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A collaborative blog by Locus editors, contributors, and other invited guests. The opinions expressed here are solely those of the authors, and do not reflect the editorial position of Locus Magazine or Locus Online.

(Earlier posts end here in April 2010)




Alvaro Zinos-Amaro


Alan Beatts
Terry Bisson
Marie Brennan
Karen Burnham
Siobhan Carroll
John Clute
F. Brett Cox
Ellen Datlow
Paul Di Filippo
Michael Dirda
Gardner Dozois
Andy Duncan
Stefan Dziemianowicz
Brian Evenson
Jeffrey Ford
Karen Joy Fowler
Kathleen Ann Goonan
Theodora Goss
Elizabeth Hand
Cecelia Holland
Rich Horton
Guy Gavriel Kay
James Patrick Kelly
Mark R. Kelly
Ellen Klages
Russell Letson
Karen Lord
Brit Mandelo
Adrienne Martini
Tim Pratt
Cat Rambo
Paul Graham Raven
Graham Sleight
Maureen Kincaid Speller
Peter Straub
Rachel Swirsky
Paul Witcover
Gary K. Wolfe
E. Lily Yu

Roundtable on Collective Nouns

Here’s a fun conversation to finish off 2012. I once saw a bunch of suggestions for the proper collective noun for monsters (i.e., instead of a ‘murder of ravens’, a ‘mash of monsters’ or a ‘terror of monsters’, etc.)

Anyone want to take a crack at a collective noun for aliens?

Gardner Dozois: If they’re the kind from Alien, “An Outburst of Aliens” would seem appropriate.

Gary K. Wolfe: And if they’re from Invasion of the Body Snatchers, “an insinuation of aliens” might work.

Cecelia Holland: A nihilation of aliens.

Paul Di Filippo: Since it is generally acknowledged that aliens in SF are often simply humans in disguise for narrative or allegorical purposes, an “anthropomorphism of aliens” strikes me as useful.

Stefan Dziemianowicz: Since they can come from without, come from within, and assume all shapes and forms,  maybe “an amorphous of aliens”?

Siobhan Carroll: Given the reading on Elizabethan exploration I’ve been doing recently, I propose a “marvel of monsters,” which preserves the sense that monsters are supposed to show you something. Then again, a “grotesquerie of monsters” might work just as well.

Paul Graham Raven: Hmmmm – these are trickier than they appear, because ‘monsters’ and ‘aliens’ aren’t (necessarily) undifferentiated groups in the way that a collective of a single species would be. That said (and opening myself up to entirely justified accusations of fanboyism), surely a Mieville of monsters would be eminently appropriate? And to end with an invitation to navel-gazing: what would the c.n. be for genre critics?

Paul Witcover: For genre critics, how about “a carping of critics”?

Cecelia Holland: An envy of critics

Stefan Dziemianowicz: Or, for those more prone to review negatively, “a crapping of critics.”

Cecelia Holland: A crapping of cynics

James Patrick Kelly: An irrelevance of critics,  an otherness of aliens and an itch of bloggers.

Nancy Kress: I vote for Jim’s suggestion!

Guy Gavriel Kay: Well, really: a synod of cynics; a sficiency of critics (for the genre)

Cecelia Holland: I like that synod of cynics.

Marie Brennan: I have to say I like a marvel of monsters, an otherness of aliens, and a sficiency of critics (genre-specific, of course.) I don’t remember which of my friends proposed “an argument of academics,” but I have to say it’s apt.

Charles Tan: In Chinese, “aliens” follow the same noun classifier as “people”, so… But on the theoretical level, aren’t we limiting aliens to one type, when the possibilities could be endless? A different collective noun for each type of alien! (Someone do an Abecedary of Aliens book?) If I were to choose one though, I do like Marie Brenna’s A Marvel of Monsters… (or an Argument of Academics)

Stefan Dziemianowicz: Charles’s observation that there is a potential plurality of each alien type suggests that a collective noun to capture them all might not be possible. How about “an anarchy of aliens?”

Rachel Swirsky: A discovery of aliens? An uncanniness of aliens? An astonishment of aliens?

Fabio Fernandes: In the case of a hivemind, I’d suggest “an absolute of aliens”

Fabio Fernandes: Hey, I liked Guy’s suggestion. We could also go with “A FredricBrown of aliens” (thinking of Martians Go Home, of course)

Russell Letson: A tardiness of reviewers. An exhaustion of editors. But enough about me. . . .

