Seven Conlangs for Writers

A conlang is a constructed language— an invented language. J. R. R. Tolkien famously invented the Elvish language, and thought of language construction as his secret vice.

I’m fond of conlangs, but prefer to use ones constructed by someone else to making one up myself. It’s a lot of work, and for a writer, you will only use your conlang to create a few names and perhaps a stray word or phrase or two. So it’s always an option to use a conlang ‘off the shelf’ if you can find one that suits your purpose.

What conlangs are available for writers to use? Usually it’s the ones that were invented as auxiliary languages for international use. Conlangs like Klingon or Tolkien’s Elvish are the intellectual property of the creators.

Here are 7 known conlangs that are available for writers to use, since they are/were IALs (International Auxiliary Languages) and in most cases, are older IALs.

  • Esperanto. Invented  in 1887 by L. L. Zamenhof. The most successful IAL, there are books published in it, shortwave radio broadcasts given, and annual Esperanto conventions. It is recognizable as a European language and people who speak one of the Latin-derived languages like Spanish, Italian or French can often understand Esperanto sentences without learning the language. In my Destine series, Esperanto is the primary conlang used by the Terran Fleet.
  • Ido. Invented in 1907 by Louis Couturat. This was intended as ‘reforms’ to Esperanto, in part by getting rid of the ‘ugly’ Esperanto words with Germanic or Slavic roots and replacing them with Latin-origin terms. Today Ido is well known mainly to Esperanto speakers. There is still an Ido movement, but it is small. Ido is recognizable as a European language, and an Esperanto speaker can mostly understand Ido. It may be considered an Esperanto dialect. In the Destine series, the main use of Ido is on worlds where two dialects of conlangs are considered desirable, often spoken by differing tribes or social castes. It is also spoken widely by people who resent having to learn Esperanto but must deal with Esperanto-speaking people.
  • Universalglot. Invented in 1868 by Jean Pirro. This language predates Esperanto, but never had clubs or a movement, or even a translation of the Our Father. It looks like a European, Latin-based language. In the Destine universe, Universalglot is the preferred Trade Language of the powerful Konju race. Since Konju people mostly cannot learn languages after childhood, many people learn Universalglot to trade with the Konju.
  • Solresol. Invented in 1866 by Jean Sudre. Solresol is rather famous for being a language based on the musical notes of the scale. You know, do, re, mi, fa, sol, la, si…. Each of the seven possible syllables of Solresol has a corresponding musical note, color, number, hand sign (sign language) and glyph. What’s not to love about that? It is a very alien-looking language, but in longer Solresol utterances it might even be recognized by clever readers as Solresol, since the language is still sometimes mentioned in books and other information sources. In the Destine universe, Solresol is used by a few alien races, often in a rudimentary way, and is also used as a secondary Trade Language by musicians and artists. The alien Tsanan race, who have the form of balls of colored light, love Solresol since they can match their body colors to the syllables of Solresol.
  • Amerysk. Invented in 1974 by Paal-Erik Filssunu. Amerysk was invented by an American Odinist, and I got a mimeographed booklet on Amerysk from an Odinist friend. I have not been able to contact the creator of Amerysk and have been in contact with another speaker only fleetingly, many years ago. I put the booklet up online in various places many years ago. I’ve also been adding words to the language for some time and posting it on a blog. Amerysk is a Germanic language, like modern English, old Anglo-Saxon, and German, Swedish, Yiddish and the like. In the Destine universe, Amerysk is commonly spoken in regions on the planet Mayflower, and by small human groups elsewhere. There may be aliens who prefer it, as well. It’s fairly common as a second or third language for the elders of Amish communities in space, since it is related to their German dialect.
  • Slovio. Invented in 1999 by Mark Hucko. Slovio is a pan-Slavic language. The creator says that if you know Slovio, you can communicate with all the world’s Slavic language speakers— Russian, Polish, Croatian…. It may be true, but if you say something to a Russian in Slovio and he understands it, he will answer in Russian, which you won’t understand fully. It is a Slavic-sounding language and can be written in both Roman (like English) and Cyrillic (like Russian) alphabets— which is kind of like Serbian which uses both alphabets. In the Destine universe, Slovio is preferred by Slavic-language speakers. A few minor alien races use it, too.
  • Volapük. Invented in 1879 by Father Johann Martin Schleyer. Volapük was the first IAL to get a following, and clubs, and a movement. It’s a complicated language, though. Many Volapük clubs became Esperanto clubs when Esperanto was published and gained a following, since Esperanto is easier to learn. But maybe the complications of Volapük were necessary to make people believe that a made-up language could really be spoken, and could be used to translate ideas. There was a reform of Volapük in about 1930, but it’s still complex. Though the words are actually based on English words, they are distorted— ‘animal’ becomes ‘nim’— so it can serve as a completely alien tongue in fiction. There are a small number of Volapük speakers today, and a Europe-based Volapük organization. In the Destine universe, Volapük is preferred by the tyrants ruling the Alliterist worlds. A few alien races use it, too.

