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.

I was on the radio :O

8 Jul

So I was on the radio today! At 2 pm (GMT+8) on BFM. You probably missed it — I did — but you can download the podcast, or just listen to it online:

Bookmark: Sci-Fi in Print, with Umapagan Ampikaipakan and Zen Cho

“Sci-Fi in Print” is like the most non-SF description of anything ever, haha. It’s because sci-fi is movies, is it? So you have to specify that it’s in print? Something like that lah. Anyway, click for 20 minutes of me mumbling nervously about Penguin Popular Classics! I also talk about how I see a direct line between all the 19th century British literature I used to read and the speculative fiction genre my stories have ended up inhabiting. (19th century Britain, outer space and Middle-earth were/are equally alien and fantastical to me. I know Middle-earth is a bad example given it basically is 19th century Britain, but I can’t think of any other fantasy secondary worlds at the moment that I cared about that weren’t Britain in some form!)

One of the things Uma asked me that made me a bit thoughtful was why there wasn’t more SF in the book. I sort of skirted around the question, but the honest answer is that I am just scared of it. I feel like I’m not smart enough to write SF. A difficult admission to make on radio! There is a lot of SF out there that has very little to do with actual science, so I am conscious that it’s a slightly silly thing to think, but it’s one of the things I’m working through.

Here is another cool thing:

MPH Bestsellers

You probably don’t have to sell a whole lot of copies to be top 20 in MPH — but I’ll take it!

My draft WorldCon 2014 programme

4 Jul

Draft programme schedules for Loncon 3 were sent out a while ago. My schedule’s below! I will be on six panels, and am really excited about all of them. I have to say, it looks like the Loncon 3 programming team have done a great job — my Twitter feed was full of glee when people were getting their panel assignments.

My (long, rambly) comments are in italics below.

 

The Deeper the Roots, the Stronger the Tree

Friday 10:00 – 11:00

The roots of modern science fiction and fantasy are often associated with authors such as J.R.R. Tolkien, T.H. White, H.G. Wells, and Mary Shelley. But plenty of 19th- and early 20th-century authors with minimal or no fantastical or sfnal content have inspired and continue to inspire modern genre writing, including but not limited to Alexandre Dumas, Arthur Conan Doyle, Jane Austen, and Georgette Heyer. What is the on-going appeal of such authors, their styles, and their worlds? What is it about them that lends itself to genrefication?

Abigail Sutherland (M), Zen Cho, Mary Robinette Kowal, Adam Roberts, Kari Sperring

I am SO PUMPED for this panel, you guys, you don’t even know. I feel it’s particularly perfect for meee because I’ve always felt a bit of an imposter in SFF fandom — although the SFnal sensibility and mindset and community have a lot of appeal for me, and I suppose I do feel that I’m on the same wavelength with a lot of SFF fans, I can easily go several months without reading any SFF. But with this I feel like — I can be at a SF con and talk about the 19th century (and pseudo-19th century) authors I grew up reading and it is totally legit! Maybe I do belong in SF fandom after all.

 

Manga Evolutions

Friday 12:00 – 13:30

Manga developed in Japan as a syncretic reaction to American comic books from an indigenous art perspective, to become a unique style of sequential art.

Manga has since emerged from Japan to become a vibrant style adopted by creators in other countries.

What are the more interesting and existing transformations that Manga has undergone in Japan, and outside its birthplace? What is the future of Manga as an art expression in the 21st century?

Zen Cho (M), June Madeley, Sarah Ash, Emmeline Pui Ling Dobson, Eric Senabre

This is the one where I was like, “What, I don’t know anything about this!” But then I realised I am only going to be the moderator and calmed down. I’m really looking forward to hearing the discussion. Must prep good questions! What would YOU ask, gentle reader? <– laziness crowdsourcing

 

Cities: Where, Who, Why?

Friday 18:00 – 19:00

Some cities — London being one — are well established as venues for stories, and SF and fantasy stories in particular. How do individual stories and personal experiences — insider and outsider views, those who have made a city their home and those who have migrated to it — interact to create the literary city? What power dynamics affect this process and what does that mean for our imagining of cities? Why do some cities rather than others develop this sort of literary aura — and which cities might we expect to see more of in the future?

