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 Tor.com, 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.