Category Archives: writing

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.

My Readercon Schedule

I’ll be at Readercon in Burlington, MA, this July. My schedule is below:

  • 7/11/2015, 9:00 AM “Betrayal With Integrity: Conformance and Estrangement in Translating Chinese SF” – solo talk
  • 7/11/2015, 1:00 PM Autograph session with Michael J. Daley
  • 7/11/2015, 3:00 PM Kaffeeklatsch with Ellen Datlow
  • 7/12/2015, 9:00 AM “How I Wrote The Grace of Kings” – solo talk
  • 7/12/2015, 10:00 AM, “A Palantir in Every Pocket” — panel with Ted Chiang, Daryl Gregory, Jeff Hecht, Ken Liu, Chad Orzel, David Shaw (leader) “…This suggests that urban fantasy, which literalizes the ‘magical’ aspects of modern life, provides valuable tools for examining and reflecting the experience of living in the simultaneously glorious and terrible present day.”

If you’re going to be at Readercon, please come by and say hi.

One Month

It’s been a month since the release of The Grace of Kings.

This is, without a doubt, the most widely read thing I’ve ever written, and I’m beyond pleased that many readers seem to be enjoying the world of Dara and the adventures of its inhabitants. Thank you; thank you so much.

If you’ve read the book and haven’t had a chance to review it, please take a moment to do so on Amazon, Goodreads, and wherever else you like. Reviews help readers discover books they like, and they help authors connect with readers who would like their books.

Oh, I should announce here that The Grace of Kings will be released in Chinese, Russian, and German — plus there’s also a UK publication deal. More details soon!

Artwork by Francesca Myman

I also have a treat for you this time. For my Locus interview, Francesca Myman created some artwork illustrating what the silkpunk airships and vessels might look like. I think she did an amazing job.

silkpunk ariship race by Francesca Myman

Artwork by Francesca Myman/Locus Publications

So I tried to envision the airships as both fish and bird inspired. You wouldn’t see individual feathers from afar, but I thought that the colorful feathers might cover a rudder shaped like a fish’s dorsal fin, with the “oars” draping below… 

— Francesca Myman

You can read the rest of Francesca’s thoughts behind her artwork here.

Signed Copies

Independent local bookstore On the Dot Books has signed copies of my novel for sale. You can get them here (select the “signed” option before adding to basket).

I signed these both with a pen and with my Chinese seal, so these are doubly special :)

Release Day: The Grace of Kings

Today is the big day. The Grace of Kings is officially out from Saga Press!

You can get it at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or other fine bookstores.

If you’re interested in reviews, I have a round up on the blog. And you can also peruse essays, interviews, and podcasts.

Almost five years after I wrote the first line in The Grace of Kings, the book has finally taken off. Before today, the book was mine; after today, it belongs to readers. I can’t wait to hear what you think of it.

And come back for the sequel.

Interviews and Essays for The Grace of Kings

Updated over time…

Interviews & Podcasts

  • Coode Street Podcast: Gary Wolfe (Jonathan had to sit this one out) talks about The Grace of Kings with me and Joe Monti.
  • SF Signal: Paul Weimer discusses silkpunk fantasy with me.
  • Suvudu: Shawn Speakman and I chat about TGOK.
  • The Qwillery: I reveal something about the book that isn’t in the publisher’s description.
  • Rocket Talk Podcast: Justin Landon chats about TGOK with me and Joe Monti.
  • Historical Worldbuilding: A conversation with Kameron Hurley and me.
  • Cooking the Books: Fran Wilde and I discuss food and empire! (Also, we didn’t talk about this, but her debut novel, Updraft, sounds amazing.
  • PW Radio: Rose Fox and Mark Rotella chat with me about TGOK.
  • Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy: David Barr Kirtley chats with me about silkpunk and TGOK.
  • Locus: Excerpts from my interview discussing silkpunk and other matters. The artwork by Francesca Myman is particularly lovely.


Reviews for The Grace of Kings

The Grace of Kings will be officially released on 4/7, but some book stores already have copies on shelves, and Barnes & Noble has already started to ship online orders. Here’s a round-up of some early reader reactions, updated over time.

First, I’m going to do something unusual by linking you to two articles that are not labeled as reviews. But I think they tell you something important about why The Grace of Kings feels different from other epic fantasy. The writers comment on what I’m trying to do with this book.

  • Alec Austin, “Not a review: Foundational Narratives and the Grace of Kings”: “The Grace of Kings is, to my mind, a tremendously important book. I don’t just want it to be successful; I want it to open the door for more books which are built on non-default foundational narratives.”

