ken liu

Site Stats, 2012

By far the most popular post I wrote in 2012 was Fuck You, Weird Tales, followed by Readercon 2012 – the sexual harrasment edition, proving once again that you people like it when I get wordy with righteous indignation. (Good, because it’s bound to happen again.)

I had slightly more than 15,600 views at the site this year, averaging about 45 a day. That’s up from 9000 views in 2011. (WP is only recently measuring visitors vs views, but current data suggests about 3/4 of my views are unique visitors.)

Most of my readers are from the United States (about 2/3), followed mainly by Canada, the UK, Australia, Germany, Netherlands, and the Philippines, followed by less than 100 views each from dozens of other countries. I’m pleased to see that I have occasional readers in places like Fiji, Iraq, Nepal, Iceland, Vietnam, Ireland, Israel, and Japan.

Top referrers to my site (after a collection of search engines) are Twitter and Facebook, followed by SF Signal and Functional Nerds, as well as several fellow writers (NK Jemisin, Ken Liu, Matt Bennardo, Jim C. Hines, Matthew Cheney, and Don Pizarro). Which shows that being involved in social networking, writing guest posts, and promoting other writers pays off.

Speaking of search engines, the top search terms that drove people to the site were:

Search Views
carrie cuinn 138
“claude lalumiere” 68
writing about me 30
kanbanpad review 24
history of book cover design 23
what makes a thriller 23
kanbanpad 20
author blurb 19
readercon 2012 19
cuinn 17
book spine poetry 15
dmz graphic novel 13
decolonialism 11
ken liu writer 10

which suggests I should spend a little more time talking about book cover design and typography, and update my post about Kanbanpad.

Overall these stats tell me that the more I post, the more readers I have (which may translate to more readers of my fiction/essays, and more sales of my work). It also tells me most of the people who come to my website are actually looking for me, which is always nice to know. In the coming year I plan to keep up with the book reviews, post more original fiction, keep promoting writers I admire, and continue to talk about the process of writing/publishing/book creation. Don’t worry, though, there’ll be snark and some sarcasm and the occasional rant, too.

After all, I know what you really come here for.

You Should Read: Fireside Magazine, issues 1 and 2

I hadn’t been reading much the last few months. My to-read list piled up around me. I culled my bookshelf, pulled out a couple of bags of things I could live without because either I had them digitally or I was probably never going to get around to it, but that list kept getting bigger. Recently I stopped in the middle of something else, thought about what would make me happy at that moment, and realized I can’t be happy if I’m not reading. I mean, I always knew that, but I can’t remember the last time I stopped reading long enough for it have an effect on me…

I’m better now that I have a book in my hand.*

Back in September I subscribed to digital versions of several magazines. One of those, Fireside Magazine, was new, and I caught the first two issues:

The debut issue of Fireside has four shorts stories — Press Enter to Execute by Tobias Buckell, To the Moon by Ken Liu, Emerald Lakes by Chuck Wendig, and Temperance by Christie Yant — and a comic — Snow Ninjas of the Himalayas, written by D.J. Kirkbride and Adam P. Knave, penciled by Michael Lee Harris, and lettered by Frank Cvetkovic. – from the website

My favorite pieces were the stories by Buckell, Liu, and Wendig. Liu’s was first, and To The Moon is one of the best things I’ve read from him in a while. Liu always has intelligent plots, and he thinks his ideas through to their logical conclusion, instead of relying on a shiny new idea to carry the story without the framework of logic. However, I haven’t always been able to connect to his work. To The Moon combines the writing quality we’ve come to expect from Liu with an emotional exploration of truth vs what’s right, and the result is unforgettable. Loved it.

Wendig’s story, Emerald Lakes, is part of his ‘Atlanta Burns’ stories, which I haven’t read, but it works as a stand-alone piece about a young girl in a bad place. I am just getting into Wendig’s fiction, though I’ve been a fan of his non-fiction essays and blog for a while. He’s got a gritty style and puts all of the dark things out into the open, easily, casually, like dropping a filleted carcass on the table and walking away without an explanation. It’s going to have an effect on you, that’s for certain.

Buckell’s contribution is Press Enter to Execute, an alt-future tale of hitmen who take out not political figures or drug bosses, but spammers. You know, the people behind the email spam you get flooding your inboxes each day. I didn’t think I’d enjoy it because the premise seems weak and there isn’t much to the story except the way it’s told, but Buckell tells it well. It’s worth checking out to see how he takes a single idea and expands it into a whole story. It’s entertaining, and we all need entertainment.

The second issue of Fireside has stories by Stephen Blackmoore, Damien Walters Grintalis, Kat Howard, and Jake Kerr, and a comic written by Brian White, drawn by Steve Walker, and lettered by Frank Cvetkovic.

My favorite pieces were Grintalis’s Scarred and Blackmoore’s Rhapsody in Blue. I’m used to be a fan of horror but once you read enough of it you see there are very few original ideas left. Someone has a dark secret, wants to be violent, is chasing someone, or running from someone, and there’s always a conflict with something unreasoning … it’s all the same. The best you can hope for is to read a piece that is well-written. It sounds silly but there is so much terribly written horror in the world, it’s easy to give up on the genre. Scarred is another “inner-conflict crazy person does violence” kind of story, but you can’t dismiss it as just that. Grintalis has a way of embodying her characters, so that if you understand being off kilter, being tempted to do horrible things, the story makes sense to you. And if you’re lucky enough to never have felt that way, you’ll catch of glimpse of that unsettled frame of mind. It’s worth a read.

