Author Archives: Zen

About Zen

I'm a Malaysian writer living in London.

Book & Kitchen panel on Global Futures on Saturday, 7 November, 7 pm

I realised I’d forgotten to mention that after Eschacon I’ll be popping back to London for a panel on (what else?) world SF at Book and Kitchen this Saturday:

Global Futures: On Science Fiction at Book and Kitchen

Date and time: Saturday, 7 November 2015, 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm
Venue: Book and Kitchen, 31 All Saints Road, Notting Hill, London W11 1HE
Science fiction authors, editors and publishers will discuss the ways in which Western ideals and narratives dominated the genre for decades, and how that is now being challenged.

They will delve into contemporary SF publishing’s obsession with Hollywood formulas and traditional Western tropes, and show how the micro-, small- and mid-sized presses are working to produce something different. The panel will look back at the challenge posed to SF by the New Wave of the mid 1960s to 1970s, much of it based in Ladbroke Grove. They will also offer ideas and solicit suggestions on how readers – and the genre – might be “retrained”.

I will candidly say now that I have no idea what was going on in Ladbroke Grove in the 1960s to 1970s, but I’m sure the other panellists do! It should be a fun discussion. I haven’t included the webpage’s list of panellists because they’ve changed since the page was last updated, but the others are Stephanie Saulter, Tade Thompson, Bill Campbell and Geoff Ryman, with Chair of the British Science Fiction Association Donna Bond as the moderator.

Tickets for the event are £5. You can get them here.

Fiction: Unterminator

This is a flash piece that was published in Eschatology: The Journal of Lovecraftian and Apocalyptic Fiction in August 2011. As the journal is now defunct and Unterminator is not available elsewhere, I have been prodded by a reader to ensure it is available online!



by Zen Cho


You were sent to avert the nuclear apocalypse, but they sent you too early. It’s the 1950s and everyone seems fine.

Your makers made numerous mistakes. You look too young to command instinctive respect from humans. Your hair is not the hair of a hep-cat. Physically you are perfect, but they didn’t bother training you in the million unseeable things that make humans human. You take a little too long to laugh at a joke, and you smell like an overheated engine. People recoil when you sit next to them at the bus-stop.

Star Trek has yet to be produced. No one is familiar with the tragic android, empty as an abandoned house. No one is sympathetic.

You learn to play the harpsichord. You were not programmed to be lonely.

In 1973 you still have the same hair. You’re still wearing the suit you arrived in, and people avoid you in the street. You’re in Hiroshima when you figure it out, standing in a museum in the midst of a group of Swedish tourists.

You weren’t too early. You were too late.

This is what happens when everyone has a precious frangible world inside their soft head, liable to be smashed by every passing breath of tornado. In such circumstances apocalypse is always now. Why haven’t humans fixed this? Did your makers understand the extent of the problem? Something like this can’t be remedied by one robot on its own. Something like this can’t be remedied.

You don’t feel sorry for yourself. Your makers had a sense of the appropriate. You are not permitted despair, or the insult of self-pity. Your only participation in grief was to be the metallic screech of your joints as you swept children out of danger. Your eyes were designed not to weep, but to pick out, in a barren land, the beat of the human heart.

Eschacon, 5 to 7 November

I feel like maybe it wasn’t the greatest feat of marketing genius to write a load of publishing journey blog posts, announce the UK publication of my book and then promptly drop off the radar for a month, but phew! It has been very busy! And it’s not looking like it’s going to let up any time soon. I’m looking forward to being able to take a proper break some time in 2016 …

Before then, though, I’ll be in Amsterdam a week on Thursday for a minicon focused on World SF, Eschacon. The full programme is here, but below’s what I’m doing specifically.

Thursday 5 November

18:30-21:00 Tribute to Chip Book Presentation and World SF panel discussion

Author and editor Bill Campbell will talk about his latest project Stories For Chip, a tribute to Science Fiction Writers of America Grandmaster Samuel R. “Chip” Delany. Following the presentation is a panel discussion about World SF and diversity in the speculative fiction genre with authors Zen Cho, Corinne Duyvis, Marieke Nijkamp and Rochita Loenen-Ruiz.

Friday 6 November

18:00-19:30 Q&A and booksigning with Zen Cho

Join us for an evening around the (imaginary) fireside with author Zen Cho. Zen will discuss her new book, the art of writing and the business of getting published.

Saturday 7 November

10:00-11:00 Kaffeeklatsch

Getting up early has never been so fun. Enjoy a cup of coffee (or tea) while talking about books, stories and other geek-related subjects with authors Aliette de Bodard, Zen Cho, Rochita Loenen-Ruiz, Bill Campbell.

I’m really looking forward to this event, though there’s now a great deal of sadness associated with it as well, as one of the main things I was looking forward to was hanging out and talking with the wonderful Rochita Loenen-Ruiz. Rochita has since posted about the very sudden and sad death of her partner.

There is a fundraiser to help Rochita and her family, with lots of cool rewards that have been offered as a thank you to donors. Rochita is a thoughtful, nuanced and compassionate voice in the field and she also does an enormous amount of work behind the scenes to support and nurture marginalised writers. I am only one of many writers who have benefited from her friendship. While it’s reached the goal, any additional amounts will still be very useful, so please check out the fundraiser and chip in if you can and feel like it: Funds for Rochita Loenen-Ruiz.


