The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate • 2007 • Time travel novelette by Ted Chiang


Synopsis Fuwaad ibn Abbas is a merchant in medieval Baghdad. The shop owner of a brand new shop invites him to visit his alchemical stone arch, leading 20 years into the future. He tells Fuwaad three different stories of others who travelled through this gate, meet their future selves and found their fates. But Fuwaad tells him that he doesn’t want to travel to the future but into the past.

Review This time travel story is different in that you can’t change the times and thus cannot cause time loops. The setting is incredibly fitting because of Islamic belief in faith. Not only were the stories within the story satisfying but proved as a tension arc leading to Fuwaad’s own captivating story. Though the narration could be classified as didactic, the morale was not heavy-handed. Where other time travel stories are very often tragic, this ended in a melancholic happiness.

Meta: isfdb. This novellette won Hugo and Nebula Awards. I’ve read it in the collection Exhalation.



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