June 18, 2014
Interview with Peter Tieryas Liu
by Caitlin McGuire
Peter Tieryas Liu’s story, “Sketches from a Beijing Romance,” appeared in Fjords Review, Volume I, Issue 2.
About Peter Tieryas Liu
Peter Tieryas Liu once wandered Beijing and Shanghai, but has now settled on being an alligator feeder in a city in Pattaya, Thailand. He has something called Bald New World coming out in 2014 in both book and video game form. He hopes he doesn’t turn bald before 2014. He rants about David Ogilvy quotes at tieryas.wordpress.com.
CM: What inspired "Sketches from a Beijing Romance"?
PTL: The first night I landed in Beijing, I saw a guy on a bicycle singing a song to his girlfriend who was riding on the back seat. He was terrible and sounded like cats when they’re horny and screaming in the middle of the night, but she still seemed enraptured by his effort. I saw skyscrapers everywhere, bigger than the ones in Manhattan, than even the ones I saw in comic books by Frank Miller. Where the fuck was I? Oh yeah, Beijing. I fell in love in Beijing. I ate the best hamburger and lobster I’d ever had in the world. I hated their bathrooms, but I loved the crowded masses that reminded me of what it meant to be alive again instead of insulated in my room listening to melodramatic music and checking my iPhone every two seconds to read trivia I’d forget five minutes later. I was no longer shackled by consumer dreams of Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber-hood. I was a stranger in Asia, though everyone assumed I was a local because of my Asian appearance. Love smelled weird next to stinky tofu and pig feet and scorpion ice cream. I wanted to die and be reborn in charcoal ashes of artists I’d never heard about. “Sketches.”
CM: When you were eight years old, what did you want to be when you grew up?
PTL: A worm that writhes its way into the brains of strangers, sparking off weird ideas and memories, making them want to cry and laugh and run around naked and eat weird shit and then take a big shit and then fall in love and hate that same person and cry vengeance and wish for kites that flew in rain. I also wanted to build an enormous swimming pool made of strawberry milk that people could drink and swim in, though more awareness of hygiene practices convinced me a year later that the dream of strawberry swimming pools was impractical.
CM: What do you want to be when you grow up now?
PTL: I wonder if a day fly can ever have an existential crisis after emerging from being a maggot. Dragonflies have about three weeks unless they get eaten by frogs. I would like to be an old man pretending to be a young man realizing he is an old man all the while knowing he can never be a young man. But if not that, I’d love to write spam mail to strangers throughout the world asking for millions of dollars in exchange for imaginary mountains of ice cream (damn hygiene!).
CM: “Sketches from a Beijing Romance” is an intensely place-based story. Name a place you've written about but never been to.
PTL: Antarsia, a city full of rats, billions of them living side by side in peaceful harmony with humans until the mayor decides to exterminate them all so he can become famous. I’ve also never been to a shopping mall full of the poor and impoverished and a harem of hookers who are dying and hoping to find resistance to HIV through a man who was born HIV-resistant. Wait, have I ever been to Beijing before?
CM: What's the biggest occupational hazard in writing?
PTL: Getting your finger stuck on the keyboard while you accidentally hit your foot against the desk causing a tiny microfracture in the time continuum which results in a thermonuclear reaction at the level of quarks forcing a group of frenetic electrons to spur angrily in turn which ends in spontaneous combustion and the burning of your flesh in a microsecond so that you become a pillar of ash writing about the ashes of humanity because everything you write will be forgotten and lost through terabytes of memory that will burn with the eventual destruction of the sun or the vomit of too many ideas and writers who aspire to die in a blaze of literary apoplexy.
CM: What are books for?
PTL: Great books are mental fucks you share your soul and sperm with. Good books are for making out with and the occasional petting. Okay books are decent conversations and acquaintances you call up when you can’t find anyone else to have lunch with. Bad books are those drunk one-night stands you wish you could forget and you pretend you forget but linger hauntingly and occasionally jump out at you with memories of lust that remind you that the only reason the random madness of evolution makes any sense is because you can relate to monkeys when you wish you didn’t.
CM: What are you currently working on?
PTL: A novel called Bald New World coming out from Perfect Edge Books in early 2014. It’s a world in which everyone has lost all their hair. I don’t know why they all lost their hair. But they love wigs. I’ve never worn a wig before. Actually, once, but it made my scalp all sweaty. Did you know people hundreds of years ago used to shave their heads intentionally and wear wigs in order to avoid lice? Mosquitoes hounded me in China. I think they liked the taste of my blood.