Foreword, SM

Translator's Foreword

“An ancient Earth adage says, ‘There is nothing
new under the sun.’  Perhaps the phrase should
now become, ‘There is nothing new among
the stars.’”
– from Amb. Tarrant Hergard’s speech
upon the admission of Earth into the
Confederation of Planets, delivered
on Krisí’i’aid on 6.20.60 (old cal. 2815)
“This happens to be a myth of the At’in’zei
that we find ourselves in.  One manifestation
of unreality.  Everything is relative to how you
see it, you know.  Did it ever occur to you
that this tale of yours exists in many worlds? 
Of course it did not.”
 – Words of Thru’tei’ga’ma the Seer,
spoken to Ki’shto’ba Huge-Head in
Mik Na’wei’tei’zi
When I first encountered the Shshi – the intelligent termite species of the planet G. Gwidian – the Remembrancer (bard and historian) of the fortress called Lo’ro’ra was an individual named Di’fa’kro’mi.  During my second visit, I learned that Di’fa’kro’mi planned to accompany the Warrior called Ki’shto’ba Huge-Head on a journey of adventure inspired by my own clumsy efforts to amuse the Shshi with stories taken from the Odysy and other tales of Earth. 
I did not see either of these individuals again until circumstances brought Di’fa’kro’mi back to Lo’ro’ra years later, but I often heard rumors of their exploits in the course of my frequent sojourns among the Shshi.  In the sixteen years that have passed since the Remembrancer returned home, I have visited the termite planet only three times, in 230, 235, and 241.  During the two earlier visits, I found Di’fa’kro’mi functioning as a sort of éminence grise; while he never reassumed the official duties of Remembrancer or took an active part in the governance of the fortress, his influence has been enormous on several generations of Shshi, and indeed on the very nature and destiny of Shshi culture. 
For something remarkable occurred during that period:  Di’fa’kro’mi the Remembrancer invented a system of writing for the Shshi language!  I am forced to acknowledge with some chagrin that I and other “Star-Beings” played an unintentional role in this development.  Although we never attempted to teach the Shshi anything about writing, Di’fa’kro’mi noted the peculiar markings that appeared on our ports and readers.  When in his later life he found the leisure to reflect upon his observations, he deduced the nature of these markings and made the logical leap.  In my visits in 230 and 235 he showed me his efforts and sought my advice, which I refused to give, preferring to let cultural evolution take its already contaminated course.
Needless to say, I consider it an extreme privilege to have witnessed the inception of an invention that indisputably alters any society.  Here is a lifeform which has never tamed fire nor devised a technology more “advanced” than the working of wood and stone, but which now has a fully functional writing system – accessible to only one Caste!  As this new knowledge spreads across the World of the Shshi, the power the sighted Alates are able to exercise over their eyeless siblings will become even greater than in the past!
On my visit in 235, Di’fa’kro’mi told me he planned to put into the “word-images” the story of his and Ki’shto’ba’s remarkable adventures.  At that time, he was twenty-seven years old – quite aged for a Shi – and both he and I realized this was most likely the last time we would see each other.  When I returned in 241, he had indeed died three years earlier, at the age of thirty.
He had bequeathed me a syllabary of the Shshi language and some ruminations upon the Shshi word-sense, together with a copy of this document I am translating here.  These totally deaf isopteroids employ the only non-oral, non-telepathic, “biopulsive” communication medium yet discovered in the galaxy, but I can’t believe it is unique.  It is certainly only a matter of time until we encounter another ILF communicating in a similar manner, and whoever has the privilege of making that first contact will be much better equipped to tackle the task than we were with the Shshi.  The efforts of Di’fa’kro’mi provide an invaluable contribution to the advancement of knowledge.
As soon as I returned to Earth I scanned Di’fa’kro’mi’s documents into the Interquad Database and prepared a transcription and a literal translation.  However, the former is useless to anyone except a few of my students and colleagues, and the latter is a tedious, heavily annotated rendering that no normal Earther could possibly enjoy reading.  And these tales demand to be enjoyed; I never encountered a Shshi bard who seeks to bore its audiences.  Therefore, I have attempted in the present version to produce a text that is accessible and compelling for the general reader of Inj. 
Di’fa’kro’mi himself divided his story into three parts.  The first deals with the War of the Stolen Mother and covers approximately one year, or season-cycle (as the Shshi call it), of the Companions’ wanderings.  The second recounts their exploits among the Northern Nasutes and certain other ethnic groups, encompassing a period of about four years.  The third takes the wanderers to the end of their adventures at the southern edge of the Shshi world.  Each section is lengthy, so I have taken the liberty of dividing the three tales into a six-part opus, to be published over the next few years.  Such a division does no damage to the author’s purpose; Di’fa’kro’mi himself frequently told his tales in smaller bites that listeners (and readers) would be less likely to choke on.
To supplement Di’fa’kro’mi’s aging memory and emend the errors and inconsistencies that result from the use of an amanuensis, I have drawn on the recorded data from conversations in which the Remembrancer informally recounted much of this narrative for me.  Di’fa’kro’mi’s scribe took literally his admonishment to write down everything he said; therefore we have a series of amusing asides throughout the tale.  For the sake of cohesiveness I have cut some of these parenthetical remarks and edited and relocated others.  Everything related here, however, is faithful to the words and intent of the author, whether spoken or written.
I have attempted to preserve the style and character of the Shshi language and people even as I have eased the words into readable Inj.  I have divided Di’fa’kro’mi’s continuous narrative into paragraphs and chapters, edited out redundancies, added appropriate Inj punctuation, and eliminated much of the tedious repetitiveness and run-on style that appears in the literal translation.  For example, in order to indicate the beginning and end of a quotation, a native speaker of Shshi would say, Ki’shto’ba said I believe that soon we should find a place to rest Ki’shto’ba said Wei’tu said I will scout ahead Wei’tu said.  In Inj such a style results only in obfuscation.
I have also dared to insert footnotes that clarify names and figures of speech, explain customs, or untie the knots of the various Shshi dialects, which Di’fa’kro’mi consistently renders into the language of the Shum’za as spoken in Lo’ro’ra.  The reader should know that it is the translator’s voice speaking in each footnote.  I trust that this addition will augment rather than obstruct the reader’s appreciation of a tale that deserves to take its place among the significant pieces of heroic literature extant throughout the known galaxy.

Prf. Kaitrin Oliva (Prof. Spec. Xenoanth. & Ling.)
Shiras-Peders University of Xenological Studies
15 October 242 (old cal. 2997)

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