Fun with Xenolinguistics

By Joshua Bealson

“Your language is ridiculous!” I huffed in frustration at my tutor as I slammed the HatchlingfundamentalsofSpucoppencpppeo textbook tablet onto the desk in front of me. I couldn’t even get through a children’s grammar book. I’d never make it in xenolinguistics. I was destined for a desk job editing propaganda AI typos on the inner moons of Saturn for sure.

“No more so than yours, O'Nara,” my tutor, PSPS, responded in the metallic and screechy-toned English produced by its human speech analog. We were First Contact plus two years between their species and ours. Thankfully, it had been generally peaceful, and I was among the first cohort of humans invited to learn their ‘universal language.’ That said, we were still in the getting-to-know-you cross-cultural communication development stage, which to put it mildly, was frustrating as hell.

“Yes, both our languages use phonetic alphabets, but how can you possibly learn, let alone read a language that has no punctuation, spaces between words, or paragraphs to break up the text between one idea and another? I thought I’d seen the worst unreadable mashups in my historical linguistics research paper on early 21st Century Internet hashtags.  But when reading SPPP I have no idea where one thought ends and another begins. I feel like I’m reading in circles.”

PSPS’s outer gills thrummed with vibrant purple and neon green, which I knew meant they were feeling frustrated as well. “Circles you say, yet you abbreviate with abandon. SPPP? How is your conversation partner to know you are referring to our universal language of Spucoppencpppeo?”

“Spucoppencpppeo doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue,” I complained.

“Exactly, your problem. With so many tongues among your species, how can one think coherently? The language you choose to use now is just a haphazard amalgamation of other human tongues. How frequently you have adopted words from other languages and rarely retained the original meaning or pronunciation. English must be the cause of constant war.”

  PSPS had me on the English speakers causing too many wars, but not solely for communication reasons. And they were also right about the abbreviation thing, but to most English speakers it was better than the actual pronunciation of their name, PooppseePaapenssse. I should know, as my first name, John, being monosyllabic, was apparently a curse word in SPPP. Not to mention having spent three years learning Japanese, a language where my last name, O'Nara, sounded similar to the word in that language for ‘fart’. SPPP lifecycles didn’t seem to include teenage years, so the cultural context for bathroom humor was hard to translate. I decided to try to defuse the situation through tried and true diplomacy by telling them they were right and then completely disagreeing with their statement.

“Ah, well, yes your assumption is correct, that has happened in our history. However, human languages have evolved through time, movement of people, the occasional war, and of course introduction of new technology. That said, there is continuity and logic enough that we can trace back many languages to their common linguistic ancestor more than 6000 years ago.”

“I calculate that continuity is overstating your case. Think of the number of words that are homonyms and the strange importance of modifiers and word components. Just one example is the teraflops of computation power we wasted in confusion after learning the word diphthong, and trying to understand how just one little “h” could so drastically change the meaning away from the action of holding chewing tobacco in minimal storage capacity underwear to a meaning identifying when two vowels are combined in a single syllable?”

“What? How would an alien species know about thongs and dip? Where did you get your research on humanity?”

“You have been beaming your language into space for over three hundred years. The late 20th and early 21st Century were especially enlightening and concerning. The first message fully decoded and simple enough to translate was called Joy-zee Shore. Some among us called for building an extra-large Dyson Sphere around your solar system to protect the galaxy from Earthling transmissions, but cooler heads prevailed when we discovered your oceans could be such a great vacation spot.”

“Thanks for not hemming us in. But those words are absolutely not related. ‘H’ isn’t a modifier in English. Didn’t you download any of our dictionaries or encyclopedias?”

“Dictionaries are propaganda tools, changed on a whim when a new word becomes popular. Especially thesauruses, we quickly judged not to trust books that humans named after extinct lizards! We did our own exhaustive research. For example, we found the example of Shit and Sit along with its past tense Shat and Sat illustrative. Clearly the ‘H’ notifies the reader of the action occurring when humans assume a relaxed position. Would a human not want to be in a relaxed position when storing dip in a thong?”

All my years of studying linguistics and foreign languages and any logic I might counter with was clearly not going to win this argument. If I couldn’t beat them, I was going to have to join them. “You are throwing a lot of spaghetti against the wall, but I don’t think any of it will stick.”

“We are a peaceful species. We have thrown nothing.” PSPS said as their outer gills positively glowed purple, a hue of frustration and confusion I hadn’t yet seen that bright.

