You’re currently consulting for the film
adaptation of the Three-Body series.
What has that process been like?
Since all of my movie projects involve
confidential commercial information, I
can’t reveal too many details. However, I
can say that although the movie version
of the first installment of the Three-Body
series is about to begin filming, most of
the other films based on my fiction are
still only in the planning stages. It will
be some time before filming starts on
those, and some of them may never get
to that stage.
Most of the film projects based on my
fiction require heavy investment, and, as
a result, they are complicated. Compared
to novels, films face many more restrictions, such as the demands of the market
and the censorship regime. Until the day
the cameras start rolling, no one can say
whether a project will actually go through.
The main creators in a film are the director, the producer, and the screenplay
writer. As the novelist behind the original
work, my involvement is limited.
What are you working on now? And
what can readers expect from you in
Since I no longer have to go to work, I
stay home all day. I’ve been working on
a new novel, but it hasn’t been easy. The
main difficulty is finding an idea that
really excites me. We live in an age when
miracles are no longer miracles, and science and the future are losing their sense
of mystery. For science fiction, or at least
the type of science fiction I write, this
development is almost fatal, but I’m still
giving it all I’ve got.
No matter what, my main career in the
future will be writing science fiction. I’m
a science fiction author who started as a
science fiction fan: I came from science
fiction, and to science fiction I shall
Translated by Ken Liu
start over without the benefit of lessons
learned by previous writers.
The books in the Three-Body series were
written entirely to the tastes of Chinese
readers and are stylistically quite different from contemporary American science
fiction. The series also suffers from some
obvious literary flaws—especially in the
first book, The Three-Body Problem.
The fact that so many American readers and critics responded to the book
positively was completely unexpected. In
contrast to the kind of crude sarcasm and
abusive language sometimes directed at
my work on the Web in China, even the
critical English comments were very
logical and justified, offering suggestions that will be helpful for me in the
future. The positive reception proved a
belief I’ve long held: science fiction is the
most global of literatures, and it is capable of being understood by the peoples of
all nations and states. One day, I hope
that American readers will read my book
not because it’s Chinese science fiction,
but simply because it’s science fiction.
Although science fiction movies
dominate the box office in the West,
science fiction books are generally
less popular than those of other
genres. Do you think visual media
are best for expressing science
I do think that science fiction ideas are
best expressed through visual media like
film and TV. Realist literature depicts
things that we have seen in life, but science fiction is different: what it depicts
exists only in the author’s imagination.
When it comes to science fiction, the
written word is inadequate. Most science
fictional imaginings—especially truly
original conceptions—can only be
For several years now I’ve been actively
involved in the creation of science fiction
films; some are adapted from my stories,
others are originals. For a writer, this
kind of work is very challenging because
writing a story requires only the writer,
but making a film requires a whole team
and the balancing of multiple opinions.
Ken Liu is a writer and translator. His debut
novel, The Grace of Kings, was published
by Simon & Schuster’s Saga imprint in