What would we do if we could visit our own pasts or futures? Are we more likely to change our timelines, or will our timelines actually project themselves back on to us more powerfully?
This is the first discussion post of this beta-testing, informal TechCrunch book club, which is starting with the first short story in Ted Chiang’s science fiction collection “Exhalation.” Join us as we walk through each narrative in succession in the coming weeks and explore a wider expanse of technology and its effect on society.
The first legend in the accumulation is” The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate ,” a compact, interwoven series of fibs that discusses a time-shifting “gate” that allows people to move forward and backward in time at a specific interval. Chiang makes the familiar device of the time-travel machine and repurposes it for a deeper introspection of how humans consider their own lives and the lives they affect.
For this first week, I want to start with some predict questions( posted below) to think about before presenting deeper recollects from me and readers. As I mentioned before, you can email me your thoughts at danny+ bookclub @techcrunch. com and include them below in the comments, as well. Several parishes online on Reddit and Twitter have already begun gossips, as well.
My friend and occasional Extra Crunch contributor Eliot Peper wrote in to describe what he considered the most foundational passage of the part, and his thoughts 😛 TAGEND
“Past and future are the same, and we cannot change either, simply know them more fully. My journey to the past had changed nothing, but what I had learned had changed everything, and I understood that it could not have been otherwise. If our lives are narratives that Allah tells, then we are the audience as well as the players, and it is by living these anecdotes that we receive their lessons.”
This passage resonated with me seriously because it clues at one of the reasons I adore predicting science fiction like Chiang’s: Not to catch a glimpse into the future, but to inspect the present more closely, and from fresh angles–learning exercises along the way.
We will return next week on Tuesday with more perfectly formed contemplates on this short story, as well as a similar learning guide for the second short story, the eponymous “Exhalation.”
Some questions to ponder about” The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate “:
What is Chiang trying to convey about the meaning of destiny? Are we really “the audience as well as the players”? Do we have agency in our own lives? Can we really affect the future with our own wars? How should we observe what happens around us? Is consideration of what is happening enough to bring understanding and contentment, or do we have to have a stake in every outcome for us to feel satisfied? Why did Chiang choose this particular time and setting( historic Baghdad) for this short story? Similarly, why did he choose to include three anecdotes in such a short story? What did this structural maneuver provide us as readers? What does the introduction of the door imply about how new technology is accepted? Is it believable that such a wondrous device would be accepted so quickly? Is the entrance neutral? Could it be used for good or evil, or does it depend on the user themselves?
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