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CYBERPUNK: MALAYSIA Call for Submissions

18 Oct

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.

[...]

Some nice things about SPIRITS ABROAD

12 Sep

There’s been some nice things said of SPIRITS ABROAD of late! I retweet the links as I come across them in my feed, but it’s nice to have them somewhere more permanent as well, so here’s a collection.

 
A review of SPIRITS ABROAD in The Star by Subashini Navaratnam

My book is in The Star! ^_^ So cool la. Reviewer says: “These stories refreshingly reimagine the idea of home and tradition and family without offering tidy or pat resolutions.”

 
Another long, thoughtful review by kamo

I’m too shy to dive into the post to pull out a summary line (since unlike a newspaper article it doesn’t have one at the top), but it was quite odd because I read this and Subashini’s article on the same day, and they have interesting parallels and distinctions.

 
The very cool Sunil Patel commissioned the very cool Mark of Mark Does Stuff to read two of my stories! I think they’re each spread over three videos, but I’ll just post the first part of each la.

PRUDENCE AND THE DRAGON

ONE-DAY TRAVELCARD FOR FAIRYLAND

Edited to add: I didn’t even know he’d done The Perseverance of Angela’s Past Life as well! This isn’t in the paperback version of SPIRITS ABROAD (I am going to put it in the ebook, just so it and Prudence are together), but you can read it online, of course. Thanks to hebethen for the tip.

THE PERSEVERANCE OF ANGELA’S PAST LIFE

 
And this doesn’t really fit in a list of things about SPIRITS ABROAD, but the second of Rochita Loenen-Ruiz‘s two most recent pieces for her Strange Horizons column mentions the book in passing:

At Nine Worlds, I purchased a copy of Zen Cho’s beautiful collection entitled Spirits Abroad, published by the Malaysian press Buku Fixi. I was struck by the publisher’s manifesto, which appears on the back of the flyleaf. In this manifesto, the publisher states:

We will not use italics for non-American/non-English terms.

The publisher then goes on to say: “Nasi lemak and kongkek are some of the pleasures of Malaysian life that should be celebrated without apology; italics are a form of apology.”

So if I have done nothing else with my writing, I have been instrumental in ensuring the appearance of the word kongkek on Strange Horizons.

You can read Rochita’s articles here:
Translations, the Mother Tongue, and Acts of Resistance (Part 1)
Translations, the Mother Tongue, and Acts of Resistance (Part 2)

 
Details of how to get SPIRITS ABROAD are here, and an ebook will be available soon. SOON!

Zens at Loncon

24 Jul

The Loncon programme is out! OMG it is so long it goes on FOREVER. I am so excited! And terrified. :D:

My final programme looks pretty much identical to my draft programme, which I posted earlier this month, but there are two new events!

 

Asians at Loncon meetup
Friday 19:30 – 21:30, at the fan space

Yay, it is happening! If any of your identities include “Asian” and you’d like to meet other Asians at Loncon, turn up at the fan space at 7.30 pm on Friday. (I’ve got a panel ending at 7 pm, and am hoping it’s not too far from the fan space ….) No food or drink, I’m afraid, but we are allowed to eat there, so tapau/bungkus/grab a takeaway and come along and make friends!

Because a couple of people expressed concerns about this — Asians of all kinds are very welcome, including the diaspora. (It would be a bit rich of a Chinese Malaysian to reject the diaspora!)

Kaffeeklatsch
Sunday 16:00 – 17:00, London Suite 4 (ExCeL)
Lawrence Watt Evans, Zen Cho

I have a kaffeeklatsch! That is terrifying thrilling. I’ve never actually been to a kaffeeklatsch. I am very good at drinking coffee and chatting, though, due to the training imparted by the ancient traditions of my culture. (OMG if there is ever a Malaysian SFF con we should have mamak sessions instead of kaffeeklatsches. How cool would that be?)

I hope someone will come. :D: I will be there with some of my own books, and a book that is not by me for me to read if nobody turns up to talk to me. Maybe I will try to steal Lawrence Watt Evans’ fans!

SPIRITS ABROAD at Loncon

Also, don’t forget SPIRITS ABROAD will be available at the Big Green Bookshop stall in the Dealers’ Zone. If you’ve pre-ordered a copy directly from me online, I’m about to email you about how I can get hold of you at the con.

 

And here’s the final list of my panels! [...]

