Return to Turkey City Lexicon: A Primer For Science Fiction Workshops (idea)

I first became acquainted with this -- the Turkey City Lexicon -- through [Lucy-S]; she became familiar with it when when she attended the [Clarion] workshop in 1995. Equal parts [funny], [brutal] and [erudite], this [document] is supremely useful for any [writer], not just those of us who write [science fiction], [fantasy] and [horror].

If you're a beginning [fiction] [writer], I strongly recommend you read through this at least twice. There is a whole lot of thought about writing from [professional] [author]s [condensed] here.

Turkey City Lexicon

Edited by [Lewis Shiner]. Second Edition by [Bruce Sterling]


Introduction by [Lewis Shiner]

This [manual] is intended to focus on the special needs of the [The Milford System (or, the Modern Science Fiction Workshop)|science fiction workshop]. Having an [accurate] and [descriptive] [critical] [term] for a [common] [science fiction|SF] problem makes it easier to [recognize] and [discuss]. This [guide] is intended to save [workshop] participants from having to "[reinvent the wheel]" at every session.

The terms here were generally developed over a period of many years in many [workshop]s. Those identified with a particular [writer] are [acknowledge]d in parentheses at the end of the entry. Particular help for this project was provided by [Bruce Sterling] and the other regulars of the Turkey City Workshop in [Austin, Texas].

Introduction by [Bruce Sterling]

This [lexicon] was compiled by Mr. [Lewis Shiner] and myself from the work of many [writer]s and [critic]s over many years of [genre] [history], and it contains [buzzword]s, [notion]s and [critical] [term]s of direct use to [The Milford System (or, the Modern Science Fiction Workshop)|SF workshops].

The first version, known as the "Turkey City Lexicon" after the [Austin, Texas] writers' [workshop] that was a cradle of [cyberpunk], appeared in 1988. In proper [ideology|ideologically]-correct [cyberpunk] fashion, the Turkey City Lexicon was distributed [copyleft|uncopyrighted] and free-of-charge: a decommodified, [photocopy|photocopied] chunk of free [literary] [software]. [Lewis Shiner] still thinks that this was the best [deployment] of an effort of this sort, and thinks I should stop fooling around with this [fait accompli]. After all, the original Lexicon remains uncopyrighted, and it has been floating around in [fanzine]s, prozines and [computer] networks for seven years now. I respect Lew's opinion, and in fact I kind of agree with him. But I'm an [ideologue], [congenital|congenitally] unable to leave well-enough alone.

In September 1990 I re-wrote the [Lexicon] as an [installment] in my [critical] [column] for the [British] [magazine] [INTERZONE]. When Robin Wilson asked me to refurbish the Lexicon yet again for PARAGONS, I couldn't resist the temptation. I'm always [open] to [improvement]s and [amendment]s for the Lexicon. It seems to me that if a document of this sort fails to grow it will surely become a [literary] [monument], and, well, [heaven] forbid. For what it's worth, I plan to re-release this latest edition to the [Internet] at the first opportunity. You can email me about it: I'm

Some Lexicon terms are [attribute]d to their originators, when I could find them; others are not, and I [apologize] for my [ignorance].

[Science fiction] boasts many specialized critical terms. You can find a [passel] of these in Gary K. Wolfe's CRITICAL TERMS FOR SCIENCE FICTION AND FANTASY: A GLOSSARY AND GUIDE TO SCHOLARSHIP (Greenwood Press, 1986). But you won't find them in here. This lexicon is not a [guide] to [scholarship]. The Workshop Lexicon is a guide (of sorts) for down-and-dirty [hairy]-knuckled [sci-fi] writers, the kind of [ambitious] [subliterate] [guttersnipe]s who actually [write] and [sell] [professional] [genre] material. It's [rough], [rollicking], [rule-of-thumb] stuff suitable for [shouting] [aloud] while pounding the [table].

