James D. Nicoll

James D. Nicoll

James Davis Nicoll (born March 18, 1961 [cite web | url = http://www.sfsite.com/~silverag/mar.html | last = Silver | first = Steven | authorlink = Steven H Silver | title = SF Birthday Calendar: March | accessdate = 2007-05-15] ) of Kitchener, Ontario is a former role-playing game store owner, a freelance game and speculative fiction reviewer and also works as a first reader for the Science Fiction Book Club. [cite web | url = http://thebookblogger.com/sfbc/2006/11/sfbcs_top_50_books_list_goes_w.html | title = SFBC's Top 50 Books List Goes Walkabout | first = Andrew | last = Wheeler | authorlink = Andrew Wheeler | publisher = Science Fiction Book Club | date = 2006-11-20 | accessdate = 2007-05-20 ] As a
Usenet personality, Nicoll is known for writing a widely quoted epigram on the English language, as well as for his accounts of suffering a high number of accidents, which he has narrated over the years in Usenet groups like "rec.arts.sf.written" and "rec.arts.sf.fandom".

Influence on SF genre

In addition to his influence as a first reader for the Science Fiction Book Club [cite web | url = http://thebookblogger.com/sfbc/2006/11/sfbcs_top_50_books_list_goes_w.html | title = SFBC's Top 50 Books List Goes Walkabout | first = Andrew | last = Wheeler | authorlink = Andrew Wheeler | publisher = Science Fiction Book Club | date = 2006-11-20 | accessdate = 2007-05-20 ] , Nicoll often offers ideas and concepts to other writers, primarily through the medium of Usenet. After winning the 2006 Locus Award for his novella "Missile Gap", Charles Stross thanked him, writing that Nicoll "came up with the original insane setting [soc.history.what-if December 2000, [http://groups.google.com/group/soc.history.what-if/browse_frm/thread/3411781692bfcc0c/92b23741a90ff95e Life on the Disc] ] — then kindly gave me permission to take his idea and run with it." [cite web
title = Brief Announcement
author = Stross, Charles | authorlink = Charles Stross
date = 2007-06-17
url = http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/2007/06/brief_announcement.html
]

"The Purity of the English Language"

In 1990, in the Usenet group "rec.arts.sf-lovers", Nicoll wrote the following epigram on the English language:

:"The problem with defending the purity of the English language is that English is about as pure as a cribhouse whore. We don't just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary." [cite newsgroup
title = The King's English
author = Nicoll, James
date = 1990-05-15
newsgroup = rec.arts.sf-lovers
id = 1990May15.155309.8892@watdragon.waterloo.edu
url = http://groups.google.com/groups?selm=1990May15.155309.8892@watdragon.waterloo.edu
]

(The original post had "riffle" for "rifle"; however, a followup acknowledged that this had been a spelling error. [cite newsgroup
title = The King's English
author = Nicoll, James
date = 1990-05-20
newsgroup = rec.arts.sf-lovers
id = 1990May20.184335.4443@watdragon.waterloo.edu
url = http://groups.google.com/groups?selm=1990May20.184335.4443@watdragon.waterloo.edu
]

Over the years it has spread over the internet, often misattributed to other individuals including Booker T. Washington and a nineteenth-century painter also named James Nicoll. In recent years however the epigram has also been quoted, with proper attribution in books by professor of rhetoric and communication design [http://www.arts.uwaterloo.ca/~raha/ Randy Harris] [cite book | last = Harris | first = Randy | title = Voice Interaction Design: Crafting the New Conversational Speech Systems | place= San Francisco | publisher = Morgan Kaufmann | year = 2004 | page=55 | isbn = 1558607684] . Amateur linguists [http://www.peak.org/~jeremy/dictionary/chapters/title.php Jeremy Smith] [cite book | last = Smith | first = Jeremy | title = Bum Bags and Fanny Packs: A British-American, American-British Dictionary | place = New York | publisher = Carrol & Graf | year = 2005 | page = 164 | url = http://books.google.com/books?id=qQONKyKvY1gC&pg=PA164&ots=BeFbqtG1YX&dq=James-d-Nicoll+date:1970-2009&num=100&sig=FmuEb_WgOfBWT7OpMQ5mgDUt-CY | isbn = 0786717025] , Richard Lederer [cite book | last = Lederer | first = Richard | author-link = Richard Lederer | title = A Man of My Words: Reflections on the English Language | place= New York | publisher = St. Martin's Press | year = 2003 | page = 266 | isbn = 0312317859] , and Anu Garg [cite book | last = Garg | first = Anu | author-link = Anu Garg | title = Another Word A Day: An All-New Romp through Some of the Most Unusual and Intriguing Words in English | place= New York | publisher = Wiley | year = 2005 | page=111 | isbn = 0471718459] have also referenced Nicoll's quote.