So, these are some of the actual conlangs which can be used by the modern writer. If you need a few names or magic words or an alien curse word or insult, these are possible sources.

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Getting Followers on Gab

Gab is a Twitter-like social media outlet which has taken a firm stand for free speech. A great home for people like me, who have seen friends suspended or banned from Twitter or Facebook, largely for expressing Christian and/or conservative opinion.

I first got on Gab when some of my friends in the Conservative-Libertarian Fiction Alliance (CFLA, a FB group which has migrated to MeWe) recommended Gab as a social medium. But when I first got to Gab it was dull. It took me a while to realize it was because while I had hundreds of friends/followers on Twitter and Facebook, I had about 25 in those early months on Gab— and some of those are now inactive on Gab.

How do you go about getting followers on Gab? First, POST. Post to your own followers, but also post a few things in popular Topics, where other people can see them.

What are Topics? They are classifications for public posts— posts that the whole Gab community can see. Members can create their own topics, and most of those topics fizzle out. Some topics are dumb, or rude, or even hostile to different groups of people, from Jewish people to Trump supporters. Since Gab is popular with actual conservatives and also with some non-liberal extremists, liberals/progressives try to band together with topics, while others post in the topics of News and Politics and find support for their opinions.

Since I’m not on Gab for the politics, I started my own topic called Books and Authors. I’m hoping to encourage a more literary form of discussion on Gab. I’ve posted about some of the books by my author friends from the CLFA, and a few other people post there as well. I get a little response, and I hope to post at least 1 thing to the topic every day to keep the topic alive and encourage others.

Another way to meet people on Gab is to join one or more Gab groups. You have to be a paid member of Gab to start a group, so I can’t start one of my own— too low-income to be a paid Gab member. But I have found one or two groups of interest.

Once you are regularly posting on Gab, you see people you might like, or share opinions or interests with. They may start following you, in which case you can follow back unless they are hookers or nasties or something. But don’t be shy! If you keep seeing certain people when reading or posting on topics, follow them! They may follow you back.

Since Gab is a free speech medium, and since it has public topics to which anyone can post, you may see opinions you don’t care for. Anti-semitism, for example. On Twitter they claim to be censoring for things like that. But the term ‘kill the Jews’ was trending on Twitter some time ago, so Twitter is full of not-nice people too. It’s just that on Gab, because of the open topics, you can see such people, while on Twitter you have to search for and then follow them to see their posts.

I don’t like anti-semitism, so I put an Israeli flag into the middle of my username on Twitter, and on Gab and MeWe as well. If I really was sensitive about seeing things like that, I would  not look at the topics, and would instead confine my Gab activity to some safe Catholic and Christian groups, and maybe the cat picture group, and to my Gab friends. But personally I feel that just because a person has some wrong opinions it doesn’t mean I don’t think they should enjoy freedom of speech, and I don’t think ostracizing the ‘Nazis’ will make them fit into society better.

I think that Gab has a lot of potential for authors who want social media presence without having to become the kind of progressive zombie that modern society seems to approve. You won’t get your account suspended for posting the wrong Bible verse, at least. And Gab members call themselves the Gab family— we like each other, even if we don’t always care for one another’s opinions.

