A new beginning and two stories


2019 started with a flurry of activity—

My daughter was born just shy of the New Year. We named her Alinea, which means "the beginning of a new idea," aka ¶. I wouldn’t object if she decides to get a pilcrow tattoo someday.

And two of my short stories were published. Enjoy them here:

The debate over the relative dangers of Twitter mobs and the impact of socially mediated justice media justice is wide open and ongoing. “The River was making a crackling sound like burning flesh.”


What if the universe were a giant Turing machine?



I love the recent chatter about the future of the book, sparked by this article by Craig Mod. I found this bit salient:

[…] in an age of infinite distraction, one of the strongest assets of a “book” as a book is its singular, sustained, distraction-free, blissfully immutable voice. Instead, technology changed everything that enables a book, fomenting a quiet revolution. Funding, printing, fulfillment, community-building—everything leading up to and supporting a book has shifted meaningfully, even if the containers haven’t. Perhaps the form and interactivity of what we consider a “standard book” will change in the future, as screens become as cheap and durable as paper. But the books made today, held in our hands, digital or print, are Future Books, unfuturistic and inert may they seem.

For non-fiction, we are seeing a drastic unbundling of the book. Podcasts, Twitter, blogs, and YouTube have made it possible to glean the main ideas of a book without reading it. But the book is still quietly sitting there in the center, brandishing its static, linear form. I don’t think that will ever go away.

I’ve been enjoying a new app called Highlighter—it's a bit like Twitter, except discussions begin from a highlighted book passage. It’s what Kindle highlights should have been.

The beauty of Highlighter is that it subverts the feed’s hunger for newness.

Big social platforms have always had a bias for the new—new posts, new videos, new photos. New new new, click me! During my time at Facebook, the data showed how drastically post engagement drops off over time, and I imagine it’s the same at Twitter. But immersing yourself predominantly in new thoughts is dangerous because they’ve had less time to be interrogated, and your view is clouded by the context of the day. In Highlighter, there is the potential for fervent discussions about ideas regardless of their publishing age.


In the past year, I’ve been focused on writing short fiction. For this year, I’ll be diving into a novel. So, for the near future, I won’t be generating new short stories, but I’ll go back and revise existing stories every once in a while.

The novel is still early in my mind—like an infant learning to crawl—but I know that it will be a science fiction story centered around the theme of control: how we try to exert control on the world around us and ourselves. It’ll also question the idea of free will—one of my favorite topics.

I’ll share more thoughts as I go on this journey.


I recently enjoyed Jade City by Fonda Lee. It’s a blissful mix of Wuxia style kung fu and gang rivalry set in an Asian fantasy world. Lee practices martial arts herself, and it shows from the fantastic action sequences she paints. Back in college, I was a kung fu junkie myself, collecting films like Drunken Master and Once Upon a Time in China, studying Yuen Woo-ping’s choreography, and even shooting a few (terrible) amateur fight scenes with my buddies. Reading Jade City took me back to all that.

James Yu