Michael R. Underwood (M), Lauren Beukes, Zen Cho, Ian McDonald, Yen Ooi , Sarah Shemilt

This is a subject that interests me a lot, as it must interest any (post-)colonial reader who was nurtured on stories of cities they’d never seen but (in some senses) knew better than their own. I should finish Five Star Billionaire and then I can say that the next cities we’ll see are Shanghai and Beijing and the like.

 

The World at Worldcon: SF/F in South and South-East Asia

Saturday 13:30 – 15:00

South and South-East Asia include a huge span of nations, cultures and languages, so does it make any sense to talk of “Asian SF”? What are the traditions and touchstones of fantastical storytelling in South and South-East Asia? What is the state of genre there, and how have shared myths and a joint heritage of colonialism influenced it? A panel of writers and critics from India, Pakistan, Malaysia and The Philippines compare notes.

Mahvesh Murad (M), Zen Cho, Rochita Loenen-Ruiz, Victor Fernando R. Ocampo, Aishwarya Subramanian

We tweaked the original panel description to try to reduce the risk of the panel turning into each of us rolling out lists of genre authors from our respective countries. I am especially interested in talking about shared myths and the influence of colonialism — can we say that there is sufficient commonality because of those things, that we can sensibly talk of South and Southeast Asian SF as a Thing? But we’ll see where the discussion goes.

I am particularly excited that not even every Southeast Asian SF writer/fan who is going to be at Loncon is on this panel. There will be some left over to be in the audience, or not to attend at all! Maybe we should have dinner or something. (Asians attending Loncon 3: do you want to have dinner? Email me!)

 

The Education and Training of a Young Protagonist

Saturday 19:00 – 20:00

Kids have to go to school, whether it’s a modern day educational institution or the school of hard knocks in a futuristic dystopia. How is education treated in SF? What might a futuristic classroom look like? What are some great examples of how education and training have been used by other authors?

Zen Cho, Gail Carriger, Jack Campbell, Dave Luckett, Frances Hardinge

SCHOOL STORIES!!!! Huh, I hadn’t noticed that my name comes first but there is no (M).

Also I am going to be on a panel with Frances Hardinge. Here is what I will do for the duration of the panel: *_______________* But not in a creepy way!

 

Representation and Whitewashing in Fandom

Sunday 12:00 – 13:30

Fandoms can provide positive spaces for engagement with and education about representating people of colour, the campaign group “racebending” is a good example of this. Movies and television shows like Sleepy Hollow, Pacific Rim, and Marvel: Agents of SHIELD receive strong (but not universal) support, with fans pushing diversity by overtly supporting and praising the characters of colour. Fandoms become campaign groups. Yet, at the same time, many fandoms whitewash or relegate characters of colour in their fan works. More damagingly many fans react negatively to criticism of racism within their fandom and within the television shows, movies, and books they enjoy. In this session we explore the ups and downs of representation in fandom.

Bertha Chin (M), Zen Cho, Mark Oshiro, Anushia Kandasivam, Eylul Dogruel

The main thing I’m excited about with this panel is the chance to talk about fandom as a community and space which is different from SFF book fandom. (I think SFF book fandom is what most of my other panels are about/are grounded in — even the manga panel doesn’t read to me like a manga fandom panel in the way that, e.g., making fan soundtracks is a manga fandom activity. If that makes any sense outside my head!)

 

So yes! If you’ve ordered SPIRITS ABROAD from me, coming to one of my panels is probably a good way to see me and get your book, but even if you don’t I’ll hunt you down somehow. I do hope to spend some considerable amount of time at lobbycon or barcon. The downtime is my favourite part of a con.

SPIRITS ABROAD – Goodreads giveaway

1 Jul

I’ve put up 3 copies of SPIRITS ABROAD on a Goodreads giveaway! It’s open to GR users in all countries, and will be running for a month. (This seems kind of long to me, but Goodreads recommended a month, and by the time I thought better of it it was too late to change it. /o\)

Anyway, click the “Enter to Win” button below to sign up for a chance to win a free copy! I’ll sign it and everything, and shipping is on me.

 

Goodreads Book Giveaway

SPIRITS ABROAD by Zen Cho

SPIRITS ABROAD

by Zen Cho

Giveaway ends August 01, 2014.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

SPIRITS ABROAD is out!

