Category Archives: Malaysia

Roundup: fanfic, shrimps, hipste Kelate and more

Podcasts

On Thursday I went to Broadcasting House (!) to take part in the first episode of Late Night Woman’s Hour on BBC Radio 4, which was on women in fandom. It was super fun — like a convention panel, only you had to keep remembering you were talking to a mainstream audience and stopping to define terms like “fanfic”. If you’re interested in listening to a lively discussion of women in SFF, the geek culture wars and fanfic tropes, you can download the podcast here:

Reclaiming the Nerdiverse

(And yes, we did discuss A/B/O on national radio with all our relatives listening. /o\ I confess I’m one of those old fandom grumps for whom A/B/O does nothing. In my day we had “we are spies who have to pretend to be married for implausible reasons and we fall in love as a result” and we were happy with that!!)

I also did a podcast with the fabulous Fran Wilde (Updraft out super soon!) and Aliette de Bodard (House of Shattered Wings out even sooner!), talking about food in our books:

An Intimidation of Shrimp: A Cooking The Books Roundtable

At the link I also reveal ~all my writing secrets~ and share my Big List o’ Regency Foods. I said this on the podcast, but I felt a bit like Sherlock Holmes explaining my methods and Watson going, “Oh, you’re nothing to call home about really, that’s easy!” Sigh. Anyway, if you’d like to know what “ruffs and reeves” are, go check it out!

Ghost words

I’ve been posting quietly to Where Ghost Words Dwell, the discarded writing collage project I do with a bunch of cool writers. Here are two of my most recent contributions:

The Green family goes to the mountains

Magical relatives berbalas pantun. This is from a story I was bouncing around with a friend a few years ago, inspired by our trip to Ladakh. The photo is of the glorious mountains, taken at Leh airport. It’s not at all a habitat that suits me — I spent the next seven days or so in the most wretched altitude sickness — but I’ve never seen anything like it.

On the outskirts of Kota Bharu, in a rental Perodua

Again, a snippet inspired by a holiday — this time a rather more prosaic one, a road trip in Kelantan with my BFF. We went to lots of wats and failed to eat any roti hamlet, laksam or nasi kerabu. (I know, I know … what were we even doing.) Eventually this inspired a short story called Everything Under One Roof, which Rose Lemberg accepted for her anthology Alphabet of Embers. The word count for Alphabet of Embers was 1,400 words so I had to cut everything non-essential, including the snippet at the link!

The drawing of a hipste Kelate is by my phenomenally talented cousin Alina Choong and is posted with her permission. It’s based on the boss of Kopitiam Kita, which you should definitely visit if you’re ever in KB. Siti Nurhaliza went also k.

Sorcerer to the Crown

Ala, you knew it was coming.

If you’re in the UK, first edition bookshop Goldsboro Books is running a competition for people who pre-order Sorcerer to the Crown! Order Goldsboro’s special limited edition (SPRAYED EDGES!) before 10 September, i.e. the UK release date, and you’ll have a chance to win an invitation to the book launch. Come and talk to meee! You can pre-order the limited edition here.

The Book Smugglers also ran a giveaway for the book. Closed liao, sorry, but you can still read my post on the Inspirations and Influences Behind Sorcerer to the Crown.

I also did a guest post for Pornokitsch on Five Fictional Girls and Women I Will Love Forever. Features Anne of Green Gables, Rukia, Lucy Snowe, Elizabeth Bennet and Eowyn. No surprises, but lots of *___*-ing … you will point out that this doesn’t have anything to do with Sorcerer to the Crown, because it’s part of The Apex Book of World SF 4 promo push, but little do you know! One of those five characters inspired Prunella Gentleman. You should tell me which you think it is!

And JUST TODAY Publishers Weekly gave Sorcerer a starred review:

Cho’s tale knits together a dizzying array of taut story lines populated by complex characters with interesting backstories. Zacharias brings to mind another orphaned young wizard whose combination of grit and melancholy captured readers’ hearts, and ingenious, gutsy Prunella simply shines.

How totally amazing. You couldn’t ask for better.

