Bad VR PSAs

Cherlynn Low, writing for Engadget in “Johnnie Walker’s drunk-driving VR experience lacks subtlety”

The heavy-handedness of the video gets especially extreme at the end of the clip. As you look on at the victims of the crash, you start floating in the air, as if you were the spirit of someone who had just died. I know it’s supposed to be poignant, this moment where you’re thinking about the people who were just killed. But it was ultimately distracting and cheesy.

The idea of using VR to give the interactor a visceral experience of the consequences of drunk driving is potentially a good use of VR, a kind of story that only VR can tell. This implementation falls short, but it’s worth analyzing why.

Bridging Infinity

Update: You can enter a drawing for a free copy of the anthology on Tor.com.

Jonathan Strahan has been editing the Infinity Project series of anthologies for some time now, which focus on hard scifi tales by a variety of voices in genre fiction.

The latest entry is Bridging Infinity, described thus:

Sense of wonder is the lifeblood of science fiction. When we encounter something on a truly staggering scale – metal spheres wrapped around stars, planets rebuilt and repurposed, landscapes transformed, starships bigger than worlds – we react viscerally. Fear, reverence, admiration – how else are we to react to something so grand?

The anthology features stories from Alastair Reynolds, Pat Cadigan, Stephen Baxter, Charlie Jane Anders, Tobias S. Buckell & Karen Lord, Karin Lowachee, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Gregory Benford & Larry Niven, Robert Reed, Pamela Sargent, Allen M. Steele, Pat Murphy & Paul Doherty, An Owomoyela, Thoraiya Dyer, and yours truly.

My story, “Seven Birthdays,” has been reprinted at Tor.com so that you can get a sense of what the anthology is like. Personally, I think it’s the best story I wrote this year. And if you like it, do check out the anthology, please.

Bridging Infinity cover

Invisible Planets Launch

Today is launch day for Invisible Planets, an anthology of contemporary Chinese SF edited and translated by me. (“Contemporary” in this context means written in this century.) I’ll be gathering reviews and other publicity material here so you can judge if the book is of interest.

If you’ve read the book, please leave a review on Amazon, Goodreads, B&N, or wherever else you like to review books. Reviews help readers discover books they want to read and are the lifeblood of authors. Thank you!

Invisible Planets covers

Essays and Interviews

Reviews

  • Publishers Weekly gives a starred review: “This stellar anthology of 13 stories selected and translated by Liu (the Dandelion Dynasty series) brings the best of Chinese science fiction to anglophones.
  • Adam for Edge of Infinity: “…a one-stop resource for quality speculative fiction and provides plenty of insight into Chinese sci-fi. With moving stories and powerfully written prose, this anthology is outstanding. 5/5”
  • Amy Brady for the Village Voice: “… a vital collection for readers of both sci-fi and literature-in-translation.”
  • “The invaluable Invisible Planets introduces the world of Chinese sci-fi”: Ignatiy Vishnevetsky reviews for the A.V. Club. “It tackles its problem with intelligence, and in its diverse and often inspired selections, it makes the implicit point that the rapid growth of Chinese sci-fi in recent decades have made it both difficult to define and a microcosm of the various things that speculative fiction can be.”
  • Amy Brady includes Invisible Planets in a Lit Hub roundup of “16 Books You Should Read This November”: “…each story brimming with imaginative landscapes and thought-provoking futures that pull from both Western and Chinese literary canons.”
  • Starred review by Kirkus Reviews: “A phenomenal anthology of short speculative fiction.”
  • Marissa Lingen’s review: “An anthology where I didn’t skim half the stories! What a treat.”
  • Jonathan Crowe’s review: “There’s a there there — and it’s worth paying attention to.”
  • Charlie Hopkins for Fantasy Faction: “There is plenty of impressive science fiction and fantasy but so many other genres are also touched upon that readers are bound to be swept away and will assuredly find a new author to follow.” (10 out of 10 stars)
  • Ardi Alspach reviews for the Barnes & Noble SFF blog: “… a well-balanced, thoughtfully assembled collection, essential for any reader who wants to expand their understanding of the genre on a global scale.”
  • Taryn at The Overly Attached Reader: “Expertly curated anthology of short speculative fiction by Chinese writers.”
  • Rachel Cordasco at Tor.com: “So what exactly makes these stories remarkable? I hear you asking. It’s their originality, their striking landscapes and unexpected plot twists, their lyricism and pathos.”

