finkelsteingirl: Are there any aspects of Malaysian, British, or Malaysian-British (?) culture you wish you saw more of in fiction?
I’ll focus on Malaysian culture as, while I am interested in fiction about less-examined aspects of British culture, it’s overall a culture that’s been much more examined in the fiction I’ve read than Malaysian culture. (I’m not sure there’s really an independent Malaysian-British culture. The Malaysian community in Britain is probably large enough at any given time to generate one, but it’s quite a shifting population since a fairly substantial proportion must be made up of people who are only here temporarily, and it probably also breaks down along race/class lines.)
In general I would like to see more stories about broadly happy families — families that have problems, of course, but overall get along and that form a source of strength for their members. I guess that’s not really specific to Malaysian culture! But in fiction people mostly seem more interested in messed up, dysfunctional families than functional families. There are reasons for that, of course, but I like to read stories about families that don’t totally suck. I feel like you tend to see more of that in YA or children’s books.
I always like to read sympathetic, intelligent, accurate depictions in fiction of traditionally underrepresented identities. I’d like to read more books about queer people in Malaysia specifically.
Trying to think of more aspects specific to Malaysian culture — I’d like to see more fiction in English set in contemporary Malaysia. (There is a bit of a trend of Western-published Malaysian writers writing mostly historical fiction. How mysterious, I wonder why!) I’d like to read stories about refugees by refugees. I’d also really like to see more fiction by and about Orang Asal. Also more fiction that isn’t by/about middle-class urbanites (speaking as a middle-class urbanite myself …).
And this isn’t really an “aspect of culture” thing, but I’d like to see more genre/commercial fiction set in Malaysia and/or about Malaysians (preferably by Malaysians). I like literary fiction well enough, but in my experience it’s less concerned with I’m really interested in reading, which is a damn good story.
Kate Nepveu: A thing about Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell that you wish got more attention.
Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell got so much attention — surely far more than anyone could have expected for a gigantimous footnote-packed novel written in an authentic-feeling if not precisely authentic Regency voice* — that I struggle to think of any aspect I wish had got more attention!
One thing I do think people often miss is the wildness hidden in the core of the book. I mean, it is all about these starchy ladies and gentlemen going “Oh, I pray you!” and “To own the truth!”, and doing laborious academic magic, and Mr Norrell in particular maddens me because he is so fuddy-duddy, but that is the great thing about it because the book is all about how all of that is a thin skin of pretence disguising a great big wildness that is at the heart of England and English magic (which, in Clarke’s world, are basically the same thing). And the way the book uncovers that is just thrilling, and so well done. *_*
Within the book, I wish we spent more time with the female characters. The first time I read it I felt absolutely starved for more of Arabella Strange and Lady Pole and Flora Greysteel (but especially Arabella, who is my favourite). The Ladies of Grace Adieu remedies the imbalance a little bit, but it’s just not the same, sigh. I also wish we knew more about Stephen Black — I am very fond of him, but you don’t get very much of him before the Spoilery Thing happens and he gets all smooshed and depressed.
I’ve actually just done a big JS&MN reread, having not read it for years, and it is a little embarrassing how much I’ve obviously been influenced by it, from the elements that got into the book I’m working on (even though I’d forgotten most of these things at the time I was actually writing the book). Hopefully my book is not too derivative, but I can definitely see how in a way I was writing it in response to the gaps I perceived — I was making mine a story about the things I wanted more about. The negative space in a story is just as important as the stuff that’s filled in.
*I don’t mean this in a bad way. I think it’s best for modern Regency novels to be written in the author’s interpretation of Regency style, rather than the style an actual contemporary Regency author would have adopted. Patrick O’Brian is a dazzling example of the heights you can reach with that, and Susanna Clarke is another. It always puzzles me when people say how dull or impenetrable her prose is; it seems so clear and sparkling and light to me. Her sentences are also a lot shorter than most actual Regency writers’.
atropinesulfate: I would love to hear about postcolonial fluff for booknerds, and any plans for a sequel to Jade Yeo/her descendants.
O postcolonial fluff for booknerds, made-up genre of my heart! Postcolonial is a big term and maybe not that accurate, but I use it because I think of this imaginary genre as being a reactive one, a thing that I am producing as part of a long slow recovery process. What I am doing with it is, I am processing my childhood reading — all the stuff that was really influential and enjoyable, but also kind of secretly toxic — and I am trying to extract the poison from it while preserving the things I loved. Jade is a reaction to Wodehouse and Daddy-Long-Legs and I Capture The Castle. The novel I am working on is a reaction to Georgette Heyer and Susanna Clarke.
It is questionable how much you can do to save a trope. There have been times when I have reflected that a Regency novel is going to be dodgy whichever way you slice it. You can’t get away from the fact that the original of this delightful fictionalised polite society was built on the proceeds of slavery and conquest. I think it’s important to recognise that.
