Charles Yu and Chris Fan

Sep 15, 2022

The Work of Inhabiting a Role

Novel Dialogue Crossover, JP

New Books Network 2022

purchase at bookshop.org

Charles Yu won the 2020 National Book Award for Interior Chinatown but some of us became fans a decade earlier, with How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe (2010). That novel brilliantly uses SF conventions to uncover the kind of self-deceptive infilling that we all do every day, the little stories we tell ourselves to make our world seem predictable and safe when it’s anything but. In this crossover episode, which originally aired on Novel Dialogue, where critics and novelists sit down together in peace, He speaks with John and with science-fiction scholar Chris Fan, Assistant Professor at UC Irvine, senior editor and co-founder of Hyphen magazine.

The conversation gets quickly into intimate territory: the pockets of safe space and the “small feelings” that families can and cannot provide, and that science fiction can or cannot recreate. Graph paper and old math books get a star turn. Charlie’s time as a lawyer is scrutinized; so too is “acute impostor syndrome” and the everyday feeling of putting on a costume or a mask, as well as what Du Bois called “double-consciousness.”

Mentioned in this Episode:

--Dale Carnegie How to Win Friends and Influence People (1936)
--W. E. B. Du Bois on “double-consciousness” (and so much more): Souls of Black Folk (1903)

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