 

“We’re Not Christian, We’re Catholic!”

One of my pet peeves, now that I’m Catholic, is the fact that many Evangelical Christians sometimes use the word ‘Christian’ to mean the totality of people who are ‘saved’ enough to go to heaven, and at other times use ‘Christian’ to mean ‘Evangelical Christian’ or even ‘Evangelical Christian like the ones in our church.’ Since I was brought up in an Evangelical-ish Presbyterian congregation and only converted as a mature adult, I resent being sometimes ‘outside’ the Christian fold in the speech of such people.

Sadly, this thinking has gone beyond messing up Evangelical Christians. I have heard of a Catholic husband who corrected his wife, saying ‘We’re not Christian, we’re Catholic!’ Obviously he had imbibed the idea of ‘Christian’ as ‘Evangelical Christian,’ and may have felt that he was sticking up for the Catholic faith against a faith-compromising wife.

OK, here the fact: ‘Christian’ is a term that applies to all followers of Jesus, no matter their denomination. Or non-denomination. Even in groups that both Catholics and Evangelical/Ptotestants think of as ‘cults,’ like Mormons (LDS), Christian Science and Jehovah’s Witnesses, there are folks who are following Jesus. They may have a lot of flawed doctrines (beliefs) in their heads, but if they are looking to Jesus to save them from their sins, they are part of our ‘tribe.’

Some Evangelicals, aware of this, like to use the term ‘Bible Christians’ to differentiate between themselves and between Christians like Catholics and Eastern Orthodox that they consider ‘beyond the pale.’ But from a Catholic perspective, I would resent that. Who is it that preserved the New Testament manuscripts and copied them— not to mention deciding which Christian books were a part of the Bible like Revelation and Romans, and which books, though good, did not make the cut, like the Didache and the Shepherd of Hermas? Protestants and Evangelicals didn’t come along until centuries later. So— when Joel Osteen urges listeners who have prayed the ‘sinner’s prayer’ to get themselves in a ‘good Bible-based church,’ I consider my own Precious Blood Catholic Church to be one.

In my lifetime, popular culture has gone from thinking of Christians as virtuous but dull, to characterizing Christians, particularly those who stand up for unpopular teachings, as ‘haters,’ homophobes, and misogynists. We writers who are Christians need to stand up for Christianity as a whole— not just those bits of Christianity we know from our own denomination or church congregation.

Now, I don’t think there is anything at all wrong with a writer who happens to be Methodist or Lutheran or Pentecostal or Catholic using their own specific faith in their fiction, rather than a generic homogenized ‘Christianity.’ Back when I was a Missouri Synod Lutheran, I would have loved to read a Christian sci-fi or fantasy novel that mentioned the ‘means of grace’ or quoted from Luther’s catechism. And I now have favorite Catholic authors that are explicitly Catholic in their works.

But we need to face up to the fact that Christianity is divided and this is not necessarily good. Perhaps the best thing an author could do is to try to show Christians acting in unity in spite of divisions, and being kind to Christians from other denominations that the writer believes are very wrong. (For example, I have Amish and a Lutheran family on my fictional starship Destine, which is otherwise pretty full of Catholics. And in another work in progress, I have a group of young Mormon missionaries who volunteer to act as messengers for the Pope, who is in exile in Upper Michigan during the zombie apocalypse. The awkward bit comes when the Pope gives them his papal blessing and one of the Mormon missionaries responds by giving the Pope his own priestly blessing.)

What about non-Christian authors? Well, if you are non-Christian and still want to be respectful to Christianity, rather than mocking it, in my opinion you are being fair-minded and kind. I hope you will recognize that all persons in the many denominations and divisions of Christianity have a claim to be called ‘Christian’ even if some Christians think of ‘Christian’ as mostly ‘Christians-like-me.’ And that Christians can be kind and helpful to one another without ceasing to believe that their own denomination is the most correct. (After all, these days it is common for Christians to seek out another, more correct denomination if they feel their own is in error in an important way— that’s what I did— twice.)

 

Is Atheism a Religion?

