Babel: the Waterstones Special Edition

I finally get to announce this! Waterstones and I are collaborating on a special edition of Babel, and I’ll just let the image speak for itself. They’re up for pre-order now at the Waterstones website. (They do ship internationally to a lot of countries including the United States – the full list of places they ship to is on their website.)

All of these will be signed. I have a lot of sheets to get through over the next few months, and I’ll be live-streaming some signing sessions as AMAs on Instagram like I’ve done in the past. So if you happen to notice me go live on a week night, pop in to say hi or ask a question!

“What if I’ve already preordered?” Hold on to that receipt. We have preorder swag coming for you as well! As we finalize things in the next few months, I’ll let you know through my newsletter how and where to sign up.

announcing BABEL

The wait is over! I can now share that my fourth novel, Babel, is out August 2022 from Harper Voyager.

Please meet the cohort: Robin, Victoire, Ramiz, and Letitia.

Art by Kimberly Jade McDonald

Now what’s it about?

1828. Robin Swift, orphaned by cholera in Canton, is brought to London by the mysterious Professor Lovell. There, he trains for years in Latin, Ancient Greek, and Chinese, all in preparation for the day he’ll enroll in Oxford University’s prestigious Royal Institute of Translation — also known as Babel.

Traduttore, traditore: An act of translation is always an act of betrayal.

Babel is the world’s center of translation and, more importantly, of silver-working: the art of manifesting the meaning lost in translation through enchanted silver bars, to magical effect. Silver-working has made the British Empire unparalleled in power, and Babel’s research in foreign languages serves the Empire’s quest to colonize everything it encounters.

Oxford, the city of dreaming spires, is a fairytale for Robin; a utopia dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge. But knowledge serves power, and for Robin, a Chinese boy raised in Britain, serving Babel inevitably means betraying his motherland. As his studies progress Robin finds himself caught between Babel and the shadowy Hermes Society, an organization dedicated to sabotaging the silver-working that supports imperial expansion. When Britain pursues an unjust war with China over silver and opium, Robin must decide: Can powerful institutions be changed from within, or does revolution always require violence? What is he willing to sacrifice to bring Babel down?

Babel — a thematic response to The Secret History and a tonal response to Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell — grapples with student revolutions, colonial resistance, and the use of translation as a tool of empire.

You can now add it on Goodreads here!

I’m also sending an essay to newsletter subscribers soon about the writing of Babel and its inspirations. It was supposed to go out last night, but I’ve received quite a lot of last minute sign-ups to the mailing list, so I’ll hold off on just a little bit to give everyone time! You can sign up here.

sign up for my newsletter!

Hey folks!

The powers that be have intimated I’m overdue at the point where I need to toughen up and learn how to run a newsletter. I get a lot of questions about where to keep up to date on new releases and the like, so I figured the easiest way was to create a mailing list that you can sign up for.

I won’t send newsletters very often–maybe a couple times a year? This is purely to let subscribers know about things like the release date of the Oxford novel (and the TITLE when we finally get to announce that?), in-person events, special editions and where they’ll go on sale, signed copies, and other information you might want to know if you like reading my books, and don’t feel like trawling social media to discover the latest news!

If that doesn’t sound too spammy for you, you can click here to subscribe!

news! news! huge news!

Today from Deadline Hollywood:

EXCLUSIVERebecca F. Kuang’s series of fantasy novels including The Poppy War, are set to be adapted for television after Peter Luo’s Starlight Media optioned the rights.

Starlight Media, which has backed films including Crazy Rich Asians and Midway, has taken the rights to The Poppy War, Dragon Republic and The Burning God.

The company has teamed with financing and production banner SA Inc to develop and finance the female-led, fantasy epic, which combines the history of twentieth-century China and a world of gods and monsters.

Allen Fischer from management/production company Artists First is packaging the project with Starlight, and is in the process of attaching a showrunner.

Ahhh! That’s all I got.

THE BURNING GOD is out today!!!

Happy launch day! I kicked off the morning chatting to Lucy Nalpathanchil on WNPR radio; thank you to Carmen Baskauf for producing! You can listen to the full archived show here.

Launching a book during a pandemic is weird. Normally I’d be at a local bookstore, signing stock and beaming in satisfaction at seeing my work on shelves (nope, that never gets old!). Today I’m wrapping up a trilogy, but it doesn’t feel as momentous as perhaps it should. I’ll be at home, sipping champagne and plugging away at the next book. I’m doing a modified version of Nanowrimo–I’m just writing about 1000 words a day, but that’s all I need to stay on track to have 190,000 done by the end of the year)–and my streak’s been unbroken so far so if the election couldn’t distract me, launch day sure can’t. But probably that’s the best way to avoid publication jitters–gotta keep my eyes on the next project.

