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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.

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!

Q&A with Daphne Lee

5 Jan

I had a really interesting (and long!) email exchange with Daphne Lee of local, a reviews/opinion site focusing on Malaysian and Southeast Asian literature. We talked about writing fantasy, finding a voice in which to write Malaysian stories, how your reading influences your writing, Western/Malaysian publishing, and a bunch of other things. Read the interview at the link below!

Q&A: Zen Cho

A couple of other small updates:

There are 12 whole copies of SPIRITS ABROAD in stock at Amazon! Small victories, but after months of its either being out of stock or having only 2-3 copies available for sale on Amazon, this is very pleasing. (If you would like to buy the dead tree version of SPIRITS ABROAD but don’t want to give Amazon your money, friendly indie Big Green Bookshop should have a couple of copies for sale. They haven’t got it up on the website, but you can email them for details. And of course, there is always the ebook!)

Submissions for CYBERPUNK: MALAYSIA have closed. Thanks to everyone who sent in a story. We’ve received 99 submissions and I’m really looking forward to getting stuck into reading them and putting together the anthology.

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!