“The Gaps in Translation” by Andrea Corbin

Posted by Nicky Drayden on Oct 15, 2014 in Reviews

Crossed Genres
http://crossedgenres.com/magazine/013-the-gaps-in-translation/
Author Website: http://www.sharedepic.com/

In this story of a second contact, three humans visit a world inhabited by lizard-like people, some hundred years after the first contact. They are greeted by immediate differences based on what they’ve learned from the recordings of the first contact, specifically the flying “gliders” the lizzies now ride upon. Even the language has evolved, giving Miranda, the linguistics expert of the group, some trouble:

««Hello,»» Jago said, in the best lizzie that he had picked up from the old recordings. The lizzies hesitated and looked at him. Their faces were enough like humans that Miranda was almost fooled into thinking she could read the expression, but she caught herself. It looked like one of them smiled in amusement, but it could be a grimace, indicating offense.

««Hello,»» one of them replied. It looked at each of them in turn. ««You can come —- you will meet —– who —- you.»»

Miranda understood only pieces of what it said. Their chips were set to listen and recalibrate at first, making Miranda’s background studying theoretical neurolinguistics even more valuable for a few days. Though she was the expert on the lizzie language, she had trouble catching everything. The accent seemed to have changed and Miranda’s ear wasn’t ready for it.

««Repeat, please. Come where?»»

The lizzie clapped its hands, and curled its tail. Pleased. That was an action she’d seen in the recordings. It’d been a hundred years since the first brief visit. Enough time to record and observe, enough data to study that Miranda could learn to speak well enough.

I’m a sucker for linguistics stories, and love how language unfolds and mutates, so this was right up my alley. The lizard aliens were great, and I particularly enjoyed the terse and coy comments by Co, the elder lizard who was alive for the first contact. I really got a good feeling for the lizard culture and it seemed both alien and familiar at the same time. I was curious to learn more about their gender roles, though the story left that open. My one big hangup with this is that I never really bought into the human characters. Their actions seemed a little arbitrary to me and their decisions unfocused and unclear, especially towards the end of the story. While they were believable, even enjoyable as characters, I just didn’t believe that someone, somewhere would have decided they were the best fit for a mission as important as a second contact. That aside, this was a fun read, and it explores some interesting themes on the influences cultures can have upon one another.

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