Professional linguists who have referenced the quote online include Professor of Linguistics Mark Liberman of the University of Pennsylvania and "Language Log" [cite web
work = Language Log
last = Liberman
first = Mark
authorlink = Mark Liberman
title = The wordiness of English
url = http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl/languagelog/archives/002579.html
date = 2005-10-24
; cite web
work = Language Log
title = 88 English words from snow
url = http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl/languagelog/archives/000200.html
date = 2003-12-07
accessdate = 2007-05-17
] ; Associate Professor of Linguistics [http://www.ruf.rice.edu/~kemmer/ Suzanne Kemmer] of Rice University [cite web
publisher = Rice University
last = Kemmer
first = Suzanne
title = The English Language: Past and Present
url = http://www.ruf.rice.edu/~kemmer/Words/infocont.html
date = 2001-10-23
; cite web
publisher = Rice University
title = Words in English: Structure, History, Use (course Web site for Linguistics/English 215)
url = http://www.ruf.rice.edu/~kemmer/Words/info05.html
date = 2006-02-28
accessdate = 2007-05-17
] , who also posted her research into the quote at the "LINGUIST" mailing list [cite web
work = LINGUIST list
last = Kemmer
first = Suzanne
title = James D. Nicoll quote - mystery solved
url = http://linguistlist.org/issues/13/13-499.html
date = 2002-02-20
accessdate = 2007-05-17
] ; and Second Language Acquisition Ph.D. student [http://www.u.arizona.edu/~mikeliu/vitae.htm Rong Liu] [cite web
publisher = University of Arizona
last = Liu
first = Mike
title = Presentation on Morphology, for the course INDV 101-Language
url = http://www.u.arizona.edu/~mikeliu/Morphology%20for%20section%207%20new.ppt
date = 2005-10-03
accessdate = 2007-05-17
format = Microsoft PowerPoint
] . There are also amateur philologists who have used the quote, including Garg of the English language site [http://wordsmith.org/awad/about.html Wordsmith.org] [cite web
work = A.Word.A.Day
publisher = Wordsmith.org
last = Garg
first = Anu
authorlink= Anu Garg
title = A.Word.A.Day archives, see Tabula Rasa
url = http://wordsmith.org/awad/archives/1299
date = 1999-12-06
; cite web
title = A.Word.A.Day archives, see Cumshaw
url = http://wordsmith.org/awad/archives/1102
date = 2002-11-04
accessdate = 2007-05-17
] , journalist Suw Charman [cite web
work = Chocolate and Vodka
last = Charman
first = Suw
authorlink = Suw Charman
title = Re: The purity of the English language
url = http://chocnvodka.blogware.com/blog/_archives/2005/1/3/222493.html
date = 2005-01-03
accessdate = 2007-05-17
] , and journalist Vale White. [cite web
work = Southern Utah University Journal
last = White
first = Vale
title = Words, words, words depurify
url = http://media.www.suujournal.com/media/storage/paper951/news/2004/10/13/OpinionopenAccessColumns/Words.Words.Words.Depurify-2024007.shtml
date = 2004-10-13
accessdate = 2007-05-17
]

'Nicoll Events'

Nicoll relates a number of life-and-or-limb-threatening accidents that have happened to him, which he has told and retold on various science fiction fandom related newsgroups. Over the years these stories have also been collected into [http://dd-b.net/NicollEvents/ Cally Soukup's List of Nicoll events] .

Inspired by Nicoll's collection of accidents, as well as his tendency to take in any stray cat that comes knocking, fantasy author Jo Walton wrote him a poem in 2002, available at [http://papersky.livejournal.com/326232.html her Livejournal] .

'Brain Eater'

