Stories of Your Life: And Others by Ted Chiang
In his review of Ted Chiang’s brilliant short story collection Stories of Your Life and Others in The Guardian, China Miéville mentions the “humane intelligence [...] that makes us experience each story with immediacy and Chiang’s calm passion.” The oxymoron “calm passion” is an insightful and ingenious way to describe these stories because of the way it hints at their deft melding of the most solid of hard science fiction concepts with an often surprisingly gentle, humane touch. There’s no other author I can think of who can inject such a level of emotionality in a story about a mathematical theorem like “Division by Zero.” There’... Read More
Ted Chiang(1967- )
Ted Chiang has a computer science degree from Brown University and works as a technical writer in the software industry. Chiang has won multiple awards for his short stories and novellas including multiple Nebula, Hugo, and Locus Awards, the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer (1992) the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award, the Sidewise Award, a British Science Fiction Association Award. Ted Chiang lives near Seattle, Washington.
Stories of Your Life: And Others by Ted Chiang
The Lifecycle of Software Objectsby Ted Chiang
Ted Chiang is one of my favorite writers. He only writes one short story, novelet or novella a year, it seems, but every one is a masterwork. A year in which Chiang’s name does not appear on every award ballot means that he’s skipped writing for a year. (If you haven’t yet read Stories of Your Life and Others, I strongly urge you to do so at once. This is what brilliance looks like.)
In The Lifecycle of Software Objects, Chiang posits that humans have developed a software program that gives buyers a pet — one that never requires walking in the rain and doesn’t cry to be held the way a baby would. But the program requires a significant investment of time and energy, as this software has the ability to learn. Each digient, as these creatures are called, develops its own personality based upon its interaction ... Read More
Feeling Very Strange: The Slipstream Anthology edited by James Patrick Kelly & John Kessel
Is there really any difference between post-modernism, interstitial fiction, slipstream and New Weird? Does anyone know? James Patrick Kelly and John Kessel try to outline the boundaries of slipstream with their anthology, Feeling Very Strange: The Slipstream Anthology, particularly by including a learned introduction and excerpts from a discussion that took place on the subject on a blog a few years ago. Ultimately, like so many things literary, from science fiction to erotica, it comes down to this: slipstream is what I’m pointing to when I say “slipstream.” Yes, there are a few defining features. It’s fantas... Read More
The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror 2007
In many ways, The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror 2007 anthology is a difficult book to review. For one thing, to me and a lot of my reading/writing circle, this is easily the definitive bible when it comes to short stories of the genre. For another, many of the stories that are included in this collection have been featured in other anthologies as well, so there's an overlap in terms of stories featured. But I'll try and talk about what makes this anthology unique from other similar anthologies.
The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror is quite comprehensive about its subject matter, not just featuring short stories but poems and articles. The first dozen pages are articles summarizing the important events that happened in the two genres including the obituaries of the previous year. That’s really quite valuable from an archiving standpoint, an... Read More
The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year Volume Two edited by Jonathan Strahan
The Year's Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year Volume Two is one of several anthologies that collects the best science fiction and fantasy of 2007. I've read many of the stories included, yet revisiting them actually made me appreciate them more rather than feel exhausted. One thing I noticed is that there's a stronger science fiction balance in this anthology compared to the previous volume, although that might also be because the lines between science fiction and fantasy easily get blurry.
The opening piece, Ted Chiang's "The Merchant and The Alchemist's Gate," is a good example. This is easily my favorite story and arguably Chiang's most accessible piece. The physics of time travel is narrated with an Arabian Nights flavor and theme, appealing t... Read More
The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror 2008
For me, The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror 2008 has been a two-headed beast. On one hand, it's an eagerly anticipated book by people involved in the industry, usually for the summation at the front of the book and the honorable mentions list at the back. The various editors are quite thorough and detailed when it comes to this part. The other aspect is, of course, the story/poetry selection, which is what will likely attract the casual reader.
So, how does it actually fare? Well, with regards to the first aspect, there are no disappointments. When covering the highlights of the previous year (and alas, the obituaries) and the various media (comics, movies, and music) in which either fantasy or horror plays a part, the book has it covered. The writing is functional and achieves what it sets out to do.
With regard to the stories and poems, this is a wel... Read More
Steampunk edited by Ann and Jeff Vandermeer
Steampunk is an anthology of, well, steampunk stories, edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer. If you hurry, you can still get to this first anthology before the second one, Steampunk II: Steampunk Reloaded, appears in mid November. Based on the quality of the stories in this collection, I heartily recommend checking it out, especially if you’ve been a bit bemused (or possibly amused) by all the people wearing odd Victorian costumes at SFF conventions nowadays, or if you have at best a vague idea of what steampunk exactly entails. If you’re one of those people who’s interested in, but not entirely sure about, the new hot subgenre du jour (like me, prior to reading Steampunk), this anthology is here to take you by the hand and give you a quick, entertaining education. And oh, it also contains some truly excel... Read More
The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate — (2007) Publisher: In medieval Baghdad, a penniless man is brought before the most powerful man in the world, the caliph himself, to tell his story. It begins with a walk in the bazaar, but soon grows into a tale unlike any other told in the caliph’s empire. It’s a story that includes not just buried treasure and a band of thieves, but also men haunted by their past and others trapped by their future; it includes not just a beloved wife and a veiled seductress, but also long journeys taken by caravan and even longer ones taken with a single step. Above all, it’s a story about recognizing the will of Allah and accepting it, no matter what form it takes.
“The Melusine (1898)” by Caitlin R. Kiernan is this week’s offering by Subterranean Online. It is a wonderful story, written with an unearthly beauty. Kiernan imagines a steampunk circus that comes to town advertising its name in letters five-stories high, “shaped from out of nothing but the billowing clouds of red dust raised by those rolling broad steel and vulcanized rims." The circus is made of automaton mastodonts and living elephants, and no one can tell if the acrobats are mechanical or real. It promises miracles.
Cala Monroe Weatherall is “a learned woman of industry and science” who comes to the circus in answer to a secret cry, “a dream so vivid and bizarre that she might almost name it a nightmare.” She has been summoned – somehow, some way -- to the sideshow, an... Read More
I’ve always thought that the novella was a perfect length for short science fiction or fantasy, because it gives an author space enough to build a complete world and form characters who live and breathe in the reader’s imagination. You need more room to do this in these genres than in mainstream literature, where an author can assume that the reader is at home in the world of his characters. Yet a novella is also short enough to be read in a single sitting – a perfect lunchtime read, for instance – and a reader can take in an author’s entire milieu and ideas in one gulp. Where copies of the novellas are available online for those who wish to read them, I have linked them so that you can have as good a week of lunches this week as I had last.
There are six novellas nominated for the Nebula this year. They are all of exceptionally high quality, and the variety is enormous, so much so that comparison of one to another seems almost silly. The jury is going to have ... Read More