"Story of Your Life" is an award-winning science fiction novella by acclaimed short story writer Ted Chiang. The approximately 50-page-long work was first published in 1998 in the second volume of the Starlight anthology. It was then reprinted in...
Ted Chiang is an internationally acclaimed science fiction writer. He published his first story, "The Tower of Babylon," in Omni magazine in 1989. Since then, he has published seventeen short stories and novellas over the course of over 30 years. Despite his low literary output, his work has garnered enthusiastic and overwhelmingly positive critical reception. His work has won all the major awards in science fiction, including four Nebula awards, four Hugo awards, the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, and four Locus awards. He is perhaps best known for the story "Story of Your Life," which was first published in 1998. In 2016, "Story of Your Life" was adapted into the film Arrival, which won an Academy Award.
Chiang was born in 1967 in Port Jefferson, New York. His parents were born in China. They emigrated to Taiwan and ultimately made their way to the United States. His father is an engineering professor and his mother was a librarian. Chiang attended Brown University and graduated with a computer science degree. He attended the Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer's Workshop at UC San Diego in 1989, which he described in an interview as a "life-changing event."
Chiang does not solely write fiction. He is also a technical writer and educator. He was a freelance technical writer in the software industry for several years until 2019, when he began working as a technical manual writer at Microsoft. He also was an instructor at the Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer's Workshop in 2012 and 2016. He is currently an artist in residence at the University of Notre Dame.
His fiction has developed a large following with many readers who care deeply about his work. Despite this, he describes himself as an "occasional writer" who prefers not to spend all his time writing fiction. Chiang has addressed the frequency of his creative output in a 2012 interview with Vandana Singh. He tells Singh, "There's no one who wishes I were more prolific more than I do. If I could produce stories more quickly, I would, but by now I think it's safe to say my rate of production isn't likely to increase. The fact is, I don't get a lot of ideas that interest me enough to write a story about them. Writing is hard for me, and an idea has to be really thought-provoking for me to put in the necessary effort."
Chiang's stories are interested in how society and culture respond to change. Through his fictional scenarios, he investigates human behavior. Once Chiang has a topic, he deep dives into research. He takes a scientific approach to writing, ensuring that he has a strong background in particular subjects before he sits down to write. He takes great pains to research the scientific implications of the "what if?" questions that inspire his work. For example, he studied linguistics for five years before he wrote "Story of Your Life." He takes the Biblical story of the Tower of Babel as fact and explores its consequences as realistically as possible. In "Hell is the Absence of God," he assumes the Judeo-Christian God has been proven to exist and explores the sociological implications of this reality. As a result of the research he puts into every piece, Chiang's work has been described as "cerebral" and "axiomatic." He has been praised as "the science fiction writer's science fiction writer."