Introduction

10 May

Hi! I’m a Malaysian living in London. Sometimes I write stories!

You can find out more about me at About, or read, download and purchase my stories via Stories. Feel free to comment or otherwise contact me if you’ve got any questions.

Blog hop: on writing

14 Apr

I am doing a blog hop thing! I was invited to do it by Shannon Phillips, who has a story in a new anthology from World Weaver Press. It is like a promotional meme — you answer a bunch of questions about writing and then you link to other writers and tell people about them — so here goes.

This is Shannon Phillips:

Shannon Phillips lives in Oakland, where she keeps chickens, a dog, three boys, and a husband. Her first novel, The Millennial Sword, tells the story of the modern-day Lady of the Lake. Her short fiction has been featured in Dragon magazine, Rose Red Review, and the upcoming anthology Fae from World Weaver Press.

And these are the questions she sent me!

 

1) What am I working on?

I’m working on yet another revision of my Regency fantasy of manners about England’s first black Sorcerer Royal. This has been my main writing project since late 2012, but in intervals between working on it I’ve also been working on Space Villette (not its real title), a novella based on Charlotte Bronte’s Villette, but with a space opera setting influenced by the early kingdoms (or should I say mandalas?) of maritime Southeast Asia.

Well, I say it is a novella, but it’s almost 30k words in and the Lucy Snowe character hasn’t even started to make googly eyes at the M. Paul equivalent. That said, I plan to rewrite the whole thing from scratch once I’ve got the first draft done, so pretty much everything I say about it now should be discounted!

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

All of my stories are about colonialism. I guess the most obvious point of difference is that the main characters are usually non-white. To the extent that I can, even when I am playing with very Western/Eurocentric genres or tropes, I try to infuse my stories with a non-Western sensibility, to refocus the narrative around characters who aren’t as often in the spotlight in English-language fiction. I don’t know how successful I am at doing that, but I keep trying.

Of course, when I am actually writing my main goal is not to make some big political point or other. My main goal is to write as many long rambling conversations and dumb jokes as people will let me get away with.

3) Why do I write what I do?

I remain profoundly shaped by my childhood reading and am processing it the best way I know how. I got told a lot of stories by my mom that I want other people to hear. I like reading long rambling conversations and dumb jokes myself. I think comfort reading shouldn’t come in just one flavour, or have just one kind of character as the focus. I’ve got a niche and I might as well keep going with it. History is interesting. I can’t write other stuff — I mean, in theory I could write a baseball economics book instead, but I don’t understand baseball or economics.

Lots of reasons!

4) How does my writing process work?

(i) Do anything except writing for as long as I can.

(ii) Bash out some hasty words just before bedtime, when I can no longer put it off.

(iii) Repeat the next day.

I generally take off one day a week, and don’t tend to write on holidays or if I’m travelling.

 

I’ve tagged the following authors, who will be posting the meme next week:

Alexandra Singer graduated from SUNY Purchase with a B.A. in Creative Writing. The is the author of the ongoing independent comic, Sfeer Theory. An avid fan of historical fantasy and fairy tales, her short stories have been featured in publications such as Chamberton Publishing’s Spotlight anthology and Crossed Genres Magazine. Her blog is at http://moonsheen.dreamwidth.org.

Eve Shi is an Indonesian writer. Her YA supernatural/horror novels are available in Indonesian bookstores. She’s working on more books of the same genre, as well as planning to write books in other genres.

A couple of belated updates: interview and book giveaway

24 Mar

Interview

Bristol Festival of Literature organiser Peter Sutton posted an interview with me on his blog:

Interview at Bristol Book Blog

I talk about writing, and my plans for conventions and festivals this year, and the fact that I secretly want to be a sort of Power Ranger giant robot combo of Edith Nesbit and Pankaj Mishra. Which is something I had not known until I did the interview, but is now my life mission!

Book giveaway

Anna Tan edited the Fixi Novo short story anthology Love in Penang which I’m in, and she is running a Love in Penang giveaway! I will put the giveaway code at the bottom of this post so you can enter it from here if you would like. She is giving the book away to one person based in Malaysia and one person based elsewhere.

