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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!

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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.

Links are interested in Southeast Asian literature

9 Feb

Calls for submissions

Poskod.MY are running a writing programme focusing on Kuala Lumpur’s untold stories: UnRepresented. They are looking for “writers who would like to spend ten weeks exploring themes of ‘being unrepresented’ and unrepresented narratives in and around KL“. The programme will consist of workshops and talks in eight weekend sessions held in March-May 2014. It sounds super interesting — if you are in the right country and up for it, you should totally apply! Deadline 19 February.

 

THE SEA IS OURS is a Southeast Asian steampunk anthology seeking short story submissions.

How does the steampunk aesthetic look, feel, sound, smell, or taste like in these regions? What kind of technologies would grow in resource-rich SEAsia? What do our historical figures, our Parameswaras, Trung sisters, Lapu-Lapus, do in such a world?

The anthology is edited by Jaymee Goh and Joyce Ch’ng, and will be put out by Rosarium Publishing, who did the book MOTHERSHIP: TALES OF AFROFUTURISM AND BEYOND (among others). Deadline 30 June.

 

Seen on the Readings Facebook group, a call for submissions of Malaysian poetry in English. Text reproduced below for non-Facebook users:

Prof Ghulam‘s message for all Msian poets writing in English:

I am working towards a new anthology of Malaysian poetry in English.

Hopefully this will provide the opportunity to new and not so new authors to get their work into print. I hope to collect around 80 poems by as many authors as possible by the end of March and the book published by the end of June. I will be happy to welcome poems from you or from others you know. Kindly pass the word around.

Pls email him directly at gsyousof@hotmail.com.

 

Help for playwrights

Also seen on Facebook, Singaporean playwright Alfian Sa’at makes an open offer, which I reproduce including emoticons:

If you have a play that deals with ethnic minority experiences in Singapore and need some help with it, please send it to me. I’m offering free one-on-one consultation for it. In English or Malay. PM me please! :)

 

Events

There is going to be a literary festival in Alor Setar in March! Find out more at the website: Alor Setar Literary Festival. They have missed their golden chance to hip-ify the name and call it “A.Star” or something like that, but otherwise it looks pretty cool!

(I am linking in part because (guilty confession) Alor Setar has always been in my mind a symbol for the boring one-horse town. I have never even really seen the town so it is a totally unfair, baseless judgment. I trace it to something my dad once said when we were visiting Edinburgh. Now, I like Edinburgh — a storied, beautiful city, bracingly hard on the calves — but my dad stood in the middle of Princes Street, looked up and down, and said, in the most unimpressed way anyone ever said anything: “One main street only. Like Alor Setar like that!”)

 

And an article

I found Mohammad A. Quayum’s article on English-language literature in Malaysia and Singapore interesting. He posits that Malaysian writing in English is thin on the ground and of variable quality because of politics around the national language and what counts as “national literature”. I really don’t know enough about the subject to comment, but will look forward to the continuation!

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

27 Jan

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

22 Jan

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

14 Jan

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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