“Exactly. So how about we start over. Hello, my name is John O'Nara.”

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About the Author

Joshua Bealson

josh bealson 200Joshua Bealson is a Washington, DC-based bilingual and bi-cultural author, gardener, and traveler.

He seeks to help people discover a world outside their own through fiction, cross-cultural narratives, history, and stories about our place in the world.

He was the Hugo Awards Ceremony Director at Worldcon 75 in Helsinki & Worldcon 77 in Dublin.

He Tweets <@joshuabealson>.


AntiSF & The ASFF

AntipodeanSF supports the ASFF

ASFF logo 200

Please visit the ASFF website and consider joining for up-to-date info about Australian SF cons, awards, competitions, and to receive the Foundation's newsletter, Instrumentality, and more.


The AntipodeanSF Radio Show

AntiSF's Production Crew

nuke conflux 2017 200Ion Newcombe is the editor and publisher of AntipodeanSF, Australia’s longest running online speculative fiction magazine, regularly issued since January 1998, and conceived back around November 2007. He has been a zealous reader and occasional writer of SF since his childhood in the 1960s, and even sold a few stories here and there back in the '90s.

“Nuke”, who it turns out loves editing more than writing, lives in the New South Wales North Coast holiday destination of Nambucca Heads, where he is self-employed in IT training, computer support, desktop publishing, editing, writing, and website implementation. He is also the resident tech-head, skeptic, and board member of community radio station 2NVR, where he produces a number of shows including The AntipodeanSF Radio Show.


mark web 200Mark Webb's midlife crisis came in the form of attempting to write speculative fiction at a very slow pace. His wife maintains this is a good outcome considering the more expensive and cliched alternatives. Evidence of Mark's attempts to procrastinate in his writing, including general musings and reviews of books he has been reading, can be found at

One of Mark’s very best forms of writing procrastination is to produce the eBook series for AntipodeanSF, which he has been doing since issue 175.


In The Next Issue...

Coming In Issue 259

A Tale of Tyl Feánn: In which a child is conceived
by steve duffy

By Zebuline Carter

Bums Off Seats
By B A Keon-Cohen

Fallen Angel
By Alistair Lloyd

Onement of the Teleman
By Conor Ross

Procreation Privilege
By Steve Bellavia

Qantas Flight 2134
By David Scholes

By Ishmael A Soledad

The Stinging End
By Tara Campbell

The Waker
By Phil Wallach

Turning Test
By Roger Ley

The Contributors

terry persun 200Terry Persun’s poems and stories have appeared in many magazines including Wisconsin Review, Kansas Quarterly, Riverrun, Rattle, Hiram Poetry Review, Bluestem, NEBO, Cirque, Eclipse, Bacopa, and many others.

His poems have appeared in six, chapbooks and five collections.

He was recently included in the 2019 Rhysling Anthology for sicnce fiction and fantasy poetry. He is also a novelist and has recently won first place in the Book Excellence Awards for science fiction.

Terry speaks at writers’ conferences and universities across the country. <>.

josh bealson 200Joshua Bealson is a Washington, DC-based bilingual and bi-cultural author, gardener, and traveler.

He seeks to help people discover a world outside their own through fiction, cross-cultural narratives, history, and stories about our place in the world.

He was the Hugo Awards Ceremony Director at Worldcon 75 in Helsinki & Worldcon 77 in Dublin.

He Tweets <@joshuabealson>.


marcel gherman 200Marcel Gherman was born in 1978, in Chisinau, Republic of Moldova. Since the age of 15, he has published over 100 articles and essays in the press in Moldova, and for over a decade has had regular columns in cultural magazines Sud-Est Cultural and Contrafort. Between 1994 and 2003 Marcel hosted weekly shows on electronic music at Radio Moldova — and makes his own music under the pseudonym Megatone. 

Mr Gherman currently works as secretary in charge ofthe magazine Sud-Est Cultural, and writes prose and essays in his native Romanian language. He is a member of the Writers Union of Moldova, the Writers Union of Romania and of the International PEN Club.

He is two-times winner of the Writers Union of Moldova Award —for "Debut", 2012, and at the category Books for Children and Youth, 2015, the City Hall of Chisinau Award for Youth in the category Literature, 2012, and the Publishers Union of Moldova Award 2015.

