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Author Topic: EP278: Written on the Wind  (Read 17649 times)
eytanz
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« on: February 03, 2011, 06:35:14 PM »

EP278: Written on the Wind

By David D. Levine
Read by Mur Lafferty

Originally published in Beyond the Last Star
---

Thuren Nektopk peered down at Luulianni from above his massive desk. “I suspect you know why I’ve called you to speak with me in person.” He spoke in his native language, Ptopku Dominant, using the form of address for a subordinate or a child. It was a constant reminder that the Ptopku had built and largely staffed this station, and was one of the most powerful species in the Consortium.

“Yes, Supervisor,” Luulianni replied in the same language, knotting her tentacles.

“And that would be…?”

“Because of my side project.”

“Yes.” Nektopk suddenly released the bar from which he hung, caught himself on another handhold, and with two swift strokes of his arms swung down to where his six slitted eyes were level with Luulianni’s. “Your little side project.”

Luulianni cringed. “I don’t understand why it’s so much of a problem.” She straightened and tried to meet his gaze. “I put in my full quota of time every day.”

“Yes, you do, and not one moment more. But I know you are capable of so much more than that. Any work you do on this pointless little side project of yours constitutes theft of resources from the Section — from the whole Project!”

“Theft?” she squeaked. Angry at herself for the loss of control, she brought her voice down. “Theft of resources? But I don’t use any data storage space, or any other Section resources! I write my notes on the backs of old printouts.” She did not mention how much more natural it felt to work on paper.

“You are stealing the most valuable resource of all!” Nektopk pointed at her with one limber foot. “Your own time and attention!”

“But it’s my time!”

“You have been sent here by your people — at considerable expense, I might add — to assist in the Project, to learn the ways of the Consortium, and to demonstrate your species’ unique skills.” He leaned closer to her. His smell was bitter. “And if I find that your species, as represented by yourself, does not demonstrate any unique skills, your application for Consortium membership could very well be denied.” He swung himself up to the edge of his desk, the better to glare down at her. “Therefore, your time is not your own. You owe it to the Section, to the Project, and to your own people to put every bit of available time into your assigned task.”

Luulianni hung her head. “Yes, Supervisor.”

“You may return to your work.”

“Thank you, Supervisor.”


Rated PG For talk of war elsewhere.

Show Notes:

  • Feedback for Episode 270: Advertising at the End of the World
  • Next week… A groovy strange kind of love



Listen to this week’s Escape Pod!
« Last Edit: February 24, 2011, 06:40:51 PM by eytanz » Logged
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« Reply #1 on: February 04, 2011, 09:12:19 AM »

Not so much Big Bang as Big Boomerang! I really liked the idea of the message and I was on the way to 'getting it' before the reveal but that didn't spoil the story. I also liked the analytics associated with the linguistics, and although I'm sure there's someone here with enough expertise to tell me it was twaddle, it had enough credibility for me.
 
Alien names bother me. I'm not sure why they have to be so difficult to pronounce, given that we have tentacles and simian grab rails to give us the clues. The effect for me is often to interrupt the flow as I rearrange in my head the possible phoneme groupings and until I've come up with something that seems to stick. I'm not arguing that sentient blobs of xenophobic angst get named Arthur, only that whatever they are called has a familiar enough structure that I don't struggle to parse it.
(And as I write this, I can see the problems that might arise when the thing is translated into other languages. Ok, Arthur it is, then.)

Anyway, my Friday-with-a-bug summary: great tale with convincing scientific premise and cartoon aliens with bonkers names. Back when the fog has lifted Undecided
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« Reply #2 on: February 04, 2011, 11:35:13 AM »

I found myself relating to Luulianni at work, in a sense. Probably why I enjoyed the story so much.

You know, I'm much more of a visual person than a listener, which is why I am so pleased that most of the stories are now coming along with text. I have to say that with some stories, it is just plain HARDER for me to follow what is going on when I am only able to listen to it aloud. Some I've tried to listen to repeatedly and just gave the hell up.

This is a story where I think it's a good tale, but I suspect I wouldn't have gotten so well what was going on without seeing it in text. If I'd only listened to it, I probably wouldn't have gotten what was going on and given up halfway through the story. I have to say that alien names sometimes have that effect. Yeah, I do think they need to be strange and different for plausibility's sake (we can't all be named Fred), but when your only option is to listen aloud, it can be hard to comprehend.
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l33tminion
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« Reply #3 on: February 04, 2011, 02:17:02 PM »

I liked the story, but disliked the epilogue, which seemed kind of tacked-on.  It's a cool bit of exposition, but it doesn't really relate to the rest of the story.
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eytanz
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« Reply #4 on: February 04, 2011, 02:50:20 PM »

I liked the story, but disliked the epilogue, which seemed kind of tacked-on.  It's a cool bit of exposition, but it doesn't really relate to the rest of the story.

I think people would have been up at arms if the whole story had concluded without actually telling us what the message was.
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« Reply #5 on: February 04, 2011, 03:54:39 PM »

I really liked this one! the linguistics element was really cool, and well played out. And the big 'message' thing was handled well too.
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matweller
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« Reply #6 on: February 04, 2011, 04:13:47 PM »

You know, I'm much more of a visual person than a listener, which is why I am so pleased that most of the stories are now coming along with text. I have to say that with some stories, it is just plain HARDER for me to follow what is going on when I am only able to listen to it aloud. Some I've tried to listen to repeatedly and just gave the hell up.
Funny you should say that since I was mentioning to Mur yesterday how much I wanted to find something for my kid like the books that came with cassette tapes we had when we were kids. Of course, depending on how old you are, you may not remember cassettes, but I fondly remember reading along and turning the page at the tone... +sigh+
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Talia
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« Reply #7 on: February 04, 2011, 04:46:19 PM »

Of course, depending on how old you are, you may not remember cassettes,

Surely no one who'd be here would be THAT young. Would they??

Please say no. I don't want to feel old.

I still have a bunch of cassettes at home in a drawer
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« Reply #8 on: February 04, 2011, 04:53:57 PM »

I really enjoyed this story. Thinking back on it now, it had enough weaknesses that perhaps I shouldn't have, but I didn't notice them at the time (or consciously ignored them, in one or two cases), and that's good enough for me. I'll talk about one or two of the weaknesses below but I really want to spend more time on what I liked this time, for a change.

One thing that might have become a weakness but that didn't turn out to be was that the story was a little predictable. I knew that the supervisor was going to turn out to have kept her notes in order to steal her ideas (although I must say I didn't predict that he would publish misleading results in order to keep his project going).

But the fact that I knew that didn't bother me very much, because I also knew that through her persistence, intelligence, the help of her friend and sheer grit that our hero would prevail and expose him as the fraud he was. And I was rooting for her to do just that and was pleased when she did.

