Georgetown Student Excites Sci-Fi Community with Debut Novel "The Poppy War"

By Lorena Roberts on April 19, 2018

Georgetown University student, R. F. Kuang, is stunning the world of science fiction with her new novel “The Poppy War,” according to a recent press release. Her inspiration comes from her undergraduate studies in Chinese history, which she entangles with a touch of personal creativity. Her novel, though written as a fantasy, brings to life some of China’s modern history through the eyes of Rin, the main character.

Kuang’s area of interest is geopolitics, military history, and collective memory, which is the study of wars and how history remembers them. Authoring “The Poppy War” was the perfect way to allow her interests and creativity to flourish.

This is the first novel in her trilogy, which she plans to finish this summer before she moves to the United Kingdon. She has recently been awarded a Marshall scholarship, a fund for high-achieving students to pursue a graduate degree in the UK. Only 40 scholars are chosen yearly. Kuang will begin her graduate studies this fall at Cambridge University.


With an undergraduate degree in Chinese history, Kuang is also a graduate of the 2016 Odyssey Writing Workshop, a non-profit organization that holds an intensive six-week summer session in New Hampshire intended to help writers of fantasy, science fiction, and horror become better writers. By the looks of it, Kuang has mastered the art of writing to entertain, while simultaneously representing the past, all before the age of 21!

If you’re wondering what it is about this novel that’s grabbing the spotlight, it’s that R. F. Kuang has successfully re-created parts of history with a personal flair of creativity as well. Kuang’s novel dives deep into the roots of Chinese history through the main character of Rin. As an orphan, Rin knows her chance at avoiding an arranged marriage and getting out of her small village is only through testing into the most elite military academy in China. Many doubt her abilities, including Rin herself, but she aces the test with flying colors. Though the villagers and test officials claim it’s impossible, Rin is accepted into the academy.

However, this doesn’t mean Rin is free of despair. Her classmates dislike her for a number of reasons: she’s female, an orphan with little money, and her color. But soon enough, Rin discovers that she has a unique gift, shamanism. But because the god Pheonix has chosen her, she must decide whether using her gift is worth risking humanity. Her internal conflict is strong, and book one of this trilogy follows Rin in her struggle.

“The Poppy War” will be released by Harper Voyager, an imprint of HarperCollins, publishers on May 1st, 2018. Editorial director David Pomercio has commented on Kuang’s work, saying, “We’re incredibly excited to publish ‘The Poppy War,’ and to be working with R.F. Kuang, who is an incredible new talent in the speculative fiction industry.”

Lorena graduated from The University of Tennessee in Knoxville last December with a BA in Honors Psychology. After some serious soul-searching, she's decided to pursue a Master's in teaching in order to teach middle school math! In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her Whippet mix, Gio, at the dog park and binge watching Netflix with endless cups of Hot Cocoa.

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