SSR Extra: A Brief Interview with Ken Liu

In honor of this year’s Hugos — and my excitement at attending WorldCon for the first time — I will be publishing interviews with the three writers nominated for Best Short Story; this week, I’ve interviewed, albeit briefly on account of his time constraints due to career obligations and a novel in the works, Ken Liu, author of “Mono no aware” (reviewed as part of my Hugo Short Story post).

Ken Liu‘s stories have appeared in magazines such as F&SF, Asimov’s, Strange Horizons, Lightspeed, and Clarkesworld. In 2012, he won the Hugo and the Nebula, and the World Fantasy Award for his story “The Paper Menagerie.” He also writes poetry, and sometimes translates Chinese fiction into English. Among the likes that he lists on his website are “old clothes, old friends, new ideas.”

What is one of your favorite stories you have written and why?

Probably “Single-Bit Error.” I loved this story, but I had a really hard time selling it — years and years of rejections followed. In fact, it garnered so many rejections that I gave up writing altogether for some time. But finally, the editors of THOUGHTCRIME EXPERIMENTS, an anthology focused on stories that have been rejected by others, took it. That sale meant a lot to me, and basically revived my passion in writing. It doesn’t matter how many rejections you get, only that you find the one editor, the one reader who connects with what you’re trying to do.

I must say I also have a soft spot for “Mono no aware” as well. I wrote this story within a week from start to final draft, and it was fun to see that I could work under a deadline, which I think is a pretty essential skill for a writer.

How do you write stories? Do you edit extensively? Do you write so much per day?

With two young children at home and a fairly busy day job, my writing time is severely limited. I’m still figuring out a good, consistent process because right now the writing tends to be done in whatever bits of time I can find (on the commuter train, if I get up before the kids, right after the kids fall asleep, etc.).

What do you have coming out, and what can you tell us about these stories?

My big project right now is a novel set in a fantasy world my wife and I created together. It’s an archipelago where seven states vie for dominance, and the setting is influenced by some East Asian cultural elements and historical legends. I’m excited about it and hope readers like it.

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