Story of Your Life

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"Story of Your Life"
Author Ted Chiang
Language English
Genre(s) Science fiction short story
Published in Starlight 2
Publication date 1998
Illustration for "Story of your Life", by Hidenori Watanave for Hayakawa's S-F Magazine.

Story of Your Life is a science fiction short story by Ted Chiang. It was the winner of the 2000 Nebula Award for Best Novella as well as the 1999 Sturgeon award.[1] The major themes explored by this tale are determinism, language, and an interesting take on the Sapir–Whorf hypothesis.

Plot summary[edit]

Dr. Louise Banks is enlisted by the military to communicate with a race of radially-symmetrical aliens who initiated first contact with humanity. Woven through the story are remembrances of her daughter.

The heptapods have two distinct forms of language. Heptapod A is their spoken language, which is described as having free word order and many levels of center-embedded clauses. Understanding Heptapod B, the written language of the aliens, is central to the plot. Unlike its spoken counterpart, Heptapod B has such complex structure that a single semagram cannot be excluded without changing the entire meaning of a sentence.

When writing in Heptapod B, the writer knows how the sentence will end. The phenomenon of Heptapod B is explained by the alien's understanding of mathematics and Fermat's principle of least time.

Dr. Banks's understanding of the heptapods' writing system affects the way she perceives time and suggests a deterministic universe where free will is exercised by not affecting the outcome of events.



An adaptation scripted by Eric Heisserer has been planned since at least November 2012[2] involving the production company FilmNation Entertainment.[3] On 2 April 2014, revealed that Denis Villeneuve is set to direct a film adaptation written by Eric Heisserer and co-produced by FilmNation Entertainment and Lava Bear Films. Amy Adams is "in early talks" for the lead role.[4]