Part One: Words and Sentences

  • [Brenda Starr] [Dialogue]

    Long sections of [talk] with no [physical] [background] or [description] of the [character]s. Such [dialogue], detached from the story's setting, tends to echo hollowly, as if suspended in mid-air. Named for the [American] comic-strip in which dialogue balloons were often seen emerging from the [Manhattan] [skyline].

  • "Burly [Detective]" Syndrome

    This useful term is taken from [science fiction|SF]'s cousin-genre, the [detective]-[pulp]. The [hack] writers of the Mike Shayne series showed an odd reluctance to use Shayne's proper name, preferring such [euphemism]s as "the burly detective" or "the red-headed [sleuth]." This [syndrome] arises from a wrong-headed [conviction] that the same word should not be used twice in close succession. This is only true of particularly strong and visible words, such as "[vertiginous]." Better to re-use a simple tag or phrase than to [contrive] [cumbersome] methods of avoiding it.

  • Brand Name Fever

    Use of [brand name] alone, without accompanying visual detail, to create false verisimilitude. You can stock a future with [Honda]s and [Sony]s and [IBM]'s and still have no idea with it looks like.

  • "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 alteration 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 [horse]s. (Attributed to [James Blish].)

  • Gingerbread

    Useless [ornament] in [prose], such as fancy [sesquipedalian] [Latinate] words where short clear [English] ones will do. [Novice] authors sometimes use "gingerbread" in the hope of disguising faults and conveying an air of [refinement]. (Attr. [Damon Knight])

  • Not Simultaneous

    The mis-use of the [present participle] is a common structural sentence-fault for beginning writers. "Putting his key in the door, he leapt up the stairs and got his revolver out of the bureau." Alas, our [hero] couldn't do this even if his arms were forty feet long. This fault shades into "Ing Disease," the tendency to pepper sentences with words ending in "-ing," a [grammatical] [construction] which tends to confuse the proper sequence of events. (Attr. [Damon Knight])

  • Pushbutton Words

    Words used to evoke a [cheap] [emotional] [response] without engaging the [intellect] or the critical faculties. Commonly found in story titles, they include such bits of [bogus] lyricism as "star," "dance," "dream," "song," "tears" and "poet," cliches calculated to render the [science fiction|SF] [audience] misty-eyed and tender-hearted.

  • [Roget]'s Disease

    The ludicrous overuse of far-fetched adjectives, piled into a [festering], [fungal], [tenebrous], [troglodytic], [ichorous], [leprous], [synonymic] heap. (Attr. [John W. Campbell])

  • "Said" Bookism

    An [artificial] [verb] used to avoid the word "said." "Said" is one of the few [invisible] words in the [English] language and is almost impossible to overuse. It is much less distracting than "he retorted," "she inquired," and everyone's favorite, "he ejaculated." The term "said-book" comes from certain pamphlets, containing hundreds of [purple]-[prose] synonyms for the word "said," which were sold to aspiring authors from tiny ads in [American] magazines of the pre-[WWII] era.

  • Tom Swifty

    An unseemly [compulsion] to follow the word "said" with a colorful adverb, as in "'We'd better hurry,' Tom said swiftly." This was a standard mannerism of the old [Tom Swift] adventure dime-novels. Good [dialogue] can stand on its own without a clutter of [adverbial] props.

Part Two: Paragraphs and Prose Structure

  • Bathos

    A sudden, alarming change in the level of [diction]. "There will be bloody riots and savage [insurrection]s leading to a violent popular uprising unless the [regime] starts being lots nicer about stuff."

  • Countersinking

    A form of [expositional] [redundancy] in which the action clearly implied in [dialogue] is made [explicit]. "'Let's get out of here,' he said, urging her to leave."

