world building – creating an alien language for my book

In the back of each of my books in the Meniscus series is ‘A Condensed Guide to Gel-speak’. The Guide includes all of the alien words I have used in the books to date.

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blog scan of dictionary

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I am not a linguist. I speak English and French and I have some idea of how words are derived and the relationships between them. Who knows if our Human ideas of language and syntax would apply to an alien race!!??

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The Gel-heads in my alien world are barely sentient, driven by greed and the search for gratification. And yet, through some twist of Meniscus history, their language is the one used by most sentients on the planet. In one of the books, they will be seen in a village, teaching the children of another alien race.

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'captive of the Gel-head'
Gel-heads are covered with green gelatinous skin: their muscles, bones and internal organs can be seen through the integument!
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The Gel-head language includes clicks for word separation and emphasis, indicated by an inverted comma   ‘   .  The words are spoken with a hiss, and include many ‘th’ sounds.

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I have tried to construct words as logical associations of other words. So, for example, a building is marneth far’natha, built from the words for ‘to build’ and ‘a thing of value’ :

marneth far’natha      a building

marneth        to build

far’natha       thing of value

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Another example:

grill’             to remove

grill’en           small (something has been removed)

cardoth          moon

cardoth grill’en    the smaller of two moons

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In the top row of my bookshelf is a copy of The Klingon Dictionary (Marc Okrand, Star Trek Pocket Books, 1985). Originally meant as an assist to actors, it has become very popular among science-fiction enthusiasts. My copy has not been dusted off for many years, but I am proud to own one. The book has been issued in two editions and is translated into five languages. The Klingon Dictionary has sold 500,000 copies. So is a guide to Gel-speak silly? Who can tell?

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blog books1
a few of my collection of Star Trek paperbacks … I can’t even reach that shelf, let alone find the dictionary, but it is up there somewhere!!!
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Copyright Alexandra Tims 2017

planets in the Meniscus system 2

Writing science-fiction involves ‘world-building’, the process of creating an imaginary world. This fictional world can be represented with maps, illustrations and descriptions of setting. The constructed world should be coherent, and can have a history, geography, ecology,  demographics, and so on.

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For my series about planet Meniscus, most of the world-building has been on-planet, inventing deserts and forests and the ecosystems found there.

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'sandstorm in The Darn-el'test
in Meniscus: Crossing The Churn, my main characters have to cross a desert, find shelter from a sandstorm and cope with scarce water

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However, just as with ‘character-building’, a writer is wise to develop as much information about the setting as possible, even if that information does not get included in the story. This information will inform the story and provide context.

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For that reason, I have developed a setting beyond planet Meniscus itself. I have given Meniscus a ‘solar system’ and invented some basic information on the planets there. After all, my characters spend a lot of time looking at the sky and who knows what they may see!

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'naming the stars'paperback

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In Book Five of the series, ‘Meniscus: Karst Topography’, one of the displays in a museum will be a holographic presentation of the solar system and the larger galaxy. When one of the characters ‘explores’ the holographic system, she will be able to experience returning to her home on Earth and to express her ideas about living so far from home.

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The fictional solar system where Meniscus is a planet is small — only four planets and their moons.

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xolar system

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‘Sel’ is the fourth planet in the system, a huge water planet. The white areas on Sel are frozen water; the blue areas are upwellings of liquid water, located in surface ‘hot-spots’.  The life-forms on Sel are microbial, evolved to live in a watery world. Most of their lives are spent in a dormant state, waiting for intermittent thaw, or in the small air pockets in solid ice.

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sel
The planet ‘Sel’

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Copyright 2017 Alexandra Tims