But there’s this idea that fiction by or about people who are traditionally underrepresented in Western literature is kind of innately worthy and dull. Things are getting better obviously, but you know how if you are looking for an Asian-American book you’ll get 8 out of 10 that are memoirs of cultural conflict or immigration or whatever, and if you are looking for a LGBT book a lot of them are about coming out and whatnot, and you throw up your hands and say, Can’t I just read about PIRATES?
Don’t get me wrong, I like reading the serious things as well, but PIRATES have their place. I think people constitute themselves through stories and it’s really important to have trashy enjoyable fiction about you, as well as worthy epics. Anyway, that is what postcolonial fluff for booknerds is partly about. It is mostly about having fun!
I probably shouldn’t say too much about sequels to Jade Yeo, because I don’t really know what they will look like yet. But what I’d like to do is write three or four more novellas for self-publication. Each will be romance and revolve around one of her female descendants/relations. I have really only thought about the next one, about her daughter, but I want to use a very similar voice for all of them. I will need to capture that sort of private cackling mood of self-indulgence in which I wrote Jade to do it — but first I’ve got to finish my book!
hebethen: Games — any category or intersection thereof, whether children’s or videogames or board games or the sort of game you play all by yourself when you’re alone on a very long and humdrum trip.
I don’t really like games! I lack the attention span for anything that requires me to wait to get more story/stimulation, which I blame on a childhood steeped in books and Internet. When you are reading you can gobble up the story as fast as you want, and the Internet is of course an ever-present source of instant gratification/irritation. Whereas with games you have to learn the rules, or you have to play with other people, or you have to sit through cut-scenes, or you have to play out a fight multiple times to get past it ….
(This is also the reason I don’t watch much TV.)
There are a few exceptions, of course. I like really dull games because they are a good way of zoning out and thinking about other things. I used to play Tetris a lot while planning out stories in my head. I found Harvest Moon weirdly rewarding in a very boring way. I also love the Katamari franchise, which combines soothingly dull gameplay with truckloads of whimsy, delightful graphics, and fun music. If I could, I would have the dude who designed Katamari to design my life.
I also hate board games. >:( When the Malaysian government banned fireworks and we stopped playing with sparklers at Chinese New Year, my family moved over to board games, and my main memory of childhood CNYs post-fireworks is of escaping some tedious board or card game, and going to hole up in some cousin’s bedroom with a book. Happy days!
I’ve already done some bouncing about this on Twitter, but look at that! Dear Author reviewed The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo, and liked it! I am profoundly chuffed, and am making this post primarily so I can reblog the cover with RECOMMENDS on it and coo over it forever.
I emailed them ages ago when the ebook was first out, but since I didn’t hear back from them I figured they weren’t interested and forgot about it. So I was astonished to see a pingback from Dear Author in my emails when I was going home from work on Friday.
I dithered a little over whether I should read the review, out of a vague feeling that maybe it would be more polite not to? Maybe I would read it and it would hurt my feelings? (I realised this was unlikely given the link said it was an A minus review, but what can I say.) But of course I succumbed to temptation and read it!
A couple of points:
(1) In case it interests people to know how much difference something like this makes — I noticed after the review was posted that I’d made a couple of new sales on Smashwords, was pleased, and went on with my day. It’s just occurred to me to check Amazon, and there have been around 50 sales. To give context, there were all of 2 sales last month.
Keep in mind that this is a story that is free to read on my website, and the review says so. What this says to me is that you can trust readers to pay for books if they feel they’re gonna get some kind of value and the pricing is reasonable. I believe that readers on the whole want to do right by authors, and all authors/publishers need to do is make that possible — ensure the conditions that enable readers to do what comes natural.
(On a tangent, when I wrote that I felt horribly tempted to tweak the above sentence to make it clear that of course I do not count as an author. Impostor syndrome, my old friend!)
(2) The only thing I would take issue with in that review is the “infidelity” tag. I kind of get it, because I can see that as a reader you might decide that non-monogamy in a romance is not your bag, and you want to avoid that. That is fine, of course. But polyamory is not infidelity. Jade’s Romantic Interest #1 is not unfaithful to his wife in making advances to Jade, because his wife is down with it — he is acting in accordance with their understanding. It is possible to be unfaithful in a polyamorous relationship, but Hardie isn’t.
Anyway, I just wanted to say that! This all reminds me that recently I decided I wanted to write a sequel to Jade, and hopefully I will do that, and self-publish that too. (I want to do a series about Jade’s daughter and grand-daughter and maybe great-granddaughter even, if the dates work.) But this is all for the future. For now, I must focus on my book!
