THE BABEL APOCALYPSE
THE BABEL APOCALYPSE
by Vyvyan Evans
GENRE: Science Fiction
Language is no longer learned, but streamed to neural implants regulated by lang-laws. Those who can't afford language streaming services are feral, living on the fringes of society. Big tech corporations control language, the world’s most valuable commodity.
But when a massive cyberattack causes a global language outage, catastrophe looms.
Europol detective Emyr Morgan is assigned to the case. His prime suspect is Professor Ebba Black, the last native speaker of language in the automated world, and leader of the Babel cyberterrorist organization. But Emyr soon learns that in a world of corporate power, where those who control language control everything, all is not as it seems.
As he and Ebba collide, Emyr faces an existential dilemma between loyalty and betrayal, when everything he once believed in is called into question. To prevent the imminent collapse of civilization and a global war between the great federations, he must figure out friend from foe—his life depends on it. And with the odds stacked against him, he must find a way to stop the Babel Apocalypse.
Ebba was all too aware that she was viewed as an anomaly by pretty much everyone; she was neither feral nor out-soc. So, some of her students—especially those from outside the Republic, such as the Grand Union, and other places too—thought she must be breaking the law. It was a common misconception. She had even once been reported to the authorities by one of those types. For being an unchipped ghost, as they called her. That made her laugh; a dark laugh at the irony of it. The mutes, she called them. Those who had been fitted with Universal Grammar tech.
But while she officially resided in the Nordic Republic, and as long as she remained there, Ebba wasn’t doing anything illegal. The Republic was something of a curiosity even among Tier One states, never having passed a lang-law. Yet this singular absence was offset by the special requirements of Nordic birth licenses. To have one granted, prospective parents had to consent to their newborn being fitted with Universal Grammar tech. So everyone got a language chip at birth anyway, together with an ear implant transceiver. Which meant that voice command tech was, for all intents and purposes, de rigueur even without a lang-law. But that was the Scandinavian way. In the Nordic Republic, they organized freedom.
For her part, Ebba knew it wasn’t her. It was everyone else who had the problem. “That’s what you would think,” her braver, typically male students told her. “You’re Ebba Black.” Ha! Whatever that means. How do they know what Ebba Black would think anyway?
About the Author:
Dr. Vyvyan Evans is a native of Chester, England. He holds a PhD in linguistics from Georgetown University, Washington, D.C., and is a Professor of Linguistics. He has published numerous acclaimed popular science and technical books on language and linguistics. His popular science essays and articles have appeared in numerous venues including 'The Guardian', 'Psychology Today', 'New York Post', 'New Scientist', 'Newsweek' and 'The New Republic'. His award-winning writing focuses, in one way or another, on the nature of language and mind, the impact of technology on language, and the future of communication. His science fiction work explores the status of language and digital communication technology as potential weapons of mass destruction.
Q&A With the Author:
What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
VE: The Babel Apocalypse is a work of science fiction that imagines a near-future where language is no longer learned but streamed to neural implants from internet in low Earth orbit.
The novel imagines a situation in which a cyberterrorist attack on language streaming servers in low Earth orbit leads to just such a global language outage. Such an event, with its low probability, would be one for which humans would be completely unprepared. In The Babel Apocalypse, entire populations of people, literally at a stroke, lose the ability to use language, becoming feral. And hence, the consequences for civilization become catastrophic.
In this near-future, I enjoyed working out the consequences of language streaming in terms of what it means to be human, when language is no longer something people have to learn. In particular, what would be lost, if we offload language to streaming servers in space?
As humans “give up” on language, and offload language learning, allowing AI to take over, language would become a commodity (like any other, such as movies, music, etc., that we now stream on demand for a fee). In short, language would become a proprietary product, controlled for and by big tech, in service of shareholders and corporate interests.
Such a development leads to a slippery slope of issues ranging from potential censorship, to control of thought, and even, through cyberterrorism, the prospect of an existential crisis for the human race—the Babel Apocalypse predicted in the novel.
Do you have any other books you are working on that you can tell us about?
VE: The sequel to The Babel Apocalypse is The Dark Court. It is set five years after the events of the great language outage depicted in The Babel Apocalypse. It explores how the language chips in people’s heads can themselves be hacked, leading to a global insomnia pandemic. The Dark Court will be published in 2024, as book 2 in the series.
Can you tell us about what you have planned for the future?
VE: The Babel Apocalypse is the first book in the Songs of the Sage book series. There are six projected books in the series which, in increasing turns, examine the role and nature of language, and communication. The thematic premise is that, in the wrong hands, language can serve as a weapon of mass destruction. This overarching motif is explored, across the six books, both from Earth-bound and galaxies-wide bases.
As language involves symbol use and processing, the book series, perhaps naturally, also dwells on other aspects of human imagination and symbolic behaviour, including religious experience and belief systems, themselves made possible by language.
How long have you been writing?
VE: I started writing poetry at the age of seven, and became a published poet at nine. Later, as a university professor of linguistics I wrote popular science books on the nature of language and communication. It seemed a natural step, given my research background in the future of communication, to write science-fiction. My focus in my speculative fiction writing is the use and misuse of language as a potential weapon of mass destruction.
Anything more you would like to say to your readers and fans?
VE: Language is the hallmark of what it means to be human. When we lose language we all lose.
Book website (including ‘Buy’ links): www.songs-of-the-sage.com
Author website: https://www.vyvevans.net/
The Babel Apocalypse earned a starred review in Kirkus: "A perfect fusion of SF, thriller, and mystery—smart speculative fiction at its very best."
The full review is here: https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/vyvyan-evans/the-babel-apocalypse-songs-of-the-sage/
The author will be awarding a physical paperback copy of the book (available internationally) to a randomly drawn commenter.
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