OAKLAND, Calif.—It all started when Nick Farmer bought George R. R. Martin a drink, but the plot really thickened when the linguist met Martin's then-assistant Ty Franck. Franck was one half of the writing team behind the novels that fuel SyFy's incredible new series, The Expanse. And the author soon discovered that Farmer was a talented polyglot, a master of over two dozen languages who worked as a linguistic sellsword for financial research companies desperate to translate global business news for analysts. Farmer also happened to be just the kind of expert that Franck and his co-author Daniel Abraham needed to bring their novels to the screen.
The Expanse series takes place two centuries from now in the Belt, a ring of asteroids that orbit the Sun between Mars and Jupiter. People who have migrated to the Belt come from all over Earth speaking dozens of languages, and they're often isolated for years at a time on remote mining stations. To communicate, they evolve a creole called Belter, which becomes the lingua franca for what is essentially the solar system's new proletariat. The problem? In the book, Belter could be referenced. But now that The Expanse was coming to television, people would actually have to speak the damn thing. SyFy suddenly needed a linguist who could build a language out of dozens of parts. Luckily, Franck knew a guy. He soon recommended Farmer, who delivered a lot more than they bargained for.