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Vera Nazarian
Posted on Wednesday, February 26, 2003 - 07:11 am:   

All right, there has to be a formal introduction post, right? I keep on thinking I need to write something spiffy (since this forum just seems to call for it, seeming to be particularly upscale and with such a concentration of erudite SF-literary luminaries) but every time I begin it's like this "uuuuuh" sense, like I am writing yet another bio paragraph for some recently sold work. You know, where you take the same old dratted bio paragraph that you've used before and you reuse it yet again, changing a line here and there, maybe mentioning a new sale or a whatsit.

I suppose I can stick in my usual bio from my webpage:

http://www.veranazarian.com/bio.htm

Here's a snippet:

"Vera Nazarian is arguably the only Armenian-Russian professional speculative fiction writer working in English today.

"Her life story is an unusual journey. She left the former Soviet Union at the height of the Cold War as a refugee at the age of eight, with her parents and nothing but a couple of suitcases:

http://www.sff.net/people/vera.nazarian/self.htp

and arrived in the United States in 1976, a month before her 10th birthday, by way of Lebanon, Greece, and Italy."

Okay, so that sounds rather groovy/funky/cutting edge but I think I'll just switch over into a more conversational tone.

So, I was born in Moscow, Russia and left the country (still the Soviet Union back then) as a kid with my parrents to immigrate to Beirut, Lebanon. Two weeks after we got there, the civil war started, and the Pearl of the Middle East started to get tarnished. A shame too. I might be living there still. As things stand, pretty much all I remember in Arabic is "Yallah, batiakh!" which means, "Buy a watermelon!"

Still refugees, we eventually got to the United States of America, and I continued learning English which I had began learning a year early, in second grade in Moscow special school #30 (Russian schools were numbered in those days, dunno if they still are). How did I get to be in this special school? Sheer luck. My mother was a teacher and she got transferred from regular school #671 (where I went to 1st and 2nd grade in part), and I got to come along. Special schools just meant you got to focus on something like a language, and Moscow school #30 just happened to have an emphasis on the English language. Again, just my luck to begin English so early.

Well, after I got to America, I read like crazy, continuing my addiction but switching from Russian into English. Russian classics and ancient Greek mythology was replaced by English-language fantasy and SF. (As a kid I had been an Ancient Greece freak, so having spent part of my refugee time in Greece was like heaven. I got to see the Parthenon from some distance as we drove by, a busload of Armenian Lebanon war refugees going about on immigration business, and both my mother and I screamed in awe and joy.)

So, I read and read like most of you, sometimes two books a day, and I started to write an epic horrendous fantasy in junior high. I wrote in these black composition notebooks, usually college-ruled, with a thick parker ballpoint dark blue pen. In tiny handwriting. I graduated from Immaculate Heart, a Catholic high school in Los Angeles (Heidi Fleiss, the "Hollywood Madam" was in my class), and then went to Pomona College in Claremont, where I spent four years goofing off and playing with the computer mainframes as a student consultant while double majoring in Pshychology and English. I graduated, then went into high tech, where I did decades of hardware and software tech support by day and wrote by night.

First sale happened when I was a high school senior, the sale of a fantasy short story, "The Wound in the Moon" to the late Marion Zimmer Bradley's SWORD AND SORCERESS #2, a DAW antho. It somehow got changed to "Wound on the Moon" in print, and then I sold Marion about a dozen more stories to her various S&S and Darkover anthologies, and MZBFM. So yeah, I guess you can say I am a traditional fantasy writer. And yet, I was a little more than that. I was a Victorian-stodgy traditional fantasy writer. *grin* My mind was molded by Tolstoy and other old classics, and I wrote long and flowery in English, and I still kinda do.

It took years for me to stop writing sentences that were grammatically correct but about a page or two pages long. And yes, my style is still a little weird (to put it kindly). :-)

And somewhere during the summer of my 1984, my graduation from high school I got the idea for a novel about a world without color, an epic fantasy that was to take me all these years to create, and which is just coming out now -- LORDS OF RAINBOW. It is my first completed novel, though it is my second published one.

My first published weirdass novel (what I call a "collage novel") is DREAMS OF THE COMPASS ROSE.

Okay, maybe I'll continue this in a separate post. Enough meandering blab-o-rama for the moment.
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Jorge
Posted on Thursday, February 27, 2003 - 06:19 am:   

i russkiy yazik, tchto? Zabylos? ;)
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Mike Simanoff
Posted on Thursday, February 27, 2003 - 06:29 am:   

My govorim po russki zdes? Kak ty znaesh russki yazyk, Jorge?
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Vera Nazarian
Posted on Thursday, February 27, 2003 - 06:54 am:   

Ochen' priyatno shto zdes yest ludi kotorie tozhe govoryat po russki. Zabit' yazik etot nevozmozhno, vo pervix potomu shto ya govoruy po russki doma s moimi roditelyami. Oni ne govoryat po angliiski. Mat' govorit, no ne chuvstvuyet sebya svobodno, a otets sovsem naoborot, dumaet shto govorit, no nichevo ni ponimayet.

Okay, that's enough of that, before all the rest of non-Russian speakers run away! LOL!

I can do Spanish pretty fluently, some not so fluent Mandarin Chinese, my native Armenian (though I am illiterate in Armenian), a vague smattering of German and I can understand some spoken Italian (I sing opera) and French, though I've never studied either formally.
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Jorge
Posted on Thursday, February 27, 2003 - 07:03 am:   

Ya jil tri goda v sovyetskom soyuze, vot kak, Mike... :-) a seytchas moya strana polna s emigrantami iz russko-govoryachikhsya stran, tak tchto u menya mnogo vozmojnosti trenirovki...

