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Ancient Rockets:
Treasures and Trainwrecks of the Silent Screen

      A Dictionary Of Made-Up Languages
Kage Baker, edited by Kathleen Bartholomew
      Stephen D. Rogers
Tachyon Publications, 204 pages
      Adamsmedia, 294 pages

Ancient Rockets A Dictionary Of Made-Up Languages
Kage Baker
Kage Baker was born in 1952 in Hollywood, California. She grew up there and in Pismo Beach. She worked as a graphic artist, mural painter and assorted roles in the theatre. Many years of total immersion research in Elizabethan as well as other historical periods left her with a working knowledge of period speech and details evident in her writing. She died in 2011.

Kage Baker Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: In the Garden of Iden
SF Site Review: The Hotel Under the Sand
SF Site Review: The Women of Nell Gwynne's
SF Site Review: The Empress of Mars
SF Site Review: Rude Mechanicals
SF Site Review: The Children of the Company
SF Site Review: The Angel in the Darkness
SF Site Review: The Anvil of the World
SF Site Review: Black Projects, White Knights
SF Site Review: The Graveyard Game
SF Site Review: Sky Coyote
SF Site Review: Mendoza in Hollywood
SF Site Review: Sky Coyote
SF Site Review: In the Garden of Iden

Stephen D. Rogers
Stephen D. Rogers is a writer of fiction, non-fiction, and poetry. Over six hundred of his stories and poems have been selected to appear in more than two hundred publications, earning among other honors two "Best of Soft SF" winners, a Derringer (and six additional nominations), two "Notable Online Stories" from storySouth's Million Writers Award, honorable mention in "The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror," mention in "The Best American Mystery Stories," and numerous Readers' Choice awards.

Stephen D. Rogers Website
ISFDB Bibliography

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Greg L. Johnson

Non-fiction writing in the fields of fantasy and science fiction comes in many forms, most of them familiar to a mainstream audience. There are also non-fiction works in the genres that are fairly unique to the field, to the point of looking like oddities to an outsider. Two recent works of non-fiction, Ancient Rockets by Kage Baker, and A Dictionary Of Made-Up Languages by Stephen D. Rogers are good examples of two different types of non-fiction, both devoted to increasing our appreciation of the fantastic.

During the last year of her life, Kage Baker wrote a series of reviews, first published on, covering all the science fiction and fantasy she could find from the silent film era. To anyone who is only aware of classics like La voyage dans la lune, that's the one with the image of a bullet-like spaceship in the man on the moon's eye, the sheer number and range of the films reviewed here is astonishing. The next revelation is Baker's own sense of humor, which shines through in almost every piece in the collection. Ever since the heyday of Siskel & Ebert the standard for good film reviewing has been to be both knowledgeable and witty, pointed in criticism and effusive in praise, with the understanding that experiments that fail are sometimes still worth a look. Kage Baker's reviews have all those qualities, plus a genuine affection for these early films and where they led. Each review also includes tips on where to find the films, making Ancient Rockets a highly entertaining and useful guide for anyone interested in the origins of fantasy and SF in film.

With A Dictionary of Made-Up Languages, we're in a different kind of non-fiction, a reference work devoted to a fictional subject. These kinds of things appear from time to time, The Dune Encyclopedia, Barlowe's Guide To Extraterrestrials, and all the various Star Trek technical manuals and spaceship guides are good examples, and they're a reflection of reader's desires to know more about what lies behind a favorite book, movie to TV series. At their best, they also serve as a look in to how this thing is done, and can serve as valuable references for those inclined to take a shot at doing it themselves.

As with Ancient Rockets, the first impression from A Dictionary of Made-Up Languages is that there are a lot more of these than the average person is aware of. There are over a hundred languages listed in the dictionary, from full-blown invented languages intended to be spoken by humans like Esperanto and Lojban to languages invented for alien species and imaginary cultures. Each entry includes the source of the language, its derivation and characteristics, examples of words and use, and. where possible, a translation of either The Lord's Prayer or The Babel Text. Rogers fills out the entries with quotes and observations on the use and meaning of language. The dictionary concludes with sections on creating your own language and a guide to language games. That makes the dictionary not only an entertaining reference, but also a manual for writers or anyone else engaged in creating an imaginary world.

Non-fiction works like Ancient Rockets and A Dictionary Of Made-Up Languages play into our desire to discuss and judge the works of each other's imagination, and feed our curiosity as to just how something is done in the first place. Whether read as entertainment or used simply as reference works, both of these books are worthwhile additions to the ever-growing collection of factual guides to fictional subjects.

Copyright © 2012 by Greg L. Johnson

Reviewer Greg L. Johnson keeps looking for a language he can call his own. Greg's reviews have appeared in publications ranging from The Minneapolis Star-Tribune to the The New York Review of Science Fiction.

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