Archive | January, 2013

New anthology! New subscriptions!

19 Jan

A reprint of my story The Four Generations of Chang E will be in Alex Dally MacFarlane’s anthology Aliens: Recent Encounters, due out in June from Prime Books. Am impressed by the august company my wayward immigrant Chang E will be keeping! I know Alex is actively engaged in seeking out and promoting science fictional perspectives from people other than white dudes (though there are also stories by white dudes in the anthology, just in case you were worried!). If that is something you are also interested in, do check out the anthology.

I am populating my Google Reader with blogs so I can check it when I am bored e.g. at a bus stop or something. Do YOU have a blog I can subscribe to on Google Reader? If not, do you have favourite blogs you would like to recommend? Here are things I like reading about:

  • Food
  • Stories
  • Clothes
  • Women
  • Asian … stuff

The tone I like best in blogging is one that is friendly, personal, funny and not always to the point.

Pls have at it!

Emerging for air

19 Jan

This week at work — ! Words fail me. I should probably check my work email, actually, but I will leave it till after I have finished this post.

On the shiny new smartphone: Swype is a proper revelation! Infinite thanks to delfinnium for pointing it out to me. It is still slower than keyboard typing, but I am doing much better with it than I was tapping away on the touchscreen. However, the Eljay app continues to be disappointing in the matter of allowing me to read my friends list, on either DW or LJ. I think it’s because it believes I want the advertising turned off (on the free app you can only read your flist if you enable advertising) — but I keep turning the advertising on and not seeing any ads, or my flist. I am wondering whether to just pay for the damned thing so I can get a look at my flist, but if it doesn’t work now what reassurance do I have that it would work when I’ve paid for it?

Since I’ve got a couple of months’ worth of paid account time, I have been indulging myself with reading my Dreamwidth network. This has afforded me the additional, quite unexpected pleasure of stumbling across kind reviews of The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo by people I don’t know — I think because a couple of people I do know recommended it when it was free, so people I don’t know downloaded it then and are only just getting around to reading and reviewing. So thank you very much to those who mentioned it. It has been a nice wee boost to balance out the recent rejection (of the short story collection I’ve been querying — not at all a surprise, since trying to get publishers to take short story collections is a dicey proposition at the best of times, but still hardly the “yes please!” response of one’s lurid writerly dreams).

***

What are you reading now?

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. I like Anne Lamott, though she is very … er … I dunno how to say. She strikes me as a progressive white lady who very much thinks of herself as a progressive white lady, but she is not quite so progressive as she thinks. (E.g. she mentions hanging out with “ethnic people” at college because she was a bit of an outcast growing up and was drawn to other people who are ~different~.) But her writing is very easy and fun to read, and it is a good writing book because it is not prescriptive.

After all the only writing about writing that can be tolerated is that which is personal. Otherwise you get into “don’t use adverbs” and “show, not tell” type stuff — infinitely tedious, often just plain wrong.

What did you just finish reading?

A Brief History of Britain, 1660-1851 by William Gibson. I didn’t read all of it — started somewhere near the middle of the eighteenth century — but I will count it as finished. It was more fun than I thought it’d be! The period from Walpole to Pitt was boring because it was all about politics, and made me reflect on the fact that history’s often being perceived as the story of who is in power (as opposed to: what everybody else was doing) makes it boring. Though of course you do have to understand the macro stuff to put what everybody else was doing in context … is the question of who was Prime Minister and the squabbles intrigue surrounding that really macro stuff, though?

But the stuff about the industrial revolution, though really a little later than what I was reading for (it is background research for my Regency fantasy romance!), was really interesting. And in fact I’m going to contradict myself a little here and say that even the Walpole stuff taught me something new, because the whole system of corruption and patronage up top made sense of why Jack Aubrey is always worried about “interest”.

Other things I had not known:

– There were four royal Georges in a row from the eighteenth to the nineteenth century. How uncreative!

– Stockbroking was a new thing in the nineteenth century because they had all this extra money from the industrial revolution that needed investing.

– Before the 1660s there weren’t all these hedgerows bisecting (multiply-secting?) the English countryside — those came about because of enclosures. You think of hedgerows as being so typical of the English landscape that it is very interesting to think that it would’ve looked totally different before enclosures.

There was other stuff … but I have forgotten it.

So zhun (准), just as I had got to the last page and was starting to look through the “further reading”, my book expired and I couldn’t go on. (It was a library ebook.) I have reborrowed it so I can make notes on further reading.

What do you expect to read next?

I’m not done with Bird by Bird yet, but I’ve got to leave it at whatever percent for now, because it’s not got an expiry date, whereas I borrowed a couple of new ebooks from the library which do:

Japanese for Beginners by Katie Kitamura, by a Japanese-American about Japan — which I don’t think I’ll bother reading: I read the first few pages but it is too literary-journalistic, when I was hoping for more of a personal memoir sort of thing (e.g. when Kitamura meets her cousin at the airport, her cousin suddenly becomes the emblem of the “cool generation” of Japan, blah blah departure from previous generation’s values of hard work and depersonalised ambition blah).

