Yoon Ha Lee's science fiction short story "A Vector Alphabet of Interstellar Travel," is currently being hosted on Tor.com. The story introduces readers to five different civilizations and describes how their languages, alphabets, and/or other forms of communication — i.e. religion and styles of dance — connects to the civilization's vessels of transportation. According to Lee, in the story, "each mode of transport is an alphabet expressing their understandings of the universe’s one-way knell." Lee's interest in various forms of communication, like those expressed in "A Vector Alphabet of Interstellar Travel", is not surprising considering Lee's math background as the discipline is often referred to as its own language.
The author, who has had several short stories published in print and around the web, is also a mathematician and former math teacher. Her first short story, “The Hundredth Question,” appeared in Fantasy & Science Fiction in 1999 and since that time Lee more than 24 stories published. Lee says that she sees herself as "someone who likes math even so, and can try to put it in words. I don't expect others to fall in love with the subject."
Thus it makes perfect sense that the author often incorporates math and other forms of communication into her tales. And in "A Vector Alphabet of Interstellar Travel" she features several societies whose means of communication influence the structures they create. Among Lee's imagined civilizations are the Mrithaya, a cult who fears their Goddess and her vessel, the stardrive, will spread disease if they embark on any intergalactic travel. Another civilization featured is the Kiatti, a people who barter as a way to construct their ships because they believe bartering is understood universally. With vivid imagery and a sweeping, poetic tone, Lee's story is full of such interesting detail that RT's Elisa Verna says, "I would love to see this expanded into a full-length novel!"
To learn more about the extraterrestrial worlds Lee crafts, you can read the full story here.