I spoke to Sarah Hughes last month for her article for The Guardian on female fantasy authors, and it’s out!
I am quoted describing SORCERER TO THE CROWN as “Edward Said meets Georgette Heyer”, a hubristic line I originally came up with at a book launch while spilling red wine on Frances Hardinge. Not my best moment. /o\
There are two things that seem to be annoying for genre fans about this article, the first being that it has “sci-fi” in the headline even though it’s all about fantasy, and the second being the suggestion that female-authored fantasy is a new thing. I think the article does acknowledge that Diana Wynne Jones and Ursula Le Guin et al existed; it seems to be speaking more to a presumed mainstream stereotype that fantasy is wall-to-wall George R. R. Martins. Anyway, since we’re on the subject, here’s a random selection of fiction by female SFF writers who have been occupying the citadel for so long that their work is now out of copyright and available to read for free online.
This is not a real book. It does not deal with real people, nor should it be read by real people. But there are in the world so many real books already written for the benefit of real people, and there are still so many to be written, that I cannot believe that a little alien book such as this, written for the magically-inclined minority, can be considered too assertive a trespasser.
(I can’t remember how I found Stella Benson, but I stumbled over her strange, marvellous book about a witch a while ago and recognised it immediately as a friend. It’s not really replicable; still, I would like to write something just like it.)
Mary Shelley, Frankenstein; Or, The Modern Prometheus. The original!
And three female-authored utopias:
My Monkey God story is up at Kaleidotrope!
It’s the story of that one time Sun Wukong went to Fairyland and busted stuff up. I read it at New Voices at Nine Worlds 2013, and wrote it a couple of years before that, so it’s not really new at all. It took a while to sell, even though it’s one of my favourite of my stories. Here’s how it starts.
Now to be fair, Sun Wukong was already in a bad mood when he arrived at the Faerie Court.
You don’t know who Sun Wukong is? You’re kidding! You haven’t heard of the Great Sage Equal to Heaven, the one who is Mindful of Emptiness, the Exquisite and Most Satisfactory Prince of Monkeys, defier of gods and Buddhas alike, scorner of other people’s dignity and personal inspiration to little monkeys everywhere?
One day a stone cracked and he jumped out: that was the miracle that was his birth. His fur is as silken as your favorite shirt and as golden as the midday sun. He has eyes of fire and the biggest ears anyone ever saw on a monkey. And if you want to look up his name in the Book of Life and Death, forget about it, because he went down to Hell and wiped that shit out himself!
You know who he is? Why didn’t you say so? You didn’t know his name? That’s okay. All gods have more than one name, to give the mortals more chances to swear. You can call him the Monkey God or Monkey King or just plain Monkey, whatever you like. It’s the same simian in the end.
This was in the pre-Enlightenment days, you understand, before Sun Wukong mended his ways and became a Buddha. In the days when Sun Wukong was still naughty, and enjoyed the occasional punch-up.
I was in The Star on Tuesday! Sharmilla Ganesan interviewed me for an article: Malaysian author Zen Cho is making waves abroad. The online title is more SEO-friendly, but in print it was called “Keeping Zen”, which is kinda cute!
Over at Strange Horizons, SPIRITS ABROAD got a really kind (and interesting) review: SPIRITS ABROAD, reviewed by Abigail Nussbaum.
No matter how fantastical the events of Cho’s stories—or how romantic their proceedings—her characters are standing on a solid foundation of good sense, which reminds them that love is great, but what about getting good grades?
Characters who obsess about their grades are my favourite kind of characters. :D:
This weekend I’ll be at Eastercon — from today, actually, but I’ll be going for dimsum with my mates first so will probably arrive, ahem, later in the day. I have NO PANELS (\o/), so will probably be hanging out at the bar or something. I am planning to chitchat, catch up on my CYBERPUNK: MALAYSIA edits (I always think I’m going to be super productive when I’m on holiday, and then … I’m not …) and also reading Naomi Novik’s UPROOTED (which has done that thing her stories often do of starting with a few apparently innocuous premises which all come together in an early chapter and then suddenly you see the whole story in a new light and everything is super exciting). Come say hello if you’ll be there!
I’ve been meaning to post about Where Ghost Words Dwell, a collage project by a group of SFF writers. It’s a website “dedicated to discarded text, forgotten words and the memory of dead manuscripts” — collecting the words that got cut out of stories in a series of anonymous posts.
Taking inspiration from the surrealist game, The Exquisite Corpse, Where Ghost Words Dwell can be read as blog entries. Are these entries part of a time traveler’s log, scraps found by alien archeologists or intermittent transmissions from places invisible to the human eye?
The entries carry no author names and are extracts from works that have been published or are on their way to being published. They could also be alternate versions that ended up on the editing floor. To find out who the author is or what work the extracts are from, click on the highlighted links. Who knows, you may find a new favorite writer or a work you haven’t yet read.
