Category Archives: SFF

SORCERER TO THE CROWN on the Tiptree Award longlist

I’ve already squeaked about this on social media, but I’m thrilled that Sorcerer to the Crown is on the 2015 Tiptree Award longlist! The Tiptree is the coolest SFF award IMO, and they’ve highlighted an awesome range of novels, short stories, comics and nonfiction this year.

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I’m particularly delighted to see the shout-out for Kuzhali Manickavel’s Things We Found During The Autopsy.

The winners and honor list look very cool. You can find out more about them at the Tiptree Award website here: 2015 Winners, Honor List and Long List.

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Events in April and May 2016

Mancunicon was a roaring success on almost every level — thanks to the con comm for a great event, Guest of Honour Aliette de Bodard for letting me tag along and make her mugs of bad green tea, and everyone who came for dim sum.

(And I did indeed eat a grilled mac and cheese sandwich with pulled pork from the amazing grilled cheese sandwich place. They’re on Deliveroo! Amazing grilled cheese sandwiches AT YOUR FINGERTIPS. If you live in Manchester.)

Now here’s what I’ll be doing in April and May!

April

English PEN Literary Salon at the London Book Fair

Event: Zen Cho in conversation with Anita Sethi
Date and time: Thursday 14 April, 1 pm
Venue: Level one of Olympia, opposite Foyles Bookshop

I’ll be “in conversation” as part of the English PEN Literary Salon series, which I’m terribly impressed by mostly because I come before Judith Kerr. Judith Kerr!!! 

Apart from watching her talk, I’m hoping to swing by the Malaysia booth — it’s the first time Malaysia is having a booth and it’s being run by scrappy indies without any government or big corporate funding — as well as to catch Amir Muhammad’s talk: A Basket Is Not Just a Swear Word.

In Malaysia, ‘basket’ is a slightly more refined way to refer to a ruder word which technically means a male of illegitimate birth. It’s one of those quirky byproducts of English colonialism.

But here in the LBF, a Malaysian publisher talks about the state of reading, writing and publishing in his country.

He will do this while launching the first of an annual anthology, Little Basket, that aims to highlight Anglophone writing from Malaysia. He does not plan on using words like ‘Anglophone’ during his talk.

You will be able to get Little Basket 2016 during this session, so if the talk gets a bit boring you may just flip through it.

(The event page doesn’t say it’s Amir, but as you can see, it is obviously Amir.)

Given the timing it’s less likely that I’ll be able to catch the Chinese Science Fiction panel with Xiaolu Guo, moderated by Malaysian writer Yen Ooi, but you should go for that if the timing works for you!

I should also say that I was invited to do this as a direct result of Bare Lit. So huge thanks to the festival organisers for the opportunity. I’ll do my best to pass it on.

Signing in Stockholm

Event: Sorcerer to the Crown signing (I’ll sign copies of Spirits Abroad and Cyberpunk: Malaysia as well if you’ve got them, but sadly they’re quite hard to get outside Malaysia)
Date and time: Friday 29 April, 5 pm
Venue: SF-Bokhandeln, Stockholm

What it says on the tin really! After reading Ann Leckie’s blog post about her Scandinavian mini-tour, it occurred to me that since I was going to Stockholm, it might be worth checking if the bookshop she mentioned (1) stocked my book and (2) would like me to sign it. They did and they did! It’s open to the public so do pop by and say hi.

May

Åcon 8

Event: Guest of Honour at Åcon 8
Date and time: Thursday 5 May to Sunday 8 May
Venue: Mariehamn, Åland Islands

I don’t really know why I keep posting about this since memberships have sold out and everyone who would care must already know I’m going … but anyway I am going! Super looking forward to it — I am spending a whole week at Åland and have been warned I might run out of things to do, but as I have a book to rewrite I am sure that can only be good for me.

I haven’t written my Guest of Honour speech yet though /o\ I’ve never done one before. Crowdsourcing ideas now! What should I say?

Diverse book clubs & meetups in London

A Twitter query following my panel at Bare Lit made me think there might be more general interest in this information. If you’re based in or near London, here are a few book clubs/meetups to check out if you’re looking to read more “diverse” literature* or hang out with like-minded bookish people.

African Fantasy Reading Group

The African Fantasy Reading Group discusses “all things AfroSFF”, including science fiction, fantasy, comics and movies. I think there is the occasional in-person meetup but also plenty of discussion on the Facebook group.

African Reading Group London

Breaking the bonds of genre restrictions, ARG! London meets monthly at Book and Kitchen to discuss recent books by writers from Africa and the diaspora. Check out the Book and Kitchen events page for upcoming meetups. There’s also a Facebook group.

