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text 2017-05-20 01:20
Life imitating fictional virtual pets
The Lifecycle of Software Objects - Ted Chiang

I read this ages ago, but I recall it touching on owners of virtual pets forming groups to try to keep their pets and the environments they live in going after the company that originally created them all folds. Well, I just came across a real-life example of something similar, although from the sounds of things there won't be a happy ending. Details under a spoiler tag, because it's depressing:

Virtual pets that eat DRM-protected food, and a legal battle means their food supply is about to go poof. I've seen people talk about patching the pets so they don't need food, but it sounds like that might not be possible. :-(

 

ETA: The company did at least release items that could make it so the pets don't need food, although it also sterilized them. Better than falling asleep and never waking up, I guess? There's an article here.

(spoiler show)

 

Another thing to add to the "reasons why DRM sucks" list.

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review 2017-05-18 18:02
Stories of Your Life and Others - Ted ChiangĀ 
Stories of Your Life and Others - Ted Chiang

In contrast to Bradbury, I have Chiang. Now these are science fiction, and they are particularly rare in that the are fine examples of both science and storytelling. I picked it up because the new movie Arrival is based on one of these stories. It's a first-contact story starring a linguist. Who doesn't love a linguist?

Any one of these stories is mind-blowing, but together, sheesh, I'm reduced to mental rubble. I don't have words enough to express how cool they are.

Highly recommended to anyone who loves science, and to readers who enjoy thought-provoking stories.

Do read the notes on the stories at the end. The aren't necessary, but they are interesting.

Library copy

 

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text 2017-05-05 19:41
Review: Stories of Your Life and Others
Stories of Your Life: And Others - Ted Chiang

Count me among the many who'd never heard of Ted Chiang before 2016 and who read Stories of Your Life and Others because of a little movie called Arrival. (Hey, at least I read the story before seeing the movie.) Before I get into my thoughts on the book, I must say, “Well, done moviemakers. You did a fine job adapting what must have been a tough story to adapt.”

Stories of Your Life and Others is such a mixed collection. All the stories in here are very cerebral. At times, it feels more like a science journal than a work of fiction. And this is both the collection's BOOM and its whimper. While the analytical approach brought validity and uniqueness to some of the stories, especially the titular story, it made others feel dry and inaccessible. Though I strongly enjoyed “The Story of Your Life,” I struggled with many of the other stories and was on the verge of giving up. I'm glad I didn't as the second most enjoyable story in this collection was the last, "Liking What You See: A Documentary".

Like all story collections I've ever read, Stories of Your Life and Others is a mixed bag, but when Chiang pulls together a fresh story and the right voice, he writes a killer story. Those looking for more science in their science fiction should be pleased with this author.

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review 2017-03-08 12:03
Story of your Life
Stories of Your Life and Others - Ted Chiang,Abby Craden,Todd McLaren

Ted Chiang's "Story of Your Life" was the basis for the new film "The Arrival." The story itself is a thoughtful meditation on the meaning of one's time on earth, and the choices we make. The movie takes it in a more plot-driven direction. But what's brilliant about the movie is that it preserves the central idea of Ted's story.

If you read the entire anthology of these stories, it's also interesting to observe that Ted's general approach is a meditative questioning of the meaning of our work, our relationships and our being in the world. I personally love these kind of slowly thoughtful and illuminating stories. But perhaps they are not for everyone. If you like your SF fast and furious, Ted Chiang is probably not your cup of tea.

Oh, and I had the pleasure of meeting Ted recently and talking with him at length. His style reflects his stories: gracious, thoughtful and insightful. A true pleasure!

Source: nednote.com
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review 2017-02-17 13:45
Stories of Your Life and Others
Stories of Your Life and Others - Ted Chiang Please note that I gave this story 4.5 stars and rounded it up to 5 stars on Goodreads.

So I got this book via the library and boy was there a long wait. I think the movie "Arrival" is the main reason why this one took so long to get via Overdrive. I saw Arrival right after the elections and seriously, that was the movie I needed to see at that point. In a big theater with several hundred people getting to watch this amazing story that really showcases why words and language are so important. The visuals were great, so was the music, and the ending left me with so many questions. Once I saw the words based on in the end credits, I made a note of the title and author and promptly went home and put in a hold request. The story based on Arrival is in this collection of works by Chiang. But so are some other stories. Some that definitely made me think and wonder. Some that also made me scratch my head. And there was one that left me feeling somewhat odd and needing to go to church soon. I do love that the overall theme though is how important words and language ultimately are to the people in these stories.