Sorcerer to the Crown was released in the UK last Thursday! The book’s properly out in the world now. :O

Thanks to everyone who came to the Forbidden Planet signing. If you missed it, you can still buy the signed hardcover from them: Sorcerer to the Crown at Forbidden Planet. And the signed and numbered limited edition is still available from Goldsboro Books for slightly more money: Sorcerer to the Crown limited first edition. I got #1!

IMG_1169The limited edition is really beautiful. *_* Apparently there aren’t many left, so if you think you might like one, order it while you can!

Also, a couple of weeks ago I spoke to David Barnett about the book. The interview ran in the Independent yesterday.


Super exciting! You can read it online here:

Zen Cho: Tackling questions of race, gender and social justice in fantasy fiction

Besides articles about fantasy authors and Viking sheep, David Barnett also writes steampunk novels. You can find out about them at his website here.

SORCERER TO THE CROWN signing at Forbidden Planet

Just a short post to say that I’ll be signing Sorcerer to the Crown at the Forbidden Planet London Megastore in a week’s time, from 6-7 pm on the UK publication date of 10 September 2015. Details at their website:

Zen Cho Signing Sorcerer to the Crown

It’s open to the public so do drop by if you’re in London! (This is different from the launch of the UK limited edition, which is invitation-only.) I set up a Facebook event page also if you find that sort of thing useful. Hope to see you there!

My publishing journey: Love and resource

I know I said I was winding up my Publishing Journey posts for now, but I had another thought: about love and resource, and the debts we owe. It’s quite a big thought, so bear with me.

IMG_0670A few years ago I got a daruma and was told how you draw in one eye when there’s something you want, and you draw in the other eye when you have got it. I drew in one eye and then I waited. The thing I wanted was the same wish I always made, when visiting temples and blowing out birthday candles.

Like many writers, I have wanted to be a published novelist since I was very small. Of course when you are small you don’t really know what that means. You don’t think about the New York Big Five or global distribution or advances or royalties or awards or reviews. What you want is very simple: to be on the shelf next to the books you love. It’s to be as important, as interesting, as true, as a story.

Publication does not give you that. But it comes to stand for that. I grew up devouring Penguin books and now I am a Penguin author. It might not last, but it happened. Imagine that.

Even though publication is no longer what it was — even though I know that’s not what it means — it still feels enormously satisfying. It still feels like a gift I have given six-year-old me.

But that’s not true, is it? It’s been a very busy, though happy, few months for me, and I have been thinking about resource. What an enormous amount of love and time and resource has been poured into me.

Though I do work hard, I’m always conscious at the back of my mind of how little I have to do with anything I achieve. A while ago I realised with embarrassment that I did not mention in my post about revisions how much work my agent Caitlin Blasdell and editor Diana Gill did on the book. Hannah Bowman, who is not even my agent, read the manuscript twice before it went on submission. The post makes it sound like I was the only one working, but of course that is not true. And we have not even got to the people who typeset the book, who proofread it (and had to put up with my nerdy responses: “I think you’ll find the OED says that word has been in use since the 16th century … “), who have been sorting out publicity and marketing and sending advance copies all over the place, etc. etc. etc.

But much as I appreciate all that work, these are, after all, people for whom it is their job. They hope to see some concrete benefit from their work — and I certainly hope they do. Who I really think about when I think about love and resource is my maternal grandmother, my Ah Ma, who passed away earlier this year.

Continue reading

ALL the Publishing Journey posts

I thought it might be useful to have a summary post with links to all my Publishing Journey posts, as I wound them up last Friday. Here they are!

Mission statement: Ten things I believe about writing
Breaking through writer’s block, or, how I started writing and publishing short stories
How I published a short story collection
Writing with a day job, part 1: Why I don’t write full-time
Writing with a day job, part 2: Work/work balance
Networking, part 1: Social media and connection
Networking, part 2: Thoughts on conventions
How I wrote three novels and binned two of them
Querying agents
Signing with a literary agent
My query letter for Sorcerer to the Crown
Revising the novel (again and again and again)
Going on submission
Selling the novel
Love and resource

Thanks to everyone who read, commented, tweeted, shared on Facebook, etc. I did these posts for three two reasons:

1) Because people were asking me about publishing and I wanted to have something to link them to, instead of repeating the same answers to different people.

2) I really enjoy writing about writing, but in kind of an embarrassed way. Some people writhe in delicious guilt over having a chocolate. I eat chocolates by the dozens without shame, but feel luxuriously decadent about blogging about my ~writing process~.

3) Procrastinating on book 2 no what are you talking about I never procrastinate on writing fiction (she said as she procrastinated by doing a blog post)

Anyway, because of reason #2, I’ve really appreciated everyone who’s taken the trouble to tell me that they enjoyed these posts or found them useful or enlightening. Thank you!

I may take a break from doing these on a weekly basis as I really have to focus on book 2, but as I said in the last post, I do mean to keep doing them and am taking requests. So let me know if you have any writing or publishing-related questions or topics you’d like me to talk about, via email, Twitter, Facebook, or in the comments below.

P. S. Selamat Hari Merdeka! Hope you ols enjoyed the public holiday.