The Merchant and the Alchemist's Gate

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"The Merchant and the Alchemist's Gate"
The Merchant and the Alchemist's Gate.jpg
AuthorTed Chiang
Published inThe Merchant and the Alchemist's Gate
Publication typeNovelette
PublisherSubterranean Press
Publication dateJuly 2007
Illustration for "The Merchant and the Alchemist's Gate" by Hidenori Watanave.

"The Merchant and the Alchemist's Gate" is a fantasy novelette by American writer Ted Chiang, originally published in 2007 by Subterranean Press and reprinted in the September 2007 issue of Fantasy & Science Fiction.[1] In 2019, the novelette was included in the collection of short stories Exhalation: Stories.[2]

Plot summary[edit]

The story follows Fuwaad ibn Abbas, a fabric merchant in medieval Baghdad. It begins when he is searching for a gift to give a business associate and happens to discover a new shop in the marketplace. The shop owner, who makes and sells a variety of very interesting items, invites Fuwaad into the back workshop to see a mysterious black stone arch which serves as a gateway into the future, which the shop owner has made by the use of alchemy. Fuwaad is intrigued, and the shop owner tells him three stories of others who have traveled through the gate to meet and have conversation with their future selves. When Fuwaad learns that the shop keeper has another gate in Cairo that will allow people to travel even into the past, he makes the journey there to try to rectify a mistake he made twenty years earlier.[3]


It won the 2008 Hugo Award for Best Novelette and the 2008 Nebula Award for Best Novelette.[4]


  1. ^ "The Merchant and the Alchemist's Gate by Ted Chiang". Goodreads. Retrieved 23 March 2016.
  2. ^ Di Filippo, Paul (3 May 2019). "Review | Ted Chiang's 'Exhalation,' like his story that inspired 'Arrival,' fuses intellect and emotion". Washington Post. Retrieved 20 May 2019.
  3. ^ Silver, Steven H. (2007). "The Merchant and the Alchemist's Gate: Ted Chiang: Subterranean Press, 83 pages". SF Site. Retrieved 23 March 2016.
  4. ^ LOCUS Index to SF Awards Archived 18 June 2015 at the Wayback Machine