A Science Fiction Story Idea

It is the future…and the world is now effectively mono-lingual…Standard Web English has become the primary language of nearly the entire planet. Most of our world’s 6,000 languages are now extinct. The only people who pay any attention to other languages are scholars, missionaries (who are trying to translate bibles and eventually convert people to English…which is partly true because missionaries are actually currently one of the dominant forces in the fields of linguistics and translation…can you believe that?)…and….

And also there is this drug…called Linguacine. It’s an hallucinogen that affects the language processing centers of the brain, and so if someone is on it, and they read or hear a passage from a language, their high will be different depending on what language they are experiencing…so there is this subculture of addicts…called Polyglots, who live in these drug-den libraries, where they study and preserve scraps of languages in order to keep themselves high. A little bit of an agglutinating language here, a little bit of Semitic tri-consonantal languages there…and all of it creates a new experience for these people.

Our main character is one of these people…coming from a wealthy family, he’s a bit of a drug tourist…he often hitches rides with missionaries to sneak into indigenous areas and snatch bits of languages from those people…because to hear an exotic language from a native speaker is a delicacy for a Polyglot.

But at some point, in these drugged travels…he encounters a group of deaf people who speak a unique sign language, who are resisting all attempts to extinguish their culture and communication. At first, this character is just savoring his high…but with time he comes to see how this thing that he is stealing from these people, this thing that he is using for himself, is the core of these people’s lives and culture…and he realizes how much deeper language and meaning can go…and so he begins to work with these people, and also with a wider network of linguistic and social rebels…many of whom have been creating their own new languages to counter the dominance of Standard Web English…

Anyway, I thought it would make an interesting story…

Currently Reading:

-Dispersing Power by Raul Zibechi

1 comment

i was immediately touched by this story coming to a center in a deaf community and was easily able to connect with the beauty of these people fighting for their language, their culture, their lives. sign language is so rarely acknowledged or thought of as a true language so it surprised me for it to pop up in your story ( even though sign plays such an important role in my life and ours). what a beautiful connection to make between the fights for self-determination that are happening in oppressed communities all over this world and what a way to give voice to such a silenced community. i was thinking the other day about what guatemalan sign language is like, whether there are many varieties and whether you could find anything out about them from your teachers. also, i like the metaphor of the drug, the high that is achieved by using languages in such a simplistic way. it’s so important for us to think about as non-native speakers of languages, to think about the appropriateness of our use of that language, of our place in that community. that’s a clear theme in the American Sign Language community, but i think much less so in the Spanish-speaking community (at least in the states). i wonder if you’ve encountered this idea in guatemala, how we (often privileged folks) appropriate other people’s languages and cultures so easily, without a second thought, without much awareness of context, of implications. how, until we live in that truly liberated world in which the old power dynamics of white-brown, english-non-english, american-foreigner are a thing of the past, we have a responsibility to be conscious, be educated, be open and willing to listen, and be accountable to the communities that have survived through the strength of their language and culture to fight against the legacies of oppression that are in our blood and that many of us still benefit from to this day.