June 14th, 2007


The Smeerps Are In the Lettuce Again

From the Turkey City Lexicon:

"Call a Rabbit a Smeerp" --
  a cheap technique for false exoticism, in which common elements of the real world are re-named for a fantastic milieu without any real alternation in their basic nature or behavior. "Smeerps" are especially common in fantasy worlds, where people often ride exotic steeds that look and act just like horses. (Attributed to James Blish)

I'm really struggling with an aspect of this. The world in which I'm writing is a basic fantasy world. At one point it was an alternate earth where magic worked and there had been a disastrous set of wars in the 16th century when sorcerers decided to get involved with the succession of Scottish kings. I've moved it away from that since then -- while there are some similarities, the world that holds the city of Tabat is not Earth.

So what do I do about things like blackberry vines or kinds of jelly?  I don't want to a) make it look like, for example, the blackberry vines are regular blackberry vine with a big label that says "These are actually SHRINTAL BERRIES",  or b) call them shrintal berries and then go into an overly exhaustive disquisition on their life cycle that is unnecessary but establishes them as something other than blackberries. It seems as though the easiest thing to do would be to call them blackberry vines, but then you have people going, "Wait, is this a fantasy world or alternate history?" And I don't want a lot of the historical associations/connotations that are attached to some nouns in the English language.  Ugh.

Version A: Bellatrix grunted and slid over the pot of blackberry jelly.
Version B: Bellatrix grunted and slid over the pot of shrintal jelly, its dark surface quivering with sweetness. (Yes, that's freaking TERRIBLE, I know, but it's an example) from the thumb-sized berries.
Version C: Bellatrix grunted and slid over the pot of shrintal jelly.

I think I've got to go somewhere in between B and C,  while trying to avoid too much infodumpiness.  Blech. But actually, writing this all out has helped me clarify my strategy.  700 words for the day so far, but I MUST do some study guide work, much as I don't want to. Off to plunge into that.