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The Time Traveler's Almanac > "Hwang's Billion Brilliant Daughters" - Kim (1/25/15)

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message 1: by Amy, Queen of Time (last edited Jan 25, 2015 09:22PM) (new) - added it

Amy | 2210 comments Mod
Week of January 25, 2015:
"Hwang's Billion Brilliant Daughters" by Alice Sola Kim

*Text available from Lightspeed Magazine:
http://www.lightspeedmagazine.com/fic...

*Author spotlight and story discussion: http://www.lightspeedmagazine.com/non...


Samantha Glasser | 208 comments This story felt like an idea and not a story to me. I kept waiting for something profound to happen but it never did.


message 3: by Amy, Queen of Time (last edited Jan 26, 2015 01:27PM) (new) - added it

Amy | 2210 comments Mod
Yes, I agree. I didn't like it all that much. It seemed mainly to be an idea. The funny thing is that I read it last night before going to sleep. Then when I had to bring my daughter to bed in the middle of the night after she sleep walked to my bedroom, I found myself thinking that it was nice that I woke up to my daughter rather than my great great great great great great granddaughter.

The story doesn't really work for me. What family stays in the same location for that many generations? Even if a family stays in the same geographical location, they at least change houses. What office building would be able to stay the same for that long without long-term funding?

And aren't bananas supposed to become extinct much sooner than that? I did find it interesting that he encountered one generation that lived entirely virtually but that they grew tired of it by the next generation. That sounds about right. I get tired enough of being on my computer after 8 hours a day at work. 24 hours a day would certainly be overkill.

2.5 stars.


message 4: by Cheryl (new) - added it

Cheryl (cherylllr) | 871 comments I don't mind a story that's more about the idea than a plot, but the idea needs to be developed in a way that makes sense to me. I didn't get this. I have the same questions you do, Amy, and more of that kind. The lab stays intact forever, letting Hwant 'sleep' safely?

I also wonder what qualifies it as Time Travel. It's more like a 'cold sleep' tale, it seems to me.

I hope someone can give insight here. I won't rate yet, as I'm feeling I'm missing something.


message 5: by James (last edited Jan 28, 2015 06:54AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

James Joyce (james_patrick_joyce) | 189 comments Interesting, easy to read and, ultimately, frustrating.

I get the basic story: A man agrees to be the guinea pig in a time travel experiment, because it would give him the chance to save his daughters from kidnapping... even though this would still not save his marriage.

I don't need a mechanism to justify that he always arrives near and is always found by his daughters. It's made clear that this is unavoidable and they can't resist helping him, for short intervals.

I also simply assumed the time machine had effected the entire room. It seems obvious, to me. His partner has not decayed, which seems reasonable if his body is left in the room which is a time machine. So the entire room is outside of time... something like that.

But it's all the something-like-thats that pile up and wash out a final understanding.

I don't understand who the narrator is. A daughter... sure... but what does that mean, in the context of this story?

"When Hwang is now, nobody knows. He is sleeping."

Except the daughter knows. She's looking at him, as this is noted... But there is no mention of Hwang being aware of this reality-constructing, all-knowing daughter.

Anyone know what I'm missing, here? I appreciate the writing skill and am willing to read more, by Alice Sola Kim, but this ultimately felt like it was just... hanging.

Rating: 3
Primarily for the originality, creativity, and writing skill. The ultimate frustration kept it from being higher.


message 6: by James (last edited Jan 28, 2015 06:52AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

James Joyce (james_patrick_joyce) | 189 comments Cheryl wrote: "I also wonder what qualifies it as Time Travel. It's more like a 'cold sleep' tale, it seems to me. "

Clearly he is not actually asleep in the physical world. Every time he sleep, he time travels to the future.

"When Hwang is now, nobody knows. He is sleeping."

Clearly not just a guy on a bed.


message 7: by Nathan, First Tiger (new) - added it

Nathan Coops (icoops) | 544 comments Mod
That was one super durable couch.

A few more explanations may have been helpful. The omniscient narrator being eternal and able to observe the beginning didn't quite add up for me.


message 8: by Cheryl (new) - added it

Cheryl (cherylllr) | 871 comments Time travels to the future... kinda sorta... just at a faster pace than we do (60 minutes every hour for us, unpredictable ratios for Hwang).


James Joyce (james_patrick_joyce) | 189 comments Nathan wrote: "The omniscient narrator being eternal and able to observe the beginning didn't quite add up for me."

That was my stumbling block, too.

The narrator not only knew everything about Hwang's past, but his future, as well. And she was present in the laboratory, while Hwang slept. And she's one of his daughters.

