Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Help! The Retaters Have Overthrown King Helignat!

Those word verifications you have to interpret so you can comment on someone's blog have always fascinated me. I'm sure they are created by random selection, but to me they have great potential for writing science fiction.

Satire, as the Broadway saying goes, is what closes on Saturday night, but for seven years satire was alive and well and playing out weekly in the social commentary known as the television space fantasy, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. If you ever watched it you'll know what I mean. Those plots were either comedies or high minded allegories or parables based on stirring universal truths like "hubris will be your undoing every time." The science jargon is deliciously baffling, something like computerese, educationese, or Tim Geitner explaining the economy to a Congressional committee, only more believable, more fascinating, and less confusing. A battle scene might be accompanied by talk about forward shields, impulse speed, warp drive, plasma fields, tractor beams, warp core overload, cloaking devices, ion particles, phaser banks, photon torpedoes, spatial anomalies, reconfiguring the power grid, and Klingon warbirds. It’s yummy, campy stuff. It was all great fun, made more so by the incomparable names chosen for the characters, planets and races. I love to watch the re-runs.

First you had to understand the myth, which is essential for science fiction. There’s this space station, see, Deep Space Nine, and it’s next to the wormhole, that shortcut across the galaxy that Einstein always suspected was there. If the wormhole fell into the hostile hands of Cardassia, Romulus, or the Dominion, there would be dire consequences for all the good guys. I think of it as the Panama Canal, and the Delta Quadrant on the other side as something like Hong Kong. Also near the station is the planet Bajor, recently liberated from the occupation of Cardassia, another nearby planet whose citizens, with their exoskeletal appearance, have an insufferable superiority complex. In fact, DS9 was once Bajoran, but is now in Federation hands. That’s the United Federation of Planets – home base: earth – and who else but Terrans, those once known in 50’s sci-fi movies as earthlings, could have the savvy to run the place and keep the peace.

Here's where the names come in: Jadzia Dax, Kira Nerise, Nog, Odo, Jem Hadar, Worf, Ferengi, Klingon, Garak, Ezri Dax, Quark, and that's just the first episode. Are you having fun yet? These names, I suppose, could be interchangeable with the word verifications. All you'd have to do is capitalize them.

"Yes, Captain. The Bricsmo have landed on the planet Spushan and found friendly inhabitants. The Fibitic will supply all the Flogen we need for the squif drive in the engine. If we can just keep the Plualp from discovering the mining operation we'll be able to keep the Munder from rebelling. Then we'll go on to Cattive next week and deliver the Ismakit prince back to his parents King Shecar and Queen Hytoe."

There you have it - the plot in one paragraph. It's very reminiscent of the Lewis Carroll poem, The Jabberwocky. The meaning of his made-up words is perfectly clear if you understand what part of speech the word represents. "Brillig," for instance is obviously an adjective, as in "frabjous," the description of a beautiful day. It's also clear what a vorpal sword is, and that the "beamish" boy who came "galumphing" back was successful.

I love playing with the language this way and admire anyone who can do it believably. Although I've never written science fiction and don't intend to, I see those word verifications as a great resource for someone who does.

6 comments:

jwise said...

Yeah, I've always thought the word verifications are entertaining. (This one right now is "bortio," which I would pronounce bore-tee-oh, and would assume is the name of a planet.) I never watched Deep Space Nine but got similar enjoyment from Star Trek: The Next Generation. Good, good stuff.

Mary said...

I saw a couple episodes of DS9, and if you'll forgive the tangent...does anyone else think Kyle Korver (who plays for the Utah Jazz) has a brow like unto a Ferengi? Sure, he's a good-looking guy, but I always think of Star Trek when I watch him play; and no, I don't find Ferengis to be attractive.

I like verification words too, especially when they are close to a real word. I just commented on another blog about sabotaging my cleaning intentions by staying outside in my garden...and my verification word was "sabitr", which sounds suspiciously like "saboteur". The one for this comment is "tivixi", which really does sound like a science fictional being. (Maybe someone at Blogger is reading our posts and choosing appropriate words! Maybe I should write a post about conspiracy theories and see if any verifications pop up as "uecotmi".)

Amy said...

I was wondering when somebody (or myself) would write something about the word verifications. You really nailed it.

I love Star Trek! And, yes, I've seen my fair share of DS9 (although I've probably seen EVERY episode of The Next Generation).

Marsha Ward said...

(word ver arlsacro: must surely be referring to that exoskeletal system.)

A truly laugh-out-loud post, Pam. Thank you. I snorted when you threw in Tim Geitner. Luckily I wasn't drinking anything at the time.

Heather and Jordan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Heather and Jordan said...

Captain, the Mactotin are everywhere! They're like Tribbles.

There's so much that can go into good science fiction. Culture, technology, language, all have to be planned out if any characters are to be believable. And that's the irony as well.

I heard that the word verification is actually parts of words from books that would take too long to re-write digitally. Every time you do a word verification, you are typing part of some book that can then be used digitally through a device like a nook, kindle, or ipad.