For those who are not used to my reviews based on anthologies/collections, I always give each story it's own rating, and then the overall collection a rating.

"Tower of Babylon" (5 stars)- Who does not know about the Tower of Babylon? I really enjoyed Chiang's look at the workers who built the tower, and what these men really wanted. They wanted to be in the presence of the Creator and wanted to reach the vault of heaven. You actually feel a little sorry for the characters you meet, because you as the reader know how this story is going to end. However, the ending to this one does not follow the Biblical story. It ends up leaving you with a reminder about those who go in search of the divine. I absolutely loved the description of this epic tower. The people who lived within it, and what the sun, moon, and stars looked like from the top of the tower.

"Understand" (5 stars)-This was more science fiction that most of the other stories. Reading about how a man is given an injection that ends up boosting his intelligence is a trope in many movies/books (Flowers for Algernon anyone?) but Chiang goes a step further showing how this man ultimately starts to believe he is above other humans and goes about seeing hat he can do to ultimately be rid of them. There's just a small flaw in his plan. He may not be the only one out there just like him. The ending was pretty smart I thought.

"Division by Zero" (3.5 stars)- I really didn't get this one at all. Probably because I have loathed math most of my life and I still have bad flashbacks to Algebra II and Calculus I courses. I didn't get what was going on with the mathematical theorem in this one, or why the one character was slowly becoming undone by it. It didn't help that we were going back and forth between two characters this whole story who I was flabbergasted to see were more close than I thought until the end. I don't know, the ending was odd and I maybe went huh a few times. Okay a lot.

"Story of Your Life" (5 stars)-This is the story that Arrival was based on. I really enjoyed more in depth information that we got in the book. And I finally understood a few things that had me wondering from the movie. This set-up makes better sense than the movie version. Only because there's a minor issue with us seeing Amy Adams character teaching others the new alien language, though the book shows that maybe only two characters can read and understand the language. And the story leaves you with a question about divine will and what you would do if you knew you could alter something, and what if you did alter something but things stayed the same, because if something is supposed to happen, won't it still happen? This is definitely a story that will have you thinking about fate, the meaning of life, and just a ton of other thoughts meant for 3 a.m. when you can't sleep.

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"Seventy-Two Letters" (2 stars)-The X-Files did it better. Yeah I said it. Reading about a golem, some weird science fiction explanation that had me scratching my head, and this taking place I think in Victorian times (or another Victorian timeline from our understanding of it) just had me confused.

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"The Evolution of Human Science" (2 stars)- I really don't get what this was supposed to be. It was so short compared to the other stories and pretty much walks you through how there are metahumans and humans and humans should not be worried about being wiped out because of metahumans. I started humming the X-Men cartoon series theme song while reading this.

"Hell is the Absence of God" (5 stars)-This one was fairly long and I loved the idea about it. I take it based on the author notes at the end that Chiang meant this to be a more modern look at Job. And I definitely loved it from beginning to end. I also kind of love a world where angels just randomly appear and people believe in blessings, or some don't, and the question of salvation and devotion comes up a lot. I was discussing this story with one of my friends who is very devout and he loved the whole story-line. I think I may have caused him to go find this collection because he thought all of the stories sounded interesting.

"Liking What You See: A Documentary" (5 stars) This should seriously be a Black Mirror episode. If I hadn't binge watched the most reason season I probably would not have thought that, but seriously, this short story would be pretty cool to see on screen. The idea that people have the ability to have something called a calli turned on and off. Calli allows you through something called Spex to view people as if they had cosmetic surgery. In people's minds, if everyone is equally beautiful this would lead to a utopia since no one would be discriminated against for not being beautiful or having perfect features. This whole thing is messed up and I adored every second of it. I think an article I read a few years ago talked about this about how people are more apt to think a beautiful person is telling the truth than those who are not deemed beautiful. I distrust most people until I know them better, and have had grown men and women look me in the eye and lie to me (and yeah I knew it, sometimes I love my job, other times I just sigh) so I think that depending on your job, beauty doesn't factor into it much. I tend to look at body language a lot when talking to anyone in order to determine if someone is not being truthful. Anyway, this documentary style story was great. You get to follow several characters and follow a proposal that would enforce all kids who attend one college to always have calli due to many thinking lookism causing a lot of problems in the world.
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