S tvoey familii, ya ne budu tebya sprosit kak ty znaesh russki, Mike... :-)

OK, english now.

You have a good language-span, Vera. Does it help you in writing? Or is it the contrary?

Best,
Jorge, who knows good portuguese, not bad english and spanish, average russian and french and italian hardly enough for basic conversation.
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Vera Nazarian
Posted on Thursday, February 27, 2003 - 07:32 am:   

Jorge,

Very good command of Russian! :-)

I think the languages do help in writing because the more you know the more roots of words you can grasp, and words' meanings become deeper-ingrained. I am sure you know what I mean by that, seeing as you know a lot of languages yourself.

It's no longer just rote memorization of alien sound coupled with meaning, but now it is a lot of recognition, lots of "aha" moments when you see a word and suddenly know how it relates to different languages and how its variations reinforce or even undermine various meanings.

Connotations take on enhanced importance.

Languages help in musicality and in sentence structure variety, but one shortcoming can be that you start using uncanny sentence structures in any given language wihtout realizing you are being "weird" because in many other languages (which happen to be dancing in your head) that may not be a weird thing at all.

An example: Russian sentence structure being a fluid and malleable thing, it sometimes messes up my English. I start transposing words and clauses in a weird way that seems old-fashioned and even stodgy to a native English speaker, but in reality it is just my multi-lingual brain picking up on other grammar rules! LOL!
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Jorge
Posted on Thursday, February 27, 2003 - 09:32 am:   

Thank you! You're too kind... :-)

Yes, I do know what you mean. Learning foreign languages becomes an eye-opener in what concerns significance, hidden or not, and might become a big help in understanding one's own language or dialect. I surely felt that numerous times. It's a bit like doing archaeolinguistic studies without actually doing them, if you know what I mean...

On musicality, though, I don't know. I can understand what Anthony Burgess was after with his use of russian in A Clockwork Orange but that's a bit different to what you have in mind, isn't it? You speak of musicality within your own primary language, right?, not about the use of foreign words or derivatives in what you write. I must say I've never felt that...

Sentence structure variety and weirdness, yeah, yours is a very accurate description of the whole thing. We have SF writers that, because they read primarilly in english, show difficulties with portuguese writing. The more talented ones jump over these difficulties and end up innovating, but the others simply write in poor portuguese, which adds up with a number of other issues in turning portuguese SF literature into a marginal cloud of texts written by weird people in the eyes of the establishment.

Worse than that is when you translate. Good translators adapt sentence structure to the language they are translating into, producing texts that are linguistically opaque. This demands excellent knowledge of the two languages you are working with. Unfortunately good translators are an endangered species, and our market is full of translations so transparent that your brain converts the text automatically into what the original english would have looked like as you read. Not to mention the stewpeed errors they make all too often.

New topic: is there an armenian SF&F literature?

Best,
Jorge, the Asker :-)
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Vera Nazarian
Posted on Friday, February 28, 2003 - 09:15 am:   

I suppose I speak of musicality of all languages. For example in the choosing of character names I often go with the sonorous consonants (R, L) and multi-vowel combinations from the Roman ones. I mix the languages I know to produce sounds that I like to speak out loud. All names are sounded out repeatedly and also writen down to see how they look aesthetically before I finalize them.

True what you say of translators. You can tell their level of fluency immediately by the form of the sentences they use. Sentence structure in Russian is so fluid, for example, that you have to resort to the old-fashined English poetic word reversal just to approximate a lot of the Russian sentence flow.

And an excellent question about Armenian SF. I seriously do not know of any Armenian SF writers besides myself, at least not in the English language. I used to think that Greg Costikyan is one, since he has an Armenian last name, but I talked to him once about it, and he really only has some kind of distant relative or fourth cousin-level of Armenian in him, if any -- or I think it is by marriage or something.

Of course there are some Armenians writing SF in Russian. But in their native Armenian, I just don't think so.

I would love to be proven wrong. Because Ancient Armenia, or Urartu, and its connection with old Assyria, Phoenicia, Persia, is a fascinating repository of middle eastern historical-myth material that has not been much tapped at all.

I do use Armenian snippets in DREAMS OF THE COMPASS ROSE, but since no one knows about it, no one would recognize it. *grin*

For example, _taqavor_ which is my term for emperor or supreme ruler in the book, simply means "king" in Armenian. _Taqoui_ means "queen." There are other instances.

Oops, now you know so it is no longer a secret exotic word. Heheheh!
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liz williams
Posted on Tuesday, March 11, 2003 - 09:42 am:   

Ya izychio po-russki ceychas. Ochen trydno yazik...y ya ne govoraio horosho....

Liz Williams

(Better bloody learn to speak it a bit more fluently, though - I'm off to Siberia in the summer)
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Vera Nazarian
Posted on Friday, March 14, 2003 - 05:05 pm:   

Hey, Liz! Welcome! Good to see yah here.

My gawd, I have been remiss again posting here. That's what happens when one has too damn many forums and other online hangouts. Between SFF Net newsgroups, here, the Speculations Rumor Mill, a gazillion listservs, and now my latest VSD obsession (see next topic header)I just end up taking turns... :-)

Anyway, your Russian is pretty darn good, too. What's gonna be happening on Siberia? :-)
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liz williams
Posted on Thursday, March 20, 2003 - 05:35 am:   

Hi Vera!

I am on way too many mailing lists for my own good - but one can't write all the time...

I'm going to Siberia for a couple of weeks: it's a tour around the northern bit of the Altai (I used to live in Almaty, near the southern bit of the Altai), visiting museums on Nicholas Roerich and the ice maiden, among others. Some shamanistic stuff as well.

liz

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