  • Dischism

    The [unwitting] intrusion of the author's physical surroundings, or the author's own [mental] state, into the text of the story. Authors who smoke or drink while writing often drown or choke their characters with an endless supply of booze and cigs. In subtler forms of the Dischism, the characters complain of their [confusion] and [indecision] -- when this is actually the author's condition at the moment of writing, not theirs within the story. "Dischism" is named after the [critic] who diagnosed this syndrome. (Attr. [Thomas M. Disch])

  • False Humanity

    An [ailment] [endemic] to genre writing, in which [soap-opera] elements of purported human interest are stuffed into the story willy-nilly, whether or not they advance the plot or contribute to the point of the story. The actions of such characters convey an itchy sense of irrelevance, for the author has invented their problems out of whole cloth, so as to have something to [emote] about.

  • False Interiorization

    A cheap labor-saving technique in which the [author], too lazy to describe the surroundings, afflicts the viewpoint-character with a [blindfold], an attack of space-sickness, the urge to play [marathon] whist-games in the smoking-room, etc.

  • Fuzz

    An element of motivation the author was too [lazy] to supply. The word "somehow" is a useful tip-off to fuzzy areas of a story. "Somehow she had forgotten to bring her gun."

  • Hand Waving

    An attempt to [distract] the reader with dazzling prose or other verbal [fireworks], so as to divert attention from a severe [logical] [flaw]. (Attr. [Stewart Brand])

  • Laughtrack

    Characters [grandstand] and tug the reader's sleeve in an effort to force a specific [emotional] reaction. They laugh wildly at their own jokes, cry loudly at their own pain, and rob the reader of any real chance of attaining [genuine] [emotion].

  • Show, Don't Tell

    A [cardinal] principle of [effective] [writing]. The reader should be allowed to react naturally to the [evidence] presented in the story, not instructed in how to react by the author. Specific incidents and carefully observed details will render [auctorial] lectures unnecessary. For instance, instead of telling the reader "She had a bad childhood, an unhappy childhood," a specific incident -- involving, say, a locked closet and two jars of [honey] -- should be shown.

    Rigid adherence to show-don't-tell can become absurd. Minor matters are sometimes best gotten out of the way in a swift, straightforward fashion.

  • Signal from Fred

    A [comic] form of the "Dischism" in which the author's subconscious, alarmed by the poor quality of the work, makes unwitting critical comments: "This doesn't make sense." "This is really boring." "This sounds like a bad movie." (Attr. [Damon Knight])

  • Squid in the Mouth

    The [failure] of an author to realize that his/her own [weird] [assumption]s and personal in-jokes are simply not shared by the world-at-large. Instead of applauding the [wit] or [insight] of the author's remarks, the world-at-large will stare in vague shock and alarm at such a writer, as if he or she had a live [squid] in the mouth.

    Since [science fiction|SF] writers as a [breed] are generally quite [loony], and in fact make this a stock in trade, "squid in the mouth" doubles as a term of grudging praise, describing the essential, irreducible, divinely unpredictable lunacy of the true [science fiction|SF] writer. (Attr. [James Blaylock])

  • Squid on the Mantelpiece

    [Anton Chekhov|Chekhov] said that if there are [dueling pistols] over the [mantelpiece] in the first act, they should be fired in the third. In other words, a [plot] [element] should be deployed in a timely fashion and with proper dramatic emphasis. However, in [science fiction|SF] plotting the [McGuffins] are often so overwhelming that they cause conventional plot structures to collapse. It's hard to properly dramatize, say, the domestic effects of Dad's bank [overdraft] when a giant writhing [kraken] is leveling the city. This mismatch between the [conventional] dramatic proprieties and [science fiction|SF]'s [extreme], [grotesque], or [visionary] [thematics] is known as the "squid on the mantelpiece."

  • White Room Syndrome

    A clear and common sign of the [failure] of the author's [imagination], most often seen at the beginning of a story, before the [setting], [background], or characters have gelled. "She awoke in a white room." The 'white room' is a [featureless] set for which details have yet to be invented -- a failure of invention by the [author]. The character 'wakes' in order to begin a fresh train of thought -- again, just like the author. This 'white room' opening is generally followed by much earnest pondering of circumstances and useless exposition; all of which can be cut, painlessly.