Asian Book Club Meetup

I have foolishly never attended this, not least because I have forgotten my Meetup.com password, but this is a monthly book club run through Meetup to discuss books about Asia and by Asian authors (including diaspora): Asian Book Club – Asian Authors/Books about Asia.

What’s really nice about it is that in addition to regular book club meetings, there are lots of ancillary events — author events, joint visits to literary festivals, social meals, etc. Here’s a nice blog post about the book club by one of the organisers.

Super Relaxed Fantasy Club

I confess Super Relaxed Fantasy Club is the only meetup I attend (sort of) regularly out of these, because it’s so suited to lazy people. It takes place on the last Tuesday of every month on the top floor of a Central London hotel. There are two author readings, a bar and plenty of chat. It’s attended by SFF industry people, fans, readers and aspiring writers, and conversations I’ve had at meetups range from cats to the delights and horrors of the Stucky tag on Tumblr to the peculiar pressures of the dreaded second book.

It isn’t focused on BAME books the way the other groups are, but they do care about equality — they insist on gender parity in their readers and until the group of attendees grew unmanageably large everyone used to introduce themselves. It was a bit like the first day of kindergarten! (Or AA, I guess.) The organisers talk about the genesis and principles of the meetup here (but, like, in a really relaxed way).

Join the Facebook group or follow the Twitter account for updates. I’m reading in September!

Feel free to suggest more in the comments!

* The “diverse” is in quotes because it’s terminology I’m not totally comfortable with (on which see Kavita Bhanot’s great article, Decolonise, not Diversify). That said, it’s a useful shorthand.

Upcoming events, March 2016 – North London Literary Festival and Mancunicon

In case you don’t get my mailing list updates (they have an annoying tendency to go to spam), here’s a couple of things I’ll be at this month!

North London Literary Festival

Panel Discussion: Science fiction and diversity
Date and time: Tuesday 22 March, 15:30-17:00
Venue: Middlesex University, London

I’ll be on a panel about science fiction and diversity with Pat Cadigan, the Clarke Awards’ Tom Hunter and Kurt Barling at the North London Literary Festival, run by Middlesex University students. Admission is free, but register for the panel here.

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I’ll also be at Eastercon this year, after insisting I wasn’t going. /o\ I’m not doing any panels as I am attending as a lady’s companion, but I’m hoping to do lots of barcon so do say hi if you’re there. Of course, very happy to sign copies of Sorcerer to the Crown if anyone wants me to. I’m also planning to return here for amazing grilled cheese sandwiches. *____*

Fantasy novelette THE TERRACOTTA BRIDE out now!

I’m self-publishing an ebook reprint of my novelette THE TERRACOTTA BRIDE, which first appeared in Torquere Press’s Steampowered 2: More Lesbian Steampunk. Check out the gorgeous cover, commissioned from Likhain!

z-terracotta-azI love the vivid colours, the interplay of light and dark, the red hellscape, the melancholy white chrysanthemums, and Yonghua’s face, beautiful and stark. If you were to accuse me of self-publishing THE TERRACOTTA BRIDE largely to have an excuse to commission art from Likhain … well, I won’t deny it!

As for the story, it takes place in the Chinese afterlife and was a good faith but unsuccessful attempt at writing steampunk in a setting that isn’t Victorian England. (It’s really a vaguely gothic queer fantasy with retrofuturistic flourishes.) It’s one of my coming of age stories where the protagonist is already dead. It’s mostly about loneliness and love. Here’s the summary:

In the tenth court of hell, spirits wealthy enough to bribe the bureaucrats of the underworld can avoid both the torments of hell and the irreversible change of reincarnation.

It’s a comfortable undeath … even for Siew Tsin. She didn’t choose to be married to the richest man in hell, but she’s reconciled. Until her husband brings home a new bride.

Yonghua is an artificial woman crafted from terracotta. What she is may change hell for good. Who she is will transform Siew Tsin. And as they grow closer, the mystery of Yonghua’s creation will draw Siew Tsin into a conspiracy where the stakes are eternal life – or a very final death.

It’s 11,000 words, so a quick but not insubstantial read. Here’s where you can get it:

Amazon US
Amazon UK
Smashwords
Kobo
Apple/iTunes
Nook
Google Play

Bare Lit 2016: in retrospect

I had a spectacularly good time at Bare Lit, the UK’s first literary festival celebrating the works of BAME writers. It was SUPER fun.

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At least I was having fun

I was on the SFF panel, (Re)writing Pasts & Futures, along with authors Tendai Huchu, Haris Durrani and Tosin Coker, moderated by Patrick Vernon. I really enjoyed it — entertaining readings, engaged audience, great questions. And while it was definitely what I think of as a “diversity panel” — we weren’t talking about a general topic, like how SFF draws inspiration from other genres, or Epic Fantasies We Have Loved — it made a big difference talking about being a non-white writer of SFF not only on an all-PoC panel but to a majority PoC audience. I felt like you could go more interesting places with the discussion.

