Noted science fiction writer, Yoon Ha Lee, author of Revenant Gun and other works, delivers an interesting analysis of the science fiction world in which he thrives. Yoon Ha received a B.A. in mathematics from Cornell University as well as an M.A. in math education from Stanford University. His work in fiction has appeared in publications such as The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction; the popular online sci-fi magazine, Tor.com; and Clarkesworld Magazine, as well as many anthologies.
Yoon Ha was inspired to become a writer by his very passionate 3rd-grade teacher who challenged students to be creative. Learning about the craft of writing at such an early age pushed Yoon Ha to try his hand at it, and by the end of middle school, he had completed his first novel. And while Yoon Ha recounts that this first effort was not very good, he continued to work at his craft and wrote several more through his high school years. Yoon Ha discusses his work and the technical merits of writing that he sought to improve as he was cutting his teeth in those early years as a burgeoning young writer. From improving his prose to world building, Yoon Ha sought to enhance his work in every way possible. He details how characterization is an important aspect of novel writing, as readers like to relate to the characters personally, through the characters’ eyes. And he explains that while world building is important, perhaps the building of characters is the most important task of writing novels.
Yoon Ha discusses his first successful novel, Ninefox Gambit, and the reasons he feels the novel worked, and why it was commercially successful. Yoon Ha describes the unusual world that he built in that novel and the physics elements, as well as the cat and mouse dynamic, all of which he felt contributed to the popular interest in the book. The sci-fi author outlines his road to commercial success in the publishing world and he acknowledges that the many years he spent improving his craft helped get him there. As he built a significant following for his creative short stories through the years, his publisher sought to take his work to the obvious next level—marketable books.
Yoon Ha speaks about his own personal reading lists and how the reading and study of a broad range of disparate topics helps to expand his own mind and ultimately expand his creativity. From military to math, Yoon Ha found that literally, any subject matter could help to broaden his mind as a reader, which of course helped to improve his craft. He talks about some notable authors such as J. R. R. Tolkien, Lloyd Alexander, David Eddings and others, and recounts how their work impacted him as a young reader, and how his experience growing up as a Korean-American affected his perception and connection to some works. And as the work he was devouring as a young reader was largely from a western perspective, Yoon Ha thought to bring an East Asian influence to the sci-fi genre.
As the publishing field expands, Yoon Ha states that diversity is increasing, which allows more types of stories to be told, which in turn allows a larger audience to see themselves represented. The popular author describes some of the relative differences he sees between Korean culture and classically typical American culture, and the symbolic elements of both. Wrapping up, Yoon Ha provides an overview of the elements of his latest work, the novel, Revenant Gun. And he talks about his website (yoonhalee.com) and the many samples that interested readers can browse there for free.