Category Archives: SFF

Book & Kitchen panel on Global Futures on Saturday, 7 November, 7 pm

I realised I’d forgotten to mention that after Eschacon I’ll be popping back to London for a panel on (what else?) world SF at Book and Kitchen this Saturday:

Global Futures: On Science Fiction at Book and Kitchen

Date and time: Saturday, 7 November 2015, 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm
Venue: Book and Kitchen, 31 All Saints Road, Notting Hill, London W11 1HE
Science fiction authors, editors and publishers will discuss the ways in which Western ideals and narratives dominated the genre for decades, and how that is now being challenged.

They will delve into contemporary SF publishing’s obsession with Hollywood formulas and traditional Western tropes, and show how the micro-, small- and mid-sized presses are working to produce something different. The panel will look back at the challenge posed to SF by the New Wave of the mid 1960s to 1970s, much of it based in Ladbroke Grove. They will also offer ideas and solicit suggestions on how readers – and the genre – might be “retrained”.

I will candidly say now that I have no idea what was going on in Ladbroke Grove in the 1960s to 1970s, but I’m sure the other panellists do! It should be a fun discussion. I haven’t included the webpage’s list of panellists because they’ve changed since the page was last updated, but the others are Stephanie Saulter, Tade Thompson, Bill Campbell and Geoff Ryman, with Chair of the British Science Fiction Association Donna Bond as the moderator.

Tickets for the event are £5. You can get them here.

Roundup: fanfic, shrimps, hipste Kelate and more


On Thursday I went to Broadcasting House (!) to take part in the first episode of Late Night Woman’s Hour on BBC Radio 4, which was on women in fandom. It was super fun — like a convention panel, only you had to keep remembering you were talking to a mainstream audience and stopping to define terms like “fanfic”. If you’re interested in listening to a lively discussion of women in SFF, the geek culture wars and fanfic tropes, you can download the podcast here:

Reclaiming the Nerdiverse

(And yes, we did discuss A/B/O on national radio with all our relatives listening. /o\ I confess I’m one of those old fandom grumps for whom A/B/O does nothing. In my day we had “we are spies who have to pretend to be married for implausible reasons and we fall in love as a result” and we were happy with that!!)

I also did a podcast with the fabulous Fran Wilde (Updraft out super soon!) and Aliette de Bodard (House of Shattered Wings out even sooner!), talking about food in our books:

An Intimidation of Shrimp: A Cooking The Books Roundtable

At the link I also reveal ~all my writing secrets~ and share my Big List o’ Regency Foods. I said this on the podcast, but I felt a bit like Sherlock Holmes explaining my methods and Watson going, “Oh, you’re nothing to call home about really, that’s easy!” Sigh. Anyway, if you’d like to know what “ruffs and reeves” are, go check it out!

Ghost words

I’ve been posting quietly to Where Ghost Words Dwell, the discarded writing collage project I do with a bunch of cool writers. Here are two of my most recent contributions:

The Green family goes to the mountains

Magical relatives berbalas pantun. This is from a story I was bouncing around with a friend a few years ago, inspired by our trip to Ladakh. The photo is of the glorious mountains, taken at Leh airport. It’s not at all a habitat that suits me — I spent the next seven days or so in the most wretched altitude sickness — but I’ve never seen anything like it.

On the outskirts of Kota Bharu, in a rental Perodua

Again, a snippet inspired by a holiday — this time a rather more prosaic one, a road trip in Kelantan with my BFF. We went to lots of wats and failed to eat any roti hamlet, laksam or nasi kerabu. (I know, I know … what were we even doing.) Eventually this inspired a short story called Everything Under One Roof, which Rose Lemberg accepted for her anthology Alphabet of Embers. The word count for Alphabet of Embers was 1,400 words so I had to cut everything non-essential, including the snippet at the link!

The drawing of a hipste Kelate is by my phenomenally talented cousin Alina Choong and is posted with her permission. It’s based on the boss of Kopitiam Kita, which you should definitely visit if you’re ever in KB. Siti Nurhaliza went also k.

Sorcerer to the Crown

Ala, you knew it was coming.

