A bit for WisCon

I’m in a better mood than I have been for a while. Though I don’t regret swearing off cons for this year, I am a little sorry not to be kicked into thinking about what I was thinking about talking about at WisCon. (And after a sentence like that, I’m sure WisCon is breathing a sigh of relief at not having to find a gracious way to bounce my submission out the door!)

I was thinking about LeGuin’s Earthsea dragonspeech, also known as the Old Tongue, and why it’s an utterly impossible language. And why I suspect LeGuin knew that when she started writing about Earthsea again after a hiatus. And how the impossibility might be reduced to a mere improbability.

But no, I can’t think about this stuff unless I’ve got to get up and actually talk about it. So instead, I’ll pass on a little bit I once talked about at a Mythcon past.

Remember how I said there were lots of interesting things about Pravic, the doubly-invented (by author and by fictional people) language of The Dispossessed? Here’s one. You can figure out the population of Anarres from it. No, I’m quite serious; stop laughing.

I’ve never been sure I got the math right on this, so somebody who knows more about math than I do (that would be “most people”), please check it. Here is my reasoning, and the number resulting from it.

I wrote that up more than a year ago, intending to get to a LeGuin signing at Book Expo America. I did make BEA, but not the signing; such is life when you’re a brand-new employee at a major ebook player when ebooks are still hot. And here I am going to miss another LeGuin appearance, at this year’s WisCon.

The things you can do with invented languages, though…