A truly novel approach

Updated 2018-03-23 11:07:05 China Daily

Chinese-American writer Ken Liu (left) accompanies Liu Cixin, whose The Three-Body Problem took the 2015 Hugo Award, to walk the red carpet at the award ceremony of the Fifth Nebula Award for Original Science Fiction in Beijing in 2014. Ken Liu is the translator of Liu Cixin's book. (Photo by Li Yibo/ provided to China Daily)

Ken Liu dislikes being tagged as a Chinese-American writer and the over-interpretation that connects his writings with his cross-cultural identity, saying that he just wants to write something original that he wants to read.

Since 2002, he has published more than 100 short stories and two novels of the Dandelion Dynasty series in English. He is now working on the third installment.

Liu is famous for his translation of Chinese sci-fis, including Liu Cixin's Three-Body Problem and Death's End, and Hao Jingfang's Folding Beijing. Three-Body Problem won the Hugo Award for Best Novel in 2015 and Folding Beijing won the Hugo Award for Best Novelette in 2016.

An immigrant who moved to the United States at the age of 11 from Lanzhou, Gansu province, Liu studied English, computer science and law at Harvard University, and his cross-cultural experiences inspired him to write fiction that seeks to transcend the boundaries of geography, culture and genre.

In 2004, U.S. journalist and historian Iris Chang committed suicide after being harangued by pro-Japan nationalists for her book The Rape of Nanking, the first work of its kind that introduced the Nanjing Massacre of 1937 during the War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression (1931-45) to a Western readership.

Chinese writer Liu Cixin and Chinese-American writer Ken Liu at the award ceremony of the Fifth Nebula Award for Original Science Fiction.(Photo by Li Yibo/provided to China Daily)

Rather than admitting the historical significance and the truth in Chang's work, her attackers instead hid behind the mask of academic discourse to dissect and skew Chang's words, before finally cutting her, her book and the truth to pieces, Liu writes in the foreword of a collection of his short stories, When the Light Fails.

Chang's death inspired him to write the sci-fi story Documentary: The Man Who Ended History. Published in 2011, the book features a character who believes that people should be responsible for history, should remember the victims of past atrocities, and feel obliged to verify instances of forgotten or betrayed history, as he puts it in the foreword.

The story is based on the heavy historical background of Unit 731, the Japanese Imperial Army's covert biological-warfare research and development division based in the northeastern Chinese city of Harbin. It was later nominated for the Nebula, Hugo and Theodore Sturgeon awards for best short story.

Inspired by Chinese writer Yan Geling's Little Aunt Crane and the accounts written by mail-order brides about their experiences, Liu wrote The Paper Menagerie, which was published in 2011.

The short piece, which tells the touching story of a Chinese-American boy Jack and his Chinese mother, a mail-order bride from Hong Kong. The mother speaks very little English and excels at making origami animals that she can bring to life with magic.

Ken Liu's the Grace of Kings, the first book of the Dandelion Dynasty series published in 2015.(Photo provided to China Daily)

The story focuses on their struggles between two cultures. Sensing the prejudice toward Asians, young Jack tried to sever himself from his Chinese heritage, so much so that he stopped talking to his mother until her premature death.

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