Folded Up Inside Ken Liu's "Paper Menagerie"


That's me, right now.

Lacking words.

I just read Ken Liu's "Paper Menagerie," a short story that swept the Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy Awards, and I'm trying to figure out the right way to share it; to talk about it. I guess I'll just let it flow. See where the words take me.

I'm spellbound by the story. By the execution. By the simplicity of the thing.

Intimidated by it, even.

It breathes like Pixar and dances like jazz, and it's painful like acupuncture. Little scratches that linger. Sometimes big scratches that make you wince. And linger, too. Damn, I hate acupuncture.

I feel emotionally attached to a scrap of paper, only it's not even a scrap of paper, it's the idea of a scrap of paper. Someone else's idea. Someone else's paper. No, not even someone else's paper. It's someone else's idea of a scrap of paper for someone else.


I know these characters. They're fragments of me, of you, of all of us. Mother, father, child. They all contain our folds; the folds of the world. It doesn't get much simpler than that. And yet there's something unique here, too, something that makes me want to shake the damn boy and tell him how special his life is. A profundity that he can't see. That only his mother can see, his mother and Laohu.

But he's just paper. Not even paper, he's pixels on a screen.

And when I close the story, he'll be gone.

He and his paper menagerie.

Thanks to io9 for publishing Ken Liu's "Paper Menagerie," which you can and should read right here: PAPER MENAGERIE.