Interview Ken Liu for The Paper menagerie
de Ken Liu
aux éditions

Auteurs : Ken Liu
Date de parution : avril 2015 Inédit
Langue d'origine : Français
Type d'ouvrage : Interview mail
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ActuSF : May you introduce yourself  ?

Ken Liu  : I’m an author and translator of speculative fiction, as well as a lawyer and programmer. I’ve won the Nebula, Hugo, and World Fantasy Awards, and my fiction has been published in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Asimov’s, Analog, Clarkesworld, Lightspeed, and Strange Horizons, among other places. I live with my family near Boston.

 ActuSF : "The Paper Menagerie", an anthology of shorts stories, was just released in France by Le Bélial. What will we find inside this book ? 

Ken Liu  : This collection includes some of my favorite stories out of the 100+ I’ve published in my career so far. The editors, Ellen Hertzfeld and Dominique Martel, did an amazing job in picking out stories that show my range. There are some award winners in here (“The Paper Menagerie”, “Mono no aware”) as well as quirky stories that I really love (“The Bookmaking Habits of Select Species”). It spans both fantasy and science fiction, and I think provides a good overview of my range and interests. I hope that all readers will find at least some stories in here that resonate with them.

  ActuSF : While "The Paper Menagerie" is published in France, "The Grace of Kings" is published by Saga Press in the US. What is this novel about ?

Ken Liu  : The Grace of Kings is a silkpunk epic fantasy that re-imagines the rise of the Han Dynasty in a secondary world archipelago setting.

It’s the story of two unlikely friends, a bandit and a duke, who join together to overthrow tyranny only to find themselves on opposite sides of a deadly rivalry about how to construct a more just society.

The novel features a melding of classical Western epic narrative techniques with tropes taken from Chinese historical romances and wuxia fantasies. The “silkpunk” aesthetic employs many elements inspired by Chinese and East Asian traditions that I’ve always wanted to see in contemporary Western fantasy fiction : silk-draped airships, soaring battle kites, honor-infused duels that are as much dance as warfare, magical tomes that describe our desires better than we know them ourselves, gods who regret the deeds done in their names, women who plot and fight alongside men, princesses and maids who form lifelong friendships, and sea beasts that bring about tsunamis and storms but also guide soldiers safely to shores.


ActuSF : Your are a famous for your short stories. The grace of Kings is your first novel. Was it a difficult journey from the short story to the novel ?

Ken Liu : The biggest challenge of going from short fiction to novel for me was learning how to track the thousands of worldbuilding decisions and details about plot and character required by a long novel. With a short story, I could keep everything in my head, but with The Grace of Kings, I had to create a wiki and write mini wikipedia entries to keep everything straight.

ActuSF : you are a writer but also a translator. Does a link exist between this two jobs ?

Ken Liu  : Well, I think translation is much more of a performing art. I have a score to follow, and the sort of creative decisions I have to make as a translator are related, but distinct from the decisions an author makes. I will say that it is possible to view The Grace of Kings as a translation in the same way that James Joyce’s Ulysses is a translation of the Odyssey : I take a foundational narrative from one culture and re-imagines it in the tropes and frameworks of another literary tradition, transposing themes, ideas, and primal, mythic emotions. In that sense it’s possible to say that my work as a translator was informative.

 ActuSF : You have recently translate the first book of Liu Cixin’s Three Body Trilogy of. Do you think Science Fiction in China is emerging ?

Ken Liu  : The history of science fiction in China is long and colorful, and I would say it has long passed the “emerging” state. Today’s Chinese SF scene is vibrant and diverse, with many voices and many different styles and authors focusing on different themes and approaches. Liu Cixin is the most popular SF writer in China, and the Three Body trilogy are excellent novels. I’m hoping that other Chinese writers will also get more exposure in the West.

 ActuSF : Your work itself has been translated in french, but also in chinese and japanese. Do you think that the Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy Awards you received for your short story "The Paper Menagerie" in 2012 helped your international career ?

Ken Liu  : That’s hard to say definitively, but I think awards don’t hurt with name recognition. However, I don’t think awards are particularly important : they are nice signs of appreciation from fans, fellow writers, and jury members, but ultimately, what counts is whether readers who buy books to be delighted enjoy my stories.

 ActuSF : What about your futur projects ? Will you come in France or in Europe ?

Ken Liu  : I’m working on the sequel to The Grace of Kings right now, and I’m having a great time. There’s so much more I want to explore in this world, and I’m excited to tell the story of the characters as they grow and develop. I also have a few short fiction projects lined up as well as translation projects later in the year.

I hope to have a chance to come to France (and Europe generally) soon ! I know some writer friends in France (like Aliette de Bodard), and I’m eager to meet with readers and discuss science fiction and fantasy, the subjects of our passion.

Thank you so much for the interview !






Jean-Laurent Del Socorro