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CYBERPUNK: MALAYSIA Table of Contents

21 Apr

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

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

Ghost words, ghost worlds

26 Mar

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

25 Mar

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!

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.

Aliette de Bodard’s HOUSE OF SHATTERED WINGS cover reveal

18 Mar

Ahhh, I am so excited about this book! Aliette de Bodard unveiled the US cover for her post-war Paris urban fantasy THE HOUSE OF SHATTERED WINGS today:

The House of Shattered Wings by Aliette de Bodard - US cover

The House of Shattered Wings by Aliette de Bodard – US cover

 

It’s so pretty *_____*

THE HOUSE OF SHATTERED WINGS is a murder mystery set in a Paris reeling from the impact of a war in Heaven, featuring (in the author’s words) Fallen angels, Vietnamese dragons and entirely too many dead bodies.

The cover is just how I imagine the book, and the book looks amazing. It’s out in August — you can find out more about it at Aliette’s website: The House of Shattered Wings. Can’t wait!

Remembering Terry Pratchett

13 Mar

We knew it was coming, but it was still a shock to read that Terry Pratchett died yesterday.

Pratchett’s work had a huge impact on me, as it did for a lot of people. My Twitter feed has been full of writers, editors and readers attesting to that fact. I was thinking about this, and as I thought about PTerry, the characters he created and imbued with such extraordinary life came to mind as well – it felt like I was remembering a group of friends, of people I had once known in real life. Vimes, Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg, Magrat, Agnes/Perdita, Carrot, Angua, Cheery, Om, Brutha, Johnny, Yo-less, Kirsty, DEATH, Susan, the Amazing Maurice, and and and …

His books shaped my moral sense and my understanding of the world. Discworld has something that, to me, represents the very best of speculative fiction – this particular secular, inquisitive, compassionate, humorous, humanist worldview that I find in so many of the friends I have met in SFF. Pratchett used Discworld as a vehicle to express a lasting fascination with our world; a conviction that this life, our life right now, is as incredible and interesting as anything we could invent. His world felt real because he was all too aware of what assholes people can be. But he believed in us as well.

I first came to his books as a young teenager – when I was 13 my parents started taking me to the British Council library, because I’d pretty much exhausted the delights of Perpustakaan Kanak-Kanak KL. I started with The Last Continent (a Rincewind romp in Discworld’s version of Australia, nearly incomprehensible to someone unfamiliar with Discworld, and a terrible one to start with!). But I persisted through that and Maskerade (not, I have to say, one of my favourites), and got to Guards! Guards! That, and the rest of the Watch books, sealed the deal. Vimes’s boots blew my tiny mind!

The reason that the rich were so rich, Vimes reasoned, was because they managed to spend less money.

Take boots, for example. He earned thirty-eight dollars a month plus allowances. A really good pair of leather boots cost fifty dollars. But an affordable pair of boots, which were sort of OK for a season or two and then leaked like hell when the cardboard gave out, cost about ten dollars. Those were the kind of boots Vimes always bought, and wore until the soles were so thin that he could tell where he was in Ankh-Morpork on a foggy night by the feel of the cobbles.

But the thing was that good boots lasted for years and years. A man who could afford fifty dollars had a pair of boots that’d still be keeping his feet dry in ten years’ time, while the poor man who could only afford cheap boots would have spent a hundred dollars on boots in the same time and would still have wet feet.

This was the Captain Samuel Vimes ‘Boots’ theory of socioeconomic unfairness.

— Terry Pratchett, Men at Arms

A lot of people seem to have come to Pratchett at a similar age, and been influenced by him in a similar way. I was thinking about why this was, and I think it’s because his style and his books are so fun and accessible, but they also take the reader seriously — they respect the reader, and they’re not afraid to tackle big ideas.

When I started reading Pratchett I’d already found Jerome K. Jerome and P. G. Wodehouse. I was delighted to find that books were allowed to be as fun as Jerome and Wodehouse’s books were – you could quote Keats and make it funny! You could have entire scenes featuring someone throwing flowerpots at a window, or an entire book about losers having hijinks in a boat! But I wanted something more as well. I didn’t know what it was I was looking for, until I found Discworld.

I stopped reading Pratchett’s new novels a couple of years ago. I think, honestly, he went a bit too easy on his characters towards the end – Vimes is a signal example – and that made them less interesting. But I would not write or think the way that I do now if not for Pratchett. His books were – and will continue be – a source of joy and comfort and enlightenment for me. He taught me about economic injustice, and he made Death a friend.

Thank you, Terry. I hope you receive the judgment you deserve, at the end of the desert.

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!