Category Archives: writing

The Paper Menagerie and Other Tidbits

The publication date for my debut collection is fast approaching: March 8, to be exact.

Besides gathering some of my favorite stories (a few have won some awards, if you care about that sort of thing), this volume also contains a brand new story that I feel is among my best.

Other recent news that may be of interest:

  • The Grace of Kings was named one of NPR’s best books of 2015
  • … as well as Apple iBooks’ “Best of 2015” (Fantasy)
  • … as well as Kobo’s top SFF pick for 2015.
  • Both TWOS and The Paper Menagerie made it onto io9’s list of  “40 Science Fiction and Fantasy Books That Will Rock Your World In 2016.”
  • The president is reading my translation of The Three-Body Problem. (I never thought I’d have anything to do with something the president would read…)
  • I was at the ALA Midwinter meeting in Boston this weekend, and had a great time talking with Kat Howard about her debut novel, Roses and Rot, which is a re-imagining of the tale of Tam Lin in a contemporary fantasy setting that raises interesting questions about the role of art — lying to tell the truth. I had the privilege of reading an ARC of the book, and it’s wonderful. You’ll definitely want to pick up a copy when it’s out in June.

Announcing the Title for Book II

For most of December I worked on the edits to TGOK 2.

Well, since it’s a new year and I’ve turned in my edits, I’m going to announce the title of the sequel: The Wall of Storms (I’ll get a page up for it soon).

Like the title to the first book, which can be read in multiple ways (as the concept of “grace” gets worked out — and it’s also a quote from Henry V), the title for this second book is also meant to be read in multiple ways that will become clearer over time.

Without giving too many spoilers away, I can tell you that it’s a story about succession and revolution, about change and pushback, about betrayal and portrayal. It is bigger, better, and deeper than Book I, and it will start out seeming to be one kind of book before turning out to be another.

Along with many of the old characters you got to know from Book I (Luan, Gin, Jia, Kuni …), you’ll also get to meet many new ones: a scholar who fights with her wits and logograms instead of the sword, a warrior who must devise new strategies against foes she has not fought before, a princess who goes on the greatest adventure of them all: discovering the secrets of nature … And the gods now have a few new tricks up their sleeves.

And it’s got a new map (why, you ask? Hmmm… no spoilers!) as well as tons of cool silkpunk technology. Tons. I’ve been doing a great deal of research for this series, and I’ve loved every second of it. Just about every cool idea I had went into this book. I can’t wait till you get to see it.

And … release date is October this year!

You’ll get a sneak peek at TWOS in the mass market paperback edition of TGOK, scheduled to be released on February 23. But there will be other ways to get previews later in the year as well, as I give readings and send out more updates.

TGOK News and Gift Suggestions

I’m working on the final edits for TGOK II and the book is coming along great. As I mentioned before, official release date is November 2016.

The Grace of Kings made it onto B&N SFF blog’s “The Best Science-Fiction & Fantasy of 2015” list as well as NPR Book Editor Petra Mayer’s “Books To Give As Gifts This Year” list.

Looking at the other entries on these lists, I’m in disbelief—many of the writers listed here are my literary idols! My debut has certainly found its audience, and I can’t be prouder of what it has accomplished.

Also, on December 3, 2016, the UK edition of TGOK is going to be published by Head of Zeus. The hardback has a gorgeous cover that really pops when you see it in person. I’m really pleased with how this one came out.

Cover for UK edition of TGOK

Since it’s time for year-end shopping for gifts, I figured I’d make some book recommendations:

  • The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps, by Kai Ashante Wilson — The most original book I read all year, a nuanced, layered exploration of concepts about black masculinity. Here’s my blurb for it: “Lyrical and polyphonous, gorgeous and brutal, The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps is an unforgettable tale of love that empowers.”