The Discovery of Jeanne Baret by Glynis Ridley, which I will read — it is about a lady in eighteenth century France who travelled on a ship making a round-the-world trip to (presumably among other places) Tahiti, dressed as a dude and doing Science. I am a little dubious because early on the author says that Baret could not have published her work on birds or whatever in France because society would have viewed her as a whore!!! I could accept an argument that such work would have been viewed as totally out of a woman’s sphere, perhaps leading on to the point that deviation from the norm in a woman is/was often couched in terms of sexual deviation, a betrayal of her inherent femininity … Or perhaps Ridley meant that by publishing Baret would have revealed that she’d shared her boyfriend’s cabin for the duration of the voyage, and so society would have viewed her as a whore. But the bald statement that a lady publishing science would have been viewed as whorish for publishing science seems to me to require some explication.

It is an interesting story anyway, so I will read on.

Weekly reading meme

8 Jan

I hadn’t realised this was meant to be a weekly meme. /o\ Anyway, I am anyhow doing it, last time on Friday and this time on Monday (actually Tuesday).

What are you reading now?

The Spirit Catches You And You Fall Down – A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures by Anne Fadiman. This is a sad book, or rather it is not itself a sad book, but it is about very sad things. It is not bad on race, but I would still be annoyed at if I were Hmong because it speaks in such broad sweeping generalisations, New York Times editorial style. I also wish she were more anthropological about the people she keeps calling Americans — meaning by this white Americans — but since it is a book intended for a white American audience, not much hope lah.

I am also reading Desolation Island by Patrick O’Brian. I got distracted because I am worried that Jack is going to lose all his money down the fake silver mines.

What did you just finish reading?

*koff* The Mauritius Command, also by Patrick O’Brian. I had forgotten what a great character Clonfert is — so tragic, absurd, obnoxious and touching all at once.

What do you expect to read next?

I shall go back to Desolation Island after I have finished The Spirit Catches You etc. I still have to read A Brief History of Britain, 1660-1851 … I hope it hasn’t expired yet, but if it has I guess I could renew it.

Awards eligibility

4 Jan

Aliette de Bodard’s kind inclusion of me in her awards eligibility post reminded me that I should probably make one myself. It will not be as generous as Aliette’s because I’m not very good at keeping up with new stuff in sff — for the past two weeks I have been sailing along blissfully in the lovely Surprise, troubled only by Stephen’s laudanum habit — but I do recommend having a look at her post because she has lots of interesting recommendations.

Published short stories this year were:

The First Witch of Damansara in Bloody Fabulous, ed. Ekaterina Sedia, Prime Books (October 2012). 6,100 words.

The Earth Spirit’s Favourite Anecdote in Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine #54 (Table of Contents and link to purchase — you’ve got to scroll a fair way down) (May 2012). 5,500 words.

I’m also in my second year of eligibility for the Campbell Award for Best New Writer, as Aliette observes.

I’m happy to provide copies of these stories for anyone who’d like to read them for awards-related purposes — just comment with your email address, or drop me a line via the contact form.

Lunchboxes and literature

3 Jan

I used my Aladdin bento box for the first time today! I’ve got the two-storey version, which comes with a top compartment for soups and a larger bottom compartment, into which you can slot a half moon-shaped container so you can keep your rice and cai separate. It claims to be able to keep your food warm for up to five hours (or cool if that is how you prefer it), which is convenient as we don’t have that many microwaves at work.

I put some edamame in the top compartment, along with a hardboiled egg, and filled up the bottom with kimchi fried rice, giving the rice a blitz in the microwave before I set off. It worked pretty well! The rice wasn’t quite hot, but it was warm, and edible enough. The things I will do differently tomorrow are:

  • cook the edamame in advance and chill them, because when you put them into the lunchbox immediately after cooking they get a bit soggy
  • put the spring onion for garnishing the rice in the edamame compartment and only add it to the rice just before eating, so it doesn’t get wilted by the heat
  • heat up the rice until it is EVEN HOTTER before packing it
  • put in less rice. Wah, very full after lunch today.
  • (perhaps include a piece of delicious banana bread Cephas has just made, by way of dessert)

I am going to buy myself a bento cookbook. :D Perhaps the Just Bento one? Do let me know if you’ve got any recommendations.

***

You may enjoy these Notes on K. S. Maniam’s The New Diaspora in the New Village zine, discovered via hipsterbabas. (The original essay is here — I haven’t read it yet.) K. S. Maniam is a Malaysian Indian novelist and playwright, and the essay “explores the problems of internationalising community literatures, using the multicultural situation in Malaysia as a sort of model”.

I do not understand all of what Maniam is saying, and the notes seem scarcely shorter than the original essay itself lor. But what I have managed to grasp is interesting. I am doubtful about this idea of a new diaspora, an elite minority whose task is to make sense of the problems of multiculturalism and globalisation by somehow rising above its ethnic and cultural origins — but perhaps I misunderstand the argument. Anyway, it is comforting to see discussion of these issues one has been grappling with personally, feeling quite at sea.

***

Today I hit 50,000 words on the novel! My aim was to hit that word count by the end of 2012, so I am a couple of days late, but eh. \o/! I really made this post just to say this, but got distracted by lunchboxes and literature.

The first draft is growing alarmingly fragmented; I am run away with some subplots and don’t know what to do with others — and I think I have written one scene at least twice. But these are things that can be fixed on the next go-round, right? We soldier on.