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Theodore Beale, aka Vox Day, has kindly made his Hugo-nominated story "Opera Vita Aeterna" available as an ePub here (many online links for other Hugo nominees are listed by John DeNardo here).

I'll save discussion of the story's literary merits to my review of all the nominees in this category; for now I want to indicate some areas for linguistic improvement, specifically in the use of Latin in the story. There are a number of slightly odd usages, and three that I spotted which are flat-out wrong. Going in reverse order as they appear:

  1. Towards the end of the story we are brought to a room called the "Cella Mundus", the chamber of the world. But "Cella" normally means a small room, and this one is very big; also, "Mundus" should be genitive "Mundi".
  2. The central character belongs to a body called the "Collegium Occludum", presumably the hidden college. There is no such word as "Occludum" in Latin; the writer should have written "Occlusum". (I see that Occludus is the name of the home planet of the Death Spectres in Warhammer 40k; perhaps this is the source of the confusion.) "Occlusus" is closer in meaning to "closed up" than to "hidden", but in fairness that may have been the intended meaning.
  3. The title itself, "Opera Vita Aeterna", is wrong. Though the phrase is not actually used in the story, it's fairly clear that it is intended to mean "The works of an eternal life". However, the long-lived protagonist completes only one work in the story, albeit a long one in many parts, so "Opera" should be "Opus". In addition, "Vita Aeterna" should be genitive (the same error as "Mundus" above), so that would be "Opus Vitæ Æternæ". Finally, of course, the use of "eternal" in this context to refer to a long-lived being in the world of the living jars as being rather different from its normal context in Church Latin to refer to the afterlife; it might have been better to choose another word entirely.
I hope these pointers are useful to anyone else who wants to write a story with the odd Latin phrase thrown in, particularly if one of those phrases is given prominence by putting it in the title.

(I was also surprised to read that the monks in the story had three books of "approved apocrypha", surely an oxymoron.)

You can, of course, vote for the Hugos yourself by joining this year's Worldcon, Loncon 3, here.

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Comments

( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
livejournal
Apr. 21st, 2014 11:17 am (UTC)
Illegitimi non carborundum
User supergee referenced to your post from Illegitimi non carborundum saying: [...] Vox Day [...]
theweaselking
Apr. 21st, 2014 02:15 pm (UTC)
Finally, of course, the use of "eternal" in this context to refer to a long-lived being in the world of the loving jars as being rather different from its normal context in Church Latin to refer to the afterlife; it might have been better to choose another word entirely.

Given the author, and the description I heard elsewhere of the novellette as "elf looking for Jesus in a monastery", I suspect the afterlife/eternal life meaning might have been intended.

Of course, given the author and the rest of your post, I suspect that if that is the intended meaning his choice of the correct word for it was accidental.
livejournal
Apr. 21st, 2014 02:23 pm (UTC)
So Very Bad
User secritcrush referenced to your post from So Very Bad saying: [...] the abbot of the frat house monastery- let's call him Theodoricus in honor of all the bad Latin [...]
seawasp
Apr. 21st, 2014 03:20 pm (UTC)
Stuff like this is why I have a wide variety of beta-readers; I had someone who DID know Latin in my beta-group who took my clumsy attempts (in parts of Polychrome) and refined them into something that's at least somewhat acceptable.
livejournal
Apr. 21st, 2014 05:06 pm (UTC)
Hugo Awards
User mariness referenced to your post from Hugo Awards saying: [...] already taught us to be very careful to get the dative case right when using Latin in a novelette. [...]
swisstone
Apr. 21st, 2014 07:52 pm (UTC)
Cella
cella does usually mean a small room, but can mean the room in a temple in which the statue of the god was kept, so in some cases it can refer to quite a large chamber. The rest, of course, is twaddle.

Edited at 2014-04-21 07:56 pm (UTC)
flexor
Apr. 21st, 2014 09:49 pm (UTC)
Mr. Vox Day's poor grasp of Latin is IMHO the least of the problems. His dedication to "Correcting the gay defect" and various other counts of fuckwittery makes me think that SFF fandom has pretty much wasted its ammo on Jonathan Ross.
(Anonymous)
Apr. 23rd, 2014 07:54 am (UTC)
So he's as wrong about Latin as he is everything else?
(Anonymous)
Apr. 25th, 2014 09:03 am (UTC)
It's not Latin, it's a mixture of Latin and Italian, so Opera is the correct word he is using in the title.
nwhyte
Apr. 25th, 2014 10:24 am (UTC)
Even if the first word is Italian, "Opera Vita Aeterna" makes no sense. You need an "of" in there somewhere, and "Vita Aeterna" is either nominative or ablative, not genitive. Basically what we have is a made-up language that just happens to look like bad Latin. As I've said before, it's a failure of art.
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )

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