Tag Archives: scifi

I’m Writing a Star Wars Book

So, the news is out: I’m writing a Star Wars book as part of the Journey to Star Wars: The Last Jedi project. Working with the team at Lucasfilm Publishing has been such a pleasure — they’re the best.

I can’t tell you much about the book yet, except that it’s called The Legends of Luke Skywalker, it’s going to go on sale on 10/31/2017, it’s got illustrations by J. G. Jones, and it’s going to be awesome.

(Cover image below not final)

Permit me to indulge in a bit of geeky self-reflection. Star Wars, especially Star Wars books, holds a special place in my heart. When I was a kid in China (maybe third-grade?), the novelization of The Empire Strikes Back by Donald F. Glut (in Chinese translation) was the very first SF book I ever read.

It was during a free-reading period, when the teacher brought out a box of books for us to each pick one. I had a choice between a biography of Confucius and Empire, and I picked the latter because the cover looked amazing.

My teacher grumbled, disappointed that I was apparently more attracted to laser swords and pew pew pew than the wisdom of the Great Sage.

Mind you, I had never seen any of the Star Wars films at that point, nor had I read any full-length SF novels (I had read Chinese translations of an abridged version of PKD’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep and Lester del Rey’s “Helen O’Loy”). Empire literally blew my mind. I had never seen a world like this: where magic and technology were both vital; where ancient archetypes, some of which I recognized from Chinese myths and legends, pulsed with a futuristic sheen; where hope was not easy, but was always the right choice.

The Star Wars universe was where I wanted to live. It was home.

Louis Menand wrote: “Texts are always packed, by the reader’s prior knowledge and expectations, before they are unpacked.” I love that quote. And it guides me when I write.

I think a writer’s job is to build a strong, welcoming house. Readers then move in and fill the rooms with their individual experience and understanding of the world. And only then, after they’ve settled in and begun to explore, do they discover its little nooks and crannies, its hidden passages and secret staircases, and following these, they find breathtaking vistas of other planets, rogues who prize friendship more than treasure, mystical sages full of wisdom, princesses leading grand armies, and farm boys dreaming of walking among the stars …

The Star Wars universe is grand and beautiful, and it is ever expanding. To be able to build a house in this universe after my fashion, to welcome fellow fans and readers into this house, and to see them get comfortable and discover its secrets … I don’t have the words for my joy.

I’m home; I’m where I belong.

I can’t wait until you come in.

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.”
  • Isha Karki for Mithila Review: “a journey across time and space, traversing multiple imaginations and worlds. The stories bring you face to face with your own limitations and fears. They challenge, move and inspire.”
  • Stephanie Chan at Strange Horizons: “by attempting to set aside our expectations and preconceptions—or at the very least, picking them up from time to time and examining them closely—the experience of reading Invisible Planets can offer a rich glimpse of a worldview that is only slightly asymptotic to our own.”
  • 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.”

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.

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):

Who Should Take Credit for The Martian?

Lisa and I got to see The Martian last week, and I did enjoy it (as have 93% of the critics on Rotten Tomatoes), though not as much as I had hoped. Among many other problems, the most egregious issues with the adaptation are these:

  1. Almost every single interesting episode in the book has been either eliminated or drastically simplified, which made them less engaging and dramatic. For instance, contrast the “rover hacking” and “blown airlock” episodes from the book with the film versions.

  2. The adaptation failed to give a sense of the long delays required for communications between Mars and Earth — an important contributor to the threat facing Mark. (NASA and Watney couldn’t just IM each other, as the film seemed to imply.)

But rather than going on and on about how the film came up short, I want to talk about something else: most critics are treating this film as though the writer, Andy Weir, was irrelevant to its success.

Take this bit from Christopher Orr of the Atlantic:

In this, the collaborators who put together the film—Scott, Goddard, the cinematographer Dariusz Wolski, the entire cast, and on down the list—resemble the NASA folks and Hermes crewmembers of the movie itself: They are all pulling together toward the same goal, and doing so with extraordinary skill and tenacity.

Conspicuously absent in this list is the author whose novel was the foundation of the film. Is it really right for his name to be left off here, placed below “and on down the list”? (To be fair, Weir is mentioned once in the beginning of the review: “Drew Goddard’s screenplay is a sharp, nimble adaptation of the novel by Andrew Weir” — but the very phrasing here minimizes the value of Weir’s book.)