Social mediaz

As always, if you’re interested in receiving updates on my stuff in real-time, Twitter or Facebook is probably your best bet. My Facebook page is public and I don’t add back automatically, but will if you drop me a message saying hi. I’ve also started using Instagram! Not a lot there at the moment, but what I’m going to do is post pictures there instead of Twitter. I crosspost Instagram posts to Twitter and Facebook, though, so better not follow me on all three — after lemas only.

ARCs, giveaways, reviews, conversations

I’m sure the title of this post is terrible for SEO (search engine minimisation??) but it is going to be a grab-bag of things I’m catching up on. If you would like to get updates on writing stuff in REAL TIME, Twitter is generally my first port of call for reporting book news (I am zenaldehyde!) and I cross-post to Facebook as well nowadays, though the posts aren’t identical because Facebook permits me to be as verbose as I naturally am. I can be found here on Facebook: my profile is public so anyone can follow it, but if you’d like to be friended do drop me a message to let me know who you are.

On to the news!

Sorcerer to the Crown: galleys, giveaways and more!

Ace/Roc sent me galleys of the book! My gosh. It looks like a REAL BOOK. And it is covered with quotes by authors I admire hugely!

SorcererGalley

Naomi Novik! Ann Leckie! Courtney Milan! Karen Lord! Charles Stross! Kate Elliott (on the other side with the dragon, you can’t see it in this picture)!

And as of today, awardwinning YA author Justine Larbalestier, who says Sorcerer is:

Georgette Heyer meets Anthony Trollope with some Edward Said and a very big dash of feminism. Romance, magic, frocks, intrigue and lots of politics … I was in heaven. More please!

If you’re in the US, you can enter the Penguin BEA 2015 sweepstakes for a chance to win five new releases from Penguin Random House, which just might include Sorcerer to the Crown and/or Aliette de Bodard’s fabulous new novel The House of Shattered Wings. You don’t have to be at BEA to sign up — you just have to be resident in the States. (If you’re not in the US and want Aliette’s book, you can join the 500 people jostling for a free copy over at her own ARC giveaway!)

Otherwise, watch this space, because I am going to do a galley giveaway here soon. Subscribers to my mailing list will get a MAGICAL ADVANTAGE, so sign up now! It’s a new release mailing list so you don’t get regular news when you’re on it — I just send out an email when I’ve got new fiction out that you can read or order. Here’s a previous example.

The House of Aunts and Naomi Novik’s Uprooted

Speaking of writers I admire hugely, Naomi Novik wrote a really kind post about The House of Aunts on Tor.com:

A New Reality: The Optimism of Zen Cho

You feel as you read that the author wants you to be happy, even if she is not going to lie to you to make you feel more comfortable. … As a reader, when I feel a writer has those goals, it creates a kind of trust that carries me along with them. Even when they take me to difficult or uncomfortable or sad places, I still feel they are doing so because it’s where the story belongs, and even then still with the underlying desire to give satisfaction.

Naomi links this to fanfic writers and writing, and I thought it was interesting because it’s precisely this quality that I like in Naomi’s work. (This must sound like the most sickening logrolling! But long-term fandom friends will vouch for the fact that I was reading and squealing over Naomi’s stories since I was 16. (I actually went to look at the earliest story by her that I remember reading when it was being posted, and that was in 2000, so I was actually 14. 14 years old.))

I spent most of her newest book Uprooted with every part of me clenched in terror lest everything would not turn out OK, but I also simultaneously knew that everything would not only be OK but more than OK — marvellously, eucatastrophically more-than-OK. And the author saw me through, as I knew she would. You should read Uprooted.

Interviews and roundtables

The Star interviewed me, KL Noir: Yellow editor and Cyberpunk: Malaysia writer Kris Williamson, and romance author RodieR about the increasing popularity of genre fiction in Malaysia:

Is genre fiction picking up steam with Malaysian readers?

Our books are all finalists in the Popular-The Star Readers’ Choice Awards. Voting closes on 31 May so you still have a couple of days to vote for the winners!

