. There are no amenities, not even the most basic. Friendly faces are few and far between. When our intrepid heroes finally do make it out alive, we cheer that much more.

This even extends into a class of stories that might best be described as “campaign fiction”. Most common in fantasy, these are the stories of a military or paramilitary unit making not a last stand, but a death march. It may be the main thrust of the tale, or just a subplot, but the chronicle of this doomed army makes for a wonderful read.

Cut off from supply lines, forced to forage in a foreign land where that just isn’t possible, they must make their way to some distant, dubious goal. Along the way, they face trials and conflicts, whether from their surroundings, the locals, or themselves. People die, from hunger and thirst, from battles, from knives in the dark. Every stop—usually an oasis, spring, or abandoned village—sees the force whittled down a little bit more, until, battered but not broken, they reach the end, where their final test awaits.

As a reader of fantasy, I’ve seen this one quite a few times. Some examples include Dany’s march in A Clash of Kings (George R. R. Martin), the epic Chain of Dogs sequence in Deadhouse Gates (Steven Erikson), and the Holy War of The Warrior Prophet and The Thousandfold Thought (R. Scott Bakker).

To be fair, these grand adventures aren’t limited to deserts. You can have a death march on a tropical island, or across forested hills and valleys. (Bataan and the Trail of Tears are examples from the real world.) But the desert heightens the danger. Here’s a place where one wrong step could be the end, and you’re forced to make all wrong steps. When you reach the end, the payoff is that much greater.

Using the land

If you want to use a desert as a setting for your own works, keep that in mind. Deserts are harsh, unforgiving, and yet they possess an undeniable beauty. As a backdrop, as a location, you need to retain all of those qualities, while still juggling the needs of your story. It’s tough, but doable, and the reward is a moving tale of human ingenuity under duress.

Remember to set the stage. People from wetter lands going into a desert are, in a sense, entering an alien environment. Thus, you probably want to use environmental storytelling to show off how they react to their surroundings. (Or, sometimes equally important, how their surroundings act to them.) If this story is supposed to involve an extended stay in the desert, without the benefit of civilization, technology, or other aids, then survival will likely play a large role. That goes double for a desert march or military campaign.

As the desert is a lonely place, it also makes a good environment for introspection. Without outside pressures, it’s perfect for setting up small-scale interpersonal drama. And the hauntingly beautiful views are a great place to practice your descriptive prose. All in all, the desert is the writer’s paradise. It’s strange, really, that such a barren land can be so fruitful for an author. It constrains, yet that somehow makes it liberating.

Not every story, not every genre, can benefit from the desert. But many of them can. It’s a wonderful place, one we come back to again and again, and there has to be a reason for that. There’s something in the desert that speaks to us, something that makes a good story great. Maybe it’s a mirage, or maybe it’s why we keep fighting in the Middle East. Whatever the reason, it is a great place to escape to, even if you wouldn’t want to live there.

Let’s make a language, part 28a: Entertainment (Intro)

Entertainment, in some fashion, has been around since the dawn of humanity. Though our ancestors may not have conceived of streaming music, photorealistic video games, or 4K movies, they had their own pastimes, their own ways to amuse themselves. Thus, it stands to reason that languages, even those spoken by less-than-modern cultures, will have a wide array of vocabulary related to entertainment.

Having fun

Everyone plays. The idea of play, of games and amusement, may be a cultural universal. We can’t work all the time, even if political forces seem to want to push us in that direction. Different peoples, of course, will have different forms of play. Today, we have a number of sports, as well as video games, toys, and other such diversions, but “play” is a common enough concept that essentially any language will have a native term for it.

What kinds of play can we expect from the speakers of a particular language, though? As usual, it’s a very culture-specific question, with a good dose of technological bias thrown in for good measure, but we can sketch an outline based on those common threads throughout the world.

First off, a lot of the traditional “equipment” of play pops up in various forms. Balls, for instance, appear in most cultures in some form. Depending on what technology a group of people have, they might make them from animal bladders, rubber, wood, ivory, or modern materials like plastic. But they’re always going to start out roughly the same: a sphere. The games will vary wildly, but even then they come down to a few basics. Moving a ball into a goal, for instance, is the chief objective in football (either kind), basketball, billiards, etc. It’s only the ways in which you move that ball that change.

