Charles Yu

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Charles Yu
Charles Yu at the 2011 Texas Book Festival
Charles Yu at the 2011 Texas Book Festival
BornCharles Chowkai Yu
(1976-01-03) January 3, 1976 (age 47)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
  • Author
  • novelist
  • short story writer
  • attorney
Alma materUC Berkeley (BS)
Columbia University Law School (JD)
Genrenovel, literary fiction, science fiction, experimental fiction, non-fiction
Notable worksHow to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe (2010)
Interior Chinatown (2020)
Notable awardsNational Book Award for Fiction (2020) (for Interior Chinatown)
Robert Olen Butler Prize
Sherwood Anderson Fiction Award

Charles Chowkai Yu (born January 3, 1976) is an American writer. He is the author of the novels How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe and Interior Chinatown, as well as the short-story collections Third Class Superhero and Sorry Please Thank You. In 2007 he was named a "5 under 35" honoree by the National Book Foundation.[1] In 2020, Interior Chinatown won the National Book Award for fiction.[2]


In 2007, Yu was selected by the National Book Foundation as one of its "5 Under 35", a program which highlights the work of the next generation of fiction writers by asking five previous National Book Award fiction Winners and Finalists to select one fiction writer under the age of 35 whose work they find particularly promising and exciting. Yu was selected for the honor by Richard Powers.[1]

In 2021, Yu established the Betty L. Yu and Jin C. Yu Creative Writing Prizes in collaboration with[3][4]

Short stories[edit]

His fiction was cited for special mention in the Pushcart Prize Anthology XXVIII, specifically "Problems for Self-Study" published in the Harvard Review.[5]

Yu also received the 2004 Sherwood Anderson Fiction Award from the Mid-American Review for his story, "Third Class Superhero".[6][7]

As for editing anthologies, Yu served as the Guest Editor for the Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2017 from The Best American Series and the publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.[8]


How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe[edit]

His first novel, How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe, was published and released in 2010 and was ranked that year's second-best science fiction novel by the Center for the Study of Science Fiction at the University of Kansas — and a runner up for the Campbell Memorial Award.[9] The book was also optioned by film director and writer Chris Columbus' production company, 1492 Pictures.[10][11] The novel was further listed in Time magazine's Top 10 Fiction Books of 2010, The New York Times 100 Notable Books of 2010, and was one of's Top 10 SF/F Books for 2010.

Interior Chinatown[edit]

In 2020, Yu released his second novel, Interior Chinatown, which uses the screenplay format to tell the tale of Willis Wu, the "Generic Asian Man" who is stuck playing "Background Oriental Male" and occasionally "Delivery Guy" in the fictional police procedural Black and White but who longs to be "Kung Fu Guy" on screens worldwide.[12] On January 27, 2020, Yu appeared on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah to discuss the book, as well as the lack of on-screen representation for Asian Americans and the Asian American "model minority myth".[13] Yu further appeared on NPR's Weekend Edition with Scott Simon, January 25, 2020,[14] and on the Los Angeles Review of Books Radio Hour with Medaya Ocher and Kate Wolf on February 3, 2020[15] to further discuss the novel.

Interior Chinatown won the 2020 National Book Award for Fiction,[2] after being announced as a finalist,[16] and made the Long List of the 2021 Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction.[17] and was a Finalist or Shortlisted for the 2020 Prix Médicis étranger awards.[18]

In an interview with Timothy Tau for Hyphen, Yu remarked that his influences for the novel included Paul Beatty's Man Booker Prize-winning novel The Sellout as well as the "cyclical structure" of the film Groundhog Day.[19]

Screenplays and TV writing[edit]

In 2016, Yu was a story editor for ten episodes of the first season of the 2016 HBO series Westworld, and co-wrote the episode "Trace Decay". For his work on the show, he received two Writers Guild of America Award Nominations in 2017: Drama Series and New Series.[20]

Other writing[edit]

Yu's non-fiction, essays, book reviews, journalism and other writing have also appeared online and in print in The Atlantic ( "The Pre-pandemic Universe Was the Fiction"), Slate (various reviews and articles on video games such as L.A. Noire and Portal 2), The Wall Street Journal ("Novelist Charles Yu on St. George California Reserve Agricole Rum"), Time ("What It's Like to Never Ever See Yourself on TV"), The Offing ("Thirteen Ways of Looking at 45" about the 45th president of the United States, Donald Trump), The New York Times Style Magazine ("George R. R. Martin, Fantasy's Reigning King"), McSweeney's Internet Tendency ("What Kind of World Is This?"), The Morning News ("Buffalo Wild Wings Grill & Bar", a review) and Polygon ("What future artificial intelligence will think of our puny human video games").