Like Mur, linguistics is a field that I have not studied in any depth (though I have done quite a bit of informal reading on it) but which does hold a fascination for me. Possibly because I'm a geek and there's an element of linguistics that is more like computer programming than anything (as evidenced by the almost-entirely non-linguistic nature of the solution to the languages issue in the story).

Weaknesses? Well, I was a little surprised that a species different enough from humans to have tentacles and scales would share our sinus system to the extent of being able to yawn to clear a pressure differential. I'm believe we're one of the only earth species (if not the only one) who can (or need to) do this. I got distracted for a moment when the story described this, but I decided to take as an analogy to some piece of alien physiology that I wouldn't otherwise understand and move on.

Also, the solution to the riddle - besides not really being rooted in linguistics - did seem pretty simplistic, given how long so many people had been working on it. The reasons for not having discovered it before seemed kind of specious. But again, maybe it was a simplified explanation, for the purposes of fiction, of the real problem and solution.

Or maybe the implication that it could only be solved on paper rather than on screen was something of a caution on becoming too dependent on technology? Hard to say.

The message at the end was ... an interesting idea if a bit more human-centric than I prefer (given the size of our universe.  What if other aliens who live a few billion years later (closer to the end of the universe) than we do, make conflicting devices?).  I'm trying to decide if there could have been any message that wouldn't have been somewhat anticlimactic after the buildup it got, and I'm not sure there is.  So I just accept it as a McGuffin representing the main character having accomplished her goal, applaud her for it and move on.
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« Reply #9 on: February 04, 2011, 05:01:20 PM »

I was mentioning to Mur yesterday how much I wanted to find something for my kid like the books that came with cassette tapes we had when we were kids. Of course, depending on how old you are, you may not remember cassettes, but I fondly remember reading along and turning the page at the tone... +sigh+

When I was a kid we had read-along books that came with 45 RPM records.  They were produced by Disney, and we turned the page "when Tinker Bell rings her little bell, like this." ('This' was a high-pitched glockenspiel glissando.)

Now my daughter has a couple of read-along stories (Beauty and the Beast, for one) and the audio is on CD.  Sadly, Tinker Bell no longer rings her little bell.
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« Reply #10 on: February 04, 2011, 07:15:59 PM »

I had a couple of the 45s too, and some LPs with books for that matter. Good times. Good times.
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« Reply #11 on: February 05, 2011, 12:24:18 PM »

Wow, loved this one.  Didn't see the hook at the end coming at all. 

I also had story cassetes and a few 45's.  Come to think of it I have a 2004 vehicle with a cassette player and a box of cassetes in storage which I kept for some reason.  Hmmmm.....
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« Reply #12 on: February 06, 2011, 11:26:22 AM »

I also had story cassetes and a few 45's.  Come to think of it I have a 2004 vehicle with a cassette player and a box of cassetes in storage which I kept for some reason.  Hmmmm.....
I think I still have Stryper on cassette buried in a trunk if you want it. Honestly.
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« Reply #13 on: February 06, 2011, 11:58:36 AM »

I loved this one. The political complexities! The unlikely biologies! The characters grappling with the meaning of their universe. For that matter, the well written and sympathetic characters, with whom I connected with despite the political complexities, unlikely biologies, and hugeness of the story's themes! I give this one five out of five Zeppelins.

As for epilogues, I'm normally against them, but Written on the Wind handled its epilogue with grace, style, and brevity. The revelation of the message sent chills up and down my spine.
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« Reply #14 on: February 06, 2011, 01:38:36 PM »

I really liked this story.
The message was sweet and poignant, I liked the idea of collectively saying, "Well, we're screwed, but we can fix it so other people aren't." It's a very nice touch.
But then, on reflection, I have to ask myself, what kind of a god complex do you need to destroy an entire universe, in order to create one that is (in your opinion) better? This sounds like one the James Bond villain from Moonraker. "I'll kill every human on the planet and repopulate with smart and beautiful people I keep here on my space station." True the destruction of a universe takes longer, and probably lasted long enough for many intelligences in many parts of the universe to rise and fall, but still... it's something that needs to be asked.
On a lighter note, I really felt connected with Luulianni. She was such a human character. Her drudgery at work, her battle with an oppressive bureaucracy, her need to prove herself time and time again.... it was nice. I was able to point at her and say "See? That's me! Right there!" Even though she has more tentacles than me.

Weaknesses? Well, I was a little surprised that a species different enough from humans to have tentacles and scales would share our sinus system to the extent of being able to yawn to clear a pressure differential. I'm believe we're one of the only earth species (if not the only one) who can (or need to) do this. I got distracted for a moment when the story described this, but I decided to take as an analogy to some piece of alien physiology that I wouldn't otherwise understand and move on.
I remember reading somewhere that every animal on this planet with a backbone yawns, and nobody knows why. Parallel evolution works on Earth, so why not in the next universe?
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Wilson Fowlie
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« Reply #15 on: February 06, 2011, 08:28:24 PM »

I was a little surprised that a species different enough from humans to have tentacles and scales would share our sinus system to the extent of being able to yawn to clear a pressure differential. I'm believe we're one of the only earth species (if not the only one) who can (or need to) do this. I got distracted for a moment when the story described this, but I decided to take as an analogy to some piece of alien physiology that I wouldn't otherwise understand and move on.
I remember reading somewhere that every animal on this planet with a backbone yawns, and nobody knows why. Parallel evolution works on Earth, so why not in the next universe?

Well, to be clearer, it wasn't the yawning itself that I was quibbling with, it was more the sinus/eustachian pressure buildup that we can clear by yawning, or chewing gum.  That's what I believed to be unique to our species, by virtue of the fact that we walk upright.  (It turns out that it's probably not unique to humans, but it is restricted to a fairly limited subset of Earth species.)

You're right that researchers don't know why we yawn, but they do know why vertebrates share the yawn reflex: because we have a common ancestor.

That's not parallel evolution, as such. Parallel evolution occurs when two species whose common ancestor does not share a particular trait (e.g. eyesight) develop that trait independently of each other. Various types of seeing organs, for instance, have evolved independently many different times, as have different methods of flying (e.g. birds vs. bats.).  Also, compare the fins of mammalian swimmers (dolphins, whales, porpoises) to those of fish.

And while parallel evolution certainly can occur, it's far more likely to occur with traits that confer a survival benefit, like seeing, flying or swimming.  It's far less likely to occur with an accidental by-product of jury-rigged system.
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« Reply #16 on: February 07, 2011, 11:12:48 AM »

At some point, we all have a common ancestor, so that definition is a little ambiguous.
But I'll grant that it is a little strange to see an alien in an entirely different universe coming up with the same solution for the same problem that we did. I suspect it's simply an artistic slip and nothing more than that.
Regardless, the writing was very good.
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« Reply #17 on: February 07, 2011, 12:26:05 PM »

I really enjoyed this story. Just a question - am I the only one who was reminded of David Brin's story, "The Crystal Spheres"? Except sort of from the other way around, really.

