Sunday, August 27, 2017

Five SFF stories in which translators save the day

Jeff Somers is the author of Lifers, the Avery Cates series from Orbit Books, Chum from Tyrus Books, and the Ustari Cycle from Pocket/Gallery, including We Are Not Good People. At the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy blog he tagged five sci-fi and fantasy stories "in which a translator gets to save the day—at least in part because they’re the only ones who can figure out what’s going on." One title on the list:
Louise Banks in “Story of Your Life”, by Ted Chiang

Dr. Louise Banks is called in to help translate an alien language when spaceships appear in twelve areas around the globe. Amidst a tense military presence and constrained by secretive CIA operatives and the mind-bending presence of the aliens themselves, she struggles with visions of her doomed daughter that aren’t exactly what they seem while working on a language that is like nothing humanity has ever encountered. It’s very safe to say that without spoiling anything Dr. Banks more or less single-handedly saves humanity from long-range doom by finally having the epiphany that allows us to communicate and understand the visitors—but don’t let the word “epiphany” fool you; it’s very clear that only through Banks’ experience, training, and exhaustive work on-site that the breakthrough comes to her. Chiang even surrounds her with more conventional “hero” types as contrast—hero types who almost ruin everything.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue