Five Asian American Sci-Fi Authors You Should Be Reading

I grew up reading Ray Bradbury and Philip K. Dick, and learned to suspend my disbelief when I came across time travel, aliens, and things that generally defied the natural laws of the universe. But I could never suspend my disbelief at the lack of people like me in mainstream science fiction creating these stories and populating the universes within them.

It’s odd that a genre dedicated to challenging the realm of possibility seems to have little space for Asian representation. But many Asian American authors have started claiming their rightful places in the world (or dare we say, worlds) of science fiction. Here are just a few to help expand your multiverse, one story at a time.

1. Ken Liu (Website, Twitter)

Ken Liu is nothing short of being a sci-fi rock star. His short story “The Paper Menagerie” is the first work to have won the holy trinity of sci-fi awards: the Hugo, the Nebula, and the World Fantasy Award. “The Paper Menagerie” also appears in his most recent publication, a collection of his best science fiction and fantasy works.

He wears many hats as a lawyer, programmer, and translator of literary works from Chinese to English. His English translation of The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu became the first translated work to win the Hugo award for best novel.

A master storyteller, he plays around with the idea of memory, and this theme particularly resonates in his short story “Mono no Aware.”

2. E. Lily Yu (Website)

The same year E. Lily Yu graduated from Princeton University, she also won the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer for her short story, “The Cartographer Wasps and Anarchist Bees.” Her work has been published in Terraform, Uncanny, and Fantasy and Science Fiction. She is also set to appear in a cyberpunk anthology called Cyber World, forthcoming in November 2016.

Her piece, “Local Stop on the Floating Train,” illustrates a future where racism still flourishes even after nuclear annihilation.

3. Alice Sola Kim (Website, Twitter)

Alice Sola Kim loves “throwaway ideas in science fiction”. It’s little details such as extinct bananas and tongue-in-cheek remarks like “Don’t worry—there is still racism!” that make her work so human and captivating. Kim’s vision of the future is very much like the present, except with the occasional time-traveling guy obsessed with his daughters; no big deal. This is why her future is scary – but so familiar, and even comforting.

Her fiction has appeared in Tin House, The Year’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy, Lightspeed Magazine, and elsewhere. She has also received grants and fellowships such as a MacDowell Colony residency.

Read her personal essay on her relationship with Philip K. Dick for an honest look into the person behind the author.

4. Marie Lu (Website, Twitter)

A legend (pun intended) in the YA world, Marie Lu is the author of the Legend series; a trilogy of novels set on a dystopian California coast about two prodigies on the run. Legend received praise from The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, and The Guardian for a clear trajectory and emotional depth; the latter being an aspect often lacking in many other tried-and-tested teen dystopian works. The series is slated to become a film directed by Jonathan Levine.

Lu is currently in the process of crafting a new series about games and giant robots – “a love letter to all [her] favorite things.” The first novel, Warcross, will be out in Fall 2017.

5. Yoon Ha Lee (Website, Twitter)

Yoon Ha Lee writes short stories that often explore the creation and re-creation of history, and has many of them included in his first book, Conservation of Shadows. Two stories from his collection were nominated for both the Locus Award and the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award. His work has been featured in Clarkesworld, Lightspeed Magazine and other publications, and has been reprinted in The Year’s Best Science Fiction.

Read “A Vector Alphabet of Interstellar Travel” for a glimpse of Lee’s powerful and economical use of language.

Lee has also written a text-based game called Winterstrike; a poetic and hypnotizing venture into a city that has been plunged into perpetual winter.


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