12 thoughts on “Stories Of Your Life And Others – Ted Chiang


    “Pullers were beginning to lead their carts up the ramp.”

    I call my miners ‘hawlers’ in ‘Nemonymous Night’ (2011) where their diverse geometrical relationship with the Earth’s Core is described. I have not read this story before today, having first encountered Chiang when reading a few weeks ago his ‘Story of Your Life’ and reviewing here THE BIG BOOK OF SCIENCE FICTION where it appeared. Hence my subsequent purchase of this collection.

    This is a slightly ‘alternate’ story of a world where the Tower of Babylon is being built within Biblical parameters and it is astonishingly breathtaking as we follow the main protagonist named Hillalum (‘haul’ and ‘mill’ embedded together) climbing past the Tower’s various communities of builders along the way – as he progresses skyward with his men to ‘mine’ the Vault of Heaven whereat the top of the Tower has now reached, and its negotiation of potentially breaking deluges from Heaven’s reservoirs and the nature of Yahweh (Why Awe?) are more than just groundbreaking. And the ultimate configuration of Heaven and Earth more than just eye-opening.

    “Yahweh will neither help or hinder us;”


    “What can’t I do?”

    There is nothing I can’t do until I can’t do anything at all.
    By means of this fable, the narrator’s treatment by an experimental hormone following an accident allows him the ability for his ratiocination to be exponentially accreted. It is a story of gestalts, explicitly, and eventual regression – or retrocausality as I have long called it.
    It is a life-changing experience to experience this story in the light of my long-term-practice of gestalt real-time reviewing hyper-imaginative fiction books and the parallel of the Tower of Babylon in the previous story eventually triggering the ultimate gestalt of itself, joining its nadir with its zenith, its means with its ends.
    Finnegans Wake multiplied by Pound’s Cantos, or the dissonant multi-voices of Babel, or, optimally, just two hyper-superminds in the ultimate chess game between pragmatism and aestheticism (to trigger the neutralisation of a terrestrial Trump, or an alien invasion?)
    And from that line of reasoning in the Supreme Court of my own mind, you can probably understand that I was the one who “dissolved”…

    “I’m closing in on the ultimate gestalt: the context in which all knowledge fits and is illuminated, a mandala, the music of the spheres, ‘kosmos’.”


    “…but during the party he saw her smile twice and frown once; at those moments, her entire countenance assumed the expression as if it had never known another.”

    …a bit like testing, as do these algebraically numbered story chapters, the relationships of real objects – the moving feast of human beings – with either the empiricism or rigid finality of mathematics; it is a nightmare more horrific than any horror story, as we follow Renee and Carl as an item, but with both of them being at different points of time either side of the same closed door. Or at either end of the same Tower of Babel? The “What can’t I do?” of understanding. Existential angst, notwithstanding.
    A fiction that proves fiction is more incisive than mathematics to figure out mathematics. Indeed to figure out anything in life.

    It seems opportune that I should read it while watching the Supreme Court in London where there has been the rigorous flaying and flensing of human concepts, the debate over Parliamentary Sovereignty and the Prerogative of the Government with regard to Brexit.

    “If mathematical thinking is defective, where are we to find truth and certitude?”

  4. The next story of your life is one I have already read and reviewed here and below is what I wrote about it in real-time. I think it is superfluous to give evidence upon how this work fits in with this book’s gestalt so far…

    STORY OF YOUR LIFE by Ted Chiang

    “Raspberry left the room and returned with some kind of giant nut or gourd and a gelatinous ellipsoid.”