    It remains to be seen whether the "white room" [cliche]' will fade from use now that most authors confront glowing screens rather than blank white paper.

  • Wiring Diagram Fiction

    A [genre] [ailment] related to "False Humanity," "Wiring Diagram Fiction" involves "characters" who show no convincing [emotional] reactions at all, since they are overwhelmed by the author's [fascination] with [gadgetry] or [didactic] lectures.

  • You Can't Fire Me, I Quit

    An attempt to [diffuse] the reader's [incredulity] with a preemptive strike -- as if by anticipating the reader's [objections], the author had somehow answered them. "I would never have believed it, if I hadn't seen it myself!" "It was one of those amazing coincidences that can only take place in real life!" "It's a one-in-a-million chance, but it's so crazy it just might work!" Surprisingly common, especially in [science fiction|SF]. (Attr. [John Kessel])

Part Three: Common Workshop Story Types

  • Adam and Eve Story

    Nauseatingly common subset of the "Shaggy God Story" in which a terrible [apocalypse], [spaceship] crash, etc., leaves two survivors, man and woman, who turn out to be [Adam] and [Eve], parents of the [human race]!!

  • The Cozy Catastrophe

    Story in which [horrific] events are overwhelming the entirety of [human] [civilization], but the action concentrates on a small group of tidy, middle-class, white [Anglo-Saxon] protagonists. The essence of the cozy catastrophe is that the hero should have a pretty good time (a girl, free suites at the Savoy, automobiles for the taking) while everyone else is dying off. (Attr. [Brian Aldiss])

  • [Dennis Hopper] [Syndrome]

    A story based on some [arcane] bit of [science] or [folklore], which noodles around producing [random] [weirdness]. Then a loony character-actor (usually best played by [Dennis Hopper]) barges into the story and baldly tells the [protagonist] what's going on by explaining the underlying [mystery] in a long bug-eyed [rant]. (Attr. [Howard Waldrop])

  • Deus ex Machina or "God in the Box"

    Story featuring a [miraculous] solution to the story's [conflict], which comes out of nowhere and renders the plot struggles [irrelevant]. [H.G. Wells] warned against [science fiction|SF]'s love for the [deus ex machina] when he coined the famous dictum that "If anything is possible, then nothing is interesting." Science fiction, which specializes in making the impossible seem plausible, is always deeply intrigued by [godlike] powers in the handy pocket size. [Artificial Intelligence], [virtual reality|virtual realities] and [nanotechnology] are three contemporary [science fiction|SF] McGuffins that are cheap portable sources of limitless miracle.

  • The Grubby Apartment Story

    Similar to the "poor me" story, this [autobiographical] effort features a miserably quasi-[bohemian] [writer], living in [urban] [angst] in a grubby apartment. The story commonly stars the author's friends in thin disguises -- friends who may also be the author's [workshop] companions, to their considerable alarm.

  • The Jar of Tang

    "For you see, we are all living in a jar of [Tang]!" or "For you see, I am a dog!" A story [contrived] so that the author can spring a silly surprise about its setting. Mainstay of the old [Twilight Zone] TV show. An entire pointless story contrived so the author can cry "Fooled you!" For instance, the story takes place in a [desert] of coarse orange sand surrounded by an impenetrable [vitrine] barrier; surprise! our heroes are [microbes] in a jar of [Tang] powdered orange drink.

