The Mythogenetic Grove

Author Archive

What’s A John W. Campbell Award and Am I Eligible?

by on Feb.18, 2017, under The Escritoire

Hello!

I’ve seen some people wondering stuff about John W Campbell award eligibility so I thought I would write this little post about my own eligibility and direct you to links if you are wondering if you could be eligible for the John W Campbell awards also. If I’ve made any mistakes, feel free to let me know, yeah?

So, are you eligible, Nin?

Yes, I am indeed very eligible. Even though I’ve been published prior to 2015 — that was mostly non-fiction and poetry. My one fiction sale in genre was USD5/- (although I will forever adore the people at The Harrow for pulling me out of slush for my first fiction sale). My 2-3 publications in erotica were for free (mostly because I was too scared/shy to submit to paying publicationslor. And now I am too prim and proper for smut. Well err, mostly.)

Firstly, you may be wondering what this Award is about.

They like to call the John W. Campbell the “Not a Hugo” award because it’s kind of an annex to the other Hugo Awards categories and is sponsored by Dell Magazines. It has been the award that’s launched more than one career of SFF luminaries, and is always one of the most exciting categories on the Hugo ballot (even if it’s not a Hugo Award).

Writertopia sez:

The John W. Campbell Award is given to the best new science fiction or fantasy writer whose first work of science fiction or fantasy was published in a professional publication in the previous two years. For the 2017 award, which is presented at the World Science Fiction Convention (WorldCon), the qualifying work must have been published in 2015 or 2016.

So, just so it is clear — to be eligible for the Campbell award, your stories must have been first pro-published in a given year to be eligible for the next two years.

For example, if your story was published in January 2015 in any professional paying publication or with a circulation of AT LEAST 10,000 copies, then you would be eligible to be nominated in 2016 for ALL stories published in 2015, and in 2017 for ALL stories published in 2016.

Another funny thing about this is that your first pro sale may not necessarily be the sale that qualifies you for the Campbell. Here’s a nugget of information from the John W. Campbell Awards eligibility F.A.Q.:

My first publication was in the January, 2016 issue of a qualifying magazine, but the issue hit newstands in December, 2015. When does my eligibility clock start?

In 2016. The cover date of the periodical is what counts for eligibility.

Note: I would strongly encourage anyone voting or intending on declaring themselves eligible to read the eligibility F.A.Q!

For me, my first pro sale may have been Alphabet of Embers (signed contract in December 2014), (and my second pro fiction sale was to Strange Horizons in the middle of 2015) but my first actual pro publication was in Issue #110 of Clarkesworld in November 2015, so my Campbell clock started ticking from then, as Alphabet of Embers only came out around May-July in 2016.

Another thing to pay attention to is that because of the new rules, the clock does not only start ticking from your first SFWA-listed pro sale, but ANY sale that meets the criteria, apart from the copy print run. Since this is a change from the previous years (I think!), I thought it would be important to draw people’s attention to this:

Publications which have a nominal pay rate, particularly those designated by the award sponsor (Dell Magazines).
Nominal is defined by SFWA membership requirements, currently at 6c/word with a minimum of $50 total.

A published work of fiction of a minimum of 40,000 words either sold to a small press or self-published for which the author can demonstrate net income of at least $3,000 within one year. Income can be in the form of advance, royalties, or some combination thereof.

So if you’ve made a fiction sale of at least 6 cents a word but it’s not SFWA-listed, it still counts as eligibility. If you’ve sold something or had an anthology that had an over 10,000 copy print run, you’re already eligible. If this happened in 2014 or 2013, this means your clock started ticking then, and you’re no longer eligible for 2016/2017.

It is unfortunate, but my advice is to find out now rather than later to avoid disappointment.

This is partially why I am writing this, not quite for myself, but for people outside of the known SFF circles who may not be aware of these criteria. Here, the link again for your further edification.

I’d also like to point you in the direction of Kate Heartfield’s lovely blog post on the value of being eligible for the John W. Campbell award.

I’ve finished my period of candidacy/eligibility for it and this is my last year to be nominated. Although I do not think I have enough amplitude to be nominated, I have had enough notice (I made it to the Locus Poll & Survey Ballot, omg!) that I have found it to be an extremely valuable period for my personal growth as an author, and I will be forever proud to be in the same cohort as so many magnificent up-and-coming writers.

