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.

SPIRITS ABROAD: desktop wallpapers and indie bookshops

17 Nov

If you liked Likhain‘s cover for the SPIRITS ABROAD ebook, you can now download it as a desktop wallpaper at her website:

We Are Forests — downloadable wallpapers

I’ve got it on my desktop now and I gotta say, it’s pretty intense. I like to think that unflinching gaze is keeping me honest.

 

SpiritsAbroad-final-faceonly

And the SPIRITS ABROAD paperback is now available at Big Green Bookshop, a friendly North London indie bookshop. I met Simon at Loncon, where Big Green had a stall in the dealer’s room where they’d sell any random’s book. There isn’t a webpage for SPIRITS ABROAD at the moment, but they have got it, they’ll sell it to you for £7.99, and they ship worldwide — contact them for details.

Spirits on the move

25 Oct

A few Spirits Abroad-related updates ….

Fixi has sold (most of) the first print run, so the book has gone into a second printing! Really delighted about this. Thanks to everyone who bought a copy.

image

The book’s back in stock on Amazon, so you can order it here if you would like the paperback: Spirits Abroad at Amazon.

(If you want to order the book on Amazon, don’t worry if it looks as though it’s out of stock — the reason for this is that Amazon is conservative and only orders as many copies as it needs to fulfill customer orders, plus a few extra. But Amazon always orders enough to fulfill orders placed by customers, and Fixi has plenty of copies going spare, so if you place an order you’ll definitely get the book — it may just mean you’ll take a little while to receive it.)

And there’s always the ebook version, of course. Most of the Fixi Novo books are now available on Smashwords, if you’re interested in trying out Malaysian pulp: Fixi Novo at Smashwords.

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Spirits Abroad is kind of the odd duck out, as I’ve now hiked up the price to a princely US$3.99, plus of course the lavish detail of Likhain‘s cover is very different from sleek Fixi Novo house style.

Speaking of which, Likhain’s posted about the process of creating the piece that became the cover: Call it abundance.

I want to say there are voices and stories that cradle our hearts when we’re at our most fragile and closest to breaking, and it’s these voices that we return to time and time again — we can trust them with our pain, our bodies, our selves.

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She’s sending me the painting! So excited. We have just moved, and I dream of colours on our walls. (Er, leant against the walls rather than affixed to them in any way that would breach the terms of our lease, of course).

Likhain’s also a brilliant writer, and her poem has just appeared in Strange Horizons: Seeds by M Sereno.

Swallow a seed and it will sprout within you,
becoming your veins, invading your bones.
Those poets and conquerors knew this. Knew the mouth is an altar.

It’s about a lot of stuff. Do read it.

CYBERPUNK: MALAYSIA Call for Submissions

18 Oct

I’m super excited about this!

Cyberpunk Malaysia Call for Entries

I’m editing a Malaysian cyberpunk anthology for Fixi Novo, who also published SPIRITS ABROAD. For people who can’t do images, the Call for Entries is at the end of this post, under the cut.

Backstory

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.

[…]

Spirits Abroad: the ebook

6 Oct

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.

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Click to see a larger version.

 

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:

Amazon
Amazon UK (and all the other Amazons …)
Google Play
Smashwords

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 […]

Some nice things about SPIRITS ABROAD

12 Sep

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.

 
A review of SPIRITS ABROAD in The Star by Subashini Navaratnam

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.”

 
Another long, thoughtful review by kamo

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.

PRUDENCE AND THE DRAGON

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.

THE PERSEVERANCE OF ANGELA’S PAST LIFE

 
And this doesn’t really fit in a list of things about SPIRITS ABROAD, but the second of Rochita Loenen-Ruiz‘s two most recent pieces for her Strange Horizons column mentions the book in passing:

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!

What I’ll be doing at Nine Worlds

25 Jul

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.

FRIDAY

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
County C&D
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

:D 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/

SATURDAY

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.

SUNDAY

Spock vs the Sorcerers: F or SF? The Genre Deathmatch Smackdown!
11.45am – 1.00pm
County C&D
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

Zens at Loncon

24 Jul

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!)

Kaffeeklatsch
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! […]

SPIRITS ABROAD at Nine Worlds and Loncon

23 Jul

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!

SpiritsAbroad-final-faceonly

Nine Worlds

You’ll be able to pick up SPIRITS ABROAD at the ALL OF THE BOOKS Indie table in the dealers’ room.

Loncon

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.