Last week I was discussing Ted Chiang's terrific collection of short stories, entitled Stories of Your Life and Others. It's a worthy read.
I'd like to mention two other stories in this collection which I particularly enjoyed. One was "Hell is the Absence of God," which takes the idea that God truly decides on whether to send your soul to Heaven or Hell depending on how devoted you are to Him, although Hell isn't such a horrible place. It's just a place without God. The story follows Neil, who just lost his wife in a horrible accident caused by a heavenly angel visiting Earth. During these angelic visits, people can experience miraculous healing, or they can be injured or killed by earthquakes or other side-effects caused by these visits. Neil is angry at God for killing his wife, who went to Heaven, and is afraid he will never be able to forgive God enough to love Him and be able to rejoin his wife in Heaven. The story examines the problem of suffering, of the injustice of life, and the depths of love and loss. Terrific.
The second story I enjoyed immensely is "Liking What You See: A Documentary." It provides the text of an imagined documentary about a university voting on whether to require all students to undergo a minor surgical procedure in the brain, which induces calliagnosia. This is a condition which renders the person unable to appreciate beauty in another person's face. Some of the persons "interviewed" say that this condition then enables people to see beyond the surface and learn to appreciate others' gifts such as intelligence, humor, open-heartedness, and so on. Others were against this measure because they believe it impedes the maturity one must develop in order to see beauty, but look past it. While calliagnosia is currently in the realm of science fiction, it is an interesting concept. Funny thing was, when I finished this story, I opened up a fashion magazine and was confronted with all these images of beauty. It was interesting to note my own reaction. Also terrific.