(Originally appeared in Lognet 93/4)

Profile of Steve Rice

by Wes Parsons

This is the first in a series of profiles of logli who have featured prominently in the history of Loglan. In honor of Loglan 0, the first addition to the Loglan series of books in quite a few years, I’m profiling Steve Rice, the author. Steve is eclectic, enthusiastic, friendly, and, not the least, the winner of the award for “The Logli Who Resides Nearest the Arctic Circle.”

Steve lives in College, Alaska, a suburb of Fairbanks, in the central part of the state. College gets its name from its proximity to the main campus of the University of Alaska. (The other main campus is in Anchorage—about which more later.) Steve was born in Colorado, but moved to Alaska with his family in 1966, when he was three years old, and is now an Alaskan oldtimer.

Prior to the building of the Alaska oil pipeline, Fairbanks was a small town of about 18,000 people. At the height of the oil boom, it grew to 50,000, and has maintained this size. Fairbanks apparently attracts some characters. There is an “Alaskan Independence Party,” boasting as a member one city councilman and, nominally at least, the governor of the state (who sits in Juneau, a thousand miles south)! The party favored Alaska’s joining OPEC, and now proposes Alaska’s secession from the Union. Its biggest political victory was convincing the governor to pull oxyfuel, a federallymandated gasoline hybrid that crystallized in low temperature (not a good feature when the temperature falls below 20 degrees fahrenheit), but whose use was mandated by the Clean Air Act.

Contrary to my expectations, Steve has not seen “Northern Exposure” on television. He says that his friends fall into two groups in their opinions of the show. There are those who claim that the series is funny and telling, and those who say, “That could never happen here.” Steve thinks that small towns everywhere can be rather eccentric, with unusual traditions and customs, and Alaskans are no exception.

Steve loves Alaska, and plans to stay in Alaska for the foreseeable future. His brief forays to the lower fortynine states have only succeeded in convincing him that the rest of the world is too hot. The only thing about Alaska Steve does not favor are Alaskans from Anchorage, the “Seattle of the North,” as Fairbanksans call it. Fairbanksans expect that Anchorage, like Los Angeles, is likely to drop into the Pacific Ocean during the next large earthquake. Fairbanks, located inland, is safe.

As well as writing Loglan 0, Steve is currently pursuing a degree in professional writing at the University of Alaska. He already has a B.A. degree in linguistics and foreign languages. Steve reads Greek (mostly ancient) and Hebrew, and also has some French and Spanish, some rusty Russian, and a little Welsh, which Steve has used to greet some very surprised Welsh tourists vacationing in Fairbanks.

Steve first encountered constructed languages about ten years ago in the form of a book on Esperanto. Notwithstanding this experience, Steve developed an interest in logical constructed languages, and researched a number of attempts through the years, reading Mario Pei’s One Language for the World, and Lancelot Hogben’s The Loom of Language, each of which yielded an artificial language worthy of study. He was also entranced by the constructed languages of J.R.R. Tolkien’s MiddleEarth.

One day, while reviewing a computerized database on languages, Steve encountered a reference to Loglan: A Logical Language. Steve knew that many constructed languages considered themselves to be “logical” for one misguided reason or another, and doubted whether Loglan could really handle, say, explicit quantification, or the predicate calculus. Steve wrote to Jim Brown in Florida at the address provided in L1, but the letter was returned as undeliverable, The Institute, unbeknownst to Steve having moved to California. Steve was not surprised at returned mail, since his experience with constructed languages was that they were often flybynight affairs. A little later, Steve found the Institute’s new address in an encyclopedia of associations, made contact with Jim Brown, and a logli was born. As with many logli who were introduced to Loglan through the third (1975) edition of L1, Steve still sometimes forgets that brano is now breba, and that the ordering of keks has changed.

Steve has wondered whether his Loglan 0 might in fact be better characterized as Loglan .5. Loglan 0, Steve thinks, should be a fictional work bringing to life Loglan and its aficionados, just as the Biosphere 2 energized the closed ecology buffs, and various science fiction writings have drawn attention to possible L5 “O’Neill” space colonies. Steve has under consideration a couple of plot ideas for a Loglan novel (which I won’t disclose ... Steve has first dibs!).

Closely related to Steve’s interest in Loglan is, as for many of us, an enthusiasm for computation. Steve’s brother, who is a systems consultant in the Fairbanks area, originally prompted Steve’s interest in computers. His first computer was an Atari ST; he then moved to a laptop; and now enjoys a 486DX 33 MHz “Standard” brand tower. He runs mostly DOS, and does his word processing using Ami Pro, which he finds quite the best to be had.

Steve has some striking and original ideas on the future of Loglan. He feels the most important element in promulgating Loglan is providing the learner a potent justification for studying the language. Unlike Esperanto, Loglan’s scientific bent discourages evangelical fervor. It’s tough, Steve points out, to tell a proselytee that she should “learn Loglan because it will help you think more logically.” Not only is emotional appeal lacking, but, since Loglan is still an experiment, we cannot, in strictest honesty, even make this claim. Steve sees a constant tension in constructed languages between stability (epitomized by Esperanto) and evolution (typified by Ido, a hyperevolved Esperanto offshoot). Ido changed so fast that none of its adherents was ever sure of the status of its current grammar, vocabulary, and usage, while Esperanto, in contrast, still incorporates archaic concepts such as nominative and accusative cases (but no other cases).

Copyright © 1993 by The Loglan Institute. All rights reserved.