Category Archives: geek

LeVar Burton Reads “The Paper Menagerie”

LeVar Burton (Roots, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Reading Rainbow) is a hero of mine. TNG is my favorite Trek, and Geordi was the greatest engineer in the galaxy. (Remember, my silkpunk epic fantasy series is all about engineers as magicians and poets.)

LeVar Burton Reads podcast

He has a new podcast, “LeVar Burton Reads” (alternate iTunes link), in which he narrates pieces of short fiction.

He’s already performed works by Neil Gaiman, Haruki Murakami, Daisy Johnson, among others. And this week’s selection is “The Paper Menagerie”. Go ahead and give it a listen. It’s an amazing performance.

Sometimes my life is unbelievable.

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.

My Arisia Schedule

I’ll be attending Arisia this Friday (January 15). Here’s my schedule:

  • “A Special Hour with Ken Liu” / Alcott Fri 4:00 PM (1:15): “Special hour” puts a lot of pressure on me, doesn’t it? Actually, I do have something pretty special planned. I’ll be reading from the following items (all of them unpublished):

    • The new story in The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories;
    • My translation of Liu Cixin’s Death’s End, the conclusion of his Three-Body trilogy, to be published by Tor this August;
    • My translation of Chen Qiufan (a.k.a. Stanley Chan)’s debut, The Waste Tide, which has just been acquired by David Hartwell for Tor;
    • And, of course, The Wall of Storms, Book II of the Dandelion Dynasty series. (This is how you can get another sneak peek).
    • I’ll also be running a drawing for an ARC of The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories at the reading.
  • “Thrown with Great Force:Classics We Won’t Finish” / Marina 2 Fri 5:30 PM (1:15) (with Kate Nepveu, Debra Doyle, Mark Amidon, Catt Kingsgrave-Ernstein, Vikki Ciaffone): This is a panel for all of you who didn’t finish LotR; everyone who needed to self medicate through Infinite Jest, exiled Frankenstein to the frozen wastes, or wanted to flush the Foundation. What did you fail to finish, which ones do you feel guilty about not finishing, and which ones do not make you feel any twinge of guilt at all?

  • “Genre Fiction in Translation” / Faneuil Fri 7:00 PM (1:15) (with Crystal Huff, Sarah Weintraub, Morgan Crooks, John Chu): Cixin Liu’s The Three-Body Problem, translated by Ken Liu, won the Hugo for Best Novel. Clarkesworld’s recent foray into translating Chinese SF has brought some well deserved attention to the vibrant body of stories in that country. Haikasoru has made a name for itself translating works from Japanese, and has recently published SF stories translated from Spanish. What possibilities do we see in translation of other cultures’ SF? How might this change the landscape of the genre?

Programming iOS 4

Matt Neuburg’s Programming iOS 4 is among the best programming books I’ve ever read. I’d rank it right up there with Programming Perl.

I’ve tried several Cocoa / Cocoa Touch books before, and generally found them wanting. Many of them share a common problem: they take a breezy tone and try to get you to put up your first “Hello World” application as soon as possible, without sufficient explanation of the fundamentals. After a few chapters of cutting-and-pasting code, I usually gave up because I’m the sort of person that needs a solid foundation in the low-level details before we jump off into putting up pretty pictures.

Neuburg, on the other hand, takes an approach that I favor. He explicitly states near the beginning that he’s seen many iOS programmers leap into development via copy-and-paste coding without understanding the fundamentals. His aim is to remedy that. Without a good foundation, it’s impossible to develop the necessary intuition for the system that is critical for good design and assured debugging.

To that end, Neuburg spends more than a hundred pages going over the foundations of Objective-C before even telling you to open Xcode, and when he does, he does so methodically, explaining to you the philosophy behind Xcode’s design, how its makers envision a project workflow, and exactly what the various buttons do. (This is also one of the only good guides to the radically new interface of Xcode 4 I’ve found.) By the time you put up your “Hello World” app, you actually feel that you have a good intuition of the system as a whole.

Neuburg’s book covers the fundamentals of iOS programming as well as some advanced topics, so intermediate coders and beginners alike will find the book useful. I really think there’s something in here for programmers of every level of skill and experience.

(If you buy it through the Amazon link above, I get some kickback.)

Dinosaurs vs. Aliens

There’s a Dinosaurs vs. Aliens movie concept being developed.

I was chatting with a friend about what the script for this would look like. If the dinosaurs speak English, that would be layering magic on top of magic. So maybe the dinosaurs don’t talk and just grunt? Then you’d end up with something like this:

Rawwwwwwr, ROOOOOaaaRRRRRRRr.

Raw raw rooooar.

Dino 1 cocks head.

(through flaring nostrils)


The alternative is to have the dinosaurs grunt and roar in an “intelligent” manner and subtitle the expressions. The dinosaur subtitles can be soulful, angsty, full of doubt. Then you’d have a high-concept/art-house crossover hit.

That is a movie we’d pay to see.


Lisa was working on a story, and I was giving her some comments. Since I like reading and commenting on the screen, normally Lisa would have to email the documents to me and I’d have to email the commented copy back. Very inefficient.

DropCopy is designed just for this kind of LAN file transfer. We tried it and it worked great. A little “black hole” sits on the desktop; you drag and drop files into it, and it shows up on the other person’s desktop. Magical. This is the feeling all software should evoke.