The Changeling: Two Thirds of a Good Book, One Third…Less So


Like most people who like fantasy, I’m also a major fan of its sister genres (parent genres?) mythology and folklore. Myth today colors much of contemporary fiction, and it’s always interesting to learn how the original plays out before seeing the gay crossover space opera modernization.* Plus, fairytales are a weird experience, all around. Compared to contemporary protagonists, fairytale characters can seem weirdly flat, archetypes of “The Prince” and “The Mentor” who eternally slay the dragon and save the princess with only stock reasons given as rationale. There’s something old and odd about fairytales and myths, the ritualized nature of the conflicts and characters in them, and that same strangeness is what makes these stories so fascinating. There’s an elegant economy to fairy tales, a cohesion in the way they wrap together that gives them their own, particular brand of pleasure.

So when Marlon James of Man Booker Prize winner A Brief History of Seven Killings described Victor LaValle’s The Changeling as “a dark fairy tale of New York” and NPR’s Amal El-Mohtar gave it a glowing review complete with unnecessary but somehow charming metaphor about the Pleiades—well. Of course I had to read it. Continue reading “The Changeling: Two Thirds of a Good Book, One Third…Less So”


The Paper Menagerie: I Am Never Going to be Ken Liu, and I’m Learning to be Okay with That


I don’t know why I held off for so long on reading Ken Liu. Actually, that’s a lie: I know exactly why it took me so long to finally read The Paper Menagerie, and it’s because I was, quite simply, jealous. When I first learned of Liu and The Paper Menagerie, it was in the context of “The Paper Menagerie” the short story, and the fact that it had just won The Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy awards, which was unprecedented like what-the-fuck. And instead of being happy for him, glad that Asian-American writers were getting more recognition, I was pissed.

Here’s the thing. The Chinese American community is incredibly cutthroat, parents always pushing you to be ninety-ninth percentile because there was only so much room up at top, you had to the best or other it’d be game over, community college and a lifetime of disgrace for you. When I learned that Liu was a critically-acclaimed Chinese-American speculative fiction writer, my initial thought wasn’t wow, that’s cool, I’m so glad he’s doing that and I hope I can be like him one day; it was well, fuck, how the fuck am I supposed to compete with that? Continue reading “The Paper Menagerie: I Am Never Going to be Ken Liu, and I’m Learning to be Okay with That”