It DOES make some sense that no one would have looked at the problem the way Luulianni was, given that the entire project was required to be analyzed on the computer screens in a predetermined format and in the simian leaders' language. Anyone who dares to approach it from a different direction would get reprimanded and penalized.

I honestly thought that the leaders were misleading the project because they already knew what the message contained, not because they wanted the project to continue.

This story also reminds me of the sort of arrogance about humanity that comes across in a lot of SF. Admittedly, it's a lot more uplifting to read a story where, for example, Mankind has caused the universe to be how it is, or where the alien invaders can't take us out so easily because of how much faster our technology progresses than theirs, but sometimes it feels a little silly to me. I don't mean this as a criticism of this story (I really liked the story), but just as a reflection on our tendency to put ourselves at the top of the food chain and the technological dogpile in a lot of our fiction.
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« Reply #18 on: February 07, 2011, 12:47:01 PM »

For a story in which every plot point was fairly predictable, I was kept on the edge of my seat for almost the entire reading. I particularly loved the descriptions of how tired Luuliani was and then how she couldn't even remember her speech later on due to crashing after her exertion. This will definitely stay in my mind as a favorite. Smiley


However: I have to admit that I'm a bit surprised that more people haven't criticized the "message" at the end. For my tastes, I wish the message had been somewhere in between what it was and "42". Not so ambiguous as to be unintelligible, yet not so human-centric at the end of a beautifully "other" tale. On the other hand, it did feel completely authentic in that if humanity could somehow destroy and recreate the universe as described then the message would almost certainly be long-winded and written in that tone. So in that sense, I suppose it was perfect.
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« Reply #19 on: February 07, 2011, 02:21:47 PM »

Ooh, a linguistics story!  For those who like a good linguistics story, you should check out the works of Juliette Wade.  She's had 3 linguistics stories published in Analog over the last couple of years, one of which was published on StarShipSofa where you can listen for free:
http://www.starshipsofa.com/20100602/aural-delights-no-139-philip-k-dick-juliette-wade/
I sent her an email to encourage her to submit here too.  Smiley  I've been very impressed by her work.

Anyway, regarding this story: 
I liked Luulianni and I felt that she was very relatable.  I saw the twist of her supervisor stealing her work coming, but not in a bad way, as I still related to her struggle and the motive of the overlords to just delay the project was a new wrinkle. 

I thought the details of the language translation were very interesting and they seemed like they made sense to my laymen's mind.  It sounds like there's good reason for it not to have been translated since all of teh computer systems in the galactic alliance insisted on one particular character set that's not conducive to pictograms.

I thought the end dragged on a bit long.  For me the real climax was the moment when she finally found the message.  And then, without telling us what the message was, it tells us her reaction, the reaction of the overlords, the reaction of this and that and this and that, all without telling us the message.  I found that too distracting, too much authorial intrusion, stringing me along when the character I've been following already knows the answer.  I was starting to wonder if the message would be told to me at all when finally it was revealed.

The use of "homo sapiens" in the message felt out of place to me, because that phrase would mean nothing to these folks and was only in there to trigger to me what they were supposed to be.  How do you depict a species name in pictograms?  And why would you bother when you know it'll mean nothing to the recipients?

And so the grand message is
"We were lonely, therefore we destroyed the entire universe to make a better one.  Now, instead of wandering around the universe looking for friends, you can be embroiled in constant interstellar wars.  Hooray!  Those species who survive the wars will thank us in the end.  Remember us fondly.  Sincerely, The Humans"
It WOULD be just like us humans to destroy all of existence because we considered its configuration to be inconvenient...
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« Reply #20 on: February 08, 2011, 11:54:03 AM »

I liked this one, up until the epilogue.  If the sentence "We are a race one known as homo sapiens" was removed, I would have liked it more.  The anthropocentric tilt that some sci-fi tales take(I'm sure there's some TV tropes term for this) bothers me, because it reeks of sun-revolving-around-the-earth small mindedness.  The human race is most likely not going to amount to more than a rapidly decaying bubble of transmissions expanding through the black.  It is a bit sad and humbling, but it is the truth.  That said, I understand why it is included in so many stories, as it gives a connection and sense of importance that so many people like.

If I remember right, I felt the same way about the other story by this author, that the anthropocentric nature ruined it somewhat. 
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« Reply #21 on: February 08, 2011, 01:06:40 PM »

The ending is kind of the opposite of the Planet of the Apes: "You maniacs! You sucked it all in!"

No, but seriously...I thought the story was surprisingly well-handled, considering a good chunk of the rising action consisted of a character locked in a broom closet working on a linguistics paper. I was reminded a little of a particular episode of Star Trek TNG where Picard, the Klingons, and the Romulans all discover the reason why most Star Trek aliens are humanoid: they're all descended from a previous race that also found themselves alone in the Universe and decided to spread their seed across the universe.
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« Reply #22 on: February 08, 2011, 02:27:53 PM »

Awesome story!  The ending was truly surprising and literally sent shivers up my spine.  It was the reverse plot of Carl Sagan's Contact.  I enjoyed the descriptions of all the different aliens, languages, and biology.  While some obvious liberties were taken for convenience of telling the story, it made the story work for me.  Instant EP classic IMHO!

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« Reply #23 on: February 08, 2011, 02:56:16 PM »

At some point, we all have a common ancestor, so that definition is a little ambiguous.

Yes, we do have a common ancestor, but it's the shared trait that came from it that matters for a discussion of parallel evolution.  The yawn reflex is a trait that came from a common ancestor of vertebrates, so it didn't evolve in parallel.  If, however, we found an invertebrate (say, a crab) with a yawn reflex*,  (and no other crab or other related species did), then that would be parallel evolution, because it evolved independently from that of vertebrates.




*Damn, writing this is making me yawn!
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« Reply #24 on: February 08, 2011, 03:09:21 PM »

A clever, rather than enjoyable, story. Must admit that the "We are the species known as Homo Sapiens" line made me groan aloud... yes, it really could have done without that. I well remember a similar discussion for "The Moment" which somehow didn't strike me as too much of a "we're human and we're the special-est of all" trope -- but strangely, this one did.
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« Reply #25 on: February 08, 2011, 04:00:04 PM »

I well remember a similar discussion for "The Moment" which somehow didn't strike me as too much of a "we're human and we're the special-est of all" trope -- but strangely, this one did.

It's funny how a story can strike you differently when you're the narrator rather than the listener.
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« Reply #26 on: February 08, 2011, 08:34:33 PM »

I well remember a similar discussion for "The Moment" which somehow didn't strike me as too much of a "we're human and we're the special-est of all" trope -- but strangely, this one did.

