Ted Chiang on Writing


15 Responses to “Ted Chiang on Writing”

  1. 5ynic says:

    Great interview, thanks.
    I’m a tech writer and (unpublished as yet) short SF writer. I thought they were separate enough so there was no problem, but Ted’s got me worried now. Greg Egan is in some ways my very favourite author, so I have a strong feeling I’ve just discovered a writer whose oeuvre I’m going to devour.

  2. KidDork says:

    Thanks for this. ‘Stories of Your Life’ is one of my favourite short story collections. Anything new from Ted Chiang is a cause for fireworks.

    • Abelard Lindsay says:

      ‘Stories of Your Life’ is amazing. It took me awhile to finish; not that it was slow reading, I simply couldn’t start another story before I had fully digested the one I just finished. Sometimes that would take days and days.

  3. Orchestra Spy says:

    If an AI knows what it is, likes what it is, it is possible it may believe that physical touch is trite. Language, words might be enough, like a mothers voice is felt and heard from outside the womb before an infant is held, or how a father might tell his son a story from across a campfire and it unveils the stars, language is a physical form of touch when the chemicals inside your mind respond. I disagree touch is important to an AI, but certainly language is.

  4. SeattleJoe says:

    The Foundation Trilogy had an amazing effect on many people. Both Newt Gingrich and Paul Krugman credit it for the career choices they made (radical right wing politician; Nobel Prize winning economist.) A powerful text, even for someon like Ted Chiang who probably read it 30 years or so after it was written.

  5. beami says:

    god was just reading (at some point become a member) and I’ll look out for this author..but I thought I was unique! well not that unique I also read Asimov as a kid ..the foundation series and also read alot of Clarke ( Rama 2001 etc as well as a teenager after going to see Star wars aged 7..then read the book aged 7 or 8..and then just continued to read anything I could get my hands on to do with sicfi ( star trek short stories and of course asimov short stories nightfall etc..rember with great fondness)..the last sci fi I read I guess was Greg Egan..but that was when I was about 28 but alas no more..have discovered that we are living the future now..as I dreamed of as a kid and real life is stranger than fiction as it well ..so currently filling my brain with current developments in all sorts of fields

  6. Nadreck says:

    So he’s Big In Japan, eh? Sort of makes sense but you can never tell what they’re going to clasp to their hearts over there.
    Understand is one of my all-time favourite stories. It brilliantly handles the problem of describing a super-intellect to a reader who, one assumes, does not possess it. I had assumed that this facility in describing mind/software patterns was a result of his work in describing large C++ software system but, given what he says in the interview, maybe not.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Turning lead into gold is easy: just remove three protons.

  8. mystikel says:

    5ynic: I envy you, discovering the writing of Ted Chiang for the first time. I would love to go through that initiatory experience again. His works are that good.

    Avi: Thanks for a great Ted Chiang interview. I was curious as to whether he had any new short story collections available. Two items of !: The Merchant and the Alchemists Gate is selling for over $200 for a used copy on Amazon!

    And the novella The Cycle of Software Objects is coming out in book form soon. Myhomyack: that cover is where the cute little robot comes from. Sounds like the book might be a good investment (besides presumably a great story.)


  9. Anonymous says:

    This would be much better if some of the interviewer’s longer, more pointless questions were stricken. More Ted, less Avi!

  10. Anonymous says:

    I agree that doing technical writing will sour you on writing. I studied writing in college and knew I wanted to write for a living, so I started a job doing medical writing right after graduation. What I didn’t expect is that, after grinding out page after page of text for 8 hrs a day, the last thing I wanted to do was come home and write a bunch of shit for free.

  11. Avi Solomon says:

    #12 mystikel: Ted’s short story collection ‘Stories of Your Life and Others’ will be reissued in October:

    #13 Anon: I had cut out the “longer, more pointless questions” – Ted put them back in:)

  12. mhomyack says:

    Sorry this isn’t directly about the article (which I enjoyed, by the way)… I’m curious about the art – the robot playing with the blocks. Can you tell us who the artist is? Something about the image really appeals to me and I’d love to check out more of the artists’ work…

    Many thanks.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Ted’s distinction between magic and science is one that seems interesting and useful, but it would seem to suggest that closely controlled industrial processes constitute magic by dint of not being universally available. If some corporation has exclusive rights to transmuting lead to gold is it magic until competitors are able to duplicate the procedure?

  14. Avi Solomon says:

    #9 mhomyack: The artwork for Ted’s ‘The Lifecycle of Software Objects’ is by Christian Pearce. There’s a lot more inside the book:

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