1. Is Ted Chiang married? NO, according to Joshua Rothman's recent profile in the New Yorker magazine, but his longtime partner is Marcia Glover who he met at Microsoft in Seattle.....and they do not have children. They have a home in Seattle.
His Father a SUNY professor still lives on long island. Mother and sister live in Denver. His parents were both born in Communist China and emigrated to Taiwan and then to the USA.
3. Ted also said to dr huang at Clark Univ in a sKype interview that he has no emotional attachment to the town where he grew up. [Port Jefferson NY. Suburban long island.] And has rarely gone back.
Finally, a Hollywood SF alien movie with a linguist as the hero
2012 press release: http://variety.com/2012/film/news/nic-mathieu-to-direct-story-of-your-life-1118062724/
As Seattle resident Ted Chiang's short story STORY OF YOUR LIFE now arrives in movie theaters as Hollywood movie titled ARRIVAL, some background on the short story and characters. See QUARTZ article above first.
Arrival is neither sequel nor reboot nor remake, though it is based on the beloved short story by Ted Chiang, “Story of Your Life.” The film originally had the same name, but it was changed in June to the more marketable and ominous-sounding Arrival. Paramount Pictures gave the movie a mid-November release date, indicating that the studio sees it as an awards contender.
Heptapod B: Language of Gestalts"Story of Your Life" proceeds contrapuntally, alternating between two storylines from the life of Louise Banks, a linguistics professor. Its characters are all racially unmarked. The first storyline recounts, in no particular chronological order, episodes from Louise's sometimes rocky relationship with her daughter, who we soon learn has died at age twenty-five in a rock-climbing accident. The second focuses on Louise and her partner Gary, a physicist and eventually the father of her daughter, both of whom are commissioned by the US military to learn the language of a race of aliens, which Gary calls "heptapods" on account of their seven limbs.
The two cultures suffuse both storylines. In regard to Louise's daughter's choice of profession, it becomes an intergenerational agon:
The second storyline engages the rigorous scientific description and extrapolation of "hard" SF, focusing occasionally on principles from physics, but mainly on techniques in linguistics for "monolingual discovery," or the learning of a language between subjects who do not share a mediating language. The story thus thematizes the two cultures as an opposition between the "soft" and "hard" sciences. Along these lines, despite Louise's practice of scientific linguistics, she is coded as being on the other side of a cultural divide from the "hard" science of physics. At one point, Gary confesses to her that he had given up trying to learn Heptapod: "I'm just no good at languages." To which she replies, "I suppose that's fair; I have to admit, I've given up on trying to learn the mathematics" (124). In regard to genre, Chiang's choice of linguistics as the focus of a "hard" SF story is an unusual one, since the field is, both within and outside of SF circles, stereotyped as a "soft" science. "Hard" SF is concerned with "the form of imaginative literature that uses either established or carefully extrapolated science as its backbone."44 What makes Chiang's treatment of linguistics align with "hard" SF is the rigor and intricacy with which he develops Heptapod B, as well as the laws of physics he uses to analogize certain aspects of it.45 Chiang's generic revision of the "soft" SF of linguistics as a "hard" SF extrapolation is one indication of his overarching concern with achieving a formal resolution to the two cultures conflict.46 Indeed, the very title of the story—"Story of Your Life"—casts everything that follows in this light by gesturing at the essence of the liberal arts.
The heptapod storyline becomes a vehicle for two thought experiments. The first posits a time-symmetrical language whose users possess a "simultaneous," as opposed to "sequential," consciousness that perceives all points in time at once, past, present, and future: a mode of consciousness appropriate to what philosophers of science call "block time" or the "block universe theory." A version of this theory is presented by the Time Traveller in H. G. Wells's The Time Machine: "Really this is what is meant by the Fourth Dimension, though some people who talk about the Fourth Dimension do not know they mean it. It is only another way of looking at Time. There is no difference between time and any of the three dimensions of Space except that our consciousness moves along it."47 As we will see, this theory is crucial to the story's postracial aesthetics.
