State Change • 2004 • Magic Realism short story by Ken Liu



Children in this world are born with a physical object containing the soul. In Rina’s case, this is a ice cube. Her whole reclusive behaviour is about refrigerators as a consequence: When the ice’s state changes, she will die. Her wild friend Amy is the complete difference: Her soul is packed in a box of cigarettes and whenever she feels like it, she dares someone for a special trait while smoking another of her cigarettes:

All life is an experiment.


This is one of Lius’s first stories. It references The Golden Compass, but also a couple of other literary samples. I liked how the story asked me to think of the shape of my soul and how it changes. Note also that there is a very interesting interview with Liu dedicated to this story at Lightspeed. How is your soul shaped?

Meta: isfdb. This magic realism short story was published 2004, and republished 2014 in Lightspeed. I read it as part of The Paper Menagerie. It is also available for free.



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