The World SF Blog

Speculative Fiction from Around the World

Short Story Highlight: “Call Girl” by Tang Fei (China)

Apex Magazine’s latest issue has a new short story by Chinese author Tang Fei, translated by Ken Liu: Call Girl.

Morning climbs in through the window as shadow recedes from Tang Xiaoyi’s body like a green tide imbued with the fragrance of trees. Where the tidewater used to be, now there is just Xiaoyi’s slender body, naked under the thin sunlight.

She opens her eyes, gets up, dresses, brushes her teeth, wipes away the foam at the corner of her mouth with a towel. Staring at the mirror, all serious, her face eventually breaks into a fifteen–year–old’s smile. Above her, a section of the rose–colored wallpaper applied to the ceiling droops down. This is the fourth place where this has happened.

My house is full of blooming flowers, Xiaoyi thinks.

“There must be another leak in the pipes,” her mother says. “There’s a large water stain growing on the wall.”

They sit down together to have a lavish breakfast: soy milk, eggs, pan–fried baozi, porridge. Xiaoyi eats without speaking.

When she’s ready to leave the apartment, she takes out a stack of money from her backpack and leaves it on the table. Her mother pretends not to see as she turns to do the dishes. She has turned up the faucet so that the sound of the gushing water is louder than Xiaoyi’s footsteps.

Xiaoyi walks past her mother and the money on the table and closes the door. She can no longer hear the water. It’s so quiet she doesn’t hear anything at all.

Her knees shake.

She reaches up for the silver pendant hanging from her neck, a dog whistle. – continue reading.

June 6, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | Comments Off on Short Story Highlight: “Call Girl” by Tang Fei (China)

Race in Science Fiction and Fantasy roundtable at SF Signal

SF Signal have just published the first part of a roundtable on race in science fiction and fantasy, with David Anthony Durham, Aliette de Bodard, Adrian Tchaikovsky, and Ken Liu:

Q: In what ways do you see readers reacting to the racial content of your work? As a follow-up question, has your race entered into that discussion, and if so, how?
David Anthony Durham

Sometimes I think readers assume that I’m writing about race just because I’m a writer of color and/or because I’ve done so before.

With the Acacia Trilogy I’m a little surprised by readers that mention my exploration of racism. Surprised because racism isn’t, to me, much of an issue in the books. I wrote about these topics explicitly in earlier historical novels (like Gabriel’s Story and Walk Through Darkness), but the Known World is free from the racial hierarchy of our history. Sure, there are tensions, but I don’t think anybody in the novels believes that one race is inferior to another. They have national pride and-particularly in the case of the Meins-a desire for racial purity. But that’s a product of having been a proud clan of people that have suffered exile. That’s very different than the hundreds of years that our Western society used science, religion, laws and myth to differentiate the races in the starkest of terms.

I made the Quota/Mist trade one that takes slaves from all races of the Known World. I wanted to contrast that against our history of the Atlantic Slave trade. Anybody’s children are at risk. Anybody can be sent overseas to an unknown fate. And in the later books, I was interested in what that means for those slaves. How do they come to define themselves in their slavery? Not, surely, by their race. Are they more a part of the culture that sold them into slavery, or do they draw their identity from the one in which they’re raised-that of their enslavers?

I find that the readers most likely to engage with this are the ones that have spent the most time thinking about the role of race in their own lives, especially those that come from-or are themselves creating-multicultural identities.

The flip side of this is that some readers don’t notice anything unusual in the multicultural vibe of the books. I’ve heard readers express surprise that I identify as African-American. “I didn’t know he was black until he said so in a blog post.” That sort of thing. I think part of what’s going on there is that some readers expect a black writer to write about race in a certain way, to write primarily black characters and to have a particular platform that’s easily recognizable-and potentially dismissible-to them. I want to believe that what I do is a bit different than that. And, honestly, I’m very glad to be able to have a dialogue with these readers as well. – read the full post.

May 30, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | Comments Off on Race in Science Fiction and Fantasy roundtable at SF Signal

New Liu Cixin Story Published

Ken Liu writes to let us know of the publication of issue 2 of Pathlight Magazine, “a new English-language literary magazine produced by Paper Republic and People’s Literature Magazine (《人民文学》杂志社). It is currently in trial publication period—the first issue came out on November 20, and the second issue has been published in advance of the 2012 London Book Fair, where China is the Market Focus.” The issue is currently available for a free download.