Good luck to everyone eligible for this year, and in the coming years. You’ll be joining a group of fantastic writers!

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On Authorship

by on Feb.17, 2017, under (post)colonial Gothic academia, The Escritoire

I’m creating this post as a kind of place-holder to explain why on my bibliography I no longer list the editors of the publications that have my stories in them.

I initially listed all of their names because I’m very proud and honoured* to be working with those editors — and to keep track of which editor pulled which story of mine out of slush.

But this pride has turned to consternation as some mind-boggling sorts take it to mean I am not the sole author of my works. I’ve seen places where authors are attributed alone while I am attributed along with my editors. Now, this is patently ridiculous. Even the one story that got a revision request in my oeuvre was still revised with my having full autonomy over the story. Alas, this also meant a huge typo got through, but that’s fine, mistakes happen. When I work with some editors, it’s mostly hands-off — as in they give me the permission to make whatever changes I may need to make (typos etc, very few). Some editors do have a more active hand in that they would suggest a different phrasing, or suggest I change a transition between scenes (actually, only one editor has done this and this was early on in my career). But mostly, my stories are my own and while there is always dialogue and constant communication with my editors (I think communication is very important in all working relationships), I remain the author of my texts.

Now, I wouldn’t have to spell this out if I weren’t an Asian woman from a developing country in the Global South. It irks me that I have to do so. When I was working on my PhD dissertation on Helen Oyeyemi and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, it really had me spitting blood to read an academic article that insinuated that when authors like Oyeyemi and Adichie thanked their editors it’s because those editors were ghostwriters. I never actually thought the same situation would befall me. I really should have made the correlation.

This is naturally in response to an extremely bad faith review that decided to credit my work both to me and the editor in charge of the magazine. I suppose in their mind it was unimaginable that one not from the first world had anything of value to say.

I am generally quite phlegmatic about the various interpretations to my works, even the wrong-minded ones. Mostly, I giggle at them. But I take aspersions cast upon authorship very seriously indeed. I also pity people who are so insular, with worlds so narrow and shriveled up that they cannot imagine that people outside of that world have the capacity and competence to create, and to articulate. But I suppose that was the thrust of my PhD dissertation as well — articulation, and how we are stymied every time we raise our voices, by these forces, these imperialistic forces** that assert themselves in the most appalling of ways.

*okay, okay, more like, star-struck!

** to be clear, I actually even had a Malaysian ask me “how much of that story did you write and how much of it was your editor’s work?”

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Publication Day: “Prosthetic Daughter” in Issue #125, Clarkesworld Magazine

by on Feb.02, 2017, under Publications!, SFF

Hi!

I am still super-excited (and super-nervous) about having a THIRD story out in Clarkesworld. I may get black and blue from all of the pinching of self that’s happening right now.

Today’s publication day post is about the intro story for a series of stories I’ve been plotting out about Admiral Zhen-Juan since 2015, after the publication of “Your Right Arm” in Clarkesworld. But the core idea of taking “prosthetic brains” to their most melodramatic conclusion actually came from a Memory Network conference I attended at the University of Roehampton in 2014. I’d had a crash course of sorts in the directions Memory Studies had taken while I was working on postmemory based on LaCapra and Hirsch’s work for my PhD dissertation. I was intrigued by the idea of prosthetic brains, and excited by the papers presented about “neurolit”. I wasn’t really thinking about writing academic articles about “neurolit” (although I still have a couple of William Gibson articles in drafts). Instead, I badly wanted to write neuropunk type space opera.

So. “Your Right Arm” sold. Directly after, I started drafting my first story about Zhen-Juan on Teja-II. She was sneaking away in the night from her spouse to go on a covert mission for the Bunian Empire. She resented this a lot. I knew she’d been exiled, but I didn’t quite know why. It evolved into a kind of military SF-space-opera-neuropunk hybrid, but it was missing several important components. It took me nearly a year to work out what I wanted to flesh out.