    This is a [classic] case of the difference between a [conceit] and an [idea]. "What if we all lived in a jar of Tang?" is an example of the former; "What if the revolutionaries from the [sixties] had been allowed to set up their own [society]?" is an example of the latter. Good [science fiction|SF] requires [ideas], not [conceits]. (Attr. Stephen P. Brown)

    When done with serious intent rather than as a passing conceit, this type of story can be dignified by the term "Concealed Environment." (Attr. [Christopher J. Priest])

  • Just-Like Fallacy

    SF story which thinly adapts the trappings of a standard [pulp] [adventure] setting. The [spaceship] is "just like" an Atlantic steamer, down to the [Scottish] [engineer] in the hold. A [colony] [planet] is "just like" [Arizona] except for two moons in the sky. "Space [Westerns]" and futuristic [hard-boiled] [detective] stories have been especially common versions.

  • The Kitchen-Sink Story

    A story [overwhelmed] by the inclusion of any and every new [idea] that occurs to the [author] in the process of writing it. (Attr. [Damon Knight])

  • The Motherhood Statement

    SF story which posits some profoundly unsettling [threat] to the [human] [condition], explores the implications briefly, then hastily retreats to affirm the [conventional] [social] and [humanistic] [piety|pieties], ie apple pie and motherhood. [Greg Egan] once stated that the secret of truly effective [science fiction|SF] was to deliberately "burn the [motherhood] statement." (Attr. [Greg Egan])

  • The "Poor Me" Story

    [Autobiographical] piece in which the [male] viewpoint character complains that he is [ugly] and can't get [laid]. (Attr. [Kate Wilhelm])

  • Re-Inventing the Wheel

    A [novice] [author] goes to enormous lengths to create a science-fictional situation already tiresomely familiar to the [experienced] [reader]. Reinventing the Wheel was traditionally typical of [mainstream] writers venturing into [science fiction|SF]. It is now often seen in writers who lack experience in [genre] [history] because they were attracted to written [science fiction|SF] via [science fiction|SF] movies, [science fiction|SF] [television] series, [science fiction|SF] [role-playing games], [science fiction|SF] comics or [science fiction|SF] [computer] gaming.

  • The [Rembrandt] Comic Book

    A story in which incredible [craftsmanship] has been lavished on a [theme] or [idea] which is basically [trivial] or [subliterary], and which simply cannot bear the weight of such deadly-serious [artistic] [portent].

  • The Shaggy God Story

    A piece which mechanically adopts a [Biblical] or other [mythological] tale and provides flat science-fictional "explanations" for the [theological] events. (Attr. [Michael Moorcock])

  • The Slipstream Story

    Non-SF story which is so [ontological|ontologically] [distorted] or related in such a bizarrely non-[realist] fashion that it cannot pass [muster] as commercial [mainstream] fiction and therefore seeks shelter in the [science fiction|SF] or [fantasy] [genre]. Postmodern [critique] and [technique] are particularly fruitful in creating [slipstream] stories.

  • The Steam-Grommet Factory

    [Didactic] [science fiction|SF] story which consists entirely of a guided tour of a large and elaborate [gimmick]. A common technique of [science fiction|SF] [utopia]s and [dystopia]s. (Attr. [Gardner Dozois])

  • The [Tabloid] Weird

    Story produced by a confusion of [science fiction|SF] and [Fantasy] [trope]s -- or rather, by a confusion of basic world-views. [Tabloid] [Weird] is usually produced by the author's own inability to distinguish between a rational, [Newtonian]-[Einstein]ian, cause-and- effect [universe] and an [irrational], [supernatural], [fantastic] universe. Either the [FBI] is hunting the escaped [mutant] from the [genetics] [lab], or the drill-bit has bored straight into [Hell] -- but not both at once in the very same piece of [fiction]. Even [fantasy] worlds need an internal consistency of sorts, so that a [Sasquatch] Deal-with-the-Devil story is also "Tabloid Weird." Sasquatch [crypto-zoology] and [Christian] folk superstition simply don't mix well, even for [comic] effect. (Attr. [Howard Waldrop])

  • The Whistling Dog

    A story related in such an [elaborate], [arcane], or [convoluted] manner that it impresses by its sheer [narrative] [ingenuity], but which, as a story, is basically not worth the candle. Like the whistling dog, it's astonishing that the thing can whistle -- but it doesn't actually whistle very well. (Attr. [Harlan Ellison])

Part Four: Plots

  • Abbess Phone Home

    Takes its name from a [mainstream] story about a [medieval] [cloister] which was sold as [science fiction|SF] because of the [serendipitous] arrival of a [UFO] at the end. By extension, any mainstream story with a [gratuitous] [science fiction|SF] or fantasy element tacked on so it could be sold.

