Mar. 23rd, 2010

starlady: (through the trapdoor)
Chiang, Ted. Stories of Your Life and Others. New York: Tor Books, 2002.

On the cover of this book (which, incidentally, in my opinion is ugly) Greg Bear says that it's "essential. You won't know SF if you don't read Ted Chiang." So I guess I know SF now that I've read it!

Yeah, that was sarcasm.

Let me dispute Bear's implicit claim that Chiang is writing SF first of all, because I don't think that stories such as "Tower of Babylon," which takes the Hebrew version of the myth of the Tower of Babel and its associated cosmology as true, or "Hell is the Absence of God," which is predicated on the idea that the evangelical Christian worldview is true, can comfortably be called "science fiction"--no, not even "Babylonian science fiction" in the case of "Tower of Babylon." Babylonian science fiction would have to be written by Babylonians, I think. What does distinguish Chiang from many other sf writers of my experience is that almost all of his work--the majority of the stories in this book, certainly--is predicated on actual science rather than handwaving it, even if, as in the case of "Seventy-Two Letters", it's pre-Darwinian pseudoscience mixed with a healthy dose of kabbalah and alchemy.

That said, while Chiang is undeniably a brilliant writer, I found myself mostly unmoved by the characters in these stories, with the notable exception of the narrator in "Story of Your Life," a linguist who makes contact with an alien race; it's probably not a coincidence that she's the only viewpoint female character in the book. In fact, my predominant feeling while reading these stories was one of creeping unease verging on horror, particularly at "Understand" and "Seventy-Two Letters." My flesh crawls at what the idea of preformation, were it true, would mean for women (and what it did mean before it was disproved), though I don't think Chiang was thinking about that so much. The stories are dominated by implicitly white men of a certain class; people like Robert Stratton, the protagonist of "Seventy-Two Letters," appear attractive only because they are juxtaposed with eugenicists like his patron Earl Fieldhurst. At the end of just about every story I immediately experienced a sensation of overwhelming relief that the world was not in fact the way it was depicted in the story. In that sense they are actually slightly horrific.

So, while I'd say this book is certainly worth reading, I can't really say any more than that. Even if "Story of Your Life" does explicitly cite Borges, which is awesome.
starlady: Anna Maria from PoTC at the helm: "bring me that horizon" (bring me that horizon)
Because translating it is taking me forever.

[community profile] dark_agenda is holding a challenge for Remix 2010!

ONE: Produce at least seven drabbles featuring chromatic characters that a participant can remix.
TWO: Try to write a remix that features a chromatic character.

53 of the 56 fandoms on the list (though not very many of the fandoms are chromatic-source, sadly) have chromatic characters. And even if (like me) you're not eligible to participate in Remix by virtue of having written enough stories in any one fandom, writing 7 drabbles of at least 100 words in any of the fandoms will then qualify you to participate.

Also, [community profile] ladiesbigbang! It exists! It seems really cool! 

…I really need a fandom tag.


starlady: Raven on a MacBook (Default)

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