In Which I Passionately Lament the Absence of Bestiality in First Person Shooters.

Brief follow-up to my last, strangely-popular post.  Someone going by the name of W. Flynn has started a list on “Authors Who Have Maced a Restaurant“. And while I am honored to be in such esteemed company, I can’t help noticing that the list itself is awfully small. I wonder if I could prevail upon those authors in the audience to maybe help Hunter S. and I out a bit and, you know, join the cause.

Another well-deserved award for courage in the face of adversity: over in France, the winners of the Grand Prix (Prixes? Plural, anybody?) de L’Imaginaire were announced at the top of this month, and Gilles Goullet won the best-translation award for Blindsight:


I am losing track of the number of awards Blindsight‘s translators have won. The fact that the translations keep winning awards, while the actual source material doesn’t, says it eloquently: the rotation of such a dense work into another language represents a Herculean effort quite apart from any merits Blindsight itself may embody.  You’d almost need to be a synthesist to pull it off (would you know how to convey “Trunclade” in French? How about “pull your eyes over my wool”* in Russian?)

I’m just waiting for someone to do an English translation. That ought to be good.

starshipsofaFinally, Tony Smith at Starship Sofa has posted a long, rambling, multifaceted conversation between himself, Paul Di Filippo, and me, over at The Sofanauts. It’s more than an hour long.  My voice fails, even once, to acquire that Manly Announcer Baritone I’ve been trying for all these years. We covered a shitload of topics: Cory Doctorow’s latest project in self-publishing, the narrative potential of computer games, and whether it would be a good idea to cast a talking dolphin in the roles of Susan Calvin or Jesus of Nazareth. The subject of testicles came up, not once but twice. I compared our own Squeak Ashby to a lima bean, and misrepresented her fiction. Tony told me how much he didn’t like Blindsight. Paul dumped a secretary off his lap.  And as was perhaps inevitable in a freewheeling conversation lasting over an hour, I let slip a couple of heretofore unreleased details on the subject of a certain publishing house and its schizoid attitude towards the Creative Commons.

Check it out, if you’ve got 70 minutes to kill. Oh, and don’t worry about something I say early in the interview: I don’t really live in a cardboard box on Jarvis Street. Not yet.

That’s only the dream.


*In the interests of full disclosure, I should admit that I ripped off this line (with minor changes) from a Jethro Tull song.  Brownie points to the first person who identifies it.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, November 10th, 2009 at 11:21 am and is filed under interviews, public interface, writing news. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

13 Responses to “In Which I Passionately Lament the Absence of Bestiality in First Person Shooters.”

  1. John Henning

    Surely William Burroughs maced a restaurant at some point in his life.

    It would be interesting to see someone unfamiliar with the novel translate say the Polish translation of Blindsight back into English and then compare the original to the new version.

  2. Hljóðlegur

    I’m just waiting for someone to do an English translation. That ought to be good.

    Easy, man – babelfish it into Russian, then babelfish it back out. I’m sure as a form of bibliomancy, that can’t be beat. I feel that’s how Solaris was written anyway, or some such scheme involving double translations, as befitted the technology of the time,and it made it seem more deep.

    We’ll just imagine you speaking in a manly announcer baritone, if you like, but I refuse to imagine a smooth, manly announcer baritone. It just wouldn’t go with your work.

    Thank the gods the top posting no longer is about testicles.

  3. Hljóðlegur

    Baker Street Muse (Pig-Me And The Whore)
    “Big bottled Fraulein, put your weight on me,” said the pig-me to the
    whore, desperate for more in his assault upon the mountain.
    Little man, his youth a fountain. Overdrafted and still counting.
    Vernacular, verbose; an attempt at getting close to where he came from.
    In the doorway of the stars, between Blandford Street and Mars;
    Proposition, deal. Flying button feel. Testicle testing.
    Wallet ever-bulging. Dressed to the left, divulging the wrinkles of his
    Wedding-bell induced fears.
    Shedding bell-end tears in the pocket of her resistance.
    International assistance flowing generous and full to his never-ready tool.
    Pulls his eyes over her wool. And he shudders as he comes –
    And my rudder slowly turns me into the Marylebone Road.

  4. Mark

    Yeah, but I’m probably the first poster who actually thinks “Minstrel in the Gallery” was one of their best albums.

  5. Madeline

    For those of you listening: this all happened.

    Also: my shoes were hidden, that very night.

    Thirdly: I am somewhat larger than a lima bean.

  6. Chris in NY

    OK, most FPSes don’t, but I’m pretty sure I read that (a href=””>this one did, as one might imagine.

    Oh, wait the post wasn’t actually about that…

  7. Hljóðlegur

    What, guys, no discussion here of the ideas in the Sofanaut bull session? Go ahead, give in to the impulse to become one of those kind of elbow-patched tweedy cliches that get together every Friday night to compare various brands of stinky cheese. *har har har har*

    Seriously, though, what diFilipo was saying, but failed to say explicitly, is that while, yes, the ant-scratchings are a method for communicating a representational “photo” of the sunset, a photo would convey something different than a kick-ass written description of one.

