Ken Liu Short Stories

Ken Liu has written many notable science fiction and fantasy short stories.

“The Bookmaking Habits of Select Species”

The narrator describes how five different alien species pass on their wisdom by making books.

This story can be read in the preview of The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories(14% in)

“State Change”

Rina checks her refrigerators every night, especially the one by her bed that holds her ice cube. It seems like it’s getting smaller. When a child is born, their soul materializes in the form of an object that must be kept close to the body. Rina lives cautiously and stays detached from others.

This story can also be read in the above preview of The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories(32% in)

“Seven Birthdays”

Mia and her dad are at the park on her seventh birthday. They’ve been waiting, but her mother hasn’t arrived yet. She’s away a lot. Mia flies her kite. Her mother arrives. She was delayed with important work, bringing an ambassador up to speed on a solar management plan. There’s tension between Mia’s parents. She tries to smooth things over. The narrative continues with Mia’s relationship with her mother—and the future of humanity.

This story can be read in the preview of The Year’s Top Hard Science Fiction Stories.

“Seventh Day of the Seventh Moon”

Yuan tells her younger sister, Se, a bedtime story. Se wants to hear about the Qixi Festival because it’s tonight. In the story a young woman and young man fall in love, get married and have two sons. The woman neglects her duties as a weaver of sunset clouds. The Emperor of Heaven separates the couple as a punishment. When the story ends, Yuan leaves the apartment to go meet Jing. It’s her last night in China.

Most of this story can be read in the preview of Kaleidoscope: Diverse YA Science Fiction and Fantasy Stories. (second entry, 50% in)

“The Paper Menagerie”

The narrator, Jack, remembers when he was a young boy. His mother folded origami animals for him. She was able to breathe life into them. His mother was a mail-order bride from China. As Jack grows up, he draws away from his mother, preferring American toys and food. He won’t answer her if she speaks Chinese. He’s embarrassed by his mom.

“The Plague”

A girl, Marne, and her mother are fishing. A man in a protective suit falls into the water. He struggles to breathe. Marne wants to help, but her mother says everything is poisonous to him. He’s from the Dome. She goes over and untangles his tubes.

“The Algorithms for Love”

Elena is on a weekend leave from the institution. She’s going with Brad to a bed-and-breakfast on the conditions that she take her medication every four hours and not be left alone. Elena designs dolls with A.I. that allows them to converse with their owners. The models have become increasingly complex, propelling her company to great success.

Read “The Algorithms for Love”

“The Perfect Match”

People’s preferences are monitored and their phones tell them about things that should appeal to them. Sai doesn’t mind but his neighbor, Jenny, resents the lack of privacy and doesn’t like the recording devices. She thinks the phones are telling people what to do. Sai starts wondering if she’s right.

Read “The Perfect Match”