Posts Tagged ‘Esperanto’

Very sad to hear of the death of science fiction writer Harry Harrison at the age of 87.

Harrison is probably best known for his novel Make Room! Make Room! (1966), a powerful dystopia about overpopulation filmed – rather successfully – as Soylent Green (1973).

His anti-hero, James Bolivar DiGriz, alias “Slippery Jim” DiGriz, first appeared in the short story ”The Stainless Steel Rat” in Astounding magazine in 1957;  The Stainless Steel Rat (1961) was the first in a series of hilarious novels featuring the adventures of the interplanetary crook and his expanding family.

Bill the Galactic Hero (1965) was an equally amusing novel but with a darker subtext, a satire on the militaristic science fiction of Robert A Heinlein, especially Starship Troopers (1960). Harrison drew on his own experiences as a machine gun instructor

His other work includes A Transatlantic Tunnel, Hurrah! (1973), an early example of what would later be termed ‘Steampunk‘, and the elaborate Alternative World Eden Trilogy (West of Eden1984, Winter in Eden1986, and Return to Eden1988), an exercise in World Building comparable in scope and ambition to Frank Herbert‘s Dune (1965) and Brian Aldiss‘s Helliconia Trilogy (1982-1985).

Harrison was a good friend and collaborator with Brian Aldiss, and they were co-presidents of the Birmingham Science Fiction Group. They edited numerous anthologies together.

He was a proselytizer for the auxiliary language Esperanto, which is spoken in the future of his Deathworld series (1960-2001) and The Stainless Steel Rat; Harrison was honorary president of the Esperanto Association of Ireland, as well as a member of Esperanto-USA, and also the Universala Esperanto-Asocio (World Esperanto Association).

He was also a notable atheist, and often used his fiction to criticise religion. His most widely anthologised short story was ”The Streets of Ashkelon” (1962), first published in Brian Aldiss’s anthology New Worlds (1962), a taboo-busting story about an interplanetary missionary; and Make Room! Make Room! was an attack on the Catholic Church’s opposition to contraception, not a gothic nightmare about cannibalism – Soylent Green is made from soy beans and lentils, not people!

References
  • Aldiss, Brian (ed, 1962) New Worlds
    • (1982) Helliconia Spring
    • (1983) Helliconia Summer
    • (1985) Helliconia Winter
  • Harrison, Harry (1957) ”The Stainless Steel Rat” in Astounding
    • (1960) Deathworld
    • (1961) The Stainless Steel Rat
    • (1962)  ”The Streets of Ashkelon” in Aldiss, Brian (1962)
    • (1965) Bill, the Galactic Hero
    • (1973) A Transatlantic Tunnel, Hurrah!
    • (1984) West of Eden
    • (1986) Winter in Eden
    • (1988) Return to Eden
  • Heinlein, Robert A (1960) Starship Troopers
  • Herbert, Frank (1965) Dune
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In the Land of Invented Languages: Esperanto Rock Stars, Klingon Poets, Loglan Lovers, and the Mad Dreamers Who Tried to Build a Perfect Language (2009) by Arika Okrent.

In the Land of Invented Languages is linguist Arika Okrent’s lightning tour of the strange world of constructed languages, or ‘conlangs’.

Okrent has an M.A. in Linguistics from the Gallaudet University, and a Ph.D. in Psycholinguistics from the University of Chicago. She speaks numerous languages including  English, Hungarian and American Sign Language. She also has a  first-level certification in Klingon.

Okrent takes us through the history of constructed languages from Hildegard von Bingen (Saint Hildegard, or Sibyl of the Rhine), a 12th Century Garman nun, composer and polymath, who gave us the first documented invented language, the purpose of which is long forgotten, to the 17th Century English Clergyman John Wilkins, who’s 600 page opus An Essay towards a Real Character and a Philosophical Language (1668) attempts to categorise no less than everything in the universe according to a branching hierarchical scheme.

There are excellent chapters on auxiliary languages (‘IALs’, or ‘auxlangs’), which are devised to aid international communication or for the teaching of language. These include L. L. Zamenhof‘s Esperanto, and its ‘offspring’ Interlingua and Ido.

There are also excellent chapters on the engineered languages (or ‘engelangs’) Loglan and Lojban originally designed to test theories of linguistic determinism, or the so-called ‘Sapir-Whorf hypothesis‘.

Suzette Haden Elgin‘s feminist language Láadan is also examined. Láadan appears in Elgin’s feminist sf novels Native Tongue (1984),  The Judas Rose (1987) and Earthsong (1993), and, as such, is as much an ‘artlang‘ as it is an engelang – which leads into a discussion on artlangs proper.

There’s a brief chapter on J. R. R. Tolkien‘s various Elvish languages including  Quenya and Sindarin.

Obviously Okrent can’t examine all constructed languages, so the only science fiction languages she examines in detail are and Klingon from the Star Trek franchise.

Sources