3/11/14

Vintage Reads #51: Fantasy Covers & Vocabulary


Google Books allows you to check out a novel's most commonly used terms. It's an interesting little function, especially when it comes to works of fantasy.  Google Books spits out the words you'd expect - we all know the types of proper nouns and such used in the genre: "Eltorn", "Thunderhammer", "Tyfar", "Trylon".... I'm just making them up as I go. You get the idea.

It's easy to make fun, but in all fairness, if you did the same Google Books function for The Lord of the Rings, it would sound similarly cheesy.  The vocabulary of fantasy simply became a parody of itself.  (Then along comes George R. R. Martin to break the mold - but that's another story.)

So, I thought it'd be fun to take a look at a stack of fantasy books and single out three of the most common words for each.  Plus, I always love the cover art - so even if you don't give a flying shit about the words, there's plenty of eye candy to enjoy.


Please note that some of these clearly fall into the science fiction category as well.  Let's agree that oftentimes there's an overlap between genres, and not get hung up on which label fits best.


Wandor's Ride by Roland Green (1973)

ZAKONTA,  THUNDERSTONE, DUKE CRAGOR

These seem like the most generic names ever.... but perhaps when this came out in '73, "Thunderstone" seemed a fairly cool and original name.... I'm just giving it the benefit of the doubt.


The Malacia Tapestry by Brian Aldiss (1976)

ARMIDA, BEDALAR, ZAHNOSCOPE

The names are typical, but the Zahnoscope has me curious.


Titan's Daughter by James Blish (1961)

DIPLOIDS, DECIBELLE, POLYPLOIDY

Obviously this book has a genetics bent to it.  In '61, DNA was a super-recent discovery with very little known about the genome.  I'm curious where the author takes it.


Captive of Gor by John Norman (1972)

SLAVE BELLS, VOSK, RASK OF TREVE

To hell with sleigh bells, give me some "slave bells".  I used to spend a lot of time at the library as young lad staring at the GOR books (for obvious reasons).


Demon in the Mirror by Andrew J. Offutt and Richard K. Lyon (1981)

RAPIER, ELTORN, MALTAR

Jeez, does it get any more stereotypical than this?  "Maltar"? Really?



Runes by Richard Monaco (1984)

POWER STONE, SUBIUS, AATAATANA

I'd like to buy a vowel, Pat..... "A"


The Warrior Within by Sharon Green (1982)

L'LEENDA, RAPAN, SEETAR

I'm all about bottomless slave girl operatives, but these names have gotsta go!


Tales of Neveryon by Samuel R. Delaney (1979)

GORGIK, ASTROLABE, DRIFTGLASS


I am a Barbarian by Edgar Rice Burroughs (1967)

AGRIPPINA MINOR, GERMANICUS, TIBUR

I know, I know.  This book is set during the Roman times, thus the author avoids the stereotypical fantasy names.  Well played, Mr. Burroughs.


Legions of Antares by Alan Burt Akers (1981)

KREGEN, DAWN LANDS, WIZARD OF LO


The Magic Goes Away by Larry Niven (1967)

ZALAZAR, OROLANDES, HYDROPHANE


The World of Tiers  by Phillip Jose Farmer (1965)

THEOTORMON, PALAMABRON, RHADAMANTHUS

Jeez.  Mr. Farmer was obviously trying to break away from the standard fantasy vocab by making really, really long names.  Tolstoy and Dostoevsky are hard for me to follow sometimes due to the long foreign names, but they've got nothing on The World of Tiers.


Faith of Tarot by Piers Anthony (1987)

BIGFOOT, SATAN, JUGGLER

Finally, some "original" vocabulary.  Any book that has "bigfoot" and "satan" among it's more common terms is a winner by me.  My curiosity is definitely piqued.

6 comments:

  1. I truly think the reason Urban Fantasy has become so popular lately is because people are tired of stupid names.

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  2. An "astrolabe" is a real thing. I like the sound of the word; it's sounds vaguely dirty/spacey I guess.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Astrolabe

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  3. Polyploidy and diploids as genetics terms antedate our knowledge of the DNA molecule, being chromosomal-level phenomena, and go back to early 20th Century work by folks like Thomas Hunt Morgan.

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  4. Aww you left out R.A.H - The Number of the Beast - Gay Deceiver (though it is a car, an awesome car) and Deety who was just plain hawt ( I think) - Great Post Gill!

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  5. You'd have a BLAST with “Half Past Human” by T J Bass. “Tinker was a good citizen of the Hive - a model worker. But when he was allowed sexual activation he found Mu Ren who, like him, harboured forbidden genes…” The guy was an actual M.D., a pathologist, and he used what he knew, in this and other stories. Nebish, uriniferous, endocrine, edentulous, cyanosis, parotid gland… the book is a fun read.

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  6. Is that Lee Majors on the cover of "Faith of Tarot?"

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