Ken has translated a story from Chinese SF author Liu Cixin in the second issue, “Taking Care of God”. Ken writes:

Liu Cixin is among China’s most prominent science fiction authors, and People’s Literature is something like a Chinese version of Ploughshares. It’s very rare for a literary magazine like People’s Literature to go genre — but with Pathlight, edited by a Western staff, the idea is to introduce Chinese authors who’re a bit more outside the well-trodden path to English readers.

I’m really honored to have been given a chance to translate this work. Liu is a literary hero of mine and influenced me more than a little.

The issue also includes a story from prominent Tibetan-Chinese author Alai, who is well-known to SF readers as the one-time editor of the world’s biggest SF magazine, the Chinese SF World.

April 20, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | Comments Off on New Liu Cixin Story Published

Liu, de Bodard, Okorafor nominated for Nebula Award

The Nebula Awards, given out by the Science Fiction Writers of America, have announced their shortlist for the year, recognising Ken Liu (novella and short story), Aliette de Bodard (short story) and Nnedi Okorafor (YA novel).

ETA: Cheryl Morgan points out Tom Crosshill (nominated for short story) is from Latvia. We’ll see if we can’t catch him for an interview later in the month!

A full list of nominees is here.

de Bodard is a contributor to the first Apex Book of World SF; Okorafor to The Apex Book of World SF 2. Liu has been active not only as a writer but a translator of short SF from the Chinese – we ran his translation of Ma Boyong’s The City of Silence recently.

February 20, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | 1 Comment

Short Story Highlight: “A Hundred Ghosts Parade Tonight” by Xia Jia

Clarkesworld Magazine this months features A Hundred Ghosts Parade Tonight by Xia Jia, translated from the Chinese by Ken Liu:

Awakening of Insects, the Third Solar Term:

Ghost Street is long but narrow, like an indigo ribbon. You can cross it in eleven steps, but to walk it from end to end takes a full hour.

At the western end is Lanruo Temple, now fallen into ruin. Inside the temple is a large garden full of fruit trees and vegetable patches, as well as a bamboo grove and a lotus pond. The pond has fish, shrimp, dojo loaches, and yellow snails. So supplied, I have food to eat all year.

It’s evening, and I’m sitting at the door to the main hall, reading a copy of Huainanzi, the Han Dynasty essay collection, when along comes Yan Chixia, the great hero, vanquisher of demons and destroyer of evil spirits. He’s carrying a basket on the crook of his elbow, the legs of his pants rolled all the way up, revealing calves caked with black mud. I can’t help but laugh at the sight.

My teacher, the Monk, hears me and walks out of the dark corner of the main hall, gears grinding, and hits me on the head with his ferule.

I hold my head in pain, staring at the Monk in anger. But his iron face is expressionless, just like the statues of buddhas in the main hall. I throw down the book and run outside, while the Monk pursues me, his joints clanking and creaking the whole time. They are so rusted that he moves as slow as a snail.

I stop in front of Yan, and I see that his basket contains several new bamboo shoots, freshly dug from the ground.

“I want to eat meat,” I say, tilting my face up to look at him. “Can you shoot some buntings with your slingshot for me?”

“Buntings are best eaten in the fall, when they’re fat,” says Yan. “Now is the time for them to breed chicks. If you shoot them, there won’t be buntings to eat next year.”

“Just one, pleaaaaase?” I grab onto his sleeve and act cute. But he shakes his head resolutely, handing me the basket. He takes off his conical sedge hat and wipes the sweat off his face.

I laugh again as I look at him. His face is as smooth as an egg, with just a few wisps of curled black hair like weeds that have been missed by the gardener. Legend has it that his hair and beard used to be very thick, but I’m always pulling a few strands out now and then as a game. After so many years, these are all the hairs he has left.

“You must have died of hunger in a previous life,” Yan says, cradling the back of my head in his large palm. “The whole garden is full of food for you. No one is here to fight you for it.”

I make a face at him and take the basket of food. – continue reading!

About the author:

As an undergraduate, Ms. Xia majored in Atmospheric Sciences at Peking University. She then entered the Film Studies Program at the Communication University of China, where she completed her Master’s thesis: “The Representation of Women in Science Fiction Films.” Currently, she’s pursuing a Ph. D. in Comparative Literature and World Culture at Peking University. She has been publishing science fiction and fantasy since 2004 in a variety of venues, including Science Fiction World and Jiuzhou Fantasy. Several of her stories have won the Milky Way, China’s most prestigious science fiction award. Besides writing and translating science fiction stories, she also writes film scripts. (In accordance with Chinese custom, Ms Xia’s surname is listed first on this story.)

