Jun. 25th, 2014

divisionsandprecisions: (dry)
This story by Ted Chiang, possibly the greatest modern SF short story writer, explores the clash between the fluidity of self-definition and the need of society to have permanent and consistent truths. He draws parallels between a fictional invention of an indexed video lifelog and the introduction of writing to a tribal culture based on oral traditions. He looks at the effects of the invention from a hundred different angles, with an impressive thoroughness. If there is any flaw in the story, it is that the protagonist's exploration parallels the experience of the reader, so everything is in the end too explicit.

Ted Chiang provides a perfect example of how to develop the relationship between the reader and characters, making the characters feel real enough that the ending can carry a strong emotional impact. The story will leave many readers re-evaluating their own views of who they are.

The story is available here for free on the publisher's web site.

Ted Chiang is a technical writer, not a full-time fiction writer. His total literary output over the last 25 years (according to Wikipedia) is thirteen stories (no novels). Of his 5 stories since 2007, three won Hugos and of course this story is a nominee. From a part-time author, this is mind boggling.

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