Inventing the Medium

Janet Murray (Inventing the Medium):

  1. There is a tension between film and games as the model for VR.
  2. Since the interactor’s experience of agency is always the most important design value for digital environments, games are a more productive starting point.
  3. Hand controllers are key to success because they give us a presence in the virtual role, functioning as “threshold objects” when they mimic two-handed operations we can see.
  4. Virtual vehicles are a promising approach to constraining and empowering interaction.
  5. Documentary film approaches may work, shaping interaction as a visit (as I describe in Chapter 4 Immersion in Hamlet on the Holodeck). To be successful, designers need to invent:
    1. interaction conventions for navigating the space,
    2. cues to entice us to navigate,
    3. dramatic composition of the experience to rewards us for being in one place rather than another,
    4. a fourth wall equivalent to make clear what we can and cannot do.

If you’re at all interested in the narratology of VR, you need to read everything Janet Murray has written.

The Wall of Storms Launch

It’s launch day for The Wall of Storms, and I’ll be gathering some reviews and other publicity material here.

If you’ve read the book, please leave a review on Amazon, Goodreads, B&N, or wherever else you like to review books. Reviews help readers discover books they want to read and are the lifeblood of authors. Thank you!

wall of storms cover

Essays and Interviews

Excerpts

Reviews

  • Amal El-Mohtar reviews TWOS for NPR: “It surpasses The Grace of Kings in every way, by every conceivable metric, and is — astonishingly — perfectly readable as a standalone. I loved it so much that I’d go so far as to say if you were intimidated by the size and scope of The Grace of Kings, you needn’t wait on reading it to dive into this one.”
  • Publishers Weekly starred review: “This tale of divided loyalties, deadly ambition, and ‘silkpunk’ technology delivers enough excitement and sense of wonder to enchant any fan of epic fantasy.”
  • Megan M. McArdle writing for Library Journal starred review: “This absorbing fantasy, influenced by Chinese history yet utterly fresh, gets better as it marches along. Despite its length, fans of epic fantasy will devour this story and be clamoring for the next entry.”
  • Peter Tieryas reviewing for Entropy: “…one of the greatest novels I’ve read.”
  • Alec Austin: “I heartily recommend The Wall of Storms to all serious readers of epic fantasy.”
  • Charles Tan: “Whereas its predecessor held back in characterizing one half of the human population in the first book, women take center stage in this novel.”
  • Elaine Aldred at Strange Alliances: “If you were stranded on a desert island with only one book to keep you company, then The Wall of Storms, dense with characters, heroic action sequences and philosophical imaginings, has the type of longevity to keep a reader going for years as they return to the book time after time.”
  • Becky Carr: ” With a book like this it would be so easy to overdo the intellectual aspects and bore the reader or not put enough of the intellectual aspects in and confuse the reader. Liu found a perfect balance.”
  • Bookworm Blues: “So far this is probably the best book I’ve read this year, hands down. Liu is a dominating force in speculative fiction. He’s rewriting the genre, and redefining the rules, and it’s a delight to witness.”
  • Achala Upendran: “I cannot stress it enough: read The Wall of Storms.”
  • Bob Milne for Speculative Herald: “A book to be savored and enjoyed, The Wall of Storms is one of those rare sequels that manage to improve upon an already near-perfect debut.”
  • Drew at “The Tattooed Book Geek”: “…simply put it’s not just a book that you read, it’s a journey that you take and is highly recommended.” (Readers who gave up on The Grace of Kings may especially find this review interesting.)
  • Tochi Onyebuchi for Sometimes I Read: “‘The Wall of Storms’ is a bigger, better novel than ‘The Grace of Kings’ and may be the best fantasy novel I’ve read in the past five years.”
  • Kelly Anderson for The B&N SFF Blog: “How honest we are with ourselves about how those stories influence our ideas and decisions—whether we’re willing to really look in the mirror and face facts—that’s everything. That’s the ballgame.”
  • Mogsy for The BiblioSanctum: “[T]his sequel only served to cement this series in my mind as a true work of art.”
  • Achala Upendran & Mihir Wanchoo for Fantasy Book Critic: “There are fun capers, incredibly detailed worldbuilding, surfacing crubens and swooping garinafins, supernatural encounters and ‘silkpunk’ science fiction devices that (sometimes) save the day. There’s an ending that makes you realise that sometimes, the old world has no choice but to be swept away completely to make way for a new, exciting one. Sometimes, change is a risk worth taking.”
  • Betty Bong reviews for Asia Pacific Arts: “This contemplative and action-packed sequel still offers the pleasurably smooth prose and semi-omniscient narrative style that evokes a seasoned storyteller spinning off another iteration of a much-loved and oft requested tale.”
  • Brannigan Cheney reviews for The Qwillery: “The Wall of Storms brought everything I wanted in a sequel.”

