The only thing I’m sure of, when it comes to the future, is that we will have words. Be it five years from now, or a thousand, I know we’ll still be speaking to each other.
Okay, maybe even this is suspect, but just go with me, here. I’m assuming we don’t all turn into telepaths and no longer need spoken word, or you know, the apocalypse happens.
What got me thinking were two different conversations I was involved with recently. It reminded me of the moment when I had to decide how I’d handle futuristic terms in my own writing. In one twitter conversation this week, we discussed why so many military SF books use US military ranking and terms.
(The discussion of ranking systems in military SF is fascinating, but for later, I think.)
An off-shoot of that conversation involved the butterbar, slang for a Second Lieutenant, and whether that would still be a word used in the far future.
Add to that, the discussion with completely separate people (twitter is great!) of something completely unrelated: the different uses of soda/coke/pop to refer to carbonated beverages in different parts of the US. The idea of linguistics, when words are in favor, how that happens, where it comes from, lingered with me–again. I admit to a fascination with linguistics.
So, back to the orginal topic, words. The very first time I sat down to write fiction, it was a science fiction novel set in the far future (that novel currently resides under my bed). I had to decide, and then I discussed with critique partners, would this word or that word be used in the future?
We have no way to know. Words can stick with us for centuries. We can’t say for certain that hundreds of years from now the term Butterbar will still be around. After all, many words are still around from old english: death, apple, house. Clearly, they’re spelled differently now, but you get the idea.
But in the end, there’s also the idea of a story being told for today’s audience. If many of the words in a story are futuristic or made up, could the reader become fatigued while translating to today’s language? Maybe it’s a shortcut to use today’s terms, but it also isn’t wrong to do so.
Then there are artists like Shakespeare, who put together new terms and added to the English language by the bucketloads. And Star Trek. We have concepts like warp speed, transporters and holodecks from that show.
I suppose it’s all a balance.
What do you think, how futuristic should words be in a far-future scifi?
Her Science Fiction Romance, Desert Blade is a near-future post-apocalyptic romance from Carina Press. Currently available SFR: Silver Bound, Jaq’s Harp, Braided Silk & Firestorm on E’Terra. MetalMark, coming soon from Lyrical Press.