Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Short Fiction Tuesday

I just returned a copy of Ted Chiang's "The Lifecycle of Software Objects" to the library and then discovered that Subterranean Online is posting the entire novella for free. Check it out. Chiang is always a worthwhile writer--Stories of Your Life & Others is one of the best collections I've read in recent years, and "Exhalation" (the link is to the Wikipedia article about the story and includes links to a pdf of the text and a link to Escape Pod's podcast of it) is an excellent more recent story that quite appropriately won a Hugo. This most recent story explores the idea of creating artificial intelligence more organically (so to speak)--instead of by programming all the factors the AI needs, by programming an entity to have the capacity to learn and presenting it with similar stimuli to what a human baby and child will encounter. From a storytelling standpoint, some of this one felt weaker than some of Chiang's other stories, but the ideas (and ideas are always a large part of the pleasure of Chiang's stories) are packed in and thought-provoking.

If that doesn't sound like what you like, I'll link to one more story, that's very different. Fantasy Magazine's "Bitterdark" by Eljay Daly takes an idea that wouldn't usually appeal to me--fairies and a very clear battle between good and evil--and tells a memorable and fascinating story with it. Part of what I like is just the idea of a former king and hero of the fairies who has left the faerie realm behind out of weariness--a hero's weariness has certainly been done before, but it still resonates with me. And the way the story turns out makes it noteworthy as well.

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