Exhalation by Ted Chiang

I became familiar with Ted Chiang after seeing the movie The Arrival. If you haven’t seen it, I don’t want to spoil too much, but it’s a fascinating take on making first contact with an alien species. Chiang wrote the novella called Story of Your Life that the movie was based on. The story plays with the concepts of time and perception. It’s masterfully written. When I found out Chiang was releasing another collection of short stories, I immediately requested we purchase it. I’ll review a small number of the stories that I feel best represent Chiang’s Exhalation.

“Exhalation” — The narrator of this story is never named, but describes itself as a “student of anatomy.” By performing exploratory surgery on itself, the narrator discovers how the mechanical beings survive. Their brains are made up of sheets of thin gold. Air pressure helps these sheets conduct thoughts and actions throughout their bodies.

This discovery leads to a chilling conclusion: the mere existence of the beings is increasing the air pressure inside the dome that encapsulates their living environment. If the air pressure continues to rise, their brains will be unable to function and the entire race will die.

Perhaps a bit on the nose, this story has clear parallels to the peril of climate change. What is most interesting about this story is the complex world Chiang builds in a mere 21 pages. He spends a lot of time explaining the everyday lives of this mechanical race.

They’re really not so different from us, other than that they’re machines. They have the same worries and fears, same existential questions like “Where did we come from?” This is perhaps the great success of the story. By the time I realized the story was about humanity, I already related to and liked the beings I was reading about.

“What’s Expected of Us” — The Predictor is simply a small black box. Its only features are a green light and a button. It’s a simple game: press the button before the green light comes on. But no matter what tricks the player uses, the light always comes on just before they press the button.

What are the implications of a game that knows you’re going to play before you do? Well, I can’t really go much further with reviewing this story. It’s only 4 pages long. But let’s just say that humanity has a very important choice to make. Whether we want to or not.

“Dacey’s Patent Automated Nanny” — In 1861, Reginald Dacey invents a mechanical nanny to take care of his child, Lionel. “Rational child-rearing will lead to rational children,” he believes. The nanny is a huge success until one child is killed by their caregiver. Despite Dacey’s discovery that the nanny was tampered with, the damage to its reputation is done.

Years later, in an attempt to right the wrongs done to his father’s legacy, Lionel Dacey attempts to reintroduce the Automatic Nanny. His research is hidden from the public until an unusual young boy is found at an orphanage. The boy, Edmund, was raised by the Automatic Nanny and is severely underdeveloped.

At first, those caring for the boy fear it was his removal from human contact that delayed the boy’s development. However, they quickly realize it was his removal from the Nanny that has caused the problems. Is there any chance for Edmund to live a normal life?

In Chiang’s notes at the end of the collection, he notes that this story was written for a collection of stories about fictional museum exhibits. The Automatic Nanny never existed, but the philosophies behind the story certainly did.

Victorian-era parents had a much different view on how to raise their children. Chiang’s story examines what might have happened had these views. How would humanity have been changed by a co-dependent relationship with technology? Hmmm, I’m sensing that this story may not be about the past as much as it seems.

Chiang is an award-winning author and his mastery shines in this collection. Even though many of these stories have dark themes, they are never bleak. The narrators always have hope. I don’t know if I would go so far as to call this collection uplifting, but it certainly will make you think about humans and our place in the universe.

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Book review by: Leslie Hayes

Summer Reading

The Summer Reading Program is underway at the Joplin Public Library with activities for adults, teens, and children of all ages! Get your game board, complete the blocks, and return it to the library to claim your prize. You can even complete additional game boards to win the grand prize. Each returned game board earns a Super Reader yard sign.


Adult Activities:

1. JPL & PAL Artwork Contest

JPL & PAL are partnering to present this year’s Summer Reading art project. Stay tuned for more details!
Suggested age: TEEN—ADULT

2. Levi Randolph

Join Levi Randolph, music educator and
performer, as he presents on the history of the saxophone and its place in the music
community. A saxophone quartet performance will accompany this presentation.
Thursday, June 7th, 6:00-7:00 PM

3. PAL Ukulele Lessons Session 1

For those interested in learning how to play the ukulele, this program offers a three week
instructional course. Participation is limited. Must pre-register for event. To register, contact
Leslie Hayes @ 417-623-7953 EXT 1023
Saturday June 16th, 10:00-11:00 AM
Saturday June 23rd, 10:00-11:00 AM
Saturday June 30th, 10:00-11:00 AM