When I write any story, I tend to start with a strong sense of the characters in my stories. My narratives are influenced by my perception of those characters. I don’t think I’ve adored a character as much as I adore Zhen-Juan. Writing her felt natural, with her long face, with her self-effacing lack of ability to see her own qualities (and her faults). And I always wanted to write about a lady time-traveler. I’m not going to say too much about her disabilities because that would spoil the story, but at least two are ones I partially share, one as someone who has been partially paralysed due to spinal injury. So, there was Zhen-Juan.

I had a sense something terrible had happened to estrange her from her home planet. I couldn’t really work out what it was. It really bugged me for a few months. I’d sit down with my paper journal and just come up with several ideas but none seemed to fit who she was as a person, not in an organic, natural progression sort of way. Everything clicked into place after I wrote an academic review about Letters to Tiptree, which required me to read not just the book, but Tiptree’s short stories. It was love at first read for some of those short stories (I’d read “The Women Men Don’t See” when I was a teenager). What I loved about her narratives were how generous they were, how expansive in some ways of the sense of character and place, while a searing anger underscored so many of her stories. It set off a fire in my brain. And I asked myself, “What frightens you?”, which had me remembering that masterclass I took with Ian McDonald about “writing down your fear” in 2015. I freely admit I was skeptical during the workshop because it was all so touchy-feely to my INTj brain but yo! Later, it made SO MUCH SENSE.

So I sat down and tried to work out what scared the ever-loving shit out of me (pardon my french).

And I had my answer.

I’ve known many Yun-Lis in my life. Since my days in primary school. When I was an undergraduate. In my working life. Since I’ve had (mild) successes in both the academic and authorly sphere, I’ve had to endure an escalation of various shenanigans by people who exhibit “zero-sum game, winner takes all” mentality. To no avail would I say or try to demonstrate that, “really, there’s no competition, it’s great if everyone succeeds”. They’d agree but they’d still be obsessed and bizarre. Honestly, the more published I get, the more I feel like a scared rabbit. So  there was something to write about, I thought.  Needless to say, in real life, I generally shy away from these sorts. They terrify me, though so what better antagonist?  I thought that would make an interesting kind of adversary, especially in a space opera military setting. But I don’t like writing outright bad antagonists — and I wanted to show that Yun-Li was a flawed but rounded character. I also wanted Zhen-Juan to be unaware of her own actions and motivations. It was a bit of a challenge, one that required me to sit inside Zhen-Juan’s head quite a bit.

So there you have it. Thematically, I thought to write a story about prosthetic and collective memories (me having fun with the idea of personal and public memory, which I’ve written so many thousands of words about as an academic), family, identity theft, survival, and of course, time travel. But really it’s up to anyone to make of the story what they will, reading is a subjective experience, after all. Don’t let my views as an author determine how you read 8)

I have no real knowledge if I’ll ever sell another Admiral Zhen-Juan story (impostor syndrome never goes away!) but I’m going to keep on writing them because I have never written a character that I liked this much, flaws and all. The next one is more fun!

Note on the title: The working title for this was the Tiptree-esque “Elision Elision The Teeth in My Spine” but I changed it during revisions because “Prosthetic Daughter” was perfect in so many ways (also that title felt a bit pretentious) — it is basically a neuropunk military space opera. This has nothing to do with the a certain anthology which started being publicized around the time my story had already been accepted.

Prosthetic Daughter, Issue #125, Clarkesworld Magazine, February 2017.

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[poetry]: Interrogate Me

by on Dec.18, 2016, under Poetry

(c) Nin Harris

if i am locked in stasis
like the pose of some ancient dancer
preserved in a jellied womb
lucent like amber glows
am i still the dance?
fingers will not tingle
bloodstream clogged with worries
and doubt–is this the moment the dancer
separates and becomes waxwork
– a representation of her art?
who divides?
{questioner and the questor}
what dissects?
{answer from the interrogator}
are you the unresolved yearning of
the ultimate eroticist for diversion
or mystic desiring one-ness with the slurry
of Universal harmonics?

You seek to re-create me, but is it rather
my destruction that you desire?
Pull me into the tabernacle of your quest(ion)ings
you can attempt to pry
apart the skins that hold me close —
I feel fingers along every fibre of those
protective coverings, trying to penetrate
the interior. Sometimes a dirt-encrusted
nail reaches within only to encounter resistances
of bloodstream, body, and mind.