If you’re in the UK, first edition bookshop Goldsboro Books is running a competition for people who pre-order Sorcerer to the Crown! Order Goldsboro’s special limited edition (SPRAYED EDGES!) before 10 September, i.e. the UK release date, and you’ll have a chance to win an invitation to the book launch. Come and talk to meee! You can pre-order the limited edition here.

The Book Smugglers also ran a giveaway for the book. Closed liao, sorry, but you can still read my post on the Inspirations and Influences Behind Sorcerer to the Crown.

I also did a guest post for Pornokitsch on Five Fictional Girls and Women I Will Love Forever. Features Anne of Green Gables, Rukia, Lucy Snowe, Elizabeth Bennet and Eowyn. No surprises, but lots of *___*-ing … you will point out that this doesn’t have anything to do with Sorcerer to the Crown, because it’s part of The Apex Book of World SF 4 promo push, but little do you know! One of those five characters inspired Prunella Gentleman. You should tell me which you think it is!

And JUST TODAY Publishers Weekly gave Sorcerer a starred review:

Cho’s tale knits together a dizzying array of taut story lines populated by complex characters with interesting backstories. Zacharias brings to mind another orphaned young wizard whose combination of grit and melancholy captured readers’ hearts, and ingenious, gutsy Prunella simply shines.

How totally amazing. You couldn’t ask for better.

Social mediaz

As always, if you’re interested in receiving updates on my stuff in real-time, Twitter or Facebook is probably your best bet. My Facebook page is public and I don’t add back automatically, but will if you drop me a message saying hi. I’ve also started using Instagram! Not a lot there at the moment, but what I’m going to do is post pictures there instead of Twitter. I crosspost Instagram posts to Twitter and Facebook, though, so better not follow me on all three — after lemas only.

World SF: Åcon 8, Nova Press and other delights

It’s been a world SF-themed couple of days!

Åcon 8

Yesterday Åcon announced that I’m going to be their 2016 Guest of Honour! It is my first Guest of Honour invite ever and I’m thrilled that it’s from such a cool con. Here’s how they describe themselves on their website:

  • The guest of honor is usually a non-best selling but really interesting author
  • The program is a single track with a 50/50 mix of silly and really serious
  • The program is very relaxed, with long pauses between some program items to allow members to sit in the bar or explore Mariehamn (and rest of Åland)
  • Only 100 memberships are sold, then we’re full
  • Everything is in English

I feel I can say without conceit that I am perfect for a convention billing itself as a relaxacon, given my policy on naps. And I am very excited about following in the footsteps of two of my favourite living SFF authors, Karen Lord and Geoff Ryman, among others. \o/ And I have already done a sterling job by introducing Teresa Teng to one of the conrunners. HAHA.

Nova Press

I backed the Nova Press fundraiser! Israeli editor Didi Chanoch is fundraising for a press to translate new and upcoming SFF into Hebrew and he’s already got an exciting list, including Wesley Chu’s The Lives of Tao and Max Gladstone’s Three Parts Dead. Naomi Novik’s Uprooted is a stretch goal! You should go back it too.

Other stuff

Today I received my first royalty report from Fixi involving royalties being paid to me! \o/ As I suspected before, the trend of SPIRITS ABROAD selling far more copies within Malaysia than outside it continues. No credit to me, it’s because Fixi is so good at making people want to take Instagram pictures of read Malaysian books.

And as I signed the contract today, I should probably announce this: we’ve sold German rights for SORCERER TO THE CROWN! Droemer Knaur will be publishing it in German. It’s my first foreign language rights deal and I am very excited.

Oh, now I’m on the subject of rights deals (oh my god I’m so bad at this timely announcement business), I should also mention that there are going to be audiobooks of SORCERER and its sequels. That is cool! SORCERER is due out from Recorded Books in September.

Where I’ll be in August: Fantasy in the Court and Nine Worlds

August is when genre throws a huge party in London. Here’s what I’ll be doing!

Fantasy in the Court
Thursday 6 August, 6:00pm – 9:00pm at Cecil Court

I’m going to be at SFF author/fan gathering Fantasy in the Court for the first time this year! It’s hosted by Goldsboro Books in association with Hodderscape. I’ve been to Goldsboro Books a couple of times now for book launches and have happy memories talking books with nice people over drinks. Hopefully this will be more of the same!