The second thought experiment considers how this language might affect a sequential human consciousness vis-à-vis the theory of linguistic relativity. Also known as the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, this theory speculates that "The structure and lexicon of one's language influences how one perceives and conceptualizes the world, and they do so in a systematic way."48 "Story of Your Life" thus develops one of the prevailing interests in Chiang's work, the linguistic mediation of scientific reason and reality. In "The Evolution of Human Science," human scientists must decide how to interpret the impenetrable scientific research produced by super-intelligent "metahumans," so they begin developing techniques of "textual hermeneutics." "Seventy-Two Letters" poses the theory that "there [is] a lexical universe as well as a physical one, and bringing an object together with a compatible name [causes] the latent potentialities of both to be realized."49 The narrator of "The Truth of Fact, The Truth of Feeling" observes, "We don't normally think of it as such, but writing is a technology, which means that a literate person is someone whose thought processes are technologically mediated. We became cognitive cyborgs as soon as we became fluent readers, and the consequences of that were profound."50 As we will see below, "Understand" centers on the novum of a language of gestalts and is in many ways an apprentice work to "Story of Your Life." For Chiang, the technologization of language is often a conduit for considerations of difference: intergenerational, racial, professional, etc.51
Upon arrival, the heptapods themselves remain in orbit, but they deploy one hundred and twelve wall-sized "looking glasses" to various sites on Earth to serve as two-way videoconferencing screens. Louise and Gary begin holding virtual meetings with the heptapods, who are patient and cooperative in teaching them their spoken and written languages, which Louise designates Heptapod A and B, respectively. These languages, Louise soon comes to realize, are completely separate: B is not "glottographic" like human writing, because it "conveys meaning without reference to speech" (108). Faced with the problem of how to categorize Heptapod B, Louise rejects the categories of logograms and ideograms, which appear to be obvious analogues. She disqualifies "logogram" because it implies a corresponding spoken word, and "ideogram" for the somewhat cryptic reason of "how it had been used in the past" (111). She settles on "semagrams," since the sentences of Heptapod B operate according to their own grammar and syntax. They look "almost like mandalas," she explains: the large, intricate, circular images representing the totality of the universe in Buddhist cosmology:
Only a simultaneous consciousness—a consciousness that perceives "block time"—could construct a sentence in Heptapod B. This realization leads Louise to existential questions about determinism and agency, freedom, and coercion. "Within the context of simultaneous consciousness," she observes, "freedom is not meaningful, but neither is coercion; it's simply a different context, no more or less valid than the other" (137). This nihilistic approach to the freedom-coercion antinomy might symbolically resolve the tension between aesthetic freedom and the ethnographic imperative, but it does not appear that Chiang finds this to be a particularly satisfying solution. Given the relativity of agency within simultaneous consciousness, Louise wonders why the heptapods bother with communication at all. Her solution is that "For the heptapods, all language was performative. Instead of using language to inform, they used language to actualize. Sure, heptapods already knew what would be said in any conversation; but in order for their knowledge to be true, the conversation would have to take place" (138, my emphasis). For a simultaneous mode of consciousness, the only difference between Louise's daughter being dead and alive is the linguistic performance of one state of being or the other. An event is "true" when its linguistic representation rises above the merely constative and achieves a union of content (the facticity of an event) and form (the linguistic performance of an event).
As Louise builds fluency in Heptapod B, she discovers that it is transforming her own consciousness. Her thoughts become "graphically coded," and she begins experiencing "trance-like moments" in which she experiences "past and future all at once." Via the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, she undergoes a racial transformation from human to human-heptapod hybrid that proceeds by language learning, not biology: in other words, a postracial racialization. We now understand that what we have thus far been reading as Louise's prosopopoeic address to her daughter has in fact been taking place in the tenseless, performative address of Heptapod B. The story's narration becomes, from the standpoint of this realization, a representation of Heptapod B, and thus of Louise's racial difference. This racialized mode of narration correlates to postrace aesthetics in its movement away from a mimetic economy of racial representation to a narrative one.