I wrote a bit about my story in my post about the anthology here, but it’s basically a romcom about mistaken assumptions and misunderstandings. As all romcoms are, I guess! There is a happy ending, of course.

Here is the blurb for the book (it’s in English, in case you were wondering):

Penang, with its mix of old world charm and modern bustle, has captured the hearts of many – making it the ideal place for a little bit of romance. Bask in the sweetness of young hearts falling in love and cheer them on when circumstances stand in their way. Walk through the pain of broken relationships and rejoice at unexpected reunions. Whether you prefer it happy or bittersweet, straightforward or a little complicated, LOVE IN PENANG offers you 18 morsels of love in various forms.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Strawberry Hills forever

21 Mar

Phew! It’s been an overwhelming couple of weeks at work, but I had a day off today. (A whole day off! Er, if you don’t count working till 2 am this morning. Which, let’s not for these purposes. Whole day off!!) So Cephas and I went to Strawberry Hill House!

20140323_165521

Strawberry Hill House is basically a troll house. As in, Horace Walpole was totally trolling via the medium of architecture. This is the only conclusion I can come to about a house that has wallpaper that is meant to make the walls look like they are made of carved Gothick stone.

(The walls don’t look like they’re made of stone. What they do look like is super cheesy!)

Horace Walpole also had a tiny pretty room dedicated solely to fanart of his novel The Mysterious Mother. I wish I was rich enough to build a room dedicated to fanart of my work. I mean, it would be empty, but still, it would be such an optimistic thing to have.

Pictures under the cut!

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The Gift of Rain by Tan Twan Eng

19 Feb

In pre-WW2 Malaya, Anglo-Chinese Philip Hutton befriends Japanese aikijutsu master Hayato Endo. It doesn’t turn out well.

Surprise feature of this book: it’s a reincarnation story!

Probably won’t read Garden of Evening Mists as I understand it’s in a fairly similar vein, only with Japanese gardens instead of martial arts, and Cameron Highlands instead of Penang.

Links are interested in Southeast Asian literature

9 Feb

Calls for submissions

Poskod.MY are running a writing programme focusing on Kuala Lumpur’s untold stories: UnRepresented. They are looking for “writers who would like to spend ten weeks exploring themes of ‘being unrepresented’ and unrepresented narratives in and around KL“. The programme will consist of workshops and talks in eight weekend sessions held in March-May 2014. It sounds super interesting — if you are in the right country and up for it, you should totally apply! Deadline 19 February.

 

THE SEA IS OURS is a Southeast Asian steampunk anthology seeking short story submissions.

How does the steampunk aesthetic look, feel, sound, smell, or taste like in these regions? What kind of technologies would grow in resource-rich SEAsia? What do our historical figures, our Parameswaras, Trung sisters, Lapu-Lapus, do in such a world?

The anthology is edited by Jaymee Goh and Joyce Ch’ng, and will be put out by Rosarium Publishing, who did the book MOTHERSHIP: TALES OF AFROFUTURISM AND BEYOND (among others). Deadline 30 June.

 

Seen on the Readings Facebook group, a call for submissions of Malaysian poetry in English. Text reproduced below for non-Facebook users:

Prof Ghulam‘s message for all Msian poets writing in English:

I am working towards a new anthology of Malaysian poetry in English.

Hopefully this will provide the opportunity to new and not so new authors to get their work into print. I hope to collect around 80 poems by as many authors as possible by the end of March and the book published by the end of June. I will be happy to welcome poems from you or from others you know. Kindly pass the word around.

Pls email him directly at gsyousof@hotmail.com.

 

Help for playwrights

Also seen on Facebook, Singaporean playwright Alfian Sa’at makes an open offer, which I reproduce including emoticons:

If you have a play that deals with ethnic minority experiences in Singapore and need some help with it, please send it to me. I’m offering free one-on-one consultation for it. In English or Malay. PM me please! :)

 

Events

There is going to be a literary festival in Alor Setar in March! Find out more at the website: Alor Setar Literary Festival. They have missed their golden chance to hip-ify the name and call it “A.Star” or something like that, but otherwise it looks pretty cool!

