Another Earth reminded me of “Story of Your Life” in many ways. Both stories involved a major change of perspective in the main character—one inspired by the learning of a new language and the other inspired by a loss of innocence and purpose. Both stories play with the concept of time. “Story of Your Life” argues that time, even if we could see its entirety, could only unfold in one way. According to Chiang, knowledge of the future or the state of mind necessary to see the future brings peace, even to someone who knows exactly when and how her daughter will die. Another Earth argues that time is multidimensional and that there are probably multiple versions of ourselves on multiple versions of Earth. The director believes that there are many possible ways for our lives to unfold and calls into question the purpose of our lives if there exists a version of ourselves that is better in all ways.
While I found Another Earth more emotional and personally relatable (I’m a college-age teenager and not a mother who has lost a child, after all), I prefer the structure of Chiang’s narrative. It is more complex and its form follows its function. It has mystery—a question is being answered—and its form follows its function. In comparison, Another Earth was merely the tragedy of a morally gray girl who had to give up all her dreams in order to make reparations.
I’m the definition of biased, though. “Story of Your Life” has aliens and detailed descriptions of their anatomy whereas the aliens of Another Earth are slightly mutated copies of ourselves. I suppose this is more in line with science fiction’s purpose: to show reflections of ourselves in the strange. But it’s not as interesting!
If I learned one thing from this course (besides how to write better) it was what I enjoy most in science fiction. The speculative biology and psychology in the works we’ve read and watched for class will certainly shape my own exploration of science fiction. My strengths lie in imagining the organisms of other worlds. If I plan to write or illustrate modern science fiction (and I do), I will have to develop my literary mind to complement my scientific ideas. Nobody wants to read a textbook on organismal biology when they pick up an sf novel.