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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


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! :)



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!

A quick and dirty guide to selling SFF short stories

13 Jan

I am doing a sort of information sharing meme at my Dreamwidth journal, and am cross-posting a revised version of one of my comments in the event that it might be useful. It is a quick and dirty guide to selling SFF short stories!

(We will consider and dismiss a spasm of Imposter Syndrome here about how it is rich for me to be telling other people how to sell SFF short stories when it’s not like I’ve ever been published in x, y or z pro markets.)

These are basic practical tips for people who are not sure where to start. It assumes that you are already writing or planning to write short stories that are speculative in nature. No actual writing advice is given.

The main plank of my approach is this: what you want to do is mechanise your submission process, so that you continue submitting lots without its disturbing your peace of mind, preserving the mental space you need to write.

(1) Make a list of markets. I like Duotrope, which is a search engine that lets you search by word count, genre, etc. It’s paid now, but there’s a free trial. Ralan is the other main resource. ETA: via Kara Lee, The Grinder is a Duotrope alternative that is free and looks like it does some of #5 for you.

Depending on your area of interest, you may also want to look at Asia Writes (which is also on Twitter) and this helpful list of explicitly diversity-friendly SFF markets. You can also look at the websites/bibliographies of authors who write stories like yours, and google the markets they have published in.

But you’ll want to compile your own list, to match what you’re most likely to be sending out. My list of markets recorded:

  • Genre
  • Word count
  • Pay rate
  • What editors said about what they wanted or didn’t want to see, and/or any other specific information e.g. peculiar formatting requirements

When submitting, you want to go for markets that pay you (pro, semi-pro and token, in that order) and, ideally, the ones that make stories available for free online. The latter is because exposure is the most important thing for a new writer. You can’t link to stories in anthologies.

(Of course, there are lots of nice things about publishing in anthologies — interesting themes; contributor copies; being in books in actual bookshops; and that glow of excitement when you see the Table of Contents and realise that your story is in the same book as a story by an admired author. *_*)


The annual awards eligibility post, plus other things

6 Jan

I really didn’t want to make this post this year, which probably means I should. >_< But first, links to other people’s posts!

Aliette de Bodard has done her usual round-up including excellent Asian SFF by other people as well herself. Check out her links and download a free novelette at her post: Awards eligibility and awards recommendations.

Ken Liu has also got a fabulously comprehensive post linking to his favourite (mostly short) fiction of the year, plus his own eligible work (which includes two stories about litigators!): Nominating Stories for Awards.

Short stories I’ve had published this year:

Love in the Time of Utopia in Issue #1 of LONTAR, ed. Jason Erik Lundberg and Kristine Ong Muslim, Math Paper Press (September 2013). 6,200 words.

“You’re missing out. At least love is available to everybody, high station or low. It’s the one thing you can get without having to sit exam.”

The Fish Bowl in The Alchemy Press Book of Urban Mythic, ed. Jan Edwards and Jenny Barber, Alchemy Press (November 2013). 5,600 words.

The koi’s mouth opened and closed, an intermittent surprised O. Its white skin was so smooth it seemed scaleless. It would feel like silken tofu if you touched it. Seen from above, the fish’s one eye looked heavy-lidded and wise.

“Are you a magical fish or a door-to-door salesman?” Su Yin whispered.

Balik Kampung (Going Back) in End of the Road, ed. Jonathan Oliver, Solaris Books (December 2013). 4,700 words.

Hungry ghosts were the spirits of the unfortunate, unlamented dead: those who were killed violently; who died burdened by unfulfilled longings; who had been greedy or ungenerous in life; who were forgotten by their living. It was obvious to Lydia which category she fell into.

These are all eligible in the short story category, and I’d be happy to provide copies to anyone who’d like to read them for awards — just comment with your email address, or email me. No obligation to nominate after reading, obviously!

(There were two more — Jebat Dies in Esquire Malaysia and Double-Blind in Fixi Novo’s Love in Penang (ed. Anna Tan) — but the first is Hang Tuah fanfic and the second is a totally non-speculative love story, so they don’t really count for these purposes.)

If you have had things published that are eligible, and you are dithering over whether to make this sort of post or not — do it. Do it even if you don’t think anyone reads your blog or follows your Twitter account who even votes for this kind of thing. Do it even if making the post makes you cringe. My blog doesn’t get a lot of pageviews, but I am absolutely certain that I wouldn’t have got the Campbell nomination if I hadn’t made this post last year.