It's funny how a story can strike you differently when you're the narrator rather than the listener.

Heh. That did cross my mind... as did the fact that I might not even have had those thoughts about this story, were it not for that previous discussion.
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« Reply #27 on: February 09, 2011, 09:30:21 AM »

I am surprised that i am the first one to mention this but i dont quite see how this is related to Wind from a Dying Star, that story featured humans billions of years into the future that had transformed themselves into energy creatures and was trying to survive in an aging universe, i am struggling to make that work with the message we hear towards the end of this story.
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« Reply #28 on: February 09, 2011, 09:51:01 AM »

I am surprised that i am the first one to mention this but i dont quite see how this is related to Wind from a Dying Star, that story featured humans billions of years into the future that had transformed themselves into energy creatures and was trying to survive in an aging universe, i am struggling to make that work with the message we hear towards the end of this story.

I was wondering about that throughout the whole story, to the extent that I think it was out of place in the intro.

My best guess is that the post-humans of Wind From a Dying Star were those who collapsed the universe and sent the message to the newly created universe.  In that one interstellar distances were their biggest obstacle, and as a race the worst crime was to leave someone alone.  That seems to match the style of the message.  Although I'm not sure that those blobby things from that story would refer to themselves as Homo Sapiens as only the old soldier bore any resemblence to our current body configuration and he was old and outdated even at the beginning of that story.  So thinking of that story makes the "Homo Sapiens" in this message stick out even more.

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« Reply #29 on: February 09, 2011, 11:43:18 AM »

The "Home Sapiens" (why isn't that in my spellchecker?) part of the message didn't bother me at all, and having seen it brought up here multiple times I still don't see the problem.
When conversing with someone who does not speak your language you (should) generally refrain from using slang and other figures of speech since it just adds to the confusion. Someone translating your language would do it literally, and saying something like "raining cats and dogs" would cause much alarm and confusion. Therefore, one should always try to use the correct terminology when discussions cross the language barrier. Thus I only see it fitting that in a final message from Humanity as a species to its progeny they would use the proper scientific term for our species.
True the proper and correct term is Homo Sapiens Sapiens, but that's even more confusing.
Remember that a lot of thought and care went into the message, teaching the language as it went. So to suddenly throw in a nickname, as it were, would totally throw them off.
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« Reply #30 on: February 09, 2011, 12:00:32 PM »

When conversing with someone who does not speak your language you (should) generally refrain from using slang and other figures of speech since it just adds to the confusion.

My department is approximately 80% Chinese, so I run into this fairly often. When talking about staring at computer screens, I accidentally taught one co-worker the phrase "going cross-eyed". On the other hand, one day I was watching my protein gel run (slightly more interesting than paint drying) and another co-worker told me "a watched pot never boils." So, you never know. Tongue
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« Reply #31 on: February 09, 2011, 12:45:23 PM »

The "Home Sapiens" (why isn't that in my spellchecker?) part of the message didn't bother me at all, and having seen it brought up here multiple times I still don't see the problem.
When conversing with someone who does not speak your language you (should) generally refrain from using slang and other figures of speech since it just adds to the confusion. Someone translating your language would do it literally, and saying something like "raining cats and dogs" would cause much alarm and confusion. Therefore, one should always try to use the correct terminology when discussions cross the language barrier. Thus I only see it fitting that in a final message from Humanity as a species to its progeny they would use the proper scientific term for our species.
True the proper and correct term is Homo Sapiens Sapiens, but that's even more confusing.
Remember that a lot of thought and care went into the message, teaching the language as it went. So to suddenly throw in a nickname, as it were, would totally throw them off.

Some reasons why it bothered me (though I can understand if they didn't bother you):

1.  This has been translated into her language, and the term "Homo Sapiens" may not be pronouncable in her language and certainly has 0 meaning.  Using this phrase that is meaningless in the translated message that has no fundamental meaning to them is a way to send a message to the reader about the species' true identity without tipping off the character, which makes it seem much more like authorial intrusion.  I can see the author's hand manipulating the puppets of their manufactured world.  It's hard to  unsee the man behind the curtain.

2.  She doesn't know how to pronounce the words, as they are pictogram based and she has no example to follow or even an idea of the structure of the beings who could pronounce the original language.  When I hear the rest of the words I assume they have been translated from the language the narrator understands to English, to give them similar meaning, but that doesn't really make sense for me if it's a word that is meaningless to them.  The odds of them guessing the sounds from the pictograms that sound like we'd recognize as "homo sapiens" doesn't really make sense to me.

3.  If these are truly the creatures from Wind From a Dying Star, I doubt they'd consider themselves homo sapiens anyway.

3. 
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« Reply #32 on: February 09, 2011, 02:52:45 PM »

snipped

Some reasons why it bothered me (though I can understand if they didn't bother you):

1.  This has been translated into her language, and the term "Homo Sapiens" may not be pronouncable in her language and certainly has 0 meaning.  Using this phrase that is meaningless in the translated message that has no fundamental meaning to them is a way to send a message to the reader about the species' true identity without tipping off the character, which makes it seem much more like authorial intrusion.  I can see the author's hand manipulating the puppets of their manufactured world.  It's hard to  unsee the man behind the curtain.
This reason I could understand, although I'm not sure if I wholly agree with it.
In my opinion, the man behind the curtain is always there, and you always see him. A story changes based on who is telling it, and catching a glimpse of him can add or subtract from one's enjoyment of the story. Sometimes the curtain is thicker than others, but this shouldn't ruin a story.

2.  She doesn't know how to pronounce the words, as they are pictogram based and she has no example to follow or even an idea of the structure of the beings who could pronounce the original language.  When I hear the rest of the words I assume they have been translated from the language the narrator understands to English, to give them similar meaning, but that doesn't really make sense for me if it's a word that is meaningless to them.  The odds of them guessing the sounds from the pictograms that sound like we'd recognize as "homo sapiens" doesn't really make sense to me.
There could have been a pictorgram for "we who wrote this message". Luulianni translated it into whatever language she understands. So the message wouldn't actually read "Homo Sapiens" but "we who have written this message". The narrator translated it back into a language we understand. But again, the story changes based on who is telling it, and so the narrator, who knows his audience, simply said Homo Sapiens.
In fact, let's take this one step further.
Brace for suspension of disbelief.
Suppose this story exists on every civilized planet. But in each retelling of the story, it is the planet's dominant species who sent the message.
There, don't feel so special now, do you?

3.  If these are truly the creatures from Wind From a Dying Star, I doubt they'd consider themselves homo sapiens anyway.
I actually started listening to EP from episode 239(wow, almost a whole year!), but I will go back and listen to 238. From what I could piece together, no, those beings would not call themselves Homo Sapiens. But you could see number 2 again.
Or, there is no evidence that this story is, well, I would say in the same universe...
There is no evidence that this story is in the same multiverse as Wind From a Dying Star, similar titles and the same author not withstanding.

