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Creator / Ted Chiang

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Ted Chiang (born 1967) is an American Speculative Fiction writer. Among his works are the eight stories published as Stories of Your Life and Others and the novellette The Merchant and the Alchemist's Gate.

The film Arrival is based on his story "Story of Your Life."


His works provide examples of:

  • Seventy-Two Letters:
    • Fantastic Science: The study of the power of names, or "nomenclature", is a legitimate science, routinely employed to manufacture Golems, and reproductive biology is based on preformationism (organisms develop from miniature versions of themselves).
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    • Never Was This Universe
    • Our Homunculi Are Different
  • Exhalation:
    • Apocalyptic Log: The end reveals the story was this, written to whomever discovers their dead civilization.
    • Constructed World: The characters live in a universe consisting of a huge cavity filled with argon, with chromium walls.
    • The End of the World as We Know It: The robots are powered by air pressure. The protagonist discovers that the air pressure in their enclosed world is slowly equalizing, meaning they are condemned to stop functioning eventually.
    • Ridiculously Human Robots: Completely mechanical robots powered by air pressure, but they have emotions and helping each other refill their artificial lungs is quite the social activity.
    • The Wall Around the World: The robots have nothing that can drill or otherwise pierce the chromium wall containing their world, so they have no way to discern if they're part of a larger universe or not.
  • Story of Your Life:
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    • Adult Fear: A pretty interesting, if no less tragic, example. Through learning Heptapod B, Louise end up being able to foresee the future, including the fact that her daughter, who is not even conceived yet, will die at the age of 25 in a rock climbing accident.
    • Starfish Aliens: The Heptapods are described as looking like a "barrel suspended at the intersection of seven limbs...[they were] radially symmetric." They are also described to have two mouths, one on top of their bodies for talking and one on the underside for eating (and presumably for pooping).
    • Two Lines, No Waiting: The short story continually alternates between Louise's account of her attempts to communicate with the Heptapods and vignettes of her yet unborn daughter's life, spanning from birth to her death at age 25.
  • Hell Is the Absence of God:
  • Tower of Babylon
    • Give Me a Sign: After the nasty business with The Great Flood, everyone's nervous because Yahweh hasn't indicated whether he approves of the tower or not. When the protagonist ends up back on the ground he realizes it was because mankind wasn't going anywhere.
    • The Great Flood: It happened, and everyone is worried the tower may goad Yahweh into unleashing another one.
    • Impossibly Tall Tower: It takes months to climb to the top of the tower, meaning it's in the ballpark of a hundred miles tall. Which makes it literally impossible, since it's built from clay brick.
    • Never Was This Universe: Some Biblical events such as The Great Flood happened, and Egypt and other Bronze Age civilizations exist as they did on our Earth, but this is a Flat World at the center of Babylonian cosmology.
    • Star Scraper: In a more literal sense than usual — one of the stars actually crashed into the tower.
    • Tower of Babel: It's a retelling in a universe that operates as the ancient Babylonians believed.
    • Wrap Around: When the protagonist becomes separated from the rest of the miners and climbs through a series of caves, he thinks he's ascending into heaven. He comes out on the ground a few miles from the tower's base.


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