Though he doesn't say it explicitly, author Ted Chiang's acclaimed short story collection, The Story of Your Life has a singular theme---communication (and all its sub-mutations, language, understanding and meaning).
In the opening story, The Tower of Babel, builders climb the famed Biblical monument. In Hell is the Absence of God, a man struggles to interpret God's message; in Division Zero, a woman goes mental trying to figure out a mathematical riddle.
But this post is about the title story, The Story of Your Life (Arrival, 2016) in which a linquist must decipher an alien language to prevent potential conflict.
In The Story of Your Life, Louisa Banks is a linguist tasked with deciphering the language of an alien race that has taken up residency on our planet. The language of the aliens dubbed, Heptapods (seven-limbed) is labeled (Heptapod B)and written as a series of circles with lines, which at first appear simplistic.
The written language is different from the spoken language (Heptapod A) which is somewhat nonsensical to humans, as it appears as jumbled words, rejecting the linear sequential order that gives meaning to human language.
The Heptapod are radial-shaped with eyes circling their body, which means they see everything all at once, simultaneously. Their jumbled words only appeared nonsensical to us because our vision is linear (we can only see in one direction). Our thought process is also linear, which means our language is linear.
In a proper sentence (the subject and predicate) all the words that follow the subject must clarify the subject, giving it "action" (performative act) or meaning. For example: John (subject) kicks the ball (predicate). For humans who have "linear consciousness," we cannot act on what we don't know/can't see.
Heptapods have forms of speech/verbs but meaning/understanding is not driven by a linear ordering of words, as in the above example. For the Heptapods 'simultaneous consciousness' means the past is the present is the future. They know the outcome of everything, always. Language isn then 'performative,' used as a call to action--they never act in advance of that call (e.g. they know you'll ask a question but won't answer until you've actually asked).
Chiang's story suggests free will means our future cannot be set in stone because our decisions are unknown. What would happen if the Heptapods didn't "step into history" as Louisa suggests but act in advance to influence the outcome?
We never learn the true motives of the Heptapods, nor the limits of their simultaneous consciousness.