You can read this beautiful short story for free here: https://www.tor.com/2023/09/13/the-pa…
Cover art illustrated by Mary Haasdyk
The Passing of the Dragon by Ken Liu
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Genre: Short Story
Pages: 46 pages (Kindle edition)
Ken Liu has done it again. The Passing of the Dragon is a brilliant and impactful story, I believe, should be read by every reader, reviewer, artist, and author.
“An artist craves an audience, but maybe not all audiences are crave-worthy. “
Art is subjective.
As a reader and book reviewer, these three words are a firm steel-forged belief in reading and reviewing books. Art is subjective. What I read and experience will never be the same as other individuals. Sure, we will brush and touch upon some emotions we inherently feel similarly. Sorrow. Happiness. Wrath. And more. But my overall reading experiences and visualizations will never be completely the same as another reader’s. It is impossible, and that is okay. It is one of the many beauties of art.
“Everyone is heroic, the protagonist of their story, the only story they’ll know from the inside out—true, unflinching, joyous in the face of the void. There is light in everything. It is all so beautiful.”
I am someone who doesn’t believe there is a 100% objective quality in the matter of storytelling. What has been perceived as awful has often been perceived as a masterpiece by other readers, and vice versa. If a series has been highly praised by one or thousands (the numbers don’t matter) of readers, how is it that one’s opinion that the book is mediocre should be valued over the others? Who are we, or anyone, to have the confidence and criteria to merit something as objective as if they are the gods of art whose opinion should be fully valued over someone else’s? This is something that has been bothering me for years.
“It’s the fashion among some “aspiring artists” at the co-op to formulate their critiques in the harshest terms possible in the belief that they are doing the victim a favor because a “thick skin” is necessary for artists. She’s never really understood their logic, however, since a thin skin, a vulnerability, a sensitivity toward the nuances of reality—a readiness to perceive dragons—is necessary to see the world’s beauty, to feel the tingling in the fabric of the cosmos that is at the foundation of all art.”
The number of comments and opinions I’ve seen in my life of people claiming their “opinion” as a fact and what they analyzed as the must-be-accepted truth and should be prioritized above others, resulting in a clash of ideals and opinions throwing hatred instead of making healthy discussions, simply because they want to be selfishly believed and praised over the others is utterly baffling to me. We are all different individuals. When we read a book through the simple act of reading, we sometimes forget the reading experience is influenced by many factors. We, as humans, are always subconsciously or consciously influenced by a myriad of powerful (subtle or not) components in our lives. The food we eat, the stories we absorb, the cultures we live in, the language we speak, the information we hear, the relationships we preserve, the heartbreaks we suffer, the struggles we endure, and many more. The factors are limitless. And we brought all of these with us when we read a book. There was never any possible way that any series could ever be claimed as universally loved or hated when there is an infinite thread of connections deciding our reading experience. I am adamant about this notion.
“We’re all trying to tell our own story… And we make other people parts of our own stories. We’re meant to bring our stories together, to speak and listen and know that the stories are real and they matter. I’m glad you are a part of my story, and I’m sorry I didn’t listen to your story as well as I should have. Thank you.”
I consider Ken Liu as one of the best authors of all time. The Dandelion Dynasty and his collection of short stories are some of my favorite stories to read. And The Passing of the Dragon counts. Some would not agree with me, and that is valid. None of our opinions are wrong, and none of them are objective. It is our respective rights and freedom to feel that way. And I, as someone who has spent an unforgettable adventure in the Islands of Dara and The Lands of Ukyu and Gonde, and have the honor to converse with Ken Liu, The Passing of the Dragon made me feel like I am back chatting with Ken Liu again over the importance of subjective reading experience, art, reading, reviewing, and stories. I absolutely love this short story about an artist who fears she’s failing and seeks inspiration from one of her favorite poets. What she finds is something magical, unexpected, and life-changing. Just like us readers when we read life-changing books. The entire short story is practically highlightable, and I strongly encourage every reader to read The Passing of the Dragon and form their own opinion on it.
“Life is one long story we tell ourselves to make sense of the world, and in our quest for meaning, we make other people players in our own psychomachia. Sometimes the consequence of doing that can be terrible, like what happened to me. But it’s worth remembering that everyone is trying their best to look for their dragon, to find the heart of their story, and to then tell it as well as they are able.”
Art is subjective.
The world of art would be in a calmer state if we all embraced these three words. This is, among many reasons, why an incredible story like The Passing of the Dragon matters. And I am pleased to be one of its audience.
Write the story you want to write.
Read the story you want to read.
Paint the story you want to paint.
Tell the story you want to tell.
“It’s okay to take art that’s out there and make it part of your own story, to read into it what you want, desire, need—it’s inevitable, really. Maybe that is the only kind of universality possible.
But we should also try to remember that each artist has their own story. An artist doesn’t just crave an audience, but an audience who can hear that story, who can affirm that the story matters.
Everyone deserves that.”
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