Infinitesimal Sliver

As someone in their 50s, the quote in the previous post from Ted Chiang’s excellent short story “Story of Your Life” gave me pause. It’s interesting to try to imagine what experiencing memories in non-sequential blocks would feel like. It’s a fascinating invitation for the reader. The metaphor of consciousness being an infinitesimal sliver of combustion is simple and elegant. These qualities seem to be a hallmark of Chiang’s writing.

I’m embarrassed to admit that I didn’t know Chiang’s work before last week. I came to it, as I’m sure so many will, through the film “Arrival” – probably my favorite of 2016. I went straight from the theatre to the bookstore. I’m now making my way through the short story collection marketed with cover art from the film (the image is compelling but somewhat jarring given the differences between the film and the source material). Only two stories in and I am a fan.

  • Richard.

Heptapod B

“Before I learned to think in Heptapod B, my memories grew like a column of cigarette ash, laid down by the infinitesimal sliver of combustion that was my consciousness, marking the sequential present. After I learned Heptapod B, new memories fell into place like gigantic blocks, each one measuring years in duration, and though they didn’t land in order or land contiguously, they soon composed a period of five decades.”

from Story of Your Life

by Ted Chiang