Ted Chiang - Tor/Forge Blog



Our Favorite SFF Short Story Collections

Some of the best science fiction is, and has always been, told in short form. Magazines in the early 20th century brought science fiction into mainstream consciousness, and collections like I, Robot and The Martian Chronicles defined the genre. Today’s short fiction writers are no less revolutionary and take advantage of this format to explore a wide range of voices in their protagonists, playing with the possibilities of story-telling. We’ve collected some of the our favorite stunning sci-fi collections here. Let us know what you would add in the comments.

By Julia Bergen

Poster Placeholder of - 93To Hold Up the Sky by Cixin Liu

From the author of the Remembrance of Earth’s Past series (if you haven’t read it, get on that before the Netflix series comes out), this collection spans his writing career. It’s a great range of work, playing with form, space, and time. Cixin Liu is truly a master story teller, and even readers who aren’t hardcore SF readers will be enthralled. I dare you not to cry while reading The Village Teacher. I dare you.

Image Placeholder of - 87How Long ‘Til Black Future Month? by N. K. Jemisin

This doesn’t just have one of the best names in science fiction and fantasy collections, it also has some of the best stories. Featuring both fantasy and science fiction, this collection delves into a wide range of subgenres including Afrofuturism, alternate history, and climate fiction. There’s a reason why N. K. Jemisin is the first author to win the Hugo Award for Best Novel three times in a row, and her short fiction is just as strong as her novels.

Image Place holder  of - 80Radicalized by Cory Doctorow

Cory Doctorow is a master at imagining the horrifying implications of things like technology, security, and privacy, and his chilling imagination is on full display in this collection of four novellas taking place in eerily possible futures. Come for the speculative romp, stay because you literally cannot look away.

Place holder  of - 83Exhalation by Ted Chiang

Ted Chiang’s 1998 short story, Story of Your Life, was the basis of the 2016 Academy Award-nominated film Arrival, and his 21st century short fiction continues to question the role and future of humanity. He uses beloved science fiction concepts, like time travel and artificial intelligence, but approaches them from a deeply humanistic viewpoint and with a skill level in story-telling that few can match.

Placeholder of  -49Legion: The Many Lives of Stephen Leeds by Brandon Sanderson

Now this is a SF collection that’s just plain fun. Brandon Sanderson is known for fantasy novels you need two hands to lift, but he’s just as good at shorter science fiction. In this collection he takes advantage of his world-building and character creation abilities to constantly surprise the reader and draw us in to a world like our own, but different in ways that only Sanderson could imagine.


5 Sci-Fi Novels for Fans of Hidden Figures

As SF/F nerds, we loved the math, science, diversity, and real-life space adventures in Hidden Figures. In fact, we were hungry for more. There are plenty of lists recommending more non-fiction titles similar to Margot Lee Shetterly’s masterpiece, but not many featuring fiction. So we rounded up 5 great science fiction novels sure to grab the imagination of everyone who loved the fiercely talented women of Hidden Figures.

The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal

Poster Placeholder of - 37 Mary Robinette Kowal’s Lady Astronaut series takes place in an alternate 1950s America, where the East Coast was devastated by a meteorite strike. The meteorite wiped out entire cities along the coast, killing millions and causing, possibly, a global warming event. As a result, America jump starts the space race, locked not into a competition with the Soviet Union, but an actual race for humanity’s survival among the stars. The Earth of Kowal’s series still has a lot of the hangups of our actual past (and present)—including, most prominently, the racism and sexism the women in Hidden Figures fought so hard against—and her diverse cast of women must fight to push their way into the front lines of science.

Everfair by Nisi Shawl

Place holder  of - 54 Much as the women in Hidden Figures had to deal with the very real legacy of racism in America, the characters in Nisi Shawl’s fictional Belgian Congo must deal with the legacy of colonialism in this alt history steampunk novel. The plot follows a diverse cast of characters in the titular Everfair, a colony created by well-meaning Westerners to create a safe haven for everyone, including escaped slaves. Of course, well-meaning doesn’t necessarily mean self-aware, and we see the Fabian Socialists from Great Britain struggling with their own unacknowledged racism, as they try to force Western values on the colonial inhabitants. Told from a multiplicity of voices—Africans, Europeans, East Asians, and African Americans—Shawl’s speculative novel is an examination of complex relationships in an often ignored period of history.

Radiance by Catherynne M. Valente

Placeholder of  -59 If your favorite part of Hidden Figures was how it combined science, ambition, and the personal lives of its leading women, then definitely check out Radiance by Catherynne Valente. Set in an alternate history 1986 where humanity has spanned the solar system, yet talking movies are still a daring innovation due to the patent-hoarding Edison family, Radiance follows Severin Unck as she creates her final film: a documentary investigation of the disappearance of a colony on Venus. Combining love, loss, family, quantum physics, and silent film, this pulpy space opera mystery does its best to unravel the scientific and human mysteries of a fantastical universe.

Binti by Nnedi Okorafor

Image Place holder  of - 26 If you love reading about strong women who defy societal expectations because of their love of math and science, then the next book you should pick up is Binti, by Nnedi Okorafor. The titular Binti is a member of the Himba people, who never leave their homeworld. So when Binti denies her family and her people to attend the galaxy’s most prestigious university, Oomza Uni, she has to run away to get there. On the journey, her ship is attacked by Meduse, an alien race, and Binti must use all her resources—her intelligence, her mathematical and communication skills, and a piece of ancient Earth tech—to stay alive.

The Lifecycle of Software Objects by Ted Chiang

Image Placeholder of - 32 Hidden Figures is a story of women of color pushing boundaries to create a scientific future that they have a place in. While that fight is definitely not over, there are potential new conflicts on the horizon as well. Namely: if and when humanity actually creates artificial intelligence, how will we treat it? What will be the relationship between people and artificial entities? These are some of the questions at the core of Ted Chiang’s novella The Lifecycle of Software Objects. Chiang follows two people and the artificial intelligence they created as they deal with the upgrades and obsolescence that are inevitable for software. The question of nature versus nurture is about to take on a whole new meaning.


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