I am going to piggyback off this post to post about two more things!

For some reason Fixi always gotta publish all its calls for submissions in pictorial form. Their English-language imprint is now seeking short stories and creative non-fiction of 2,000-5,000 words for a new anthology called Lost in Putrajaya. Deadline 28 February. See the call for submissions here.

If I were a better and braver writer I would venture out of my comfort zone and write hardbitten crime stories and political satire to submit to Fixi’s English-language anthologies. Sadly I am a wimp + lazy, so I don’t! You should do it for me.

Also, if you go to today, it has a picture of beloved filmmaker Yasmin Ahmad which makes me all misty-eyed — like her work itself. She would’ve been 56 years old today (going by Malaysian time la). Faster go! The art is lovely.

The ineluctable greatness of dragons

10 Dec

troisroyaumes suggested I blog about dragons and why they are awesome!

Dragons are my favourite magical creature because they embody such a flexible concept. There are lots of different kinds in different cultures, so lots of satisfying variations. They can look like almost anything — they probably have scales, but they might have whiskers and horns or they might not. They might be long and serpentine, or stubby and lizard-like, or like an apatosaurus with wings. They can be really little (e.g. Sybil Vimes’s dragons in Guards! Guards!), or they can span skies or oceans. They often fly. They swim quite a lot. They frequently shapeshift, so they can turn into hot human beings where necessary. (Twilight with dragons instead of vampires??? EVERYTHING WITH DRAGONS INSTEAD OF VAMPIRES!)

Also they are neither necessarily evil or good. You get Pern dragons, who are basically like a powerful flying badass special friend who will always like you best forever. (Temeraire dragons are like a slightly less id-satisfying version of this. But only slightly less iddy!) You get traditional European dragons, who fly around laying waste to villages and devouring maidens. And of course, you get Chinese dragons, which control the weather and inhabit a level of awesomeness that sort of goes beyond good and evil.

I guess the enduring appeal of dragons for me lies in two things. One is the idea of an intelligent species that is not remotely human — so I take a pleasure in dragons that is quite like the pleasure I take in Star Trek aliens and their various cultural traditions. The other is the cultural specificity of the concept of a dragon — the cultural weight of it — which means that whenever you read or write about a dragon, that brings with it a whole weight of tradition and perception and narrative. Narratives, actually, since as discussed above dragons come in all kinds of shapes and forms and cultures. So there are all these interesting tropes to draw upon and play with, and if there is one thing I like in fiction it is playing with tropes.

Dragons are so great *_*

My thoughts on Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

7 Dec

Kate Nepveu: A thing about Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell that you wish got more attention.

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell got so much attention — surely far more than anyone could have expected for a gigantimous footnote-packed novel written in an authentic-feeling if not precisely authentic Regency voice* — that I struggle to think of any aspect I wish had got more attention!

One thing I do think people often miss is the wildness hidden in the core of the book. I mean, it is all about these starchy ladies and gentlemen going “Oh, I pray you!” and “To own the truth!”, and doing laborious academic magic, and Mr Norrell in particular maddens me because he is so fuddy-duddy, but that is the great thing about it because the book is all about how all of that is a thin skin of pretence disguising a great big wildness that is at the heart of England and English magic (which, in Clarke’s world, are basically the same thing). And the way the book uncovers that is just thrilling, and so well done. *_*

Within the book, I wish we spent more time with the female characters. The first time I read it I felt absolutely starved for more of Arabella Strange and Lady Pole and Flora Greysteel (but especially Arabella, who is my favourite). The Ladies of Grace Adieu remedies the imbalance a little bit, but it’s just not the same, sigh. I also wish we knew more about Stephen Black — I am very fond of him, but you don’t get very much of him before the Spoilery Thing happens and he gets all smooshed and depressed.

I’ve actually just done a big JS&MN reread, having not read it for years, and it is a little embarrassing how much I’ve obviously been influenced by it, from the elements that got into the book I’m working on (even though I’d forgotten most of these things at the time I was actually writing the book). Hopefully my book is not too derivative, but I can definitely see how in a way I was writing it in response to the gaps I perceived — I was making mine a story about the things I wanted more about. The negative space in a story is just as important as the stuff that’s filled in.


