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7 Questions with Ken Liu

Posted by Brian White (Creator)

Over the next two weeks, we'll be posting interviews with all the Fireside contributors. First up is Ken Liu.

1. What drives you to write?
Probably the same thing that drives every writer: the hope (or delusion) that telling stories is a worthwhile exercise because it allows us to live many lives in one lifetime.

2. What are your favorite kinds of stories to read?
I like stories that try to do things that film cannot. So much contemporary fiction lives in the shadow of the movies, but words can do things that no special effects can touch.

3. Are those the same kind of stories you like to write? If not, what do you like to write?
I do. And I'd like to think that I'm working with the strengths of the written word. But I don't want to give the impression that somehow I don't like the movies -- in fact, I'm learning how to write scripts.

4. What are you reading now?
I have a habit of reading a bunch of books at the same time. Right now, I'm actively in the middle of: a collection of short stories by Xia Jia (I love her language), Home Game: An Accidental Guide to Fatherhood, by Michael Lewis, Xiaoao Jianghu, by Jin Yong (I'm rereading it for the twentieth time), The No-Cry Potty Training Solution, by Elizabeth Pantley (yes, I recommend it), The Journals of Lewis and Clark, by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, That Is All, by John Hodgman, and Patent Law, by Janice M. Mueller.

5. Who are your favorite writers?
Too many to list. But I'll say that I go back to Jin Yong's novels year after year, and I'll buy anything written by Michael Lewis and David Mitchell.

6. You also work as a translator, programmer, and lawyer. How do these things mesh, and how do they feed into your writing?
I have found that all these skills are surprisingly similar. In all three professions, the practitioner is trying to turn one set of symbols into another set of symbols and, by doing so, connect two worlds. As for affecting my writing, I think your life always ends up seeping into your fiction, and work is a big part of life.

7. You are working on a novel with your wife. What can you tell us about that, and about the collaborative experience?
The novel actually began as my wife's idea. We both wanted to write novels, and we weren't sure that either of us could do it alone. We did a lot of the world-building together, then I did the bulk of the drafting, while she went in and edited and rewrote sections. We're now in the process of going through the second draft. I've always enjoyed collaborating with other writers. The result is usually something that neither of us could have come up with alone, and that makes it cool.

Besides being a writer, Ken Liu is also a translator, programmer, and lawyer. His fiction has appeared in F&SF, Asimov’s, Clarkesworld, Strange Horizons, and Lightspeed, among other places. He lives with his family near Boston, Massachusetts. He and his wife are collaborating on their first novel. Twitter:@kyliu99 Website:


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