Annotations, Arc, Awards

Hi All!

I’ve been working on a few secret projects I’m very excited about. Hopefully more to announce as soon as I’m allowed to.

A quick note before getting to the meat of the updates: The Grace of Kings is a Kindle Monthly Deal for July (get it early and be ready for The Veiled Throne in November!). Though August 1 you can get it for $1.99.

Annotations on The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories

You know how when you read a book on the Kindle you can highlight passages (and optionally see what passages other readers have highlighted)? Goodreads has a program where authors can annotate the most popular highlighted passages in their books, adding notes, responses, questions, behind-the-scenes commentary, etc.

It’s not quite the memex as envisioned by Vannevar Bush, but it’s a step toward that vision where texts are not isolated things, but, true to the word’s roots, are woven into one grand living tapestry of idea-strands in constant conversation.

I’ve annotated the most highlighted passages in The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories — I was surprised by every one of them. If you enjoyed the book, you might find these — what others have highlighted and what I have to say about them — interesting.

Arc, a film by Kei Ishikawa

June witnessed the release (in Japan) of Arc, a film by director Kei Ishikawa, based on my novelette of the same time published in F&SF.

In general, I try to say as little as possible about adaptations of my work, because they are not my work.

Some writers write with the ultimate goal of reaching as many people as possible with their story. In this day and age, that means through the medium of film or TV. In a sense, the stories they write are nothing more than intermediate stages in the ultimate expression of their vision.

I am not one of those writers. I don’t write with the intent of reaching a big audience, only that I craft the best possible sketch I can make of the vision in my head. I shape the story to my chosen medium: its limitations as well as infinite potential, its flaws as well as advantages, its artifice as well as inherent patterns. The only thing I want is the written story, which is mine and mine alone. (In fact, I don’t even care about the published book as much as the typescript, because the published product has incorporated the input of others in the editorial process and is no longer mine alone.)

Ideal adaptations of my work should thus be independent pieces of art; they neither consume my work nor EW consumed by it — both pieces have the room to earn their separate interpretations. In my view, adaptations should be as different as possible from the original while sharing the same underlying soul that ultimately motivated both.

That ideal is rarely achieved.

So it brings me great joy to see an adaptation of my work that shares my view of the purpose of an adaptation. When Kei Ishikawa—whose work I knew and admired—approached me about an adaptation, he was clear that he had in mind a specific and divergent vision. He would take my very American story about the pursuit of eternal youth and recast it entirely anew in Japan, turning it into his own story told in his own visual language. His story would be different from my story — thereby giving both the room to breathe — but he wanted my input and help in locating that shared soul.

What followed was a wonderful process of collaboration. But reading drafts of the script is not the same as watching the final film. Filmmakers are the ultimate example of writers who write with the aim of creating something else — the script is a mere intermediate representation in the compilation of ideas into the soaring, living process of the finished film.

When I saw the result, I loved how he stayed true to that first vision and made a film about the future that feels timeless, a film that turns the arc of “progress” into the cycling of the tides, that emphasizes the invisible strands connecting the living to the dead, that feels like a watercolor instead of an oil painting. Watching it, I was moved to tears — only possible when an adaptation has achieved that status of independence. It left my story alone, gave it enough space so that I could view the film as not mine.

Everyone who worked on the film — the actors, the artists, the producers, the designers, the crew … I will never know all the work that went into it — they all put a bit of themselves into that final vision. The collaborative nature of the medium — so different from the writing of a novel — is dizzying. I can only admire in shocked wonder.

If you do have a chance to see Arc, go for it.

Awards

The Hidden Girl and Other Stories won the Locus Award for Best Collection in June. Thank you to all the voters, and congrats to the winners and finalists. It’s always nice to see something you create get recognition, even when you don’t create with the aim of reaching a large audience.

In other wonderful news, “50 Things Every AI Working With Humans Should Know” is a finalist for the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award (honored to be in such fine company), and Hao Jingfang’s Vagabonds, which I translated, is up for both the SFF Rosetta Award and the Arthur C. Clarke Award (congrats to Jingfang).

Have a wonderful rest of July!

Ken