Ever since my story “Coke Machine” came out, I’ve been feeling pressure to share more about life in the Truck Stop Universe. Marichka, of course, is the talented engineer who’s at the center of that story.
Just to be clear, she’s not too enamored of rule books.
Here are some rules she knows about that perhaps you’re not aware of. I’m not sure you’ll want to follow her example.
Do NOT criticize the formatting of the Handbook for SkipShip Operators. It has to be cute or nobody will even open the thing. Do NOT mistake cuteness for mild, gentle, tentative advice.
RULES FOR INCURSIONS BY GOD-LIKE ALIENS
DO NOT ENGAGE
All interaction is engagement.
(Worship is engagement.)
Do NOT do what they tell you to do
Do NOT accept “assistance”
Do NOT accept gifts
OBSERVE AND TAKE NOTES
Do NOT allow the entity to know you are observing
Keep all communication lines open to your shipmates
Compare notes with your shipmates
Do NOT attempt to reconcile notes; Notes will never agree
REPORT ALL INCURSIONS TO AUTHORITIES
Surrender all information or objects acquired
Erase all records of the encounter
By NO MEANS tell anyone else
Oh, my god, do NOT tell everyone
DO NOT FOLLOW ALIEN TO ITS BASE OF OPERATIONS
Leave that to the experts
Absolutely, don’t do this
Don’t even imagine doing this
Don’t believe any suggestions the alien has what you want there
We played books on tape (remember tapes?) for our children during long car rides. Our oldest taught himself to read at preschool by playing tapes and reading through the accompanying books.
And now it’s become of the main ways people get their stories–in audio books, so they can listen in the car, while exercising, or while ignoring the rest of the people trapped in their house during a pandemic.
I’ve now had the experience of helping to create a new audiobook–the audio edition of All That Was Asked has just come out on Audible (accessible via Amazon, too, of course). If you’re not already on Audible, there’s a free trial offer running that you can take advantage of (and keep the books to collect during your trial, even if you cancel).
We should have the iTunes version out Any Day Now.
I suppose this is a tiny bit like being a playwright and seeing your script being acted out on stage for the first time. First, you squeal, “eeeeeeeee, someone is reading my words!” and then you whine, “heyyyy, that’s not how you say ‘Ansegwe’!”
We have a wonderful reader, Trevor Wilson, who was amazingly patient with all my OCD-level requests for adjustments…especially with all those alien names to learn in this book. I know–they’re made-up names, right, so should it matter? Well, yes, since they all go together to help create a sound-image of an alien culture. I’m so happy Trevor made time to put his mark on this book. He had some really fun, creative takes on ways to make individual characters jump out of the text.
Trevor isn’t just a narrator, he’s a voice actor. That makes a world of difference. To create, in sound, the character of Ansegwe, he came up with three distinct voices–Ansegwe the memoirist, looking back on his youthful escapades, the younger Ansegwe, in dialogue, and the thoughts in young Ansegwe’s head. Each character, major and minor, has their own distinctive voice. He even gave two brothers–who only drop by in a few scenes–a unique, shared accent that still cracks me up, after, what? fifteen listens?
So if you like your books in sound format, mine is there for you, now. Enjoy!
In my previous post, I tried to explain how all those odd names ended up in my recently-published book and why I think it’s fun to play around with languages in the middle of a story.
So, what if you don’t really care about all that linquistic
nonsense, but just want a guide to pronouncing stuff in this particular story? In what follows, I’m going to share what I’ve
prepared for the person doing our audio book.
On the surface, it may look daunting, but, really, it all hangs together
with a few key elements:
Lots of the names end in a shortened “ay” sound I’ve tagged here as ei. It sounds almost like a long ay, but is cut short like you were going to pronounce a “y” on the end, but stopped yourself just in time, “say” without that teensy “eeya” sound that wraps up that word. Sort of like “sensei” as pronounced in Japan, or at least in anime and Japanese TV shows.
In names ending in e, the final e is always sounded–usually as that shortened “ay” sound.
The exception is “ere”, which is ayr-ee, wherever it happens to fall, so some names end with ayr-ee, while some have that in the middle or at the beginning.
Children (or adults being teased as if they are children) or intimate friends get their names shortened with a bit of a stop in the middle, so Ansegwe becomes An-s-wei, and Kantalare becomes K-a-la-rei
As an example of the “translated words” system: the “aunts” are “awnts”, Brit/Northeast/Southern style, rather than Midwestern style “ants”.
Digression: How come I like weird names? Well, jeepers, I’ve got one of my own, one
that often gets pronounced weird, though I don’t care, really, I’ve heard ’em
all. The “correct” way is
va-‘ness-uh ma-‘cla-ren-‘ray. There are
other pronunciations in use . . . but those are other Vanessas and other MacLarens.