Sticks or bats are also common for “sport” type play; look at baseball and hockey as two examples. Nets, baskets, rings, and other objects may find their way in, too. Sports, though, have a tendency to spread even to neighboring cultures, and they can take their vocabulary with them. Take football, a word that circles the globe in various guises, while also describing no fewer than four distinct variations.

Child’s play is another realm where native terminology tends to arise, because so much of the field is so…basic. Dolls are fairly universal. Kites can appear anywhere the materials are present. And, though some may not approve of it today, older cultures very frequently gave their children mock or training weaponry. All of these can find themselves named with native roots, or words borrowed very early on, and you only have to look at the toy aisle of your favorite store to find other inspiration. (Look for the “traditional” toys.)

On the adult side of things, play tends to reflect the cultural expectations of grown men and women, but gambling is another area where each culture develops its own style. Dice, for example, are a good option for independent invention; making good, fair dice is difficult, and actually takes some knowledge of geometry, but you can get a game going with something rough. Cards are a bit harder—they really need paper or very thin wood, at the least—but well within a pre-industrial society’s means.

Win, lose, or draw

Competition is the impetus behind most kinds of play. Sports are, like warfare, clashes involving strategy and tactics. So is a game of chess or go. Winning and losing are such fundamental concepts that it’s hard to imagine a language not having native terms for them. A draw or tie may not provide the same satisfaction as the others, but it could be common enough for a culture to give it its own word, too.

Depending on how a culture’s style of competition develops, a number of other terms can arise. If the speakers of a language prefer games involving, say, moving a ball towards a line or goal zone, then “score” and “goal”, among others, will likely become important concepts. And sports and games can become so ingrained into the social fabric that these words then find themselves in idioms, metaphors, and other phrases throughout the language. We speak of a “home run” in America with the assumption that everyone understands it, and the same goes for “touchdown”, “three-pointer”, and a number of other sports-related terms. (Cricket, on the other hand, is impenetrable to most Americans—including myself—which is why some British figures of speech referencing it don’t quite translate.)

Other competitions can also fall under this same banner. We don’t often consider, say, weightlifting or horseback riding to be sports (outside of the Olympics), but they can offer their own contribution to the vernacular. And many games are so generic (in the sense that they have little “specialization”) that they can use existing terminology, yet give it new connotations. “Pawn”, to give one example, refers mostly to the chess piece, but that definition only arose when chess began to use a word indicating a low person moved about by another.

Art for art’s sake

Another form of entertainment is art. Now, art is a huge topic, easily worthy of its own set of posts, but we’ll stick to the highest level here. And we’ll include music, song, and theater, as well as the visual arts like painting or sculpture. All of these are possible in a culture, and all those that culture develops on its own will likely spawn a host of vocabulary. Much of that will then find its way into the common tongue: “backdrop”, “broad strokes”, etc.

Again, the types of art most likely to be described by native terms are specific to the culture, but also specific to an era. English music theory borrows heavily from Italian, for instance, because of that language’s influence in classical and later music, but modern inventions like “riff” and “EP” also exist, spread by American cultural influence.

Most kinds of art, however, are universal, or so close to it that you can freely develop a sizable list without worrying about outside influence. Singing is older than humanity—birds do it—and some of our oldest man-made artifacts are paintings. Sure, the more technical terms might be imported, especially if there’s a rich, vibrant culture right next door that already worked it all out for you. But the basics are everywhere, and everyone will call them by something different.

Playtime’s over

With this part, I think the Let’s Make a Language series has run its course. Most other parts of a language can be better handled by more specific posts that don’t focus on illustrating with our example conlangs, and I’ll be doing that sometime in the coming months. Otherwise, I believe you can take it from here. Over the next two weeks, I’ll put up the Isian and Ardari words for this particular topic, and I’ll try to do another long-form translation early next year. Until then, have fun with your own creations, and I hope to see you soon.