And I spoke with Charles Tan, Aliette de Bodard, M Sereno, Bogi Takács and JY Yang for a roundtable on “diversity” and the kind of conversations we’d like to have for the Book Smugglers’ SFF in Conversation feature:

On Diversity

Actual fiction (kind of)

Finally, my new post went up at Where Ghost Words Dwell today! This is a group project I’m doing with a bunch of other cool SFF writers, where we string our discarded writing together on a blog, along with links and images. Today’s contribution is a piece of lost text from The House of Aunts:

At age 16, in Lubuk Udang

You can check out this explanation to get an idea of what the project is about, or better yet, read the whole blog through.

CYBERPUNK: MALAYSIA Table of Contents

I’m really excited to finally be able to talk about the Table of Contents for CYBERPUNK: MALAYSIA! Here’s the line-up:

“Underneath Her Tudung” by Angeline Woon
“Codes” by Anna Tan
“Personal” by Sharmilla Ganesan
“Attack of the Spambots” by Terence Toh
“ONE HUNDRED YEARS: Machine” by Rafil Elyas
“What The Andromaid Reads at Night” by Ted Mahsun
“KAKAK” by William Tham Wai Liang
“The Wall That Wasn’t A Wall” by Kris Williamson
“The Twins” by Adiwijaya Iskandar
“October 11” by Chin Ai-May
“Undercover in Tanah Firdaus” by Syamsuriatina Ishak writing as Tina Isaacs
“Unusual Suspects” by Tariq Kamal
“The White Mask” by Zedeck Siew
“Extracts from DMZINE #13 (January 2115)” by Foo Sek Han

So there are a number of Fixi stalwarts in the list, but this is also the first SF story sale for some of the writers, and the first fiction sale for at least one. Which is awesome!

It was really tough winnowing down the 100 odd submissions to this final selection, and there were great stories that I ultimately wasn’t able to include for fairly random reasons. I did a first slush read and narrowed the list down to a group of “maybes” that ended up being the length of two novels. And then I had to refine that down to “yeses plus maybes that are really very close to yes, but I need to think more about how the stories fit together”, which eventually went through the fire to become the final ToC. So by now I have read every story that has ended up in the anthology 5-6 times each, and I’m not sick of them yet — which I think is a good sign!

(I was also the pickiest editor Fixi has probably ever had, and can only be grateful to the authors for not telling me to bleep off, but instead doing sterling work on their stories.)

Recurring themes in the anthology: the war of the rich on the poor, religion (duh), moral policing, migrant labour, the multiple purposes of art, cities. It’s a very urban anthology; it’s a very Malaysian anthology. It’s skeptical but it’s also optimistic. I think people will enjoy reading it. I hope they find it as entertaining and heartening as I did, pulling it together.

It’s launching at the Cooler Lumpur Festival, whose theme this year is Dangerous Ideas — quite zhun because the anthology is full of dangerous ideas. The festival’s taking place this year from 12-14 June and I’m going to be doing a couple of things for them, and will of course be turning up to the launch if jet lag permits. So do come if you are around, and come say hello!

Malaysian SFF writers and projects: a directory

I’ve been conscious for a while that I’m no longer able to keep up the list of Malaysian SFF writers in English that I put up awhile ago — because I’m busy, but also because there are more of us than ever! I think it is helpful to have a directory for interested readers and people who want to connect with other local writers, but it needs to be updated regularly if it’s to be of use.

So I have now set up a Google doc which people can update themselves to add their own details and projects:

Malaysian Science Fiction and Fantasy: A Directory

There are two worksheets — one for authors and one for projects. Guidelines for contributions are at the top of each worksheet. People should feel free to add writers or projects they’re aware of as well as the things they’ve done. Also, this directory differs from the original post, as people working in languages other than English should feel welcome to add their stuff to it. I only limited the original post to English because that’s the main language I read in.

The original post will stay up, but once the directory has been populated a bit more I will change the link in my sidebar so that it goes to the Google doc rather than the blog post, and the post will no longer be updated. I will be monitoring the directory and editing from time to time for formatting, etc., as well as deleting anything that seems inappropriate. Please comment on this post or email me if you have any questions or suggestions.

Q&A with Daphne Lee

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

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.

image

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.

image

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

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.

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