Maureen Kincaid Speller: Was tempted to say a mothership of aliens but sense prevailed. A disappointment of critics, perhaps, as this is apparently what we so often are to the general reading community. (And I never did get round to posting a rumpus of monsters).

Stefan Dziemianowicz: Monsters was sulking in the corner, thinking that we were neglecting him in favor of aliens, until you threw “rumpus” into the ring. I like that!

Fabio Fernandes: There are no humans here, only us chickens (a roosting of aliens??)

Fabio Fernandes: An argument of academics. No arguing about that one!

Cecelia Holland: An algemein of aliens

John Clute: A patience of critics. A similtude of aliens. A moi of authors.

Stefan Dziemianowicz: I love how this conversation began with devising descriptors for monsters and aliens, and quickly came to include doing the same for critics and authors. Interesting word association. I can’t wait for the Rorschach test portion of this discussion.

Russell Letson: Don’t look at me–you’re the one showing the dirty pictures.

Guy Gavriel Kay: Are we being inexorably guided to: a rorschach of aliens. They are what we make them be…

Stefan Dziemianowicz: The Blob did look a little like an ink blot . . .

Cecelia Holland: A patience of critics. A cassandra of critics. A despair of writers

Peter Straub: Cecelia wins.

Nancy Kress: Yes, Cecilia does win. Perfect!

Paul Witcover: “A despair of writers.”  Possibly the best yet.  A profundity of poets.

Paul Graham Raven:  “A profundity of poets.” You must only know pros. For myself and the other poets of my acquaintance, “a piss-up” would be more apropos… :)

Elizabeth Hand: I love “a despair of writers.” In that vein, an anxiety of graduate students.

Elizabeth Hand: An addlepate of adolescents.

Karen Burnham: An angst of adolescents?

Michael Dirda: A clucking of critics.

Paul Witcover: A lunacy of lexicographers

Gardner Dozois: Considering old pulp covers, perhaps “A Bug-Eye of Aliens?”

Stefan Dziemianowcz: And considering that most of those bug-eyed alien covers were painted by Earl Bergey, we could extend this to “a bug-eye of Bergeys”. (Bergey also virtually invented the image of the space damsel in the steel brassiere–but, alliterative possibilities notwithstanding, I ain’t going there.)

Fabio Fernandes: I’m laughing out loud here.

Jonathan Strahan: A rejection of critics? A reflection of writers

Stefan Dziemianowicz: “A rejection of critics” Never trust a critic to do what a publisher does better.

Gary K. Wolfe: A babble of blurbs. It’s a good thing we’re getting all silly, here.

Cecelia Holland: Getting?

Stefan Dziemianowicz: A straitjacket of sillies?

Paul Witcover: An avoidance of agents.

Cecelia Holland: That would be a rejection of acquisitions editors

Jonathan Strahan: A ponderance of podcasters?

Cecelia Holland: Hey. Pods. We’re back to the aliens.

Paul Graham Raven: An unwarranted braggadocio of self-publishers. (That’s my next twelve mnths of anonymous hatemail sorted.)

Jonathan Strahan: An aggrandisement of self-publishers?

Gary K. Wolfe: Is there a collective noun for collective nouns?  Maybe a Lipton of collectives, since he seems to have started this whole thing decades ago?

Rachel Swirsky: I’m going with ‘a collective of collectives.’

Stefan Dziemianowicz: A “Heinz 47 of collective nouns” just doesn’t have that alliterative appeal. I like what Rachel said: we’ve got “King of Kings” and “Lord of Lords,” so why not “a collective noun of collective nouns”?

Cecelia Holland: A soviet of collectives

Stefan Dziemianowicz: A ridiculousness of roundtablers.

Cecelia Holland: A roundtable of wit


Comment from David Marshall
Time December 27, 2012 at 3:58 am

An environmentally sound of little green men

A shade of greys

Comment from Scott Golden
Time January 1, 2013 at 3:00 pm

Alliance of Aliens — obvious & non-creative, but oh does it flow …
For the hive mind, an Assemblage of Aliens; or, an “Association” (talk about ‘joining the club’!), or a Society of Species
Crowd of Creatures (forgive me; I’ve recently read Lionel Fanthorpe)
Bevy of BEMs
Re: IOTBS, a Host of Parasites (for fans of oxymorons)
Clan of the ‘Out There’
a Get-together of Whatevers

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