He is interviewed by and also interviews Lev Grossman in The Believer[21] and comments on the work of Philip Roth (stating that he has "read more books by Roth than probably any other contemporary writer"), Don DeLillo, and Jonathan Lethem in installments of the "Influenced by" series published by Jaime Clarke in The Believer as well.[22][23][24][25]

He has also written reviews in The New York Times Book Review of books (novels or short story collections) from Neal Stephenson, Joe Hill, Jasper Fforde and John Wray.[26][27][28][29][30]

Personal life[edit]

Yu's parents emigrated to the United States from Taiwan.[31]

Yu graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, majoring and receiving a Bachelor in Arts in molecular and cellular biology and a minor in creative writing, where he "wrote poetry, not fiction"[32] and also "took several poetry workshops with people like Thom Gunn and Ishmael Reed".[33] He obtained his Juris Doctor from Columbia Law School.[34] Yu worked as an associate at Sullivan & Cromwell and Bryan Cave as a corporate attorney, as the Director of Business Affairs at Digital Domain, and as an associate general counsel at Belkin International before becoming a full-time fiction and TV writer.[34]

He lives near Irvine, California, with his wife, Michelle Jue, and their two children, Sophia and Dylan.[35] His brother is the actor and TV writer Kelvin Yu.[36]

Awards and accolades[edit]



  • How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe (2010, Pantheon ISBN 0-307-37920-5)
  • Interior Chinatown (2020, Pantheon Books. ISBN 9780307907196)[37]

Short story collections[edit]

Uncollected short stories[edit]

  • "Systems", The New York Times Magazine, July 7, 2020
  • "Bounty", Xprize ANA "Avatars.Inc" Anthology (eBook and also online), March 2020
  • "The Future of Work: Placebo", Wired, December 17, 2018
  • "America, The Ride", Lightspeed, November 2018, Issue 102 (anthologized in Resist: Tales from a Future Worth Fighting Against, edited by Hugh Howey, Gary Whitta & Christie Yant (Broad Reach Publishing 2018))
  • "NPC", Lightspeed, September 2018, Issue 100 (anthologized in Press Start to Play, edited by Daniel H. Wilson & John Joseph Adams (Vintage Books 2015))
  • "Bookkeeper, Narrator, Gunslinger", Lightspeed, April 2017, Issue 83 (anthologized in Dead Man's Hand: An Anthology of the Weird West, edited by John Joseph Adams (Titan Books, 2014))
  • "Subtext®: It Knows What You're Thinking Stop Thinking", Wired, December 13, 2016
  • "Fable", The New Yorker, May 23, 2016, Fiction (May 30, 2016 Issue)
  • "Re: re: Microwave in the break room doing weird things to fabric of spacetime", Motherboard, Tech by Vice, November 12, 2015



  • "The Pre-pandemic Universe Was the Fiction", The Atlantic, April 15, 2020
  • "What It's Like to Never See Yourself on TV", TIME, January 21, 2020
  • "George R. R. Martin, Fantasy's Reigning King", The New York Times Style Magazine, October 15, 2018
  • "What Kind of World Is This?", McSweeney's Internet Tendency, September 7, 2018
  • "What future artificial intelligence will think of our puny human video games", Polygon, January 9, 2018
  • "Buffalo Wild Wings Grill & Bar", The Morning News
  • "Thirteen Ways of Looking at 45", The Offing, May 2, 2017
  • "Novelist Charles Yu on St. George California Reserve Agricole Rum", The Wall Street Journal, December 26, 2014
  • "Gaming Club 2011: I have seen the future, and it is full of noobs like me.", Slate, December 15, 2011
  • "L.A. Noire: The characters in the most realistic video games are still basically puppets.", Slate, December 14, 2011
  • "Portal 2: How playing a video game is like writing fiction.", Slate, December 13, 2011

Book reviews[edit]

  • "Short Stories From Joe Hill, Spiked With Mayhem and Evil", NYT Book Review, October 1, 2019
  • "Neal Stephenson's New Novel — Part Tech, Part Fantasy — Dazzles", NYT Book Review, June 14, 2019
  • "A Brilliantly Funny and Slightly Bonkers New Novel From Jasper Fforde", NYT Book Review, February 28, 2019
  • "‘The Lost Time Accidents,’ by John Wray", NYT Book Review, February 21, 2016
  • "‘Seveneves,’ by Neal Stephenson", NYT Book Review, May 31, 2015



