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Sally Caves wrote:
>
> Laurie Gerholz wrote:
>
> >
> >
> > A few years ago there was a panel on constructed languages in SF &
> > Fantasy, held at our local (largish) SF convention, Minicon.
>
> Where is this local, largish SF convention?  I'm assuming Minneapolis?Tim Smith
> organizes the Albacon in Albany NY, and we spoke there
> last October on invented languages.  He's thinking of doing another
> one next fall.

Yes, Minneapolis, Minnesota. It's held over Easter weekend each year, so
it moves about on the calendar.

>
> > One of the
> > panelists was Suzette Haden Elgin, the creator of Laadan. The other
> > panelists were also published authors of various stripes. Unfortunately
> > M.A.R. Barker, the creator of Tsolyani, who is also local, didn't make
> > it to the convention that year.
>
> Yes, this has to be Minneapolis!  He's a professor as well, isn't he?Does
> anybody know of what?

Yes. Originally he was in South-east Asian Studies or some such. This is
at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis campus. Now there has been a
re-organization of some of the small, obscure departments in the
humanities. His department now is (you'll love this) the Institute of
Linguistics and Asian and Slavic Languages and Literature. Actually, he
is listed as a professor emeritus, and given what I've heard about his
health recently, I think he may have retired from teaching. This re-org
was done after I completed my M.S. At that time, my minor was in
Linguistics, and it had its own department. That was ten years ago. Ohh
noooo! I feel so old!

>
> > I went in hoping to learn all about
> > language creation by Professionals. And what they said was almost
> > identical to what Sally cites above! They all said that the language
> > creation was just a bit of additional flavor for the novels, and none of
> > them claimed to be particularily interested in it outside of that. I got
> > a definite feeling of condescension.
>
> Do you think this is a pose?  You get a bunch of conlangers togetherat a
> convention of mostly writers, and the conlangers who are also
> writers have to be "in the swim" with the writers.  Savvy about market,
> readership, agents, publishing houses, what sells, character arcs, hooks,
> contracts, North American rights, royalties, sequels, staying on top.
> Working in this kind of world is "cool."  Lucubrating late into the night
> over your conlang is not.  No, I imagine they're posing.  Not admitting
> to what really drives them.

I dunno. Maybe this is true for a few. But I fully believe others when
they say that writing is their job, in fact more than a full-time job.
Conlanging as a hobby is one thing. But the panel was focussing on
conlanging as a significant contribution to the writing. Most of the
panelists felt it was *or could be* a distraction against getting their
product out the door -- the short story or novel. So they'd allow the
minimum possible to (in their eyes) get the job done. Now, I read the
other post from Matthew (?). I accept his statements as a practicing
writer *and* conlanger. But it sounded at the panel that most of those
people don't have Matthew's mindset, and so conlanging became a
distraction at best.

> Elgen is a linguist with an axe to grind.  I
> find her novels almost unreadable.  I keep saying, stick with it, we'll
> get to the Laadan sooner or later... turning pages filled with ugly
> invective against men and their atrocities and condescensions towards
> women.  I was never even able to finish _Native Tongue_, which has
> no pacing and no interesting narrative voice.  And Laadan, the
> book behind the book, is out of print and even Amazon can't get it.

Okay. I haven't read any of her texts. I suspected, from things that I'd
heard, that "Native Tongue" might be radically feminist. But I have so
little time for fiction reading these days, I'll probably focus on other
authors who I know I can enjoyably read.

>
> > I hope I'm not mis-remembering what
> > Ms. Elgin said, but I do remember feeling very disappointed after
> > sitting in on that panel.
>
> What did you contribute as rebuttal to these luminaries and theiropinions?

It was difficult to find anything constructive to bring, given the
positions which the panelists had already established. I'm not a
published author yet, and certainly don't have plans to pursue writing
full-time. Linguistics and conlanging are avocations for me. I can
afford to look at them as entertainment and art. And I didn't feel in a
position to tell professionals, in a field in which I'm not, how to do
their jobs. That's why I want to take a very different approach to my
own panel, if I ever propose it at Minicon. I don't *want* to compete
with the writers, I think. I want to present this as an enjoyable
avocation, from a slightly eccentric part-time linguist.

<snip>

> > And I hope, Sally, that you don't now think that all knitters who write
> > are condescending towards conlanging! I do all three. I will say that
> > sometimes my knitting keeps me away from my conlangs, but there is
> > really no worse effect.
>
> Oh no... that was just some local color.  That's what I remember herdoing most
> vividly.  That and talking compulsively and interrupting
> people.  What was her name?
>
Hm. There's far more writers in SF/Fantasy these days than I can keep
track of, even just looking at the female gender. The others, besides
Elgin, that I can think of offhand that have had some conlang stuff in
their books include Ursula K. LeGuin (probably not her - I think you'd
have remembered such a prominent writer), Marion Zimmer Bradley (a bit
o' linguistics in her "Darkover" stories) and Diane Duane (who currently
lives in Ireland, but does still occasionally attend SF conventions in
the US).

Laurie
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