Nine Worlds Geekfest 2015
Friday 7 August to Sunday 9 August at the Radisson Blu Edwardian, Heathrow

It’ll be my third Nine Worlds and I expect it’ll be as fun as ever. My elevator pitch for Nine Worlds is “it’s like Tumblr in real life”, which can elicit varied reactions. But the nice parts of Tumblr, really!

Friday, 7 August

“Waiter, you spilt some sci-fi in my fantasy”
Commonwealth West, 3:15pm – 4:30pm (All of the Books)

It feels like every other week there’s a new sub-genre to better define fantasy, sci-fi or horror but are those genres still specific and how much do they bleed into each other? This panel will explore the crossing of genre boundaries.

Adrian Tchaikovsky, James Smythe, Gaie Sebold, James Oswald, Zen Cho (Moderator)

New Voices
Royal C&D, 10:15pm – 11:30pm (All of the Books)

Stark Holborn hosts readings by debut authors Al Robertson, Francesca Haig, Tom Toner and Lucy Hounsom. And me! I’ll read something from Sorcerer to the Crown, of course.

Saturday, 8 August

“The dead will rise again” – Resurgence of Gothic Literature
Room 38, 5:00pm – 6:15pm (All of the Books)

Some of the greatest monsters just can’t stay dead. Here, we explore the pull of Gothic literature.

Charlie Fletcher, Zen Cho, Lavie Tidhar, Laurell K Hamilton, Sarah Lotz, John J Johnstone (Moderator)

The Fantasy Of White History – Race and racism in historically based fiction
Connaught B, 6:45pm – 8:00pm (Race and Culture)

Breaking down the myth of “historical accuracy” meaning no PoC, and un-whitewashing history.

Zen Cho, Georgiana Jackson-Callen, Meg Jayanth, Jade Tebble

Only a Moment
County, 10:00pm – 11:30pm (Entertainment)

Hosted by Paul Cornell, the popular quiz inspired by another popular quiz returns: Paul will guide his panellists through a myriad of subjects where they have to speak for a minute without deviation, repetition or pause.

Paul Cornell, Joe Abercrombie, Zen Cho, Marcus Gipps, Emma Vieceli



Here’s my schedule on their app if you are using that to organise yourself. And if you’re non-white and thinking of trying out the con, I believe Con or Bust still has a number of free Nine Worlds memberships going

I’m also arranging to have copies of Spirits Abroad and Cyberpunk: Malaysia to hawk at the con. These are a little tricky to get outside Malaysia, so if you’d like to get a signed copy for a v. reasonable price, watch this space!

Link roundup: SORCERER TO THE CROWN &c.

Sorcerer to the Crown UK cover Sorcerer to the Crown US cover

I was interviewed by Australian fantasy blog Smash Dragons! I talk about Sorcerer to the Crown, explain what measures I’d institute as Empress of the Earth, and quote Diana Wynne Jones and S. I. Rosenbaum on historical novels and writing respectively.

Smash Dragons interview – Zen Cho

A couple of nice mentions of Sorcerer to the Crown in the book press:

It was one of Publishers Weekly’s top 10 SFF picks for Fall 2015, along with such fabulous books as Aliette de Bodard’s The House of Shattered Wings and Fran Wilde’s exciting-sounding Updraft. You need a PW subscription to read the piece, but it calls Sorcerer a “glorious debut”. :D

And it showed up in Kirkus‘s feature on What to Read in the Second Half of 2015. Again, Sorcerer is in fabulous company, cited alongside, among others, Cindy Pon’s Serpentine and Kate Elliott’s two (!) new books this year, The Black Wolves and her YA debut Court of Fives.

An excerpt of Sorcerer will also be included in Apex Magazine’s special world-themed issue this September, guest-edited by Cristina Jurado. There’ll be interviews with me and Escape from Baghdad author Saad Hossain.

Finally, a new pro-rate SFF magazine from the fine folks behind Rosarium Publishing: Shattered Prism will open to submissions in August for its first issue, due out in November. Check it out! Write! Submit!

