Book cover: Stories of Your Life and Others, by Ted Chiang

Book review: Ted Chiang’s ‘Stories of Your Life and Others’ pt. 2

This is the sequel to last week’s post about all the ways Ted Chiang’s book blows my mind and makes me want to be a better writer.

I’m aware that what follows may come across as overly critical, so let me start by reiterating that I really enjoyed these stories. They intrigued and surprised me, and made me feel like I was wrestling with some incredible intellectual notions.

If I’ve written more about what didn’t work for me than what did, it’s only because those were the aspects I felt best able to get a grip on when it comes to analysing why they affected me the way I did and applying those lessons to my own writing.

Again, this review contains very minor and non-specific spoilers – unless you’re reading the book right now, you should be fine.

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Woman sittin on an island under a tree that is a brain

This week I learned: life with locked-in syndrome, voodoo wasps, and sleeping in someone else’s car

This week I learned about how people feel about having almost no control over their bodies, about mind-controlling wasps, and about what happened when one woman let a homeless person use her car as a bed.

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Book cover: Stories of Your Life and Others, by Ted Chiang

Book review: Ted Chiang’s ‘Stories of Your Life and Others’ pt. 1

I said at the start of this blog that I might try the odd book review-type thing, so this is me trying one. It’s really about what I took away from this book as a writer, rather than a reader, but hopefully it will be helpful (or at least interesting) to readers and writers both.

Edited: Looking at this just post publication, I’ve realised what a wall of text it turned into. So I’m going to take a load off you (and *cough* off future me) and split it into two posts. Tune in next week for part two.

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Record made out of an X-ray of two hands

This week I learned: bone music, Elmer McCurdy’s posthumous career, the fairy chimneys of Cappadocia

About the amazing world of secret bone music, the outlaw who became Skeletor, and yet more interestingly-shaped rocks with surprising ancient history.

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Man with a bow and arrow

Why “show, don’t tell” is nonsense – and why it’s important anyway

It has to be the single most common piece of writing advice there is: “Show, don’t tell.” And yet so many of the unpublished stories I read demonstrate that their authors don’t understand it. And honestly, that’s not surprising, because taken literally it’s utter nonsense.

Writing is, by definition, telling. You’re speaking to your reader through words, not pictures. So how the heck are you supposed to do anything but tell them things?

Here’s the secret: yes, all writing is telling. But by choosing what it is you tell your reader, and how you tell it, you can create a vastly more enjoyable reading experience.

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Tiny figure lost at sea

Brain weasels; or, high-functioning mental illness and what happens when you don’t trust your own head

I’ve had a couple of people ask me about the descriptor I use for myself at the top of this page: “brain weasel wrangler”. So I figure it’s time to explain a bit about the weasels, and to talk about my journey from denial to acceptance.

This is a longer post than my usual, but I hope it will give some of you something to think about when facing your own brain weasels. Warning: discussion ahead of mental illness, brief mention of suicide.

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Blanket Octopus swimming

This week I learned: blanket octopus, history of the Wilhelm scream, highway safety for Colorado wildlife

About a superhero cephalopod; animals crossing; and the man behind the Wilhelm scream.

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Box of coloured crayons

Colouring books and creative anxiety

A couple of years ago, at the height of the craze for such things, a couple of people gave me adult colouring books for Christmas. They were beautiful things, full of intricate spirals and minutely detailed images, each one a blank canvas open to a thousand possibilities for filling it with glorious colour.

And my first thought was, What if I get it wrong?

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Violin made of ice

This week I learned: battlefield ant triage, unrequited gannet love, ice music

About ants providing medical care for one another after battle; the strange, beautiful tragedy of Nigel the gannet; and an orchestra made of ice.

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