30 Jun

Me signing my book

The book is out! I’ve done a book launch! And now I have three brown paper parcels’ worth of books to sell and give away.

Spirits Abroad

How to get the book

I’ve set up a new page on my website with information about how you can order/pre-order the paperback: How to buy SPIRITS ABROAD. It’s very easy if you’re in Malaysia — MPH branches mostly seem to have it, so should other bookshops, and you can of course order it directly from Fixi. It’s slightly more complicated if you’re outside Malaysia, but you can pre-order it from Amazon.com (it’s not available on the other Amazons, as far as I know).

I’ll also be putting out an ebook later this year, with various extras. You may want to wait for that! If you do buy the paperback, though, hang on to your proof of payment — I’ll be offering a discount on the ebook price to people who bought the paperback.

Attending Nine Worlds or WorldCon this year?

If you’re coming to Nine Worlds Geekfest 2014 or Loncon 3 this August, you can get the book at either con!

Nine Worlds: The book will be available in the dealers’ room. I’ll probably have a couple of copies on me as well if you happen to run into me at the con.

Loncon 3: Unless someone offers me space on a vendor’s table (which, that would be very welcome!) you’ll have to get ahold of me to get ahold of the book.

If you would like to get the book at these cons, what would be really helpful for me is if you could reserve a copy by completing the fields below and paying in advance. That’ll enable me to put aside a book for you, as I only have limited copies of the paperback. Reserve your copy below the cut!

[...]

SPIRITS ABROAD – Cover reveal

13 Jun

So if you follow me on Twitter or Facebook (or worst of all, BOTH), you will have seen this plenty of times, but I am super excited about it and will not rest till I have posted it on every Internet outlet possible. I may start printing it off and sticking it to lamp-posts.

For lo! I have a cover!

SPIRITS ABROAD cover - woman's face with eyes shut and a frangipani in the middle of her forehead

Back copy

“If you live near the jungle, you will realise that what is real and what is not real is not always clear. In the forest there is not a big gap between the two.”

A Datin recalls her romance with an orang bunian. A teenage pontianak struggles to balance homework, bossy aunties, first love, and eating people. An earth spirit gets entangled in protracted negotiations with an annoying landlord, and Chang E spins off into outer space, the ultimate metaphor for the Chinese diaspora.

Straddling the worlds of the mundane and the magical, SPIRITS ABROAD collects 10 science fiction and fantasy stories with a distinctively Malaysian sensibility.

Launch

The book will be out in a week’s time (!) from Fixi Novo, an imprint of Buku Fixi, an indie press I’ve been following with great interest since it was started up by the confusingly multi-talented Amir Muhammad. Fixi has taken off in a huge way since its early days, and I am thrilled to be published with them.

As I mentioned in my previous post, the launch will be at Whitebox @ Publika, starting at 5 pm on Saturday 21st: the Facebook event has more details. Fellow Malaysian SF author Ee Leen Lee will also be launching her book, 13 MOONS. It should be good! Do come if you are in KL. (Must BYO spirits, though.)

How you can get ahold of the book

Because a couple of people asked — the paperback will be available for purchase on Amazon US if you’re outside Malaysia. I’ll put up a link when it’s up. I’ll also be selling/giving away a few once I get ahold of my author copies, and I’ll be happy to ship those anywhere in the world.

Plus, I’m planning to release an ebook version soon, which will probably have extra stories. \o/ I’d also like to include other extras, though I can’t think of anything just this minute. What sort of extras would you like to see? Maybe I’ll do a “DVD commentary” (do people still do these for fic?), or an interview or something. (I will interview … MYSELF)

Anyway! I don’t expect to shift that many copies of the ebook, but I just want to make sure any readers outside Malaysia can get ahold of the book easily if they want it (and TBH, to the extent that I have readers, the overwhelming majority of them are outside Malaysia). If you’re inside Malaysia, though, it’ll be super easy to get — order from the website (not yet la, after launch only can), or in stores.

Full Table of Contents below the cut!

[...]

The Cooler Lumpur Festival

11 Jun

In just over a week’s time I’m going to be back in Malaysia! \o/ I haven’t been home in more than a year. It feels like it’s been DECADES. I am super excited.