A post on "soc.history.what-if" credits Nicoll with coining the phrase "Brain Eater" [cite newsgroup| title = Quick thought on the collapse of the Roman Empire | id = 3D5A21D6.DDC8D0E2@ext.canterbury.ac.nz | author = Wilson, Gareth | authorlink = Gareth Wilson | newsgroup = soc.history.what-if | url = http://groups.google.com/groups?selm=3D5A21D6.DDC8D0E2@ext.canterbury.ac.nz | date = 2002-08-14 ] which is supposed to "get" certain writers such as Poul Anderson [cite newsgroup| title = Fire Upon the Deep and Way Station | id = EGEGux.EK3@novice.uwaterloo.ca | author = Nicoll, James | newsgroup = rec.arts.sf.written | url = http://groups.google.com/group/rec.arts.sf.written/msg/882956f14dec677f | date = 1997-09-12 ] and James P. Hogan. [cite newsgroup
title= Genetic Engineering?
author = Nicoll, James
date = 1999-09-02
newsgroup = rec.arts.sf.written
id = 7qkttc$1fq$1@watserv3.uwaterloo.ca
url = http://groups.google.com/groups?selm=7qkttc$1fq$1@watserv3.uwaterloo.ca
] Nicoll claims the 'brain eater' has affected Hogan, because of Hogan's expressions of belief in Immanuel Velikovsky's version of catastrophism, [cite web| url=http://www.jamesphogan.com/books/info.php?titleID=37&cmd=sample&sample=79| title=The Case for Taking Velikovsky Seriously| accessdate=2006-06-18| first=James P.| last=Hogan] and his advocacy of the hypothesis that AIDS is caused by pharmaceutical use rather than HIV (see AIDS denialism). [cite web| url=http://jamesphogan.com/bb/bulletin.php?id=78| title=Bulletin Board: AIDS Skepticism| accessdate=2007-02-01| last=Hogan| first=James P.] The term has been adopted by other Usenet posters [cite newsgroup
title= Re: A Great New Sci-Fi Novel! (CRIT)
author = McCutchen, Pete
date = 1999-12-10
newsgroup = rec.arts.sf.composition
id = 2me25scohl2fsvso1p3fppejt7vvvdskaf@4ax.com
url = http://groups.google.com/groups?selm=2me25scohl2fsvso1p3fppejt7vvvdskaf@4ax.com
] [cite newsgroup
title= Orson Scott Card: The brain eater takes another bite--Intelligent Design
author = Palmer, David M.
date = 2006-01-21
newsgroup = rec.arts.sf.written
id = f7c1e661c408db42
url = http://groups.google.com/group/rec.arts.sf.written/msg/f7c1e661c408db42
] , [cite newsgroup
title = NASA and SF
author = Bradshaw, Simon
date = 1999-11-14
newsgroup = rec.arts.sf.written
id = memo.19991114183450.61989A@sjbradshaw.compulink.co.uk
url = http://groups.google.com/group/rec.arts.sf.written/msg/f7c1e661c408db42
] , as well as elsewhere on the Internet ( [http://james-nicoll.livejournal.com/1054939.html?thread=15530459#t15530459] , [http://forum.rpg.net/showpost.php?p=6631168&postcount=21] , [http://sadlyno.com/archives/4424.html#comment-100440] ) and use of the term within Usenet has been criticised. [cite web
last = M.
first = Omega
title = "Brain eater": A phrase I hate
publisher = Hatrack River Forum
date=2007-06-05
url = http://www.hatrack.com/ubb/main/ultimatebb.php?ubb=get_topic;f=2;t=048816;p=1#000000
accessdate = 2007-10-30
] , [http://www.heinleinsociety.org/readersgroup/AIM_01-22-2004.html]

Nicoll-Dyson Laser

Nicoll proposed the Nicoll-Dyson Laser concept where the satellites of a Dyson Swarm act as a phased array laser emitter capable of delivering their energy to a planet-sized target at a range of millions of light years. [cite newsgroup
title = Re: A Moon base is too far; an asteroid ship better alternative:)
author = Nicoll, James
date = 2005-03-20
newsgroup = sci.space.tech
id = d1kl0p$c9q$1@reader1.panix.com
url = http://groups.google.com/groups?selm=d1kl0p$c9q$1@reader1.panix.com
]

E. E. Smith first used the general idea of concentrating the sun's energy in a weapon in the Lensman series when the Galactic Patrol developed the sunbeam (in "Second Stage Lensmen"), however his concept did not extend to the details of the Nicoll-Dyson Laser.

References

See also

* [http://james-nicoll.livejournal.com More Words, Deeper Hole] James Nicoll's LiveJournal weblog * Nicoll's Usenet posts in Google Groups: [http://groups.google.com/groups/profile?enc_user=CR0E8xIAAADnapg6pm-6cnBRChGXWVUe8rhlH0Pnl47z4AZhN98BFg since 2000] , [http://groups.google.com/groups/profile?enc_user=09b2pxwAAADDiUQrBvYuuR4QlktYHzZ6bT2a8FtnXiVUr7-lhMCDMw 2000–1] , [http://groups.google.com/groups/profile?enc_user=5uqWRRgAAADCx5smY0mX3CTPJQdVOBXojjUzpEmJ5I5DRUSL7f0jPA 1996–9] , [http://groups.google.com/groups/profile?enc_user=lLAGcxwAAADO9I4pFI5rEt6y__jWrEAqbT2a8FtnXiVUr7-lhMCDMw 1990-2]
* [http://www.cloggie.org/esseff/millennial-reviews.html Millennial Reviews] A series of reviews by James Nicoll of science fiction books set in the year 2000.


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