Published books: "Cartea viselor" (The Book of Dreams), Arc Publishing House, 2011; fantasy short fiction "Generatia Matrix" (The Matrix Generation), 2013; essays "Cer albastru deasupra Arcadiei" (Blue Skies Over Arcadia), Prut Publishing House, 2014; science-fiction novel for teenagers "Universuri paralele" (Parallel Universes), Stiinta Publishing House, 2017, (includes science-fiction modular novel Multiverse, darkfantasy novel "Last Testament of the Kingdom of Nirgalia", and the collection of fantasy short stories "Tales from the Realm of Pandava").

James Stothard has loved fiction since he was a child and used to read all day if he could get away with it.

Now he spends much of his time coming up with fantastical characters and creations such as the time-looping Two of Three King, the labyrinthine Weirdways, and the dimension warping Umbra Engine.

He hopes to one day become a professional writer and share his ideas with the rest of the world.

conor ross 200Conor Ross is a student and avid traveller.

He is either studying literature in Melbourne or else somewhere else on the planet teaching English as a second language.

A great fan of being useless he finds literature to be the most agreeable way of ignoring life.


Maree Collie loves the idea of Flash Fiction. So much to say in such alittle space. She also dabbles in short stories, monologues and plays.

Maree has had pieces published in anthologies, a play performed in 2018, and a monologue slated for performance October 2019.

She hascompleted a BA in Professional and Creative Writing at DeakinUniversity.

brenda anderson 200Brenda Anderson’s fiction has appeared in various places including ASIM, Daily Science Fiction and Flash Fiction Online. She lives in Grange, SA, and tweets irregularly @CinnamonShops.


susan cornford 200Susan Cornford is a retired public servant, living in Perth, Western Australia, with pieces published or forthcoming in 50-Word Stories, Akashic Books, Antipodean Science Fiction, CarpeArte Journal, Ghost Parachute, Medusa’s Laugh, Speculative 66, Subtle Fiction, Switchblade, The Fable Online, The Gambler, The Vignette Review and The Were-Traveler.

She considers herself an emerging flash writer.


paul sheringham 200Paul Sheringham lives and works in Coffs Harbour, as a species project coordinator for several threatened plant species.

He has his renewed passion for field botany in recent times, a recent stroke having limited his ability to run marathons. He hopes to publish a flora field guide of the Gibraltar Range National Park.

A proficient bathroom guitarist and singer, he has been learning several Triffids songs, and learning about their brilliant lead singer David McComb, which has influenced his story “Wrong Turn.”


nicholas sheppard 150x150Nicholas Sheppard is a software engineer and academic based in Wollongong, New South Wales. He has read science fiction and fantasy since encountering The Hobbit in primary school, but somehow found himself writing tedious articles on information security at university. For lighter reading, he has written on the history of science for Cockatrice, on science fiction and economics for Aurealis, and fiction for AntipodeanSF.


steveduffyhusband, father, brother, son
poet, writer, artist, friend (et al.)
the list of pigeon holes
into which I fit, is endless


AntipodeanSF March 2020


Speculative Fiction
ISSN 1442-0686

Online Since Feb 1998

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Download AntiSF E-Book

Epub version:

Kindle version:


By Terry Persun

Billions of bytes of data pass
            through the ships cables
            the electronics hardware
            for decades or centuries.

We’re all encased in pods
            of treated and frozen stasis
            waiting for the opening door
            to allow us to live again.

Without a thought we agreed
            and were sent away forever
            wishing to be the first
            to find something new.

Yet everything could end early
            a mistake in programming
            parameters changing
            one small glitch.

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About the Author

Terry Persun

terry persun 200Terry Persun’s poems and stories have appeared in many magazines including Wisconsin Review, Kansas Quarterly, Riverrun, Rattle, Hiram Poetry Review, Bluestem, NEBO, Cirque, Eclipse, Bacopa, and many others.

His poems have appeared in six, chapbooks and five collections.

He was recently included in the 2019 Rhysling Anthology for sicnce fiction and fantasy poetry. He is also a novelist and has recently won first place in the Book Excellence Awards for science fiction.

Terry speaks at writers’ conferences and universities across the country. <>.

AntiSF's Narration Team

marg essex 200Margaret lives the good life on a small piece of rural New South Wales Australia, with an amazing man, a couple of pets, and several rambunctious wombats.

She feels so lucky to be a part of the AntiSF team.

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timonthy gwyn 100Timothy Gwyn is a professional pilot in Canada, where he flies to remote communities. During a lull in his flying career, he was a radio announcer for three years, and he is also an author.

