Editors’ note: This episode originally aired as PodCastle 165. We are reissuing it to celebrate PodCastle’s 10th anniversary. This story was in first position in a listener vote that was held to determine PodCastle’s most-loved episodes over the past decade.
The Paper Menagerie
by Ken Liu
A little paper tiger stood on the table, the size of two fists placed together. The skin of the tiger was the pattern on the wrapping paper, white background with red candy canes and green Christmas trees.
I reached out to Mom’s creation. Its tail twitched, and it pounced playfully at my finger. “Rawrr-sa,” it growled, the sound somewhere between a cat and rustling newspapers.
I laughed, startled, and stroked its back with an index finger. The paper tiger vibrated under my finger, purring.
“Zhe jiao zhezhi,” Mom said. This is called origami.
I didn’t know this at the time, but Mom’s kind was special. She breathed into them so that they shared her breath, and thus moved with her life. This was her magic.
About the Author
Ken Liu is an author of speculative fiction, as well as a translator, lawyer, and programmer. A winner of the Nebula, Hugo, and World Fantasy awards, he is the author of The Dandelion Dynasty, a silkpunk epic fantasy series (The Grace of Kings (2015), The Wall of Storms (2016), and a forthcoming third volume) and The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories (2016), a collection. He also wrote the Star Wars novel, The Legends of Luke Skywalker (2017).
In addition to his original fiction, Ken also translated numerous works from Chinese to English, including The Three-Body Problem (2014), by Liu Cixin, and “Folding Beijing,” by Hao Jingfang, both Hugo winners.
About the Narrator
Rajan Khanna is a fiction writer, blogger, reviewer and narrator. His first novel, Falling Sky, a post-apocalyptic adventure with airships, was released in 2014 from Pyr. Sequels Rising Tide and Raining Fire came out in 2015 and 2017. His short fiction has appeared in Lightspeed Magazine, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Shimmer, and several anthologies. His articles and reviews have appeared at Tor.com and LitReactor.com and his podcast narrations can be heard at Podcastle, Escape Pod, PseudoPod, Beneath Ceaseless Skies and Lightspeed Magazine. Rajan lives in Brooklyn, NY where he’s a member of the Altered Fluid writing group. He is represented by Barry Goldblatt of the Barry Goldblatt Literary Agency.