THE END IS NIGH Author Interview: Ken Liu

Tell us a bit about your story.  What’s it about?

“The Gods Will Not Be Chained” tells the story of a young woman’s discovery of the truth and costs behind the efforts by those in power to make the Singularity come true.

 What was the genesis of the story–what was the inspiration for it, or what prompted you to write it?

For twelve weeks in 2001, a team out of Microsoft ran an alternate reality game to promote Steven Spielberg’s film, A.I. My participation in that game as a player turned out to have influenced how I think about narrative and the techniques of fiction.

One of the episodes in the game involved an AI who “talked” to its human companion using only images. I found the idea utterly fascinating and have been trying to write a story playing with that idea for ages.

I also had a long-standing interest in emoji (the Edna St. Vincent Millay sonnet quoted in the story is one of the first emoji translations I did). I mashed those ideas together and came up with this story.

Was this story a particularly challenging one to write? If so, how?

One of the biggest challenges turned out to be how to get the emoji into the manuscript. Support for emoji is wildly inconsistent across applications and operating systems.

(There’s no doubt that it’s even more difficult to get them from the manuscript into the final book—luckily, I could let John worry about that part 🙂

 What is the appeal—either as a writer or a reader—of stories that take place BEFORE an apocalypse?

For me, the appeal of pre-apocalyptic stories lies in that they go up to the brink but not over, leaving the reader plenty of room to imagine how the events described in the story _could_ lead to world-ending catastrophes. Hopefully some readers will be so intrigued that they’ll feel compelled to buy the next book so they can find out how the authors solved that puzzle!