*I don’t mean this in a bad way. I think it’s best for modern Regency novels to be written in the author’s interpretation of Regency style, rather than the style an actual contemporary Regency author would have adopted. Patrick O’Brian is a dazzling example of the heights you can reach with that, and Susanna Clarke is another. It always puzzles me when people say how dull or impenetrable her prose is; it seems so clear and sparkling and light to me. Her sentences are also a lot shorter than most actual Regency writers’.

PRUDENCE AND THE DRAGON in Spanish + writing about writing

27 Nov

Podéis leer mi cuento PRUDENCE AND THE DRAGON traducido al español en Cuentos para Algernon! Aquí:


Is that mostly right? Tell me if not right k. I actually did Spanish for a year and a half at school (I got A* in the GCSE! And an A for the AS level. Which all goes to show how little standardised testing counts for anything). Tapi semua pun dah lupa. All gone already ….

If I properly remembered all the languages I’ve learnt in my life I’d be impressively multilingual lor. It’s a longish and rather sad list, probably starting with Hakka, which I only ever really had for the first two years of my life. The reason why this is a bit sad is that I actually am Hakka, on both sides of my family.

Anyway, that is a diversion. It is very exciting to see PRUDENCE in another language. It is similar to the feeling you get when you see fanfic of your stuff — that sudden weird knowing that the story really has left your brain and is having an independent life in the world outside. The translator behind Cuentos para Algernon was very patient with the intricacies of translating Manglish, for which I am grateful. She has translated stories by such authors as Aliette de Bodard, Ken Liu and others, so do check out the website if that sounds interesting.

Also, I linked this on Twitter, but I did a post on stealing your ideas for Gliphowrimo. I don’t really like doing writing advice — I mean, I write a lot about writing, but mostly to try to explain the process to myself and/or convince myself not to throw in the towel. But I am nervous of giving writing advice because frankly I don’t feel I know what I am doing! I (occasionally) have ideas, I (fairly regularly) arrange words on the screen, and once in a while a story occurs. It’s all very mysterious! But that’s part of the fun of it. As much as I like writing advice that makes the whole thing sound no more mystical than assembling IKEA furniture, there’s a certain appeal in leaving the veil drawn over some parts.

See, that half a paragraph was all just to reassure myself that it’s OK that I don’t know what I am doing. But it is also a digression >:( What I meant to say was, that is why my Gliphowrimo post boils down to a joke about putting in more dragons. orz

End of the Road ebook

30 Oct

End of the Road, an anthology of weird road trip stories (click on the title for the full Table of Contents), is now available as an ebook from the Rebellion Store:

End of the Road ebook

Features writers like Philip Reeve, Lavie Tidhar, Rochita Loenen-Ruiz, Vandana Singh, and me! I understand the print version (which is v. pretty!) will be available in December — you can pre-order it from Amazon or Amazon UK. But if you prefer ebooks you can buy and read it now!

My story is about a ghost who balik kampung for the Hungry Ghost Festival, and in the process unwillingly solves the mystery of her death.

Hungry ghosts were the spirits of the unfortunate, unlamented dead: those who were killed violently; who died burdened by unfulfilled longings; who had been greedy or ungenerous in life; who were forgotten by their living. It was obvious to Lydia which category she fell into.

The story features Kampar curry chicken bread in a cameo role. It’s more melancholy than funny, but hopefully it’s a bit funny. Lydia travels northwards to get to her kampung, of course. One of these days I should have a protagonist from Muar. I don’t know anything about Muar, but there’s always Google!

I still want to write a humorous mystery novel with this premise. You could have a whole series about a hungry ghost detective solving crimes both supernatural and mundane! Only problem is, how do you write detective novels???

Things I liked about ANCILLARY JUSTICE by Ann Leckie: a list

9 Oct

It is a very mildly spoilery list. I will do a cut out of courtesy, but it’s only really spoilery for people who are super spoilerphobic.

Many people have been saying that Ancillary Justice is good! But I thought I would do a list of the id-pleasing things about the book, because the blurbs I’ve seen have all been talking about how it is intelligent space opera, space opera done well, and it is those things, but also it is about SPACESHIPS with FEELINGS. Spaceships with feelings done well! I feel you should know this.

You can read a sample of the book online, and/or get the ebook from Kobo UK here: Ancillary Justice. (Kobo US also has it, and Amazon, etc.) Apparently there is a multi-use 50% discount code for Kobo: BookRiot50. I haven’t tried it, but coffeeandink provided it and she knows about this stuff.

Things I liked about ANCILLARY JUSTICE: a list

- Everyone is she (not everyone is actually she)

- The protagonist is a SPACESHIP