I didn’t know this was coming. The video is a teaser for a movie called Arrival, starring Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner. It’s based on a 1998 novella by Ted Chiang, called “Story of Your Life.”
Chiang has only published 15 stories, yet among them, they’ve won four Nebula Awards and four Hugo Awards. He writes science fiction, but his stories aren’t the kind of space operas that usually get turned into SFX-heavy mainstream movies. Chiang is interested in ideas and concepts that are far from the usual concerns of SF.
Here are some notes on the source material. If you’ve already watched the teaser, they’re spoiler-free.
“Story of Your Life,” which won the Nebula Awards for Best Novella in 2000, is about a linguist charged with establishing communication with aliens who have landed on earth. And these are alien aliens, not Star Trek’s silly English-speaking humanoids who differ from your average Texan only in that they have blue skin, ridged foreheads, and worse manners. Still, a standard SF situation.
But Chiang uses it to explore the Sapir–Whorf hypothesis, which posits that the structure of a language affects its speakers’ perception of reality, and influences thoughts and actions. From there, he explores the concepts of determinism and free will. And, because he writes so well, he makes it all not only interesting and understandable, but deeply affecting.
I’m looking forward to this one. Arrival opens in the US and the UK on 11 November 2016.