So I've remembered bits and pieces of this over the years, but I know I never read the book. I know I read an excerpt of it in the back of what I'm fairly certain was an pre-y2k Star Trek novel.

  • The basic notion is that society has gone silent in day to day life.
  • Words and sounds made by people one day began to appear in the air like physical speech bubbles, before the mysterious and spontaneous signage would drop to the ground creating a pile of refuse.
  • Garbage became a whole new level of problem to manage as governments crack down on social gatherings and vocally spoken communication.
  • The implications are just being laid out when the apparent protagonist somehow stumbles across an alien device in a city dump. I'm pretty sure this is where the preview in the back of the Star Trek novel ended, as I can imagine many directions for these tropes, but I know not where that plot went.

I'm pretty sure this was a published book with a proper title, so if anybody recognizes any elements of it I'd love to get around to finally reading it and would appreciate being guided in the right direction, as some fifteen years later I'm quite intrigued by the entire concept.

  • Welcome to SFF.SE! You may want to take the tour. While you've provided a fair amount of information, you may still want to look at the answers to this question, to see if anything there triggers additional memories of what you saw.
    – RDFozz
    Jun 18 '18 at 18:48
  • The publisher for the Start Trek books in the 1990s would have been Pocket Books, so presumably that would have been the publisher of this other book as well. How certain are you that the book you read the excerpt in was a Star Trek book? Because it would seem relatively unlikely for an ST book to be including an non-ST excerpt in it. If you're sure it was an ST book, do you remember anything details about that book? One may lead to the other....
    – RDFozz
    Jun 18 '18 at 18:54
  • Thanks for the welcome links. Fortunately, it seems I crammed enough information into my initial posting, as Dragan Milosevic has come up with precisely the title I was looking for. While I'm still uncertain exactly which Star Trek novel I read the excerpt in, now that I know the author I can see he's dabbled in a few Star Trek novels, so I'm quite confident the excerpt I read was probably in the back of one of those, likely as a "Also by this author" teaser more than anything. I did some research and it's not the most published short story.
    – PowerLuser
    Jun 19 '18 at 12:13
  • That would be a very logical reason why a Star Trek book might have a non-Star Trek excerpt. Very happy you found your story!
    – RDFozz
    Jun 19 '18 at 15:20

The Word Sweep by George Zebrowski fits the description almost perfectly, but that's a short story. You can read it here.

The words on the floor were as thick as leaves when Felix arrived at the party. At five past eleven, the room should have been silent.

"Quiet!" he shouted, unable to hold back.

The word formed in the air and floated to the floor at his feet.


As Felix neared the landfill, he noticed the strangeness of the grass on both sides of the road.


A crystalline rod protruded from the dirt. Felix stepped into the hole and continued digging while Bruno rested. Slowly, Felix uncovered a complex mechanism, a cubelike shape of glassy-metallic connections, a maze of shiny pipes and joints, mirror surfaces and solid figures.

  • That does indeed appear to be it! What I read was most certainly an excerpt, for I knew nothing of characters besides the protagonist, and all the bits involving vulgarity or existential horror were cut from the edit.
    – PowerLuser
    Jun 19 '18 at 10:44
  • Thank you for taking the time to recognize and identify this story for me. That was a interesting plot to be hung up on and it was delightful to finally have closure to that weird little story.
    – PowerLuser
    Jun 19 '18 at 12:18

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