By Janet Fogg
No, I’m not going to curse the slow pace of my writing, the economy, or the general state of the world, though I could. What I would like to understand is how you handle cursing in speculative fiction and whether you often stumble as I do, when reading an unusual curse.
I love science fiction and fantasy and have read it since I was young, but I’m often shoved out of the glorious world created by an author when a “custom” curse leaps from the page to poke me right in the eye. And I don’t mean an F-bomb or other common four letter words. I’m referring to a creative word or combination of words that the author has molded to specifically fit into the context of his world-building, and unfortunately, that unusual curse sometimes gets in the way like a swollen thumb.
An example I’ll point to (using an index finger and not my thumb) is in Larry Niven’s Ringworld series. I wish I had a tenth of his talent and have read most of his books multiple times, so I mean no disrespect when I point to his use of "Tanj!" and “Tanjit!” When I read those curses I stop cold. To me, "Tanj!" is non-euphonious and somewhat awkward. Not that curses should be particularly pleasing to the ear, but they do tend to roll off the tongue.
So is it just me and “Tanj!” that don’t get along? How do you handle “custom” curses in your manuscripts?