The typical Internet ‘athiest’ bully may declare that ‘athiesm’ is against all religions because religion is about ‘God’— usually meaning the God of the Bible. But we want to look into the question more deeply than that. And, as is so often the case, we need to start at the dictionary.

The word ‘religion’ in English comes from the Latin word ‘religio.’ The first definition in my dictionary says ‘belief in or worship of  God or gods.’ But there is a second. ‘A specific system of belief or worship, etc, built around God, a code of ethics, a philosophy of life, etc.’ So atheism is a specific system of belief built around a philosophy of life. That is a religion. Though it is more popular in many circles to call a non-theistic religion a ‘philosophy of life.’

‘Athiests’ may complain at this. But they shouldn’t. Why do atheists have freedom of religion in the United States and elsewhere? Certainly not because atheism was considered to be a socially responsible viewpoint worthy of protection by the United States’ Founding Fathers. In fact I heard of an early murder case that went unprosecuted because the eyewitness was an atheist who at the time could not be sworn in as a witness in court. Atheism is protected now because it is considered a religion— in the ‘philosophy of life’ sense, not in the ‘code of ethics’ or ‘worship of God/gods’ senses.

As a system, atheism lacks a lot that other religions have. Religions usually have quite a few specific required beliefs, or dogmas. The only universal atheist dogma is ‘there is no god.’ To which some add other dogmas like ‘atheism is based on logic but we can’t say how,’ or ‘all atheists are logical and all God-believers are not’ or ‘God is evil and causes earthquakes’ or ‘if you don’t accept atheism you must be a Bible-believing Evangelical Christian’ or ‘atheism is so logic-based and science-based it is obviously true and needs no proof.’ But all atheists don’t believe all of those.

Atheism also lacks a moral code— though atheists themselves may have a moral code from some other source or philosophy. There is nothing within the belief of atheism to tell us to love our neighbor and help our neighbor, rather than hate our neighbor and steal from our neighbor. The Founding Fathers of the US thought that belief in a God, an afterlife, and afterlife punishments and rewards was a necessary thing to make one a good and law-abiding citizen. Atheists don’t believe that and I am sure that most of the more thoughtful/intellectual atheists do have some sort of moral code that does not contradict their atheism— though it is not require by atheism itself.

There are multiple kinds of atheists. There are rude atheists, like Madilyn Murray O’Hair and the internet ‘athiests,’ and there are simply people who don’t happen to belief in a God, for whatever reason. The beloved Christian apologist and writer C. S. Lewis was an atheist for a number of years. He doesn’t mention having mocked Christians or caused a fuss over his atheism, and I honestly can’t imagine the man he was ever bullying someone over their Christianity. If only he had written articles on atheism during his atheist years, he could have been a decent role model for atheists today. Though they would likely reject anything he’d written because he became a Christian and a defender of Christianity (a Christian apologist.)

What about an atheist who says ‘atheism isn’t a religion, it’s the truth!’ Well, first I would wonder if the atheist got that argument from the (Evangelical) Christians who say ‘(Evangelical) Christianity isn’t a religion, it’s the truth!’ Regardless of the source of the saying, I would say frankly: atheism is a religion. Evangelical Christianity, like Christianity in general, is a religion. There is nothing in the dictionary definition of ‘religion’ that says that a religion may not be true! And I would imagine that nearly all people regard their own religion as being true. If they don’t think it’s true, in what sense are they adherents of that religion? Christianity has a name for that state: a ‘nominal Christian’ is one who may say he is a Christian, for social or other reasons, but does not actually believe. So to say a ‘religion’ can’t be the truth is simply being illogical.

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For further study

Logical Thinking by Richard L. Purtill

Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis

Christian Churches that teach Birth Control Mentality

I’m not talking, in the title of this post, about the post-Christian churches like the PCUSA Presbyterians or ELCA Lutherans— both church bodies that are pro-abortion— or the Episcopal church that asked a woman to leave the congregation when she left her job at an abortion clinic because of ethical concerns about abortion.

