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Yu, Charles

Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Author.

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(1976-    ) US lawyer and author who began publishing work of genre interest with "Third Class Superhero" and other stories assembled as Third Class Superhero (coll 2006), none of these tales having been previously published; several stories in his second collection, Sorry Please Thank You: Stories (coll 2012), appeared previously in journals, including the impressive "Standard Loneliness Package" (November 2010 Lightspeed), in which, through an advanced Computer-governed interface, individuals are able to hire temporary substitute selves (see Identity Transfer) to live through bad hours. The Ruined Earth featured in The Only Living Girl on Earth (2020 ebook) becomes a disaster-tourism site for vacationing humans from other planets, but its appeal approves limited; eventually only a single caretaker remains on the planet (see Last Man).

Yu's first novel, How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe (2010), also focuses on contemporary psyches at profound risk from the modern world when they are unable to surf through it. The "Time Travel repairman" protagonist of the novel, which is set in an Alternate World disturbingly similar to suburban America, surfs the disorder and aimlessness of his life via Time Machine, but like his fellow citizens spends most of his time revisiting his own minor triumphs and traumas. The various Time Loops and impasses he encounters and lives or relives perhaps all too clearly serve as Satirical metaphors of the human condition in an age (it is clearly our own age) that has had its prayers answered and has passed its sell-by. This metaphorical pressingness of Yu's work, at its best, is reminiscent of the work of Robert Sheckley or Kurt Vonnegut in America, half a century earlier; or of Italo Calvino, slightly more recently. His second novel, Interior Chinatown (2020), though it contains no designatedly fantastic elements, creates a powerful sense that its bit-role actor protagonist – caught in a world where he plays and replays Chinese-American Clichés on screen – could be thought of as caught in a Time Loop, with the television version of Chinatown also serving as a Prison in something like real life. [JC]

Charles Chowkai Yu

born Los Angeles, California: 3 January 1976


collections and stories

works as editor


previous versions of this entry

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