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Stories of Your Life and Others
Ted Chiang
Tor UK, 333 pages

Stories of Your Life and Others
Ted Chiang
Ted Chiang was born in Port Jefferson, New York. He graduated from Brown University in Providence Rhode Island with a degree in Computer Science. The same year, he attended Clarion. He moved to Seattle to work as a technical writer in the computer industry. With his first 8 stories, he has won the Campbell New Writer Award in 1992, a Nebula Award for "Tower of Babylon" (1990), a second Nebula and the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award for "Story of Your Life" (1998), a Sidewise Award for "Seventy-Two Letters" (2000), and the Locus Award for "Hell Is the Absence of God" (2001). He lives in Bellevue, Washington.

ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Interview: Ted Chiang

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Greg L. Johnson

Ted Chiang burst onto the SF scene in a way that few others have when his first published story, "Tower of Babylon," won the Nebula Award in 1991. "Tower of Babylon" is the story of an alternate Babylon in an alternate universe building a tower to heaven. It's one of several stories in Stories of Your Life and Others that explore religious themes, while at the same time being unmistakably the work of a writer immersed in the world of science and science fiction.

Chiang's interest in science is at the forefront of two stories, "The Evolution of Human Science," and "Division By Zero." "Evolution" is an oblique look at a future where post-human beings have advanced beyond the ability of humans, and human scientific exploration depends on deciphering the work of metahumans. "Division" is the much more emotionally involving story of a physicist whose discoveries bring into question the mathematical underpinnings of modern physics. Chiang is not so much concerned with the ramifications of new technology as he is in exploring the values and methodologies that define what we think of as the scientific method. In the case of "Division" that exploration leads to a realisation that even the scientific mind can be shaken by a loss of faith.

The question of faith also dominates "Hell Is The Absence Of God," which posits a world where fundamentalist Christianity is literally true with a style and depth comparable to Philip K. Dick. Chiang is not only interested in Christian thought, however. The golem story and the Jewish kabala tradition infuse "Seventy-Two Letters" with an authenticity that makes you want to believe that this world really could be connected with our own.

Stories of Your Life and Others abounds with examples of why Ted Chiang's stories have continued to be award winners. From "Understand", which both plays homage to and expands upon Daniel Keyes' classic "Flowers For Algernon" to "Story Of Your Life," in which a linguist confronts the relationship between language and reality, it will not take readers new to these stories very long to appreciate their quality and beauty. Science fiction has always depended on writers who work best at shorter lengths to continue to examine new ideas and push the boundaries of the field. In the decade plus a few years since he first started publishing, Ted Chiang has shown himself to be more than up to that task.

Copyright © 2004 by Greg L. Johnson

Reviewer Greg L. Johnson reflects on his own faith in science and science fiction in Minneapolis, Minnesota. His reviews also appear in the The New York Review of Science Fiction.

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