February 2, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , | Comments Off on Short Story Highlight: “A Hundred Ghosts Parade Tonight” by Xia Jia

Lightspeed interviews Ken Liu

Ken Liu has been publishing stories everywhere, it seems – when he’s not busy translating Chinese SF into English! Ken translated the Ma Boyong story, The City of Silence, for us, and has a brand-new translated story, by Xia Jia, coming next month in Clarkesworld Magazine.

Lightspeed Magazine is currently featuring Ken’s latest short story – The Five Elements of the Heart Mind – and interviews him in the process:

Part of my interest comes from questioning the concept of the “individual.” The assumption that there is an indivisible, unified self, capable of rational cogitation and distinct from all other agents in the universe, is core to a lot of our modern ideas about politics, about fairness and justice, about what it means to be happy and fulfilled.

Yet the more we probe into how the mind works, how consciousness arises, how rational we really are, the more we seem to discover that casts doubt on this foundational assumption. We find that many of our ideals may be reducible to the driving force of individual genes pressing for survival. We find that our mental processes involve such complex chemical pathways that it’s impossible to tell where “the mind” merges into “the environment” and where one mind begins and another ends. We find that our thoughts emerge, messy, inchoate, incipient, from countless cells locked in a complex, chaotic dance—and as the research I cited shows, some of these cells aren’t even “ours.”

I don’t know what any of this really means except that perhaps we should be a little bit less arrogant about our powers of reason, and a little less certain about what we think we know about our selves, our individuality, our separateness from this world and all the creatures in it. – read the full interview.

January 26, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Comments Off on Lightspeed interviews Ken Liu

Fireside Magazine interviews Ken Liu and Tobias Buckell

Fireside Magazine is running a Kickstarter drive right now and it’s posted interviews with Ken Liu (who translated Ma Boyong’s fiction earlier this month) and Tobias Buckell.

Here’s an excerpt:

For Ken Liu:

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.

For Tobias Buckell:

You blog, work as a copy editor and editor, and write short stories and novels. How do you manage the different work, and how do the various jobs feed into each other?

It’s a lot of juggling. Some days I’m not sure how well I’m doing it. I told someone I feel like I can do 2 out of the 3 different strains really well. What happens is that I’ll juggle it all really well for a couple weeks, then a bunch of deadlines will all arrive on the same week and it gets chaotic.
I’m on the cusp of being able to focus on just 2. Who knows. Maybe something will come through.

December 27, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | Comments Off on Fireside Magazine interviews Ken Liu and Tobias Buckell

Tuesday Fiction: “The City of Silence” by Ma Boyong (Part Two)

This story is no longer available.

December 6, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Tuesday Fiction: “The City of Silence” by Ma Boyong (Part One)

This story is no longer available.

November 29, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

Short Story Highlight: “The Fish of Lijiang” by Chen Qiufan

Great news and major kudos to Clarkesworld Magazine for publishing in their latest issue the short story The Fish of Lijiang by Chinese author Chen Qiufan, translated by Ken Liu. The author will also have a new short story, “The Tomb”, in the forthcoming Apex Book of World SF 2.

Two fists are before my eyes, bright sunlight reflecting from the backs of the hands.

“Left or right?”

I see myself reaching out with a child’s finger, hesitating, and pointing to the one on the left. The fist flips, opens. Empty.

The fists disappear and reappear.

“One more chance. Left or right?”

I point to the one on the right.

“You’re sure? Want to change your mind?”

My finger hesitates in the air, waving left, then right, like a swimming fish.

“Final answer? Three … two … one.”

My finger stops on the left.

The fist flips, opens. Other than the bright sunlight, the hand is empty.

A dream?

I open my eyes. The sun is bright, white, and hurts my eyes. I’ve been dozing in this Naxi-style courtyard for who knows how long. I haven’t felt this comfortable in such a long time. The sky is so fucking blue. I stretch until my bones crack.

After ten years, everything here has changed. The only thing that remains the same is the color of the sky.

Lijiang, I’m back. This time, I’m a sick man. – continue reading!

August 2, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | Comments Off on Short Story Highlight: “The Fish of Lijiang” by Chen Qiufan


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