Science Fiction & Fantasy

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Nonfiction

Author Spotlight: Yoon Ha Lee

“The Knight of Chains, the Deuce of Stars” seems to pit the unstoppable force against the unmovable object. Where did the idea for this story come from?

You are going to laugh, but it came from a line in the TV sitcom Big Bang Theory, episode 6.4, “The Re-Entry Minimization.” (I am fond of this show because, well, I’m married to a Caltech astrophysicist.) Sheldon says to Penny, “All games are made up. They’re not found in nature. You don’t just dig in the ground, come across a rich vein of Rock’em Sock’em Robots.”

I am argumentative by nature, and I bounced up and down and said to myself, “But what if you could just mine games?” Then I decided that war was a game made incarnate, and there was a woman strategist who was out to completely outsmart him. It grew from there.

Daechong preferred his liquor and books to be incinerated before he enjoyed them. How do you decide what quirks to give your characters?

Honestly, I just pick something that seems suitable. In Daechong’s case, I thought it should be something destructive, and yet a little sad. He would probably like to drink and read the normal way just once, like his visitors do.

Weaving the game of Go into your prose was very effective. Was Go on your mind when you started creating this world?

To some extent, yes. It used to be when I put game imagery into a story, I’d automatically reach for chess because it’s very commonly done. I thought for a story featuring a character with a Korean-derived name, I should reach for an Eastern game instead. Go is very popular in South Korea (called baduk there) and there’s a Go channel, or maybe more than one. I remember my dad used to watch it, and to read the go column in the newspaper.

I’m curious about the rest of the games in the tower. Did you come up with any others in addition to the linguistics game?

There was one other game that had been freed, which involved mecha, but I ended up cutting it because beta readers suggested that it muddied the scenario. I didn’t come up with anything beyond that, although if I ever think of something, it would be tempting to give it a try. I am not a game designer, but I find game design intensely fascinating, and I like to read about game design theory.

What can we expect from you in the future?

I’m currently shopping around a space opera novel that pits a disgraced captain against the undead tactician assigned her as an advisor. Probably more space opera if that one doesn’t pan out. It’s good to have an excuse to blow things up!

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Earnie Sotirokos

Earnie SotirokosEarnie Sotirokos grew up in a household where “Star Trek: The Next Generation” marathons were only interrupted for baseball and football games. When he’s not writing copy for radio, playing video games, or reading slush, he enjoys penning fiction based on those influences.  His work can be found by searching for “Sotirokos” wherever ebooks are sold. Follow him on Twitter @sotirokos.