Story of Your Life

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This article is about the Ted Chiang short story. For the film adaptation, see Story of Your Life (film). For the Matthew West album, see The Story of Your Life.
"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 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.

A film adaptation is expected to be released in 2016, starring Amy Adams as Dr. Louise Banks and co-starring Jeremy Renner, with the film directed by Denis Villeneuve based on a script by Eric Heisserer.[2]

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.


Film adaptation[edit]

An adaptation scripted by Eric Heisserer has been planned since at least November 2012[3] involving the production company FilmNation Entertainment.[4]

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.[5]

On 14 May 2014, Paramount Vantage issued a press release stating it had acquired the North American distribution rights for the Story of Your Life film adaptation, with a tentative release year of 2016. Both director Denis Villeneuve and lead actress Amy Adams have been confirmed for the project, based on "a new draft of a script" by Eric Heisserer.[2]