Tower of Babylon (story)

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Tower of Babylon
by Ted Chiang
The 2016 cover of the published version of the story.
Genre(s)Science fantasy
Published in Omni
Publication typeMagazine
Publication dateNovember 1990

"Tower of Babylon" is a science fantasy novelette by American writer Ted Chiang, published in 1990.[1] The story revisits the tower of Babel myth as a construction megaproject, in a setting where the principles of pre-scientific cosmology (the geocentric model, celestial spheres, etc.) are literally true. It is Chiang's first published work.[2]

The story won the 1991 Nebula Award for Best Novelette, and was reprinted in Chiang's 2002 anthology, Stories of Your Life and Others.


Hillalum is a miner from Elam who has been summoned to the Tower of Babylon, an enormous brick tower that has been in continuous construction for centuries. He and his colleagues have been hired to dig through the Vault of Heaven to discover Yahweh's creation. Hillalum alone passes safely through the Vault. After a perilous journey ever-upwards, he finds that he has reemerged back at the surface, some distance from the Tower, rather than in Heaven as expected.


"Tower" won the 1991 Nebula Award for Best Novelette, and was nominated for the 1991 Hugo Award for Best Novelette.[3]


  1. ^ "Tower of Babylon by Ted Chiang". Goodreads. Retrieved 16 November 2016.
  2. ^ Anders, Lou (July 2002). "A Conversation With Ted Chiang". SF Site. Retrieved May 27, 2017.
  3. ^ The LOCUS Index to SF Awards Archived 2015-06-18 at the Wayback Machine

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