Pleonasms: Department of Redundancy Department
The Lampworks Lamplighter SF & Fantasy News & Reviews
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I fell into a rabbit hole today when I encountered this word. No, this isn’t a new public health menace or something teenagers say to confuse anyone over thirty. Pleonasms are redundancies in phrases we use every day, like “tuna fish.” A tuna is always a fish (except when it’s a pun, as in “you can tune a piano but you can’t tuna fish). But we’re so used to saying “tuna fish” that it almost sounds funny when we don’t. Another is “safe haven,” even though havens are safe places by definition. Ever heard of an unsafe haven? Maybe that deserted farmhouse that offers shelter from a sudden storm but turns out to be the lair of a serial killer, but then you’re in a horror novel and I don’t write those.
It’s hard to leave that type of pleonasm out of writing, especially dialog, because that’s how people talk. There are others, though, that I try to leave out, like “free gift” (mostly used in marketing), or “the ship itself,” or “in actual fact.” Writing becomes tighter and more powerful when the extra words are left out.
There’s a special place in perdition for “irregardless” and “inflammable.” “Regardless” is already “without regard;” adding “ir” to it doesn’t do anything for you. “Flammable” already means “easily catches fire.” No need for an extra “in.”
But I suppose the amusing bi-lingual pleonasms are here to stay. “The River Avon” is just saying “the river river,” since Avon is the Welsh word for river. And the “La Brea Tar Pits” means “the tar tar pits.” Bonus points if you can guess what I was doing when I tumbled into this rabbit hole. Hint: it wasn’t writing or researching. I’ll give you a free ebook if you get it right.
Sellenria: The Starship and the Citadel
Chuck Boeheim, Daniel Elswit
It came as a shock to archaeologist Stenn Gremm to find that his ancestor had been a warlock.
As a scientist, Stenn didn’t believe in magic. But when a monster from legend ground his equipment into dust, Stenn was forced into roles for which he hadn’t prepared. Apprentice to an assassin for one, advisor to the heir to the throne for another. When archaeological digs were conducted via telepresence, he didn’t expect to get dirt under his nails and blood on his hands. Now his fate hinges on his ability to embrace his greatest role: the new warlock.
Readers have called this a cross between Star Trek and Lord of the Rings, as well as a tale of self-discovery, set in a journey through a fantastic land. All legends have a kernel of truth, but the full story can be surprisingly different.
What We‘re Reading
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Walter Jon Williams
Implied spaces are those unintended elements that exist, just because something has to fill the void between the spaces that are deliberately created. This metaphor starts with architecture, but the swordsman and scholar Aristide extends it to the created worlds, societies, and pocket universes of post-singularity humanity. He discovers a plot emanating from the implied spaces that threatens to destroy all that he created, from a nemesis who can match or exceed Aristide’s nearly god-like powers.
The Watchmaker of Filigree Street
Thaniel, a telegraph clerk, finds a watch on this pillow that forecasts a bomb blast six months in the future. After this proves be accurate, he makes the acquaintance of watchmaker Mori, along with his whimsical creations, which include a mechanical octopus. Set in Victorian London and Meiji-era Japan, the story is full of humor, quirky characters, and twisty plots. The writing is engaging, with many colorful turns of phrase. Highly recommended.
A Night in the Lonesome October
An old favorite of mine, which I pull out to read every October. Narrated by Snuff, the watchdog of an occult practitioner named Jack, the thirty-one short chapters chronicle the thirty-one days of a particular October. A group has gathered to play an ancient game with high stakes. The tale is told through the familiars of the (mostly) human players as they negotiate to alternately aid and confuse the other teams. But you can’t say which team you’re on until the last moment.
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