The Word-Hoard: a series

The eldest one answered him, leader of the troop, unlocked his word-hoard. [source]

– Beowulf


If the pen be mightier than the sword, then an author’s lexicon is the blade by which he aims to cut to the core of a reader. Of course this doesn’t mean thumbing through a dictionary and sprinkling in abstruse terminology willy-nilly. A good writer builds a healthy store of words and wields them judiciously.

This is one thought I’ve had recently, as I’ve mulled new story ideas and continued to pore over classic scifi/fantasy stories.

“Preeminent word choice” is one of the commonalities uniting two of my favorite authors – Robert E Howard and Jack Vance. Howard’s prose tends toward the poetic. It flows. It paints a picture. The beauty and cleanness of his writing has been an important inspiration to me. Through his Conan stories, Howard also introduced me to words like “sward” and “shagreen,” which have fallen out of use in popular SFF in more recent years.

Where Howard was one of the masters of the Weird Tale, Vance excelled at writing “the strange and wonderful:” hand catapults and bipedal, flamethrower-wielding amphibians; magical murder-hobos and gigantic, centipedal tanks. Vance had an immensely creative mind, which he supported with a wonderfully expansive and wisely employed vocabulary.

It was with this in mind that I decided to run a series on interesting words found throughout my SF/F reading. This is by no means aimed solely at writers, though I think we would all do well to add new ammunition to our stockpiles. Hopefully this will be something many fans of the language (and in some cases of the genre) will be able to appreciate. Given my reading tendencies of late, many of my selections will most likely highlight older, more classic scifi and fantasy. It would be a great pleasure to someday learn that I had, in this small capacity, introduced some folks to some new (to them!) SF/F writers.


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