by David D. Levine
• Word count: 6626
• Page count: 12
Tk’tk’tk is the 2006 winner of the Hugo Award for Best Short Story. It is the story of a penniless salesman on a very alien planet. The main character, Walker, is tried by everything from his ability to sell gadgets, to paying for his hotel, to participating in the local religious holiday. In the end he finds a uniquely spiritual restaurant that changes his life.
A great science fiction short story about overcoming problems for all those who have ever been homesick and in culture shock.
Shkthh pth kstphst, the shopkeeper said, and Walker’s hypno-implanted vocabulary provided a translation: “What a delightful object.” Chitinous fingers picked up the recorder, scrabbling against the aluminum case with a sound that Walker found deeply disturbing. “What does it do?”
It took him a moment to formulate a reply. Even with hypno, Thfshpfth was a formidably complex language. “It listens and repeats,” he said. “You talk all day, it remembers all. Earth technology. Nothing like it for light-years.” The word for “light-year” was hkshkhthskht, difficult to pronounce. He hoped he’d gotten it right.
Tk’tk’tk was originally published in the March 2005 edition of Asimov’s Science Fiction. You can read if for free online at Asimov’s website.
If you like this story you can learn more about the author, David D. Levine, by checking out his website.