John Chu

writer, improviser, microprocessor designer, translator, podcast narrator

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So I won a Hugo

I have no memory of winning the Hugo. I never heard John Clute say the name of my story or my name. I was sitting among friends so I have this vague memory of people screaming around me. I barely remember walking on stage and hitting my mark with the Hugo in hand. However, I don’t remember actually receiving the Hugo or setting it on the table near the podium.

When I realized that my acceptance speech was not in my pocket, my improv training kicked in. I remember recreating the speech in my head, saying the first sentence, and Steph running to the stage to give me the speech that fell out of my pocket when I stood to go to the stage. (Thank you, Steph, for preventing me from making a major fool of myself.) Once I started reading the prepared speech, though, my next clear memory is walking behind the stage with the Hugo. At some point, I must have delivered my prepared speech then picked...

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Spec fic in August

The Past

My story “A Cost-Benefit Analysis of the Proposed Trade-Offs for the Overhaul of the Barricade” is now live at It was edited by the brilliant Ann VanderMeer and features an amazing piece of Julie Dillon cover art.

It actually went live on July 30th. I just didn’t have time to blog about it until now.

Here’s the teaser blurb:

Generation after generation, engineers have maintained the barricade, a shield that protects civilization against Turbulence, this strange force that destroys both minds and machines. As Turbulence grows ever more intense and the barricade begins to fail, can Ritter live up to the demands of his father, an engineer the equal of any hero in the Five Great Classical Novels, as they struggle to prevent this civilization from falling like every civilization has before it?

The Present

Kaleidoscope, an anthology of diverse YA speculative fiction...

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My LonCon3 Schedule

After a little back-and-forth, I now have my schedule for LonCon 3, aka the 72nd World Science Fiction Convention, aka WorldCon. I’m a little sad that the panel discussing the Best FanCast finalists couldn’t find enough qualified panelists for the time slot. The 7(!) finalists are all awesome in their own way and it would have been fun to talk about them.

On the plus side, I have a reading! That’s genuinely a pleasant surprise. The programme committee has come up with a bunch of really interesting panels. (If I understand correctly, there should also be a “The World at WorldCon: Chinese SF.” I’m really looking forward to seeing that panel.)

We’ll see how it goes…

Stroll with the Stars

Saturday 09:00 - 10:00, Front of Aloft (ExCeL)

This will be a nice morning stroll with some of our favourite Authors, Artists and Editors. (And we stress, “stroll” - def: a leisurely walk. This will...

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So that was ReaderCon…

I’m at a bit of loss over how to start this blog post. How you put things makes a difference and I want to make sure I’m giving everything exactly the emphasis it deserves, no more but no less.

One way to start is to say that, on the whole, I had a great time. ReaderCon, as usual, attracted a lot of interesting people. I didn’t get to meet everyone I wanted to, but I’ve never managed to meet everyone I want at any con. I missed some items (e.g., Daniel José Older’s and Chip Delany’s readings) either because I was scheduled opposite them or, more likely, I was so tired that I slept through them by accident. It says something awesome about ReaderCon that there was so much great stuff happening that I couldn’t have caught everything I wanted to catch anyway.

Everyone running the con that I dealt with was awesome. From my own vantage point, they ran the con excellently. Whether it was the...

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My ReaderCon Schedule

ReaderCon, to quote their web site is “an annual conference or convention devoted to ‘imaginative literature’ — literary science fiction, fantasy, horror, and the unclassifiable works often called ‘slipstream.’” It’s held annually at the Burlington Marriott in Burlington, Massachusetts, this year from July 10-13.

ReaderCon is unusual in that the programming on Thursday is free. It runs from 8pm to 10pm. Everyone is welcome to get a taste of what the rest of the weekend will be like.

I’m making a special point of it this year because my reading is at 8pm on Thursday. I’ll be reading part of the story that will be published at on July 30th. (Invisible barricades! Feral libraries!) My Thursday schedule is actually kind of funny. It’s half an hour of what I’ve written followed by an hour of what I won’t write (with a half hour break in between).

Thursday July 10

8:00 PM ENV...

