KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:
Nerds from around the world have packed up their costumes, wiped off their makeup and left San Diego. That's because Comic-Con is over. One well-known comic book writer who was there is Marjorie Liu. NPR's Mallory Yu you caught up with Liu and some of her fans.
MARJORIE LIU: Hi, how are you?
JESSICA WOODEN: I'm doing wonderful.
MALLORY YU, BYLINE: Throughout the weekend, fans like 26-year-old Jessica Wooden flock to Marjorie Liu's booth to meet her and have her sign their copies of her epic fantasy comic book "Monstress."
WOODEN: Thank you guys so much for making this book. It's just eye-opening and just - it's great.
LIU: That means the world to us. Thank you very much.
YU: Before Liu wrote "Monstress," she wrote X-Men comics for Marvel, and before that, she wrote X-Men fan fiction.
LIU: I did (laughter), yes.
YU: Fan fiction writers take established characters and create new stories for them. It's by fans for fans for fun and for free. Liu used to be a lawyer, but she wanted to write. So she poured her creative energy into the world of fan fiction.
LIU: I felt completely free to write whatever the hell I wanted and to go in and be bananas.
YU: The writing practice without the pressure helped Liu develop her muscles and voice as a writer. Her first novel was a paranormal romance, and it grew into a series of books populated with gargoyles, mermen, shapeshifters.
LIU: All of them longing to find home and acceptance and belonging. And if you had asked me 10 years ago to describe the books I was writing, I would have said, you know, I write about gargoyles and mermen. But now with time and some distance, I can say very clearly that what I was writing about were my experiences as a child.
YU: Liu is biracial - the daughter of a white woman and a Chinese man. As a child, she felt comfortable with her Chinese identity, but that changed when she was an adolescent trying to fit in with other Chinese-American teenagers.
LIU: I was told, well, you don't need to be here because you don't look Chinese enough, and you don't need us because you can pass as white. And that actually I found to be incredibly hurtful because I felt very Chinese. But then I was trying to reconcile that with not feeling welcome.
YU: Debut young adult novelist Sarah Kuhn, who is also biracial, says Liu's writing showed her that she too could write genre fiction.
SARAH KUHN: Seeing her just out there doing it was a big inspiration for me. It was really one of the things that got me to finally admit that not only I wanted to write stories, but I wanted to write them in the sci-fi, fantasy, superhero genres I had grown up loving.
YU: Both writers were shaped by feeling like outsiders. For Marjorie Liu, that's one reason she gravitated as a reader and as a writer to the X-Men, which tells the story of mutants who don't belong.
LIU: As someone who had witnessed racism and had experienced racism, to read these stories about people who didn't belong even though they were human beings - they weren't quite considered human - and that really resonated with me on a very powerful level.
YU: Liu makes it a priority to put women of color, Asian women especially, at the center of her story. Growing up in the '80s and '90s, she rarely saw people like her in books or TV or movies.
LIU: And that was my goal throughout this book - to show women in all their great and wonderful diversity - women who are good, women who are evil, women who are in uniform, women in all straights of life and power and that they are fully realized.
FAY KATAYAMA: Oh, my gosh, thank you.
YU: Back at the convention, fan Fay Katayama is getting a book signed. Katayama is a lawyer, and seeing Marjorie Liu, a former lawyer herself, become a writer inspires her.
KATAYAMA: Just to see someone take that courageous leap to do something creative, which is not always lucrative, is inspiring.
YU: Liu loves to connect with readers like this and hopes her work encourages others like her to write. She says the world needs these voices.
LIU: You must be persistent because we need you. We need you so, so badly.
YU: And judging by the lines of fans at her booth, Liu's message is being heard. Mallory Yu, NPR News, San Diego.
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