Early one morning, I awoke to the sound of birdsong. I’d left my window open, and a single bird was perched in the tree outside. I’ve heard birds singing before, but perhaps morning grogginess changed my perception because for the first time I noticed the singing was more than pretty noise.
Some notes were higher, some lower. Some lasted longer than others, and some mixed together legato. I could almost believe this was a language, and each combination of sounds formed a distinct statement that other birds would understand.
Many of the greatest works of science fiction and fantasy include elaborate, well developed languages. Klingon from Star Trek. Elvish from The Lord of the Rings. Na’vi from Avatar. My challenge to myself and my fellow sci-fi writers is to create a language equally realistic without using spoken words.
While I doubt birds have a language as complicated as ours (particularly English), their singing is a form of communication. Other animals here on Earth use other means. Squid, for example, can change color, which could be a form of communication, and we’ve all heard about bees dancing to tell the rest of the hive where to find more honey.
So here’s an idea that I’m never going to use (fellow writers, feel free to steal this). A sci-fi musical about our first contact with an alien species that, like bees, can only communicate through interpretive dance. Earth may have to recruit ambassadors from the Juilliard School.
Video of a squid changing color: click here.
The blog “Science in My Fiction” had a recent post about alien languages: click here.