Review of Yoon Ha Lee, “Interlingua,” Unfit Magazine 2 (2018): Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.
The primary characters in this story are the Hwacha and the Sarissa, both sentient spaceships. They’ve been assigned to the same Contact mission, and amongst the many duties involved in keeping their crews safe and hale is keeping them occupied, because bored crews get into mischief. Reading the story it becomes apparent that bored ships also get into mischief, and this is what happens when the Hwacha start designing games for its crew to play. Of course, the Hwacha convinces itself that it’s doing this for the good of its crew, rather than itself; in this case, to prepare its crew for this particular Contact situation by giving them a simulation of what it may be like to understand the novel language of the people they are about to meet.
There is a moment about 12 pages when I had a sudden premonition of what was to come, and I spent the rest of the story in delicious anticipation of the end (which was even better than I could’ve imagined). I’ve come to expect good solid SF cross-cut with novel observations about languages (whether verbal or mathematical) from Lee’s stories, and this one certainly didn’t disappoint.