I was on the radio :O

8 Jul

So I was on the radio today! At 2 pm (GMT+8) on BFM. You probably missed it — I did — but you can download the podcast, or just listen to it online:

Bookmark: Sci-Fi in Print, with Umapagan Ampikaipakan and Zen Cho

“Sci-Fi in Print” is like the most non-SF description of anything ever, haha. It’s because sci-fi is movies, is it? So you have to specify that it’s in print? Something like that lah. Anyway, click for 20 minutes of me mumbling nervously about Penguin Popular Classics! I also talk about how I see a direct line between all the 19th century British literature I used to read and the speculative fiction genre my stories have ended up inhabiting. (19th century Britain, outer space and Middle-earth were/are equally alien and fantastical to me. I know Middle-earth is a bad example given it basically is 19th century Britain, but I can’t think of any other fantasy secondary worlds at the moment that I cared about that weren’t Britain in some form!)

One of the things Uma asked me that made me a bit thoughtful was why there wasn’t more SF in the book. I sort of skirted around the question, but the honest answer is that I am just scared of it. I feel like I’m not smart enough to write SF. A difficult admission to make on radio! There is a lot of SF out there that has very little to do with actual science, so I am conscious that it’s a slightly silly thing to think, but it’s one of the things I’m working through.

Here is another cool thing:

MPH Bestsellers

You probably don’t have to sell a whole lot of copies to be top 20 in MPH — but I’ll take it!

My draft WorldCon 2014 programme

4 Jul

Draft programme schedules for Loncon 3 were sent out a while ago. My schedule’s below! I will be on six panels, and am really excited about all of them. I have to say, it looks like the Loncon 3 programming team have done a great job — my Twitter feed was full of glee when people were getting their panel assignments.

My (long, rambly) comments are in italics below.

 

The Deeper the Roots, the Stronger the Tree

Friday 10:00 – 11:00

The roots of modern science fiction and fantasy are often associated with authors such as J.R.R. Tolkien, T.H. White, H.G. Wells, and Mary Shelley. But plenty of 19th- and early 20th-century authors with minimal or no fantastical or sfnal content have inspired and continue to inspire modern genre writing, including but not limited to Alexandre Dumas, Arthur Conan Doyle, Jane Austen, and Georgette Heyer. What is the on-going appeal of such authors, their styles, and their worlds? What is it about them that lends itself to genrefication?

Abigail Sutherland (M), Zen Cho, Mary Robinette Kowal, Adam Roberts, Kari Sperring

I am SO PUMPED for this panel, you guys, you don’t even know. I feel it’s particularly perfect for meee because I’ve always felt a bit of an imposter in SFF fandom — although the SFnal sensibility and mindset and community have a lot of appeal for me, and I suppose I do feel that I’m on the same wavelength with a lot of SFF fans, I can easily go several months without reading any SFF. But with this I feel like — I can be at a SF con and talk about the 19th century (and pseudo-19th century) authors I grew up reading and it is totally legit! Maybe I do belong in SF fandom after all.

 

Manga Evolutions

Friday 12:00 – 13:30

Manga developed in Japan as a syncretic reaction to American comic books from an indigenous art perspective, to become a unique style of sequential art.

Manga has since emerged from Japan to become a vibrant style adopted by creators in other countries.

What are the more interesting and existing transformations that Manga has undergone in Japan, and outside its birthplace? What is the future of Manga as an art expression in the 21st century?

Zen Cho (M), June Madeley, Sarah Ash, Emmeline Pui Ling Dobson, Eric Senabre

This is the one where I was like, “What, I don’t know anything about this!” But then I realised I am only going to be the moderator and calmed down. I’m really looking forward to hearing the discussion. Must prep good questions! What would YOU ask, gentle reader? <– laziness crowdsourcing

 

Cities: Where, Who, Why?

Friday 18:00 – 19:00

Some cities — London being one — are well established as venues for stories, and SF and fantasy stories in particular. How do individual stories and personal experiences — insider and outsider views, those who have made a city their home and those who have migrated to it — interact to create the literary city? What power dynamics affect this process and what does that mean for our imagining of cities? Why do some cities rather than others develop this sort of literary aura — and which cities might we expect to see more of in the future?

Michael R. Underwood (M), Lauren Beukes, Zen Cho, Ian McDonald, Yen Ooi , Sarah Shemilt

This is a subject that interests me a lot, as it must interest any (post-)colonial reader who was nurtured on stories of cities they’d never seen but (in some senses) knew better than their own. I should finish Five Star Billionaire and then I can say that the next cities we’ll see are Shanghai and Beijing and the like.