  • And Plot

    [Picaresque] plot in which this happens, and then that happens, and then something else happens, and it all adds up to nothing in particular.

  • Bogus Alternatives

    List of [actions] a character could have taken, but didn't. Frequently includes all the reasons why. In this [nervous] mannerism, the author stops the action dead to work out [complicated] [plot] problems at the reader's expense. "If I'd gone along with the cops they would have found the gun in my purse. And anyway, I didn't want to spend the night in jail. I suppose I could have just run instead of stealing their car, but then..." etc. Best dispensed with entirely.

  • Card Tricks in the Dark

    Elaborately contrived plot which arrives at (a) the [punchline] of a [private] [joke] no reader will get or (b) the display of some bit of learned [trivia] relevant only to the [author]. This stunt may be intensely ingenious, and very gratifying to the author, but it serves no visible [fictional] purpose. (Attr. [Tim Powers])

  • Idiot Plot

    A plot which functions only because all the characters involved are [idiot]s. They behave in a way that suits the author's [convenience], rather than through any [rational] [motivation] of their own. (Attr. [James Blish])

  • [Kudzu] plot

    Plot which weaves and curls and writhes in weedy organic profusion, smothering everything in its path.

  • Plot Coupons

    The basic building blocks of the [quest]-type [fantasy] plot. The "hero" collects sufficient plot coupons ([magic] [sword], [magic] [book], [magic] [cat]) to send off to the author for the ending. Note that "the author" can be substituted for "the Gods" in such a work: "The Gods decreed he would pursue this quest." Right, mate. The author decreed he would pursue this quest until sufficient pages were filled to procure an [advance]. ([Dave Langford])

  • Second-order Idiot Plot

    A plot involving an entire invented [science fiction|SF] [society] which functions only because every single person in it is necessarily an [idiot]. (Attr. [Damon Knight])

Part Five: Background

  • "As You Know Bob"

    A [pernicious] form of info-dump through [dialogue], in which characters tell each other things they already know, for the sake of getting the reader up-to-speed. This very common technique is also known as "Rod and Don dialogue" (attr. [Damon Knight]) or "maid and butler dialogue" (attr. [Algis Budrys]).

  • The Edges of Ideas

    The [solution] to the "Info-Dump" problem (how to fill in the [background]). The theory is that, as above, the mechanics of an interstellar drive (the center of the idea) is not important: all that matters is the [impact] on your characters: they can get to other [planet]s in a few months, and, oh yeah, it gives them [hallucinations] about past lives. Or, more [radically]: the [physics] of [TV] [transmission] is the center of an idea; on the edges of it we find people turning into [couch potatoes] because they no longer have to leave home for [entertainment]. Or, more bluntly: we don't need info dump at all. We just need a clear picture of how people's lives have been affected by their background. This is also known as "carrying [extrapolation] into the fabric of daily life."

  • Eyeball Kick

    [Vivid], telling details that create a [kaleidoscopic] effect of swarming visual imagery against a [baroquely] [elaborate] [science fiction|SF] background. One ideal of cyberpunk [science fiction|SF] was to create a "crammed prose" full of "eyeball kicks." (Attr. [Rudy Rucker])

  • Frontloading

    Piling too much [exposition] into the beginning of the story, so that it becomes so dense and dry that it is almost impossible to read. (Attr. [Connie Willis])

  • Infodump

    Large chunk of [indigestible] [expository] matter intended to explain the background situation. Info-dumps can be covert, as in fake newspaper or "[Encyclopedia] [Galactica]" articles, or overt, in which all action stops as the author assumes center stage and [lecture]s. Info-dumps are also known as "expository lumps." The use of brief, deft, inoffensive info-dumps is known as "kuttnering," after [Henry Kuttner]. When information is worked unobtrusively into the story's basic structure, this is known as "[Robert Heinlein|heinleining]."