    However gelatinous, that word would be allowed in Tenn’s ‘Ghost’ word game…
    This novelette, meanwhile, is a masterpiece and worth alone the entry fee to this big book, even bigger now, in what should have been foresight, not hindsight. It makes sense, all on its own, of my need to carry out this series of gestalt real-time reviews since 2008 and the retrocausality of Cone Zero and CERN Zoo. And more. But that is more personal than critical.
    This story is a compelling account by a woman of her linguistic interface with described aliens, visiting earth, but why?, in a scientifically and militarily disciplined scenario. This interface is in turn interfaced with the fact that her account to us is also an account to ‘you’, her daughter, believably re-rehearsing her daughter’s well-characterised lifetime, often in reverse, from her tragic death in her twenties, back toward her birth and coincidentally makes complete sense of Ian McEwan’s new novel I happen to be reviewing here at the same time as this review, a novel which, so far, is narrated from the womb! This novelette’s Nutshell as well as Salad Bowl Effect?
    The delineation – of the linguistic and the associative physics-mathematics regarding these aliens and interaction with them – is precise and allows you to understand many of these things you never understood before. The nature of ‘least distance’, for example, transcends this book’s gestalt so far of Zeno’s Paradox, as if the editors always knew they were working towards the Chiang, a work that is its own mandala. I would go as far as to say that my own life has been gestated and gestalted by experiencing this novelette today in one sitting, for the first time. I am glad I did not encounter it till now, because, at the time when I started this review, I was not at all certain I would ever complete it! (Still a few stories to read, though.)
    It makes everything worthwhile, knowing that at this end of things I now know I made ‘you’. (I made multitudinous pencilled marginalia to this text, too numerous to mention.)



    Enough said?


    Chiang’s work seems in hindsight to have linked Gestalt real-time reviews with the retrocausality of CERN ZOO in Nemonymous (2001-2010) as well as the original ‘Parthenogenetic Fiction and Late Labelling.’ Eureka!

    But Seventy-Two Letters – as a story – I found a bit tedious to read.


    A brief essay on hermeneutics, metahumans, mechanosynthesis etc.
    Particularly interested in “the ExaCollider recently installed beneath the Gobi Desert…”

    Tom Alaerts’ creative framing of the ‘found art’ I found and photographed this afternoon just before reading this essay…


    “Benny described Heaven’s light as infinitely beautiful, a sight of such compelling majesty that it vanquished all doubts. It constituted proof that God should be loved, an explanation that made it as obvious as 1 + 1 = 2.”

    …and that sort of gives the game away, I sense, whether or not Benny was blinded by that light? Also the fact that karma and reincarnation are never mentioned in this work? But what about Nirvana? Hell, below our feet on Earth, looks a bit like our normal life, and where the word ‘condition’ does not exist, even within the word ‘unconditional’? A Nirvana of sorts. A world where a hindsight-gestalt is the only way to judge God, as means or ends, assuming eternity allows such a gestalt to be formed?
    This is a world of angelic visitations from God, and people on Earth who chase them as others chase dangerous tornados. A triangulation of real-time reviewing of outcomes, birthly defects, or double and triple and multiple bluffs of devotion to God, even gradations of devotion, moral significance, and whether you should, do certain things to bring back loved ones or join loved ones in Hell or Heaven. I empathised with the various characters in this story, and it IS a story, one that gave me a religious faith in fiction I have never felt before, one I have sought during my many years with Nemonymous and Gestalt Real-Time Reviews. Eureka! Again.


    “The deficit is restricted purely to faces.”

    Reading between the subliminal lines of this text reveals a Trump and Brexit where those politicians encouraging us to vote for both those two things were using subliminality and the others weren’t able to do so. This work represents various thought streams (like this being my thought stream) by various parties centred around a girl called Tamera and her ex called Garrett, where reading a face like a book – or as they call it now Facebook often with avatars with virtual interactions – becomes better called Freakbook, a prescriptive and/or voluntary calliagnosia to obviate Lookism, faces no longer seen as a gestalt, to help the Social Justice Warriors not see faces as beautiful or ugly, just as they also turn a blind eye to other -isms that make human beings what they are. Fearful, justified, unjustified, prejudicial, imaginary or execrable -isms alike.
    But there is a tension here in this fable with several other morals to choose from, a Renaissance feat of imagination that makes fiction more important than overtly serious disquisitions of mankind. Aesthetics, though, remains important, too.
    This work is the book’s coda through which we see the rest of it like a symphony whose end determines its beginning, with continuous resonances till the optimum gestalt is hopefully crystallised at the ever-culminating Zeno’s Paradox moment of each of our own crystallisations as people.

    I shall now read the author’s end Story Notes for the first time, and I allow you the chance of mystery in their regard by not coming back here to let them affect the above review.


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