 

The World at Worldcon: SF/F in South and South-East Asia

Saturday 13:30 – 15:00

South and South-East Asia include a huge span of nations, cultures and languages, so does it make any sense to talk of “Asian SF”? What are the traditions and touchstones of fantastical storytelling in South and South-East Asia? What is the state of genre there, and how have shared myths and a joint heritage of colonialism influenced it? A panel of writers and critics from India, Pakistan, Malaysia and The Philippines compare notes.

Mahvesh Murad (M), Zen Cho, Rochita Loenen-Ruiz, Victor Fernando R. Ocampo, Aishwarya Subramanian

We tweaked the original panel description to try to reduce the risk of the panel turning into each of us rolling out lists of genre authors from our respective countries. I am especially interested in talking about shared myths and the influence of colonialism — can we say that there is sufficient commonality because of those things, that we can sensibly talk of South and Southeast Asian SF as a Thing? But we’ll see where the discussion goes.

I am particularly excited that not even every Southeast Asian SF writer/fan who is going to be at Loncon is on this panel. There will be some left over to be in the audience, or not to attend at all! Maybe we should have dinner or something. (Asians attending Loncon 3: do you want to have dinner? Email me!)

 

The Education and Training of a Young Protagonist

Saturday 19:00 – 20:00

Kids have to go to school, whether it’s a modern day educational institution or the school of hard knocks in a futuristic dystopia. How is education treated in SF? What might a futuristic classroom look like? What are some great examples of how education and training have been used by other authors?

Zen Cho, Gail Carriger, Jack Campbell, Dave Luckett, Frances Hardinge

SCHOOL STORIES!!!! Huh, I hadn’t noticed that my name comes first but there is no (M).

Also I am going to be on a panel with Frances Hardinge. Here is what I will do for the duration of the panel: *_______________* But not in a creepy way!

 

Representation and Whitewashing in Fandom

Sunday 12:00 – 13:30

Fandoms can provide positive spaces for engagement with and education about representating people of colour, the campaign group “racebending” is a good example of this. Movies and television shows like Sleepy Hollow, Pacific Rim, and Marvel: Agents of SHIELD receive strong (but not universal) support, with fans pushing diversity by overtly supporting and praising the characters of colour. Fandoms become campaign groups. Yet, at the same time, many fandoms whitewash or relegate characters of colour in their fan works. More damagingly many fans react negatively to criticism of racism within their fandom and within the television shows, movies, and books they enjoy. In this session we explore the ups and downs of representation in fandom.

Bertha Chin (M), Zen Cho, Mark Oshiro, Anushia Kandasivam, Eylul Dogruel

The main thing I’m excited about with this panel is the chance to talk about fandom as a community and space which is different from SFF book fandom. (I think SFF book fandom is what most of my other panels are about/are grounded in — even the manga panel doesn’t read to me like a manga fandom panel in the way that, e.g., making fan soundtracks is a manga fandom activity. If that makes any sense outside my head!)

 

So yes! If you’ve ordered SPIRITS ABROAD from me, coming to one of my panels is probably a good way to see me and get your book, but even if you don’t I’ll hunt you down somehow. I do hope to spend some considerable amount of time at lobbycon or barcon. The downtime is my favourite part of a con.

SPIRITS ABROAD is out!

30 Jun

Me signing my book

The book is out! I’ve done a book launch! And now I have three brown paper parcels’ worth of books to sell and give away.

Spirits Abroad

How to get the book

I’ve set up a new page on my website with information about how you can order/pre-order the paperback: How to buy SPIRITS ABROAD. It’s very easy if you’re in Malaysia — MPH branches mostly seem to have it, so should other bookshops, and you can of course order it directly from Fixi. It’s slightly more complicated if you’re outside Malaysia, but you can pre-order it from Amazon.com (it’s not available on the other Amazons, as far as I know).

I’ll also be putting out an ebook later this year, with various extras. You may want to wait for that! If you do buy the paperback, though, hang on to your proof of payment — I’ll be offering a discount on the ebook price to people who bought the paperback.

Attending Nine Worlds or WorldCon this year?

If you’re coming to Nine Worlds Geekfest 2014 or Loncon 3 this August, you can get the book at either con!

Nine Worlds: The book will be available in the dealers’ room. I’ll probably have a couple of copies on me as well if you happen to run into me at the con.

Loncon 3: Unless someone offers me space on a vendor’s table (which, that would be very welcome!) you’ll have to get ahold of me to get ahold of the book.

If you would like to get the book at these cons, what would be really helpful for me is if you could reserve a copy by completing the fields below and paying in advance. That’ll enable me to put aside a book for you, as I only have limited copies of the paperback. Reserve your copy below the cut!

[...]

