Ken Liu on The Paper Menagerie

by Rakka   Tags: books

Ken Liu today held a Q&A about his short story, The Paper Menagerie.

I particularly liked his example about what it meant to believe in something. Ken gave the example of the Chinese belief that the number 4 is unlucky (owning to it being a homonym for death). He notes that even though he personally doesn’t believe it’s unlucky, he would still avoid the number in gifts for his grandmother who did believe. And so we don’t necessarily do things because we have a strong commitment one way or another, but because we try to respect other people’s beliefs.

In a similar vein, he notes that the origami animals in The Paper Menagerie could have truly been alive or not—there’s no indication one way or another, which reminded me of Bill Watterson’s comments about Calvin and Hobbes. And in his epic fantasy series, The Grace of Kings, Ken has taken care so that even though the characters reference gods, a committed atheistic reader could find natural explanations for all the phenomena in the book, which is an impressive feat of storytelling.

Full recording (about an hour long). (Note that the host audio was behaving weirdly and she is rather quiet.)