Tade suggested I write about “geek authenticity in a world that has appropriated the symbols for commerce“.
I am not sure I am really qualified to write about this, because I am not sure what geek authenticity means. But assuming it means, like, being a geek by genuinely doing or watching or owning the things that geeks do, I wonder whether it isn’t the other way around. Because –
Doing geeky things: I am not sure this can really be appropriated for commerce. Something like reading comic books doesn’t have to be a geeky activity — in the sense that doing it makes you a geek — unless you want it to be. And what you do and how you feel and how you think can’t be appropriated or taken away from you by Commerce. Commerce can try, but it can’t do it if you don’t let it. That is why resistance is possible even within systems that treat people and cultures like things. It is why art and community are important.
Owning geeky things: All the things I can think of as being symbols of geek authenticity are things like … um, I don’t know, nerdy-looking glasses? T-shirts with Green Lantern symbols on them? Those pocket protector things geeky characters in US sitcoms used to wear? These are all pretty culturally specific, but I don’t think the idea of a geek culture or geek authenticity makes sense outside a couple of cultures. Anyway, the point is, these symbols are all things. Why should a particular kind of T-shirt say anything meaningful about your identity? Because consumerism, basically.
So I guess what I’m saying is I am not sure it is the case that the world has appropriated the symbols of geek authenticity for commerce, and now geeks have to figure out how to preserve that authenticity against the brute forces of capitalism. I think the symbols of geek authenticity were always owned by Commerce, and people just adopted those symbols and gave them meaning.
I don’t mean to say that geek culture lacks meaning or validity. I think fandom is a valid and valuable response to media culture. But I am wary of concepts like authenticity in this context. And I sort of think the only thing people can really build an identity on is: how they act. What they do. How they treat other people. Not what they watch or read or listen to, what they like, what they find funny, what allusions they get. Those things are preferences. They are not character.
 You can probably debate whether geek culture actually is a thing, but there are enough people who find that language a helpful self-identifier — a genuine reflection of their lived experience — that I am not too bothered about arguing about it here. [back]
 I totally buy and wear T-shirts as a means of self-expression, so it’s not like I’m knocking it as a practice. I’m just sayin’! [back]
 Well, I actually think the Buddha is probably right and there isn’t really any such thing as the self, but for the sake of argument! [back]
I saw this on inkstone‘s journal and liked the look of it. Tell me what to blog about!
Rules of the meme:
Pick a date below and give me a topic — it can be anything, from fandom related to life related to art related to whatever you want.
They will probably be brief, or not, depending on the subject.
Also, I reserve the right to decline prompts that I don’t feel equipped to meet.
Topics: you can get an idea from my tags/from the stuff I usually ramble about/from things you maybe wish I talked about more but don’t.
You can request multiple topics (as long as they’re on different days — one topic per day!).
December 01 -
December 02 – Geek authenticity in a world that has appropriated the symbols for commerce. (Tade)
December 03 – Games: any category or intersection thereof, whether children’s or videogames or board games or the sort of game you play all by yourself when you’re alone on a very long and humdrum trip. (hebethen)
December 04 – postcolonial fluff for booknerds, and any plans for a sequel to Jade Yeo/her descendants (atropinesulfate)
December 05 -
December 06 -
December 07 – A thing about Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell that you wish got more attention (katenepveu)
December 08 – Are there any aspects of Malaysian, British, or Malaysian-British (?) culture you wish you saw more of in fiction? (finkelsteingirl)
December 09 – how other people approach food, in terms of how they conceptualise it and how they cook and what emotions if any they have to do with it (kaberett)
December 10 – dragons and why they are awesome (troisroyaumes)
December 11 – What are the problematic and/or positive aspects of travel-writing (from any or particular perspectives)? (finkelsteingirl)
December 12 – Do you have a favorite character among the ladies you’ve written? (yifu)
December 13 – Favorite places to visit (inkstone)
December 14 – your approach to editing (pendrecarc)
December 15 – Flash fiction piece using these words: ice, sunspot, roadworks, Ada Lovelace, and Oxford. (Tade)
December 16 – Foods that make you feel tremendously comfortable or at home just by tasting them (finkelsteingirl)
December 17 – ghost/spooky stories and/or urban legends (surpassingly)
December 18 – Jane Austen (nanila)
December 19 – P.G. Wodehouse (Aisha)
December 20 – weather you like, weather you hate? (shati)
December 21 – books from your childhood that made you happier when you reread them as an adult! (skygiants)
December 22 - favorite comfort reads, or favorite recipes (Anonymous)
December 23 – Formative movies (vi)
December 24 – IN SPACE (tzniuswarrior)
December 25 -
December 26 -
December 27 – Malaysian English, and/or code-switching in general (Huimang)
December 28 -
December 29 – How is writing long fiction different from short fiction? (pendrecarc)
December 30 -
December 31 -
Is that mostly right? Tell me if not right k. I actually did Spanish for a year and a half at school (I got A* in the GCSE! And an A for the AS level. Which all goes to show how little standardised testing counts for anything). Tapi semua pun dah lupa. All gone already ….