    The photo taken to communicate the sight of sunset strives to tell you visual facts about sunsets. (This is outside photography as art.) If you describe a sunset in a way that clutches at the reader’s heart, fills them with joy, sadness, longing for a lost love, a memory of a funeral, or of a happy childhood, or whatever, you have communicated not just the sunset, but your reaction to it, and not just the writerly reaction to it, but it caused a blossom of emotion and thought in the reader. Carefully crafted, a description is a trojan horse, rewriting the reader’s brain. That is not a byproduct, that’s what it’s for; the brain does more than decode the message, it incorporates it as a moving part.

    Well-written language tells you as much as the writer and his audience as it does about what he is describing:

    Consider this: A woman’s face with Nature’s own hand painted
    Hast thou, the master-mistress of my passion;
    A woman’s gentle heart, but not acquainted
    With shifting change, as is false women’s fashion;
    An eye more bright than theirs, less false in rolling,
    Gilding the object whereupon it gazeth.

    Compared to this: The Pumpkin on high heels looked like a cat stuck up a tree, in trouble, out of her element, all wrong. Always the first of the Antioch nymphs to go barefoot in spring.

    Shakespeare and Roth are both praising a woman for being natural and not artificial in feminity, but the styles! Utterly different.

    Alls I’m saying is that until direct brain-to-brain contact is accomplished, this kind of description has a place. I would dare to guess even beyond the stinky cheese realm?

  8. Peter Watts

    Props to Hooligan for above and beyond the call. Assurances to the rest of you that the lines actually do flow smoothly with the music.

    I see Mark‘s bet and raise him: not only do I think that was one of Tull’s best albums, it was the first Tull album I ever bought, back in high school. Hated it for the first ten listens. Then realized that I had listened to it ten times, and was still listening. Minstrel was the album that taught me that music that takes a few listens to get into actually lasts longer.

    Profound disagreement with Squeak‘s third point, citing her second in evidence. Yes, her shoes were hidden. Her shoes were hidden inside mine. Imagine how small an adult human must be, for their shoes to fit comfortably inside someone else’s.

    Nothing to say to Chris beyond registering a mild sense of unease that you even know about that game.

    And finally, only a partial yield to Hooligan again, since much emotional and aesthetic interpretation can be conveyed nonverbally (impressionist paintings, for example). Such visual gimmicks could easily be (and probably have been, for all I know) incorporated into a game context.

  9. Hljóðlegur

    The “shoes were hidden” sounds like “mistakes were made.” Tell me no one intentionally stranded lovely petite shoes in the crumbling dark wasteland of your vast footware steppes – shivering, hearing the distant lonely lupine howling. Chaussures minuscules, où sont vous? Oh, good sir, whence chivalry itself?

    “much emotional and aesthetic interpretation can be conveyed nonverbally (impressionist paintings, for example)”

    Good point. However, Grand Theft Auto just ain’t Shakespeare, no matter how you cut it. Games are not going to replace reading unless games get a hell of a lot less childish, or unless the human race gets a hell of a lot stupider. *chuckles* We are getting stupider at an alarming rate, now that I think about it.

  10. Seruko

    But Grand Theft Auto is the master of any random death ninja american crime fighting duo novel.
    Portal, Half Life 2, Baldur’s Gate 2 to name only a few are superior experiences. Perhaps not shakespear, but it took the english a thousand years or so to make a shakespear. Video games have been around for only a couple of decades. You might be holding the bar up a little high.

    After all grand theft auto might not be shakespear, but what is.

  11. Hljóðlegur

    Seruko: Grand Theft Auto is the master of any random death ninja american crime fighting duo novel.

    Depends upon what bores you.

  12. gwern

    > I’m just waiting for someone to do an English translation. That ought to be good.

    Uh oh! Is someone about to pull a Pierre Menard? (,_Author_of_the_Quixote )

  13. Thomas Hardman

    Having recently seen the excellent episode of the television drama “House” in which the patient is discovered to be a “supergenius” who has been suppressing his IQ by gulping DXM for years and masquerading as a “normal” by robo-tripping so as to not alienate his pretty and pretty-normal girlfriend, on the one hand I am tempted to actually try to translate Blindsight into a restricted-vocabulary-English edition. Buy stock in Pfizer folks, they’d be getting a lot of sales to me. 😉

    I’m not sure if I’m trying to be funny here, or whimsical or cynical or what, but that edition might actually get optioned for film.

    Given the process by which literary works get transported into the thespian realms and the apparently inevitable degradation of the slightly-popular excellent text work into a widely popular not-so-excellent film, one might fear that this could evolve as something one could promote as “Mozart and the Whale Go To Space”. But actually that might not be the worst possible outcome. At least it would get some royalties paid. I’d refer Mr Watts to some correspondence with one Annette Kurtis Klause on the matter of how to get fairly well-paid to watch a person masterwork be reduced to a cartoon, but I can’t stand to contemplate the heartbreak that might result.

    Nor would I want to be forced to avoid restaurants, I hate Mace. 😉

    Though if I were to translate Blindsight into a version sufficiently dumbed-down so as to sell widely, I’d probably deserve it.