Stayed up late last night reading “Seventy Two Letters” by Ted Chiang. It was a longish short story, but it was so rich in so many ways, it was more satisfying than a number of novels I’ve read lately.
The plot is so complicated that I’m sure I wouldn’t be able to do it justice, but basically it comes down to this: In London, shortly after Victoria’s ascension, in a world where the pseudoscience that was being debunked in that era has been vetted and proven to be real, it is discovered that humanity is within five generations of going extinct. The protagonist, a nomenclator (a scientist who creates living things from inanimate materials by giving them carefully calculated names), races to create a new race of humans whose reproduction is lexical, rather than biological.
But it’s so much more than that.
I’ve been trying my hand at steampunk and not really liking the results much. This story made me realize
what a piker I actually am how much more I have to learn about craft, about originality, and about imbuing my own creations with not only interesting conflicts from which to extricate themselves, but also with a simultaneous combination of importance and depth of emotion.
At any rate, this story is in this anthology, and I highly recommend it.