OK, here we go. I’m not using really formal linguistic notation, but sound-shorthand that I think we all can follow. I put a single quote at the front of the stressed syllable in each word.
Our Main Characters
Varayla Ansegwe, Eskenyan Jemenga, Ensense Kantalare,
Varaylas Ansele and Adeleke, and Haillyen.
These all appear frequently, though it takes a while for Kantalare to
show up. See how what we call “last
names” (family names) come first, and “first names” (personal
names) come second.
Varayla: Va-‘ray-la This
one’s pretty phonetic, the tricky thing, from listening to auditions for our
audio book, is that some people seem to read the “yla” as
“lya”. This reminds me of how
people read the second half of my last name as “Wary” instead of
“Wray”. Don’t let it worry
you, but if you prefer mispronouncing Varayla, just don’t go to Korlo.
In the bad old days, you could earn a set of cement overshoes for
mispronouncing that name to the wrong person.
Ansegwe: ‘ahn-seg-wei Our hero’s name is most likely to be mispronounced as on-‘seg-way, which is hilarious, as it makes me picture this enormous klutz trying to ride a Segway. The first syllable should be said relatively slowly, so the second two click together fast, so that you almost lose the sound of the “e” in the middle: ahns’gwei. It has a kind of Japanese flavor to it.
Eskenyan: ess-‘ken-yan It
sounds sort of like “a person from Kenya” (at least the way Americans
say it) plus “Ess” in front of it.
Jemenga: ja-‘meng-uh When
Jemenga is particularly pleased with himself, he really hits that middle
syllable, so it’s like Ja-MENG-ah!
Ansele: ‘ahn-se-lei Tycoon
Adeleke: a-‘del-e-kei Tycoon
Haillyen: ‘hay-ul-lee-yen This is a “foreign” word to Ansegwe, so he’s basically phonetically “translated” it, the ‘y’ in the last syllable is a bridge sound you get when putting ee and en together between the ee and the en. Do ya get it? Yeah? The reader should get it about 100 pages before Ansegwe catches on.
Ensense: en-‘sens-ei You know, like, “sensei” with an “en” at the front.
Kantalare: kahn-tah-‘lahr-ei There’s a secondary stress on the first syllable. Just make it sound pretty in your head. Ansegwe is totally in love with her, so, whatever, hear her as beautiful
2. The people on the expedition
Some of these folks are only mentioned or quoted during the “expedition” chapters.
Ensargen: en-‘sahr-gen It’s
a hard g, as in “gun”, not a soft one as in “generation”.
They don’t really use hard “g”
3. People at home
Erekulu: ayr-ee-‘koo-loo OK,
this one isn’t a person, he’s a domesticated animal, so his name is a little
goofy, meant to sound cute.
Ans’we: ‘ahn-se-wei This is
a nickname for Ansegwe, used mostly by Kantalare, but also used by his
expedition “friends” when they want to get on his case.
K’alare-: kah-‘lahr-ei This
is a nickname for Kantalare, used by Ansegwe.
Az-dyel: ahz-dee-‘ell Note
that this is another “foreign” word that Ansegwe has transcribed this
way, so it’s pretty phonetic, the three syllables have almost equal stress, I
hear just a little more on the last one, but you can feel more free to mess
around with this one–it’s the ONLY word in this language that appears at all.
Ensense Halense: en-‘sen-sei hah-‘len-sei This is a member of Kantalare’s extended family that they happen to run into at some point.
4. List of authors.
About two-thirds of the way through, someone gives Ansegwe a
reading list, and the authors of the books are a mix of people from his world,
one from outside his culture, and one (the last) he’s going to spend a lot of
time with. I wouldn’t worry about these too much, but have fun with them. Yeah, uh-huh, that’s intentional.
Asvelan Kulumbu: ‘ahs-veh-lahn koo-‘loom-boo
Palawan Vejr: ‘pah-lah-wahn vee-‘yay-zher
Trjia Qwijlian: ‘trr-zhee-ah ‘kwizh-lee-ahn
Tsulander Tkonle: ‘Tzoo-lahn-der T’kawn-lei
5. People in quotes.
Yeah, this is one of those books where each chapter opens
with a quote from someone. I picture
these as remarks that people who know Ansegwe have made when interviewed about
the events in the story. Picture them
sitting across the desk on their version of The Daily Show, chatting with their
Trevor Noah. Most of the quoted
individuals made it into the final. A
few only get mentioned in these quotes.
