I’m super excited about this!
Amir posted about how he came to decide to do a cyberpunk anthology on Facebook: Amir’s Facebook post. Very cute! The originator actually provided a list of examples of the genre, so here it is in case you find it helpful:
Blade Runner, Total Recall, Johnny Mnemonic, The Matrix, Akira, Cowboy Bebop, Neo-Tokyo, Dredd
Amir decided pretty quickly, because on the same day, 14 August, I received an email from him asking if I’d like to edit a cyberpunk anthology. I was at Loncon, gearing up for a long weekend of approx. 9,000 panels, while also doing my bazillionth revision of a novel and drowning in work from actual job. I’ve never edited anything other than school magazines, plus I am not super familiar with the genre. I was like omg ////o\\\\
But the answer was yes, definitely. Of course la!
Working with Fixi is very humbling. You spend a couple of days crafting a perfectly balanced call for entries and then Amir says, “Can you cut it down? It needs to fit on Instagram.” And he removes your full stop after your ellipsis!
What I’m looking for
I read a review the other day that made me realise, with shock, that cyberpunk is kind of retro. I hadn’t quite registered that Neuromancer was literally published before I was born. The Matrix was made within living memory, of course, but even so, that was 15 years ago!
But the more I thought about it the more ideal it felt. It’s an old genre that is forward-looking, which is perfect in a weird way for a modern society suffused with nostalgia for an imagined ideal past. It’s all about living inside the Internet and being owned by corporations, which is maybe not an entirely inaccurate description of urban Malaysiana. It also works, obviously, because it’s basically KL NOIR 5 … NOW WITH SPACESHIPS!
So what am I looking for? I’m looking for stories (or creative non-fiction) that explore what cyberpunk can reveal about Malaysia (or vice versa). Stories that show convincingly what Cowboy Bebop would be like if it was set in Alor Setar. No black leather trenchcoats (too hot la), and if we could skip the tired sexism that is so often a hallmark of noir, that would be great. I’d be happy to read both stories that inhabited and played with the tropes of the genre, and stories that tried to do something new with those tropes.
Because cyberpunk was what people thought about the future, and a lot of it was produced in what is now the past, it got stuff wrong. It is an incomplete vision. I’m really interested in what the cyberpunk of now would look like — now that we really do live in the Internet and corporations own our souls. (You could write about separatist farmers! I would love to publish a cyberpunk story that was all about separatist farmers.)
So: cities, systems, cool outfits, robotic or bioengineered enhancements, near-future technology, fighting against The Man. Maybe even optimism? Maybe even that.
The SPIRITS ABROAD ebook is now available! I meant to have it out a lot earlier, but it was delayed by novel, and conventions, and then family stuff … but now it is here!
I’m all the more excited about it because now I can share the absolutely stunning ebook cover.
I commissioned the cover from the amazing queer Filipina artist Likhain, and I love it omg. It’s so lush and vivid and colour-drenched and rich with gorgeous detail. And it has a dragon, and eyes peering suspiciously out at you, and hibiscuses! *____* If you like it, I believe she’s currently open to commissions — check out her website for information.
As well as a shiny alternative cover, the ebook has an extra five previously-published stories, plus author commentary on all the stories in the collection. Scroll down to the end of the post for the Table of Contents.
For the first week of release I am pricing the ebook at US$2.99. I am planning to put it up in time, so if you have been intending to get the ebook, get it soon! You can buy it at the following retailers:
For people who’ve bought the print version, I’m offering a free ebook for a limited time. Email me with proof of purchase and I will send you a link to download the SPIRITS ABROAD ebook for free. (Proof of purchase can be a receipt or even a photo of the book. If you bought the book directly from me, there’s no need for proof of purchase, of course.) This offer is only valid if I receive your request by Sunday, 12 October, 12 noon British Summer Time.
If you bought the print version on Amazon, you should be able to benefit from the Kindle Matchbook service to get a free Kindle ebook (again, it’ll only be free for a limited time). If you’d like an ebook in a different format, though, just contact me.
After the initial offer period I’ll probably put up the ebook price by a dollar or so. I’m planning to offer a discount on the ebook to purchasers of the paperback indefinitely. If you’d like a review copy (ebook only), email me with a link to your review site.
