Conventions, Publishing Journey, Writing

My publishing journey: Networking, part 2 — thoughts on conventions

I wrote a very earnest post about my feelings about conventions, in the vein of my last Publishing Journey post about social media and community, and then I realised I couldn’t post it, because I haven’t actually worked out my feelings about conventions. So the post had that scattered, evasive quality writing has when you either don’t know how you feel about a subject or don’t want to say it.

So here are a few rather simpler thoughts about conventions, as bulletpoints. They are about science fiction and fantasy conventions because those are what I know, but some of the thoughts probably also apply to literary/publishing events/meetups in general. Buttonhole me at a con some time if you’d like to hear the more complicated version — that comes in paragraphs!

  • SFF writers tend to think conventions matter in terms of meeting editors, agents, other writers and potential readers. But they probably matter less than you might think. You’re not going to reach that many readers at a convention, and nowadays it is perfectly possible to get an agent and sell a book to a publisher without meeting them in person, much less showing your face at a con. In fact, that’s probably how most people do it.
  • That said, conventions can be fun if you are a nerd who likes to be around fellow nerds. They are a nice way to feel part of the community. (SFF is a community, or rather a group of overlapping communities, as well as an industry. These communities are not perfect, but there are benefits to participating in them actively — some of them emotional, some of them professional.)
  • A great upside to conventions is getting to meet people you have only known via the Internet. People are often even better in real life than on the Internet. It’s like how most people aren’t nearly as horrible trolls in real life as they might be in the comments of a Guardian article. In the vast majority of cases, if you meet someone who seems brilliant and nice and funny online, they are generally like that in real life, only even more so.
  • A great downside to conventions is often also that you meet people, in kind of a weird pressurised environment where your personal/social decisions can have professional implications.

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Conventions

San Diego Comic-Con

Somewhat to my own bemusement, I am going to be at San Diego Comic-Con this year. Penguin Random House are giving out free galleys of Sorcerer to the Crown and if you swing by booths #1514-1515 at the following times, you can get them signed by me!

Friday, 10 July, 2.00 – 3.00 pm — Del Rey booth signing with Naomi Novik (Booth #1515)

Naomi will be signing His Majesty’s Dragon and I will be nobly refraining from telling her/everyone all my favourite parts of Uprooted.

Saturday, 11 July, 11.00 am – 12.00 pm — Penguin booth signing (Booth #1514)

I think I’m on my own for this one. ^_^;;

Come say hi if you’ll be there!

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Conventions, My Stories

Me and Spirits Abroad in the press

I was in The Star on Tuesday! Sharmilla Ganesan interviewed me for an article: Malaysian author Zen Cho is making waves abroad. The online title is more SEO-friendly, but in print it was called “Keeping Zen”, which is kinda cute!

Over at Strange Horizons, SPIRITS ABROAD got a really kind (and interesting) review: SPIRITS ABROAD, reviewed by Abigail Nussbaum.

No matter how fantastical the events of Cho’s stories—or how romantic their proceedings—her characters are standing on a solid foundation of good sense, which reminds them that love is great, but what about getting good grades?

Characters who obsess about their grades are my favourite kind of characters. :D:

This weekend I’ll be at Eastercon — from today, actually, but I’ll be going for dimsum with my mates first so will probably arrive, ahem, later in the day. I have NO PANELS (\o/), so will probably be hanging out at the bar or something. I am planning to chitchat, catch up on my CYBERPUNK: MALAYSIA edits (I always think I’m going to be super productive when I’m on holiday, and then … I’m not …) and also reading Naomi Novik’s UPROOTED (which has done that thing her stories often do of starting with a few apparently innocuous premises which all come together in an early chapter and then suddenly you see the whole story in a new light and everything is super exciting). Come say hello if you’ll be there!

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Apparitions, Conventions, Fandom

What I’ll be doing at Nine Worlds

August is so soon now! :D: I am excited about the cons (ALL THE CONS), but omg need more time in the day to prep and be ready to say clever things and maybe hoard £5 notes so if people want to buy my book from me I can give them change! /o\

So here’s where I’ll be at Nine Worlds! My commentary is in italics.

FRIDAY

Voices From Other Worlds
5.00pm – 6.15pm
Readings from authors of colour on the theme of race and culture.
Guests: Taran Matharu, Zen Cho, Adam Lowe

I’ll be reading from my short story The Earth Spirit’s Favourite Anecdote, i.e. the story that makes editors advise me to improve my English. Oh editors! No.

The story isn’t about race and culture, but it is written in Manglish, so see la if anyone understands it!

