My friend and Medieval scholar, Michael Livingston — for whom I named Captain Livingston — has written a post about the language in Shades of Milk and Honey. In it, he translates a few lines of the novel into Old English and Middle English
Anyway, at one point Mary and I were talking about voicing and language patterns, and I told her (not for the first time) that I loved how she’d worked so hard to maintain the “Austen voice.” She thanked me, smiled, then mentioned that more than one reader has complained about how she wrote “Old English.”
We found this no end of amusing. Jane Austen, you see, wrote in the early 19th-century, and people stopped writing Old English around the 12th. The reader’s accusation was thus twice-wrong: (1) I think Mary does an excellent job within the linguistic constraints she set upon herself; and (2) Austen-speak is some 6 or 7 centuries away from Old English. Austen doesn’t sound a whit like Old English. For that matter, Austen doesn’t even sound like Middle English, which predates her by only a few centuries.
To illustrate, let’s look at a couple lines from Mary’s novel and see what they might look like in previous dialects.
I feel guilty because I haven’t been posting much lately, but at the same time, life has sort of narrowed down into things that aren’t very interesting. Or, rather, that aren’t very bloggable especially not after the flurry of props and puppetry posts.
Yesterday was fairly low-key, largely because I spent the day hanging out in the kitchen. Maggie would eat a few bites at a time if I was in there, so I hauled a chair in and hooked the computer up. She eventually ate some White Chunk Tuna in oil with a fair bit of enthusiasm and even had some kibble.
Today, mysteriously, she likes the kibble and not the tuna. The ways of ailing kitties are mysterious. The kitchen floor has seven bowls of different food set out to tempt her. It’s a kitty buffet.
My big accomplishment yesterday was finishing the outline for Glamour in Glass, the sequel to Shades of Milk and Honey. With the help of Michael Livingston, I pounded out some details to make them clearer for people who aren’t in my head. You know how it goes. “Interesting scene with local characters” makes total sense to me it’s just, um, not particularly clear to the rest of humanity.
I actually like outlines and at some point will post the two versions of the outline for folks to look at. There’s the one that’s meant for me, and there’s the one that’s “unpacked” to make sense for other people.
I sent the outline off to my wonder-agent, Jennifer Jackson to see what she thinks and spent the rest of the evening hanging out with Maggie and Rob in the kitchen. Today, Maggie seems to be feeling better, so we are alternating between the kitchen and the sofa.
In a fit of rage against working on my syllabi for the coming term, I took a snippet from John Scalziâ€™s novel Old Manâ€™s War (chapter 9 for those playing at home) and, well, Chaucerâ€™d it. That is, I took Scalziâ€™s text and translated it into Chaucerâ€™s dialect. Details follow the audio.
That’s right–audio in Middle English. Tee-hee, quod she. I mean, look at this.
â€œI can take a shot,â€ Watson said, sighting over his boulder. â€œLet me drill one of those things.â€
â€œI kan tak a shote,â€ quod Watson, lookynge right over his rokke. â€œGraunte me striken oon.â€
ON MY SHELF
Prime Codex, edited by Lawrence Schoen and Michael Livingston:
I picked this up at CONduit last weekend at a reading by Eric James Stone, who has published multiple stories in places like Analog SF and IGMS. Heâ€™s a member of the Codex Writers Group, and stories by members of that group comprise this anthology. Ericâ€™s remarkable and moving story, â€œSalt of Judasâ€ joins stories by new and exciting writers like Mary Robinette Kowal, Ken Scholes, and Tobias Buckell. So if you want to read what the best of the new writers are writing, the Prime Codex anthology is a must-buy. Get your copy here.
If you are curious, you can listen to the audio version of my story here, before you pick up the anthology.
I wrote myself into a corner by not knowing that detail and have been stuck there for two days. If you see or know Michael Livingston, sing his praises, because he just brainstormed me out of it. Hallelujah!
(Tor Books — August 21, 2018) Continuing the grand sweep of alternate history laid out in The Calculating Stars, The Fated Sky looks forward to 1961, when mankind is well-established on the moon and looking forward to its next step: journeying to, and eventually colonizing, Mars. Of course, the noted Lady Astronaut Elma York would like to go, […]