  • Flex/The Flux, by Ferrett Steinmetz — I loved Flex, and the sequel The Flux is even better. (Imagine video game players as wizards…) Anyone who loves video games, Fight Club, and bureaucracy will simply whoop in delight. So. Much. Fun.

  • Black Wolves, by Kate Elliott — This is a massive, massive epic fantasy (and it’s only the first volume in a trilogy!). The world is rich, complex, textured, as are the characters and their relationships. Features some wonderful twists on epic fantasy tropes: women and men both fight, old and the young are equally valuable, cultures are not monolithic, and the politics isn’t pseudo-Medieval. The best epic fantasy of the year.

  • Updraft, by Fran Wilde — Human-powered flight in a world of giant bone-towers in the clouds. The engineering in this world is awesome and the characters are utterly sympathetic. Plus, there are some excellent action sequences. Fran is also giving a lecture on December 3 at the Library of Congress about human-powered flight in literature. If you’re around, definitely go hear her talk.

  • The House of Shattered Wings, by Aliette de Bodard — A lush fantasy set in alt-20th century France that explores magic and the flow of power in a colonial landscape. The writing is particularly beautiful and atmospheric. To be savored.

  • First Last Snow, by Max Gladstone — Another entry in Gladstone’s Craft Sequence, which are novels about law and economics recast as magic. If you haven’t read the Craft Sequence before, this is a good place to start (the books are written to be read in any order). There’s a scene involving BATNA that’s simply delightful.

  • Black Easter, by Dario Ciriello — A supernatural thriller that takes place in WWII and the present day. The plot is tight and Ciriello does some really interesting things with the conventions of the genre. I felt shivers as I read it.

And if you’re into short stories, I can recommend two collections:

  • Selected Stories, by Jake Kerr — Kerr’s stories are moving, experimental, fun, thoughtful, and fun. This debut collection (available exclusively on the Kindle) is a good intro to his work. He’s also a YA novelist, and his novels are definitely worth checking out for YA fans.

  • H. G. Wells, Secret Agent, by Alex Shvartsman — a collection of three novellas/novelettes set in a steampunk spy-thriller world. Fast-paced and humorous, this collection ought to delight any steampunk fan.

Short Fiction News

I didn’t write many short stories this year (working on TGOK II took up most of my writing time), but I did write a few.

War Stories From the Future cover

One of them is “Article I, Section 8, Clause 11” (of the US Constitution, of course), a story I wrote for the Atlantic Council’s Art of Future Warfare Project. My contribution, along with stories by David Brin, August Cole, Linda Nagata, and many others, are collected in an anthology called War Stories From the Future, which is free for the public to download and read. Certainly I hope the anthology stimulates discussion about the evolution of warfare, but I also think these stories are fun to read.

Cover for Altogether Elsewhere

I also made one of my favorite stories that’s never been reprinted online before, “Altogether Elsewhere, Vast Herds of Reindeer” (originally published in F&SF, May/June 2011), available on the new online publishing platform Moozvine under a Creative Commons license. This post-Singlarity story about math and poetry is free to read on Moozvine, and I hope you enjoy it. (If you do enjoy this story and others on the site, please consider pledging a few dollars to support me and other artists trying to contribute to Creative Commons.)

Beautiful Dreamer

Back in 2012, I wrote a flash story called “Memories of My Mother,” which was published by Daily Science Fiction. It’s a tale about a mother who makes a pretty unusual decision to be able to spend more time with her child. It’s very short and won’t take you more than five minutes to read.

The director David Gaddie then approached me about turning it into a short film. I said, sure, not really sure what to expect.

Well, I’ve now seen the film, and it is AMAZING. The best film adaptations strip away most of the source material and keeps only the kernel, re-presenting it in a new visual language that fully takes advantage of the medium. That’s what David has done here. There are so many things he’s added that I just love, and the effects, acting, sound, and cinematography are all top notch. You can see the first teaser trailer below.

