ken-liuKen Liu, World Fantasy Award-winning author of The Paper Menagerie, announced yesterday the sale of his first novel, The Chrysanthemum and the Dandelion, and its sequels. The Chrysanthemum and the Dandelion is the first volume of The Dandelion Dynasty. A full synopsis of the series was provided on io9:

The Dandelion Dynasty follows Kuni Garu, a charming bandit, and Mata Zyndu, the son of a deposed duke. At first, the two seem like polar opposites. Yet, in the uprising against the emperor, they quickly become the best of friends after a series of adventures. The scope of the series is epic, involving gods, massive armies, diverse cultures, multiple plotlines, numerous characters, politics, war, courtly intrigue, and love.

He describes the series as “a loose retelling of the historical legends surrounding the the founding and early years of the Han Dynasty.” Liu further explains the impact that these legends have had on Chinese culture and literature, likening them to Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey. They’ve “been an important part of the mythic imagination of people in the Sinosphere for millennia,” he says. The Chrysanthemum and the Dandelion is Liu’s attempt at address an issue that he sees in contemporary narrative. He says:

Most of my stories are reactions against something I don’t like: a popular narrative leaves something out that I feel is crucial, a set of assumptions and myths being told and retold that I feel is damaging and limiting, or the kind of story I want to read isn’t being written. This series is no exception. I wanted to write a novel that told these stories that I loved to a readership that might be unfamiliar with them, but I didn’t want to write a straight historical novel or a “magic China” fantasy series — these approaches are fraught with the kind of appropriation issues that I find so problematic.

So I decided to do something different. I wanted to retell the stories in a new setting, with new cultures, new peoples, new technologies and magic that are not tied to their Chinese roots directly.


I didn’t want to write a straight historical novel or a “magic China” fantasy series — these approaches are fraught with the kind of appropriation issues that I find so problematic.

Liu explains the unusual origins of The Chrysanthemum and the Dandelion, which was first written during NaNoWriMo in 2010 (which makes this November announcement all the sweeter). “I worked off and on on it (and its sequels) since then over three years, each major revision pass altering the story in significant ways.” The early NaNoWriMo draft is far from the novel as it is today, however. “I joked with Rachel Swirsky once that, in a manner of speaking, I could be said to have written more than one novel considering how many times each sentence had been rewritten.”

Liu sold The Chrysanthemum and the Dandelion to Joe Monti, Executive Editor at Simon & Schuster’s new (unnamed) SFF imprint. Monti, as it happens, is Liu’s former agent. “The first buyer he approached (and the only one he needed to approach, as it turned out) was none other than Joe,” Liu says. “So now I get to work with an editor who I trust, who knows the manuscript well, and who understands my vision. Such a confluence of events was not something that could have been planned and would be preposterous if I presented it as fiction.” Seems like a match made in heaven, and gives Simon & Schuster an award-winning author to headline the launch of their new imprint.

“I’m incredibly excited to embark on my novel career with one of the greatest publishers in the world as my partner,” says Ken Liu. “I can’t wait to share this world that has lived only in my mind with readers.”

That excitement extends well beyond Liu, according to Monti. “His novels are highly anticipated,” he says, “and I’m thrilled to be able to work with Ken and his myriad talents at the launch of his publishing career with this series, which exemplifies the scope of our debut list. It’s kismet.”