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Interview: “The Language of the Silent” by Juliette Wade and Sheila Finch

– Tell us a bit about “The Language of the Silent.”

This story is about a lingster who goes in to do a job she considers “easy” and gets a lot more than she bargained for on several fronts. I think it’s really important for us to remember that even translation is a complex process with a lot of pitfalls, and when we think we know it all, we’re most likely wrong.


– What was the inspiration for this story, or what prompted you and Sheila Finch to collaborate on it?

I was struck one day by the question of what a linguist would do if she suddenly lost her most important tool – her ability to hear speech sounds. It seemed like such an obvious idea on the face of it that I contacted Sheila Finch to ask if she’d already written such a story. She said she hadn’t, and asked if I’d like to collaborate on the story concept!


– What kind of research, if any, did you do for “The Language of the Silent?”

A large part of my research was reading and exploring Sheila Finch’s Guild of Xenolinguists stories, because I was working as a guest in her universe and really wanted to make sure I understood the landscape that was already there. I also did some research on the Aztecs and their interaction with Hernán Cortés. A great deal of my knowledge of Aztec culture comes from my personal relationships with Aliette de Bodard and T.L. Morganfield, who have written whole novels in this culture and whose work I used as inspiration.


– What are you working on now?

Currently I’m working on a novelette in the Allied Systems universe. Rulii, a drug-addicted alien from an oppressed population on the planet Aurru, has discovered that his human friend Parker is trapped in an observation blind in the lands of the Barbarians. Naturally, he will attempt to rescue him. I’m also working on Book 2 of my Varin series, while I wait for news on Book 1.

My website is, where I host reports from my Dive into Worldbuilding hangout series.


“The Language of the Silent” appears in the March/April 2016 issue of F&SF.

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