I am talking about Bible-believing and therefore prolife churches. I have read accounts of women who announced they were pregnant with a third or fourth child, and they got nothing but grief from the people in their church because of it. They were asked if they knew what causes pregnancy, or people pretended they could not count the children in their ‘large’ family. Husbands got the offer to be driven to the clinic for a vasectomy. And this was with much-wanted pregnancies! Is it really anyone’s business if a Christian married couple wants three or four or even five or six children? And what should a woman do when she’s already pregnant with a child that her church members are convinced she shouldn’t want? Get an abortion? Or just complain about the unwantedness of her child?

Birth control mentality is morally wrong because it teaches that human beings— female ones, anyway— are in charge of their own fertility. If they want a child (and have no more than one) they have a ‘right’ to have a child, even if it takes in vitro fertalization and the sacrifice of the lives of ‘extra’ embryos to get what they want. And when a pregnancy is not desired, it is proclaimed that all ‘responsible’ people will be using artificial methods of contraception. Some of which, like IUD or the birth-control pill, cause the death of very young embryonic children.

In reality, no ‘birth control’ is 100% effective. And so it is demanded that abortion must be available as a backup. Prolife Christians want people to choose life, not abortion, but if they are living in the birth control mentality themselves, they are helping people to choose abortions.

I have read of an internationally known prolife activist— a priest— who said that when a country legalized contraceptives (which used to be illegal or restricted), legalizing abortion was not far behind. Because contraceptives are part of the birth control mentality, and that mentality demands abortion when contraception proves unreliable.

Lest you think I am just picking on the Evangelical/Protestant community here, there are I am sure also Catholic parishes where everyone is presumed to be using contraceptives, and the Church’s teaching on being open to life is mocked. No homilies are ever preached in which abortion is called a moral evil, and ‘Catholic’ politicians who vote pro-abortion are lauded as good Catholics.

To be truly prolife, we have to acknowledge that fertility, and children, are gifts from God. We will never have 100% control over when babies come. When an ‘unplanned’ pregnancy occurs, we must consider whether it is not a blessing from God that we didn’t know we wanted. It is a matter of trusting God. And when we are tempted to criticize a Christian sister for having ‘too many’ children, we must think twice and thrice before adding our critical words to what may be a difficult time for our sister.

Prayers for Ruth Bader Ginsburg

When SC Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had her recent fall, I was sad to notice a small number of conservatives offending all the other conservatives by expressing negative wishes about Justice Ginsburg’s health. Big fail! We don’t want our political ‘enemies’ to pass away, but to repent and reform. Or at least to cease doing things that cause harm. Remember the ‘Love your enemies’ thing from Matthew 5:44?

Ruth Bader Ginsburg is no spring chicken, and when I see a picture of her, she looks very fragile. We want her to be in good health, but as she is mortal and imperfect, we want something better than just physical health for her. She needs spiritual health. Because we want everyone, even our political or other enemies, even people we don’t much admire, to have a shot at heaven rather than be stuck with the alternative.

The first step in getting good spiritual health is to repent— to turn away from any wrong things we have done, and to be sorry for them, not just for our own sake, but for the sake of not offending God. This is not just for people of a certain political viewpoint, by the way. ALL human beings do wrong things. “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God….” (Romans 3:23)

Every person also needs spiritual wisdom to know what is right and therefore pleasing to God, and what is wrong and therefore displeasing to God. And just knowing that God exists and has certain attributes is beyond the knowledge of many people.

And just having spiritual wisdom is not enough if you don’t do anything about it. In the Catholic Church we often talk about the blessed dead as having ‘died in friendship with God.’ That’s not a religious or denominational label. A Christian teaching is that God writes His law in our hearts— which would mean that every single person has some hint of God’s truth— and is free to embrace that truth or turn away from it.

We want Ruth Bader Ginsburg to embrace the Divine wisdom she has access to; to live in friendship with God so she can die that way. As a Supreme Court Justice she has had the power to make decisions which affect the lives and deaths of many people. May God prevent that she make any decisions that prove harmful to others.

Real conservatives don’t want bad things to happen to people like Ruth Bader Ginsburg, but we don’t want her helping to make any harmful decisions that would expand ‘abortion rights’ or take away religious freedoms. Not just because we would disagree with such decisions. We also don’t want such decisions on Justice Ginsburg’s soul or any other Justice’s soul.