School Stories: prefects, headmasters and tuckshops, oh my!
10.15pm – 11.30pm
County C&D
School stories: why are we so fascinated by them? From Harry Potter to Ender’s Game, from St. Trinian’s to the X-Men, will we ever really escape our school days? Oi, no talking in the back of the class, there.
Panel: Aishwarya Subramanian, Zen Cho, Emma Vieceli, Tiffani Angus

:D The panel I persuaded Aisha to come to Nine Worlds for! (I wanted her for the Race & Culture track really. But I tempted her with school stories!) This is actually only one of two school stories panels I am on this summer, yay \o/

SATURDAY

Rule 63: Gender and subversion in history, popular culture and fandom
10:00am – 11:15am
“Rule 63: an internet adage which states that for every fictional character, there exists an opposite gender counterpart.” (knowyourmeme.com)
This popular rule has an obvious power for subverting male-dominated media and an equally obvious (if less discussed) potential for introducing trans narratives. In its positioning of ‘opposite’ genders, it is also potentially troubling from trans and non-binary perspectives. This panel will discuss Rule 63, from real historical examples of people inhabiting ‘opposite’ genders to contemporary fanworks, through queer and feminist lenses.
With Tab Kimpton, Zen Cho, Alex Dally MacFarlane, more TBC

I am kind of nervous about this — Rule 63 is a really meaty trope to think about, but I am not sure I am remotely qualified to talk about it! But it should be very interesting.

This Will Always Be Your Home: Race, Culture, and Fannish Life
1.30pm – 2.45pm
Western media fandom, from zines to Tumblr, has been something special to so many people: a community and a home. We live here too – so what does it mean to be a fan of colour?
Guests: Iona Sharma, Frank Voss, Koel Mukherjee and Kelly Kanayama

I’ll be modding this! It’s not something that has a lot of emotional relevance to me anymore — I went from Western media fandom to anime/manga, where being a fan of colour is different from being a fan of colour in Western media fandom, because you are so not the only one in anime/manga fandom. Then I basically moved out of fandom because even those stories weren’t quite satisfying me anymore. (To be clear, I still read manga and follow fannish trends, more or less, but I’m not really actively fannish in the sense of writing meta or fanfic and stuff like that.) But fandom really shaped me, probably Western media fandom more than any other (it got me at a younger age than anime/manga did), and I can see how it was both a good and a bad space for me as a non-white/non-American/&c. person.

SUNDAY

Spock vs the Sorcerers: F or SF? The Genre Deathmatch Smackdown!
11.45am – 1.00pm
County C&D
The vicious genrepocalypse that we’ve all been waiting for. There can be only one.
Debate: Anne Perry (Moderator), Daniel Polansky (Fantasy), Liz Bourke (Fantasy), Zen Cho (SF) , Geoffrey Ryman (SF)

  • omg I am arguing for SF even though I write almost exclusively fantasy, and don’t read that much SF because not all SF is feminist SF interested in people
  • omg I am on a panel with Geoff Ryman
  • wait what
  • … OMG
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Apparitions, Conventions, SFF

Zens at Loncon

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! Continue reading

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Conventions, Spirits Abroad

SPIRITS ABROAD at Nine Worlds and Loncon

As you probably already know (because I can’t stop parping on about it), I’ll be at Nine Worlds and Loncon this summer. So will my book!

SpiritsAbroad-final-faceonly

Nine Worlds

You’ll be able to pick up SPIRITS ABROAD at the ALL OF THE BOOKS Indie table in the dealers’ room.

Loncon

SPIRITS ABROAD will be available at the Big Green Bookshop stall in the Dealers’ Zone (thanks to Yen Ooi for the tip!).

SPIRITS ABROAD isn’t super easily available outside Malaysia, and it’s currently out of stock on Amazon — so if you’d like a copy and are coming to either of these cons, dropping by the dealers’ room is a straightforward way of picking one up.

Of course, you can pre-order a copy directly from me instead. That means I’ll reserve a signed book for you and will track you down ONE WAY OR ANOTHER during the con.

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Conventions, SFF

My draft WorldCon 2014 programme

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.

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Apparitions, Conventions

Nine Worlds 2013 con report: Part 2

My first panel was at 10 am on the second day of Nine Worlds, and the noble Katy said she would attend, so a whole group of us ended up peeling ourselves off our beds (our lovely, lovely beds) at a disgusting hour of the morning to set off for the con. But because there were so many of us we took a cab, which was great! Since I/my friends have now used it multiple times I can recommend Airport Fare with reasonable confidence: I came across them when they put a card through my door; I passed the details cheerfully on to colorblue when she asked about airport transfers, and then freaked out when her parents booked them. Because what if they sucked???

But they did not suck, and £35 is very reasonable for a four-seater cab from Heathrow to North London, if you are looking for airport transfers. The online form is not super flexible, but they were perfectly happy to pick us up at the Renaissance and do two drop-offs for the price when we called.

Anyway, con report: The Two Towers! I dunno if it will stretch to a trilogy. Let’s write this and see!

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