Automatic pilot activates the spooling of programmed
answers while they drive in another
stainless steel nail to unearth obscure
treasure from the wreckage of experience.

The hunt is the head of the serpent
the hunted is the tail
watch me swallow myself whole
watch me swallow myself whole.
(11 August 2003)

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[poetry]: Between Stillness and the Dance

by on Dec.14, 2016, under Poetry

(c) Nin Harris 2004-2016

Oyster furled liminalities,
the grip of Baubo trembling laughter
in Demeter’s wake of grief.

Soliloquy –
watching the moment
drizzle on inside hyacinth sunpetals of dew
possession beyond the auspices of rue
forged on chains of ivy

We climb upward unnoticed in
the shadow-dappled sunlight
forsaking silkbound checkpoints of
sapient sentries

We dance through subterranean
passages to meadows of starlight
dappled hues of dark
– lit from within like Sister Moon

Starlight –
energy shivering in
an apsara’s pose

Laminate this moment
hold it down like the Leviathan of
the deep.

Coyote pries open the code
and finds nothing there
to greet the sunlight

(29 July 2004)

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[poetry]: What The Woods Mean

by on Dec.14, 2016, under Poetry

(c) Nin Harris 2003-2016

Daughter of tar highways and steel-winged
flights, I belong to this age where
travels have become rat race transits
clogged with humans in metal cages
within subterranean regions bookmarked in cranial
parameters the trail starts inconvenient –
meandering through almost-invisible
paths into the thick of trees.

Once, roots and twigs crammed
commutes interlaced with hosts of fanged
and invisible passengers shivering
thoughts, freezing veins;
claiming pathways and exacting tolls
eked out of terror-filled imaginings

“We must shut them out!”

More roads built with stones,
clearings paved with sacrifices,
industrial accidents and tears of widows.

“These entities of nature are everywhere
and they are the enemy of virtue! ”

We persisted and bartered for an imposed, uneasy truce.

*

The woods outside dwindled but
inside our heads they loomed larger
and more threatening – becoming
metaphors for journeys, travels, bargains –

forked roads suggesting choice over fate.

*

In my youth I shuddered away
from nightmares where branches
looked like hungry claws while
slanted eyes wait all-patient for me
to slip out of hallowed light.

Adolescence: sleeping within thin wood-plank walls
of weekend retreats, nocturnal bovine sounds became
voracious tigers skulking through rubber plantations;
totems who still stalk my dreams
and taunt me with wordless koans.

I promised that adulthood would find me
nestled within a city far from
the woods: encircled by brick and cement walls
the Big Bad Wolf could not blow down.

Brother Tiger will not be able to eat me if
I am cushioned by public utilities.

I will no longer fear things that tap
from outside windows and jeer at
me from just beyond the
penumbra of safe sleep.

*
This helps me understand why highways are
built and why they fear as they huddle in
governments and conclaves that
shut out the woods; magic and
individuality of errant journeymen
who would dance between the trees
and shamans who climb tireless up
(g)hosted trunks to mate the heavens.

*

My dreams still shiver resolve but my waking self
mourns the physical forests and childhood adventures
of mind. Weep for stories of journeys that were
more than just literary devices and metaphors. Weep
for a world sliding here and there on scales of
human duality.

In cemented underground parking lots
wolves without fur still exist; devoid of grace and
innocence they denude the furred and feathered
hunters of mythic woods – murder both the Wolf and Red Riding Hood.

I fear this unnatural forest of human hate and
enclosures of cement and steel more than
the dark enclosures between trees, more than
Brother Tiger laughing at me through doorways
in dreams. I fear more the empty eyes of humans
lacking love; desiring only annihilation
and satisfaction of the lower chakras
while the screams and pleadings of
their victims become epodes for
vacant beings.

*

You have denuded the jungle but your replacements
are more terrifying. You cannot remove these
woodland quests, only mutate the labyrinth.
There are still paths to keep to and safety in numbers.

