I enjoy giving keynotes, lectures, talks, and readings. I’ve spoken at universities, high schools, libraries, academic conferences, fan conventions, corporate functions, academic camps, literary festivals, and other public and private venues. If you’d like to have me deliver a prepared talk or present on a topic, please contact my speaking engagements agent (Authors Unbound, firstname.lastname@example.org) to make arrangements. I give talks both in person and over the Internet via videoconferencing.
For my upcoming confirmed appearances, look under “Events”.
- US Naval Academy, Brady Series Speaker 2023: Gave keynote speech and taught classes to midshipmen.
- Berggruen Fellow, 2023: Retreat leader and writing facilitator for the Vaster Than Empires Workshop for Collective Intelligence.
- Priv8, a virtual digital privacy conference, 2021: guest speaker (privacy and storytelling).
- Ericsson 5G Things at D-15, 2020: conversation with Mo Katibeh on potential applications of 5G.
- AI Economic Futures Workshop of the World Economic Forum, 2020: featured speaker on the value of storytelling for sustainable futures.
- Foresight Conference, Centre of Strategic Futures, Singapore, 2019: participant and speaker (“The Values of Stories; Stories of Values”).
- Security Reimagined, International Risk Assessment and Horizon Scanning Symposium, Singapore, 2019: presenter (“The Principle of Deflection”).
- Consensus 2019: keynote speaker (“Byzantine Beliefs: Telling Stories about Money”) .
“Not every writer is a good speaker. Truth be told, very few writers are good speakers, because we tend to be introverted, no matter how hard we fight to hide it. It’s exceptionally rare to find a great writer who is also a great speaker, and Ken Liu is one of these rarities.”
–Elizabeth White-Olsen, Executive Director, Writespace in Houston, Texas
“Ken Liu’s works contemplate questions about our time and our future. It’s a real art disentangling and sharing ideas as a public speaker, and Ken Liu does it in a way that engages everyone in the room, not to come up with answers necessarily, but to really think and consider the issues at hand. The audiences loved him – he’s as great a speaker as he is a writer.”
–Jacqueline Leung, Assistant Manager, Hong Kong International Literary Festival
“Ken Liu is a brilliant speaker who has both charisma and smarts to win over audiences, big and small. To top it all, his easy demeanour and considered wit make him not just an ideal presenter by himself, but also the perfect member in any panel. His sold-out lecture and packed panel discussions at Singapore Writers Festival 2017 are testament to his growing reputation, as someone well versed in various fields including speculative fiction and translation.”
— Yeow Kai Chai, Director, Singapore Writers Festival
“Ken Liu is as brilliant a speaker as he is a storyteller. Like his fiction, his talks ask the audience to consider issues that are important to them individually and culturally. He doesn’t merely lecture. He invites them to become a part of the discussion, no matter their age or background.”
— Dean Karpowicz, Professor, University of Wisconsin-Parkside
The following are some talks and presentations I’ve given in the past:
The Artistic Machine: What Can the Camera in the 19th Century Tell Us About the Future of AI and Creativity?
Description: Using a study of the impact of the camera on 19th-century art, this talk devises a framework for productively speculating on the future of AI in art. Neither groundlessly optimistic nor hyperbolically pessimistic, Ken highlights some concrete ways that AI may change how we think about and create art, and points out deeply ingrained problems that must be solved before the full potential of the “artistic machine” can be unlocked.
The Future Is Implausible: Why Science Fiction Always Gets the Future Wrong (And Why That’s a Good Thing)
Description: Through a series of images drawn by artists from the past imagining life in the future, Ken asks the audience to think through provocative questions about the science fictional imagination. What do SF authors tend to get wrong about the future? What do they tend to get right? Is SF about “predicting” the future? Just why is the future so difficult to pin down?
The Future of Work
Description: What will work be like in the age of automation? Are careers in fields like finance, law, medicine, and the arts under threat as much as those in manufacturing? Is it possible, or even desirable, to try to “save jobs”? Or do we need a new definition of work that accounts for the values we actually hold dear? This talk will give the audience the facts about automation and invite them to think deeper about the consequences of current technological advancement.
Books and the Writing Life
Readings from Ken Liu’s Fiction, with Background and Discussion
Description: Award-winning and bestselling author Ken Liu reads selections from his collection (The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories, The Hidden Girl and Other Stories), novels (The Grace of Kings and sequels) and the latest piece he’s working on (often pre-publication). He contextualizes and enliven each reading selection with background material drawn from history, science, technology, law, culture, and other fields.
Notes: The selections I read from will be adjusted to suit the audience and what I’m working on at the moment.
Tell the Story You Want to Tell: The Connection Between Literature and “Real Life”
Description: What is the point of telling and reading stories? Through a series of excerpts from popular children’s books, Ken makes the argument that stories are the means by which we embody, affirm, and pass on our deepest values. Literature is serves as the foil and the model for that most important story of all: the journey in which we narrate ourselves into being.
The Bookmaking Species: The Evolving Form of the Book
Description: A presentation on the history of books as artifacts and how the kinds of stories we tell are influenced by the media through which they’re transmitted. Ken will also deliver a topical reading from his fiction, followed by Q&A.
Three Times My Career Almost Ended: How To Fail Smarter As A Writer
Description: Join award-winning and bestselling author Ken Liu as he recounts three times when his writing career almost ended and what lessons he took away from them.
Notes: This is a good keynote for writers’ conferences and helpful for creative writing classes. A projector with HDMI input is optional for some slides.
These are interactive workshops for writers of all backgrounds and experiences.
Speaking Tools: How To Tell Compelling Stories About Technology
Description: This workshop will train you to see and think about “technology”—both fictional and nonfictional forms—in new ways that help you tell compelling stories. We’ll examine a broader definition of technology and take on the perspective of a worldbuilder, someone who must conjure a novel and concrete vision for others. Writing exercises will allow participants to put these new ways of seeing and thinking into practice. In addition to fiction writers, this course is also suitable for journalists, technologists, gamemasters, sales and marketing staff, activists—anyone who wants to communicate more effectively about technology. Intended for writers of all levels. Please come to the workshop with a piece of technology (existing or invented) in mind you’d like to feature in a story.
Ten Tips for Building a More Compelling World
Description: Award-winning and bestselling author Ken Liu presents practical advice and inspirational perspectives on how to build more compelling SFF worlds. Useful for both novelists and short story writers.
I’m happy to work with you to develop a lecture, keynote, workshop, discussion, or other presentation that is suitable for your audience and venue.
Some sample topics I can present on include: cultivating and maintaining creativity, SF & fantasy writing, futurism, envisioning the future for leaders (business, military, government), intercultural exchanges, how to work with translators, the publishing industry, the business of writing, history of technology, East Asian history, books as artifacts, copyright law, patent law, trade secret law, computer science education, etc.