Esperanto
Author: David Poulson


Esperanto and Science Fiction. Part One

Author: David Poulson
Published on:October 15, 1999

I will begin this discussion of Science Fiction and Esperanto with two significant quotations.

1 "I first encountered Esperanto in 1930 in an issue of Science Wonder Stories in a story by one of the pioneering 'stf' (Scientifiction) authors of the Gernsback era, Francis Flagg. The Esperanto-introducing story was, I believe, 'An Adventure in Time,' and I seem to recall that there were several words identified as 'the language of the future,' Esperanto. Frankly, I thought that the author made them up, like H. P. Lovecraft with his Necronomicon, so realistic that Weird Tales readers began asking for it at libraries."

2. "Since I first encountered Esperanto through the medium of science fiction, it seems reasonable to devote a few words to the relationship between the two - especially since, I suspect, many readers of this work will also be fans of the literature of the future."

The first quotation comes from, "Esperanto the Universalanguage," part of the "Ackermuseum" website, and was written by Forrest J. Ackerman. I doubt whether science fiction has had or ever will have a more dedicated fan than Mr Ackerman, editor during the 1950's and 60's of the magazine, Famous Monsters of Filmland, who has previously been introduced to readers of these articles in connection with Esperanto and the Cinema. (Francis Flagg, by the way, was the pseudonym of George Henry Weiss (1898-1946) who wrote for Amazing Stories and Weird Tales in the late 1920's and 1930's. Some of his later science fiction stories were written in collaboration with Forrest J. Ackerman, and his only novel, The Night People, was published posthumously in 1947.)

The second quotation is the opening paragraph of Appendix 2 of The Esperanto Book by Don Harlow, whose regular contributions to the Esperanto Topic discussions are as welcome as they are well-informed. Don has constructed one of the very best Esperanto sites on the World Wide Web and it is high time to make his "Esperanto Access" one of the Esperanto Topic's most highly recommended links. You will find the rest of "Appendix 2" at but I should also mention that the rest of this site is so rich in resources, and such a useful guide to other people's web pages, that it is the only Esperanto link that I have felt it necessary to include in my own, private, home page (which is mostly a collection of educational resources and which has little relevance to readers of the Esperanto topic).

I find it very interesting that both Don and Forry first became aware of Esperanto by reading about it in a work of science fiction. Several years ago, I was a frequent visitor and occasional contributor to the newsgroup soc.culture.esperanto and there I became aware that quite a few of the other participants in that discussion forum had first heard of Esperanto via science fiction. (For other Esperanto discussion forums on the Internet, see: http://www.esperanto.net/veb/flavaj-pagxoj.html#forumoj ) In most, if not all, of the cases that I can remember from that time, the interest had been stimulated either by the "Stainless Steel Rat" stories of Harry Harrison, or by the British TV series, Red Dwarf.

Coincidentally, at about this time, Harry Harrison was interviewed by Geoffrey Sutton, the editor of the journal Esperanto. If you have access to a back-file of this journal, the interview was published in the May 1985 issue. (You might like to note that the preferred translation of "Stainless Steel Rat" - at least the one used by Sutton and Harrison - is "Korodimuna S^talrato."). However, if you can't find this copy of Esperanto, you can find two other interesting interviews with Harry Harrison at the following links

There is a lot of information about the TV series Red Dwarf, on the Web, by the way.

Although I was pleased to learn of this effective form of promotion of Esperanto, I was also quite surprised. It's 30 years since I learned the language and during those three decades I have read a lot of science fiction but I still don't remember coming across a single mention of Esperanto in those books I did read. It just goes to show: obviously I had not been reading the right authors! And I guess I had not taken very much notice of a very short article written by Karl Pov in the 70th issue (published in 1981) of Kontakto.

This is the journal of TEJO (La Tutmonda Esperantista Junulara Organizo) and the article in question, which is entitled "Pri Esperanto kaj Planlingvoj en la Anglalingva Sciencfikcio" ("About Esperanto and Planned Languages in Science Fiction Written in English"), mentions several authors, including three - Mack Reynolds, Philip Jose Farmer and Harry Harrison - who not only introduced Esperanto in their fiction but could speak the language themselves.

Further information - in abundance - about the writers just mentioned and about Esperanto in English Science Fiction can be found in the Appendix to Don Harlow's book and, since Don has been kind enough to make it readily available via the WWW, there is no need for me to go over the same ground again. Just as well, as I have almost exceeded my word-limit for this article.

In forthcoming Topic articles, therefore, I'll be discussing (among other things) some works of science fiction and fantasy which have either been written in or translated into Esperanto. I'll also include some useful links, including pointers to some recently published SF available in digital form. However, the next article will be discussing one of the very first - and greatest - science fiction writers: Jules Verne. (Was he a supporter of Esperanto? Indeed he was!)

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HUMURO PRI KAJ EN ESPERANTO
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IN ENGLISHPAGHOJ EN ANGLA LINGVO
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