I went and checked the message again. It reads:
"Greetings from the species once known as Homo Sapiens. You who read this are, in a way, our children..."
So it could have been those same beings.
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« Reply #33 on: February 09, 2011, 03:44:48 PM »

Actually, the Homo Sapiens reference is even more problematic than that: it names our species, but as we use it in English, it doesn't define our species*.  Nor, I would argue, is the term definable, any more than the names "John" or "Mur" are.

Going back and reading the final message, the term Homo Sapiens is the only one I can find that couldn't - at least in theory - be defined in terms of basic concepts that the Language 8 pictures might give.  (Disclaimer: I'm not a linguist, so please add an implied "as far as I can tell" to statements like that.)

The message could have read Greetings from the species once known as Ooma-loompas and still had as much impact to its ultimate readers as any other name.  The name Homo Sapiens is a sop to the story's readers.

(Hmm, now I wonder if the author maybe didn't put that into the story originally, but was made to do so by an editor. Heinlein, Asimov and others told tales of editors making changes to their stories before (or even after!) they would buy them.)



*Actually, it could be argued that the literal translation, "wise man", doesn't define us very well either.
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« Reply #34 on: February 09, 2011, 05:10:25 PM »

Homo Sapiens is not definable, but, assuming the information given in the primer was sufficient to actually teach the English alphabet, then it could be writable. And the aliens could be taught how to pronounce the letters -we tend to think of sounds as acoustic instructions (i.e., make a "t" by causing a air obstruction in the mouth by touching the tip of the tongue to the alveolar ridge"), and that's clearly not transferrable to an arbitrary alien race whose physiology would not be known at the time of message writing, but there's no reason not to express the letters in acoustic terms (i.e., the syllable "ho" creates sound waves that look roughly like....) - the aliens clearly had the technology to decode that. Of course, they would have needed more resources than would have been available to the heroine whose name I can't spell during the events of the story, but there would have been plenty of time to correct the name between the main story and the epilogue.

However, whether future humans would choose to call the species "homo sapiens" - rather than "human", for example - is a rather different question.
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« Reply #35 on: February 09, 2011, 05:25:29 PM »

However, whether future humans would choose to call the species "homo sapiens" - rather than "human", for example - is a rather different question.

It seems to me that in the transhuman future, we might see the term "human" come to be used rather loosely. The homo sapiens sapiens are human, but so is homo sapiens machina and homo sapiens irritus. Perhaps the message was specifically intended to evoke humanity's biological origins, rather than all the things we could have refashioned ourselves into?
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« Reply #36 on: February 09, 2011, 06:55:08 PM »

I liked this story! I studied to be a linguist before I became a librarian (I earned half the linguistics degree before the university cut the program, and taught ESL at a language school for several years), so I took a little something extra from this story. I saw the eight languages as a sort of Rosetta Stone, made more difficult because the alien linguists were unfamiliar with any of the original languages, something the reader doesn’t fully understand until the message is revealed in the epilogue.

More about linguistics for interested parties:
Homo Sapiens is not definable, but, assuming the information given in the primer was sufficient to actually teach the English alphabet, then it could be writable. And the aliens could be taught how to pronounce the letters -we tend to think of sounds as acoustic instructions (i.e., make a "t" by causing a air obstruction in the mouth by touching the tip of the tongue to the alveolar ridge"), and that's clearly not transferrable to an arbitrary alien race whose physiology would not be known at the time of message writing, but there's no reason not to express the letters in acoustic terms (i.e., the syllable "ho" creates sound waves that look roughly like....) - the aliens clearly had the technology to decode that. Of course, they would have needed more resources than would have been available to the heroine whose name I can't spell during the events of the story, but there would have been plenty of time to correct the name between the main story and the epilogue.
Eytanz is spot on, here. Linguists use the International Phonetic Alphabet to share notes on pronunciation between languages with dissimilar alphabets. If you google it, you'll see that the symbols used to represent sounds are organized by where the sound is made in the mouth or throat and how the sound is voiced. (If you want to see something somewhat creepy, google the Sagittal Head while you're at it, which is often used to display the parts of the mouth and throat relevant to linguistic discussion.)

In my first linguistics class, I learned about the structure of the English language and then applied that structure to other languages. Once you start learning morphemes (the smallest unit of language with meaning), it’s amazing how much you’re able to pick up. (For example, In English, “-ed” is the morpheme for past tense, “s” is the morpheme for plural.) After a few months of learning about various sentence structures, the professor would assign phrases in foreign languages, telling us “That there is the morpheme for present-perfect tense. Translate this phrase,” and I was able to, even though I’d never studied that other language in my life, as were all my classmates. If I was able to do that within my first semester, I have no doubt that an intergalactic team of top linguists would be able to puzzle out Homo Sapiens.
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« Reply #37 on: February 09, 2011, 06:57:35 PM »

I wanted to add that I had a whole set of those Disney books with tapes as a kid.  :)Love Smiley
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« Reply #38 on: February 09, 2011, 08:46:39 PM »

@tinygaia

The thing to remember, though, is that they *don't have* morphemes to work from here.  They're working with the language the way we work with, say, Egyptian or Aztec hieroglyphics.  We can work out the meanings based on the context (here, the pictorial representations) but it's vastly harder to have any idea what possible sounds are represented.  They might be able to work out that "homo sapiens" as a series of symbols refers to "the name of this species," but they wouldn't know that it was "homo sapiens."
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« Reply #39 on: February 10, 2011, 10:22:08 AM »

Homo Sapiens is not definable, but, assuming the information given in the primer was sufficient to actually teach the English alphabet, then it could be writable. And the aliens could be taught how to pronounce the letters -we tend to think of sounds as acoustic instructions (i.e., make a "t" by causing a air obstruction in the mouth by touching the tip of the tongue to the alveolar ridge"), and that's clearly not transferrable to an arbitrary alien race whose physiology would not be known at the time of message writing, but there's no reason not to express the letters in acoustic terms (i.e., the syllable "ho" creates sound waves that look roughly like....) - the aliens clearly had the technology to decode that. Of course, they would have needed more resources than would have been available to the heroine whose name I can't spell during the events of the story, but there would have been plenty of time to correct the name between the main story and the epilogue.

However, whether future humans would choose to call the species "homo sapiens" - rather than "human", for example - is a rather different question.

Sure, they COULD have made a language that described how sounds were made.  It would be of dubious utility to an unknown kind of species, though, as there'd have to be assumptions about the capability of vocal cords and tongues and etc...  Or there could be descriptions of sound waves, as you say, but again there's lots of assumptions that are being made there--remember the transmission is not an audible transmission, so there's no guarantee that the species who detect it use air compression for communication, so such a language would've been no more useful for decoding "Homo Sapiens" than the language actually described here.

