It’s Not That It’s Bad, It’s That It’s So Mediocre.

“Paper Menagerie” by Ken Liu has just become the first story to win the Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy Award.

But it’s just not all that great, and it’s not really a fantasy story.

As for the science fiction portion, an entire village of magic origami makers is apparently of no interest to the Imperial, Republic, or Communist Chinese governments. They practice magic in public, yet the governments never think of any use for it. Nor does the magic origami user in the story use her powers over paper to change her life story in any way.

Yeah. There goes the science fiction portion.

And I also disbelieve that any woman would never significantly learn English when living in the midst of an English-speaking community, or that a kid growing up in the Seventies (when Asian stuff was cool, when genealogy and family history was wildly popular, and when learning foreign languages was widely seen as important and an enviable skill) would have experienced this particular Connecticut life. Also, everybody knows that guys get really good at foreign languages when they’re married to a foreign speaker, if they have any interest at all. So if the woman had only spoken Chinese and the kid spoke Chinese, ten to one that the husband would have spoken Chinese at home too. You don’t have to be super-great at a language to understand each other. So basically, we’re talking worst case scenario of non-assimilation… with a woman who simultaneously is extremely skilled at survival and has magic, a man who would go all the way to Hong Kong for the love of a woman’s eyes, and a kid who’s allegedly intelligent, all refusing to get any suburban or family survival skills. I mean, it could happen, but does it make any sense?

We also have a letter where Mao’s famines “struck,” rather than being caused deliberately by government stupidity and malice. Most survivors of Communism take it pretty personally.

However, I disbelieve most of all that a woman who’d been through Mao’s Cultural Revolution and slavery elsewhere would ever have implied that Connecticut was the worst thing to ever happen to her. Seriously?

Oh, noes, I live in a suburb with food and family and a roof over my head!

Yeah, that’s exactly how the survivors of Communism usually feel.

Obviously it’s normal to feel alienated a little if you’re an immigrant. It’s normal for children of immigrants to feel a little alienated also. Does this mean that the one generation is morally superior to the other? Or does it mean that everyone in this family becomes big jerks to each other because humans are just meanies?

I don’t get what I’m supposed to be thinking here, and why the mother didn’t start some kind of business or art installation or local TV show with her origami. And if other people can’t actually see or hear the origami, why the implications of a mind control telepathy that persists after death are not being examined.

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