Posts Tagged ‘language’

Minor update to ONLY SUPERHUMAN Historical timeline

Today I had occasion to glance over the Only Superhuman Historical Timeline page here on my site, and I noticed it was a bit outdated in some of the details, as well as containing a significant typo in one entry (with the word “And” and several spaces inserted somehow in the middle of a word). In particular, I referred to the conflict in 2076 as the Belt War, a leftover term from early drafts that didn’t appear in the final text of OS, whereas in “Murder on the Cislunar Railroad” (Analog, June 2016) I’d renamed it the Orbit War, since it was as much between Earth and its orbital habitats as between Earth and the Asteroid belt. (The Orbit War name also appears in the historical appendix to my upcoming collection Among the Wild Cybers: Tales Beyond the Superhuman). I also realized that the description I’d given of the conflict didn’t quite jibe with “Cislunar” or with the background given in the first chapter of OS. So I made some tweaks to the Timeline text to make it more cohesive. (I also updated “Belt War” to “Orbit War” on the Character Profiles page for the novel.)

Only Superhuman MMPB coverIn the course of doing this, I discovered a convergence that had never occurred to me. In Chapter 3 of OS (the first flashback chapter), when Emerald Blair’s father Richard is explaining the backstory of the Earth-Strider tensions to his young daughter, he says at one point that, as a pacifist, he couldn’t fight in “the war or the troubles that followed,” meaning the dissolution of the Strider states into chaos and internecine struggles in the years after the war. It struck me that if that period had actually been known as “the Troubles” (also the term used to refer to the Northern Ireland conflict of the 1960s-90s, a similar era of political/social strife and violence), that would provide a nice explanation for how the superpowered peacekeepers who emerged to save lives and promote order during the period came to be known as the Troubleshooters. I’d always assumed that they’d picked up that nickname before then, and there are lines referring to early Troubleshooters’ involvement in the war, but those lines are in retrospect, spoken years after the fact, so the name could be applied anachronistically. Even if some of these private vigilantes were informally called “troubleshooters” before the actual Troubles in the early 2080s (and before the Troubleshooter Corps’s founding in 2083), it could’ve been the reason the name caught on during and after them. It’s got a nice resonance, and it doesn’t overtly contradict anything in the text, so it works. Indeed, I wonder if I might have had something like this in mind when I wrote the line “the troubles that followed,” but didn’t remember it later on.

In real life, I chose the name “Troubleshooter” because I initially envisioned the characters as an elite class of problem-solvers within a larger Solar Security Bureau, before I realized the premise worked better without a central Solar System government and started over from scratch with OS. But with that backstory gone, the etymology of the name “Troubleshooter” for what were now outright superheroes became a bit more random. I kept it because I wanted to stress that my heroes were primarily problem-solvers, not just fighters. But this new insight gives the name more of an in-universe justification. And it fits neatly, because in OS I used the word “trouble” as a recurring motif in chapter titles and dialogue (including the Green Blaze’s catchphrase, “Looking for trouble? You just found her.”) I’m kind of surprised I didn’t think of it before. Whether I ever get to use it in an actual story remains to be seen, though.

Anyway, this is a reminder to be more careful about curating my website content. When I check the text of my stories to ensure they’re consistent with each other, I don’t always remember I have further material on the site. That material may not be strictly canonical, but I should remember to check it for consistency with new stories. I’m glad I caught this before the release of Among the Wild Cybers, which will hopefully bring some new readers to my site.

Getting hyper

On the way back from grocery shopping today, I saw a car in front of me whose rear window bore a decal saying “HYPERLITE” in a hard-to-read font, so that I initially thought it said “HYPOCRITE.”  I went through an intermediate moment when I thought it said “HYPERCRITE,” and that got me wondering: what would a hypercrite be?

Hypo- and hyper- are opposites despite their very similar sounds, because the Ancient Greeks evidently thought it would be funny to play a prank on inattentive people down through the ages.  Hypo- means below, hyper- means above.  For instance, hypotension is low blood pressure and hypertension is high blood pressure.   So if a hypocrite is someone who acts falsely or insincerely, what would the opposite extreme from that be?  What would a hypocrite be below?  What is -crite?  Hypocritical, hypocrisy… it sounds like the same root as in “crisis” or “critical,” which suggests decision, judgment.  Is a hypocrite literally someone with diminished judgment?  Let’s find out.  To the dictionary!

[C13: from Old French ipocrite, via Late Latin, from Greek hupokritēs one who plays a part, from hupokrinein to feign, from krinein to judge]

early 13c., from O.Fr. ypocrite (Mod.Fr. hypocrite ), from Church L. hypocrita , from Gk. hypokrites “stage actor, pretender, dissembler,” from hypokrinesthai (see hypocrisy).

Okay… so I guess the idea is that krinein is to judge or distinguish, so someone playing the part of someone else is “below” being distinguishable, i.e. diminishing the distinction between oneself and the person one is pretending to be.  Their true self is below the threshold of discernment from the role they’re putting on.

So a “hypercrite” would thus have to be someone who’s more than usually distinct from other people, if taken literally.  In the modern sense, though, if a hypocrite is someone whose true beliefs and values are suppressed or hidden, then a hypercrite would have to be someone who is completely, even excessively open about one’s true thoughts and feelings — someone who can’t hide one’s opinion even if there’s good reason to.  Sort of like Jim Carrey in Liar, Liar, though there’s got to be a less annoying example.

That was fun, let’s try another one!  What about hypochondria?  What would a hyperchondriac be?  Chondr-, chondr-… that root sounds familiar, but I can’t think what it means.  So again, to the dictionary!

1839, “illness without a specific cause,” earlier (1668) “depression or melancholy without real cause,” earlier still (1373) ypocandria “upper abdomen,” from L.L. hypochondria “the abdomen,” from Gk. hypochondria (neut. pl.), from hypo- “under” (see sub-) + chondros “cartilage” (of the breastbone). Reflecting ancient belief that the viscera of the hypochondria were the seat of melancholy. Hypochondriac (n.) in modern sense first recorded 1888.

Oh, that’s no fun.  It’s just the name of a part of the body that was traditionally associated with melancholy.  So “hyperchondria” wouldn’t have any real meaning except maybe for another part of the body.  You can’t really postulate it as an antonym of the tendency to imagine being ill.

Oh, well, they can’t all be winners.

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