If I properly remembered all the languages I’ve learnt in my life I’d be impressively multilingual lor. It’s a longish and rather sad list, probably starting with Hakka, which I only ever really had for the first two years of my life. The reason why this is a bit sad is that I actually am Hakka, on both sides of my family.
Anyway, that is a diversion. It is very exciting to see PRUDENCE in another language. It is similar to the feeling you get when you see fanfic of your stuff — that sudden weird knowing that the story really has left your brain and is having an independent life in the world outside. The translator behind Cuentos para Algernon was very patient with the intricacies of translating Manglish, for which I am grateful. She has translated stories by such authors as Aliette de Bodard, Ken Liu and others, so do check out the website if that sounds interesting.
Also, I linked this on Twitter, but I did a post on stealing your ideas for Gliphowrimo. I don’t really like doing writing advice — I mean, I write a lot about writing, but mostly to try to explain the process to myself and/or convince myself not to throw in the towel. But I am nervous of giving writing advice because frankly I don’t feel I know what I am doing! I (occasionally) have ideas, I (fairly regularly) arrange words on the screen, and once in a while a story occurs. It’s all very mysterious! But that’s part of the fun of it. As much as I like writing advice that makes the whole thing sound no more mystical than assembling IKEA furniture, there’s a certain appeal in leaving the veil drawn over some parts.
See, that half a paragraph was all just to reassure myself that it’s OK that I don’t know what I am doing. But it is also a digression >:( What I meant to say was, that is why my Gliphowrimo post boils down to a joke about putting in more dragons. orz
The Love in Penang cover! This anthology of short stories is being launched at the Georgetown Literary Festival at the end of the month. (The programme looks so cool! I wish I could go.) But you can buy it now from the Buku Fixi online shop if you’re in Malaysia, or pre-order from Amazon.com if not.
(If you are wondering what those grey things are, they are not tong sampah, but phone booths. The picture is based on street art by Ernest Zacharevic, though the original has apparently been removed now.)
My short story DOUBLE-BLIND is one of my very few non-SFF stories. It’s basically a romcom inspired by a meet-cute story about how a relative met her spouse. (It’s obviously not actually about my relative and her spouse, that would be a bit weird.)
“It’s OK, Mei Yi,” said Bee. “I don’t have a girlfriend also. I don’t have a boyfriend, for that matter.”
“It’s different for you,” said Mei Yi gloomily. “You’re 12 years further from death than me. Anyway, you’re like an amoeba.”
It’s a very serious story. I have a vague plan at the back of my mind to write a series of interconnected romcom/chicklit-ish love stories set in contemporary urban Malaysia, but I don’t know when I’ll ever get around to it. Anyway, DOUBLE-BLIND would be one of them if I ever got going with that plan!
I am chuffed to be published by Fixi Novo. I’ve had a couple of fairly ephemeral publications in Malaysia, like CHICKEN CHICKEN BANG BANG, but I’d like to put out more there. I do have Plans, so watch this space. *mysterious* <– *not really that mysterious if you’ve seen my access-locked posts on DW*
Wah, it takes super long to do one of these posts lor. And the Stories page is getting kind of unwieldy! Let me know if you notice any broken links, OK. I should really go through them all and check them one by one, but am too lazy. >_<
Here is an interview with me about The Alchemy Press Book of Urban Mythic!
I talk about my story THE FISH BOWL and refuse to play favourites among the writers on my Malaysian SFF in English list.
The Alchemy Press Book of Urban Mythic was launched at World Fantasy Con last weekend, so you can now buy it at Amazon and Amazon UK. My story is about a stressed out teenage girl who is granted three wishes by a mysterious fish possessed of ill intentions.
The koi’s mouth opened and closed, an intermittent surprised O. Its white skin was so smooth it seemed scaleless. It would feel like silken tofu if you touched it. Seen from above, the fish’s one eye looked heavy-lidded and wise.
“Are you a magical fish or a door-to-door salesman?” Su Yin whispered.
Trigger warning for self-harm. I don’t usually put trigger warnings on my stories (though let me know if you think I should on any of the others!), but this story contains depictions of actions that read like self-harm, though there’s probably room for differing interpretations.
After this I only have a “meet cute” story in Fixi Novo’s Love in Penang anthology, and then I don’t have any new individual short stories coming out anywhere for a couple of years lor. Which is a natural consequence of shifting my focus to longer stories, but I dunno if that’s a good strategy or not. Only time will tell, I guess!