Fan Art

And finally something special: Carmen Yiling Yan made me some fan art for The Wall of Storms!

CYY fan art

Fall Book Releases (and European Travels)

I have a busy fall coming up:

“Folding Beijing” wins a Hugo

Folding Beijing,” written by Hao Jingfang and translated by me, has won a Hugo! Big congrats to Jingfang and the other winners. (And a special congrats to Uncanny magazine, which published the story and won a Hugo as well!)

I knew I wanted to translate “Folding Beijing” as soon as I read it. To understand something about Hao Jingfang’s thinking behind the story, be sure to read this essay she wrote.

The Wall of Storms: October 4 (and a Goodreads giveaway)

The Wall of Storms, the first sequel to The Grace of Kings, is coming from Saga Press on October 4, 2016.

I’m so excited that this book, over which I’ve labored for more than a year, is finally going out to readers. It’s bigger, better, and funner in every way than TGOK.

Saga is holding a Goodreads giveaway of ARCs of the book (limited to US addresses). Please enter and help spread the word! (And if you win, please leave an honest review wherever you like).

The Wall of Storms cover

Death’s End: September 20 (and ARC giveaway)

My English translation of the final volume of Liu Cixin’s hard SF “Three-Body” trilogy, Death’s End, is coming from Tor Books on September 20, 2016.

This is my favorite volume of the trilogy (and also the favorite of my editor, Liz Gorinsky, and fellow translator John Chu). Liu Cixin said that this book is closer to his ideal style than the other books in the trilogy, and I agree.

If you enjoyed the other books in the series, you’ll really love this one.

Death's End cover

Invisible Planets: November 1

My collection of translations of contemporary Chinese SF is coming from Tor Books on November 1, 2016.

This vibrant collection of short stories runs the gamut from hard fantasy to ethereal science fiction. Besides stories like the Hugo award-winning ‘Folding Beijing,’ these are tales rich with lush language, inventive premises, and heart-breaking story-telling.

— Mary Robinette Kowal, Hugo-winning author of Ghost Talkers

Not only does this collection contain stories by China’s two Hugo winners (Liu Cixin and Hao Jingfang), but it also features a brand new story by Xia Jia, as well as works from Chen Qiufan, Tang Fei, Cheng Jingbo, and Ma Boyong.

I’ll have more news about this title as we get closer to the release date.

Invisible Planets cover

Upcoming Appearances

I’ll be doing a lot of traveling in September and October as I jet around Europe and the US to attend literary festivals and other events. (The linked page will have more details about appearances when I get them.) If you’re in the UK, France, Spain, or near the Dallas/Fort Worth area, the next few months will give us a chance to meet and chat!

  • Visit to the UK, 9/3-9/6, London, the UK.
  • Festival America, 9/8-9/11, Vincennes, France.
  • Niebla Festival, 9/30-10/2, Salamanca, Spain.
  • Fort Worth Library, 10/21, Fort Worth, TX.

“The Hidden Girl” Optioned by Studio 8

So, I have some good news:

The story that Studio 8 just optioned, “The Hidden Girl,” isn’t even available to read yet; it’ll be out in 2017 as part of the Gardner Dozois-edited The Book of Swords, according to Liu’s website. But it sounds totally great, according to this description on Deadline:

The story is about a team of assassins who are able to navigate between dimensions. It’s got stylish touches reminiscent of Interstellar and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

The Deadline headline suggests the end result will be a “time-travel action film,” which would be pretty rad under any circumstances. With Liu’s creativity guiding said time-travel action, however, we’re even more excited for this film to be made.