These ones are mostly government officials. Make them sound stuffy, self-important, and
Insake Hailaware: ‘in-sah-kei hai-uh-la-‘wahr-ei (For fussiness, there’s
a secondary stress on first syllable in Hailaware. He will get all huffy if you
miss that and maybe will find some minor infraction to write you up for.)
Kinsala Tkerelon: kin-‘sah-lah T-‘kayr-ee-lon
6. Other words and place names.
The story takes place in a fairly limited set of
“alien” geographic locations.
But I do have some place names included and there are a few other
“thing” words that appear more than once.
Korlo: ‘kor-low It simply
sounds like “core” “low”.
This is Ansegwe’s country.
Kalinidor: ka-‘lin-ee-dor This
is a person’s name that’s become an object name–sort of like the Nobel Prize, well,
actually, exactly like the Nobel prize.
Jemenga really really wants one of these.
Quazwallade: kwaz-‘wall-ah-dei This is a place name, just a foreign country,
one with some technological and cultural differences from Korlo.
Cignali: sig-‘nah-lee Let’s
say that probably this was originally a person’s name, but now it’s the name of
a famous university, think “Stanford”.
Utumwe: oo-‘tum-wei I told
you there were academics in this story.
This is another university, a medical school actually, one that Jemenga
lectures at, when they can get him.
Terende: ta-‘ren-dei Another place name.
Tule: ‘too-lei Yep, place
name. Doesn’t get much play, but even minor places count, says the writer who
lives in a town that isn’t a proper town, just a collection of farms, houses,
shops, and a gas station, that gets its own post office.
One of the first things people ask me when they read certain of my stories is “What’s the right way to pronounce all these weird words?” My stock answer is: “However you like! It’s all made up, whatever sounds right inside your head is fine by me.”
Starting the process of doing an audio book for All That Was Asked has forced me to face the fact that, well, really there is a “right” way. For one thing, the story centers on language–in fact, the working title of the book was “Translations by Ansegwe.” In general, for the stories where I have a made-up culture with their own language or an “evolved” culture that’s grown from more-or-less familiar cultures but uses a language other than English as their root language, I do know how those words should be pronounced. I’m that wonky sort that blows off an entire afternoon at Worldcon to attend a linguistics workshop, so, well, that’s where I’m coming from.
In the real world, I know French pretty well, I watch a lot
of foreign-language TV (though of course I’m relying on subtitles), I live in
place where I hear Spanish and Russian regularly, and I have technical-world
acquaintances with a great variety of language “homes” from India to
Europe to Africa to both Chinas. I’ve
struggled to learn a smattering of my culture-base language–Gaelic. And I grew
up being hauled around to various places in the U.S. and England. I even still “hear” (and alas for
spell-checkers, spell) most English as Brit-style. End result:
I love the interplay of languages and the way everyone talks. I
do not claim to be a polyglot, but I’m a diligent researcher and I just love
all those sounds.
In my writing, most of the problematic words are names, because I think of such stories as having been “translated” from the alien/alternate history language set. Names tend to get left over after a translation, because even if I’m translating a story from French to English, I wouldn’t change “Tourenne” to “Terence” or “Gervais” to Gerald, because a) the names aren’t really the same and b) the sounds of names add the flavor of a language without requiring a reader to actually know a foreign tongue directly. Spoiler? My current work-in-progress has characters named Tourenne and Gervais, and they live in a francophone culture that doesn’t exist anywhere in the real world.
In the made-up language base for All That Was Asked, I have lots of names for people, place-names from more than one country in the alternate-universe world, and a few name-based terms. (The academic types in the story have dreams of winning their version of the Nobel prize, so they talk about it a lot. The Nobel prize is named for a person, but . . . it’s a thing.) I wanted the central names to make sense, to have relateable sounds, and to have some commonalities. For instance, in English we have a lot of names that end in ‘-y’. I selected some sound elements that would fit into different names and tried to make them sound like they came from a distinct self-contained culture–except for a few names I made up specifically to sound like another culture, in the same world.
I decided on a family-personal naming order that made sense
for the culture–Family first, Personal second, and most people refer to each
other and address each other by their personal names, because everyone knows
what family everyone else belongs to. And
I made names longer than we’re used to in English. In our culture “power names” tend
to be short, in theirs, most people have multisyllable names, and powerful people
tend to have longer names.
For other sets of words in this story, ones that are “translated” to English, I “hear” the words in British/European English rather than American English, because that fits better with the social style of the people and gives it a little bit of distance for American readers. It may sound really fussy–especially for such a short little book–but I think having a clear auditory sense going into it helped me with building the alien culture. I just have to hope it carries through to readers and listeners–not a burden to cope with but an added feature of the story.
In my next post, I’ll give you a blow-by-blow pronunciation guide for All That Was Asked, with a few background bits to liven it up a bit.