(I am linking in part because (guilty confession) Alor Setar has always been in my mind a symbol for the boring one-horse town. I have never even really seen the town so it is a totally unfair, baseless judgment. I trace it to something my dad once said when we were visiting Edinburgh. Now, I like Edinburgh — a storied, beautiful city, bracingly hard on the calves — but my dad stood in the middle of Princes Street, looked up and down, and said, in the most unimpressed way anyone ever said anything: “One main street only. Like Alor Setar like that!”)

 

And an article

I found Mohammad A. Quayum’s article on English-language literature in Malaysia and Singapore interesting. He posits that Malaysian writing in English is thin on the ground and of variable quality because of politics around the national language and what counts as “national literature”. I really don’t know enough about the subject to comment, but will look forward to the continuation!

May 13: Declassified Documents on the Malaysian Riots of 1969, by Kua Kia Soong

27 Jan

This is going to be a very short blog post because I am too scared to comment on this book at length! I was a bit surprised to be able to find it in MPH tbh.

This is definitely a piece of polemic, as various people have pointed out on GoodReads. I am not 100% sure about some of the conclusions drawn, if only because some of the extracts Kua quotes do not seem to say what he thinks they say. Sometimes he will say, “The following telegram from a foreign correspondent shows X“, and the quote doesn’t seem to show X at all, but X + uncertainty, or even Y. I’m with the GoodReads reviewer who says it would’ve worked better if the reader was given the opportunity to read the documents themselves and draw their own conclusions, with only so much external commentary as was required to provide context.

Still, at least I know more now than I did before! Felt very katak di bawah tempurung while reading some of it.

I promise I will be starting on the novels that I claimed would be part of my Kempen Baca Buku Buatan Malaysia soon. Starting tomorrow! My first book will be Tan Twan Eng’s Gift of Rain, i.e. the one that didn’t get shortlisted for the Booker.

Hidup Bagaikan Sungai Mengalir oleh Agnes Khoo

22 Jan

Kicking off my New Year’s resolution reading project (tag: Kempen Baca Buku Buatan Malaysia) with Hidup Bagaikan Sungai Mengalir, or Life as the River Flows, by Singaporean historian Agnes Khoo. I have decided this book counts for Kempen purposes even though it’s not fiction, not in English, and not on my original list. So whatz? I make the rules here!

Wah, this book literally took me 4 years to read lor. I remember talking about it on Dreamwidth when I first bought it at a NGO fundraising annual dinner in KL. It’s not that it’s not interesting! It’s a collection of interviews with 16 female guerrilla fighters involved in the Communist anti-colonial movement in Malaysia and Singapore from the 1930s to 1989. It would be hard for it not to be interesting! I think my slowness was partly because, its being oral history and about several different people, there wasn’t really an overarching narrative arc to stop me being distracted by other things. But the main reason is ‘cos it’s in Malay and I read so much slower in Malay. /o\

(The dumb thing is the original book is in English and I just bought it in translation because I felt like I should work on my BM. But what is really dumb is that on the same visit home I bought A. Samad Said’s Salina in English. Eh what lah you. /o\)

Anyway, I’m really glad I read this, and may buy the English-language version as well, for ease of future reference! It’s a fascinating part of history that people still don’t talk about, about people who are misrepresented (where they aren’t forgotten) to this day.

Observations:

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I have a lot of L. M. Montgomery feels

14 Jan

As you may have seen if you follow my Twitter account, I have been reeling from Mary Henley Rubio’s biography of L. M. Montgomery, Lucy Maud Montgomery: The Gift of Wings. And I quoted this story on Twitter, but you don’t really get the full effect, and I love it so much that I want to reproduce it here.

This is a footnote from the biography, where Rubio talks about giving a copy of LMM’s journals to Nobel Prize winner Alice Munro:

When I handed Alice Munro a gift copy of the first volume of The Selected Journals of L. M. Montgomery, Volume 1, at the Ginger Press Bookstore in Owen Sound, Ontario, in late 1985, she looked at it for only a second to see what it was, and then, without missing a beat or without making any identifying reference to Emily of New Moon, she responded by quoting the end of the novel: “I am going to write a diary that it may be published when I die.”

I had a moment of intense geeking out over this, especially as Rubio’s book traces the decline of Montgomery’s critical reputation in the later stage of her career. Modernism was on the rise and apparently Toronto was full of sexist asshole male critics. >:(

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