  1. ^ a b "5 Under 35 2007". National Book Foundation. Retrieved July 21, 2022.
  2. ^ a b c d Alter, Alexandra (November 19, 2020). "Charles Yu Wins National Book Award for 'Interior Chinatown'". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved November 19, 2020.
  3. ^ Locus Magazine (February 22, 2021). "Charles Yu Establishes Taiwanese American Creative Writing Prize". Locus Online. Retrieved August 19, 2022.
  4. ^ "National Book Award winner Charles Yu discusses his new prize for Taiwanese American writers". Orange County Register. February 25, 2021. Retrieved August 19, 2022.
  5. ^ Henderson, Bill (2004). Pushcart Prize XXVIII, 2004: Best of the Small Presses. Pushcart Press. ISBN 978-1-888889-36-9.
  6. ^ a b "Volume XXV, No. 2 – Mid-American Review". Retrieved July 21, 2022.
  7. ^ "Charles Yu | Penguin Random House". Retrieved July 21, 2022.
  8. ^ "Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2017 – John Joseph Adams". Retrieved July 21, 2022.
  9. ^ a b "The John W. Campbell Memorial Award" Updated 11 July 2011. Retrieved 2012-04-25.
  10. ^ Miller, Daniel (December 2, 2011). "Chris Columbus' Production Company Acquires Sci-Fi Novel (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved July 21, 2022.
  11. ^ Charlie Jane Anders, Will Hollywood sentimentalize Charles Yu's How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe?, io9, December 2, 2011,
  12. ^ Carolyn Kellog, The Washington Post, Charles Yu's ‘Interior Chinatown’ brilliantly skewers Hollywood typecasting,
  13. ^ "The Daily Show with Trevor Noah – Charles Yu – Tackling On-Screen Asian Representation With "Interior Chinatown" – Extended Interview". Comedy Partners. January 27, 2020. Retrieved May 4, 2020.
  14. ^ "'Interior Chinatown' Puts That Guy In The Background Front And Center". Retrieved July 21, 2022.
  15. ^ "Los Angeles Review of Books". Los Angeles Review of Books. February 3, 2020. Retrieved July 21, 2022.
  16. ^ "2020 National Book Awards Finalists Announced". National Book Foundation. October 6, 2020. Retrieved October 28, 2020.
  17. ^ a b JCARMICHAEL (October 18, 2020). "2021 Winners". Reference & User Services Association (RUSA). Retrieved July 21, 2022.
  18. ^ a b "Interior Chinatown by Charles Yu: 9780307948472 | Books". Retrieved July 21, 2022.
  19. ^ Timothy Tau, INTERIOR CHINATOWN WINS NATIONAL BOOK AWARD: Q&A with Charles Yu, Hyphen Magazine,
  20. ^ a b "2017 Writers Guild Awards Television, New Media, News, Radio, & Promotional Writing Nominations Announced". Retrieved July 21, 2022.
  21. ^ "Conversation from the Shadow Lands. An Interview with Charles Yu". Believer Magazine. July 1, 2015. Retrieved July 21, 2022.
  22. ^ Entire Collection of all "Influenced By" Believer posts,
  23. ^ "INFLUENCED BY". Believer Magazine. Retrieved July 21, 2022.
  24. ^ Jaime Clarke, Believer Magazine, L, Influenced by (where Yu discusses Jonathan Lethem),
  25. ^ Jaime Clarke, Believer Magazine, R, Influenced by (where Yu discusses Philip Roth and states "I've read more books by Roth than probably any other contemporary writer"),
  26. ^ Yu, Charles (June 14, 2019). "Neal Stephenson's New Novel — Part Tech, Part Fantasy — Dazzles". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved July 21, 2022.
  27. ^ Yu, Charles (May 27, 2015). "'Seveneves,' by Neal Stephenson". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved July 21, 2022.
  28. ^ Yu, Charles (October 1, 2019). "Short Stories From Joe Hill, Spiked With Mayhem and Evil". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved July 21, 2022.
  29. ^ Yu, Charles (February 28, 2019). "A Brilliantly Funny and Slightly Bonkers New Novel From Jasper Fforde". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved July 21, 2022.
  30. ^ Yu, Charles (February 19, 2016). "'The Lost Time Accidents,' by John Wray". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved July 21, 2022.
  31. ^ Ansari, Aleenah (February 8, 2022). "Charles Yu on identity, representation and what it means to be Asian American". The Seattle Times. Archived from the original on August 19, 2022. Retrieved August 19, 2022.
  32. ^ Mitchell, Shawn Andrew (May 6, 2013). "Fashionable Nonsense and a Better Brain: Part One of an Interview with Charles Yu". Fiction Writers Review. Retrieved November 19, 2020.
  33. ^ Birnbaum, Robert. "Charles Yu". The Morning News. Retrieved November 19, 2020.
  34. ^ a b Charles Yu, LinkedIn,
  35. ^ "Ten Questions for Charles Yu". Poets & Writers. January 28, 2020. Retrieved July 14, 2020.
  36. ^ "Kelvin Yu wins an Emmy for work on animated TV series - Taipei Times". September 20, 2017. Retrieved July 21, 2022.
  37. ^ "Book Marks reviews of Interior Chinatown by Charles Yu". Book Marks. Retrieved January 31, 2020.
  38. ^ Noble, Barnes &. "The 2004 Robert Olen Butler Prize Stories|Paperback". Barnes & Noble. Retrieved July 21, 2022.
  39. ^ "Charles Yu – Harvard Review". Retrieved July 21, 2022.
  40. ^ "10 Questions for Charles Yu | Mass Review". Retrieved July 21, 2022.

External links[edit]