Melissa in the Moon


Dear Ken,

I am sorry that it has taken me so long to drop you a letter, but I have been very busy up here on the Moon! They have been giving me what they call “overview” courses in Homelander history, customs, geography and politics (with special emphasis on the Imperial Duchy of Thorgelfayne) so that I will not be disoriented on arrival. It’s quite a lot of material to digest! Homelander civilization is about seven thousand years older than civilization on Earth, so there is much more variety and complexity than a Human is used to.

Thorgelfaynese is an exciting language to learn! I just love making all those Jamaican-sounding noises! I took Latin in high school and Russian in college, so I’m used to learning foreign languages, but the grammar is still difficult for me. For example, there is no passive voice in Thorgelfaynese! You simply place the verb in the finite form and the subject in the agentive case—only it’s not really a case ending like in Latin or Russian, it’s really a post-positive agentive particle. Since I know you are a linguist you will probably enjoy this example (I am writing this the best I can, since you do not know the Fjarnian alphabet):

Larmin ðaganakæ forlina” means: “This chapel brings back memories.” “Larmin” is the finite indicative habitual form of the verb meaning to recall, bring back or retrieve. “Forlina” means chapel and “thagana” is remembrance. There is no difference between singular or plural nouns. You either have to specify how many you mean or leave it to context—as in English: “I lost my sheep” —how many sheep? The “ka” post-positive particle places thagana in the accusative case. The impact of the sentence is: “Ever bringing back memories, this chapel is.” Quite charming!

In the passive, the sentence would read “memories are recalled by the chapel,” but there is no passive form in Thorgelfaynese. So you just say: “Larmin ðaganakæ forlinamü” (The letter ð stands for th as in ”this”). Forlina is now in the agentive case. This means “Memories are ever brought back by this chapel.”

I ran into a tall balding guy the other day who looked vaguely familiar. This impression grew and grew until I finally had to ask him who he was. To my surprise, it was someone from work! I must have seen him when I attended training classes at your office, because he works near you. He seemed to be a bit rushed and was very vague about things, but we did get a chance to talk.

This fellow is secretly on the Bobo distribution list and has read all the stories, but now he has been recalled to Fjarn for a debriefing. It is upsetting for him, since he took his wife with him to Earth. They don’t really want to leave Earth since they’ve been there for several years, and their kids were even born there. (I feel funny talking about Earth as “there” —but I’m on the Moon now!) Nevertheless, he has given as vague an excuse as possible and two weeks’ notice. He explained that this sudden recall is to prevent the so-called “Opshentak Effect.” It is an occupational hazard for anthropologists who stay so long in the culture they are studying that they “go native.”

“If you work near Ken Collins, you must know him well!” I exclaimed, “what’s he like?”

He suppressed an inadvertent chuckle. “Ken is a bit strange,” he said, “he’s got a lot of potential that will probably never be realized. But he does his job well.”

I pressed for clarification, “You mean in his career?”

“Well, I suppose so you might say that,” he conceded, “but I really meant the Bobo stories. He writes quite well—he has a knack for walking the line between the believable and the unbelievable. The Bobo stories are believable enough to have their intended effect upon the readers, but unbelievable enough not to blow our cover. He’s really quite good at that!” He burst into laughter, “Sometimes he actually thinks he’s making up fictional stories!”

You will be heartened to know, Ken, that there was touch of admiration in his tone of voice. But when I asked if you could go to Homeland, he just said that you were Human and not Homelander, and changed the subject. He explained that Earth Watch Base was deliberately located on the side of the Moon that faces away from Earth. So, no view. I’ve been wondering about that.

Meanwhile, your Fjarnian friend is preparing for travel back to Homeland, leaving wife and kids behind in the very fond hope that his return will be imminent. They have the zeal of missionary family that prefers the relative squalor of the jungle to the luxuries of home. People who prefer to serve rather than to be served always evoke my strong admiration. On this trip, it appears that I will have a lot of admiring to do!

I am scheduled to leave very shortly. I already had my pre-flight check-up, and the doctor said my blood pressure was somewhat elevated due to the anticipation. I will spend most of my time on the space liner under a set of headphones, repeating phrases in Thorgelfaynese, and the rest of it perusing grammar books. I want to make the most of this opportunity.

I’ll drop you a note wherever I can!

Wish me well!
Melissa