I’m An Artist (Sort Of)!

It’s not often that a writer gets to do something with contemporary visual art. But I had the good luck of being invited to participate as part of an exhibition by the amazing Singaporean artist Heman Chong for the Rockbund Art Museum in Shanghai.

Chong’s exhibition, called “Ifs, And, or Buts,” “investigates spaces between text and images, producing new ways of relating the two through 7 new works commissioned specifically by Rockbund Art Museum.”

The show has 7 new works, ranging from video installation to light show to monumental sculpture to performance art. It’s a thought-provoking and multi-layered collection of pieces in conversation with each other and with contemporary culture.

The piece that Chong asked me to prepare is called “Legal Bookshop,” for which I was responsible for curating the books that would be sold in a temporary bookshop to help readers navigate the Chinese legal system. I was asked to interpret the concept of “law” in a non-literal manner.

Rockbund Art Museum

So, I thought about laws (both man-made and natural), code (moral, ethical, and even machine-based), rules (including the trivial, such as games, and the non-trivial, such as government regulations), customs, principles, and so on. I made liberal use of puns and free association. The resulting selection is only tangentially related to “the legal system” of China, as that term is commonly understood, and yet, I think, may provide more helpful guidance than books literally about laws in China.

I also wrote a new story just for the exhibition (it’s in the catalog) which explores the ideas and metaphors behind “books” and “law.”

The exhibition will be running from Jan 23, 2016 through May 3, 2016. If you’re in Shanghai and get a chance to check it out, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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 I’ll be reading from the following items (all of them unpublished):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 Tor.com 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?

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.