Of Spies, Linguists and Hugos

Okay, so this is another link post, but I promise that regular blogging will resume soon.

First of all, I was over at Galactic Journey again, where I review Babel-17 by Samuel R. Delany and also go into the linguistic background of the novel, particularly the theory of linguistic relativity a.k.a. the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis.

Now I had read Babel-17 before, but that was many years ago. Upon rereading the novel, I was struck by how modern it feels. Babel-17 is an undisputed classic of the genre, but unlike other SFF novels from the same era, which can be hopelessly dated, it doesn’t feel like a fifty-five year old book. Of course, the “James Bond in space” aspects are very sixties, but James Bond movies are still being made (and No Time to Die will eventually show up in cinemas) and if anything, the Bond clichés such as the presentation of superweapons or the dinner party gone terribly wrong are more recognisable today after 25 Bond movies than they were in 1966 after four. And indeed, one thing I have noticed while reliving the 1960s at Galactic Journey that Bond knock-offs, pastiches and parodies started showing up at a time, when there were only two Bond films altogether.

The sabotage plot is also born out of Cold War fears about brainwashing, reprogramming and sleeper agents, but again that doesn’t make the novel dated, because these fears are still very much with us, only nowadays we’re not worried about Manchurian Candidates, but about young men radicalised on the Internet. Even the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, which was already discredited in 1966, still continues to fascinate science fiction authors. “Story of Your Life” by Ted Chiang came out in 1998, while the film adaptation Arrival came out in 2016.

So in short, Babel-17 is a great novel that even people who don’t like older SF can enjoy.


And now for something completely different: Part of the reason why blogging has been light these past few weeks is that I was going through last year’s blogposts to assemble my contribution to the 2021 Hugo Voter Packet.

My packet is now ready and if you’re a member of DisCon III, it will be available soon, together with the rest of this year’s Hugo Voter Packet.

However, even if you’re not a member of DisCon III, you can now download my Hugo Voter Packet for free in the format of your choice at StoryOrigin.

Finally, I also want to show off the beautiful cover, courtesy of the hypertalented Tithi Luadthong. Not only does it strike the balance between retro and modern, there also is a rocket in the image.

Cora Buhlert's Hugo Voter Packet 2021

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