Let us pray.

(Here pray the Our Father/Lord’s Prayer and any other prayers for the spiritual and physical benefit of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. For Catholics & open-minded non-Catholics, add a Hail Mary or three.)

Christian, Catholic authors need Bible Knowledge

If you are a Christian and/or Catholic writer or blogger, whether you like it or not, your readers are going to be taking you for a knowledgable authority on Christianity and the Bible. And so it is your job to become more knowledgable— at least a little.

In earlier generations Protestant/Evangelical Christians often taught that good Christians were ones that read the Bible every single day. Good Catholics were seen as those who attended daily Mass every day, if possible, and would hear the assigned Bible readings for that day. But today people think they have so much less time for such activity, and in addition many listen to preachers like Joel Osteen who tend to be very ‘lite’ on actual Bible teaching.

Many Christians do read the Bible— but they find much of the Bible difficult. Some end up reading the same few Bible passages over and over, and others read, but without much comprehension. What can take your Bible reading to the next level is reading the Bible using a good Bible commentary.

I learned about Bible commentaries when I was in high school or just starting college. I was a Presbyterian at the time, but planning on becoming Lutheran. At that time, a Bible commentary series, the Tyndale commentary series, was available for sale in Christian bookstores and my college bookstore. Volumes were available for the New Testament and the Protestant books of the Old Testament. I wanted a full set of those commentaries! I know I got Romans, and Revelations. But I lost those volumes over the years.

Now that I’m Catholic, I want commentaries written by Catholics— but I like the format of the Protestant commentaries I read when younger. Luckily, there are commentaries for that: the Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture. So far I only have the one on the Gospel of Matthew.

These commentaries are nice because after every Bible passage it gives parts of the Catholic catechism that clear up points in the reading, and it also tells related passages from other books of the Bible, and if the Bible passage in question is part of the Church’s Mass readings, it tells the Church feast or occasion that the passage is used for.

There are also sections on ‘Reflection and Application—‘ which help prevent your Bible study from being a mere intellectual exercise. Very helpful. The only bad part of this series is that it is new, and only the New Testament books have been covered. Is an Old Testament series in the works? I don’t know, but I’m hoping one is forthcoming.

Both the Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture and the Tyndale Old Testament and New Testament commentaries were written by Bible scholars who teach at seminaries and colleges, or who at least have a comparable level of knowledge. They have deep knowledge of the Greek and Hebrew texts. This is the kind of commentary we need to build our knowledge.

I have a few other commentaries in my collection that don’t measure up to that standard. Some are slim volumes by J. Vernon McGee, an old-time radio Bible preacher. Now, I used to listen to McGee on the radio, but he was not a Bible scholar. And when  you hear what he says about various Bible passages, you can wonder if what he was saying was based on knowledge, or just on a human opinion. For example, McGee believed that the Apostles did the wrong thing when they chose Matthias by lot to replace Judas Iscariot. McGee thought that St. Paul was the man God had chosen to replace Judas, but I don’t know if there is a single Bible passage that would confirm that.

Now, if I were stranded on a desert island with only my Bible and a complete set of McGee commentaries, I would read them, but I would not take McGee’s words as necessarily correct or wise. For that matter, even the best Bible scholars can have unwise or incorrect opinions. But I have more confidence in these two scholarly commentary series, and would prefer to use them since they are available.

Bible knowledge and your writing life: First thing to remember is that you don’t have to use everything you know. Even the most pious of Evangelical publishers does not like to publish books with long church-sermon-scenes and Bible-study-scenes. Such scenes slow down the action and make the work more dull for readers. You want to be planting seeds of faith, not dumping Bible and faith knowledge by the truckload.

  • My reading plan: I am currently reading the Gospel of Matthew with the Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture series. After I finish, I’m planning to do an Old Testament book, probably Psalms, using the Tyndale series. (I have a lot of OT commentaries from that series since I found a bunch for sale on Ebay.) After I do that, I’m hoping to afford the Epistle to the Hebrews in the Catholic series.