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SORCERER TO THE CROWN mentioned in The Guardian

13 Apr

I spoke to Sarah Hughes last month for her article for The Guardian on female fantasy authors, and it’s out!

Feeding the Hunger – female writers are storming the citadel of sci-fi

I am quoted describing SORCERER TO THE CROWN as “Edward Said meets Georgette Heyer”, a hubristic line I originally came up with at a book launch while spilling red wine on Frances Hardinge. Not my best moment. /o\

There are two things that seem to be annoying for genre fans about this article, the first being that it has “sci-fi” in the headline even though it’s all about fantasy, and the second being the suggestion that female-authored fantasy is a new thing. I think the article does acknowledge that Diana Wynne Jones and Ursula Le Guin et al existed; it seems to be speaking more to a presumed mainstream stereotype that fantasy is wall-to-wall George R. R. Martins. Anyway, since we’re on the subject, here’s a random selection of fiction by female SFF writers who have been occupying the citadel for so long that their work is now out of copyright and available to read for free online.

Stella Benson, Living Alone

This is not a real book. It does not deal with real people, nor should it be read by real people. But there are in the world so many real books already written for the benefit of real people, and there are still so many to be written, that I cannot believe that a little alien book such as this, written for the magically-inclined minority, can be considered too assertive a trespasser.

(I can’t remember how I found Stella Benson, but I stumbled over her strange, marvellous book about a witch a while ago and recognised it immediately as a friend. It’s not really replicable; still, I would like to write something just like it.)

Mary Shelley, Frankenstein; Or, The Modern Prometheus. The original!

And three female-authored utopias:

Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Herland

Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain, Sultana’s Dream

Margaret Cavendish, the Duchess of Newcastle, The Blazing World

New short story: “Monkey King, Faerie Queen” at Kaleidotrope

6 Apr

My Monkey God story is up at Kaleidotrope!

“Monkey King, Faerie Queen” by Zen Cho

It’s the story of that one time Sun Wukong went to Fairyland and busted stuff up. I read it at New Voices at Nine Worlds 2013, and wrote it a couple of years before that, so it’s not really new at all. It took a while to sell, even though it’s one of my favourite of my stories. Here’s how it starts.

Now to be fair, Sun Wukong was already in a bad mood when he arrived at the Faerie Court.

You don’t know who Sun Wukong is? You’re kidding! You haven’t heard of the Great Sage Equal to Heaven, the one who is Mindful of Emptiness, the Exquisite and Most Satisfactory Prince of Monkeys, defier of gods and Buddhas alike, scorner of other people’s dignity and personal inspiration to little monkeys everywhere?

One day a stone cracked and he jumped out: that was the miracle that was his birth. His fur is as silken as your favorite shirt and as golden as the midday sun. He has eyes of fire and the biggest ears anyone ever saw on a monkey. And if you want to look up his name in the Book of Life and Death, forget about it, because he went down to Hell and wiped that shit out himself!

You know who he is? Why didn’t you say so? You didn’t know his name? That’s okay. All gods have more than one name, to give the mortals more chances to swear. You can call him the Monkey God or Monkey King or just plain Monkey, whatever you like. It’s the same simian in the end.

This was in the pre-Enlightenment days, you understand, before Sun Wukong mended his ways and became a Buddha. In the days when Sun Wukong was still naughty, and enjoyed the occasional punch-up.

Read the rest at Kaleidotrope.

Me and Spirits Abroad in the press

3 Apr

I was in The Star on Tuesday! Sharmilla Ganesan interviewed me for an article: Malaysian author Zen Cho is making waves abroad. The online title is more SEO-friendly, but in print it was called “Keeping Zen”, which is kinda cute!

Over at Strange Horizons, SPIRITS ABROAD got a really kind (and interesting) review: SPIRITS ABROAD, reviewed by Abigail Nussbaum.

No matter how fantastical the events of Cho’s stories—or how romantic their proceedings—her characters are standing on a solid foundation of good sense, which reminds them that love is great, but what about getting good grades?