Interdependent Narration"Story of Your Life" not only aestheticizes but performs Asian American postracial form. Louise's narration of her daughter's life, which proceeds through a fraught economy of the evident and inevident, can be read as a metaphor for the postracial. Because her daughter is never named, and because we meet her at so many disparate ages, she never completely resolves as a character; everything we know about her is mediated by her mother. Along the same lines as Chiang's and Alexander's concepts of race, she is an effect of language, and is no less real because of it. Shortly after she is born, Louise tells her:
The contrapuntal narratives in "Story of Your Life" are, moreover, structured in the same way as the semagrams of Heptapod B sentences. For instance, it is never made explicit that Gary is the father of Louise's daughter until quite late in the story, yet clues are offered in what we might call interdependent narrations. Gary's impatience will reappear in his daughter in a subsequent section. At one point early on in their process of learning Heptapod B, Gary asks Louise, "So are we ready to start asking about their mathematics?" To which she responds, "We need a better grasp on this writing system before we begin anything else ... Patience, good sir" (110). In the next section, their daughter cannot wait to go to Hawaii. "I wanna be in Hawaii now," she whines, and Louise tells her, "Sometimes it's good to wait ... the anticipation makes it more fun when you get there" (111). At another moment in the story, after Louise realizes that Heptapod language is performative, we are given a scene from her daughter's childhood that illustrates her realization. Tired of reciting the story of "Goldilocks and the Three Bears" for the umpteenth time, Louise decides to make a few changes. These her daughter rejects, insisting, "That's not how the story goes." Flabbergasted, Louise asks her why she wants to hear the story if she already knows it goes. She replies: "Cause [sic] I wanna hear it!" (138).
Scenes in one narrative illustrate aspects of the other in a manner clearly meant to mimic simultaneous consciousness rather than, say, the interconnectedness of leitmotif's progressive accrual of meaning and cohesive effect across a narrative space. Just as a story's quantum of pleasure is, for a child, undiminished by endless repetition, so for the heptapods—and possibly Chiang's readers—does the performance of an already scripted future actually infuse that future with value: it makes that future "true."
Chiang stages the interdependency of the story's two narratives visually as well. In one scene, Louise's fourteen-year-old daughter is pestering her for an answer to a homework question: "Mom, what do you call it when both sides can win?" In a subsequent scene, set chronologically before her daughter has been conceived, Gary groans sarcastically in response to something a US diplomat says:
"When both sides can win: I just remembered, it's called a non-zero-sum game." (128)
These interdependent narrations, which become more apparent as the story proceeds, approximate the simultaneity of Heptapod B in narrative form, as well as Louise's hybrid racial consciousness. Indeed, Heptapod B's time-symmetry makes possible an infinite range of interdependent possibilities, over against the linear causality of sequential temporality.52
BONUS ITEM, the first part of the story and the last page:
THE STORY OF YOUR LIFE
by Ted Chiang
from 2012 press release
I love a good sci-fi concept and here’s a new one for us, from Ted Chiang‘s novella, Story of Your Life: A linguist is hired by the US government to decipher the language and therefore figure out the intentions of an alien race that have recently landed on earth.
That is a pretty suspenseful setup and if it goes the way I very much think it might, it could well offer a meaningful statement on our society and need to communicate, to overcome language and cultural barriers.
Deadline are reporting that Filmnation Entertainment and Lava Bear Films are to finance the film adaptation of Story of Your Life. The movie will be directed by comercial director Nic Mathieu and has been scripted by Eric Heisserer.
Heisserer has been tweeting and he is clearly excited about the project.
I spent a year adapting Chiang’s beautiful “Story of Your Life” on spec, proving the rule: follow your passion.Filmnation’s Aaron Ryder added:
— Eric Heisserer (@HIGHzurrer) November 27, 2012
If you look at Ted Chiang’s powerful source material, how deftly Eric and the team at 21 Laps handled the adaptation, and what Nic’s vision brings to the film, it’s no surprise that there’s been so much competitive interest.And now, I expect, film geek interest too.