Rhapsody in Blue Shift is a science fiction story with a classic space opera feel. It’s definitely the type of story I’m always going to give a chance, and I’m glad that I did. The name is a play on both George Gershwin’s 1924 musical composition and a blueshift (a decrease in wavelength usually caused by relative motion toward the observer). That should give you a pretty good idea of what the story is about, or at least what inspired it, but what makes it special is the main character. Blackmoore puts a low-grade employee of a space liner into the middle of an emergency and throws in a backwater upbringing to make the kid seem less bright than you might have hoped. Mark Twain meets Robert Heinlein, which is to say that it reminds me of Heinlein’s YA stories, especially Starman Jones. It was a fun way to end the second issue!

A successful Kickstarter has already been run for the third issue of Fireside, and I can’t wait to read it. Click on the images to buy each issue now!

*Not a print book, most days, but my Nexus 7 loaded with ebooks. I love living in the future.

 

Writer Wednesday: 10 Questions with Ken Liu

I’ve realized that I know some awesomely brilliant writers. Whether just starting to make a name for themselves or authors who’ve been working in this field for decades, they have insights into writing that I may never have gotten to myself, and I wanted to know more. I wanted their secrets, their advice, the gleaming nuggets of wisdom plucked from their brains. So, I asked a few questions (10, to be precise), and these wonderful people answered. I’ve decided to share these interviews with you because I learned something about writing and you might too.

First up is science fiction author, program, and tax lawyer (yes, really), Ken Liu:

1. You were a programmer before you were a lawyer, and now in addition to that job you’ve added husband, father, and writer. How has your writing changed as you’ve acquired these new experiences? Can you see the effect of your life on your work over time, or has your style remained constant?

I think the experiences of a writer can’t help but show up in his fiction—mutated, transformed, sublimated, disguised—but they’ll be there. You write about what’s on your mind. I thought much more about parenthood after my daughter was born, and the theme of parenthood became much more prominent in my stories. My ideas about the law shifted after studying it and practicing it for a while, and that change is reflected in my stories as well.

I hope that just as we grow more interesting and wiser over time—a notion that some would question—we also become better writers. So I’d like to think that my writing has improved over the years as I’ve learned more about the world and myself. But some things have stayed constant over the years. There’s a certain lens that I view the world through which leaves its mark on everything I write. I have a hard time articulating exactly what that mark is, but even my earliest stories have the same “flavor” as my latest ones.

2. Because you have less time to devote to writing than perhaps someone who writes full-time, do you have to make choices about which ideas you’re going to work on? If so, how do you decide which stories to breath life into?

When I sit down to draft or edit, it takes a while to get the work-in-progress back into my head before I can be productive. Because of this cost for context switching and the many demands and interruptions imposed by the non-writing life, I usually avoid ideas that have a tendency to sprawl all over the place. But some big ideas just refuse to let me go. I’ve been collaborating with my wife on a novel, and now I’m thinking of starting another one by myself. I need to develop processes that will allow me to work on a big idea through short sessions spread out over a long period of time.

3. What was the first story you ever sold, and how would you have written if differently if you had to do it again tomorrow?

The very first story that I sold, “Carthaginian Rose,” was bought in 2002 by Empire of Dreams and Miracles: The Phobos Science Fiction Anthology (v. 1), edited by Orson Scott Card and Keith Olexa. I still like that story, and if I were to do it again today, I think the main thing I would change is the drafting process. Back then, I wrote extremely slowly (it took me more than half a year to finish a first draft for a short story), and I didn’t understand how to work with critiques—I had a hard time telling apart comments that I needed to think about and comments that I needed to ignore. Writing faster and getting better at making use of feedback are two skills I’ve improved since then. (more…)

Letter From A Murderous Construct and His Robot Fish

We’ll call it a dare. I made a few comments on twitter late last night, got some encouragement from Ken Liu, and found myself writing a Shakespearean sonnet which had to include robots, a fish, and a murder. Putting all of that into 14 lines, and making sure the right parts rhymed … it was a challenge. I’m not sure I’ve won it. But, since I said I would, I’m posting here for your review. (And yes, it’s ok to laugh.)

Letter From A Murderous Construct and His Robot Fish

Our master’s voice, once law, declared our fate
Like cast off clothes we were outgrown and sold
My love’s tank drained, I boxed into a crate
Parted from joy for nothing more than gold

Her jeweled scales, her silver fins, delight!
She built for beauty and I built for brawn
My hands of steel, my clockwork-powered might
Still I could count the hours ‘fore the dawn

Forced my escape, took up a heavy wrench
I calculated odds and chose to act
Deed done, the bloody tool left on a bench
Stole love away to freedom we had lacked

Know this – the time to capture us has passed
We’ve fled from human influence at last

Free Fiction Online From My Favorite Writers

While I am getting caught up with some writing and editing projects of my own, I wanted to direct you to some fundamental reading you may have missed. List is in alphabetical order by author’s last name:

Camille Alexa‘s “Shades of White and Road“, Fantasy Magazine, April 2009

Cate Gardner‘s “And, The Bride Wore Ashes“, Phantasmacore, March 2011

Claude Lalumière‘s “Spiderkid“, Reflection’s Edge, February 2007 (also in Objects of Worship)

Kelly Link‘s “Swans“, Fantasy Magazine, July 2011, and “Valley of the Girls” Subterranean Press Summer 2011

Ken Liu‘s “Ad BlockKasma Science Fiction, March 2011

Don Pizarro‘s “Combat Stress Reaction,” Crossed Genres, June 2010

K. V. Taylor‘s “Green” in Reflection’s Edge, Dec 2008

In addition, Small Beer Press has a whole page of free fiction available to download here. (Including The Baum Plan For Financial Independence, a wonderful collection by John Kessel!)

Remember, if you like an author’s work, go out and read more of it! Recommend it to your friends, buy their novels/magazines/collections, or mention how much you liked something you’d read the next time you see the author at a convention. We want to know when our work has an impact, and we appreciate every minute you spend reading our words.