I don't get it. I'm missing something, to explain how this is so highly regarded, given what seems an impenetrable wall in the story.


message 10: by James (last edited Jan 28, 2015 04:36PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

James Joyce (james_patrick_joyce) | 189 comments Cheryl wrote: "Time travels to the future... kinda sorta... just at a faster pace than we do (60 minutes every hour for us, unpredictable ratios for Hwang)."

Not "just". He clearly can't be sleeping on a couch in the real world. The entire room must be his time machine.

Although there's something about that, too. A room of a building can't just keep appearing in different times and places where it doesn't belong. Well, it can, but you'd occasionally experience armed invasions of the room and then... well... problems.

One other weirdness: Hwang is always wearing the same clothes, when he awakes. Even if he changed his clothing, before sleeping. Hmm?


message 11: by Lincoln, Temporal Jester (new) - added it

Lincoln | 1290 comments Mod
One time the sky was pink...Rabbits were extinct and people can't speak English...I suppose this is a story about theoretical futures...but yeah hard to relate to any of it.

I kept imagining the story being turned into some crazy movie with a funny narrator voice going over the top trying to explain what we are seeing.


message 12: by Cheryl (new) - added it

Cheryl (cherylllr) | 871 comments Nobody's helping me to appreciate this.
I now deem it 1 star.


message 13: by James (last edited Jan 29, 2015 07:48PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

James Joyce (james_patrick_joyce) | 189 comments Amy wrote: "*Author spotlight and story discussion: http://www.lightspeedmagazine.com/non... "

I went there, hoping for some illumination. Instead, I got probing questions, like,
"When bananas—“no one’s favorite fruit”—no longer exist, what does that finally do to Hwang?"

What, indeed.


message 14: by James (last edited Jan 29, 2015 07:51PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

James Joyce (james_patrick_joyce) | 189 comments However, I must point out that reading that interview left me with the impression that the author was being cute, rather then deep.


"I love throwaway ideas in science fiction—those weird, vivid little things that are more extensive than eyeball kicks but aren’t necessarily vital to the narrative."
---Alice Sola Kim



message 15: by Amy, Queen of Time (last edited Jan 30, 2015 09:07AM) (new) - added it

Amy | 2210 comments Mod
Strangely, GoodReads hasn't been forwarding me all my email replies, so I thought nobody had discussed anything here yet. Is that happening to anyone else?

I like the idea that perhaps the room he's in is the time machine, or even his entire place of employment. But the problem would be the possibility of it landing on occupied space in the future. But it really seems that the time machine is Hwang, not the couch or the office. After all, he travels forward only when he sleeps.

I thought that the great great great great granddaughter was perhaps narrating from having heard the stories from Hwang or having heard family stories. You'd not necessarily have to have been present for an event to write the event as if you had been. And then she imagines what his future might be based on her idea of what his time traveling future might be like.

The author says, "I love throwaway ideas in science fiction..." I think that sums up this story nicely. There was no reason to write an entire novel about the idea. She just wanted to imagine what it would be like to fast forward into the future over time. It reminds me of the last movie version of The Time Machine where we can watch the world completely change around him as the time traveler sits inside the time machine. What would it be like to travel ever forward a hundred or couple of hundred years at a time?

I get the feeling that a lot of short stories are just this: "throwaway ideas". That's why so many of them, to me, feel unfinished. That's one of the reason I've never been a huge fan of short stories. They're such a small slice of life. You put so much effort into figuring out what's going on (especially in stories like the last one we read by Le Guin) only to be left at the end saying, "that's all?". Of course, some authors do find that they like the world that they've created in their short story so much that they end up crafting an entire novel around it.


message 16: by Lincoln, Temporal Jester (new) - added it

Lincoln | 1290 comments Mod
Yes Amy,

I only get a handful of goodreads emails when I should be getting a lot more. Just forces me to check in with group more, a bit annoying if I want to keep up with an ongoing conversation.


message 17: by Glynn (new) - added it

Glynn | 235 comments I liked it when I was reading it. Had a nice flow even though it didn't make any "sense" to me. I will give it 3.5 stars.


message 18: by Glynn (new) - added it

Glynn | 235 comments Lincoln wrote: "Yes Amy,

I only get a handful of goodreads emails when I should be getting a lot more. Just forces me to check in with group more, a bit annoying if I want to keep up with an ongoing conversation."


I get my goodreads e-mails as a digest. I hardly pay attention to them. I guess I should pay more attention :(


message 19: by Amy, Queen of Time (new) - added it

Amy | 2210 comments Mod
Glynn wrote: "Lincoln wrote: "Yes Amy,

I only get a handful of goodreads emails when I should be getting a lot more. Just forces me to check in with group more, a bit annoying if I want to keep up with an ongo..."


Mine are supposed to come through one at a time if I've posted or commented on a thread. I guess they're not consistent these days. I get the daily digest, but I haven't actually read it in ages because I've been too busy.


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