The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling
August 29, 2013 7:00 AM   Subscribe

New fiction by Ted Chiang (previously)
posted by Artw (40 comments total) 86 users marked this as a favorite

 
*Makes bet on next year's Hugo award*
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 7:11 AM on August 29, 2013 [9 favorites]


That sound is about half the countries' short story fans tabbing over and ignoring the phone.
posted by The Whelk at 7:14 AM on August 29, 2013 [3 favorites]


Charlie Brooker's Black Mirror - The Entire History of You is similar. That link goes to a trailer, so if you don't want spoilage then you might want to just look it up yourself.
posted by knapah at 7:15 AM on August 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


w00t!
posted by Mister_A at 7:16 AM on August 29, 2013


Charlie Brooker's Black Mirror

Ooh, the whole (short) series sounds fantastic, thanks! And thanks for this new short story, Artw.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:18 AM on August 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Curse you MeFi front page, for being so awesome this morning!
posted by Mister_A at 7:18 AM on August 29, 2013


I just made a truly undignified excited noise at my desk. Thank you!
posted by Lemmy Caution at 8:04 AM on August 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


yessssss
posted by inire at 8:10 AM on August 29, 2013


TY Ted Chiang. TY Artw.
posted by tykky at 8:23 AM on August 29, 2013


Damnit I actually had things to do instead of going back to that classic Previously thread and clicking away.

Thanks for this, I guess?
posted by RedOrGreen at 8:23 AM on August 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have Metafilter to thank for turning me on to Ted Chiang's writing, and I am extremely grateful. My students, however, do not thank you for the distracted teaching they will receive today as I eagerly await getting home to read this new story.
posted by LooseFilter at 8:32 AM on August 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Your students will be grateful if you let them out early so you can read the story, LooseFilter.

(It's very good.)
posted by jeather at 8:45 AM on August 29, 2013


"Funes el memorioso." Translated by James E. Irby and Andrew Hurley.
posted by theodolite at 8:52 AM on August 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


The struggle of forgetting against memory.
posted by gerryblog at 9:11 AM on August 29, 2013


There should be a kind of an early warning system for new Ted Chiang stories.
posted by newdaddy at 9:20 AM on August 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


There should be a kind of an early warning system for new Ted Chiang stories.

I'm just going to hold the knowledge of a new Ted Chiang story close, like a precious object, for a while before actually reading it.
posted by carsonb at 9:25 AM on August 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


yes yes yes yes yes yes
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:19 AM on August 29, 2013


There should be a kind of an early warning system for new Ted Chiang stories.

Well, they usually make one or more of the sf/f annual best of anthologies (Dozois, Horton, Hartwell), so if you keep track of those it's hard to miss them.
posted by aught at 10:23 AM on August 29, 2013


...and here's where I bite my tongue and don't talk about the thing that happened in the thing because you should really just go read the thing.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 10:24 AM on August 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Fantastic. It's a perfect blend of "well isn't that an interesting idea" and "emotional gut-punch".
posted by Jpfed at 10:34 AM on August 29, 2013 [3 favorites]


Marshall McLuhan pops out from behind a cardboard display and says, "You do understand my work!"
posted by thecaddy at 10:41 AM on August 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


Goddamn he's good.
posted by Shutter at 11:12 AM on August 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Your students will be grateful if you let them out early so you can read the story, LooseFilter.

"Students, your assignment for this evening is..."

Extra Credit!
posted by BlueHorse at 1:37 PM on August 29, 2013


My dream is that Ted Chiang will write a novel (hell, how about a series!) based on the events from Understand. It will be written from the perspective of the other guy.
posted by zardoz at 3:51 PM on August 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


SHORT FICTION 4 EVAH!
posted by Artw at 3:59 PM on August 29, 2013


The stuff of my nightmares should not be such beautiful art.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 5:04 PM on August 29, 2013


Might be worth pointing out video of a talk Ted Chiang gave for Triple Canopy at PS1 last month.
posted by with hidden noise at 6:19 PM on August 29, 2013


Might be worth pointing out video of a talk Ted Chiang gave

Wow. Maybe my contempt for Toastmasters was premature. I'll stick to his writing.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 7:43 PM on August 29, 2013


I read it on the train ride home today. It's very good, though I would still place "Story of Your Life" as his best.

Chiang's style is famously dry: very clean, with nothing flashy or self-indulgent. That's better than a lot of SF writing, but I am sometimes left with the impression that his stories are almost too simple in their presentation. Of course, you could argue that that means nothing gets in the ways of the ideas in the stories, which rightfully should be in the forefront of your attention.

In the case of this piece, the style is very close to an essay in Wired or some other contemporary magazine, to the point of being unnerving. And yet I felt that I learned more about the implications of ubiquitous computing from this work of fiction than a thousand nonfiction articles about Google Glass. We're not used to learning something from fiction, particularly in the current era, which privileges the memoir over the novel and the personal essay over the short story. But Chiang stands out as someone who bucks this trend, and I think his aping of contemporary journalistic prose is crucial to his method. His writing is deceptively simple, while taking you places nonfiction simply can't go.
posted by Cash4Lead at 8:38 PM on August 29, 2013 [10 favorites]


I saw the post on my lunch break at work, and it was so frustrating to have to work for HOURS when there was a new Ted Chiang story that I hadn't read yet.