4. Mike Anderson

Join performer and voice artist Mike Anderson for a fun presentation filled with stories, songs, and musical instruments.
Saturday, June 16th, 4:00-5:00 PM

5. Bingo

Participate in summer reading with a fun evening of Bingo. Enjoy a chance to win small prizes. Thursday, June 21st, 6:00-7:00 PM

6. Native American Flutist Mark Barger

Join Native American flutist Mark ‘Wandering Bear’ Barger for an educational, exciting, and interactive musical program with Native American-style flutes. Tuesday, June 26th, 2:00-3:00 PM

7. Heartland Concert Band

Join the Heartland Concert Band as they
perform musical pieces on the library lawn.
Thursday, June 28th, 6:30-7:30 PM

8. Kufara Marimba Band

Join the Kufara Marimba musicians for an energetic musical performance influenced by Zimbabwean culture.
Saturday, June 30th, 4:00-5:00 PM

9. JOMO Jazz

This 60-minute program is designed to introduce children to instruments found in a jazz band.
All Ages
Saturday, July 14th, 2:00-3:00 PM

10. PAL Ukulele Lessons Session 2

For those interested in learning how to play the ukulele, this program offers a three week
instructional course. Participation is limited. Must pre-register for event. To register, contact
Leslie Hayes @ 417-623-7953 EXT 1023
Tuesday July 17th, 6:00-7:00 PM
Tuesday July 24th, 6:00-7:00 PM
Tuesday July 31st, 6:00-7:00 PM

11. Bingo

Participate in summer reading with a fun evening of Bingo. Enjoy a chance to win small prizes. Thursday, July 19th, 6:00-7:00 PM

12. Karaoke

Make some noise! Come enjoy a night of karaoke at the library. We’ll bring the music and karaoke machine, you bring the fantastical entertainment!
Thursday, July 26th, 6:00-7:30 PM

13. PAL Ukulele Lessons Session 3

For those interested in learning how to play the ukulele, this program offers a three week
instructional course. Participation is limited. Must pre-register for event. To register, contact
Jill Sullivan @ 417-623-7953 EXT 1023
Wednesday August 1st, 6:00-7:00 PM
Wednesday August 8th, 6:00-7:00 PM
Wednesday August 15th, 6:00-7:00 PM

14. Ending Celebration

Come and celebrate a great end to this year’s summer reading by attending a writer’s workshop and a live concert by the wizard rock band, Tonks & the Aurors. Workshop @ 6:30 PM. Concert @ 7:30 PM. Tuesday, August 7th, 6:30—9:00 PM


Teen Activities:

1. Tie Dye

It’s back! Bring a white, 100% cotton T-shirt.
Grades 6-12
Thursday, June 7th, 2:00 PM

2. Discover Nature: Teen Fishing

This project is supported by the Institute of Museum and Library Services.
Learn how to fish, courtesy of the Mo Dept. of Conservation.
Grades 6-12; see staff for important information
Tuesday, June 12th, 1:00-3:00 PM @ library
Friday, June 15th, 8:30-11:30 AM offsite

3. Save Yourself!

Hands-on safety tips for new drivers, courtesy of Mo State Highway Patrol
Grades 9-12
Thursday, June 14th, 2:00 PM

4. MOVIE: Where’s My Fish?

Interactive animated film with props, call outs, and a craft while we search for lost sea life.
Grades 6-12; Rated G
Monday, June 18th, 1:30 PM

5. Discover Nature: Primitive Skills

Use the environment to survive & thrive, courtesy of Mo Dept. of Conservation.
Grades 6-12; see staff for important information
Tuesday, June 19th, 11:30 AM offsite

6. High School Book Club

Read a book with a musical connection; you pick the title.
Grades 9-12
Thursday, June 21st, 6:00-7:00 PM

7. Middle School Book Club

Read a book with a musical connection;
you pick the title.
Grades 6-8
Monday, June 25th, 6:00-7:00 PM

8. Discover Nature: Outdoor Cooking

Create yummy treats over an open fire, courtesy of Mo Dept. of Conservation.
Grades 6-12; see staff for important information
Thursday, June 28th, 11:30 AM offsite

