Ted Chiang Short Stories

Many of Ted Chiang’s short stories have been nominated for or have won awards. Several of them are on the longer side, novelettes and novellas rather than short stories, but they don’t feel like it.

Ted Chiang Short Stories

“The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate”

Fuwaad, a fabric merchant, appears before the Caliph to recount a remarkable story. While looking for a gift, he entered a large shop with a new owner. It had a marvelous assortment of offerings, all made by the owner or under his direction. Fuwaad is led into the back where he’s shown a small hoop that manipulates time. He also has a larger gateway that people can walk through. The owner tells Fuwaad the stories of a few who did just that.

Most of “The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate” can be read in the Amazon preview of Exhalation: Stories.

“Tower of Babylon”

The Babylonians are building a tower to heaven. Hillalum arrives from Elam as part of the mining crew who will dig through at the top into the vault of heaven. On the ascent, Hillalum learns how the construction of the tower takes place, and what the plans are when the top is reached. There are many workers as well as people who live at various points on the tower.

A lot of this story can be read in the preview of Stories of Your Life and Others

“Hell is the Absence of God”

Neil Fisk grieves deeply after the death of his wife, Sarah, and it makes him reexamine his relationship with God. Sarah died as an unintended consequence of an angelic visitation that effected four miraculous cures while also causing eight casualties. Her soul was seen ascending to heaven. Neil copes with the aftermath by attending group meetings. His journey becomes intertwined with two others who’ve had visitations.

This story can be read in the preview of Starlight 3(14% in)


Leon was in the freezing water for almost an hour and suffered extensive brain damage. He was given an experimental drug to regenerate his neurons. He’s been having nightmares about the accident. At his weekly checkup, Dr. Hooper notices Leon’s memory is impressive. An intelligence test reveals Leon is in the ninety-ninth percentile; previously, he was in the seventieth. They want to do further tests, and administer a second dose of the hormone. Leon agrees. He navigates his new life and the attention it attracts.

“Division by Zero”

Renee has been released to her husband Carl from an institution as an outpatient. She’s a mathematician and he’s a biologist. Carl remembers his own attempt from twenty years earlier. Renee made a discovery in her work that has thrown her world into disorder. We learn some of their history, and see how their relationship is affected.

“The Great Silence”

A parrot muses over humanity’s desire to communicate with an extraterrestrial species, referencing the creation of the Aricebo radio telescope. It talks about the Fermi paradox as the reason for the silence. The parrot presents its own species as the thing that humanity is really looking for.

“Seventy-Two Letters”

Robert Stratton is a nomenclator who’s research lead him to fashion golem for various tasks. He’s interested in mass-producing them, which would allow them to take over some of the more difficult and tedious jobs. He experiments with more graceful designs which could perform more delicate work. This upsets the sculptors who fear their livelihoods are at risk. When he hits this roadblock, he’s approached by Lord Fieldhurst, who’s working on a secret project.

“The Evolution of Human Science”

Humans haven’t conducted original scientific research in twenty-five years. All research is now done by metahumans, who use DNT (digital neural transfer) to publish their findings. Human journals are inadequate interpretations of the metahuman’s work.

I’ll keep adding Ted Chiang short stories as I find more.