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An eye on science fiction


10:03, October 23, 2012

Ken Liu's science fiction awards bring global attention to Chinese authors of the genre. Kelly Chung Dawson reports in New York.

In Ken Liu's Hugo Award-winning short story The Paper Menagerie, a Chinese mail-order bride literally blows life into tiny paper animals folded for her American son. The story, which also won a Nebula Award in 2011, puts Liu in exclusive company with Harlan Ellison and only a few other prestigious science fiction authors who have won both awards.

In 2011 and 2012, his story about the rocky history of Chinese-Japanese relations, The Man Who Ended History: A Documentary, also received nominations for the Nebula and Hugo awards for Best Novella.

Although Liu was born in Lanzhou, capital of Gansu province, and lived there until he was 11, he now views himself as an American writer working in the Western literary tradition, he tells China Daily.

But his "Chineseness" is still an important influence, as evidenced by his choice of topics, he says.

"I also think of myself as Chinese," he says.

"Of course, a Chinese like me is not going to share all the same assumptions and beliefs as a Chinese born and raised in the PRC or a Chinese from Malaysia, or a Chinese from Canada. But to the extent that we all believe being ‘Chinese' means something, it gives us a shared heritage and a set of cultural commonalities.

"I also think writers put bits of themselves into their work, and it is not surprising that parts of my life show up in my fiction."

Jamie Todd Rubin, author of In the Cloud, If by Reason of Strength and other science fiction works, describes Liu's work as wide-ranging and unique.

"I primarily think of Ken as one of the best writers of short science fiction out there today," Rubin says.

"But many of his stories do explore and involve Chinese heritage and the intersection of Chinese culture and American culture. Exposure to these cultural intersections makes the stories more interesting. And I suspect it is a breath of fresh air for a genre that has historically been dominated by American culture.

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