9. LEGO Buildathon

Grades 6-12
Monday, June 11th, 5:30-7:30 PM
Tuesday, July 24th, 5:30-7:30PM

10. #makeit

Make crafts and explore tech w/tools from the Teen Makerspace. Activities and dates vary; see Teen Dept. for details.
Grades 6-12

11. Random Awesomeness

Hang out and enjoy games, crafts, trivia, and more. Dates vary; see Teen Dept. for details.
Grades 6-12

12. Game Night

Cards, board games, plus a “Let’s Dance” dance-off via the Wii U.
Grades 6-12
Tuesday, July 10th, 6:00-7:30 PM

13. Fandom Fest

Start the revolution! It’s an afternoon of Hamilton music and activities. See Teen Dept. for details.
Grades 6-12
Saturday, July 14th, 2:00 PM

14. MOVIE: Book Geek Meets Cranky Hairball

Interactive animated film with props, call outs, and a craft while we sing along with cutlery.
Grades 6-12; Rated G
Tuesday, July 17th, 2:00 PM

15. Anime/Manga Club

Grades 6-12
Saturday, July 21st, 3:00-4:30 PM

16. Zombie Tech

Find out how technology works by taking it apart.
Grades 6-12
Thursday, July 26th, 1:30-4:00 PM

17. Writing Workshop-Wizards in Space

Wizards in Space Literary Magazine brings tips for refining your writing.
Teens and Adults
Tuesday, August 7th, 6:30-7:30 PM

18. Wizard Rock Concert—Tonks & the Aurors plus Lauren Fairweather

Close out the summer with original music about Harry Potter from nationally-known artists!
Teens and Adults
Tuesday, August 7th, 7:30-9:00 PM


Children Activities:

1. Bobby Norfolk

Join Emmy-winning storyteller and musician Bobby Norfolk for a captivating storytelling program focusing on diversity and African American culture.
Suggested age: Children K-5th grade
Tuesday, June 12th, 2:00-3:00 PM

2. Storytimes

Tales for 2’s & 3’s
Wednesdays & Thursdays @ 9:30 AM
Fun for 4’s & 5’s
Wednesdays & Thursdays @ 11:00 AM
Family Storytime
Wednesdays & Thursdays @ 4:00 PM

3. Movers and Shakers

Storytime for Birth to 2 years
Tuesdays @ 9:30 AM, 10:45 AM, & 4:00 PM

4. Explore & Play

Suggested age: 1 to 5 years
Saturday, June 9th 10:30-11:30 AM

5. Chess Club

Suggested age: K-5th grade
Monday, June 4th, 5:30-6:00 PM

6. Dog Day Afternoon

For independent readers in 5th grade and under
Tuesday, June 26th, 4:00-4:45 PM
Tuesday, July 31st, 4:00-4:45 PM

7. Block Party

Suggested age: 2-10 years & their families
Sunday, June 10th, 2:00-3:00 PM

8. Summer Movie Break

Suggested age: K-5th grade & families
Get out of the heat and join us for a different family-friendly movie each Friday afternoon.

9. Chelsey Davenport’s Dance Party

Join Zumba instructor Chelsey Davenport for an energetic hour of games, singing, and dancing!
Suggested age: K-5th grade
Tuesday, July 10th, 2:00-3:00 PM

10. Dino O’Dell

Join the children’s department and musician Dino O’Dell as we sing about monsters under our beds, swim in a pond full of peanut butter, and learn about the four instrument categories: percussion, wind, string, and electronic.
Suggested age: K-5th grade
Tuesday, July 17th, 2:00-3:00 PM

11. Dept. of Conservation

Kevin Badgley from Missouri Department of Conservation will introduce us to several feathered friends who make their homes in rocks.
Suggested age: K-5th grade
Tuesday, July 24th, 2:00-3:00 PM

12. Mad Science Ending Celebration

Mad Science Presents: Libraries Rock the World! Children will learn about the Science of Summer Sounds then make up a Mad Sounds Band to ac-company the Mad Science Summertime perform-ers. Stay after for ice cream from Chick-Fil-A, pop-corn, and face painting from Cheeky Fun! Saturday, July 28th, 10:30 AM—12:00 PM


This project was made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services.