Transliterations of Alien Texts


People ask why I use human referents in my stories about aliens. Why, for instance, did Archie take the name Archimedes when his history doesn’t include Archimedes? Shouldn’t Archie have named himself after a great mathematician from his own world? The answer is, he did, and I’ve substituted that alien name with one we recognize immediately. I have communicated why he chose the name without having to write an explanation of his history into the story. I have saved the reader a lot of reading, and myself a lot of writing, if only we agree to imagine the alien equivalent when we see a human referent.

Rather than thinking of these stories as translations of alien texts, I think of them as whole-text transliterations, where I present the human equivalent and not the raw result. So, if you will agree with me to use this shorthand, we will save ourselves both a lot of work.

rjb

2 comments for “Transliterations of Alien Texts

  1. Laird Smith
    March 31, 2019 at 09:24

    We have too much time on our hands when people ask an author why he did such n such. I hope your explanation satisfies the detailed readership. Maybe that required explanation was fostered by a book club?

    • March 31, 2019 at 09:49

      In one case it was mentioned in a review, like, it’s a great story but look what he’s done, silly boy. I knew when I was doing it that it might be a problem, but I always figured I’d have the chance to explain.

      In another case Robert Schaechter, who turned the trilogy into a PDF omnibus, (https://greencomet.org/2018/02/23/dunyazad-digital-library/) asked me about it in an email exchange.

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