The website is currently on a twice-weekly posting schedule, on Tuesdays and Thursdays. You can check out a snippet sliced out of Aliette de Bodard‘s upcoming novel THE HOUSE OF SHATTERED WINGS, a deliciously creepy desert scene, and a beautiful fragment of indigenous SFF. More to come!
I’ve been conscious for a while that I’m no longer able to keep up the list of Malaysian SFF writers in English that I put up awhile ago — because I’m busy, but also because there are more of us than ever! I think it is helpful to have a directory for interested readers and people who want to connect with other local writers, but it needs to be updated regularly if it’s to be of use.
So I have now set up a Google doc which people can update themselves to add their own details and projects:
There are two worksheets — one for authors and one for projects. Guidelines for contributions are at the top of each worksheet. People should feel free to add writers or projects they’re aware of as well as the things they’ve done. Also, this directory differs from the original post, as people working in languages other than English should feel welcome to add their stuff to it. I only limited the original post to English because that’s the main language I read in.
The original post will stay up, but once the directory has been populated a bit more I will change the link in my sidebar so that it goes to the Google doc rather than the blog post, and the post will no longer be updated. I will be monitoring the directory and editing from time to time for formatting, etc., as well as deleting anything that seems inappropriate. Please comment on this post or email me if you have any questions or suggestions.
I’ve set up a Pinterest board for Sorcerer to the Crown! I don’t think of myself as a visual thinker, so never thought I’d have much use for a Pinterest board (except for keeping track of food — I admit I have a secret Pinterest account, the password for which I have forgotten, which is 70% green tea baking recipes and 30% black sesame baking recipes).
But all the cool kids seemed to be doing inspiration boards for their books, so I started one up too. And I have to say, it doesn’t come naturally to me, but I was surprised to remember all the visual sources I’d drawn upon for the book!
As I pinned stuff I started putting together resources for the next book, and stuff I’d like to know for future projects, and books I’d like to read at some point. So if you’re interested in Regency fashion …
or early 19th century India via the medium of Company paintings …
or Malaysian fiction …
Follow me on Pinterest for more!
Sofia Samatar interviewed me and Crawford Award co-winner Stephanie Feldman about fantasy, family, history and diaspora over at Electric Lit. We did the interview in a Google Doc, and it was really interesting to me how Stephanie’s answers and mine reflected each other, often unintentionally. Here’s an extract!
Samatar: Spirits Abroad and The Angel of Losses are such different books: Spirits is a short story collection, Angel a novel; Spirits uses quite a bit of humor, while Angel is written in a more melancholy mode. Yet they share an interest in fantasy and diaspora. What’s going on there? How does the fantastic relate to diasporic experiences?
Cho: As with many Malaysian writers in English, it actually took me a while to figure out how to populate the sort of fantasy stories I liked with the sort of people I knew in life. So there wasn’t an immediate connection between culture and fantasy, for me.
But I think there is something there. Diaspora involves such a huge disruption, an interruption in continuity. Fantasy or mythology or folk stories, the stories of the improbable that everyone tells, are one means of maintaining continuity, and also of reinforcing connection. As a Chinese person, what claim can I lay to being Malaysian except that I was born there, I absorbed the stories of the local hantu, the English I speak is a Malaysian English? As a Malaysian, what claim do I have to being Chinese, except that I grew up on stories of monkey gods and magpie bridges and rabbits on the moon?
So maybe magic — the fantastic — is the thing that survives all that travel from the original point, that loosening of ties to land and people and languages. …
Feldman: Fantasy was my way of talking about one aspect of diaspora: displacement, whether it results from immigration, war, or even one generation unable (or unwilling) to communicate with the next. In each of these cases, there’s a gap, something missing. In my case—personally, and in The Angel of Losses—what’s missing is Jewish Eastern Europe.
The novel uses fairy tales to recreate that world and its legacy. It never occurred to me to use strict realism. Magical realism comes easily to me, and here it gave me the freedom to follow emotional truth, instead of adhering entirely to research. It also reminds the reader that my Europe is an invention; it’s a huge responsibility, after all, to tell another person’s story, and I want the reader to be mindful of where my voice begins and ends.
But most important: Fantasy let me explore how the stories we choose to tell are as much about us—our questions, our needs—as they are about our subjects.
Read the rest here: Fantasies that Bind: a conversation with Zen Cho & Stephanie Feldman.
Ahhh, I am so excited about this book! Aliette de Bodard unveiled the US cover for her post-war Paris urban fantasy THE HOUSE OF SHATTERED WINGS today:
It’s so pretty *_____*
THE HOUSE OF SHATTERED WINGS is a murder mystery set in a Paris reeling from the impact of a war in Heaven, featuring (in the author’s words) Fallen angels, Vietnamese dragons and entirely too many dead bodies.
The cover is just how I imagine the book, and the book looks amazing. It’s out in August — you can find out more about it at Aliette’s website: The House of Shattered Wings. Can’t wait!