Disappointing Movies

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I'm sorry that Geoff and Barbara had such a disappointing movie experience last night. Myself, I watched The Scorpion King on TV. For a movie to watch while doing other things it was fine. It has exotic settings and clothing, plenty of fighting and stunts without excessive gore, beautiful women, everything a guy could want.

This was not the first time I had seen it, so I knew what to expect, but when I first saw it, I was quite disappointed. Why? Well, I naively thought that it would be about the real Scorpion King, one of the small number of known figures from the late Pre-dynastic period of Egypt. He may have been the immediate predecessor of Narmer, who unified Upper and Lower Egypt and founded the First Dynasty, or he may have been the same king under a different name. Naturally, I figured that a movie called The Scorpion King would be about the unification of Egypt and perhaps would even portray the origins of the Egyptian writing system. Alas, that movie remains to be made.


  1. Garrett Wollman said,

    May 20, 2008 @ 1:31 am

    There is (of all things) a Mercedes Lackey fantasy series set in a thinly-disguised pre-unification Egypt. It doesn't discuss the origin of the writing system either. (I think writing is taken for granted, with probably-anachronistic technology as well, but if one can suspend one's disbelief for magic and dragons, a mere anachronism is probably not likely to faze.) Her name sells well enough to have put out four books in this series.

  2. dr pepper said,

    May 20, 2008 @ 2:21 am

    Ack, i'm way behind on Mercedes Lackey, i hadn't even heard of these!

    But then, i'm way behind on reading books i already own.

    Anyway, thinking back on a lifetime of reading scifi and fantasy, there've been quite a few where some aspect of language played a part. But i only remember one where lingusitics was significant: "The Languages of Pao" by Jack Vance. And that one was about changing cultures by devising new languages around target attitudes.

    BTW: There's a nice pseudo egyptian story called "The Blue Hawk". I forget the author.

  3. Larry said,

    May 20, 2008 @ 5:57 am

    "Hellspark" (1988) by Janet Kagan. Light reading, but the whole book was about cross-cultural communications issues, both verbal and body language.

  4. Aaron Davies said,

    May 20, 2008 @ 7:43 am

    Do you count all the General Semantics-influenced stuff from the 40's thru the 60's (Van Vogt, Asimov, Heinlein)? The modern equivalent, Jaynes-influenced stuff (Neil Stephenson's _Snow Crash_, etc.) tends to deal with language a lot too.

  5. rejiquar said,

    May 20, 2008 @ 8:26 am

    _The Blue Hawk_ was by Peter Dickinson. It's not bad, but I like his wife's (Robin McKinley) stuff better. As for language & linguistics, my fave sf is Delaney's _Babel-17_, though that's an oldie.

  6. Blake Stacey said,

    May 20, 2008 @ 3:24 pm

    IIRC, the only Asimov story to deal with a quantitative analysis of semantics was the first Foundation story, in which Salvor Hardin sends the transcript of an Imperial functionary's speech to the logic department and finds out that everything the official said canceled out. This bit was actually put in because Asimov's editor, John Campbell, was a devotee of such things. It faded away after that; the rest of the Foundation stories took their inspiration from Edward Gibbon and the kinetic theory of gases. As the Good Doctor later wrote in a poem, "The Foundation of SF Success",

    So success is not a mystery, just brush up on your history,
    and borrow day by day.
    Take an Empire that was Roman and you'll find it is at home in all the
    starry Milky Way.
    With a drive that's hyperspatial, through the parsecs you will race,
    you'll find that plotting is a breeze,
    With a tiny bit of cribbin' from the works of
    Edward Gibbon and that Greek, Thucydides.

    Yes, the tune is from Gilbert and Sullivan's Patience.

  7. dr pepper said,

    May 20, 2008 @ 6:20 pm

    Oh, right, i forgot about that one. I rarely read books more than once and i've only read Foundation twice, the last time being, hmm, 30 years ago. There was also a short story in which a couple of professors invent a "semantic clarifier" which translates long and complex discourses into short simple sentences. It ends with the government sending them a long letter which boils down to an offer to either pay them off to destroy the machine and all the plans, or disappear them.

    As for the "General Semantics-influenced stuff", i've read those authors but is that stuff really lingusitics? I haven't read Snow Crash, iwas under the impression it was cyberpunk, a subgenre i've never been impressed with.

  8. Andrea said,

    May 20, 2008 @ 6:49 pm

    A good book for an overview of treatment of language in science fiction is _Aliens and Linguists: Language Study and Science Fiction_ by Walter E. Myers, 1980, University of Georgia Press.

  9. Michael McCliment said,

    May 21, 2008 @ 4:39 pm

    Ursula K. Le Guin is also often a good read in terms of how she handles language. _The Left Hand of Darkness_, in particular, posed problems for pronoun choice. She's talked about this more than once over the years, and she makes some interesting comments in the essay "Is Gender Necessary? (Redux)".

    I've also read some interesting critical work about Suzette Haden Elgin's fiction, especially her development of the language Láadan, although I haven't had a chance to read any of the novels yet.

  10. Anton Sherwood said,

    August 21, 2009 @ 12:05 pm

    Snow Crash is a spoof or satire on cyberpunk, whose McGuffin is an ancient meme-virus.

    Several stories about language have been mentioned, but the most famous one about writing may be Beam Piper's "Omnilingual".

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