Monthly Archives: January 2014

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

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

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

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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A quick and dirty guide to selling SFF short stories

I am doing a sort of information sharing meme at my Dreamwidth journal, and am cross-posting a revised version of one of my comments in the event that it might be useful. It is a quick and dirty guide to selling SFF short stories!

(We will consider and dismiss a spasm of Imposter Syndrome here about how it is rich for me to be telling other people how to sell SFF short stories when it’s not like I’ve ever been published in x, y or z pro markets.)

These are basic practical tips for people who are not sure where to start. It assumes that you are already writing or planning to write short stories that are speculative in nature. No actual writing advice is given.

The main plank of my approach is this: what you want to do is mechanise your submission process, so that you continue submitting lots without its disturbing your peace of mind, preserving the mental space you need to write.

(1) Make a list of markets. I like Duotrope, which is a search engine that lets you search by word count, genre, etc. It’s paid now, but there’s a free trial. Ralan is the other main resource. ETA: via Kara Lee, The Grinder is a Duotrope alternative that is free and looks like it does some of #5 for you.

Depending on your area of interest, you may also want to look at Asia Writes (which is also on Twitter) and this helpful list of explicitly diversity-friendly SFF markets. You can also look at the websites/bibliographies of authors who write stories like yours, and google the markets they have published in.

But you’ll want to compile your own list, to match what you’re most likely to be sending out. My list of markets recorded:

  • Genre
  • Word count
  • Pay rate
  • What editors said about what they wanted or didn’t want to see, and/or any other specific information e.g. peculiar formatting requirements

When submitting, you want to go for markets that pay you (pro, semi-pro and token, in that order) and, ideally, the ones that make stories available for free online. The latter is because exposure is the most important thing for a new writer. You can’t link to stories in anthologies.

(Of course, there are lots of nice things about publishing in anthologies — interesting themes; contributor copies; being in books in actual bookshops; and that glow of excitement when you see the Table of Contents and realise that your story is in the same book as a story by an admired author. *_*)

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The annual awards eligibility post, plus other things

I really didn’t want to make this post this year, which probably means I should. >_< But first, links to other people’s posts!

Aliette de Bodard has done her usual round-up including excellent Asian SFF by other people as well herself. Check out her links and download a free novelette at her post: Awards eligibility and awards recommendations.

Ken Liu has also got a fabulously comprehensive post linking to his favourite (mostly short) fiction of the year, plus his own eligible work (which includes two stories about litigators!): Nominating Stories for Awards.

Short stories I’ve had published this year:

Love in the Time of Utopia in Issue #1 of LONTAR, ed. Jason Erik Lundberg and Kristine Ong Muslim, Math Paper Press (September 2013). 6,200 words.

“You’re missing out. At least love is available to everybody, high station or low. It’s the one thing you can get without having to sit exam.”

The Fish Bowl in The Alchemy Press Book of Urban Mythic, ed. Jan Edwards and Jenny Barber, Alchemy Press (November 2013). 5,600 words.

The koi’s mouth opened and closed, an intermittent surprised O. Its white skin was so smooth it seemed scaleless. It would feel like silken tofu if you touched it. Seen from above, the fish’s one eye looked heavy-lidded and wise.

“Are you a magical fish or a door-to-door salesman?” Su Yin whispered.

Balik Kampung (Going Back) in End of the Road, ed. Jonathan Oliver, Solaris Books (December 2013). 4,700 words.

Hungry ghosts were the spirits of the unfortunate, unlamented dead: those who were killed violently; who died burdened by unfulfilled longings; who had been greedy or ungenerous in life; who were forgotten by their living. It was obvious to Lydia which category she fell into.

These are all eligible in the short story category, and I’d be happy to provide copies to anyone who’d like to read them for awards — just comment with your email address, or email me. No obligation to nominate after reading, obviously!

(There were two more — Jebat Dies in Esquire Malaysia and Double-Blind in Fixi Novo’s Love in Penang (ed. Anna Tan) — but the first is Hang Tuah fanfic and the second is a totally non-speculative love story, so they don’t really count for these purposes.)

If you have had things published that are eligible, and you are dithering over whether to make this sort of post or not — do it. Do it even if you don’t think anyone reads your blog or follows your Twitter account who even votes for this kind of thing. Do it even if making the post makes you cringe. My blog doesn’t get a lot of pageviews, but I am absolutely certain that I wouldn’t have got the Campbell nomination if I hadn’t made this post last year.

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I am going to piggyback off this post to post about two more things!

For some reason Fixi always gotta publish all its calls for submissions in pictorial form. Their English-language imprint is now seeking short stories and creative non-fiction of 2,000-5,000 words for a new anthology called Lost in Putrajaya. Deadline 28 February. See the call for submissions here.

If I were a better and braver writer I would venture out of my comfort zone and write hardbitten crime stories and political satire to submit to Fixi’s English-language anthologies. Sadly I am a wimp + lazy, so I don’t! You should do it for me.

Also, if you go to Google.com.my today, it has a picture of beloved filmmaker Yasmin Ahmad which makes me all misty-eyed — like her work itself. She would’ve been 56 years old today (going by Malaysian time la). Faster go! The art is lovely.