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I'm surprised he didn't discuss his decision to turn it into a time-travel story. That's a major alteration to the plot and meaning of the story, and I'm curious when, why, and how that was made. Did he make it right from the start when he realized that he'd never be able to explain the stuff about the least-time principle and Sapir-Whorf and whatnot, or did he try and fail, or did someone else make him or what?

I never thought "Story of Your Life" was an alien contact story. Well, I mean, it is. I definitely did not see that as the point of the story, though, but rather as a tool to tell the actual story. In that light, the change to the alien contact plotline in the movie maybe isn't such a big deal. I was happy to see that they'd preserved what I thought was the essence of story.

Of course Story of Your Life is not an alien contact story. I think what gwern is saying is not that the film turned an alien contact story to a time travel story, but the film turned a story with no time travel to a story with time travel.

Story is very careful that it is just a very different (alien) perspective of mundane (no time travel) happenings. I haven't seen the film yet, but by all accounts it includes events requiring time travel (or retrocausation), which is definitely not the case in the story.

I wouldn't describe the movie as involving time travel, but you could make a case that it involves retrocausation. That's definitely different than the story, and I don't really regard it as an improvement. I thought the movie was pretty good anyway, and I think it would have been hard to make a more faithful adaptation of the story. I'm happy they did as good a job as they did.

I haven't read the story, but frankly for me (just watched the movie!) the time travel aspect was the weakest point. You could assume the 'non-linear language' just enhanced her predictive capability, but the scene with the Chinese breaks that possibility; and that ability seems way unbelievable anyway, even with science fiction suspension of disbelief. I'm not a fan of time travel/ftl in general with few exceptions.

I would be much happier if she just got incredibly smarter after the interactions. I can see so many plot possibilities arising from that.

(People start distrusting her; she starts feeling more intimate with the aliens then humans; etc)

It resembles many programmer's belief that there just may be a 'holy grail programming language', where translating abstract thoughts into working code gets much easier, and your thoughts themselves are shaped by the structure of this language.

It might be arguable that Turing-complete languages in general are the holy grail, allowing expression of any algorithm into code. But indeed our productivity has risen so much with modern languages compared to the very first Turing-complete languages that one does wonder how far from optimal-human-productivity our languages really are.

The same musings naturally apply for human language of course :)

You should read the story. All those other plot possibilities would be even more serious departures.

Also, the movie didn't bother to really explain this – though it made hints with the statement about how the heptapods see time, and Hannah's name being the same forwards as backwards, etc. – but there's no time-travel aspect specifically because there's no influencing going on at all. She doesn't cause anything to happen.

While I definitely agree, I do think the essence was a little muddled by the alien contact story when compared to the short story.

I read the story. I was disappointed since it implied that the aliens knew both past, present and future, while still having a deterministic existence in our universe. Therefore making our universe a specific timeline where everything aligned to make these creatures evolve along time without breaking causality. I have an aversion to both that, and breaking causality. The movie departs from the story, however it appears to keep these elements nonetheless.

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