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Q&A with Daphne Lee

5 Jan

I had a really interesting (and long!) email exchange with Daphne Lee of local, a reviews/opinion site focusing on Malaysian and Southeast Asian literature. We talked about writing fantasy, finding a voice in which to write Malaysian stories, how your reading influences your writing, Western/Malaysian publishing, and a bunch of other things. Read the interview at the link below!

Q&A: Zen Cho

A couple of other small updates:

There are 12 whole copies of SPIRITS ABROAD in stock at Amazon! Small victories, but after months of its either being out of stock or having only 2-3 copies available for sale on Amazon, this is very pleasing. (If you would like to buy the dead tree version of SPIRITS ABROAD but don’t want to give Amazon your money, friendly indie Big Green Bookshop should have a couple of copies for sale. They haven’t got it up on the website, but you can email them for details. And of course, there is always the ebook!)

Submissions for CYBERPUNK: MALAYSIA have closed. Thanks to everyone who sent in a story. We’ve received 99 submissions and I’m really looking forward to getting stuck into reading them and putting together the anthology.

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.

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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.

[…]

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!

I was on the radio :O

8 Jul

So I was on the radio today! At 2 pm (GMT+8) on BFM. You probably missed it — I did — but you can download the podcast, or just listen to it online:

Bookmark: Sci-Fi in Print, with Umapagan Ampikaipakan and Zen Cho

“Sci-Fi in Print” is like the most non-SF description of anything ever, haha. It’s because sci-fi is movies, is it? So you have to specify that it’s in print? Something like that lah. Anyway, click for 20 minutes of me mumbling nervously about Penguin Popular Classics! I also talk about how I see a direct line between all the 19th century British literature I used to read and the speculative fiction genre my stories have ended up inhabiting. (19th century Britain, outer space and Middle-earth were/are equally alien and fantastical to me. I know Middle-earth is a bad example given it basically is 19th century Britain, but I can’t think of any other fantasy secondary worlds at the moment that I cared about that weren’t Britain in some form!)

One of the things Uma asked me that made me a bit thoughtful was why there wasn’t more SF in the book. I sort of skirted around the question, but the honest answer is that I am just scared of it. I feel like I’m not smart enough to write SF. A difficult admission to make on radio! There is a lot of SF out there that has very little to do with actual science, so I am conscious that it’s a slightly silly thing to think, but it’s one of the things I’m working through.

Here is another cool thing:

MPH Bestsellers

You probably don’t have to sell a whole lot of copies to be top 20 in MPH — but I’ll take it!

SPIRITS ABROAD – Cover reveal

13 Jun

So if you follow me on Twitter or Facebook (or worst of all, BOTH), you will have seen this plenty of times, but I am super excited about it and will not rest till I have posted it on every Internet outlet possible. I may start printing it off and sticking it to lamp-posts.

For lo! I have a cover!

SPIRITS ABROAD cover - woman's face with eyes shut and a frangipani in the middle of her forehead

Back copy

“If you live near the jungle, you will realise that what is real and what is not real is not always clear. In the forest there is not a big gap between the two.”

A Datin recalls her romance with an orang bunian. A teenage pontianak struggles to balance homework, bossy aunties, first love, and eating people. An earth spirit gets entangled in protracted negotiations with an annoying landlord, and Chang E spins off into outer space, the ultimate metaphor for the Chinese diaspora.

Straddling the worlds of the mundane and the magical, SPIRITS ABROAD collects 10 science fiction and fantasy stories with a distinctively Malaysian sensibility.

Launch

The book will be out in a week’s time (!) from Fixi Novo, an imprint of Buku Fixi, an indie press I’ve been following with great interest since it was started up by the confusingly multi-talented Amir Muhammad. Fixi has taken off in a huge way since its early days, and I am thrilled to be published with them.

As I mentioned in my previous post, the launch will be at Whitebox @ Publika, starting at 5 pm on Saturday 21st: the Facebook event has more details. Fellow Malaysian SF author Ee Leen Lee will also be launching her book, 13 MOONS. It should be good! Do come if you are in KL. (Must BYO spirits, though.)

How you can get ahold of the book

Because a couple of people asked — the paperback will be available for purchase on Amazon US if you’re outside Malaysia. I’ll put up a link when it’s up. I’ll also be selling/giving away a few once I get ahold of my author copies, and I’ll be happy to ship those anywhere in the world.

Plus, I’m planning to release an ebook version soon, which will probably have extra stories. \o/ I’d also like to include other extras, though I can’t think of anything just this minute. What sort of extras would you like to see? Maybe I’ll do a “DVD commentary” (do people still do these for fic?), or an interview or something. (I will interview … MYSELF)

Anyway! I don’t expect to shift that many copies of the ebook, but I just want to make sure any readers outside Malaysia can get ahold of the book easily if they want it (and TBH, to the extent that I have readers, the overwhelming majority of them are outside Malaysia). If you’re inside Malaysia, though, it’ll be super easy to get — order from the website (not yet la, after launch only can), or in stores.

Full Table of Contents below the cut!

[…]

A couple of belated updates: interview and book giveaway

24 Mar

Interview

Bristol Festival of Literature organiser Peter Sutton posted an interview with me on his blog:

Interview at Bristol Book Blog

I talk about writing, and my plans for conventions and festivals this year, and the fact that I secretly want to be a sort of Power Ranger giant robot combo of Edith Nesbit and Pankaj Mishra. Which is something I had not known until I did the interview, but is now my life mission!

Book giveaway

Anna Tan edited the Fixi Novo short story anthology Love in Penang which I’m in, and she is running a Love in Penang giveaway! I will put the giveaway code at the bottom of this post so you can enter it from here if you would like. She is giving the book away to one person based in Malaysia and one person based elsewhere.

I wrote a bit about my story in my post about the anthology here, but it’s basically a romcom about mistaken assumptions and misunderstandings. As all romcoms are, I guess! There is a happy ending, of course.

Here is the blurb for the book (it’s in English, in case you were wondering):

Penang, with its mix of old world charm and modern bustle, has captured the hearts of many – making it the ideal place for a little bit of romance. Bask in the sweetness of young hearts falling in love and cheer them on when circumstances stand in their way. Walk through the pain of broken relationships and rejoice at unexpected reunions. Whether you prefer it happy or bittersweet, straightforward or a little complicated, LOVE IN PENANG offers you 18 morsels of love in various forms.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The Gift of Rain by Tan Twan Eng

19 Feb

In pre-WW2 Malaya, Anglo-Chinese Philip Hutton befriends Japanese aikijutsu master Hayato Endo. It doesn’t turn out well.

Surprise feature of this book: it’s a reincarnation story!

Probably won’t read Garden of Evening Mists as I understand it’s in a fairly similar vein, only with Japanese gardens instead of martial arts, and Cameron Highlands instead of Penang.