Otherworld talk 7

If the previous episode, Situational Awareness, was the high point of Chronicles of the Otherworld, sometimes I think its followup, A Peace Shattered, is the lowest. I don’t know why, honestly. It just doesn’t seem to stack up. It comes between two of my favorite parts, but it doesn’t compare to either of them. Maybe you feel differently, though. Anyway, let’s talk.


First off, I will freely admit that I had a hard time coming up with a plot for this one. All along, Chronicles was intended to be 8 parts, each with 8 chapters. It was a formula. And after I finished up Situational Awareness, I saw how to plan out the ending. But I had nothing to cover the weeks in between.

Thus was born the kidnapping sequence. It’s not my best, but I think it does an okay job of filling the gap. It’s plausible, and the actors involved might conceive of such a scheme. It ties up a loose end (Olof, from Episodes 5 & 6) while setting out another (Elgaan, who will be a thorn in Lee’s side for a while). It also brings together a few disparate parts of the expedition, connecting Ryan, Lee, Jenn, and Amy.

The natives don’t have a real police force. They don’t have a dedicated investigator to help solve the mystery of the disappearing doctor. That fits neatly into Jenn’s idea of herself as a vigilante (Episodes 4 & 6). On the other hand, Lee spends much of the time frustrated by a cultural difference: he isn’t allowed to participate in the investigation or interrogation, as he’s considered too partial.

There’s a lot of barely restrained rage on his part, a sharp contrast to the easygoing Lee of the first six episodes. And maybe contrast is what I was going for in this one, because a lot of characters end up acting different. But this is an emergency. One of their own has been taken, so they have to get serious.


The second subplot for this episode is the quick dig, with the bizarre trio of Alex, Jeff, and Ayla going back to the site of their arrival to find some answers. Well, they don’t find all of them, but they do get the big one: the timeline.

From the beginning, I imagined the Otherworld as a place first visited before the Ice Age. The Altea, whoever they were—even I don’t know yet—came from Earth, emigrating permanently once the glaciers started melting. True victims of climate change, if you will. They were technologically advanced, compared both to their Neolithic neighbors and the modern inhabitants of America, but they died out long ago, when their second world began to suffer the fate of their first. (This one comes into play a bit later.) The site in Mexico was not their only gateway between worlds, but it’s the only one in friendly territory, you might say.

We saw some evidence of advancement back in Episode 4, the first time our intrepid heroes began nosing around the site’s underground. Here we get even more, as well as ironclad proof of the timeline. That was an idea I had long before I started writing this episode. If the Otherworld can have some animals otherwise extinct (American horses, northern peccaries and tapirs, etc.), then why not others? Why not one of the most famous Ice Age extinctions of all? And that plants the seed in the characters’ minds, too: if these are here, what else is?

So the archaeological dig without any archaeologists finds two things that completely rewrite history. That’s the bombshell of the series, even more than the very existence of the Otherworld. But I like to think I played it well. The Altea didn’t guide Paleo-Indians or their Otherworld cousins. None of the native creations of the Americas belong to them, with the exception of the sites like Tamaulipas. And it’s mostly the same on the other side. By the time the Mayans came around, the Altea were nothing more than dust; by the time the expedition arrives in the Otherworld, they’re only remembered as legends.


After this, there’s only one episode left in the season. The finale, if you will, and it takes a bit of a different approach. So will I, in these talks, so I’m going to talk a bit about it now. First off, it uses a bit of a different structure. Because so many things are going on, it doesn’t follow the usual “POV rotation”. Instead, the first six chapters whip around, each following a single day of the story and changing focus as needed. Alex, Jenn, and Amy get a higher proportion of the attention, but that’s because they have more to do. Chapter 7 is even more different, as it’s made up of seven scenes, one for each character. And the final chapter of the season is an epilogue: five scenes, one each for the four expedition members who never got a chance to speak, and the last for their honorary twelfth member.

I’ll talk more about the happenings of Episode 8, titled Long Road’s End, after it’s out. But I’ll gladly say that it was a fun, enjoyable experience. It was a pleasure to write, unlike this one, where I sometimes felt like quitting. It’s a good thing I didn’t, as I hope you’ll see soon.