Stories of Your Life and Others - by Ted Chiang


Stories of Your Life and Others - by Ted Chiang

Read: 2021-10-28

Recommend: 8/10

I was surprised that he holds a degree in computer science. This book is one of those that I get awed by the English language. He has a special way of capturing and showing a moment using words.


Here are some text that I highlighted in the book:

  1. it was as if the earth had rejected him for his faithlessness, while heaven disdained to accept him.

  2. rolling out in all directions to the limit of the eye.

  3. It is true that we work with the purest of aims, but that doesn’t mean we have worked wisely.

  4. Only a tiny pocket of air remained.

  5. He gulped his last breath as the water reached the ceiling, and swam up into the fissure.

  6. He was drowning, and the blackness around him entered his lungs.

  7. “It’s better if we don’t plant suggestions in your mind: you might imagine you were experiencing the symptoms I mention.”

  8. My back is numb; they gave me a local anesthetic, and then injected the hormone K intraspinally. An intravenous wouldn’t work, since the hormone can’t get past the blood-brain barrier.

  9. As always, the roles one plays become recognizable only with greater maturity. To me, these people seem like children on a playground; I’m amused by their earnestness, and embarassed to remember myself doing those same things. Their activities are appropriate for them, but I couldn’t bear to participate now; when I became a man, I put away childish things. I will deal with the world of normal humans only as needed to support myself.

  10. The individuals are tragically like marionettes, independently animate but bound by a web they choose not to see; they could resist if they wished, but so few of them do.

  11. “I doubt it: this calls for a fresh eye.”

  12. Renee was too old to be suffering from the disillusionment of a child prodigy becoming an average adult. On the other hand, many mathematicians did their best work before the age of thirty, and she might be growing anxious over whether that statistic was catching up to her, albeit several years behind schedule.

  13. She gritted her teeth as she wrote: forming the characters felt like dragging her fingernails across a chalkboard.

  14. What Gentzen had done was prove the obvious by assuming the doubtful.

  15. [四目相对]He tugged at her hands to get her off the chair, but she pulled away. Carl stood there for a moment, when suddenly she turned and locked eyes with him.

  16. “It’s like everything I see is shouting the contradiction at me,”

  17. talking or sharing silence.

  18. The government said next to nothing about them, while the tabloids said every possible thing.

  19. “I’m not at liberty to say.”

  20. At that point your dad and I will be speaking to each other maybe once a year, tops.

  21. You’ll do what makes you happy, and that’ll be all I ask for.

  22. “Okay, Mom, give me one of the credit cards, and we can meet back at the entrance here in two hours.” I’ll laugh. “Not a chance. All the credit cards stay with me.”

  23. After seeing that I won’t budge on the matter, you’ll quickly reformulate your plans. “Okay Mom, okay. You can come with me, just walk a little ways behind me, so it doesn’t look like we’re together. If I see any friends of mine, I’m gonna stop and talk to them, but you just keep walking, okay? I’ll come find you later.” I’ll stop in my tracks. “Excuse me? I am not the hired help, nor am I some mutant relative for you to be ashamed of.” “But Mom, I can’t let anyone see you with me.” “What are you talking about? I’ve already met your friends; they’ve been to the house.” “That was different,” you’ll say, incredulous that you have to explain it. “This is shopping.” “Too bad.” Then the explosion: “You won’t do the least thing to make me happy! You don’t care about me at all!”

  24. He gestured as if the different branches of physics were arrayed before him on a table.

  25. “I’m not sure if I’m ready to have children. I asked a friend of mine who has children, ‘Suppose I do have kids. What if when they grow up, they blame me for everything that’s wrong with their lives?’ She laughed and said, ‘What do you mean, if?’ ”

  26. Gary looked obliquely at the ceiling. I tried to meet his gaze, but he kept shifting it.

  27. “That’s right; the notion of a ‘fastest path’ is meaningless unless there’s a destination specified.

  28. Judging from your expression, that will be more effort than you want to make.

  29. It’s amazing the diverse situations in which you can bring up the divorce.

  30. You’ll head back to your bedroom in a huff.

  31. As we listened, I worried that Gary might harm his vision, rolling his eyes so often.

  32. But if that’s not the reason, what is?

  33. “Wake me up if he says something interesting,” said Gary. “I was just going to ask you to do the same for me.”

  34. “But I’m not sleepy,” you’ll whine. You’ll be standing at the bookshelf, pulling down a video to watch: your latest diversionary tactic to keep away from your bedroom. “It doesn’t matter: you still have to go to bed.” “But why?” “Because I’m the mom and I said so.” I’m actually going to say that, aren’t I? God, somebody please shoot me. I’ll pick you up and carry you under my arm to your bed, you wailing piteously all the while, but my sole concern will be my own distress. All those vows made in childhood that I would give reasonable answers when I became a parent, that I would treat my own child as an intelligent, thinking individual, all for naught: I’m going to turn into my mother. I can fight it as much as I want, but there’ll be no stopping my slide down that long, dreadful slope.

  35. “Hey, want to come to my place for dinner tonight? I’ll cook.” I looked at him dubiously. “You can cook?” “Just one dish,” he admitted. “But it’s a good one.” “Sure,” I said. “I’m game.”

