Highly recommended: New Ted Chiang novella "The Lifecycle of Software Objects"

Subterranean Press has Ted Chiang's latest novella, "The Lifecycle of Software Objects," a sweet, sad story about virtual pets and the lives they lead online. Ted Chiang is one of the greatest writers working in science fiction today, we're lucky to have him.
Blue Gamma has a customer liaison whose job is to read the forums, but Derek sometimes follows the forums on his own, after work. Sometimes customers talk about the digients' facial expressions, but even when they don't, Derek enjoys reading the anecdotes.

FROM: Zoe Armstrong

You won't believe what my Natasha did today! We were at the playground, and another digient hurt himself when he fell and was crying. Natasha gave him a hug to make him feel better, and I praised her to high heaven. Next thing I know, she pushes over another digient to make him cry, hugs him, and looks to me for praise!

Fiction: The Lifecycle of Software Objects by Ted Chiang (Thanks, Avisolo, via Submitterator!)


  1. Outstanding! I’ve got the dead tree version (which is a beautiful artifact BTW) & thought it was the best novella I’d read this year. Well done on Subterranean Press for making it available. I’m fully expecting to see it nominated for (and winning) multiple awards, and having it available online will really help to get it to a wider audience.

  2. Yeah… well… that’s *definitely* going to be an issue with machine learning… otherwise, yeah – robodoc is gonna be shooting folks just so it can put them back together again…

  3. I’ve read this, and it’s not only not as good as Chiang’s earlier work on different themes, it’s also not as good as Hiroshi Yamamoto’s _The Stories of Ibis_, a fix-up/”Illustrated Man” sort of collection out this year that covers the same themes.

    “Mirror Girl,” “The Day Shion Came,” and “Ai’s Story” in Yamamoto’s book cover almost exactly the same ground with much more inventiveness. “Mirror Girl” is closest in content to Chiang’s story, but not the best either. “The Day Shion Came” and “Ai’s Story” are among the best stories I’ve read this year.

    But for those who’ve never had the pleasure, Chiang’s _Stories of Your Life and Others_ is fantastic.

  4. Loved the story. I don’t feel the need to buy a dead tree version but would still like to pass on a donation. Any idea how I can do that?

  5. I am a huge fan of Ted Chiang, and got this right when it came out. I had a mixed reaction to it. Most of Ted’s stories are concept-driven, with just enough character development to keep the concept grounded and plausible. Here, he follows this same approach, but I thought it didn’t really work: the whole story here is about how people and AIs, and their relationships with each other, develop and change throughout their lives, and in tension with the software business cycle. It’s basically a character-driven concept, but there is no depth of character development in the story. As a result, I thought it came off more as an unfinished sketch for a potentially brilliant full-length novel, rather than as a great novella in its own right.

  6. If any of you are in the Olympia, WA area on Saturday, October 23rd, my library will be hosting Ted and Nancy Kress at our 2nd annual SciFiFest. Olympia Timberland Library, 7:30pm, readings, scifi trivia contest, and music from Spiritual Successor and Mutoid Men. It’s going to be stupendous!

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