  • I've suffered for my Art (and Now It's Your Turn)

    A form of info-dump in which the author inflicts upon the reader hard-won, but [irrelevant] bits of [data] acquired while researching the story. As [Algis Budrys] once pointed out, [homework] exists to make the [difficult] look [easy].

  • Nowhere Nowhen Story

    Putting too little [exposition] into a short story's beginning, so that the [story], while physically [readable], seems to take place in a [vacuum] and fails to engage any readerly [interest]. (Attr. [L. Sprague de Camp])

  • Ontological Riff

    Passage in an [science fiction|SF] story which suggests that our deepest and most basic convictions about the nature of [reality], [space-time], or [consciousness] have been violated, [technologically] transformed, or at least rendered thoroughly [dubious]. The works of [H. P. Lovecraft], [Barrington Bayley], and [Philip K. Dick] abound in "ontological riffs."

  • Space Western

    The most [pernicious] suite of "[Used Furniture]" in a story. The [grizzled] [space] [captain] swaggering into the [spacer] bar and slugging down a [Jupiter|Jovian] brandy, then laying down a few credits for a space [hooker] to give him a [Galactic Rim] Job.

  • Stapeldon

    Name assigned to the [voice] which takes [center stage] to [lecture] in a [story]. Actually a common [noun], as: "You have a Stapledon come on to answer this problem instead of showing the [character]s resolve it."

  • Used Furniture

    Use of a background out of [Central Casting]. Rather than invent a [background] and have to explain it, or risk re-inventing the wheel, let's just steal one. We'll set it in the [Star Trek] Universe, only we'll call it the [Empire] instead of the [Federation].

Part Six: Character and Viewpoint

  • Funny-Hat Characterization

    A [character] distinguished by a single [identifying] tag, such as odd headgear, a [limp], a [lisp], a [parrot] on his shoulder, etc.

  • Mrs. Brown

    The small, [downtrodde]n, eminently common, everyday little [person] who nevertheless encapsulates something vital and important about the [human] [condition]. "Mrs. Brown" is a [rare] personage in the [science fiction|SF] genre, being generally overshadowed by swaggering [submyth] types made of the finest gold-plated [cardboard]. In a famous essay, "Science Fiction and Mrs. Brown," [Ursula K. Le Guin] decried Mrs. Brown's absence from the [science fiction|SF] field. (Attr: [Virginia Woolf])

  • Submyth

    Classic character-types in [science fiction|SF] which aspire to the condition of [archetype] but don't quite make it, such as the [mad scientist], the crazed [supercomputer], the [emotionless] super-rational [alien], the [vindictive] [mutant] child, etc. (Attr. [Ursula K. Le Guin])

  • Viewpoint Glitch

    The author loses track of point-of-view, switches [point-of-view] for no good [reason], or relates something that the [viewpoint] [character] could not possibly know.

Part Seven: Miscellaneous

  • AM/FM

    Engineer's term distinguishing the inevitable [clunky] real-world [faultiness] of "Actual Machines" from the power-[fantasy] [techno]-dreams of "Fucking [Magic]."

  • Consensus Reality

    Useful term for the [purported] [world] in which the majority of [modern] [sane] people generally agree that they live -- as opposed to the worlds of, say, [Forteans], [semioticians] or [quantum] [physicists].

  • Intellectual Sexiness

    The [intoxicating] [glamor] of a [novel] [scientific] [idea], as [distinguished] from any actual [intellectual] [merit] that it may someday prove to [possess].