For Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, we at Bookstr are creating an amazing series dedicated to spotlighting AAPI authors in specific literary genres. Today, come along and discover some AAPI authors dedicated to my favorite genre – science fiction! This reading list is a tiny attempt at recommending works by Asian and Pacific Islander authors in its true sense. Of course, it was impossible to include every amazing book, so I have included just a glimpse of what there is to offer of AAPI science fiction authors. Come along and begin your journey into these stellar worlds.
Ted Chiang is an American science fiction writer born in 1967 in New York. Both of his parents were born in Mainland China and immigrated to Taiwan with their families during the Chinese Communist Revolution before immigrating to the United States. His father, Fu-pen Chiang, is a distinguished professor of mechanical engineering at Stony Brook University. Over the years Chiang has accumulated a multitude of literary awards, including four Nebula awards, four Hugo awards, the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, and six Locus awards for his work in science fiction.
His first published work was “Tower of Babylon“, a science fantasy novelette that revisits the tower of Babel myth as a construction megaproject in a setting where the principles of pre-scientific cosmology (the geocentric model, celestial spheres, etc.) are literally true.
His short story “Story of Your Life” is a science fiction novella that was the basis of the film Arrival (2016). The novella is narrated by linguist Dr. Louise Banks on the day her daughter is conceived. Addressed to her daughter, the story alternates between recounting the past. These include the coming of the aliens, and the deciphering of their language, remembering the future, what will happen to her daughter as she grows up, and the daughter’s untimely death.
Another of his science fiction pieces is Exhalation: Stories. This is a collection of short stories exploring such issues as humankind’s place in the universe, the nature of humanity, bioethics, virtual reality, free will and determinism, time travel, and the uses of robotic forms of A.I.
Yoon Ha Lee
Yoon Ha Lee is an American science fiction and fantasy writer born in Houston Texas, in 1979. Throughout his career he has written many space opera novels and over 120 science fiction short stories. When he was young, Lee’s Korean American family lived in both Texas and South Korea, where he attended high school at Seoul Foreign School, an English-language international school. Since his first sale in 1999, Lee has published short fiction in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Clarkesworld, Lightspeed magazine, and elsewhere. Three of his stories have been reprinted in Gardner Dozois’s The Year’s Best Science Fiction anthologies.
His Machineries of Empire is a trilogy of military science fiction/science fantasy/space opera novels. It consists of Ninefox Gambit (2016), Raven Stratagem (2017) and Revenant Gun (2018). The trilogy follows the young infantry captain Kel Cheris and the traitorous general Shuos Jedao in a war among factions of a despotic interstellar empire, the Hexarchate, whose esoteric technology is based on the population’s adherence to the imperial calendar.
Thousand Worlds novel series consists of Dragon Pearl (2019) and Tiger Honor (2022). In Dragon Pearl, Min would like nothing more than to escape Jinju, her neglected, dust-ridden, and impoverished planet. She’s counting the days until she can follow her older brother, Jun, into the Space Forces and see more of the Thousand Worlds.
In Tiger Honor Sebin, a young tiger spirit from the Juhwang Clan, wants nothing more than to join the Thousand World Space Forces and, like their Uncle Hwan, captain a battle cruiser someday. But when Sebin’s acceptance letter finally arrives, it’s accompanied by the shocking news that Hwan has been declared a traitor.
Cindy Pon was born in Taipei, Taiwan, and her family immigrated to California in 1980, settling in the suburbs of Los Angeles. She began writing stories before she was officially declared English proficient. She received her bachelor’s from the University of California, San Diego, and also earned a master’s from New York University. She is a student of Chinese brush painting, and her love for the art is reflected in her storytelling.
In 2017 Pon wrote her brilliant Sci-Fi novel, Want. Set in a near-future Taipei plagued by pollution, a group of teens risks everything to save their city. Jason Zhou survives in a divided society where the elite use their wealth to buy longer lives. The rich wear special suits, protecting them from the pollution and viruses that plague the city, while those without suffer illness and early death. Frustrated by his city’s corruption and still grieving the loss of his mother who died as a result of it, Zhou is determined to change things, no matter the cost.
By 2019 she had written the sequel Ruse, set in near-future Shanghai. We once again see Jason Zhou, his friends, and Daiyu, who are still recovering from the aftermath of the bombing of Jin Corp headquarters. But Jin, a ruthless billionaire, and Daiyu’s father, is out for blood. When Lingyi goes to Shanghai to help Jany Tsai, a childhood acquaintance in trouble, she doesn’t expect Jin to be involved. And when Jin has Jany murdered and steals the tech she had refused to sell him, Lingyi is the only one who has access to the encrypted info, putting her own life in jeopardy.