SPIRITS ABROAD – Cover reveal

13 Jun

So if you follow me on Twitter or Facebook (or worst of all, BOTH), you will have seen this plenty of times, but I am super excited about it and will not rest till I have posted it on every Internet outlet possible. I may start printing it off and sticking it to lamp-posts.

For lo! I have a cover!

SPIRITS ABROAD cover - woman's face with eyes shut and a frangipani in the middle of her forehead

Back copy

“If you live near the jungle, you will realise that what is real and what is not real is not always clear. In the forest there is not a big gap between the two.”

A Datin recalls her romance with an orang bunian. A teenage pontianak struggles to balance homework, bossy aunties, first love, and eating people. An earth spirit gets entangled in protracted negotiations with an annoying landlord, and Chang E spins off into outer space, the ultimate metaphor for the Chinese diaspora.

Straddling the worlds of the mundane and the magical, SPIRITS ABROAD collects 10 science fiction and fantasy stories with a distinctively Malaysian sensibility.

Launch

The book will be out in a week’s time (!) from Fixi Novo, an imprint of Buku Fixi, an indie press I’ve been following with great interest since it was started up by the confusingly multi-talented Amir Muhammad. Fixi has taken off in a huge way since its early days, and I am thrilled to be published with them.

As I mentioned in my previous post, the launch will be at Whitebox @ Publika, starting at 5 pm on Saturday 21st: the Facebook event has more details. Fellow Malaysian SF author Ee Leen Lee will also be launching her book, 13 MOONS. It should be good! Do come if you are in KL. (Must BYO spirits, though.)

How you can get ahold of the book

Because a couple of people asked — the paperback will be available for purchase on Amazon US if you’re outside Malaysia. I’ll put up a link when it’s up. I’ll also be selling/giving away a few once I get ahold of my author copies, and I’ll be happy to ship those anywhere in the world.

Plus, I’m planning to release an ebook version soon, which will probably have extra stories. \o/ I’d also like to include other extras, though I can’t think of anything just this minute. What sort of extras would you like to see? Maybe I’ll do a “DVD commentary” (do people still do these for fic?), or an interview or something. (I will interview … MYSELF)

Anyway! I don’t expect to shift that many copies of the ebook, but I just want to make sure any readers outside Malaysia can get ahold of the book easily if they want it (and TBH, to the extent that I have readers, the overwhelming majority of them are outside Malaysia). If you’re inside Malaysia, though, it’ll be super easy to get — order from the website (not yet la, after launch only can), or in stores.

Full Table of Contents below the cut!

[...]

Grants, aunts and mammoths

5 May

Catching up on some news:

 

Speculative Literature Foundation Writing Grants

I’ll be helping to judge the SLF’s new Diverse Writers and Diverse Worlds Grants! These are grants of US$500 each for writers who are working on books (novels or short story collections) in the speculative fiction genre. The Diverse Writers grant is for writers from traditionally underrepresented/marginalised backgrounds, and the Diverse Worlds grant is for work that presents diverse worlds well, regardless of the writer’s background.

If this sounds like it might be relevant to your interests, have a look at the guidelines and send in your WIPs for fun and (potential) profit! The deadline for applications is 31 July.

 

The House of Aunts on stage

The Stanford Asian American Theatre Project is putting on a theatrical adaptation of my story THE HOUSE OF AUNTS. I have had nothing to do with it whatever — I mean, apart from saying “Sure!” when I was asked if they could do it — and it is pretty cool to see the story wandering around the world on its own legs. The Facebook event page has details of the show if you are in Stanford this week and want to check it out: AATP Presents THE HOUSE OF AUNTS.

There’s also an amusing trailer here (links to Facebook, but I don’t think you have to be logged in to see it): Trailer for THE HOUSE OF AUNTS.

 

The Mammoth Book of SF Stories by Women

I am very pleased to have a story in the upcoming anthology The Mammoth Book of SF Stories by Women, edited by Alex Dally MacFarlane. It’s a reprint of my story THE FOUR GENERATIONS OF CHANG E, about the Moon Goddess Chang E as the ultimate overseas outer space Chinese.

Kristin Mandigma’s hilarious aswang story is also in the anthology! That’s enough to show it’s a good Table of Contents, but if you want to see the full line-up, have a look at the SF Signal announcement. (The cover is also very cool!)

 

So that’s all pretty cool! In terms of actual writing, I am plugging away at the novel revision, and hoping to have that wrapped up in a couple of months so I can have a bit of time to write a couple of short stories. I haven’t written a short story in super long lor. I also have plans for self-publishing and whatnot, but all must await the pleasure of the novel!