Earlier this year we saw the publication of John Klima’s excellent anthology, Logorrhea: Good Words Make Good Stories. I mentioned it at the time (partially because it features my The Euonymist, partly because it’s a fab book), but to recap, this is a marvelous collection of stories inspired by the championship words in the US national spelling competition. If you’re into the best of indie fiction, or know someone who is, this book is Christmas present gold dust. The list of contributors alone is mouthwatering, not least of whom is Jeff Vandermeer whose closing contribution, based around the word Appoggiatura, skilfully manages to encompass all of the words that have preceded it in the book (all of the “spelling bee” words, that is – not ALL of the words, that’d be ridiculous!).
Well, there’s now a series of podcasts (read by Jason Erik Lundberg) available of each section of Jeff’s story, and to celebrate this, Mr Klima has asked each of the contributors to write a bit about how they came to choose the word they wrote about, and point their readers in the general direction of the appropriate podcast.
So, how did I come to write about the word Euonym? Well, it was all John’s fault really. A few years ago he wrote a post suggesting an idea for inspiring an expansion in vocabulary in the submissions he was receiving for his excellent zine, Electric Velocipede. As I remember it, John had been intrigued by some of the words that kids are asked to spell in those spelling bee competitions and, listing the championship winning words for the last ten years, he put out the challenge to writers to include some of these beauties in their stories. As I’m always up for a challenge I looked down the list, found a word I liked the sound of, found out what it meant, and then tried to work out how to fit it into a story.
Euonym – it means the right name for something. I liked that.
I quickly realised though, I couldn’t simply slip the word into one of my usual, everyday-worded stories. It would have stuck out like a day-glo iceberg. No, I had to write a story specifically for that word. I had to write a story about a man whose talent – and profession – was in finding the right names for things. I decided to make it a science fiction story because that meant I could have lots of newly discovered things that needed names, giving rise to a complicated galactic scenario where cultural claims on new worlds made professional euonymy a precise and politically pressured art.
And, to balance all that, it allowed me to get to preach a bit about the need for keeping all the old, wee languages alive. Languages like Scots, which are full of good words that should not be lost. And as we all know, good words make good stories.
Here’s Jeff Vandermeer’s take on Euonym from Appoggiatura. It’s a belter.