Author Archives: Zen

About Zen

I'm a Malaysian writer living in London.

Q&A + signing at Kinokuniya KLCC – 11 am on Saturday, 13 February 2016

I’ll be doing a Q&A and signing at Kinokuniya in Kuala Lumpur in February!

Photo by Marisa Repin

Photo by Marisa Repin

Date: Saturday, 13 February 2016
Time: 11 am to 12 noon
Venue: Kinokuniya, Level 4, Suria KLCC

Description: It’ll depend on how Kino chooses to set it up and how many people attend, but my plan is to sign books and chat to people. I’ve called it a Q&A partly because maybe people do want to ask me questions about things, but mostly because the other natural thing to do is a reading. And I don’t really like doing readings. Nonetheless I may do one if it seems like the right thing to do. We’ll see!

Here’s the Facebook event page, in case you find Facebook event pages useful! It’s open to everyone so do come if you’re free and bring your friends.

I’m really looking forward to this! I spent many happy hours in Kinokuniya as a teenager, reading all the books they didn’t wrap and sitting on my hands to warm them (the air-con is always turned super high IIRC). When I told my parents I was doing this event they said: “Really, Kinokuniya? They’re going to let you in there, after all those books you read for free???”

But to be fair I’ve also spent a lot of money there over the years! What with this and the Forbidden Planet signing last year, I don’t know that I have many Personally Significant to Zen Book Places left to do events at. Maybe MPH at 1 Utama. And the Penang and KL children’s libraries!

As a nice plus, for me but also for anyone who turns up, the World SF table I curated for Kinokuniya will still be up in February. Features a selection of science fiction and fantasy books by authors from outside the US and UK. As you can see just from this picture alone, it includes books by Aliette de Bodard, Cindy Pon, Ken Liu, Nalo Hopkinson, Geoff Ryman and Silvia Moreno-Garcia, as well as lots more, including some homegrown Malaysian talent. It’s up now, so even if you’re not coming to see me in February you should go check it out!

Photo by Marisa Repin

Photo by Marisa Repin

Publications in 2015

I generally manage to avoid reading discussion of my writing, but one time I did see someone describe me as “not prolific”. I was all indignant: how can?! I write so many words, OK, all things considered!

But the melancholy truth is that I’m not very prolific. Given sufficient time I can crank out a decent number of words, but a fairly low percentage is fit for human consumption. Still, in 2015 my list of publications was short but satisfying.

Short fiction: Monkey King, Faerie Queen in Kaleidotrope (April 2015)

This was a hard story to sell, which puzzled me because it’s one of my favourite of my short stories. It’s about Sun Wukong wreaking havoc in Fairyland. What’s not to love? I’m pleased it found a great home in the end.

Anthology (editor): Cyberpunk: Malaysia, Fixi Novo (June 2015)

CyberpunkMalaysiaebookcoverwithtitleI edited Cyberpunk: Malaysia, which was a great experience but way too much hard work for me to want to repeat it! I’m really proud of it — it’s a great collection of stories and as good an introduction to urban Malaysia as you can get anywhere else.

Novel: Sorcerer to the Crown, Ace/Macmillan (September 2015)

IMG_0668My first published novel! It’s been wild having it out in the world. Currently it’s out in hardcover in the US, UK and elsewhere, and I never get tired of wandering into bookshops and seeing it on shelves. I find it even more exciting seeing it in libraries and seeing holds (!!) on the book. There’s also an audiobook, which I’m told is well done: US | UK (it’s the same audiobook, just different versions of Audible). Thank you so much to everyone who’s read it, reviewed it, posted about it on social media, and told me they enjoyed it. I’m very grateful.

Nonfiction: It’s sort of overegging it to call it nonfiction, but I did write a lot of guest posts, email interviews and the like this year, and people seemed to enjoy my Publishing Journey series of blog posts. I plan to write more! But must finish book 2 first. >:| <– this is my determined face

The list will be even shorter this year as the follow-up to Sorcerer to the Crown isn’t scheduled for publication till 2017, but I do have at least one thing planned. You can sign up to my new release mailing list if you want to hear about new publications as they happen! It’s very low volume — I just send out an email when there’s something new by me that can be bought/read.

Catch-up: Science fiction, social justice and a film made from coasters

Happy New Year! It’s been quiet on this blog lately as I’ve been absorbed in working on the follow-up to Sorcerer to the Crown and then took a complete break from writing over Christmas and New Year. It felt a bit alarming to be taking a rest with a deadline looming, but I think it was a good idea — there’s still a ton of work to be done, but I feel rejuvenated and much more capable of tackling it. I’ll probably stay pretty quiet till the book has been turned in, but here are some recent bits and bobs:

The Star did an end-of-year feature on me: Malaysian author Zen Cho: Forget critics, focus on the story. Thanks to Terence Toh for the write-up!

In December I was on a panel discussing science fiction and social justice with Daniel Jose Older, Walidah Imarisha and Mark Oshiro for Al Jazeera’s The Stream, an online daily TV show: Sci-fi for social change. First time I’ve done a panel via Skype!

Speaking of panels and diversity, I’ll be participating in Bare Lit Festival, the first UK literary festival focusing on authors of colour, run by Media Diversified. It’s taking place in February 2016 and I’m really looking forward to it. They’re fundraising to cover costs at the moment — do consider chipping in if it sounds like a worthwhile project to you: Bare Lit Festival fundraiser.

And my brother We Jun’s short film Coaster is out! It’s sponsored by Tiger Beer, who got people to send in story ideas on beer coasters — and picked the cast and crew based on coaster submissions! The film is a stylish, atmospheric story of revenge. It’s 15 minutes long and you can watch it on YouTube:

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
Description:
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!

 

Unterminator

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 in the UK

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.

IMG_1168

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.