Futuristic Dialogue in Inherit the Stars

Posted at Apr 14, 2015 2:36 am

Inherit_the_Stars_Complete_NovelI realized I had my work cut out for me with the dialogue in INHERIT THE STARS. It’s pretty obvious with the way our language has changed/is still changing in the matter of a few years, that the language circa 3500 AD (give or take) would be completely unrecognizable.

For the sake of a novel that will be read by contemporary readers of this millennium, the dialect had to sound different yet still be accessible. Using some of the current trends of shortening and truncating and acronymizing (I made that up–see how I am?) words, I attempted to create dialogue that was understandable, but still would read as “evolved.”

Here’s a glossary of names, words, phrases and acronyms used throughout the INHERIT THE STARS and their contemporary interpretations.

Future Term Current Meaning
Ariima – Truncated, corrupted blend of names Fatima/Maria
banny club – Telescoping baton/club used for defense
Billins – Type of alcoholic beverage from a species of gourd
biodroid – Biological android, grown not manufactured
borga – Valuable ore, essential for industry and as fuel
Carazjel – Purmian name; a corruption/blend of Cara/Jezebel
calendar – Standardized year since each planet’s solar cycle varies
con-drive – Slang for “neural-connective drive”
crewie – Slang for star ship crew members
bookie – Agent who books illegal flights for illicit passengers
Firelords! – Refers to a historical group, e.g. Spartans! or Druids!
Drea – [Name] Dray-ah; Truncated version of Andrea
Empora’s Hades – Oh hell!
Epto – Name of a month on the standardized Calendar
fren-oven – Futuristic microwave
fug – Corruption of a historical expletive verb
fuggen – Corruption of a historical expletive verb
Gerabunga! – Corrupted blend of Geronimo! and Cowbunga!
Gigadam – Expletive; damn to the nth
Gods of Gellen – What the heck/hell? or Damn!
Haley’s crest – Oath; gaseous debris field from destroyed planet Bradley
hang – Slang for hangar
hangtown – Slang for a spaceport located on a planet
haras – Corrupted from “hours,” standardized unit of time
hellcat – Derogatory term for a confrontational person
heo – [Purmian] meaning “gutless eunuch;” derogatory
K – OK, okay, all right, yes.
kensmarc – Honorary, ritualistic facial scars on Rathskian males
kinna – Futuristic coffee drink
Jaeo – [Name] Truncated, corrupted blend of Jay and George
Logibot – Robot with AI capable of logic
marka – [Rathskian] Derogatory; stong-willed female
milos – Spatial miles; corrupted blend of miles/kilometers
moons – Standardized months
neural-connective drive – Advanced drive system, aka “con-drive”
neuraltron – Device for mind-linking
P2PC – Acronym for “Planet-to-Planet Courier”
PCB – Acronym for Particle Containment Bay
Rathscum – Derogatory term for Rathskians
replas – Monetary measure based on “replicated coinage”
Ry – [Name] Truncated version of Ryan
Sair – [Name] A Rathskian clan; from biblical term for “demon”
Saybin – [Name] A corruption of Sabine or Sabina
sectas – Corruption of “seconds;” measurement of time
Shadowskins – Suit of material invisible to the human retina
sim – Term of endearment; derived from simpatico; pleasing
spitfire – Person who is extremely aggressive or speaks forcefully
tempas – Corruption of tempo, meaning “minutes” or “time”
touched dirt – On planet, landed, planet-side
vuetnok irons – Weapon for the fist, similar to brass knuckles
What goes? – What’s going on? What’s happening? Que pasa?
Wreckface – Derogatory term for Rathskians/kensmarcs
Yele – [Purmian] (Yay-lay), mythical power that restores balance
Zjel – [Name] Truncated, corrupted version of Jezebel

That’s just a sampling of the future-speak, for the sake of illustration. But I went a step further.

Just as with present day usage, phrasing and pronunciations are never universal. Cultural or professional divisions in society create their own slant on words and phrases, or create new ones.

Police officers or members of the military may use words related to their particular field, such as 10-4 meaning “yes,” or “20” meaning “location.” Words or acronyms like “wingman,” “rack,” and “HUA” sometimes become a part of everyday language by inference. HUA is an Army/National Guard acronym for “Heard, Understood and Acknowledged” and “rack” is Naval or submarine-speak for “bed” or “bunk.”

An unique dialect of slang words emerged for the hangtown crowd in INHERIT THE STARS, those who work in or trade with spacefreighters (those persons whose professions involve transporting cargo through space) or those who make their livings near the ship hangars (hangs) at planetary space ports.

They’re a rougher ilk by nature and their dialogue reflects even further corruption of the standardized language. The creation of the hangtown tongue involved dropping some consonants and adding a suggestion of a Cockney spin on their words.

Hangtown Term – Current Meaning
a’fore – Before
devil-crazy – Agitated, irritable
‘er – her
if’n – if
Ith’in – Ithian subspecies
flibbin’ – Slang, like “flipping” as in “flipping crazy”
palies – Ithians
Rathsk’in – Rathskian subspecies
say’n – saying
these’ns – these ones
twenny – twenty
wit’ – with
yap – yes, yup, yep
yorn – yours

In addition, the hangtowners tend to lose the last “g” on many words–anythin’…nothin’…seein’…or add an “s” to some words such as anywheres, nowheres.

What’s your experience with futuristic language in SF/R? Do most of the books you read (or write) have dialogue that sounds like present-day English, or does it read as more futuristic?

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2 responses to “Futuristic Dialogue in Inherit the Stars”

  1. Pippa Jay says:

    I like some, but if it’s overdone it’ll pull me out of a story rather than add to the world building. A few terms introduced carefully in dialogue that can at least give me a hint at the meaning are good.

  2. I agree, Pippa. Having to dive into a glossary frequently does not make for an enjoyable read. I love the stories where the words can be worked in where context supplies the meaning.

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