Uses This

A collection of nerdy interviews asking people from all walks of life what they use to get the job done

A picture of Ken Liu
Photo by Lisa Tang Liu.

Ken Liu

Author, programmer, lawyer

Who are you, and what do you do?

I'm a fiction author. I wrote a "silkpunk" epic fantasy series, The Dandelion Dynasty (The Grace of Kings, The Wall of Storms), as well as a short story collection, The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories.

There's also my Star Wars novel, The Legends of Luke Skywalker.

In addition to writing for humans, I'm also a programmer and a lawyer.

What hardware do you use?

My main machine is a 2016 12-inch MacBook. It's super light and has a small footprint, good for working on an airplane or a train (I travel a lot). At home I connect it to an LG UltraFine 4K monitor.

I also use an iPad Pro 9.7 for taking notes by hand and brainstorming. The always-on LTE connection is great for being mobile.

And what software?

I use Scrivener to draft my novels. Since these novels regularly go over 300 thousand words and take multiple years to write, Scrivener's organization capabilities have been really helpful. It also syncs seamlessly between all my devices.

For short stories and nonfiction, I use Ulysses. I find the distraction-free interface conducive for focus.

For general text editing, nothing quite beats vim. I maintain a custom set of Python scripts for various text processing tasks.

What would be your dream setup?

I've been eyeing a 13-inch MacBook Pro forever. The MacBook struggles sometimes with multitasking and programming jobs.

Also, I'd love to build a gaming PC for exploring VR and VR development. Unfortunately, the big blocking factor here is the lack of time.