I could go on and on about it … but I won’t, because you can watch the panel online!

All the panels/talks were recorded and are being uploaded to the Bare Lit site. You can check the videos out here: Past Events.

Here are some more photos of the festival!

My crap iPhone pics of the amazing performances at the launch:

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Khairani Barokka teaching the audience the meaning of seronok

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Peter Brathwaite singing degenerate music

And some rather better pictures by Wasi Daniju:

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I’m not totally sure what’s going on here, but we look like we’re enjoying ourselves

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Haris Durrani reading his awardwinning and very funny short story Forty-Two Reasons Your Girlfriend Works for the FBI, CIA, NSA, ICE, S.H.I.E.L.D., Fringe Division, Men in Black, or Cylon Overlords

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Talking to people \o/ I met so many cool people at the festival!

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Geoff Ryman and Tosin Coker saying interesting things to each other

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The fabulous poets panel after ours

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The super entertaining talk by Catherine Johnson and Peter Kalu about writing for children/YA (sudden drop in quality of photo due to fact that this was, again, taken by my phone)

I was kind of worried before the festival because I didn’t really know anyone there and was scared I’d be too uncool for anyone to want to talk to me. But in fact it was simultaneously relaxed and exhilarating — I had lots of nice conversations with strangers, from geeking out about Hamilton to discussing books to recommend to children. I’ve been to arts/cultural events before where the performers and attendees were all/majority non-white, of course, but it felt different and special to be part of a festival like this in the very heart of London.

I felt incredibly privileged to be there and am very grateful to the organisers for creating such a great space.

All the nice photos in this post were taken by Wasi Daniju and are shared with her permission. The video recordings of Bare Lit were filmed and edited by founder and filmmaker Samantha Asumadu — information about commissions can be found here.

Rambling about writing at Kinokuniya KL: a report

As I mentioned in my previous post about my event at Kinokuniya KL last Saturday, Kino is the bookshop of my teenage years, because it was so huge and had what was at the time an unmatchable selection — not only of SFF, but YA/MG, manga, Asian literature, etc. etc. etc.

Then later a giant Borders or two opened closer to home in PJ, rendering the long trek to KLCC unnecessary, so my memories of Kino are really crystallised in time. It was nice to go back, especially as I got to admire the World SF table they’d kindly let me curate in person. (I didn’t put my own books on the list lah obviously. They added those themselves.)

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To my left (your right) there used to be an excellent Japanese stationery section. I didn’t go there that often because I’d’ve spent all my money on books by the time I got there.

A closer look at the selection, from Nigerians in space through Paris in the wake of a magical war to Hitler as a PI!

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As for the event itself, it was really fun! I’d planned to fill up one hour but ended up taking around two. It was nice of Kino not to chase us out!

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Here’s me holding forth

I was really worried that people would do that Malaysian thing of being too shy to raise their hands, and then only creeping round to ask questions afterwards one-on-one. (I mean, I can raise my hand as one of the people who does this. Except I wouldn’t raise my hand, of course.) I even prepped a friend to keep the chat going if no one volunteered questions: “Ask me about law! I can tell them about EU directives!”

But fortunately everyone was awesome and there were lots of questions! Thanks to everyone who asked — you are my hero and I am eternally grateful.

The only specific thing I remember saying was my explanation of the importance of plot. It goes like this: I used to think I didn’t really care about plot as a reader, but I’ve since learnt a bit more about how stories are made, and I now think that plot is to story like bones are to a person you fancy. You might say, “I’m not attracted to people based on their bones, I’m really more interested in their personality or whether they have a full head of lush hair.” But if you met someone who had no bones, at all, whatsoever, you might rapidly reconsider how important bones are to their attractiveness.

Anyway, so I’m still trying to figure out the bones of story.

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My Stormtrooper ring is so photogenic! Nowadays I pretend John Boyega is secretly inside it.

The highlight of the event for me was meeting readers, obvs, but a close runner-up is the fact that illustrator Charis Loke gave me what, as far as I know, is the first piece of fanart for Sorcerer to the Crown!

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I love it. I am so happy.

A close-up:

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There really is nothing like seeing the figments of your imagination being brought to life by another so sympathetically. I’m going to sleep with it under my pillow eat it so it becomes a part of me frame it and put it on my wall and admire it forever.

I also signed some stock for Kino, so if you missed the event you can still pick up an autographed copy there! If you’re not that fussed about autographed copies or a 20% discount on your second item (also available in-store), you can buy the books online: they stock the US hardcover and the trade paperback with the UK cover, both RM75.

Photos are by me, Daphne Lee, Aaron Lim and my BFF Maxine Lim, who combines with all other ideal qualities of a best friend that of taking only flattering pictures of me.