Tuesday, February 20, 2024

The Babel Apocalypse


Language is no longer learned, but streamed to neural implants regulated by lang-laws. Those who can’t afford monthly 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. Suspect number one 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. After all, if the mysterious Ebba Black is to blame, why is the Russian Federation being framed for an outage it claims no responsibility for? And why is Ebba now a target for assassination?

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 deadly 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.


read an excerpt...

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 Dr. Vyvyan Evans...

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.


Book website (including ‘Buy’ links): http://www.songs-of-the-sage.com

Author website: https://www.vyvevans.net/

 Youtube channel: https://www.youtube.com/@vyvevans

 Twitter: https://twitter.com/VyvEvans

 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Vyvyan.Evans.Author

 Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/nephilim_publishing/


Does this book have a special meaning to you? i.e. where you found the idea, its symbolism, its meaning, who you dedicated it to, what made you want to write it?

My background is as an academic linguist. I have a PhD in linguistics and spent many years teaching language science at US and UK universities as a Professor of Linguistics. Part of my academic research, from around 2019 onwards, involved investigating potential implications for language and communication of emerging neuro-prosthetic technologies (aka brain implants).

With the rise of such technology, and the prospect of human brains becoming enhanced by AI, the “transhuman” brain has become a distinct possibility in the near future. And this has implications for how we use language, how it is learned, and how big tech and governments may use such technology to monitor individuals.

In light of this, I devised The Babel Apocalypse to explore the potential dangers of a near future where, through technology, language is no longer learned, but streamed to “language chips” implanted in our brains.

Where do you get your storylines from?

In developing the storylines in The Babel Apocalypse, I posed the following ‘what if’ question: what if we stream language to neural implants in our brains, 24/7, from internet in space (similar to the way we currently stream music and movies today)? I then explored what the consequences would be.

One consequence, which became a core storyline of the novel, is that in such a scenario, language is no longer learned. Over time, this would result in an entire population of humans becoming entirely reliant on brain implants to process, understand and produce language.

And a second consequence would be the inability to communicate in the event of a catastrophic event—a global language outage.

This is exactly the storyline that The Babel Apocalypse explores. 

Was this book easier or more difficult to write than others?  Why?

The Babel Apocalypse was the first book-length work of fiction I have written.  It follows 14 published books of non-fiction. I think that whatever the type of book, and writing, there are specific challenges, as well as some broad similarities.

In my work as an academic linguist, I have written and published technical books on language and mind, works of reference such as glossaries and textbooks, as well popular science books. Each of these types of book requires a different style of presentation. But the commonality is that the writing style is expository: the message is key, and that must be explained clearly in an audience-specific way, whether writing for students, interested lay-readers of language and science, or seasoned academic experts.

In terms of writing genre fiction (such as science fiction), the key difference is that the message emerges through the story. Hence, the exposition (of a more academic style) takes a backseat. In genre fiction, as the messages derive from (and through) the story, which is the central driver of fiction, the aphorism ‘show, don’t tell’ becomes key.

This was the essential challenge for me, at least, in early versions of what eventually became The Babel Apocalypse. I learned and honed creative writing techniques for revealing ideas and details through the story, making the story itself the central driver from which messages could be gleaned.

That said, I find science fiction to be appealing as a genre, as it really is an advantage to be a subject matter expert. To write convincingly, especially in so-called ‘hard’ science fiction, such as The Babel Apocalypse, which strives for scientific accuracy, it is important to have relevant background in the story and the ideas being conveyed. And it seems to me that this cannot be adequately replicated without some meaningful level of expertise.

 Do you only write one genre?

I write fiction in the genre of science fiction. What has always drawn me to science fiction is the fact that it is the literature of ideas. And in that regard, it is arguably the genre that is closest to the other genres I have spent an academic career operating in.

 Give us a picture of where you write, where you compose these words…is it Starbucks, a den, a garden…we want to know your inner sanctum?

I write in a home office—on my laptop, on an old walnut desk, surrounded by walls of books on three walls, with a large window in one wall looking out onto a leafy vista. I have a large speaker nearby, which provides a steady stream of inspiring music. And one of my two cats may drop by to keep me company as I write.

 And finally, of course…was there any specific event or circumstance that made you want to be a writer?

I first knew I wanted to be an author at the age of nine—when I won a children’s poetry competition in a local newspaper celebrating the UNESCO International Year of the Child. I had always devoured books as a child, from the Roald Dahl books to C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia, weaving enchanting tales of talking animals reached through a surprisingly large wardrobe.

My first books were technical in nature, written for other academics, before I branched out into textbooks for students before authoring popular science books on language and communication for lay readers.

But it was the non-fiction books in popular science, that led me to write The Babel Apocalypse. This is work of science fiction exploring the nature and future of language, in the face of humanity’s increasing reliance on AI and technology.

The Babel Apocalypse represents a natural evolution, in my authorial life, as I continue to explore the power and significance of language, and how it is the hallmark of what it means to be human.


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