Spirits Abroad ebook — Table of Contents [...]
There’s been some nice things said of SPIRITS ABROAD of late! I retweet the links as I come across them in my feed, but it’s nice to have them somewhere more permanent as well, so here’s a collection.
My book is in The Star! ^_^ So cool la. Reviewer says: “These stories refreshingly reimagine the idea of home and tradition and family without offering tidy or pat resolutions.”
I’m too shy to dive into the post to pull out a summary line (since unlike a newspaper article it doesn’t have one at the top), but it was quite odd because I read this and Subashini’s article on the same day, and they have interesting parallels and distinctions.
The very cool Sunil Patel commissioned the very cool Mark of Mark Does Stuff to read two of my stories! I think they’re each spread over three videos, but I’ll just post the first part of each la.
ONE-DAY TRAVELCARD FOR FAIRYLAND
Edited to add: I didn’t even know he’d done The Perseverance of Angela’s Past Life as well! This isn’t in the paperback version of SPIRITS ABROAD (I am going to put it in the ebook, just so it and Prudence are together), but you can read it online, of course. Thanks to hebethen for the tip.
At Nine Worlds, I purchased a copy of Zen Cho’s beautiful collection entitled Spirits Abroad, published by the Malaysian press Buku Fixi. I was struck by the publisher’s manifesto, which appears on the back of the flyleaf. In this manifesto, the publisher states:
We will not use italics for non-American/non-English terms.
The publisher then goes on to say: “Nasi lemak and kongkek are some of the pleasures of Malaysian life that should be celebrated without apology; italics are a form of apology.”
So if I have done nothing else with my writing, I have been instrumental in ensuring the appearance of the word kongkek on Strange Horizons.
You can read Rochita’s articles here:
Translations, the Mother Tongue, and Acts of Resistance (Part 1)
Translations, the Mother Tongue, and Acts of Resistance (Part 2)
Details of how to get SPIRITS ABROAD are here, and an ebook will be available soon. SOON!
August is so soon now! :D: I am excited about the cons (ALL THE CONS), but omg need more time in the day to prep and be ready to say clever things and maybe hoard £5 notes so if people want to buy my book from me I can give them change! /o\
So here’s where I’ll be at Nine Worlds! My commentary is in italics.
Voices From Other Worlds
5.00pm – 6.15pm
Readings from authors of colour on the theme of race and culture.
Guests: Taran Matharu, Zen Cho, Adam Lowe
I’ll be reading from my short story The Earth Spirit’s Favourite Anecdote, i.e. the story that makes editors advise me to improve my English. Oh editors! No.
The story isn’t about race and culture, but it is written in Manglish, so see la if anyone understands it!
School Stories: prefects, headmasters and tuckshops, oh my!
10.15pm – 11.30pm
School stories: why are we so fascinated by them? From Harry Potter to Ender’s Game, from St. Trinian’s to the X-Men, will we ever really escape our school days? Oi, no talking in the back of the class, there.
Panel: Aishwarya Subramanian, Zen Cho, Emma Vieceli, Tiffani Angus
The panel I persuaded Aisha to come to Nine Worlds for! (I wanted her for the Race & Culture track really. But I tempted her with school stories!) This is actually only one of two school stories panels I am on this summer, yay \o/
Rule 63: Gender and subversion in history, popular culture and fandom
10:00am – 11:15am
“Rule 63: an internet adage which states that for every fictional character, there exists an opposite gender counterpart.” (knowyourmeme.com)
This popular rule has an obvious power for subverting male-dominated media and an equally obvious (if less discussed) potential for introducing trans narratives. In its positioning of ‘opposite’ genders, it is also potentially troubling from trans and non-binary perspectives. This panel will discuss Rule 63, from real historical examples of people inhabiting ‘opposite’ genders to contemporary fanworks, through queer and feminist lenses.
With Tab Kimpton, Zen Cho, Alex Dally MacFarlane, more TBC
I am kind of nervous about this — Rule 63 is a really meaty trope to think about, but I am not sure I am remotely qualified to talk about it! But it should be very interesting.
