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Paper Menagerie
November 9, 2012 4:06 AM   Subscribe

Ken Liu's "Paper Menagerie", the first work of fiction to win the Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy awards, is now available to read in full at io9.
posted by Errant (23 comments total) 40 users marked this as a favorite

 
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posted by infini at 4:10 AM on November 9, 2012


I read his story "The Literomancer" [PDF] in F&SF a couple of years ago, and it was fantastic and emotionally powerful. I'm surprised he won with "Paper Menagerie", though, as I thought it was kind of a melodramatic and sappy "my long-suffering saintly mama" story. Still, most of what I've read by him has been good and I think he's going to be a great fantasy writer if he chooses to stick with the genre.
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 4:17 AM on November 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


This story beat mine for the Hugo this year AND I AM FURIOUS --

-- that because I was competing in the category, as emcee of the ceremony his Hugo was the only one I wasn't able to place into the hands of the eventual winner, i.e., Ken.

I always say that when you're nominated for an award, and you look at the slate and can find no work that you would be pissed off to lose to, then you've already won, so you should just relax and just enjoy the ride. In that spirit I was deeply happy Ken won the Hugo this year. What an excellent story this is.
posted by jscalzi at 4:26 AM on November 9, 2012 [20 favorites]


While reading the story, the room must have gotten dusty and I got something in my eyes.
posted by Renoroc at 5:04 AM on November 9, 2012


I liked it, but the ending was a little bit too on the nose. I still teared up, though.
posted by empath at 5:12 AM on November 9, 2012


What a wonderful little story.
posted by tommasz at 5:45 AM on November 9, 2012


Yeah that story made me cry.
posted by Mister_A at 7:11 AM on November 9, 2012


This would make a magnificent animated short. Pixar should option it.
posted by DigDoug at 7:15 AM on November 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


I feel like this would have been a better story if it ended with the mother's death and the life going out of the paper menagerie.

I understood the point of the story at that point, and did not need the long, overwrought letter explaining the point of the story to me.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:36 AM on November 9, 2012


I have a bunch of friends who write and submit a ton of short-form fiction, and over the past year Ken Liu's name has become one they curse to the heavens while shaking their fists. His name has come up again and again under acceptance notices on duotrope. Well deserved, I think.

I feel like this would have been a better story if it ended with the mother's death and the life going out of the paper menagerie.

I understood the point of the story at that point, and did not need the long, overwrought letter explaining the point of the story to me.


If it ended that way, it would have been kind of a cliche story about a long-suffering mother pouring her magic into her son and then dying. This way--giving the mother a voice? making her a whole, fully-realized person? Much better.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:12 AM on November 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


This way--giving the mother a voice? making her a whole, fully-realized person? Much better.

Ditto, loved the letter. What a great story.
posted by hannahelastic at 8:14 AM on November 9, 2012


Agreed. This way the narrator understands his guilt and isn't absolved of it like a more standard version of this plot.
posted by Think_Long at 8:19 AM on November 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


The story is mundane and goes where you think its going to go then has the courage to not back away from the simple truth people forget all the time.

His mom was amazing, loved him so very much and he didn't realize until she was long gone. He turned his back on her and he's going to have to live with that. All he has is memories of her, her love and a paper cat. As amazing as the paper cat is, I suspect he'd trade it and other things away for...well, you know.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:27 AM on November 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think the letter was very valuable to the story for several reasons. Not the least of which was drawing a connection between mother and son in implying that the feeling the mother speaks of about the special pain of wanting to take care of her parents, but not being able to because they were gone, is almost certainly the same feeling the son is having after having the letter read to him.

On the whole it's a very beautiful story that unfolds simply, like the origami animals within.
posted by 1024x768 at 9:06 AM on November 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


God damn it now I am trying not to cry in the office.


Still, it's nice that it's for non-professional reasons, for a change!
posted by running order squabble fest at 9:25 AM on November 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Available in free audio at the spectacular Podcastle.
posted by Myca at 10:27 AM on November 9, 2012


For myself, the story also captures a lot of first-generation Asian-American anxiety that I recognize, the desire to assimilate without knowing that word and increasing discomfort with a once-prized heritage. It wasn't until later in life and well after my mother's death that I learned things about her life before emigrating, like how she wanted to be an accountant in our family's multi-generational firm but my grandfather wouldn't allow a woman successor. It can be such a struggle to create opportunity here without sacrificing the past or what feels like a part of oneself, and the balance changes so quickly.

Obviously that's not an element everyone's going to relate to, but I thought he handled those ideas very well.
posted by Errant at 10:40 AM on November 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Lovely story. Thanks for the link.
posted by NathanBoy at 12:34 PM on November 9, 2012


I am trying to comfort myself about this story by deciding that the protagonist grows up and has a son to whom he can give the tiger and can teach Chinese. And name him Calvin.

It's only working a little. Brb crying forever and texting my mom
posted by nicebookrack at 12:52 PM on November 9, 2012


Previously.
posted by homunculus at 6:08 PM on November 9, 2012


A veritable Tiger Mom!
posted by chavenet at 6:56 AM on November 10, 2012


(First, I throw up a shield.)

I found it treacly and pat, as empath writes above. Maybe it's unfair to compare it to other, more nuanced works of fiction about hyphenated identities but that does appear to be its premise.

If you liked the mom's letter, may I recommend the sweeping: Ju Dou.
posted by noway at 7:55 AM on November 10, 2012


I thought it was great. Thanks for sharing.
posted by prefpara at 6:56 PM on November 12, 2012


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