His second collection of short stories is equally surgical, but more touching. Ted has always been very strong in his imaginative science-fiction, and this bundle again contains many interesting concepts worked out in ways that truly made me ponder them in more depth.

The merchant and the alchemist's gate

Masterful tale of time travel, so beautiful that it almost moved me to tears. I quivered on the inside.

Stories take place in an ancient Baghdad and Cairo, with sprinkles of Islam in between. There is much wisdom in the words of its people, and very expertly woven storylines that intersect each other just right.


A beautiful ode to existence. By investigating a source of life so different from our own, it makes me appreciate our actual life more.

Ted seems to like to break the fourth wall; with his characters being aware of the fact that they are in writing. Or that this is some piece of text written down by those very same characters.

What's expected of us

Free will is an illusion. Civilization now depends on self-deception, to avoid mass descend into akinetic mutism. This is all instigated by a communication device with a negative time delay.

The lifecycle of software objects

Fascinating, in-depth case that shows us where real general artificial intelligence would come from. Qualities such as sympathy et al. only develop over actual years of interacting with humans. Just like baby humans develop.

I do think there are more nuanced tones here, but generally serves as a good reminder of the sheer effort it would take to produce real general AI.

Dacey's patent automatic nanny

Fictional text accompanying a fictional museum exhibit. Inspiring format.

Touches on baby upbringing by machines instead of humans. But the story didn't really capture me.

The truth of fact, the truth of feeling

Beautiful exploration of the value of writing, contrasted with future technologies for perfect memory that leave me with wonder for both. And such a powerful reminder of the fallibility of our human memory; and our tendency to form our pasts into narratives.

As he practiced his writing, Jijingi came to understand what Moseby had meant: writing was not just a way to record what someone said; it could help you decide what you would say before you said it. And words were not just the pieces of speaking; they were the pieces of thinking. When you wrote them down, you could grasp your thoughts like bricks in your hands and push them into different arrangements. Writing lets you look at your thoughts in a way you couldn't if you were just talking, and having seen them, you could improve them, make them stronger and more elaborate.

The great silence

After reading the story notes, I appreciate this piece way more. All the small lemma's were written for a large video art installation that juxtaposed Arecibo ("an ear capable of hearing across the universe") with footage of endangered Puerto Rican parrots. A beautiful reminder that our world is already full of many forms of intelligence that we do not sufficiently appreciate.


When the Christian view on history is omnipresent and generally accepted, proof of other planets destroys the meaning that people derived from their assumption that they were the intention of God when he created everything. Ends with the realization that true meaning is something we derive from that which we enjoy doing, something we choose for ourselves.

Anxiety is the dizziness of freedom

"Making small choices in line with the person you want to be, makes it easier for your future self to make more of these choices".

Beautiful story touching on the concept of free choice. Assuming parallel universes with many other versions of yourself having made different choices, what meaning does it have to make ethical choices in the current branch?

Also, the story makes support groups (be it for alcohol, drugs, or problematic prism use) sound truly valuable. To be able to talk through problems and be vulnerable in the presence of others, under the guidance of professionals, must be helpful.