This is a fabulous story. I love the way that the two narratives intertwine, and the genuine emotions evoked in such a restrained way. I love how he thinks through his ideas so thoroughly and meticulously.

My biggest fangirl moment was a few years ago when I went to a Matt Ruff book reading and discovered that Chiang was in the audience and it was OMG OMG OMG must get another copy of Stories of Your Life and Others so he can sign it OMG. I'm so glad he keeps on writing these stories and I can keep gibbering incoherently about them.
posted by creepygirl at 8:47 PM on August 29, 2013


I always feel as if I've missed the emotional impact of Ted Chiang's stories. I mostly thought the whole bit with his daughter was a distracting tangent. And I could tell there was something going on with "Story of Your Life" but for the life of me I couldn't figure out what. Could someone explain either to me? For example, jpfed, what makes this story an "emotional gut-punch" for you?
posted by d. z. wang at 8:50 PM on August 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


If the switcharound part way through doesn't get you I don't know what to say.
posted by Artw at 9:46 PM on August 29, 2013 [3 favorites]


I could believe the impact of the switcharound depends on being a parent yourself. I'm glad I gave the story a second change because at first the alternating of the two narratives was annoying me, and I quit reading.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 2:21 AM on August 30, 2013


In the case of this piece, the style is very close to an essay in Wired or some other contemporary magazine, to the point of being unnerving.

Which I thought was perfect, because this story is ostensibly written by a Wired-type journalist.

I mostly thought the whole bit with his daughter was a distracting tangent.

One thing that's great about the parallel narratives is that it gives different people something to latch on to. As a parent to a teenage daughter, for me it was the more salient narrative.
posted by Jpfed at 7:02 AM on August 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


Chiang seems to be getting more explicitly philosophical, stylistically like some of Stanislaw Lem's work. I liked the story, and I even agree philosophically with much of what he has to say, but when definite claims are put in this kind of neat story form, it makes me a bit uncomfortable. It's verging on rhetoric rather than fiction, and that can stir resistance in me as a reader. I don't really want to be criticising him philosophically while I'm reading. I want him to provide powerful images and narratives for contemplation. His fantasy stories do this extremely well. So maybe this has a bit too much tell, and not enough show?
posted by leibniz at 7:23 AM on August 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


I felt the same way about The Life Cycle of Software Objects.
posted by Justinian at 9:28 AM on August 30, 2013


d. z. wang: I could tell there was something going on with "Story of Your Life" but for the life of me I couldn't figure out what. Could someone explain either to me?

Do you mean what the events mean, or why that story has such emotional resonance? (For me, at least.)

(Spoilers. Obviously. If you haven't read that story, just do yourself a favor. You're welcome.)

I'm a practicing physical scientist. I first came across the principle of least action as an undergrad reading the Feynman lectures. The concept that a photon seems to "know" all the possible paths in its future, and can "feel out" the path that specifically causes an extreme (minimum or maximum) of a weird technical quantity called "action" - it was like magic. How can a particle do that, when it doesn't (shouldn't) have agency in the first place? And even today, I find it more than vaguely mystical, that all the possible events already exist and these subatomic particles are just feeling their way along chains of causality.

I'm also a father. The first time I held my son and my daughter in my arms - well.

Can you imagine what it would be like, then, to hold your child in your arms and to know - not imagine, but know and see in your memory - every single experience simultaneously? No past or future, just a complete bird's eye present? To know and see the first steps, the first words, sleepovers, bicycle falls, dances, dates, graduation, heartbreak, success, failure, all the way to the shattering end? And to have no choice but to proceed along that chain of causality, from one inevitable step to the next?

Knowing - not guessing, but knowing - that there is immense joy and incredible heartbreak ahead of you, would you have the courage to take that first step?
posted by RedOrGreen at 1:57 PM on August 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Art for Ted Chiang's "The Lifecycle of Software Objects" - part one!
Art for Ted Chiang's "The Lifecycle of Software Objects" - part two!
Art for Ted Chiang's "The Lifecycle of Software Objects" - part three!
Art for Ted Chiang's "The Lifecycle of Software Objects" - part four!
posted by Artw at 8:52 AM on September 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think it's a great story primarily because it engages a big issue, and does it in a very personal way. My only comment that isn't entirely positive is that I feel like there's not enough 'shit hitting the fan' in this story. There's a note in one of the Clarion blogs that's close to 'The shit MUST hit the fan.' This is more of a preference than a rule, but in this case it was one of the first things that came to my mind upon finishing the story.
posted by newdaddy at 4:05 AM on September 7, 2013


Dara Horn's new book A Guide for the Perplexed covers the same sorts of ideas in a very different (and very good) way.
posted by jeather at 8:10 AM on September 19, 2013


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