In May 2015, Analog Science Fiction and Fact and Trevor Quachri, published “Sentience Signified”. The printing of this story earned my entry into the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America as an Associate member, marking another significant turning point in my writing during the past several years.
In February 2014, I wrote the story as a Valentine’s Day present for Shana Cordon. As with all my science-fiction work, I tried diligently to make “Sentience Signified” as scientifically rigorous and plausible as could be, while exploring ideas of parallel evolution, general artificial intelligence, interstellar travel, and other phenomena which do not (yet) exist in our everyday experience.
“Sentience Signified” will appear in the upcoming collection Minuscule Truths. In that collection, the title will change to “Sapience Signified”. Why the change? After all the edits, the back-and-forths with Analog, and the novelette’s publication—only then did it occur to me that sentience was simply the wrong word for the phenomenon expressed by the story. Sentience is the ability to feel, to sensate; sapience is the more specific quality of being intelligence or, more literally, wise. Most of the creatures I describe in “Signified” could clearly feel, just as I would argue that Earth’s cats, dogs, rhinoceroses, and primates can all feel. Yet sapience is another quality entirely, one which we can ascribe to dolphins, elephants, many primates, and some humans, but probably not to ants or goldfish. The quality described for Joon’s Kentauros sapiens is intelligence, above and beyond the ability to sense.