Big thanks to Studio 8’s Rishi Rajani and Chris Goldberg for taking on this project, and I’m super excited to be working with them to bring this project to fruition. Also a big thanks to my agents, Angela Cheng Caplan at the Cheng Caplan Company and Russell Galen at the Scovil Galen Ghosh Literary Agency, for making this deal happen.

My Favorite Award Trophy

This may be my favorite award trophy ever.

plush trophy for Twitter Awards

I was selected as the winner in the 6th annual Japanese Twitter Literature Awards in the foreign works category (for my Japanese collection, 紙の動物園, Hayakawa, edited by 古沢嘉通 (Yoshimichi Furusawa)). Thank you to the readers who enjoyed my stories and voted for me, and a great thanks goes out to Armadillo Hidaka, who created this awesome creature.

The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories is Out!

My debut collection, The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories, is out today! You can also get the audio version, narrated by Corey Brill and Joy Osmanski.

I’m very grateful to everyone who helped me along my journey.

I can’t name all the writers and readers who have supported me and critiqued my work over the years. But know that you’re in my heart. There’s a little bit of all of you in these pages. We’re defined by the marks we leave in other people’s stories.

At Saga Press, my publisher, many individuals collaborated to bring this book to life. Among them are Jeannie Ng, for catching all those errors in the manuscript; Michael McCartney, for the lovely cover design; Mingmei Yip, for accommodating unorthodox requests for calligraphy; Elena Stokes, Katy Hershberger, and Aubrey Churchward, for the thoughtful publicity campaign.

I’m especially thankful to Joe Monti, my editor, who championed and shaped this book with his good judgment (and saved me from myself); Russ Galen, my agent, who saw the possibilities in these stories; and most of all, to Lisa, Esther, and Miranda, for the millions of ways in which they make the story of my life complete and meaningful.

And now, some links (updated throughout the week):

I’ve been doing a few interviews in connection with the book:

People have been saying nice things about the collection, so I’m gathering some links below. (I don’t look for reviews, so these are just the links people have sent me):

  • Library Journal: “These remarkable stories highlight Liu’s themes of family, love, and politics and gathered in one collection pack an even bigger punch. Those who revere shorter speculative works will definitely want this book.”
  • Publishers Weekly: “Gracefully written and often profoundly moving, these stories are high-water marks of contemporary speculative fiction.”
  • Jamie Ford, NTY bestselling author of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet: “I know this is going to sound hyperbolic, but when I’m reading Ken Liu’s stories, I feel like I’m reading a once-in-a-generation talent. I’m in awe.”
  • Andrew Liptak writing for The B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog: “[A] brilliant, substantial, yet somehow still all-too-short collection of stories and novellas… It’s bursting with stories yearning to be told to everyone, and it’s a volume that absolutely everyone should read.”
  • Achala Upendran: “Savour it, sink into Liu’s words, and allow yourself to be carried away by a master storyteller.”
  • Jessica writing for MuggleNet: “Liu’s talent in evoking atmosphere and culture make these tales more than stories – they’re journeys. If you’re looking to dream of another world, or reflect on our own, do yourself a favor and pick up a copy.”
  • Devi Bhaduri writing for The Chicago Review of Books: “A rare combination of lavish prose, characters in fascinating, unique situations, and heart-wrenching moments.”
  • Brit Mandelo writing for Tor.com: “There’s a vibrancy and color to the characters that’s hard to ignore.”
  • Ian White writing for Starburst Magazine: “It is a genuine work of art, a complete joy to read, and very very highly recommended.”
  • Jana Nyman writing for Fantasy Literature: “…while emotionally devastating at times, is a collection that I will be re-reading for years to come, a book that I’ll lend to trusted friends and will recommend to complete strangers.”
  • Justus Joseph writing for Shelf Awareness: “Emotionally unpredictable, Liu’s stories take off in unexpected directions and arrive at destinations both startling and satisfying.”
  • Nisi Shawl writing for The Seattle Times: “Long after the book has been read, these telling details continue to lend their subtle heft to stories that pierce to the core of what’s right.”
  • Amal El-Mohtar writing for NPR: “I have never been so moved by a collection of short fiction. I was at times afraid to read more.”

And I wrote few essays to talk about subjects that might be interesting to readers (and tangentially connected to the book):