Ken Liu was born in China, moved to the U.S. when he was eleven, graduated from Harvard and Harvard Law School, worked in the technology industry, and then became a litigation consultant, often offering expert testimony at trials. In short, an underachiever.
Ah, but there’s more. He writes his own science fiction and also translates stories from Chinese to English, and in recent years he’s won the highest honors in the field—the Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy Awards. A lifelong “Star Wars” fan, he published a novel in that series last year called “The Legend of Luke Skywalker.” As Liu talked to us at Bates College in Lewiston, it was evident that success has not gone to his head.
Awards, he said, are great, a nice example of “good job, atta boy” from fans and fellow writers. “But other than that,” he says, “I’m not sure they mean much. I certainly don’t measure my own success as a storyteller based on the awards I win or don’t win.”
False modesty? Not likely. Two things matter to Liu about his writing. The first is how close to his vision he comes with the final execution of a story. “The other measure of success,” he says, “is when readers who don’t know me at all—who know me only through a book—feel moved enough to write me and say ‘I really enjoyed the story.’ That’s incredibly rewarding to me.”
Add it all up and Liu has impressive sales, acclaim from critics, and accolades from fans. That, by any definition, sounds like success.