“Be bold but not too bold”
when you’re wandering a tar and cement forest
through office buildings and travails up
corporate ladders, senates and pop-charts. Discard
the red hood of womanly desire and awareness
for it is still the mark of the harlot and tells them you
deserve what you get. It assures virtuous women
they’d be safe from wild animals lurking outside
if they hide inside your walls and

agree not to live.

Remember: do not desire more than
we have decided you can have- Bluebeard
still waits with his casting couch in a bloody
castle at the forest’s heart. The dismembered
arms and heads of your sisters should teach you
a lesson you’ll never forget.

Remember: the cost of knowing more
than we have decided you should – it
is the mark of waywardness and we’ll only
throw you into the pond to make sure you can’t
swim for if we were meant to be in water we’d surely be given fins.

Unconscious memory filters these
highways we speed down, exacting a toll on
our minds even as we nudge
aside collective guilt – create new lore
out of screaming headlines and electronic mass
morality tales.

*


C:\
C:\NUMINA

*
Won’t you dance between the trees with me?

Let us outwit Robber Bridegrooms and wicked Kings.
– climb up fanciful trunks of enlightenment so stars
may annoint us with courage beyond these binary woods.

I know we can be bold here – within these forests
of our souls. Let us laugh at distorted
reflections on windows with ever-tapping
branches; begging us to please let the Outside in.

 

(18 August 2003- 9 October 2003)

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On Not Being a Revenant: At The Crossroads as a (postcolonial) Gothic Scholar

by on Dec.13, 2016, under (post)colonial Gothic academia, The Escritoire

Hello! The Escritoire is a blog category that I’ve been meaning to use for quite some time, a place to write about my process as an author. I’ve decided to expand on that to write about my process and challenges as an academic as well. This is only the first of what I hope will be a series of posts. And this one is more general because it’s an introduction.

I call myself a postcolonial Gothic academic. What does that entail? Are my priorities, for instance, different from those of Gothic academics from the first world and the Northern hemisphere?

Not automatically, I’d declare. We all come from the same place of loving literature, all that is spooky, and sublime. What propels me towards Gothic literary scholarship is the same thing that propels me towards being an SFF author with Gothic roots and propensities. It’s in the stories I read, it’s in the philosophies and literary criticisms I devour as though they were page-turning thrillers. It is fueled by a sepulchral fascination with my own night-terrors, my fears and paranoias.

When I teach my Masters in Literature course on Gothic Literature in Popular Culture and Media, I tell my students that I am drawn to this topic because I am afraid, and I want to know why I’m afraid. That inquisitiveness about the darker aspects of the human psyche informs my fiction-writing as well. I am not always political. I am more inclined towards exploring the intimate minutiae of human nature, the ways in which we screw up, the things that influence us, the things that draw us against our better nature.

And one of the things I love about Gothic literary criticism is that it gives me an apparatus within which I can explore the intersections between the supernatural and the personal, the gruesome and the sublime. Also, some of the best written literary scholarship out there are by Gothic scholars, displaying an intimate understanding of the written word coupled with the complicity of psyches that wallow and delight in the manifestations of the Night and all it brings.

And yet — as a South East Asian, I have often felt alienated by this tradition as well. Why is that? Well, I don’t think people automatically set out to make me/us feel alienated, to be fair. But most of Gothic scholarship is centered on the west, and even when it looks outwards, that centrality is still set in place. We write from the margins, we are studied in the margins. There’s this kind of possessiveness about the Gothic I’ve encountered during conferences as well, a kind of hostility that I’ve experienced (but will not expand upon on this blog).

In that most famous tract on the postcolonial Gothic that I problematised in my PhD dissertation, the ontology of the postcolonial Gothic is linked to loss, of never being able to return to a point of origin. The Gothic Other then, should revel in her state of being, a state of loss — content only to be a revenant.