But the language as described didn't give descriptions of the sounds (and again, if it were to be a generally useful message, could not have been dependent on this).  And, I'm pretty sure that Lulianni said specifically that, though the language meaning could be translated, there was no way to create a pronunciation guide.  She imagined that she could imagine how it sounded but this was:
1.  Wishful thinking, probably a part of her feeling so close and fulfilled by her great work.
2.  A segue from the author to allow a literal quotation of the translation.

 
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« Reply #40 on: February 10, 2011, 10:30:43 AM »

This reason I could understand, although I'm not sure if I wholly agree with it.
In my opinion, the man behind the curtain is always there, and you always see him. A story changes based on who is telling it, and catching a glimpse of him can add or subtract from one's enjoyment of the story. Sometimes the curtain is thicker than others, but this shouldn't ruin a story.

There's always a man behind the curtain, of course, since I know I am choosing to experience an illusion for entertainment.  But while I'm listening to or reading a story, the best stories are the ones that immerse me so well that I never think about the man nor the curtain during the story.  To me, the Homo Sapiens detail was the man throwing aside the curtain and blowing a trumpet. 

Mike Resnick is a very good example of this.  I love some of his stories greatly (like Barnaby in Exile), but am completely indifferent to others (like Bride of Frankenstein).  All of his stories are emotionally manipulative--I mean this in a good way, as a good story makes me feel what the character is feeling to some extent.  The ones that I like are the ones where he effectively conceals himself behind the curtain, and I genuinely feel what the character is feeling.  The ones that I dislike are the ones where I can see the man pulling levers back there, and I can note exactly what I am INTENDED to feel at any given time.  It's sometimes a fine line, and is certainly a very subjective line, different for every person, but to me it is a very very big difference in my enjoyment.

There could have been a pictorgram for "we who wrote this message". Luulianni translated it into whatever language she understands. So the message wouldn't actually read "Homo Sapiens" but "we who have written this message". The narrator translated it back into a language we understand. But again, the story changes based on who is telling it, and so the narrator, who knows his audience, simply said Homo Sapiens.
In fact, let's take this one step further.
Brace for suspension of disbelief.
Suppose this story exists on every civilized planet. But in each retelling of the story, it is the planet's dominant species who sent the message.
There, don't feel so special now, do you?

IMO the ending would have been an order of magnitude better if it HAD said "we who wrote this message" because that is a phrase tied to an actual meaning.  And, as you said, could allow each reader to draw their own conclusion about whether these were humans who sent the message or not, which would have encouraged me to speculate further (which to me is always a good thing).  By using "Homo Sapiens" specifically, the story was forced to be very human-centric, and curtailed any speculations I might have had about whether the past species were human or not.
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« Reply #41 on: February 10, 2011, 01:12:30 PM »

I enjoyed this story, which I found a bit surprising since I have a very low opinion of "Wind from a Dying Star".

And Mur is incorrect... it's most definitely not "the same universe" as in that story,as is made explicit in the message at the end  Tongue
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« Reply #42 on: February 10, 2011, 03:59:23 PM »

And Mur is incorrect... it's most definitely not "the same universe" as in that story,as is made explicit in the message at the end  Tongue

Maybe she did that deliberately, so we wouldn't see the end coming... Wink
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« Reply #43 on: February 10, 2011, 10:33:10 PM »

I really enjoyed the level of detail the writer went into when explaining the process Luliani when through to make her discovery.  I also liked the setting and situation of having an interplanetary task force to decode an ancient language.  Overall I did enjoy the story.  But I found the characters and central plot a little on the cliche side.  In reality stubborn, bureaucratic authority figures are most likely doing their job the best way they know how.  They're following the rules.  There are sometimes factors that they have to take into account that the scrappy, young idealist doesn't know about.  Or maybe they're on a power trip.  But when we come across this character type in a story it's a red flag that this person is involved in a criminal enterprise.  I actually found Luliani to be willful and selfish in the beginning, and was secretly pulling for the villain, knowing that I wasn't supposed to. 

I absolutely hated the message.  It's at once too arrogant and too humble.  It was entirely self-serving from the human's point of view.  Why should they remember us?  Why should they forgive us?  We didn't destroy their universe.  It made homo sapiens look like a bunch of winy emo kids.

I'm no physicist, but is is correct to say that we "break" the rules of the universe?  We can study them further and find ways to do things that were once thought impossible, but do we actually break the rules?  Now that I'm writing this it occurs to me that maybe this is supposed to echo Luliani's rule breaking, though with dire consequences.
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« Reply #44 on: February 13, 2011, 04:04:32 AM »

Hmmmm, was I the only that that felt the story was written with the intent that the Consortium had already deciphered the 8th language, and the entire linguistic department bureaucracy was a make work project - a tool to hold on to power and to ensure no one else figured out the language?  The insistence from the Consortium that the protagonist NOT work on the eighth language even in her spare time gave me that impression from the very beginning.

Working from this premise, I found the plot predictable, from the cliche under utilized & bitter protagonist fighting 'the man' (or primate-like species) right to the end of her 'revealing the big secret' to the universe.

The message at the end had me groaning as well.  The thought that the human race evolves to be so advanced they can collapse a universe and re-create it with rules of physics of their making is so humancentric.  It's like believing the entire universe is revolving around the earth - it's a very limited point of view.

I will say that the details in the story were great.  I was drawn into the story despite the predictability of it, and felt there was enough detail and well thought out back story that showed the author's skill at story telling.  I think the linguistic elements were well thought out.  I do not really willing to dive into that debate, but I can forgive a lot of the linguistic criticisms it has received so far.

in a nutshell - it stood up well as a story, but not one of my favorites for predictability reasons.
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« Reply #45 on: February 15, 2011, 05:18:33 AM »


Alien names bother me. I'm not sure why they have to be so difficult to pronounce,

Why the "difficult to pronounce" names are so bad?
If understand that in audio they present a challenge for the reader, but when you are just reading it for yourself why should you care how a word is pronounced?
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« Reply #46 on: February 15, 2011, 11:06:15 AM »


Alien names bother me. I'm not sure why they have to be so difficult to pronounce,

Why the "difficult to pronounce" names are so bad?
If understand that in audio they present a challenge for the reader, but when you are just reading it for yourself why should you care how a word is pronounced?

  This never bothers me, but maybe that's because I have to deal with human names on a daily basis that are nearly impossible to pronounce based on how they are written due either to being names from another culture or names possibly arrived at by pulling Scrabble tiles from a bag, and throwing in a few apostrophes for aesthetic value.
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« Reply #47 on: February 15, 2011, 12:22:00 PM »

This never bothers me, but maybe that's because I have to deal with human names on a daily basis that are nearly impossible to pronounce based on how they are written due either to being names from another culture or names possibly arrived at by pulling Scrabble tiles from a bag, and throwing in a few apostrophes for aesthetic value.