  • Max Gladstone, “The Grace of Kings & Narrative Form”: “It’s a bracing and exciting approach. Epic fantasy, in failure mode, feels like swimming in a pool filled with lukewarm Mrs. Butterworth’s. The Grace of Kings is a dart through a crisp clear stream at dawn.”

Next, reviews! This isn’t meant to be comprehensive. I’ve purposefully chosen to focus on reviews that delve deeper into why the book worked (and sometimes didn’t work) for the reader.

  • Amal El-Mohtar, NPR: “Liu’s world is beautiful, nuanced, fierce, original, and diverse; it’s refreshing to read door-stopper fantasy where the geographies and cultures aren’t Europe-with-more-apostrophes.”

  • Justin Landon, “In the end, The Grace of Kings is moving forward. It’s about recognizing the past doesn’t hold the answers, and all the things we have been told are true and right and just may not be at all. He is reimagining an entire cultural narrative and in so doing interrogating the underpinnings of what is idyllic. He is using nostalgia to reveal modernity. More to the point, it feels like Ken Liu is remembering the future. And that’s something worth getting behind.”

  • Gary Wolfe, Locus (subscriber only): “The Grace of Kings [is] one of the most important, surprising, and sheerly enjoyable fantasies this year.”

  • Paul Weimer, SF Signal: “[T]he kind of Silk Road Fantasy that I’ve always wanted to read, and love all the more now that I have.”

  • Dario Ciriello, Dario Speaks: “The Grace of Kings is a book whose audience extends far beyond the traditional readership for Epic Fantasy, a must-read for anyone who enjoys a great story.”

  • Kelly Anderson, B&N Sci-fi & Fantasy blog: “The Grace of Kings rewrites the epic fantasy narrative.”

  • Peter Tieryas, SF Signal: “The Grace of Kings is like the mystical book Luan Zya receives from a divine hermit. ‘The book grows as you grow.'”

  • Ferrett Steinmetz, “Tearing Beloved Characters Apart Like Scrap Paper”: “[W]hen [Ken] sets out to break a rule he shatters it like cordwood.”

  • Rachel, GeekyLibrary: “There’s a rare elegance to The Grace of Kings that many authors work hard to capture, but Ken Liu seems to come by naturally.”

  • Alex Shvartsman, Buzzy Mag: “There are so many good things about this book, but the special sauce is Ken Liu’s ability to delve into the history and background of each character and make the reader care about their fate in short order.”

  • Kat Howard, Strange Ink: “Somewhere around page 300, things changed. … More women showed up, and had more time on the page, and they were well-written. Interesting, unique, fully realized characters. Bigger than the conventions of their roles.”

  • Helen Angela Lee, BellaOnline: “The fact is, I read a lot of popular fiction. Many of those books are fun and exciting and emotionally evocative, but haven’t really stuck with me. This one was different.”

  • Bob Milne, Beauty in Ruins: “The Grace of Kings is, in a word, stunning.”

  • Michael Senft, Relentless Reading: “The Grace of Kings reads less like Martin’s bloody and fantastical version of the War of the Roses than a national epic like the Edda or the Aeneid, a grand history filled with larger-than-life characters who stride the world like heroes of old, marking their place in history with mighty deeds and big-ass swords.”

  • Elías Combarro, Sense of Wonder: “I cannot recommend The Grace of Kings highly enough, even to readers for whom epic fantasy is not usually their cup of tea. This is, so far, my favorite book in a year that has already brought some amazing novels.”

  • Charles Tan, Review: “We’ve read enough narratives that are regressive and aim to return to an idyllic past; The Grace of Kings is a revolution.”

  • Jake Kerr, “Liu redefines epic fantasy in a way that is refreshing, compelling, and has been long overdue.”

  • John Zeleznik, Review: “I’m going to say now that this is easily going to make the end of the year top 5. Sharpie it.”

  • Andrew Liptak, io9: “The Grace of Kings is an ambitious, astonishing, and sublime work, one that both exemplifies and diverges from what one might think of when it comes to epic fantasy. It should rank amongst the genre’s best works.”

  • Kate Elliott, A Dribble of Ink: This isn’t a traditional review as such. Rather, Elliott asks interesting questions about the novel — filled with spoilers though.

  • Ana Grilo, The Book Smugglers: The review notes many things the book does well, as well as disappointment with the way women characters are handled in the early parts of the book.

  • Nancy Hightower, The Washington Post: “Liu’s deftly created alternative world, thrilling action scenes and evenly paced plot promise a groundbreaking non-Western epic fantasy.”

  • Bookworm Blues: “This book was amazing. A-M-A-Z-I-N-G.”

  • Andrew Yang writing for the LA Review of Books: “It borrows a period from Chinese imperial history, but displaces this history onto an imaginary world American readers can identify with immediately.”

You can also look on Goodreads for more reviews.

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 ( 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.