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A translation and an essay…

Tang Fei, an utterly amazing writer, has a story in the June 2014 issue of Clarkesworld in my translation. It’s called “Pepe” and it’s absolutely chilling. I hope I’ve done it justice.

Kate Baker has done her usual fine job with the podcast version. Check it out!

Last month, The Book Smugglers asked me for an essay for their SFF in Conversation series. In return, I sent them ““Stand Back! I’m Going To Quote Junot Díaz (Thinking about language)”.

At the time they asked me, there was a lot of discussion of the issues surrounding the use of dialect and non-English text in English-language fiction. In theory, this is my take on those issues. In practice, I write a lot about the history behind the orchestration of the Carousel Waltz and about plays where characters speak multiple languages. And, of course, I also quote Junot Díaz.

"The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere” will be podcast...

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So I got nominated for a Hugo

My short story “The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere” has been nominated for a Hugo Award for Best Short Story of 2013. I won’t say that I wasn’t surprised. In fact, there may have been some rather unprofessional shrieking at the top of lungs when I got the nomination email.

There’s not much to say this point except that I’m flattered by the company I’ve been placed in. Sofia Samatar, Rachel Swirsky, and Thomas Olde Heuvelt are three of the best short story writers working today. If you haven’t read their work, what are you waiting for? Go! Go!

Sofia Samatar’s and Rachel Swirsky’s stories are also nominated for the Nebula. Sofia Samatar is also nominated for the Campbell. Thomas Olde Heuvelt was nominated for a Hugo last year. Truly excellent writers, everyone of them.

I really am the only person in that category I’ve never heard of. It absolutely floors me that people have...

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Bullets over Broadway and the Most Happy Fella

Last time I was on the bus to NYC, I was mere pages from the end of Jeff VanderMeer’s Annihilation when the bus pulled into Port Authority. This time, I was mere pages from the end of 黑暗森林, book 2 of the 三体 trilogy. Incidentally, if you haven’t read Annihilation, why haven’t you? It’s brilliant and book 2 of the Southern Reach trilogy, Authority, comes out in May. Go!

[There’s no point to recommending 黑暗森林 (yet?) unless you read Chinese… and have the necessary vocabulary to parse space opera in Chinese. Or a dictionary.]

I caught the matinee of Bullets over Broadway. Before I say any more about it I have two caveats:

  • The musical is still in previews. A lot can still change between now and opening.
  • The musical is based on the 1994 Woody Allen movie of the same name and Woody Allen get the “written by” credit for the musical. The statute of limitations for spoiling the plot has passed...

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Three stories for the beginning of April

This is apparently a good month for my Clarion class. Ok, it’s a coincidence but it’s still really cool that three members of the Clarion class of 2010 (including me) have stories that went live in at the beginning of the month.

My story, “Repairing the World” is live in issue 59 (April 2014) of Apex Magazine. I’ve been describing it with the tags “Intruding savannah!” and “Bodyguard linguists!” The opening premise is that pieces of other worlds are systematically replacing the world and visa versa. As other worlds intrude into Lila’s ever more quickly, can she figure out how to preserve the world she knows?

Kali Wallace’s story, “Water in Springtime” is live in issue 91 (April 2014) of Clarkesworld Magazine. It’s a lush, beautifully written, inventive story about a girl on a journey and (among other things) her attempts to master her mother’s lessons. Kali’s work is never less than...

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Parking lot scuffle over nothing (or everything depending on your POV)

One of the first things I learned as a writer is that if you have three ways of telling the same story, you have three stories but if you have one way of telling three different stories, you have only one story. I’ve just gotten back from grocery shopping and what strikes me, right now, is how many different stories just happened at once in the parking lot. They all involve one guy trying to get something (or someone?) out of his SUV, one guy trying to get home, and a smashed side-view mirror.

It’s easy to make myself look like the good guy here:

I’m coming up to my car with my bag of groceries. The other guy has parked his SUV rather close to mine. (That space was empty when I went into the grocery store and I’d actually readjusted my parking to center myself in my own space. I remember because I had to watch out for a pedestrian.) He has a rear door partially open. It’s clearly not...

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