This from a guy with 'ii' at the end of his name.  Wink

(Yes, I know it's Japanese, and heck, I can even pronounce it.  It still struck me as mildly ironic.)
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« Reply #48 on: February 15, 2011, 05:39:20 PM »


Alien names bother me. I'm not sure why they have to be so difficult to pronounce,

Why the "difficult to pronounce" names are so bad?
If understand that in audio they present a challenge for the reader, but when you are just reading it for yourself why should you care how a word is pronounced?

Not alien names per se, just the ones that shriek 'alien' by being made up of bizarre vowel/consonant arrangements. It bothers me because podcast narrators often trip over them or pause to kind of take a run at them. Sometimes they even change the pronunciation during the reading because the construction suggests a different set of sounds each time they come up against it. The same thing happens when I read for myself; and all of these interrupt the flow of the story. That's why it bothers me. And because the names are generally arbitrary and not underpinned by a developed language (excluding Klingon, which is), and as a communication device (hey look, this is an alien name, chaps!) it feels cheap. Finally, with a bit of thought, it's avoidable; you don't have to do it and you can still flag up the non-human space person thing.
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« Reply #49 on: February 15, 2011, 08:18:58 PM »


This from a guy with 'ii' at the end of his name.  Wink

(Yes, I know it's Japanese, and heck, I can even pronounce it.  It still struck me as mildly ironic.)

  They were having a 2-for-1 sale on "i"s at the time. I would have been a fool to pass it up.
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« Reply #50 on: February 17, 2011, 02:12:53 PM »

I didn't really enjoy the story. It was TOO alien for me.

My favorite part has been the books-with-tapes stuff. I used to have this player with four buttons, where depending upon what you wanted to happen in the story, you'd push a certain button and a different part of the audio track would play.

I also had the Star Trek III book-with-tape. Turn the page at the sound of the communicator indeed.
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« Reply #51 on: February 17, 2011, 03:42:47 PM »

I used to have this player with four buttons, where depending upon what you wanted to happen in the story, you'd push a certain button and a different part of the audio track would play.

That's pretty cool.  Wouldn't work for listening on a commute, though.  Cheesy
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« Reply #52 on: February 17, 2011, 07:25:07 PM »

My favorite part has been the books-with-tapes stuff. I used to have this player with four buttons, where depending upon what you wanted to happen in the story, you'd push a certain button and a different part of the audio track would play.

Yeah, that's called an "eight-track tape player"; they were kind of big in the seventies. When I was a sprog, I used to have this version:



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« Reply #53 on: February 17, 2011, 09:38:41 PM »

I didn't really enjoy the story. It was TOO alien for me.


Can I ask what you mean by that? Because aside from references to various body parts, etc etc, I thought these "aliens" all behaved in a pretty human fashion.
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« Reply #54 on: February 17, 2011, 09:43:03 PM »

I didn't really enjoy the story. It was TOO alien for me.


Can I ask what you mean by that? Because aside from references to various body parts, etc etc, I thought these "aliens" all behaved in a pretty human fashion.
I agree with Talia.  I thought it wasn't alien enough.  Not only did the aliens behave in a human fashion, they behaved in a American/European human fashion.
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« Reply #55 on: February 18, 2011, 12:29:45 PM »

Yeah, that's called an "eight-track tape player"; they were kind of big in the seventies. When I was a sprog, I used to have this version:



I loved 2-XL when I was a kid.  Spent many an hour with him.  Very cool.
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« Reply #56 on: February 18, 2011, 09:00:55 PM »

Yeah, that's called an "eight-track tape player"; they were kind of big in the seventies. When I was a sprog, I used to have this version:



I loved 2-XL when I was a kid.  Spent many an hour with him.  Very cool.
I was so next-gen. I had Alphie.
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« Reply #57 on: February 23, 2011, 11:30:20 PM »

Can't add much to the comments already present, just wanted to say I liked this story a lot.  The parts of the story capturing the drudgery were perfect, as well as the aspects of their bureaucracy wherein Luulianni finds herself defeated by its byzantine/nepotistic nature.  A million times at my job I've wanted to report something, make a difference, suggest a positive change, only to remember that it would go nowhere and circle the drain.  The few times I've brought forward something, it gets the "Oh yes!" and goes right into the pile.  Felt very relatable, and from the comments I can see I'm not the only one to have experienced it - definite consequence of any system allowed to get sufficient inertia.  I really liked the ending, but not necessarily the denouement.  The part where she was trying feverishly to solve the riddle of the language was brilliant and I felt myself wishing the narration could go as fast as my mind was racing.  I was trying to visualize characters and patterns in my brain, nevermind the fact that I've never studied linguistics.  And then the rush in to the press conference-type event, all very stirring. And then.... the message.  Yeah, not for me.  I think it was a 98% excellent, 2% bad story, and the bad was all at the end.  Anthropocentrism ftl.
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« Reply #58 on: February 24, 2011, 09:21:39 AM »

Anthropocentrism ftl.

Faster Than Light?   Wink
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« Reply #59 on: February 24, 2011, 03:36:07 PM »

I didn't really enjoy the story. It was TOO alien for me.


Can I ask what you mean by that? Because aside from references to various body parts, etc etc, I thought these "aliens" all behaved in a pretty human fashion.
I agree with Talia.  I thought it wasn't alien enough.  Not only did the aliens behave in a human fashion, they behaved in a American/European human fashion.

I see the point here -- the Western Human aliens. But I almost felt like the author was trying too hard to make the aliens alien by referring to their weird (to us) characteristics. This is something Scattercat pointed out to me that I was doing in a story I wrote about nonhumans, and now I'm noticing it more an dmore.
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« Reply #60 on: February 24, 2011, 05:45:39 PM »

I see the point here -- the Western Human aliens. But I almost felt like the author was trying too hard to make the aliens alien by referring to their weird (to us) characteristics. This is something Scattercat pointed out to me that I was doing in a story I wrote about nonhumans, and now I'm noticing it more and more.

Bwahaha!  You cannot unsee what has been seen!  You cannot unpick the nit that has been picked!

(I do kind of agree that the aliens here weren't very alien; their behavior was totally in line with modern American office politics, basically.)
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« Reply #61 on: February 24, 2011, 06:13:41 PM »

I see the point here -- the Western Human aliens. But I almost felt like the author was trying too hard to make the aliens alien by referring to their weird (to us) characteristics. This is something Scattercat pointed out to me that I was doing in a story I wrote about nonhumans, and now I'm noticing it more and more.

Bwahaha!  You cannot unsee what has been seen!  You cannot unpick the nit that has been picked!