Characters who obsess about their grades are my favourite kind of characters. :D:

This weekend I’ll be at Eastercon — from today, actually, but I’ll be going for dimsum with my mates first so will probably arrive, ahem, later in the day. I have NO PANELS (\o/), so will probably be hanging out at the bar or something. I am planning to chitchat, catch up on my CYBERPUNK: MALAYSIA edits (I always think I’m going to be super productive when I’m on holiday, and then … I’m not …) and also reading Naomi Novik’s UPROOTED (which has done that thing her stories often do of starting with a few apparently innocuous premises which all come together in an early chapter and then suddenly you see the whole story in a new light and everything is super exciting). Come say hello if you’ll be there!

Pinteresting, my dear Watson

20 Mar

I’ve set up a Pinterest board for Sorcerer to the Crown! I don’t think of myself as a visual thinker, so never thought I’d have much use for a Pinterest board (except for keeping track of food — I admit I have a secret Pinterest account, the password for which I have forgotten, which is 70% green tea baking recipes and 30% black sesame baking recipes).

But all the cool kids seemed to be doing inspiration boards for their books, so I started one up too. And I have to say, it doesn’t come naturally to me, but I was surprised to remember all the visual sources I’d drawn upon for the book!

Follow Zen Cho’s board Sorcerer to the Crown on Pinterest.

As I pinned stuff I started putting together resources for the next book, and stuff I’d like to know for future projects, and books I’d like to read at some point. So if you’re interested in Regency fashion …

Follow Zen Cho’s board Regency dress and details on Pinterest.

or early 19th century India via the medium of Company paintings …

Follow Zen Cho’s board India in the early 19th century on Pinterest.

or Malaysian fiction …

Follow Zen Cho’s board Malaysian books I’d like to read on Pinterest.

Follow me on Pinterest for more!

Sofia Samatar, Stephanie Feldman and me!

19 Mar

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Sofia Samatar interviewed me and Crawford Award co-winner Stephanie Feldman about fantasy, family, history and diaspora over at Electric Lit. We did the interview in a Google Doc, and it was really interesting to me how Stephanie’s answers and mine reflected each other, often unintentionally. Here’s an extract!

Samatar: Spirits Abroad and The Angel of Losses are such different books: Spirits is a short story collection, Angel a novel; Spirits uses quite a bit of humor, while Angel is written in a more melancholy mode. Yet they share an interest in fantasy and diaspora. What’s going on there? How does the fantastic relate to diasporic experiences?

Cho: As with many Malaysian writers in English, it actually took me a while to figure out how to populate the sort of fantasy stories I liked with the sort of people I knew in life. So there wasn’t an immediate connection between culture and fantasy, for me.

But I think there is something there. Diaspora involves such a huge disruption, an interruption in continuity. Fantasy or mythology or folk stories, the stories of the improbable that everyone tells, are one means of maintaining continuity, and also of reinforcing connection. As a Chinese person, what claim can I lay to being Malaysian except that I was born there, I absorbed the stories of the local hantu, the English I speak is a Malaysian English? As a Malaysian, what claim do I have to being Chinese, except that I grew up on stories of monkey gods and magpie bridges and rabbits on the moon?

So maybe magic — the fantastic — is the thing that survives all that travel from the original point, that loosening of ties to land and people and languages. …

Feldman: Fantasy was my way of talking about one aspect of diaspora: displacement, whether it results from immigration, war, or even one generation unable (or unwilling) to communicate with the next. In each of these cases, there’s a gap, something missing. In my case—personally, and in The Angel of Losses—what’s missing is Jewish Eastern Europe.

The novel uses fairy tales to recreate that world and its legacy. It never occurred to me to use strict realism. Magical realism comes easily to me, and here it gave me the freedom to follow emotional truth, instead of adhering entirely to research. It also reminds the reader that my Europe is an invention; it’s a huge responsibility, after all, to tell another person’s story, and I want the reader to be mindful of where my voice begins and ends.

But most important: Fantasy let me explore how the stories we choose to tell are as much about us—our questions, our needs—as they are about our subjects.

Read the rest here: Fantasies that Bind: a conversation with Zen Cho & Stephanie Feldman.

Early praise for SORCERER TO THE CROWN

6 Mar

I have been quietly bashing out a (very first draftish) first draft of the second book in the SORCERER ROYAL trilogy, but have put it aside briefly to work on copy-edits to SORCERER TO THE CROWN, which came in last week. It’s early days yet, but the book feels realer and realer!