In addition to short stories at AntipodeanSF and, his SF novel is available internationally in print and ebook formats. "Avians" draws on his love of alternative aviation to tell the tale of a girl who runs away from home to join a cadre of glider pilots on a world without metal or fossil fuels.

On Twitter, he is @timothygwyn, and his blogs are at <>.

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lauriebell 2 200Laurie Bell lives in Melbourne, Australia. She was that girl you found with her nose always buried in a book. She has been writing ever since she was a little girl and first picked up a pen. From books to short stories, radio plays to snippets of ideas and reading them aloud to anyone who will listen.

She is the author of The Butterfly Stone (YA/ Fantasy — available now) and White Fire (Sci Fi — available now)

You can read more of her work on her blog Look for her on Facebook <> or Twitter: <@LaurienotLori>

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pixie willo 100Pixie is a voice actor, cabaret performer & slam poet From the Blue Mountains in NSW.

She enjoys writing short fiction, plays for radio and stage as well as her own brand of weird poetry.

She hosts the 'Off-Beet Poetry Slam' held bi-monthly in Katoomba, and is a theatre reviewer for 2SER FM in Sydney.

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garry dean narratorGarry Dean lives on the Mid Coast of New South Wales Australia, and has been a fan of SF for most of his natural life. Being vision impaired, he makes good use of voice recognition and text to speech in order to write. Many of his stories have appeared in AntipodeanSF over the years, and his love of all things audio led him to join the narration team in 2017.

You can read examples of Garry's fiction on his website <>

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mark english 100Mark is an astrophysicist and space scientist who worked on the Cassini/Huygens mission to Saturn. Following this he worked in computer consultancy, engineering, and high energy research (with a stint at the JET Fusion Torus).

All this science hasn't damped his love of fantasy and science fiction. It has, however, ruined his enjoyment of rainbows, colourful flames on romantic log fires, and rings around the moon. He has previously been published in Stupefying Stories Showcase, Everyday Fiction, Escape Pod, Perihelion and also on AntipodeanSF where he is part of the narration team.

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david whitaker 200David Whitaker is originally from the UK though has travelled around a bit and now resides in India. He has a degree in Journalism, however decided that as he’s always preferred making things up it should ultimately become a resource rather than a profession.

His stories, covering everything from sci-fi to philosophy, have been published across the globe and links to each can be found at <>

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carolyn eccles 100

Carolyn's work spans devising, performance, theatre-in-education and a collaborative visual art practice.

She tours children's works to schools nationally with School Performance Tours, is a member of the Bathurst physical theatre ensemble Lingua Franca and one half of darkroom — a visual arts practice with videographer Sean O'Keeffe.

(Photo by Jeremy Belinfante) 

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SF News

Upcoming Cons

Continuum 16 All Possible Futures 2020. Melbourne’s annual SF Convention is set to run over the extended weekend of June 5 to June 8. “All Possible Futures” will be held at Rydges on Swanston. Memberships and more information at <>.

WorldCon 78 2020 ConZealand, 29/07/2020 - 02/08/2020 Wellington, New Zealand Worldcon 78 in 2020 is to be held in Wellington, New Zealand, on 29 July – 02 August 2020. Antipodeans, mark it in your calendar now — and the rest of the world, well, it’s time for you mark it in your calendars too, to visit the other side in 2020. Facilities for the event include TSB Arena and Shed 6, the Michael Fowler Centre and the Intercontinental Hotel. More information is on offer at the official website of ConZealand <>. AntipodeanSF's editor, Nuke, will be at ConZealand!

Conflux 16 2020 Visions of Time will explore the future of the speculative fiction industry over three days from 3 to 5 October 2020 at the Rex Hotel, Canberra. More information here <>. AntipodeanSF will be at Conflux again this year. See you there...

For more up-to-date Aussie SF info join the ASFF <>.

The AntipodeanSF Radio Show

AntiSF Radio Show

antipod-show-50The AntipodeanSF Radio Show delivers audio from the pages of this magazine.

The weekly program features the stories from recently published issues, usually narrated by the authors themselves.

Listen to the latest episode now:

The AntipodeanSF Radio Show is also broadcast on community radio, 2NVR, 105.9FM every Saturday evening at 8:30pm.

You can find every broadcast episode online here: 

SF Quote

The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.

Arthur C. Clarke

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