(I do kind of agree that the aliens here weren't very alien; their behavior was totally in line with modern American office politics, basically.)

Or alternately, modern American office politics are totally inline with alien behavior. Just sayin'...
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« Reply #62 on: February 25, 2011, 03:05:18 PM »

I see the point here -- the Western Human aliens. But I almost felt like the author was trying too hard to make the aliens alien by referring to their weird (to us) characteristics. This is something Scattercat pointed out to me that I was doing in a story I wrote about nonhumans, and now I'm noticing it more and more.

Bwahaha!  You cannot unsee what has been seen!  You cannot unpick the nit that has been picked!

(I do kind of agree that the aliens here weren't very alien; their behavior was totally in line with modern American office politics, basically.)

Personally, I'd rather have Office Space alien drones than something along the lines of "Wweyuw harbled the wangle frunctiously, arbinguous in guryc's gibble fong gawple."  Sometimes reference points are good.
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« Reply #63 on: February 25, 2011, 03:07:56 PM »

What makes you assume the aliens will use a spoken language?  Or consonants?  ;-)
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« Reply #64 on: February 25, 2011, 04:02:58 PM »

"Wweyuw Harbled the Wangle Frunctiously"

Sounds like a great title, along the lines of Rejiggering the Thingamajig.

Alternate joke: I wish I could find a sentient to harble my wangle.

Take your pick.
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« Reply #65 on: February 25, 2011, 04:34:34 PM »

"Wweyuw Harbled the Wangle Frunctiously"

Sounds like a great title, along the lines of Rejiggering the Thingamajig.

Alternate joke: I wish I could find a sentient to harble my wangle.

Take your pick.
Harbling is a very underrated corporate activity. Wangling, on the other hand..
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« Reply #66 on: February 25, 2011, 08:12:54 PM »

"Wweyuw Harbled the Wangle Frunctiously"

Sounds like a great title, along the lines of Rejiggering the Thingamajig.

Alternate joke: I wish I could find a sentient to harble my wangle.

Take your pick.
Harbling is a very underrated corporate activity. Wangling, on the other hand..
As long as they do it frunctiously, I'll take it.
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« Reply #67 on: February 27, 2011, 10:21:32 PM »

Lemme tell ya, frunctiousness is way over-rated.
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« Reply #68 on: February 27, 2011, 10:36:29 PM »

Enjoyable story. Once again I found myself listening to a podcast wishing that readers would keep a dictionary handy to double-check the pronunciation of words - in this case, "consortium", "interminable", "phoneme" ("phenomes" exist, but languages have phonemes), and "modal", which is accented on the first, not the second, syllable. Yes, a minor issue, but as a word-lover, I find it jarring. Mispronunciations are the typos of audio presentations. It knocks me out of a story for a moment as I am forced to pause to assess "what was that?"
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« Reply #69 on: February 28, 2011, 09:55:40 AM »

I see the point here -- the Western Human aliens. But I almost felt like the author was trying too hard to make the aliens alien by referring to their weird (to us) characteristics. This is something Scattercat pointed out to me that I was doing in a story I wrote about nonhumans, and now I'm noticing it more and more.

Bwahaha!  You cannot unsee what has been seen!  You cannot unpick the nit that has been picked!

(I do kind of agree that the aliens here weren't very alien; their behavior was totally in line with modern American office politics, basically.)

Personally, I'd rather have Office Space alien drones than something along the lines of "Wweyuw harbled the wangle frunctiously, arbinguous in guryc's gibble fong gawple."  Sometimes reference points are good.

Calloo, Callay!
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« Reply #70 on: February 28, 2011, 01:11:31 PM »

I see the point here -- the Western Human aliens. But I almost felt like the author was trying too hard to make the aliens alien by referring to their weird (to us) characteristics. This is something Scattercat pointed out to me that I was doing in a story I wrote about nonhumans, and now I'm noticing it more and more.

Bwahaha!  You cannot unsee what has been seen!  You cannot unpick the nit that has been picked!

(I do kind of agree that the aliens here weren't very alien; their behavior was totally in line with modern American office politics, basically.)

Personally, I'd rather have Office Space alien drones than something along the lines of "Wweyuw harbled the wangle frunctiously, arbinguous in guryc's gibble fong gawple."  Sometimes reference points are good.

Calloo, Callay!
He chortled in his joy?

Huh *scratches head* Huh
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« Reply #71 on: February 28, 2011, 02:15:01 PM »

I see the point here -- the Western Human aliens. But I almost felt like the author was trying too hard to make the aliens alien by referring to their weird (to us) characteristics. This is something Scattercat pointed out to me that I was doing in a story I wrote about nonhumans, and now I'm noticing it more and more.

Bwahaha!  You cannot unsee what has been seen!  You cannot unpick the nit that has been picked!

(I do kind of agree that the aliens here weren't very alien; their behavior was totally in line with modern American office politics, basically.)

Personally, I'd rather have Office Space alien drones than something along the lines of "Wweyuw harbled the wangle frunctiously, arbinguous in guryc's gibble fong gawple."  Sometimes reference points are good.

Calloo, Callay!
He chortled in his joy?

Huh *scratches head* Huh

Oh that was just my way of chiming in to say that nonsense words can be fun too, ala The Jabberwocky.
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« Reply #72 on: March 07, 2011, 04:15:13 PM »

Anthropocentrism ftl.

Faster Than Light?   Wink

FOR THE LULZ
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« Reply #73 on: March 18, 2011, 02:07:43 PM »

Oh, lovely, lovely story. I wasn't too hot about the other Levine story, but this one had me on the edge of my seat. Beautiful tale of perserverance in the face of bad odds, and the message at the end was surprisingly poignant.
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« Reply #74 on: May 18, 2011, 02:24:03 AM »

I enjoyed this one (a lot more than I did "Wind from a Dying Star"), though I agree with a lot of the nitpicks here.

I also think the reading was a lot rougher than I usually expect from Mur, in terms of hesitations, stumbles, and mispronunciations.  Some of that was because of the alien names, true, but not all of it.  And for those complaining about the names being too alien . . . .

Not alien names per se, just the ones that shriek 'alien' by being made up of bizarre vowel/consonant arrangements.

Frankly, a lot of the world's languages have vowel/consonant arrangements that look bizarre to an Anglophone reader.  Some of my favorite examples: the Aztec god Huitzilopochtli, the Irish verb form "bhfaighidh," and the (I think) Czech last name Hrynczyszyn.  (Fun fact: depending on your dialect, that Irish verb can be pronounced like the English words "we" or "why."  No, really.)  So I actually like alien languages doing unexpected things; unless the author is a dedicated conlanger, those things are probably no more unexpected than stuff found in real human languages.

But it does pay for the reader to practice the names and words until they roll smoothly off the tongue.  Otherwise, yes, they do trip up the narration.
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