Bora Chung

About Bora Chung

Bora Chung fell in love with strange, fantastic stories by Eastern European writers while majoring in Russian language and literature in college. Aspiring to write an equally strange and fantastic story, her efforts resulted in “The Head,” which won the 1998 Yonsei Literature Prize.

Chung has published three novels and three books of collected short stories. In 2008, her novella The Fox won the Digital Literature Award, second prize in the Mobile category. In 2014, her short story “The Seed” won a Gwacheon Science Center SF Award (second prize for short stories). Her latest novel The Red Sword is a Korean SF bestseller. Her stories are often dark and magical narratives about strong women who fight to survive in an unjust, violent world.

Chung received an M.A. in Russian and East European area studies from Yale University and a Ph.D. in Slavic literatures from Indiana University with a focus on modern Russian and Polish literatures (specifically, utopian literature). Currently an instructor of Russian language and literature and science fiction studies at Yonsei University, she also translates modern literary works from Russian and Polish into Korean.

In her own words

I wanted to write a novel based on the 17th-century Sino-Russian border conflict. The empire in The Red Sword is less Star Wars and more Qing dynasty, who drew Korea into their “Russian Conquest.” I did run into some tangles as soon as I set the conflict in space, because the more I wrote, the more the story turned into something else. But that’s just the nature of fiction, and it didn’t seem like a real problem. I just kept on writing.

The Red Sword, author’s afterword

I don’t feel scared at all when writing horrific or gory scenes. I think it’s because my intention is more to imagine what an ordinary person wouldn’t do or wouldn’t react to, of that twist in the character’s behavior. Aside from making up a fun plot, you’ve got to make the unusual reactions of your characters believable if you want to convince your reader. I think the power of writing is in this ability to make the reader believe. I wanted to see how far I could push that in my writing. That’s all I was trying to do, and it’s amusing to me when people say my characters scare them.

Interview with Chaeg Magazine