PRINT December 2019


Elvia Wilk

A Ted Chiang story is easy to recognize and impossible to imitate. Seven of the nine comprising his new collection, Exhalation (Knopf), have been previously published, but taken together they are enlightening. Each piece feels invented from scratch, as Chiang masterfully moves between references to, say, steampunk, classical mythology, and Black Mirror–esque corporate dystopia on a single page. And yet he resists inhabiting any genre, instead retaining his own voice and distinct aesthetic sensibility throughout.

I’m not the only one obsessed. Chiang has a cult following, due as much to his writing as to its scarcity: Although he’s put out only fifteen stories in his thirty-year career, he has won every major award for science-fiction writing. The texts in Exhalation range from three to 110 pages long. Some are brief meditations—on alien life or free will—while others are full-fledged

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