Tag Archives: science fiction

Immersive Languages

It’s a misuse of terms to say that we have a natural language; languages are arbitrary and conventions of peoples by institution. – François Rabelais

Constructed languages, or conlangs, are popular features of many science fiction and fantasy tales. Examples include Barsoomian (Edgar Rice Burrough’s John Carter series), Elvish and Khuzdul (Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy), Klingon (Star Trek), Na’vi (James Cameron’s Avatar), and Dothraki and Valyrian (George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire). Thanks to the efforts of dedicated – some might say obsessive – fans, these invented languages occasionally slip the bonds of their native genres, as witnessed by Klingon translations of Shakespeare and the Bible.

Not all conlangs have roots in fantastic literature. The most widely-spoken “auxiliary language,” Esperanto, was created in the late 19th century by a Polish ophthalmologist, and was intended to be an easy and flexible second tongue that would foster peace and international understanding. UC San Diego Linguistics Professor Grant Goodall was fascinated by languages at an early age, and quickly found himself drawn to Esperanto; through his study of Esperanto he developed an interest in other conlangs.

In addition to Goodall’s remarks about his linguistic adventures in Inventing Languages, two of the most popular contemporary conlangs, Na’vi and Dothraki, are discussed by their creators. Paul Frommer was tasked by Avatar director James Cameron to create a language for his science fiction epic set on an alien world. Frommer describes a process which entailed setting certain rules for the new language, dubbed Na’vi, which were drawn from various Earthbound tongues, including English, the Romance languages, and several Eastern European languages. The primary challenge was to create a language that seems sufficiently alien to our experience, yet could be learned quickly by decidedly human actors portraying the language’s native speakers while also lending itself to a vocabulary that could be expanded on short notice.

David Peterson, co-creator of the Dothraki language used in Game of Thrones, faced a somewhat different set of challenges since the basics of Dothraki were established in the novels upon which the series is based (complete with translations). Peterson’s first task was to reconcile inconsistencies in spellings across various books, followed by establishment of certain rules of grammar and pronunciation based on common usages in various modern languages – key elements in Peterson’s ability to form new Dothraki vocabulary upon demand. Like Frommer’s Na’vi, Peterson’s Dothraki needed to sound exotic while retaining just enough familiarity for actors to learn and speak the language convincingly.

In recent years conventions, workshops, seminars, websites, and user groups have sprung up around fictional languages, including Na’vi and Dothraki, as fans seek an immersive experience based on their favorite novel, film, or TV series. Thus far none have yet achieved the international prominence of Esperanto, but devotees are convinced that it’s only a matter of time.

Watch Inventing Languages: A Conversation in Language Construction

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The Literary Imagination with Jonathan Lethem and Kim Stanley Robinson

We may not often think of the role imagination plays in our society and in our everyday lives. Without imagination, would the internet exist? Would Edison have invented the light bulb? Would primitive man have invented the wheel?

Literature is a field where the imagination is encouraged to run freely. Science fiction in particular pushes the imagination to its limits. UC San Diego recently created a center devoted to this creative aspect of our minds, dedicated to the very imaginative author of 2001: A Space Odyssey, Arthur C. Clarke.

Watch “The Literary Imagination with Jonathan Lethem and Kim Stanley Robinson” to hear these two science fiction authors discuss the literary imagination in honor of the grand opening of UC San Diego’s Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination.

See what other literature programs are available on UCTV.

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Go “Back to the Future” with Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd) and Screenwriter Bob Gale

Back to the FutureToday it’s a permanent fixture in American popular culture, but the “Back to the Future” script was rejected over 40 times before it finally made it into production and, once it hit theaters in 1985, into our hearts.

In the first installment of the exciting new “Script to Screen” series from UC Santa Barbara’s esteemed Carsey-Wolf Center, legendary actor Christopher Lloyd, who so memorably portrayed flux capacitor inventor Dr. Emmett Brown, and “Back to the Future” screenwriter and producer Bob Gale sit down for an entertaining trip down memory lane as they share rare insights into the creation and enduring appeal of Marty McFly’s time travel adventures.

Watch “Script to Screen: Back to the Future,” online now. And stay tuned to UCTV for a conversation with “Dead Poets Society” screenwriter Tom Schulman and the hilarious Hollywood insider stories told by Kirsten Smith and Karen McCullah Lutz, writers of “10 Things I Hate About You,” “Legally Blonde,” and more.

If you’re into the business and creativity of the entertainment biz, then you’ll also want to check out all of our programs from the Carsey-Wolf Center, including a visit with “Modern Family” creator Steven Levitan and an assessment of the incomparable “Law & Order” franchise with its creator Dick Wolf and legendary TV producer Marcy Carsey (“Roseanne,” “The Cosby Show,” among many).

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David Brin on The Science Fiction Barometer

Last week on “It Came from Riverside: Inside the World’s Largest Science Fiction Collection,” we heard from comic book writer and editor Marv Wolfman about the art and craft of writing compelling stories with emotionally complex characters and imaginative plots for comics, animation, video games and everything in between.

Now we have the honor of presenting our interview with David Brin, renowned science fiction author and futurist (possibly the coolest job title on the planet), who discusses the merits and hazards of extrapolation in science fiction while making the case for enlightened optimism in the face of fashionable cynicism.

Watch “David Brin on The Science Fiction Barometer” from our YouTube original channel, UCTV Prime.

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The Wolfman Speaks (about Storytelling in Comics and Video Games)

If you’ve watched UCTV Prime’s “It Came from Riverside” series, then you’ve already had your virtual tour of the world’s largest science fiction and fantasy collection (if not, then we suggest you get on it!). Now we get the chance to bring you some bona fide stars of the genre!

Today it’s a visit from legendary comic book writer and editor Marv Wolfman (Marvel Comics, DC Comics and more), who discusses the art and craft of writing compelling stories with emotionally complex characters and imaginative plots for comics, animation, video games and everything in between.

Watch “The Wolfman Speaks (about Storytelling in Comics and Video Games)” and check back next Friday (Sept 28) for our interview with science fiction author and futurist David Brin!

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