We’re starting to get a couple of sightings in the wild. Earlier this week SORCERER TO THE CROWN showed up on the Barnes & Noble SFF Blog in a list of 5 Awesome Alternate Earth Stories Coming in 2015. And blurbs have been coming in for the book — check out these awesome things awesome people have said about SORCERER TO THE CROWN!

“An enchanting cross between Georgette Heyer and Susannah Clarke, full of delights and surprises. Zen Cho unpins the edges of the canvas and throws them wide.”

–Naomi Novik, New York Times bestselling author of the Temeraire novels

“A warm, funny debut novel by a brilliant new talent.”

–Charles Stross

“Fabulous! If you like Austen or Patrick O’Brian, or magic and humor like Susanna Clarke, or simply a very fun read, you will really, really, enjoy this!”

–Ann Leckie, Hugo, Nebula, and Arthur C. Clarke Award winning author of Ancillary Justice

“Zen Cho’s SORCERER TO THE CROWN is inventive, dangerous, brilliant, unsettling, and adorable, all at the same time.

It shatters as many rules as its characters do. Historical Britain will never be the same again, and I can’t wait for the next book.”

–Courtney Milan, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author

“A deliciously true tale of politics and power in a charming, cruel world — it demands and deserves to be read again and again. Cho has humor and flair to match Pratchett and Heyer plus her own marvelous style.”

–Karen Lord, author of The Best of All Possible Worlds

“A delightful and enchanting novel that uses sly wit and assured style to subvert expectations while it always, unfailingly, entertains. I loved it!”

–Kate Elliott, author of the Spiritwalker series

Also the fabulous Aliette de Bodard (whose book THE HOUSE OF SHATTERED WINGS is coming out with the same US publisher, at practically the same time! we are publishing buddies!) has left the first substantive review of the book on GoodReads. (Not, you know, that I object to GIF reviews. More GIFs for everyone, I say. With a soft g!) Aliette says it’s:

Magic, manners and dragons in Regency England–this alone would be awesome, but Zen Cho adds a veneer of comment on English colonial politics …. Like a mix of Jane Austen, PG Wodehouse, and Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, and all its own thing. Glorious.

\o/

Cho and Feldman win Crawford Award

28 Jan

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I’ve stolen the headline of the Locus piece for this post because it makes me feel so weird and official. I am the Cho that has won the Crawford Award! It’s for Spirits Abroad, tied with Stephanie Feldman for her novel The Angel of Losses. (Which sounds super cool, and I can think of several people on my friends list who might be interested in it. If they haven’t already read it!)

I’m unbelievably chuffed to be in a list of winners including Karen Lord, Sofia Samatar and Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni. And Anne Bishop’s Black Jewels trilogy! Imagine Spirits Abroad being on the same list as the Black Jewels books. What more is there to say!

An Alphabet of Embers and some other things

7 Jan

An Alphabet of Embers

Editor Rose Lemberg has published the Table of Contents for An Alphabet of Embers! An Alphabet of Embers is an anthology of lyrical/surreal speculative flash fiction, poetry and unclassifiables. I’m delighted to be in the ToC with the first short I have completed in a while, Everything Under One Roof. And I’m absolutely thrilled that the multi-talented writer and artist M Sereno, who did the cover for the Spirits Abroad ebook, will be illustrating the anthology.

Sightings in the wild

I’m super pleased about Sofia Samatar’s shout-out for Spirits Abroad in the Strange Horizons 2014 in Review post. Also nice to see Sorcerer to the Crown pop up on a couple of “anticipated in 2015″ lists. Sort of makes it feel more real!

Links about publishing

I read a few interesting posts about publishing recently, which I gather here in case it is of interest to people other than myself:

Sherwood Smith talks about why she and co-author Rachel Manija Brown decided to self-publish the sequel to their traditionally-published YA novel Stranger. Stranger was just published in November. The sequel Hostage is out now.

Kameron Hurley posted about the ups and downs of her writing career in 2014, giving some honest publishing numbers.

Jim Hines also posted about how much he earned from his books in 2014, with some helpful context from previous years.

I read Emily Gould’s essay about earning a US$200,000 advance and then running out of money with some skepticism, not assisted by the clickbaity title and subtitle, but it provides a couple of useful data-points.

And a fascinating and bizarre look at author Helen DeWitt, who wrote a book called The Last Samurai (not the Tom Cruise one), and then things got weird. You really need to read the whole thing to get the full effect!