"ted chiang"

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

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

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

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:

Read the rest

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

Announcing the instructors for the 2014 Clarion Writers' Workshop

The Clarion Writers' Workshop at UC San Diego has announced its lineup of instructors for the 2014 session, and it's pretty spectacular: this year's writer-instructors are Gregory Frost, Geoff Ryman, Catherynne Valente, N.K. Jemisin, Ann VanderMeer, and Jeff VanderMeer.

Clarion is a six-week, intensive boot-camp for science fiction, fantasy and speculative fiction writers. It counts among its graduates some of the very greatest writers in the field, from Octavia Butler to Bruce Sterling, as well as Lucius Sheppard, Kathe Koja, Nalo Hopkinson, Eileen Gunn, James Patrick Kelly, Ted Chiang, Tim Pratt, Tobias Buckell, and many others.

I'm an alumnus myself, as well as a frequent instructor and a member of the volunteer board of the Clarion Foundation, the nonprofit 501(c)3 that oversees the workshop. Clarion isn't the only way to become a better writer and to learn about the industry and how to earn a living in it, but it is absolutely one of the best. My own experience in 1992 was life-changing for me, and has left me committed to the workshop for life.

Applications close on March 1, 2014. Read the rest

Crowdfunding a science fiction pinup calendar to fund the Clarion workshop

The Clarion Writing Workshop at UC San Diego is the oldest science fiction writing workshop in the world, and it's graduated distinguished alumni from Bruce Sterling and Nalo Hokinson to Kathe Koja and Ted Chiang (and me, for the record). I'm on the board of the Clarion Foundation, the charitable 501(c)3 that oversees the workshop and fundraises to keep tuition as low as possible.

This year, we've partnered with Lee Moyers, who's done a series of very successful pinup calendars featuring characters from science fiction and fantasy, and we're raising money on Indiegogo to fund the initial print run. The calendar, when produced, will feature characters from Neil Gaiman, Kelly Link, Mary Robinette Kowal, Pat Murphy, Kate Wilhelm, Damon Knight, Kim Stanley Robinson, Greg Frost, Karen Joy Fowler, Mary Anne Mohanraj, and me (!). Read the rest

The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling, a new Ted Chiang short story

Published by Subterranean Press, part of its fall 2013 issue.

People consult their lifelogs for a variety of reasons—everything from reliving favorite moments to tracking down the cause of allergic reactions—but only intermittently; no one wants to spend all their time formulating queries and sifting through the results. Lifelogs are the most complete photo album imaginable, but like most photo albums, they lie dormant except on special occasions. Now Whetstone aims to change all of that; they claim Remem’s algorithms can search the entire haystack by the time you’ve finished saying “needle.”

Previously: Black Mirror decodes our modern dread of technology Read the rest

Ted Chiang talks

Avi sez, "Here is Ted Chiang presenting his take on the future. Enjoy!" Talk about two great tastes that taste great together! Read the rest

Who Owns Omni?

Glenn Fleishman on the legendary science and science fiction magazine's murky proprietorship.

Ted Chiang at UC Riverside

From Avi: "Ted Chiang will read selections from his work at the University of California, Riverside on Monday, March 4, at 7 p.m. in the Department of English conference room, HMNSS 2212" Read the rest

For the children of Gaza and Israel

The Velveteen Rabbi wrote a beautiful piece, in the form of a psalm, for The Children of Abraham / Ibrahim. Snip: "For every toddler in his mother's arms / behind rubble of concrete and rebar / For every child who's learned to distinguish / "our" bombs from "their" bombs by sound..." (via @ethanz) Read the rest

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