Quotes: Finland Is Weird. Finland Is Different

I first became aware of Adrian Tchaikovsky when he won the Arthur C. Clarke Award in 2016. I’ve been meaning to check out his writing since then. Ironclads, a limited-edition hardcover novella, finally made it to the top of my TBR pile last month.

The novella was great in several respects, but I was especially tickled by the American POV character’s descriptions of Finland and Finns. For example:

“All the middle of Nordland is the bit we’ve got problems with, basically: Sweden and Finland, say the maps. Sweden is where the fighting is, and the other place… Finland is weird. Finland is different.“

– Adrian Tchaikovsky: Ironclads

The version of U.S. in the story is fighting in Scandinavia, and, due to having laxer laws on genetic modification, Finland apparently has become home to very interesting types of special forces.

But the best, the absolutely best detail is mentioned in this section:

Quotes Tchaikovsky Ironclads

“[F]or a long time I couldn’t even work out what was on her screens. Then it started animating, frame by stilted frame, and I worked out that some parts of what I was seeing were a satellite view. The vast majority of what should have been contested Swedish soil was smeared with roiling dark clouds that obscured any sight we might have had of what the enemy was doing.

“’Seriously,’ Sturgeon hissed, ‘what is that?’

“’Is that the flies?’ Lawes asked gloomily.

“’Yeah.’ Cormoran gave us a bright look. “Gentlemen, this is a gift from the Finns. They breed these little bugs, midges, they chip ’em and ship ’em, and every so often the Nords release a batch. There are millions of the little critters each time, and they basically just block the view of our satellites – and we can’t see a thing – no one can. So every time our forces advance, we’re going in blind. Makes for all kinds of fun.’

“’They bite?’ Franken asked uneasily. We were all thinking it: mosquitoes, disease, some kind of Finnish labgrown plague that zeroed in on the stars and stripes.

“’Not yet,’ Lawes told us. ‘Jolly thought though, ain’t it?’”

– Adrian Tchaikovsky: Ironclads [original emphasis]

The militarization of mosquitoes! We already joke—as a way of dealing with an irritant that’s just a part and parcel of life—that mosquitoes are the Finnish air force. Finally, someone did it! 😀

It makes perfect sense in a world with aggressive biological research to turn a ubiquitous pest into an asset. Come to think of it, it sounds very much like the strategies that Finns used in the Winter War of 1939-1940 against Soviet forces—making native conditions work for you and against the enemy.

Of course, no one person can disapprove or approve of any characterization on behalf of their whole group. However, in My Official Opininon As a Finn, Tchaikovsky managed to balance well the view of Finland as part of Scandinavia with Finns being distinctly different from their Swedish, Norwegian, and Danish cousins. Also, he got so many little details right, like the way the Finnish language sounds, or our deep appreciation of nature.

I practically tore through the book. Kudos!

Tchaikovsky, Adrian. Ironclads. Oxford: Solaris, 2017, p. 22 and p. 29.

This post has been edited to correct a typo.

Serving exactly what it sounds like, the Quotes feature excerpts other people’s thoughts.

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Thanksgiving Break

Time for the annual turkey day! We’ll be off for the next week or so for Thanksgiving.

WoW Druid Turkey Worship

If you’re celebrating, hope you’ll have a good one!

Image: screenshot from the World of Warcraft Critter Gitter achievement with turkeys

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Some things are just too silly not to share!

Legal Brief Partly in Klingon to Counter a Big Movie Studio

The copyright infringement case filed by Paramount Pictures Corporation against the Star Trek fan production Axanar has been in the news a bit this spring. I have a mild interest in it, but I don’t spend much time following the reports—with one marvellous, excellent, and hilarious exception.

Attorney Marc Randazza wrote an amicus curiae brief for Language Creation Society (i.e., for the defendant’s benefit) to counter a copyright claim by Paramount “over the entire Klingon language, not any particular words or portions of dialogue from any episodes of Star Trek, but in the entire vocabulary, graphemes, and grammar rules of Klingon.”

His friend and co-blogger Ken White at Popehat shared the story and the brief itself (as a .pdf file). (The full docket for the case is also available via the U.S. Courts Archive.)

Mr. Randazza not only argues that one cannot copyright an entire language, invented or not; he also briefly summarizes the history and some current uses of Klingon. (Did you know, for example, that the Klingon Language Institute has overseen Klingon wordplay contests? I didn’t. Check them out; the palindromes are especially awesome.)

The best thing about the brief, however, is how Mr. Randazza uses Klingon—complete with the Klingon font, transliterations to the Latin alphabet, and translations—to illustrate his arguments.

I’ve copied three examples below without the Klingon font, using the Latin transliterations instead and adding the English translations Mr. Randazza provides. It’s worthwhile to visit the .pdf brief available online (here or here) for the full effect, though.

“Plaintiff Paramount Pictures Corporation (“Paramount”) has claimed this copyright interest for many years, but has not actually asserted it in court before now – most likely because the notion of it is [meq Hutlh / it lacks reasons].”

[p. 9 of 26]

“Just as poker jargon is unprotectable, so is Klingon. To grant such protection would be to attempt to leash that which Plaintiffs have no right to control. Plaintiffs will learn that [Suvlu’taHvIS yapbe’ HoS neH / brute strength is not the most important asset in a fight].”

[pp. 16-17 of 26]

“Plaintiffs attempt to downplay the significance of their claim of ownership over the Klingon language by arguing that ‘a language is only useful if it can be used to communication [sic] with people, and there are no Klingons with whom to communicate.’ […]

“A language is not constrained to a given ethnic or racial group. By their logic, Ancient Greek is not ‘useful’ because the Ancient Greeks are no longer with us, and the language has no native speakers, despite it being the original language of some of the seminal literary and philosophical works of the western world. Plaintiffs’ logic would seem to dictate that French is not ‘useful’ if spoken by a native German. [qoH vuvbe’ SuS / The wind does not respect a fool.]”

[pp. 23-24 of 26]

At the very least, do yourself a favor and check out how the first line of the Sesame Street theme song translates into Klingon (pp. 23-24). Ha!

Randazza Amicus Curiae Paramount v Axanar

Mr. Randazza’s straightforward and humorous writing not only counters stereotypes about legal language, but it’s also very informative. (And he did it pro bono!) Qapla’, sir!

Image: Screencap from Brief of Amicus Curiae by Marc J. Randazza for Paramount v. Axanar (case no. 2:15-cv-09938-RGK-E) filed April 26, 2016

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Solid Centers and Fuzzy Edges

150730SapphoThis is not the post I had intended for today. When I started working on this one, it was about some of the different ways of organizing basic labor that have existed in history, from slave gangs to independent peasant farmers. As I kept working on it, I found that I had more to say about slavery, especially in light of the public dialogue that has been happening in the United States lately surrounding symbols of the Confederacy. So I started working on a post specifically about slavery in historical context, but as I tried to write that post, it became clear to me that there is an even more fundamental issue in historical interpretation I needed to talk about, something that applies not just to slavery but to almost every historical phenomenon. It is so universal that we don’t really have a standard vocabulary for talking about it. You could call it variability, or you could call it norms and exceptions, but I prefer to think of it as solid centers and fuzzy edges.

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