David is going to show the film on the festival circuit before distributing it online. (So if you go to film festivals, keep an eye out for it.) Meanwhile, you can follow the film’s progress on its Facebook page.

Beautiful Dreamer Trailer from AfterPartyVFX on Vimeo.

Sasquan and Hugos

I had an amazing time at Sasquan.

I got to catch up with old friends — some of them had come all the way from China; others I had only known online. I got to make new friends — and match faces to names I had long admired.

I got to do all this under a sky turned red from smoke and ash due to the nearby forest fires. It was … science fictional.

And I received three gold stars (see them in the picture down there?) from Kate Elliott — for, ahem, breaking the 200K word count barrier with my novels. This is an accomplishment I will crow about for a long time to come.

(Kate and I also had a great time doing a worldbuilding panel — it’s my belief that you get good panels at cons when you have panelists who just enjoy chatting with each other.)

gold stars

And now, the big news:

The Three-Body Problem won the Hugo for Best Novel!

The author, Liu Cixin, is ecstatic, as are Chinese fans. I celebrate Liu Cixin’s win with them.

Best of all, I can now claim to be a Hugo-winning translator, and I have one of the rarest rockets in fandom! Only two translated works in history, as I understand it, have ever won a Hugo, and both of those happened as Sasquan (“The Day the World Turned Upside Down”, Thomas Olde Heuvelt, Lia Belt translator, and The Three-Body Problem). (Happy to be corrected if I’ve been misinformed.)

Since translators get their own rockets, my rocket is a pretty rare species. Hopefully, as more translated works make their way to the US/UK market, my Hugo will become less special over time. Nothing would make me happier smile emoticon

I loved hanging out with the nominees at the reception — everyone was so gracious. The ceremony itself was also a lot of fun. I think the hosts, Tananarive Due and David Gerrold, did an amazing job. I even got to receive my rocket from an astronaut, Dr. Kjell N. Lindgren, on the ISS.

Wes Chu and Ken Liu at the Hugo Losers Party

(Wes and I being mocked at GRRM’s party. Credit for picture: Marko Kloos)

Afterwards, I got to go to GRRM’s Hugo Losers Party, where Wesley Chu, winner of the Campbell, me, and other winners were appropriately mocked according to tradition (this explains the picture above…) — people were super nice though, and Kevin J. Anderson, who once taught me at a workshop, took it easy on me.

At the party, I got to witness the first (and perhaps only) Alfies — named after Alfred Bester and fashioned from old car ornaments, as the first Hugos were — being handed out to those who received the most nominations after discounting the effects of slate voting in No Award categories. It was lovely to celebrate the wins of Liz Gorinsky and John Joseph Adams, among others. Annie Bellet and Marko Kloos, in particular, were such deserving winners!

I got to witness a part of fandom lore being made in front of me (thank you, George!). As someone interested in myth making, it was a really special experience.

The Sequel

For the last month or so, I’ve been doing nothing except working on the sequel to The Grace of Kings. (No title to announce yet, because I want to get publisher sign-off first.)

And in the early hours of last Monday morning, I wrote THE END.

I have a first draft.

Some random thoughts:

I love this book; I can’t say I love it more than The Grace of Kings, even though it probably is better in many ways—but your first book is special.

Writing this book was a completely different experience from The Grace of Kings. For TGOK, I had years and years; for the sequel, I had only one year. The first draft of TGOK was pretty much finished in a single month; the sequel was composed in tiny chunks on the commuter rail over many months—ah, the edits that I had to go through. TGOK’s plot was determined early on; the sequel asked me to explore and write and explore—and then, just when I thought I was close to being done, the book lurched in a different direction. And I wrote about 100,000 words in four weeks.

A completely unexpected direction, but wow, so much better.

The revisions will come next, as well as copyedits for The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories, translations and short fiction commissions, and many other looming deadlines I’ve been neglecting.

But for now, I’m going to enjoy the feeling of a finished draft.