2020 has been an annus horribilis for everyone but also for me on a personal scale — right now I’m all about huddling and not jinxing what’s left of an awful year.
However, I’m going to write this year-end post of what I’ve had published this year for fiction and poetry, as a form of record-keeping.
Archipelagic Constellations (poetry)
A narrative poem outlining the beginnings of the Bunian Empire in the Malay Archipelagoes. Love, betrayal, exile, revenge. Actually got the idea from a defunct FB group I started but never really got off the ground. I retired that group but I really loved the name I created for it and suddenly it became the origin story for the Bunian Empire. Funny how these things happen and what excites the imagination. Someday I’ll have to write a short story version.
When Hope Is Lost, Touch Remains (short fiction)
A Penang laneworld short story: a middle-aged woman on a journey of sexual self-discovery that intersects with a discovery of an inherited magical gift. Folk horror meets mythic fantasy meets erotica. One of my oldest story stubs, circa 2000-2001, when I got the idea for a story of a woman of advanced age discovering her sexuality. Only turned it into a full-fledged story when I was actually in my 40s. Ha!
A Long Tango Across A Canopy of Whispering Leaves (short fiction)
A “Cantata of the Fourfold Realms”- verse short story. Mushroom-human symbiosis, sentient trees, Malaysian food, postcolonial diaspora portal fantasy and sexy tango.This story began as an idea between 2014-2016 because I was going to a lot of musical festivals, and I wanted to capture that sort of battle between life and death found in rites of succession that Sir James Frazer wrote about in The Golden Bough, and which I had a rather negative reaction towards. I only started drafting it mid-2016, though — essentially for a People of Colour Destroy Fantasy submission.
I don’t really know why the tango crept in there because there was no tango in any of those festivals, nor did I think of myself as particularly interested in the tango. In fact, it was writing this story and researching the tango that got me hooked on it, and now I’m playing the tango on classical guitar and wondering if I’ll ever get the nerve (or physical agility) to have tango classes at some point in my indefinite future.
Every Plumage, Every Beak (short fiction)
Alt-history science fantasy in the early parts of the Bunian Empire milieu of stories. Friendship, betrayal, the cost of the wrong words, power-relations, mythical birds and steampunk aviation.
This was actually one of the first stories I started submitting to professional publications in 2014, and it’s been revised several times. So glad it found a home in Clarkesworld, even though reaction to it has been somewhat lukewarm. It’s a story about domination and what happens when there’s an imbalance in any friendship. As someone who has had a series of unfortunate friendships I think about this a lot, and think about forgiveness — the price of forgiveness– a lot. As an author, I feel sympathetic for both the viewpoint characters. As someone with foot-in-mouth syndrome, how could I not be? But as a person, it’s something I think about a lot. How sometimes boundaries need to be drawn.
As for the narrative arc, I was going for a historical narrative arc and historical fiction narratives can be episodic. Anyway, at least some people liked it and quite a few messaged me to say how much they enjoyed it. I’ll be content with that 🙂