Saturday, November 21, 2015

Hello, Hello, by Seanan McGuire

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The narrator, a computational linguist, has installed an advanced speech-and-gesture-recognition system to let her deaf sister make video phone calls. But a stranger seems to be using the system too. (7,400 words; Time: 24m)

Rating: ★★★☆☆, Average
Recommended By: GDozois:5 RHorton:5

"," by (edited by Jennifer Henshaw and Allison Linn), appeared in Future Visions (RSR review), published on by .

Mini-Review (click to view--possible spoilers)

Pro: Nice descriptions of how hearing people communicate with deaf people. Realistic descriptions of what neural nets can actually do. Somewhat optimistic on the language-translation ability, but then this is science fiction.

Con: It seemed very obvious from the start that this was going to end up being a bird on the phone. It sounded a lot like a parrot from the start.

It's hard to believe that Tasha never noticed a bird using her system.

We know the narrator had access to Tasha's system, but does that mean it didn't even have a password? Despite holding NDA software?

The story contradicts current understanding of animal communication, which is that it is very simple and that there is no syntax. Studies trying to teach ASL to apes have not stood the test of time. However, if you suspend disbelief on that point, you have to wonder why the researchers hadn't tried apes before this.

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2 comments (may contain spoilers):

  1. I agree with the rating.

    I guessed the mystery as well before the ending, but this wasn't the problem.

    I also do not have a problem with the "sf science" in here. It just has to be plausible imo.

    I did find this story very bland to read. I do expect short fiction to spark some sort of emotion in the reader. I was mildly curious, and that was it.

  2. Reprinted at Lightspeed with a podcast: