"ted chiang"

Sci-fi author Ted Chiang on the disaster novel we're currently living through

On Electric Lit, Halimah Marcus, interviews speculative fiction author Ted Chiang (Exhalation, Arrival) on the current global pandemic and whether there will ever be a "normal" for us to return to.

HM: What’s the relationship between disruption and doom? Would “the disruption is resolved and nothing is ever the same” qualify as a doom narrative? Or is doom a third kind of story, in which the disruption is never resolved?

TC: A lot of dystopian stories posit variations on a Mad Max world where marauders roam the wasteland. That’s a kind of change no one wants to see. I think those qualify as doom. What I mean by disruption is not the end of civilization, but the end of a particular way of life. Aristocrats might have thought the world was ending when feudalism was abolished during the French Revolution, but the world didn’t end; the world changed. (The critic John Clute has said that the French Revolution was one of the things that gave rise to science fiction.)

HM: Do you see aspects of science fiction (your own work or others) in the coronavirus pandemic? In how it is being handled, or how it has spread?

TC: While there has been plenty of fiction written about pandemics, I think the biggest difference between those scenarios and our reality is how poorly our government has handled it. If your goal is to dramatize the threat posed by an unknown virus, there’s no advantage in depicting the officials responding as incompetent, because that minimizes the threat; it leads the reader to conclude that the virus wouldn’t be dangerous if competent people were on the job.

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Barack Obama's summer reading list

President Barack Obama opened his summer reading list post with encouragement to read or re-read Toni Morrison and then suggested ten other titles including the following:

• Sometimes difficult to swallow, The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead is a necessary read, detailing the way Jim Crow and mass incarceration tore apart lives and wrought consequences that ripple into today.

• Exhalation by Ted Chiang is a collection of short stories that will make you think, grapple with big questions, and feel more human. The best kind of science fiction.

• Haruki Murakami’s Men Without Women examines what happens to characters without important women in their lives; it'll move you and confuse you and sometimes leave you with more questions than answers.

See the rest of President Obama's picks here.

image: President Barack Obama and daughters Sasha and Malia shop for books at Politics and Prose in Washington, D.C., on Small Business Saturday, Nov. 29, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza) Read the rest

Ted Chiang's "Op Ed From the Future": socialized transhumanism vs American oligarchy

The New York Times has inaugurated its "Op-Eds From the Future" ("science fiction authors, futurists, philosophers and scientists write op-eds that they imagine we might read 10, 20 or even 100 years in the future") with a piece from Ted Chiang (previously) that imagines a future in which genetic engineering of human embryos is commonplace, leading to a well-intentioned attempt at preventing literal speciation into the haves and have-nots by subsidizing "intelligence boosting" genetic manipulation for lower-income families. Read the rest

Ted Chiang lecture on interspecies communications

Avi Solomon writes, "Author Ted Chiang (previously) discusses the making of The Great Silence as well as other works addressing interspecies communication, including 'Story of Your Life,' the novella which was adapted into the 2016 feature film, Arrival." Read the rest

Elon's Basilisk: why exploitative, egomaniacal rich dudes think AI will destroy humanity

Why does Elon Musk think that AI is going to kill us all? Why do so many "rationalist" techbros assume that he's right? Read the rest

Charlie Stross's CCC talk: the future of psychotic AIs can be read in today's sociopathic corporations

Charlie Stross's keynote at the 34th Chaos Communications Congress Leipzig is entitled "Dude, you broke the Future!" and it's an excellent, Strossian look at the future we're barelling towards, best understood by a critical examination of the past we've just gone through. Read the rest

Ted Chiang: Elon Musk's fear of runaway AI is a projection of his repressed terror of runaway corporations

Why do billionaires like Elon Musk make terrified pronouncements about the imminent rise of self-aware, murderous AIs that use us to reproduce themselves, controlling us instead of serving us? Read the rest

Boing Boing Gift Guide 2017

Here's this year's complete Boing Boing Gift Guide: dozens of great ideas for stocking stuffers, brain-hammers, mind-expanders, terrible toys, badass books and more. Where available, we use Amazon Affiliate links to help keep the world's greatest neurozine online.

Arrival's Denis Villeneuve to direct Dune remake

Hot off filming Ted Chiang's Story of Your Life to great acclaim and Blade Runner II, Denis Villeneuve is tackling the great white whale of screen science-fiction: Dune. Brian Herbert, son of author Frank Herbert, tweeted the news last night.

Bleeding Cool News:

Back in late November, we’d reported on Legendary having secured the rights to the Dune series of novels from the Frank Herbert estate. The deal gives Legendary the option for both film and television rights worldwide. Brian’s tweet implies that Villeneuve will be attached to the film project, and we’ll keep an eye out for any news on around the TV front. It seems that studios are looking to go wider than a single format lately, with Lionsgate developing the Kingkiller Chronicles simultaneously for both TV and Film.

Dune was filmed twice, once as a stunning but mangled David Lynch epic and later as a low-budget TV miniseries. Fans have been eager for years to see the 1965 classic in theaters again, but various projects over the years have failed to enter production.

The story's complexity sank the 1982 version, but its incredible production design made it a cult favorite. Star Kyle McLachlan explains the plot succinctly in a tweet:

For once I insist this single novel be turned into a screen trilogy. Read the rest

Clarion Workshop now accepting applications for sf writers to learn with Lynda Barry, Nalo Hopkinson, CC Finlay...and me!

The instructors for this summer's Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy writers' workshop are Dan Chaon, Lynda Barry, Nalo Hopkinson, Andrea Hairston, Cory Doctorow, C.C. Finlay and Rae Carson: the workshop runs from Jun 25-Aug 5 at UCSD in La Jolla, California. Read the rest

Boing Boing Gift Guide 2016

Here's this year's complete Boing Boing Gift Guide: more than a hundred great ideas for prezzies: technology, toys, books and more. Scroll down and buy things, mutants! Many of the items use Amazon Affiliate links that help us make ends meet at Boing Boing, the world's greatest neurozine.

Gadgets / Books / Toys and Trivia

Illuminated magnifierI bought this illuminated handheld magnifier on Amazon for $3 (free shipping) last year and I use it a lot. It's a great splinter and lice checker. I've gotten my $3 of value from it just looking at tiny bugs and skin abnormalities. It has two built in LEDs and uses two AA batteries.

BUY

Squatty PottySquatty Potty is a $28 footstool that slides away under your toilet; you use it to bring your knees up to a squatting position while you poop, which makes pooping much, much easier. The product was launched with the best viral ad campaign of all time, which threaded the seemingly impossible needle of making an ad about a poop-assistance product; I bought one and (without getting into detail) I can personally testify to its efficacy.

BUY

Nintendo NES Classic EditionWhat’s Christmas without price gouging on the hottest geek gift of the year! Don’t fret. Soon, the rationing will cease and a $60 NES Classic Edition will be just a click away. And then, Mario my old friend, we will ALL be playing with power.

BUY

Cuisinart 14-Cup Food ProcessorThe latest model of the best food processor for people who are serious about broadening their happy foodie horizons. Read the rest

The screenwriter of Arrival on how hard it was to adapt Ted Chiang for the screen

Eric Heisserer adapted Ted Chiang's novella Story of Your Life as the screenplay Arrival. Both are brilliant, but in different ways. It wasn't easy.

In all my draft work on the adaptation, I spent the most time on the intellectual and political challenges of the story. But if I ever encroached on the intimate, emotional through-line of Louise’s journey, the story fell apart. Other scenes could be sacrificed, reworked, moved, or cut to the bone. But director Denis Villeneuve and I found a bare minimum of steps to Louise’s personal journey, and that became our Alamo; our hill we would die defending. Denis had a knack for visuals that spoke on an emotional level while also dovetailing with the intellectual challenges our characters faced. Marrying those two, sometimes in a single line of dialogue or image, made the film come alive. It made us feel the story. And at the end of the day, what drew me most to Ted Chiang’s story was the way it made me feel, and above all else we wanted to transport and share that feeling with audiences

It's always fascinating to see how the sausage is made. Screenwriters must write for several audiences--the author being adapted, producers, directors--at different stages of the process, while keeping moviegoers in mind all along. You can see here how a master makes his script align with each on its journey to the screen, somehow without alienating everyone.

Also interesting is the fact Final Draft, the expensive and mandatory screenplay production software package, can't handle images—an unusual but unavoidable requirement for a movie full of alien logograms to be deciphered. Read the rest

Boing Boing's 2016 Gift Guide: Books

When we got to rounding up our favorite books for our annual Gift Guide, we found that there were simply too many this time to throw in the Christmas/Kwanzaa/Hanukah/Yule/Solstice/Nonspecific Winter Celebration/New Year/Chalica hopper along with the tech and toys.

It's almost as if 2016 made the traditional way of learning more about our world — and of sharing dreams of other worlds — somehow more enticing.

Here's 65 of the best, then, from fairy-tales to furious politics, from the comic to the catastrophic, all waiting for you to turn the page.

Most of the links here include Amazon Affiliate codes; this helps us make ends meet at Boing Boing, the world's greatest neurozine. Don't miss this year's guides to Gadgets and toys too! Read the rest

Teaser for Arrival, an upcoming alien movie

Science fiction author Ted Chiang's Nebula award-winning short story "Story of Your Life" is getting the big-budget Hollywood treatment. Arrival, starring Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, and Forest Whitaker, comes out in November.

From Wikipedia:

When multiple mysterious spacecraft touch down across the globe, an elite team is put together to investigate, including language expert Louise Banks (Amy Adams), mathematician Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner), and US Army soldier Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker). Humankind teeters on the verge of global war as everyone scrambles for answers – and to find them, Banks, Donnelly and Weber will take a chance that could threaten their lives, and quite possibly humanity.

"Story of Your Life" appears in the anthology of Chiang stories, Stories of Your Life and Others. Cory gave me a copy years ago and it is excellent. Read the rest

Is it OK to torture a robot?

The ethics of torturing robots is not a new question, but it's becoming more important as robots and AI becomes more lifelike. Author Ted Chiang explored it in his 2010 novella, The Lifecycle of Software Objects. In 1998 I wrote an article for Wired Online called "Virtual Sadism" about people who liked to torture artificial life forms called "norns" (and a movement of norn lovers who tried to stop them). In 1977 Terrel Miedaner wrote a philosophical science fiction novel called The Soul of Anna Klan, which featured a little Roomba like creature that seems to be afraid to "die" when someone tries to crush it with a hammer. (An excerpt from the novel appears in the excellent book, The Mind's I: Fantasies And Reflections On Self & Soul, edited by Douglas R. Hofstadter and Daniel C. Dennett.)

Dylan Love of Inverse revisits the idea of robot abuse in his article for Inverse, "Is it OK to torture a robot?"

Consider the latest robot to be unveiled by Google’s Boston Dynamics. When the collective internet saw a bearded scientist abuse the robot with a hockey stick, weird pangs of empathy went out everywhere. Why do we feel so bad when we watch the robot fall down, we wonder? There’s no soul or force of life to empathize with, and yet: This robot is just trying to lift a box, why does that guy have to bully it?

The Boston Dynamics video reminded me of the inflatable Bozo men, meant to be abused:

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Listen: Ted Chiang's short story "Understand" as a BBC radio-drama

Ted Chiang (previously) may be the best short story writer in science fiction today; though he produces very infrequently, he wins accolades and awards for every story. Read the rest

The brilliant ideas and radiant visions of reclusive SF author Greg Egan

There are no pictures of Greg Egan online, and his website has a disclaimer that while some of his more dedicated fans claimed to have tracked down a picture of the author, it’s not him.

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