In one of the comments made by a PhD examiner, she asked me to make very clear that I understood that the supernatural elements I was studying were psychological “vehicles” and to make the Lacanian slant clearer. I acquiesced of course — but here’s the thing…

Here in South East Asia, horrors stalk us everywhere. In corridors. In our dreams. We may have relatives who are yogis, or who are witch doctors. We have tales about saka, and bunian, and pontianak and penanggalan. These stories aren’t “metaphors” of colonial subjugation, or of our loss of culture. They don’t exist to be picked apart by western apparatuses as manifestations of our collective psyches.They are part and parcel of our world, our unempirical superstitions. And while as a scholar I take the stance of empirical distance — choosing to study these aspects of literature from an analytical and psychological point of view, I know that when I take out the trash after 8pm, I shouldn’t look left or right. I know I am saying prayers under my breath. I know the fine line we walk. A fine line we talk about unempirically and without irony. Yes, even in academia. And we’re not talking about it because we want to analyse our psyches. We’re talking about it because we know that the buildings we inhabit have a culture, a history, and sightings that only idiots wouldn’t respond to with caution.

Are they somehow psychic manifestations? Are people all collectively deranged? I suppose to the West it would seem like it. I am far more empirical than most in these parts and do take quite a few things with a pinch of salt. But I have seen and experienced too much not to be careful even so.

These are the things that distance me from the hallowed halls of Gothic academic scholarship in the first world. Things I don’t write about as a scholar but which I address in my fictions. We have stories about the bunian in my estranged maternal family as well. What did I do with those stories? I turned them SFnal, created an entire empire from the stories and the night-terrors I inherited.

The freedom I do not get as an academic, I expand into my fictions. But as an academic I ask different questions. I cannot ask the same distant questions as an academic in the first world. Yes, I delight in all of those early Gothic writings. Yes, I have read Burke more times than I care to admit, and I’ve been a huge Romantic since my teenage years when I read Shelley, Byron, Wordsworth and Keats more times than I care to tell you. I read Coleridge when I was eight years old. This has been my whole life, this sad colonial legacy that grew into a passion and inquisitiveness for the Gothic spaces around me (although some would declare that only English spaces are Gothic spaces, forgetting that the philosophical, literary and theoretical roots and influences of the Gothic come from Europe and to a certain extent, the Middle East).

The colonial mansion I grew up in, the low-cost homes built in the 80s and the 90s we lived in, post-parental divorce were so Gothic and looms so large in my dreamscapes that I’ve written more than one story about it. My land is teeming with ghosts, revenants and stories. And yes, we use different words for it. Not “sublime” or “Gothic” or “revenants” but the experiences are cognates to those distilled in the theory books that I read.

I will always cherish and be grateful to the canon and body of Gothic literary scholarship for the apparatus they provided so I could explore my fears, desires, and understand better not just these tales, but how I react to them. But the apparatus is limited. The apparatus is made to study US. We need to study and understand OURSELVES. And here’s the crossroads I am at as a Gothic scholar. One I’ve been at in the past two years since leading two research grants which diverge into genre and gothic — both from Malaysians and from the African Diaspora.

It’s a crossroads of which I am painfully aware every time I teach the Gothic and ask students to tell me about their own fears, their own stories, their own perspectives.

We are not revenants, walking without souls. We are not monstrosities, condemned to forever exist in the marginalia of eurocentric Gothicised discourse. We live, we breathe in an air made thick with nightmares but we belong wholly and solely to ourselves. And this is what I bring with me on the next step on my journey as a postcolonial Gothic scholar (and author).

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A Brief Personal Review of My Year in Writing

by on Dec.09, 2016, under The Escritoire, Thoughts on Writing

This year for me as an author has been quite a whirlwind. Publications nearly every month, reviews every now and then. I do miss being reviewed on Locus (I vastly enjoyed Lois Tilton’s reviews of my works even when she didn’t like it — I have a fondness for cantankerous readers) but my stories have been mentioned on Strange Horizons reviews twice. All in all, 2016 gave me decent amount of reviews, in particular the wonderfully thoughtful and literate reviews by Charles Payseur which serves as a panacea for certain places we shall not mention.

Books I have been in have also been reviewed in newspapers, even mentioned on BoingBoing but since I was not mentioned in those pieces I don’t feel I have any right to lay claim to those successes.

For me personally, it feels like 2015-2016 have been gamechanger years for me. Which leads to more, not less pressure as being me I have set the bar even higher for myself. But. Finish that novel and that historical fantasy novella first, I guess.

