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Forgotten title of amazing online sci-fi story
March 12, 2007 6:58 AM   Subscribe

[StoryFilter] About a year ago, I read a piece of sci-fi on the internet. I can't remember the web address, author or title.

I have:

* Sci-Fi
* Basic plot involved a guy who agrees to be a subject for the trial of a new intelligence-boosting drug. He takes the drug and feels intense pain, then experiences a massive, permanent boost in intelligence. The rest of the story involves him getting more of the drug and then becoming engaged in a battle of wits with a fellow test subject. This battle involves some sort of subliminal mental warfare
* I definitely read it online for free.
* Not longer than 10,000 words.
* Needless to say, it was an amazing story and I'd love to read it again.

Thanks very much.
posted by pollystark to Media & Arts (11 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
 
"Understand" by Ted Chiang.
posted by mcwetboy at 7:08 AM on March 12, 2007


And here's the story.
posted by mcwetboy at 7:11 AM on March 12, 2007


If you start out with "amazing sci-fi story" as your description, then it's almost always either Greg Egan or Ted Chiang -- as mcwetboy points out, it's the latter in this case. Some of his other stories are equally amazing -- there's a steampunk piece involving golems and homunculi that is a truly fascinating alternate natural history of science. It's called "Seventy-Two Letters" IIRC. His collection Stories of your Life is a must-have.

If you like Chiang, you will probably like Egan's short fiction, too. It's a little more physics-oriented generally, but full of provocative ideas. Start with his collection Axiomatic and then Luminous (which wasn't published in the US, but Amazon has used copies -- I bought my copy new from Amazon.co.uk, actually).
posted by kindall at 7:43 AM on March 12, 2007


Thank you, you clever people! And thank you kindall for the further recommendations. I'm not generally a sci-fi fan, but your pointers sound really interesting.

Thanks again!
posted by pollystark at 7:47 AM on March 12, 2007


Obviously it isn't the story you were looking for but the Isaac Asimov's short story Lest We Remember has a similar premise. Not his best work but you might want to check it out.
posted by rycee at 8:15 AM on March 12, 2007


Never heard of Chiang, but if he's similar to Egan I totally have to check him out.

....

My entire library system (i.e. libraries within about 50 miles of my local library) doesn't have a single book by Chiang. Why don't libraries have decent SF collections, dammit? I don't think my local one has anything more recent than 1975.
posted by DU at 8:17 AM on March 12, 2007


Chiang only has one book out. His work is entirely short fiction. Not surprising that libraries aren't carrying short story collections much these days. It's totally worth buying, though.
posted by kindall at 8:40 AM on March 12, 2007


The scary thing is, "Understand" is probably Chiang's weakest story. Just about everything he writes makes an award ballot. So definitely buy the book -- I did when it came out.
posted by mcwetboy at 10:47 AM on March 12, 2007


Just wanted to nth the recommendation for the Chiang book. In a lifetime of reading sci fi, I have come across nothing else that has affected me as much, esp the title story. I've been in a sci fi book club for 5 years and that is probably the unanimous favorite read of folks in our group.
posted by purenitrous at 1:44 PM on March 12, 2007


Chiang is stunning (for the nth time!). Just to let fans know, he has a new novella coming out. It's a small press (Subterranean) so you probably won't see it at your local brick-and-mortar. And if you don't own Stories of Your Life, you are really missing out on something golden.
posted by i_am_a_Jedi at 6:33 PM on March 12, 2007


Never heard of Chiang, but if he's similar to Egan I totally have to check him out.

Chiang doesn't have the same kind of hard SF bent that Egan does -- Chiang tends to be a bit more "literary" -- but their short stories do remind me very strongly of each other in their playfulness and intelligence.
posted by kindall at 4:20 PM on March 13, 2007


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