I’ll be appearing at #FAST: The Cooler Lumpur Festival, a multidisciplinary arts festival that’s all about ideas. And hashtags. Hashtag ideas!

Programme items I’ll be on:

FIXI NOVO Book Launch
Saturday, 21 June 2014
5.00 pm – 6.30 pm
White Box @ Publika
Facebook event: Fixi Novo Double Book Launch

Fixi Novo will be launching my first book, Spirits Abroad, which collects 10 short stories including three new stories that have never been published anywhere yet ever. !!!

There will also be another awesome Malaysian author launching a book at this event. More details to come soon!

The Age of Creativity
Saturday, 21 June 2014
8.00 pm – 9.00 pm
Black Box @ Publika
Facebook event: The Age of Creativity panel

Do we have enough fresh, new, and unique ideas to continue to push the boundaries of literature and music and film? Is everything derivative? Whatever happened to originality? Is it something altogether unattainable in this day and age? A discussion on what – if anything – is lacking in the world of the arts. A discussion on whether such creative doomsaying is premature.

Panelists: Gary Thomas, Ian Casocot, Zen Cho
Moderator: Lee Chwi Lynn

This is a really interesting topic, and ties in with the thing I’m on the next evening in a totally unplanned way –

“Inspiration, Influence and Interaction” Writing Workshop
Sunday, 22 Jun 2014
6.30 pm – 9.30 pm It’ll probably be more like 8.30 pm, to be honest. People will be tired and hungry!
Interpr8 Art Space, Publika
Facebook event: Writing workshop

Writing is often viewed as a solitary activity, but nobody creates in a vacuum. Writers are influenced not only by the books they read, but by art, movies, pop culture, politics and their peers. In this workshop participants will discuss their artistic influences, generate ideas, and consider how to draw upon existing works and ideas in their creative practice to produce work that is distinctively their own.

Tickets are available at www.tix.my (RM20 online; RM25 at the door).

I am also running a writing workshop! I’m hoping it’ll be a fun conversation with lots of noodling about ideas and writing of little snippets and so on and so forth. #Faster sign up! Ahhh, I kill myself.

You can see the full programme here. Let me know if you’re going to be there!

Grants, aunts and mammoths

5 May

Catching up on some news:

 

Speculative Literature Foundation Writing Grants

I’ll be helping to judge the SLF’s new Diverse Writers and Diverse Worlds Grants! These are grants of US$500 each for writers who are working on books (novels or short story collections) in the speculative fiction genre. The Diverse Writers grant is for writers from traditionally underrepresented/marginalised backgrounds, and the Diverse Worlds grant is for work that presents diverse worlds well, regardless of the writer’s background.

If this sounds like it might be relevant to your interests, have a look at the guidelines and send in your WIPs for fun and (potential) profit! The deadline for applications is 31 July.

 

The House of Aunts on stage

The Stanford Asian American Theatre Project is putting on a theatrical adaptation of my story THE HOUSE OF AUNTS. I have had nothing to do with it whatever — I mean, apart from saying “Sure!” when I was asked if they could do it — and it is pretty cool to see the story wandering around the world on its own legs. The Facebook event page has details of the show if you are in Stanford this week and want to check it out: AATP Presents THE HOUSE OF AUNTS.

There’s also an amusing trailer here (links to Facebook, but I don’t think you have to be logged in to see it): Trailer for THE HOUSE OF AUNTS.

 

The Mammoth Book of SF Stories by Women

I am very pleased to have a story in the upcoming anthology The Mammoth Book of SF Stories by Women, edited by Alex Dally MacFarlane. It’s a reprint of my story THE FOUR GENERATIONS OF CHANG E, about the Moon Goddess Chang E as the ultimate overseas outer space Chinese.

Kristin Mandigma’s hilarious aswang story is also in the anthology! That’s enough to show it’s a good Table of Contents, but if you want to see the full line-up, have a look at the SF Signal announcement. (The cover is also very cool!)

 

So that’s all pretty cool! In terms of actual writing, I am plugging away at the novel revision, and hoping to have that wrapped up in a couple of months so I can have a bit of time to write a couple of short stories. I haven’t written a short story in super long lor. I also have plans for self-publishing and whatnot, but all must await the pleasure of the novel!

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.