I don’t really feel sad that my Campbell eligibility period is drawing to a close. Instead I feel a sense of relief, and pride. I think I did well by my own standards this year and that is a rare thing indeed. I love the stories that were published. They were perhaps not as wildly popular as other authors in my position would hope but I am a bit of an elitist bastard so the idea that I am an acquired taste appeals to me. More importantly, I am really looking forward to the next stage of being a pro writer. If there are any more left for me, that is!

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SFF Works Published in 2016

by on Nov.22, 2016, under Lists!, Publications!, SFF

Hello!

I won’t be having (to my knowledge) anymore fiction publications in 2016. It’s been quite a year. I’ve had around 14 publications inclusive of fiction, flash fiction, academic articles, and various reprints. Of these 14, only 6 are actually eligible for awards nomination so these are the ones I’m going to be listing here. No new poetry for this year so I’m not actually eligible for the Rhysling for 2016. I did get on the list for 2015, which was a HUGE surprise to me but a very nice one — thank you to whomever decided to place me on the list! I’m still quite astounded!

Important note for people who want to know such things: I am in my final year of eligibility for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, so I guess in 2017 the training wheels for the wild and wonderful world of SFF pro publications come off. Eep!

I’m also eligible for all relevant awards: Hugo, Nebulas, World Fantasy, etc.

Mostly this page is here so I can keep track of what I have published this year, and so people will read my stories. Thank you!

Professional Publications 

  1. What The Stories Steal (November 2016) in Clarkesworld. Bereavement, loss, sacrifice, loyalty and what narratives take from us. A Sesen planetary romance. My publication day post is here.(SF: Planetary Romance/Science Fantasy)
  2. Moult (July 2016) in An Alphabet of Embers.  An urban dark/Gothic fantasy set in Kuala Lumpur, about skins, our outer defenses, and what it means to be vulnerable. My publication day post is here. (Dark/Gothic Fantasy)
  3. Morning Cravings (June 2016) in People of Colour Destroy Science Fiction (Lightspeed).  A  Calvino-esque flash fiction piece set on Sesen. Featuring food, taboos, and a lusty lycanthrope. My publication day post is here. (SF: Planetary Romance/Science Fantasy)
  4. Tower of the Rosewater Goblet (January 2016) in Strange Horizons. An embedded interstitial tale about appropriation, powerlessness, quiet resistance, pamphleteering culture, and printing presses. Also a story about relationships and finding your place in the world. Featuring a parable that retools Zeno’s paradoxes, the fable of the hare and the tortoise, and the Castle of the Grail. Yes, one of my more ambitious stories and I love it to death. My publication day post is here. (SF: Planetary Romance/Science Fantasy)

Semi-Professional Publications

  1. Butter-Daughters (October 2016) in The Sockdolager. I’ve described this as a Borgesian planetary romance with a soupçon of body horror (and with truly creeptastic goats).  People seem to really like it! My publication day post is here. (SF: Planetary Romance/Science Fantasy)
  2. Auto-Rejection: An Outro (April 2016) in Trash: A Southeast Asian Urban Anthology (Fixi Novo).  A dark, urban fantasy featuring a penanggalan. My exact pitch when I submitted this to the editors was: “what if the Little Mermaid was a penanggalan-in-training?”. It’s one of my more literary, stream-of-consciousness pieces and is as much a love song to Kuala Lumpur as Moult was.  I used to work in Brickfields, where this story is set, in an NGO college, much like the one I describe in this story. My publication day post is here.(Dark/Gothic Fantasy)

 

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Publication Day: “What the Stories Steal” in Issue #122, Clarkesworld Magazine

by on Nov.02, 2016, under Author News and Updates, Publications!

I really enjoy doing Publication Day posts not just because I get to tell the world I have a new story out, but because sometimes I get to talk a bit about the process and the backstory. Like most authors, I could probably write essays about my own stories. And it stops me from annoying people on social media by going on and on about it!

I am really happy and thrilled that Neil and Sean accepted this story. It took me a year (exactly a year!) but I am back on the Clarkesworld page! That was partially because I’ve dithered on finishing the stories I wrote that I filed away as “stuff that Clarkesworld would like”, because there’s always that fear the first time was a fluke. I mean I could have sent this in directly after “Your Right Arm” but it was at another pub (because “Your Right Arm” was in second round for a while). And then I was just. Too. Shy. To. Send. Another. Story. So. Soon.

