Ken Liu Quotes
“Who can say if the thoughts you have in your mind as you read these words are the same thoughts I had in my mind as I typed them? We are different, you and I, and the qualia of our consciousnesses are as divergent as two stars at the ends of the universe.
And yet, whatever has been lost in translation in the long journey of my thoughts through the maze of civilization to your mind, I think you do understand me, and you think you do understand me. Our minds managed to touch, if but briefly and imperfectly.
Does that thought not make the universe seem just a bit kinder, a bit brighter, a bit warmer and more human?
We live for such miracles.”
“That feeling in your heart: it’s called mono no aware. It is a sense of the transience of all things in life. The sun, the dandelion, the cicada, the Hammer, and all of us: we are all subject to the equations of James Clerk Maxwell, and we are all ephemeral patterns destined to eventually fade, whether in a second or an eon.”
“At this moment, in this place, the shifting action potential in my neurons cascade into certain arrangements, patterns, thoughts; they flow down my spine, branch into my arms, my fingers, until muscles twitch and thought is translated into motion; mechanical levers are pressed; electrons are rearranged; marks are made on paper.
At another time, in another place, light strikes the marks, reflects into a pair of high-precision optical instruments sculpted by nature after billions of years of random mutations; upside-down images are formed against two screens made up of millions of light-sensitive cells, which translate light into electrical pulses that go up the optic nerves, cross the chiasm, down the optic tracts, and into the visual cortex, where the pulses are reassembled into letters, punctuation marks, words, sentences, vehicles, tenors, thoughts.
The entire system seems fragile, preposterous, science fictional.”
“I don't pay much attention to the distinction between fantasy and science fiction–or between “genre” and “mainstream” for that matter. For me, all fiction is about prizing the logic of metaphors-which is the logic of narratives in general–over reality, which is irreducibly random and senseless.
We spend our entire lives trying to tell stories about ourselves–they’re the essence of memory. It is how we make living in this unfeeling accidental universe tolerable. That we call such a tendency “the narrative fallacy” doesn’t mean it doesn’t also touch upon some aspect of the truth.
Some stories simply literalize their metaphors a bit more explicitly.”
“But being the mirrors for each other's souls has a cost: by the time they part from each other, the individuals in the mating pair have become indistinguishable. Before their merger, they each yearned for the other; as they part, they part from the self. The very quality that attracted them to each other is also, inevitably, destroyed in their union.”
“History is a narrative enterprise, and the telling of stories that are true, that affirm and explain our existence, is the fundamental task of the historian. But truth is delicate, and it has many enemies. Perhaps that is why, although we academics are supposedly in the business of pursuing the truth, the word “truth” is rarely uttered without hedges, adornments, and qualifications.
Every time we tell a story about a great atrocity, like the Holocaust or Pingfang, the forces of denial are always ready to pounce, to erase, to silence, to forget. History has always been difficult because of the delicacy of the truth, and denialists have always been able to resort to labeling the truth as fiction.
One has to be careful, whenever one tells a story about a great injustice. We are a species that loves narrative, but we have also been taught not to trust an individual speaker.
Yes, it is true that no nation, and no historian, can tell a story that completely encompasses every aspect of the truth. But it is not true that just because all narratives are constructed, that they are equally far from the truth. The Earth is neither a perfect sphere nor a flat disk, but the model of the sphere is much closer to the truth. Similarly, there are some narratives that are closer to the truth than others, and we must always try to tell a story that comes as close to the truth as is humanly possible.
The fact that we can never have complete, perfect knowledge does not absolve us of the moral duty to judge and to take a stand against evil.”
“The universe is full of echoes and shadows, the afterimages and last words of dead civilizations that have lost the struggle against entropy. Fading ripples in the cosmic background radiation, it is doubtful if most, or any, of these messages will ever be deciphered. Likewise, most of our thoughts and memories are destined to fade, to disappear, to be consumed by the very act of choosing and living. That is not a cause for sorrow, sweetheart. It is the fate of every species to disappear into the void that is the heat death of the universe. But long before then, the thoughts of any intelligent species worthy of the name will become as grand as the universe itself.”