This Will Always Be Your Home: Race, Culture, and Fannish Life
1.30pm – 2.45pm
Western media fandom, from zines to Tumblr, has been something special to so many people: a community and a home. We live here too – so what does it mean to be a fan of colour?
Guests: Iona Sharma, Frank Voss, Koel Mukherjee and Kelly Kanayama
I’ll be modding this! It’s not something that has a lot of emotional relevance to me anymore — I went from Western media fandom to anime/manga, where being a fan of colour is different from being a fan of colour in Western media fandom, because you are so not the only one in anime/manga fandom. Then I basically moved out of fandom because even those stories weren’t quite satisfying me anymore. (To be clear, I still read manga and follow fannish trends, more or less, but I’m not really actively fannish in the sense of writing meta or fanfic and stuff like that.) But fandom really shaped me, probably Western media fandom more than any other (it got me at a younger age than anime/manga did), and I can see how it was both a good and a bad space for me as a non-white/non-American/&c. person.
Spock vs the Sorcerers: F or SF? The Genre Deathmatch Smackdown!
11.45am – 1.00pm
The vicious genrepocalypse that we’ve all been waiting for. There can be only one.
Debate: Anne Perry (Moderator), Daniel Polansky (Fantasy), Liz Bourke (Fantasy), Zen Cho (SF) , Geoffrey Ryman (SF)
- omg I am arguing for SF even though I write almost exclusively fantasy, and don’t read that much SF because not all SF is feminist SF interested in people
- omg I am on a panel with Geoff Ryman
- wait what
- … OMG
The Loncon programme is out! OMG it is so long it goes on FOREVER. I am so excited! And terrified. :D:
My final programme looks pretty much identical to my draft programme, which I posted earlier this month, but there are two new events!
Asians at Loncon meetup
Friday 19:30 – 21:30, at the fan space
Yay, it is happening! If any of your identities include “Asian” and you’d like to meet other Asians at Loncon, turn up at the fan space at 7.30 pm on Friday. (I’ve got a panel ending at 7 pm, and am hoping it’s not too far from the fan space ….) No food or drink, I’m afraid, but we are allowed to eat there, so tapau/bungkus/grab a takeaway and come along and make friends!
Because a couple of people expressed concerns about this — Asians of all kinds are very welcome, including the diaspora. (It would be a bit rich of a Chinese Malaysian to reject the diaspora!)
Sunday 16:00 – 17:00, London Suite 4 (ExCeL)
Lawrence Watt Evans, Zen Cho
I have a kaffeeklatsch! That is
terrifying thrilling. I’ve never actually been to a kaffeeklatsch. I am very good at drinking coffee and chatting, though, due to the training imparted by the ancient traditions of my culture. (OMG if there is ever a Malaysian SFF con we should have mamak sessions instead of kaffeeklatsches. How cool would that be?)
I hope someone will come. :D: I will be there with some of my own books, and a book that is not by me for me to read if nobody turns up to talk to me. Maybe I will try to steal Lawrence Watt Evans’ fans!
SPIRITS ABROAD at Loncon
Also, don’t forget SPIRITS ABROAD will be available at the Big Green Bookshop stall in the Dealers’ Zone. If you’ve pre-ordered a copy directly from me online, I’m about to email you about how I can get hold of you at the con.
And here’s the final list of my panels! [...]
As you probably already know (because I can’t stop parping on about it), I’ll be at Nine Worlds and Loncon this summer. So will my book!
You’ll be able to pick up SPIRITS ABROAD at the ALL OF THE BOOKS Indie table in the dealers’ room.
SPIRITS ABROAD will be available at the Big Green Bookshop stall in the Dealers’ Zone (thanks to Yen Ooi for the tip!).
SPIRITS ABROAD isn’t super easily available outside Malaysia, and it’s currently out of stock on Amazon — so if you’d like a copy and are coming to either of these cons, dropping by the dealers’ room is a straightforward way of picking one up.
Of course, you can pre-order a copy directly from me instead. That means I’ll reserve a signed book for you and will track you down ONE WAY OR ANOTHER during the con.
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:
“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:
You probably don’t have to sell a whole lot of copies to be top 20 in MPH — but I’ll take it!
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.
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? <–
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.