  36. The word “infant” is derived from the Latin word for “unable to speak,” but you’ll be perfectly capable of saying one thing: “I suffer,” and you’ll do it tirelessly and without hesitation. I have to admire your utter commitment to that statement; when you cry, you’ll become outrage incarnate, every fiber of your body employed in expressing that emotion.

  37. The image of the room in the looking glass disappeared so abruptly that it took a moment for my eyes to register what I was seeing instead:

  38. We never did learn why the heptapods left, any more than we learned what brought them here, or why they acted the way they did.

  39. Stratton could feel his blood rising. “I will not be bullied,”

  40. “This is a matter of grave import. Before I speak further, I must first have your word that you will retain everything I reveal to you in the utmost confidence.” Stratton met the earl’s gaze directly. “Upon my honor as a gentleman, sir, I shall not divulge anything you relate to me.”

  41. More by sound than by sight, he realized the man was pushing at the door again,

  42. The pain was shocking, so intense that for a moment Stratton was insensible to all else. He was distantly aware that he had cried out.

  43. He was about to set it aside, but his curiosity bested him: he’d never seen a kabbalist’s notebook before.

  44. As a result, Janice grew up thinking of her legless condition as a gift; her parents explained that God had given her a special assignment because He considered her equal to the task, and she vowed that she would not let Him down. Without pride or defiance, she saw it as her responsibility to show others that her condition did not indicate weakness, but rather strength.

  45. This led to a shameful self-knowledge for Neil. He realized that if he had to choose between going to Hell while Sarah went to Heaven, or having both of them go to Hell together, he would choose the latter: he would rather she be exiled from God than separated from him. He knew it was selfish, but he couldn’t change how he felt: he believed Sarah could be happy in either place, but he could only be happy with her.

  46. Once, a woman he’d been dating for several weeks broke off their relationship, explaining that while she herself didn’t consider his leg a defect, whenever they were seen in public together other people assumed there must be something wrong with her for being with him, and surely he could understand how unfair that was to her?

  47. Instead Neil became actively resentful of God. Sarah had been the greatest blessing of his life, and God had taken her away. Now he was expected to love Him for it? For Neil, it was like having a kidnapper demand love as ransom for his wife’s return. Obedience he might have managed, but sincere, heartfelt love? That was a ransom he couldn’t pay.

  48. [既希望又绝望]simultaneously hopeful and hopeless,

  49. Even through his earplugs, the roar was deafening.

  50. still he loved God, not in spite of their suffering, but because of it.

  51. the peer pressure can crush you like a paper cup.

  52. [脸盲] A prosopagnosic can’t recognize friends or family members unless they say something; he can’t even identify his own face in a photograph.

  53. For me, one of the things that attracts me to a guy is if he seems interested in me. It’s like a feedback loop; you notice him looking at you, then he sees you looking at him, and things snowball from there.

  54. Maturity means seeing the differences, but realizing they don’t matter. There’s no technological shortcut.

  55. It was like his face was a magnet, and my eyes were compass needles being pulled toward it.

  56. [对人不对事. Ad hominem (Latin for ‘to the person’]an ad hominem attack.

  57. Think of cocaine. In its natural form, as coca leaves, it’s appealing, but not to an extent that it usually becomes a problem. But refine it, purify it, and you get a compound that hits your pleasure receptors with an unnatural intensity. That’s when it becomes addictive. Beauty has undergone a similar process, thanks to advertisers. Evolution gave us a circuit that responds to good looks—call it the pleasure receptor for our visual cortex—and in our natural environment, it was useful to have. But take a person with one-in-a-million skin and bone structure, add professional makeup and retouching, and you’re no longer looking at beauty in its natural form. You’ve got pharmaceutical-grade beauty, the cocaine of good looks. Biologists call this “supernormal stimulus”; show a mother bird a giant plastic egg, and she’ll incubate it instead of her own real eggs. Madison Avenue has saturated our environment with this kind of stimuli, this visual drug. Our beauty receptors receive more stimulation than they were evolved to handle; we’re seeing more beauty in one day than our ancestors did in a lifetime. And the result is that beauty is slowly ruining our lives. How? The way any drug becomes a problem: by interfering with our relationships with other people. We become dissatisfied with the way ordinary people look because they can’t compare to supermodels. Two-dimensional images are bad enough, but now with spex, advertisers can put a supermodel right in front of you, making eye contact. Software companies offer goddesses who’ll remind you of your appointments. We’ve all heard about men who prefer virtual girlfriends over actual ones, but they’re not the only ones who’ve been affected. The more time any of us spend with gorgeous digital apparitions around, the more our relationships with real human beings are going to suffer.

  58. seeing a really good-looking person is like having a magic spell cast over you.

  59. But I sure as hell would never get this calli thing. I want to date good-looking girls. Why would I want something that’d make me lower my standards? Okay, sure, some nights all the babes have been taken, and you have to choose from the leftovers. But that’s why there’s beer, right? Doesn’t mean I want to wear beer goggles all the time.

  60. Appreciating beauty would become a consensual interaction, something you do only when both parties, the beholder and the beheld, agree to it.

  61. William Gibson once said, “The future is already here; it’s just not evenly distributed.” Right now there are people in the world who, if they’re aware of the computer revolution at all,