Short Fiction Friday: Paper Menagerie

Paper Menagerie by Ken Liu

A gentle fantasy. Love, paper tigers, mail order bride, culture clash.

Ken Liu's incredible story "Paper Menagerie" just became the first work of fiction to win all three of SF's major awards: the Hugo, the Nebula and the World Fantasy Award. And we're proud to be able to reprint the whole story, right here at io9. Here's your chance to find out what all the excitement is about, and discover one of science fiction's fastest rising stars. 

Every once in a while you across a story that is beautiful, thought provoking and that gives you the chills all at the same time. Basically one that messes up your emotions. Paper Menagerie is one that does it, no wonder that this short story by Ken Liu has won three of the most prestigous awards: the Nebula, Hugo and the World Fantasy Award. 

The start of Paper Menagerie is really normal. The story is told from the perspective of the young boy Jack who is playing with his mother. His mother has a special skill, magical, she can make origami animals come to life. In his early years, Jack has a lot of fun with these creatures and doesn't require any other toys to play with. Soon after this you are hit with a hard fact, Jack's mother and father didn't had a romantic meeting, Jack's father got his mother from China out of a catalog and arranged paperwork to get her to America and merry her. But well for Jack this doesn't really matter as it is his mother... well right until the moment when one day Jack and a friend are playing and Jack's origami toys run rampant destroying a action figure of Jack's friend. Now Jack is presented with a harsh time at school, being bullied until the point that he can't take it anymore and he reacts to his mother, saying he wants to be normal and wished he had to American parent. Now a strong division within the family is starting to rise. Jacks swears of his origami creatures and goes about his own way. After this the story starts to skip a few years and you eventually see Jack in the hospital, guarding over his mother. She is terminally ill. Now this is one of the saddest moments of the story. All his mother pleads to Jack is that he reminds her on the Festival for the Dead. Jack is quite reluctant in this but by chance he is reminded of this fact and then Ken Liu drops the emotional bomb on you. The personal story of Jack's mother, how she got in America in the end and how she perceived Jack's growing up and how desperate she was to connect with her. 

I hadn't thought it possible that so much emotion could be put in a story. What Ken Liu did with this story is just amazing. It still plays part in my mind. All the aspects that he involves from loving your children and your parents, social acceptance by peers and how cultures differ is just beautiful but also very realistic and I do think that some families have had these kind of problem to a certain degree. 

Paper Menagerie was published back in 2011, don't know why I hadn't learned about this story earlier. One of the most highly recommended works of short fiction. Read this guys and a world will open for you. 


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