The New Yorker Publishes Essay on Cixin Liu

The New Yorker ran a very complimentary essay about Cixin Liu’s The Three-Body Problem and his other stories, positioning him as China’s Arthur C. Clarke. Check it out here; it’s an interesting read.

This comes on the heels of Liu’s Nebula nomination for The Three-Body Problem, and will accelerate Liu being thought of as a “major” SF author. Essays like this are very important in establishing an author’s short and long term reputation. Much of the mainstream press follows the lead of The New Yorker and The New York Times; this means other newspapers and places like NPR, Entertainment Weekly, and others are going to start paying attention to Cixin Liu. While the influence of these venues on the smaller SFF community (and the Hugos and Nebulas) isn’t as significant, mainstream coverage does bleed over into how bookstores buy books, how publishers acquire and position novels, etc.

The Dark Forest, Liu’s sequel to The Three-Body Problem, comes out on July 7th. Expect that to get major coverage and to be a leading candidate for the 2016 Nebula and Hugo. I currently have Cixin Liu’s The Three-Body Problem at #6 in my Hugo prediction, and that may be too low. All this great coverage and exposure does come very late in the game: Hugo nominations are due March 10th. Liu’s novel came out on November 11th, and that’s not a lot of time to build up a Hugo readership. It does appear that most people who read The Three-Body Problem are embracing it . . . but will it be enough for a Hugo nomination?

As a Hugo prediction site, the hardest thing I have to account for is sentiment: how much do people like an individual novel? How does that enthusiasm carry over to voting? How many individual readers grabbed other readers and said “you’ve got to read this”? We can measure this a little by the force of reviews and the positivity of blogging, but this is a weakness in my data-mining techniques. I can’t account for the community falling in love with a book. Keep in mind, initial Liu reviews were a little measured (check out this one from, for instance, that calls the main character “uninspiring”), but then there was a wave of far more positive reviews in December, such as this one from The Book Smugglers. My Review Round-Up gathers some more of these.

Has the wheel turned, and are most readers now seeing The Three-Body Problem as the best SF book of 2014? For the record, that’s my opinion as well, and I did read some 20+ speculate works published in 2014. Liu’s has a combination of really interesting science, very bold (and sometimes absurd) speculation, and a fascinating engagement with Chinese history in the form of the Cultural Revolution. In a head to head competition with Annihilation, I think The Three-Body Problem wins. You’d think that would be enough to score a Hugo nomination, and maybe it will be. We’ll find out within the month.


9 responses to “The New Yorker Publishes Essay on Cixin Liu”

  1. Tudor says :

    I think I’ve seen almost 20 Hugo ballots and Ancillary Sword, City of Stairs, Goblin Emperor and The Three-Body Problem were present in three quarters of them and Annihilation in a very small number. It will be interesting to see if the online support will translate into actual nominations. The online community was very important at Loncon 3 and was the force behind Ancillary Justice or Kameron Hurley wins.

    The Three-Body Problem was not exactly a top 5 of mine (I’ve read 46 SFF books published in 2014), but it was in top 10 and I nominated it because of the online enthusiasm and because of the Sad Puppy Ballot I preferred to nominate works that have a real chance.

  2. MadProfessah says :

    I just finished The Three-Body Problem and it is very good. It’s very hard sci-fi and a suspenseful thriller at the same time. The Chinese history stuff is really interesting and the set up for the sequels is done well but you also feel that there is quite a lot of story in the first book.

    I am very much looking forward to the next two books! I really hope that he gets a Hugo nomination, but I do think the best 2014 Sff book I read was the James SA Corey book Cibola Burn.

    • chaoshorizon says :

      James SA Corey is likely to get a huge boost in popularity once The Expanse TV show comes out. Leviathan Wakes got a Hugo nomination, but later novels have been slipping—I wonder if the TV show will be enough to get Corey back in the conversation.

      • NatLovin says :

        Doubt it for the Novels, but with The Expanse, and the other books that have been optioned/in development, we might finally have a competitive dramatic presentation, short form category in 2016/17.

      • chaoshorizon says :

        I mostly agree with that assessment—unless Frank and Abraham launch some stand-alone Expanse novels. I took a look at the stats:
        Leviathan Wakes had 7.41% (71 votes) in 2012 (scored a nom)
        Caliban’s War had 8.18% (90 votes) in 2013 (placed 8th in the nominations)
        Abaddon’s Gate had 4.3% (69 votes) in 2014 (placed 14th in the nominations)

        A definite downward trend (and I expect Cibola Burn to lose a little more), but the books are still pretty popular with the Hugo voters. If they can pick up new fans with the TV show, and then maybe issue a stand-alone novel or something new readers can get into easily, who knows?

      • Joe Sherry says :

        I’m not sure that’s a downward trend, except in percentage – which was due to an uptick in ballots. Abaddon’s Gate had two fewer votes than Leviathan Wakes, but was 14th. Caliban’s War had 19 MORE votes and also missed the ballot.

        What happens if the number of ballots course corrects? I don’t see Cibola Burn making it based on the awards conversation, but it could potentially grab the same number of ballots as Leviathan Wakes – which makes it a bit of a wild card if there isn’t a consensus on top (and, pending what Sad Puppies brings to the table)

  3. Tudor says :

    According to Abraham they just wrapped up season one.

    I’m wondering about Cibola Burn, because it is the first volume of a new trilogy and you can easily read it without reading the first trilogy. Will this have an impact on the number of nominations? Probably not, but I’m expecting that at least the third volume of the second trilogy to be nominated in 2017. I don’t think that Corey needs to write a standalone novel. Game of Thrones proved that if a TV series is popular enough, there will be a ton of new readers even if the novels are each more than 1000 pages long.

    • MadProfessah says :

      Have they said the books are two trilogies? I heard that it was originally sold as a series of 5 but it has been expanded to a series of 9 (according to this post on So maybe it is THREE trilogies now?

      I’m drooling!

      • Tudor says :

        Yes, there will be 3 trilogies. It will be interesting so see what will happen with the TV series because a 9 seasons series is a really long one. Fortunately, Abraham is writing 2-3 novels/year so there is no chance that the TV series will end before the books are out, as it will be the case with the Game of Thrones.

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