**cough**

This story is one of the oldest stories in my story folder. The idea for it came post 9-11, when the world was rent apart, when I was hurting. I had helped to look after one of my maternal aunts who, because of misdiagnosis, got to final stage of endometrial cancer before it was detected. I had learned the algebra of bereavement and guilt all caregivers undergo — especially so because my relationship with my maternal family is fraught. But my maternal aunt was always kind to me. She was the dean at the law school, and every academic term she’d give me money for my textbooks, a peptalk. I also got to do some light legal research assistant work under her.

To have that kind of history with someone you find intellectual and dynamic, to see them waste away because of cancer. That’s a pain I wouldn’t wish on anyone. I write this and it’s not easy because I have had two separate cancer scares this year. I’m now in the clear for breast cancer but I have to go through the invasive procedures to ensure that I’m just going through early premenopausal and hormonal issues and not endometriosis or endometrial cancer.

This year, my grandmother died. And before that, before even my aunt in 2001, my maternal grandfather, (a literature, geography and history HS teacher and inspector of schools), passed away. I saw him in those heartbreaking final stages too. Felt, even as a teenager — that guilt. Why couldn’t I do enough to make the people I love stay? What had I not done that I could have done so they could live?

So in 2001, my world broke. The IRC chatroom I was in for a couple of years was very close-knit, I even moderated some #mythicfolk sessions there. But when 9-11 happened, in the midst of all my bereavement, I found that in a collective shock and grief, also an anger as people I had liked turned on me because I was the only person from a third-world nation. I had gone from being a friend to being The Enemy. And that is how these things happen, really. Stories can change who you are from one minute to the next in the eyes of people.

[LIGHT SPOILERS START HERE]

 

This is my way of saying, the genesis of this tale was as a post 9-11 tale of bereavement and loss within a fraught relationship with this divide — and I wondered if love could ever be enough, if friendship could ever be enough. Or if something more was needed to heal the breach.

Around 2007, when I finally got around to fleshing out the story, I was going through another kind of heartbreak. I was also adjusting to living on my own in a different country for the first time. I wrote this story. I was a bit frightened and awed by it, but I was not happy with it. I submitted it, it was rejected. And I thought, “Well, that’s that.”

But something kept me going, kept me having faith in it. And then in 2010, at Worldcon, through an alignment of miraculous events, I found myself having dinner with the editor who rejected it and her partner. I thought she’d forgotten the story. But she told me she loved it, but she had to make such difficult choices. I thought she was being nice so I brushed it aside in my usual awkward self-effacing way. And she got quite cross with me! 🙂

Funnily, it’s because she got quite cross that it sank in that she meant it. She loved the story. There was something in it that mattered. So I kept plugging on. And then I showed it to my mentor at the time, Erzebet Yellowboy because I told her I was worried I might be  problematic. She very patiently explained to me what was wrong, and during the course of our correspondences I realised that I didn’t want to set it on earth at all.

I wanted to set it on Sesen.

So I slowly whittled away at it from year to year. A little frightened of the story but still believing in it. Then last year after I finished all of the Tower of the Rosewater Goblet stories, armed with the accelerated worldbuilding I had done for those stories (after 2-3 decades, I started writing Sesen stories when I was 14), I was finally able to work out what I wanted to say in this story, and why it was so right to set it four generations after the first human Arrivals settled in. This is a story in a world where people are still remembering, and grieving for Earth. And really, there are so many levels of grieving in here but I didn’t want it to be just about that.

Like the first story I had published this year, Tower of the Rosewater Goblet, I wanted this story to be medicine, but of a more soothing kind. That story was about what happens when we have our stories and our identities taken from us (and I’m not done with this theme as it’s still bugging me both epistemologically and ontologically). This story is about what stories do to us, what they wring out of us. How stories can either build walls, or become bridges.

And I hope I haven’t spoiled it too much, lol.

All my love and thanks to everyone who ever read and commented  on this story through its troublesome teenhood till its final maturity. Thank you. If I do not name you it is because I do not want to namedrop and presume upon your kindnesses.
What the Stories Steal, Issue #122, Clarkesworld Magazine, November 2016.

 

 

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