Even more curious is the fact that almost everything Orr liked about the film was sourced directly from the book:

There are no tedious backstories, no leaps of rampant illogic, no poorly cast performances, no tacked-on romantic subplots, no extended narrative lulls.

These praises are far more accurate when applied to the book than the film.

The Martian has a degree of humor uncharacteristic of a Scott film, including a running gag about the awfulness of the disco tracks that were left behind with Watney … But perhaps the movie’s best joke involves the love for J.R.R. Tolkien that is apparently encoded into the DNA of every living male nerd.

These clever bits are all from … you guessed it, Weir’s book.

I have long been puzzled by our obsession with assigning credit for collective endeavors to a single individual (e.g., scientists who get Nobel prizes are rarely single-handedly responsible for those discoveries). In film criticism, we worship the director as though they’re single-handedly responsible for all good ideas in the result, but in the case of The Martian, this is just wrong. If we enjoy the film, it’s because Weir wrote a great story that could be simplified into a film without too much loss.

Cover, TOC, and Release Date for My Collection

The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories, my first collection (in English, that is, I’ve had foreign language collections) is coming out from Saga Press on November 3, 2015.

Quite a cover, right? I think it looks beautiful. I’m really grateful to Joe Monti at Saga Press for making this happen.

The full table of contents:

  • Preface
  • The Bookmaking Habits of Select SpeciesNebula nomineeSturgeon Award finalist
  • State Change
  • The Perfect Match
  • Good HuntingWSFA Small Press Award Winner
  • The Literomancer
  • Simulacrum
  • The RegularNebula nominee
  • The Paper MenagerieHugo winnerNebula winnerWorld Fantasy Award WinnerSturgeon Award finalistLocus Award finalist
  • An Advanced Readers Picture Book of Comparative Cognition (unpublished)
  • The WavesNebula nominee
  • Mono no awareHugo winnerSturgeon Award finalistLocus Award finalist
  • All the FlavorsNebula nominee
  • A Brief History of the Trans-Pacific TunnelSidewise Award FinalistLocus Award finalist
  • The Litigation Master and the Monkey KingNebula nominee
  • The Man Who Ended History: A DocumentaryHugo nomineeNebula nomineeSturgeon Award finalist

And though it’s early, you can already pre-order the book from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or other fine bookstores.

Finally, you can read about the thinking behind this collection on The Barnes and Noble Science Fiction and Fantasy blog.

I’m a Nebula Nominee (Maybe 1.5 Nominees)

Something pretty incredible just happened.

My novella, “The Regular,” which was originally published in Upgraded, edited by Neil Clarke, has been nominated for a Nebula Award! (You can read the novella for free thanks to Neil Clarke here). This is a huge honor, and I’m super pleased to be in the company of my fellow nominees (congrats to them!):

  • We Are All Completely Fine, Daryl Gregory (Tachyon)
  • Yesterday’s Kin, Nancy Kress (Tachyon)
  • “The Regular,” Ken Liu (Upgraded)
  • “The Mothers of Voorhisville,” Mary Rickert (Tor.com 4/30/14)
  • Calendrical Regression, Lawrence Schoen (NobleFusion)
  • “Grand Jeté (The Great Leap),” Rachel Swirsky (Subterranean Summer ’14)

In addition, The Three-Body Problem, by Liu Cixin, has been nominated for a Nebula in the novel category. I translated this novel, and I understand that this is only the second translated novel in the history of the Nebulas to be nominated (the previous one was Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities). It is a huge honor for me to have had the chance to work on the translation of this novel, and I’m really pleased for Liu Cixin, Liz Gorinsky, my editor, Tor Books, and all my beta readers who helped me in the process. Congrats, Da Liu! And congrats to the other novel nominees as well.

  • The Goblin Emperor, Katherine Addison (Tor)
  • Trial by Fire, Charles E. Gannon (Baen)
  • Ancillary Sword, Ann Leckie (Orbit US; Orbit UK)
  • The Three-Body Problem, Cixin Liu, translated by Ken Liu (Tor)
  • Coming Home, Jack McDevitt (Ace)
  • Annihilation, Jeff VanderMeer (FSG Originals; Fourth Estate; HarperCollins Canada)

Congrats to all the nominees on the list in other categories. You’re all amazing and it’s a pleasure to see so many friends and fresh voices on the list this year.

Full announcement can be seen on the SFWA web site.