Tonight I’ll be in virtual conversation with Ken Liu at Brookline Booksmith. (Tickets come with books and a signed bookplate). Since reading Ken’s Grace of Kings back in 2015 was what convinced me that there was space for a big China-inspired epic fantasy novel in the Western canon, it means a lot that I get to wrap up this trilogy doing an event with him. Then on Wednesday I’ll return to my favorite DC bookstore, Politics & Prose, with the brilliant Tochi Onyebuchi (tickets here), whose 2019 novella Riot Baby is one of the best things I’ve read recently. And that’s it for the TBG tour!

Some house-keeping things:

  • TBG will be back in stock on Amazon very soon. They sold out of their current inventory (good news, I think???) but have ordered more, so I don’t think those late November/December delivery dates are accurate. I’ll tweet updates as I learn more!
  • If you can’t wait for Amazon, I highly encourage getting it from your local indie bookstore, Barnes & Noble, or Bookshop. Most of those, bless up, have NOT run out of stock.
  • “The Drowning Faith” (the extra Nezha scenes that were the pre-order bonus!) will be sent out to everyone who uploaded proof of purchase by the end of the day.

a lecture, an interview, and a new anthology

Three updates in one blog post! I’ve worked on several projects over the past few weeks, which I’m glad to finally get to share:

First, I was recently invited to guest lecture at Professor Erin Keating’s class at the University of Manitoba. My talk was titled “The Poppy War in Context: Asian American Speculative Fiction,” and you can watch the whole thing here. I particularly enjoyed the discussion that followed (somewhere around the 40 minute mark)–the students and audience asked some really wonderful, thought-provoking questions.

Second, I was THRILLED to chat with Evan Winter on Daniel Greene’s Youtube channel. I’ve been on Daniel’s show once before, and it was a delight; it’s always nice when your interviewer asks fresh and difficult questions. But I especially enjoyed this round because I’ve been a huge fan of Evan Winter’s RAGE OF DRAGONS since I read it earlier this year–it’s one of those high-octane, high-stress epic fantasy novels that you swallow over two days because you can’t put it down. It also has some strong thematic similarities to THE POPPY WAR, which we touched on in our conversation. The sequel, THE FIRES OF VENGEANCE, comes out in just one week; happily, I’ve already got a copy.

Third, I’ve got an anthology coming out soon–this time as a translator! I had the honor of translating the title story “The Way Spring Arrives” by Wang Nuonuo for the upcoming anthology edited by Yu Chen and Regina Kanyu Wang. More here from Tor:

“As the home of the critically acclaimed Broken Stars and Invisible Planets, Tom Doherty Associates continues to expand its Chinese science fiction and fantasy program with this brand new collection. It will feature stories by award-winning authors Anna Wu, Xia Jia, Gu Shi, and Wang Nuonuo, among others, with a star-studded team of translators including Rebecca F. Kuang, Carmen Yiling Yan, and Gigi Chang, and many more. The collection will also feature critical essays on the art of translation, the state of science fiction and fantasy in China and the United States by Emily Xueni Jin (Yale University), Xueting Christine Ni (From Kuan Yin to Chairman Mao), and Jing Tsu (Yale University).”

that Time list…

According to Time Magazine this month, I’ve apparently written two of the 100 best fantasy novels of all time. The list had this to say about The Dragon Republic: “The story Kuang weaves around Rin and her battle-hardened comrades-in-arms in The Dragon Republic builds upon the reputation Kuang earned with her debut as one of contemporary fantasy’s most promising writers.”

So that felt pretty good!

“Best of” lists are always kind of silly from conception, and I know there’s no objective way to determine the best 100 fantasy novels of this time, but I see this list as a badly-needed nod to not only where the genre’s been, but also the excitingly diverse directions in which it’s going. There are a lot more women, BIPOC writers, and queer writers on this list than almost any other declaration of the Anglophone fantasy canon that I’ve seen. The composition has a lot to do with that (they actually asked BIPOC writers to consult! imagine!). So that’s why this is an honor. It’s made my month, really.

LeVar Burton reads “The Nine Curves River”

LeVar Burton recently did a dramatic reading of my short story “The Nine Curves River” (written for the 2020 anthology The Book of Dragons, ed. Jonathan Strahan) , which you can listen to here. I love his narration; it’s heart-breaking. I grew up watching Reading Rainbow, so it was pretty awesome to grow up to write words that LeVar Burton read out loud!