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