Interplanetary Rosetta Stone

More than fifty years ago, science fiction author H Beam Piper penned Omnilingual, a novelette* about archeology and “forensic” linguistics on an alien world. I read it for the first time in an SF anthology in the late 1970s and it struck a chord deep in my heart, my being a language nerd. I would have loved to participate in that interplanetary expedition and test my wits against the enigmas of the distant past.

By chance I recently discovered a lightly edited version of the story being freely available on the Internet. It seems that the original story has entered public domain, at least in the United States (I am not sure how, because Piper died only about 50 years ago).

In Omnilingual, Piper combines the spirit of field work with the alien-ness of being elsewhere in cosmos. He expertly mixes some of the genres that I love: alternate history, legendary “Mars”, scientists in action (i.e. researching and analyzing while squabbling and practicing scholarly one-up-manship — yes, research funding disputes, college politics and “publish or perish” are all there).

You can enjoy the story here >>>

*i.e. a long short-story.

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