Over at The Economist, there's a great essay about one of our most essential writers, Ted Chiang. And it has a great explanation of what makes Chiang's fiction just so compelling.

The Economist writes:

His stories mirror the process of scientific discovery: complex ideas emerge from the measured, methodical accumulation of information until epiphany strikes. Hefty scientific principles buttress Mr Chiang's works, yet he draws from them a startling humanism....

The laws of nature are fixed. But Mr Chiang's stories remind us that the world need not be as it is. Time did not have to be so that we experience it linearly. Consciousness need not have been possible. What we take for granted is often miraculous.

In other words, Chiang's work does what the best science fiction does — use science to tell a great story that helps us understand humanity, and see how the world could be very different. The whole essay is definitely worth reading. [The Economist]