Local Boston-area science fiction author, Ken Liu has been kind enough to grant me this pre-Thanksgiving interview. His work has appeared in numerous publications, including Clarkesworld, Asimov’s Science Fiction, Lightspeed, Daily Science Fiction, and many others. You can find a complete list of his work and other great tidbits at http://kenliu.name/.
Tell me a little bit about yourself and how you got started writing science fiction.
I’ve been writing science fiction since I was a kid, but only got serious about it in the last ten years or so. Like most writers, I got started because I liked to read.
Besides writing and translating fiction, I also write software for iOS and Android, and repair typewriters.
Your previous work as both a programmer and attorney are intriguing. Do you think those experiences have shaped your style as a writer or have influenced your fiction in any way?
I think so. You spend a lot of time thinking about your job, and you can’t help but have things you think about a lot show up in your fiction. Computing and the law do come up as recurring themes in my stories.
Any upcoming big projects?
My wife and I are trying to finish a novel together, and I’m in the middle of another novel on my own. It’s slow going because I’m not a natural novelist.
What drew you to science fiction specifically?
I never consciously chose to focus on the genre. I’ve always liked science, and I just ended up writing a lot about science and scientific speculation.
Who are your favorite authors in the genre?
Too many to list, but an incomplete list would have to include Orson Scott Card, Octavia Butler, Ted Chiang, Ursula K. Le Guin, Cory Doctorow, Nancy Kress, Chen Qiufan (Stanley Chan), and Greg Egan.
You have quite a resume of published short fiction. What is it about the short story that you enjoy over the novel?
The simple answer is that I don’t know how to write a novel. I’m learning, but I’m not there yet.
I wouldn’t say that I know how to write a short story either, but at least my mistakes there won’t cost someone as much time to read.
What are your one or two favorite works of science fiction that you have written? Why these?
I have a real soft spot for “Single-Bit Error.” It’s a story about faith and the limits of reason, and it took so long to write and was so hard to get right that I almost gave up on writing altogether. I’m proud of the result though.
We all experience writer’s block. Do you have any specific rituals to fight it?
I ask my wife: “Can you think of any story ideas you’d be interested in reading?” And that usually gets me something.
Do you have any other advice to give aspiring writers?
Write every day.