Friday, March 9, 2012

FU Weekly: SJV Nominee Lynne Jamneck

HeraldToday we have a little guest post by our Sir Julius Vogel Award nominee Lynne Jamneck but before we get to that, please remember that our prize draw and auction are still on! Haven't you always wanted to win something? Ever dreamed about winning a bidding war? Follow the link.


Back to the SJV Award. Lynne's nominated story "Azif" appeared in our Issue 4. Lois Tilton (Locus Online) has the following to say about the piece:


"An ambiguous fantasy, with the preponderance of the text on the side of Emile being batshit crazy, but just enough doubt to make the story subtly disturbing." (Read full review.)


Now let us hear Lynne tell us of how "Azif" came to be.


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Genesis – Azif
By Lynne Jamneck

File:Meganeura fossil 1.JPGI have a love/hate relationship with language. Sometimes I think it's because English isn't my native tongue; that somehow, between thinking in Afrikaans and writing in English, the images blur, and I find myself grabbing at mutating words that form in one context and express themselves in another.

At the time the idea for Azif began to form in my head, I was in the thick of writing my Masters thesis. For months before I had been researching the innate, unstable nature of language. Essentially, we use a formally constructed tool with very specific rules in order to communicate with one another. Our day to day dealings with one another is to such a large degree dependent on what we say. And what we say inspires certain feelings, emotions, actions . . .

All of this led me to the disturbing notion that language is, well, disturbing. Sometimes we get to experience this disturbance, when we read something that elicits an uncanny response. Words are what brings us to this hidden strangeness, and the more we try to understand why a combination of words, inferences and allusions can make us feel so off-kilter, the further away any viable explanation    slips . . . and the stronger the strangeness exerts itself.

That insects use vibration as a kind of language to transmit messages to others of their kind is not a new idea. I thought, if you put one, or two, or three million people in a room and they all started talking at the same time, you'd likely end up with a less elegant version of a colossal chorus of crickets. They'd all be saying something, all at once, but you wouldn’t be able to hear exactly what they were talking about. To hear anything you'd need to isolate each individual voice.

Connecting the idea of language existing in more than one particular mode to an intense experience of grief brought me back to my original dilemma: the instability of language, and how it can inhibit us from expressing that which affects us most. We've all had something happen to us we "can't put into words", experiences that don't allow themselves be "read".  This was why, in the story, Vivienne ended up being someone who studies inscriptions rather than a linguist.

Sometimes I feel we live in a world where we take meaning for granted. Language has been so densely inscribed with fixed values, despite our cultural, social and moral contexts having submitted to incredibly significant changes. Paradoxically, these inscribed values have led to a kind of diluted communication tool. Azif was me trying to bully language – words – into trying to convey something more than what they said on paper. AND . . . I finally got to use katydids in a plot, which I'd been wanting to do for ages.



Lynne Jamneck is a transplanted South African who lives in Auckland, New Zealand. Short listed for the Sir Julius Vogel and Lambda Awards, she has published short fiction in various markets, including Jabberwocky Magazine, H.P. Lovecraft's Magazine of Horror, Fantastique Unfettered and Spicy Slipstream Stories. She edited the SF anthology, Periphery, forthcoming from Untreed Reads. She is currently writing a speculative novel featuring a lost protagonist and a city of secrets.

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We thank Lynne for the insight into her story's genesis and wish her good luck in the run for the award!

--AS

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Illustration "Herald" from www.oldbookart.com and www.commons.wikimedia.org.