J.C. Gemmell

Tion FAQs

Why have you used so many foreign words (italics) in Tionsphere?

Michael R. (UK)

I always intended Tion to be a diverse world, despite its segregated levels. Overpopulation one of Tionsphere’s central themes, yet as I was writing my first draft in 2013, I realised English has so very few words for 'person' and 'people'. In fact, I think that's about it. So I started to make up alternate terms but realised there was no systematic, grammatically correct tie between them.

This made me think about other languages. I recalled a documentary from 2005 (The boy with the incredible brain) where an autistic savant, Daniel Tammet, claimed to have learned Icelandic in a week. Icelandic has been consistently ranked as one of the hardest languages for English speakers to learn due to the archaic vocabulary and complex grammar. Imagine my delight when I discovered, Icelandic has at least seven words for 'person'.

Armed with this knowledge, I started to think about introducing these strange new words to avoid repeating their English equivalent. This is, after all, a story about a massive population of human beings. I have introduced the foreign terms carefully, implying their meaning, without the reader feeling the need to consult Google. As the story progressed and more dystopian terms were required, I wanted to respect my characters' diversity and reflect our global community's languages. My personal favourite is raja'a, which comes from the Arabic rajea. This one word grew into a key theme throughout Tionsphere and The Uprisers (January 2021) and causes considerable unrest in Demiurge (2022).