Aliens vs. cyborgs

The days have been such a blur* since I arrived in Malaysia that I forgot to post about this article I wrote for Poskod.MY sempena Cooler Lumpur:

What being an alien taught me about stories

I am eight years old, a new pupil at SRJK (C) Kwang Hwa.

“This is my new friend from England,” chirps my classmate when she introduces me. I have never been to England in my life, but why should she know the difference between USA and England? Here in Penang both countries seem equally distant and unreal.

My family moved from Malaysia to the US for a couple of years when I was a kid, so by that age I already knew what it was to be an alien.

Basically it’s me wondering aloud “what is the proper subject of the Asian/Malaysian writer?”

Don’t forget I’m running two giveaways for my anthology CYBERPUNK: MALAYSIA. Enter for free, win a book that is both shiny and chrome!


* I haven’t really been busy, unless you count “sleeping only three hours a night” and “obsessing over the Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell BBC series” as being busy. I do, but I admit there may be legitimate differences upon the point …

CYBERPUNK: MALAYSIA launch and giveaway

CYBERPUNK: MALAYSIA is out in the world! I’m really excited about this anthology and hope people will enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed putting it together.

(Although I am never editing another anthology. It is TOO MUCH WORK. Hats off to the editors of the world.)

Here’s the Table of Contents:

Intro / Zen Cho
Underneath Her Tudung / Angeline Woon
Codes / Anna Tan
Personal / Sharmilla Ganesan
Attack of The Spambots / Terence Toh
ONE HUNDRED YEARS: Machine / Rafil Elyas
What the Andromaid Reads at Night / Ted Mahsun
KAKAK / William Tham Wai Liang
The Wall That Wasn’t a Wall / Kris Williamson
The Twins / Adiwijaya Iskandar
October 11 / Chin Ai-May
Undercover in Tanah Firdaus / Tina Isaacs
Unusual Suspects / Tariq Kamal
The White Mask / Zedeck Siew

We launched the book at Cooler Lumpur to a standing room only audience, with most of the authors in attendance:

Photo of Cyberpunk: Malaysia authors at launch

L to R: Sharmilla Ganesan, Foo Sek Han, Chin Ai-May, me, Ted Mahsun, Tina Isaacs, Terence Toh, Zedeck Siew, Anna Tan, Tariq Kamal

The cover of the book was also revealed for the first time at the launch. In a first for a Fixi book (er, apart from mine), the paperback and ebook have different covers, though the content is the same.

Cyberpunk Malaysia paperback

The paperback

Cyberpunk Malaysia ebook cover

The ebook

Cool, right? Here’s what the publisher says about the covers:

The print cover is simply a mirror. Why? Because our cyber experience is increasingly customised — at its simplest level, the ads and promoted posts you see are based on your own browsing history. So when you look directly at the cover, you will see your face leh.

The ebook cover is “Cyberpunk Malaysia” spelt out several times in binary.

The contents are exactly the same.

And here’s the blurb on the back of the book:

Cyberpunk as you’ve never seen it before…

Science fiction is all about outrageous ideas. Nice Malay girls breaking the rules. Censorship. Brain drain. Moral policing. Migrant exploitation. All the stuff of fiction, obviously.

But these 14 short stories take it one step further. The nice Malay girls are cyborgs. The spambots are people. The brains have drained into cyberspace, and the censorship is inside your head.


You can buy the ebook now for US$3.90 on Google Play and Smashwords (other vendors to follow). If you prefer dead tree books, you can buy the print version from Fixi if you’re in Malaysia, or pre-order from if you’re outside Malaysia. And/or you can enter a couple of giveaways for a chance to win the print version!

I’m giving away 1 copy via Rafflecopter — you can sign up RIGHT HERE (no geographical limitations):

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Edited to add: I am also giving away 2 copies via GoodReads — enter below! Open worldwide. You’ll need a GoodReads account.


Goodreads Book Giveaway






by Zen Cho


Giveaway ends June 22, 2015.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.



Enter Giveaway


Note that the giveaway copies are the print version with the reflective cover. Both giveaways close on 22 June — enter and tell all your friends!