I wrote my university dissertation on George Saunders’ ‘Escape from Spiderhead’ and Jennifer Egan’s ‘Black Box’ and ever since have sought out sci-fi short stories. I struggle with sci-fi novels because of all the world-building and lengthy descriptions – but Chiang, my favourite sci-fi writers, cuts through all of that. His stories might be about Science with a capital S (‘Exhalation’ is about entropy, I think?…) but don’t let that put you off, they’re genuinely fun. Reading Chiang’s stories make me feel dumber and smarter at the same time, and always hit me in the feels.
First published in Lightspeed Magazine, April 2014 and collected in Exhalation, Picador 2020. Read online here