Ryka Aoki is a Japanese-American poet, composer, teacher, and novelist. Throughout her writing career, her books have made her a two-time Lambda Award finalist, and winner of the Eli Coppola Chapbook Contest, the Corson-Bishop Poetry Prize, and a University Award from the Academy of American Poets. She has been recognized by the California State Senate for extraordinary commitment to the visibility and well-being of Transgender people, and her work has appeared or been recognized in publications including Vogue, Elle, Bustle, Autostraddle, PopSugar, and Buzzfeed, as well as the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center.
Light From Uncommon Stars is her most recent novel. Shizuka Satomi made a deal with the devil: to escape damnation, she must entice seven other violin prodigies to trade their souls for success. She has already delivered six. When Katrina Nguyen, a young transgender runaway, catches Shizuka’s ear with her wild talent, Shizuka can almost feel the curse lifting. She’s found her final candidate.
But in a donut shop off a bustling highway in the San Gabriel Valley, Shizuka meets Lan Tran, retired starship captain, interstellar refugee, and mother of four. Shizuka doesn’t have time for crushes or coffee dates, what with her very soul on the line, but Lan’s kind smile and eyes like stars might just redefine a soul’s worth. And maybe something as small as a warm donut is powerful enough to break a curse as vast as the California coastline.
Taiyo Fujii is a Japanese science fiction writer. He was the chair of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of Japan in 2015–2018. In his career, he has worked in stage design, desktop publishing, exhibition graphic design, software development, and of course, writing. In 2012, Fujii self-published Gene Mapper serially in a digital format of his own design and was Amazon.co.jp’s number one Kindle bestseller of the year. The novel was revised and republished in both print and digital in 2013 and was nominated for Japan SF Award and Seiun Award.
The following year, Fujii won the 36th Japan Science Fiction Grand Prize and Seiun Award with his 2nd novel Orbital Cloud. After leading Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of Japan (SFWJ) as 18th chairman, Fujii won the 40th Yoshikawa Eiji Prize for New Writers with the novella collection Hello, World!
Orbital Cloud, set in the year 2020, sees Kazumi Kimura, a proprietor of shooting star forecast website Meteor News, who notices some suspicious orbiting space debris. Rumors spread online that the debris is actually an orbital weapon targeting the International Space Station. Halfway across the world, at NORAD, Staff Sergeant Daryl Freeman begins his own investigation of the threat.
At the same time, billionaire entrepreneur Ronnie Smark and his journalist daughter prepare to check in to an orbital hotel as part of a stunt promoting private space tourism. Then Kazumi receives highly sensitive, and potentially explosive, information from a genius Iranian scientist. And so begins an unprecedented international battle against space-based terror that will soon involve the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, NORAD, and the CIA.
The daughter of Vietnamese immigrants, Lena Nguyen lives with her partner in the alien desert of Arizona. She received her MFA in fiction from Cornell University, where she also taught courses in English literature, composition, creative writing, cultural studies, superheroes, and zombies. Her work in science fiction and fantasy has won several accolades, and she was a Writers of the Future finalist. When not writing traditional fiction, Lena is steeped in the world of game development and is hard at work on her next choice-based game. We Have Always Been Here, published by Penguin Random House is her debut novel.
This psychological sci-fi thriller follows one doctor who must discover the source of her crew’s madness… or risk succumbing to it herself.
Misanthropic psychologist Dr. Grace Park is placed on the Deucalion, a survey ship headed to an icy planet in an unexplored galaxy. Her purpose is to observe the thirteen human crew members aboard the ship–all specialists in their own fields–as they assess the colonization potential of the planet, Eos. But frictions develop as Park befriends the androids of the ship, preferring their company over the baffling complexity of humans, while the rest of the crew treats them with suspicion and even outright hostility.
Sarina Dahlan was born into an Indonesian family in Thailand and immigrated to the United States at the age of twelve. While children in the West grew up on fairytales, she learned parables through ghost stories, mythologies, and Japanese manga. A graduate of the University of California, San Diego with degrees in Psychology and Visual Arts, she has blended both disciplines in careers as an advertising producer, corporate marketing strategist, small business owner, and writer. Dahlan is planning a total of 4 science fiction books for her Four Cities Book Series.
Reset was her debut novel in 2021. After the Last War destroyed most of the world, survivors form a new society in four self-sustaining cities in the Mojave Desert. In the utopia of the Four Cities, inspired by the lyrics of “Imagine” and Buddhist philosophy, everything is carefully planned and controlled: the seasons, the weather—and the residents. To prevent mankind from destroying each other again, its citizens undergo a memory wipe every four years in a process called tabula rasa, a blank slate, to remove learned prejudices. With each new cycle, they begin again with new names, jobs, homes, and lives. No memories. No attachments. No wars.
This month she published Preset, the prequel to Reset. Fighting for change yet still loving her husband Eli, the scientist Eleanor travels to Elara, the lone city resisting fully bending to Eli’s control. There she must separate reality from lies, and memories from desires, as she tries to piece together the truth about what is happening in the Four Cities. Eleanor discovers the true cost that has been paid to save humanity.
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