Category Archives: Other People’s Stories

Aliens vs. cyborgs

The days have been such a blur* since I arrived in Malaysia that I forgot to post about this article I wrote for Poskod.MY sempena Cooler Lumpur:

What being an alien taught me about stories

I am eight years old, a new pupil at SRJK (C) Kwang Hwa.

“This is my new friend from England,” chirps my classmate when she introduces me. I have never been to England in my life, but why should she know the difference between USA and England? Here in Penang both countries seem equally distant and unreal.

My family moved from Malaysia to the US for a couple of years when I was a kid, so by that age I already knew what it was to be an alien.

Basically it’s me wondering aloud “what is the proper subject of the Asian/Malaysian writer?”

Don’t forget I’m running two giveaways for my anthology CYBERPUNK: MALAYSIA. Enter for free, win a book that is both shiny and chrome!

 

* I haven’t really been busy, unless you count “sleeping only three hours a night” and “obsessing over the Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell BBC series” as being busy. I do, but I admit there may be legitimate differences upon the point …

CYBERPUNK: MALAYSIA launch and giveaway

CYBERPUNK: MALAYSIA is out in the world! I’m really excited about this anthology and hope people will enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed putting it together.

(Although I am never editing another anthology. It is TOO MUCH WORK. Hats off to the editors of the world.)

Here’s the Table of Contents:

Intro / Zen Cho
Underneath Her Tudung / Angeline Woon
Codes / Anna Tan
Personal / Sharmilla Ganesan
Attack of The Spambots / Terence Toh
ONE HUNDRED YEARS: Machine / Rafil Elyas
What the Andromaid Reads at Night / Ted Mahsun
KAKAK / William Tham Wai Liang
The Wall That Wasn’t a Wall / Kris Williamson
The Twins / Adiwijaya Iskandar
October 11 / Chin Ai-May
Undercover in Tanah Firdaus / Tina Isaacs
Unusual Suspects / Tariq Kamal
The White Mask / Zedeck Siew

We launched the book at Cooler Lumpur to a standing room only audience, with most of the authors in attendance:

Photo of Cyberpunk: Malaysia authors at launch

L to R: Sharmilla Ganesan, Foo Sek Han, Chin Ai-May, me, Ted Mahsun, Tina Isaacs, Terence Toh, Zedeck Siew, Anna Tan, Tariq Kamal

The cover of the book was also revealed for the first time at the launch. In a first for a Fixi book (er, apart from mine), the paperback and ebook have different covers, though the content is the same.

Cyberpunk Malaysia paperback

The paperback

Cyberpunk Malaysia ebook cover

The ebook

Cool, right? Here’s what the publisher says about the covers:

The print cover is simply a mirror. Why? Because our cyber experience is increasingly customised — at its simplest level, the ads and promoted posts you see are based on your own browsing history. So when you look directly at the cover, you will see your face leh.

The ebook cover is “Cyberpunk Malaysia” spelt out several times in binary.

The contents are exactly the same.

And here’s the blurb on the back of the book:

Cyberpunk as you’ve never seen it before…

Science fiction is all about outrageous ideas. Nice Malay girls breaking the rules. Censorship. Brain drain. Moral policing. Migrant exploitation. All the stuff of fiction, obviously.

But these 14 short stories take it one step further. The nice Malay girls are cyborgs. The spambots are people. The brains have drained into cyberspace, and the censorship is inside your head.

Welcome to CYBERPUNK: MALAYSIA.

You can buy the ebook now for US$3.90 on Google Play and Smashwords (other vendors to follow). If you prefer dead tree books, you can buy the print version from Fixi if you’re in Malaysia, or pre-order from Amazon.com if you’re outside Malaysia. And/or you can enter a couple of giveaways for a chance to win the print version!

I’m giving away 1 copy via Rafflecopter — you can sign up RIGHT HERE (no geographical limitations):

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Edited to add: I am also giving away 2 copies via GoodReads — enter below! Open worldwide. You’ll need a GoodReads account.

 

Goodreads Book Giveaway

 

CYBERPUNK by Zen Cho

 

CYBERPUNK

 

by Zen Cho

 

Giveaway ends June 22, 2015.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

 

 

Enter Giveaway

 

Note that the giveaway copies are the print version with the reflective cover. Both giveaways close on 22 June — enter and tell all your friends!

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!

SORCERER TO THE CROWN mentioned in The Guardian

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

Ghost words, ghost worlds

I’ve been meaning to post about Where Ghost Words Dwell, a collage project by a group of SFF writers. It’s a website “dedicated to discarded text, forgotten words and the memory of dead manuscripts” — collecting the words that got cut out of stories in a series of anonymous posts.

Taking inspiration from the surrealist game, The Exquisite Corpse, Where Ghost Words Dwell can be read as blog entries. Are these entries part of a time traveler’s log, scraps found by alien archeologists or intermittent transmissions from places invisible to the human eye?

You decide.

The entries carry no author names and are extracts from works that have been published or are on their way to being published. They could also be alternate versions that ended up on the editing floor. To find out who the author is or what work the extracts are from, click on the highlighted links. Who knows, you may find a new favorite writer or a work you haven’t yet read.

The website is currently on a twice-weekly posting schedule, on Tuesdays and Thursdays. You can check out a snippet sliced out of Aliette de Bodard‘s upcoming novel THE HOUSE OF SHATTERED WINGS, a deliciously creepy desert scene, and a beautiful fragment of indigenous SFF. More to come!

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.

Sofia Samatar, Stephanie Feldman and me!

crawford-covers

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.