July 9th, 2006

ozarque figure

Linguistics; artist/craftsperson/technician/lexical gap?

I was reading something interesting (that I don't have permission to post a link to) about the perennial question of where you draw the line(s) between/among "artist" and "craftperson" and "technician," and how someone can take an artifact produced by a technician and tweak it sufficiently to persuade lots of people to refer to it as art, and how our culture makes all these decisions, and it made me think of yet one more category in that "artist/craftsperson/technician" set. Maybe it's a lexical gap; maybe not.

I'm thinking of the person who creates something that is purely intellectual; like, for example, the first person who comes up with a meme. Does English have a word, not just for the meme-creator, but for that generic class of person?

Which made me think of fanfic, and gaming, and the flabbergastory trade that now exists in gaming for things that don't exist in the usual sense of the word, and writers who do or don't object to other people playing around in public in their fictional worlds.... I have a disorderly mind, you perceive.

For purposes of discussion, I'm going to use an example from my own stuff, because doing that solves the problem of having permission -- I can give myself permission and be done with all that. The example I want to use is my Ozark Dragons, that are distinguished by two primary and interacting characteristics: their ability to shapechange, and their exquisite mannerliness. The Ozark Dragons feel that if Ozark human beings were able to see them they would be seriously discombobulated; and so, as a matter of courtesy, when there's any possibility that that might happen the dragons instantly assume the shape of something that Ozarkers will find entirely ordinary. A lilac bush. An apple tree. A pickup truck. Some predictable feature of the Ozark environment. It takes years for the dragonets to learn this skill, and they are therefore not allowed out of the dragons' caves until they've passed the most rigorous exams in shapechanging and have proved that they can be trusted to do it flawlessly and instantly.

The Ozark Dragons really "exist" only in my head. I've hung a drawing or two of them at science fiction art shows, but they look like drawings of any other generic sf dragon; I don't have the necessary skill to do the drawing I really want to do, that would show a properly mannerly Ozark Dragon in the act of shapechanging into a pickup truck or a Greyhound bus. I've done one children's story in which a dragonet manages to get out of the cave too soon and is spotted -- by two Ozark kids -- in the act of shapechanging-much-too-slowly, and the dragons have to negotiate with the children for the preservation of their secret; but it hasn't been published.... maybe half a dozen friends have read it. I've done one sf short story about an Ozark Dragon, but it's been seen only by the three or four editors who've rejected it because it has a surprise ending. The dragons and their culture exist only as intellectual constructs. [Or at least they did until I posted this.]

So, does English already have a word for the do-er of this sort of creative act that goes into the "artist/craftsperson/technician" set? If so, and I'm just ignorant of that word, I'd be pleased to be made aware of it, and of the word itself. Or is it a lexical gap, and if so, can we fill it?

[I thought of vaporware, which would allow "vaporist" -- but it seems to me that "vaporware" carries a negative connotation of "something promised but never delivered" that would semantically contaminate "vaporist."]