The Mythogenetic Grove

Publications!

Publication Day: “Reversion” in Issue #131, Clarkesworld Magazine

by on Aug.04, 2017, under Author News and Updates, Publications!

Phew! It’s been quite a week for me and quite a journey for this story! Amidst a pretty frightening health scare this week, I had the excitement of knowing this was coming out. Suffice it to say, I have A LOT to say about this story but I’m also worried that if I say too much I’ll detract from the actual experience of reading it. So I strongly recommend you read the story first before you read this! ;o)

First thing I need to say: No, sorry. This story is not autobiographical. Not at all. I am not on some fuel planet, and I have never worn a tuxedo. There are no lovelorn cephalopods waiting for me on distant shores! Having said that, it’s informed by real life experiences and emotions in ways that are not always obvious.

First, for those of you in the cephalopod-loving school, here’s a digital painting I made in 2010, which was a norty riff off Hokusai’s nortier paintings:

 

(Link to DeviantArt page for it with more explanation)

I have always been mildly amused by tentacle pr0n and cephalopod-lovers. But you can’t deny they are rather majestic creatures who are frighteningly intelligent. So it’s no surprise that it’s a HUGE Lovecraftian motif but no Cthulhus were maligned in the making of this story. I do have some Lovecraftian riff story ideas somewhere in my head — you can’t research and write about Lovecraftian motifs as a Gothic academic and not want to write your own — but this story comes from something else.

(even though in RETROSPECT I went “Ahah, shades of Innsmouth! Didn’t expect THAT to happen!”)

There were several OTHER influences for this story, presented in a haphazard fashion!

(1) The first impulse for this story occurred during a brief beach vacation in Port Dickson in 2000, around the time when I was an editor at a Johor publishing house. It was a vacation with family and one of my very good friends who was also a colleague (one of the rare HS friends I’m still in contact with). A beach holiday in Port Dickson felt like being on a fuel planet. There were ships, offshore rigs, and the sands were red. Completely red! This made the South China Sea look green, and I immediately started having SFnal daydreams. I was at the beach but my mind was imagining a fuel planet with an engineer stationed there. She was unhappy. And that was because she would rather  be somewhere else. In this story, I imagined that she would be learning new things about her heritage and her spirituality. Wasn’t sure what it was — but I really enjoy far future SF universes that dig deep into Earth cultures, even though the old school of it can be quite problematic. That night, I sat on the balcony with my SFnal imaginings and something peculiar was happening. There were people down on the beach with flashlights and they seemed to be looking for something. That intrigued me so much that it went into the rough story idea in my head — a mish-mash of different scenes and ideas without a cohesive plot at this stage).

Then I had another vacation in 2001, this time in Ipoh, across from the limestone cliffs where the Sam Poh Tong Temple was. And that gave me more ideas about there being a cousin who was this mouthy holy kind of person.

(2) I set this story aside as an idea because work, grad school (my MA studies) and various other things came in-between. And then I discovered, around 2005-2006, an entire universe of online SFF zines and blogs that I never knew existed (despite being a lurker on the SurLaLune fairytale forums). Well, my world kind of changed. I’ve been reading Clarkesworld Magazine off and on since the first issue in 2006. I yearned to be published in it but never thought I’d ever be good enough. And the moment — the MOMENT I started reading it, I suddenly knew I wanted this story of mine to be a story for this magazine. So there you go. This was always a story I wanted to be a Clarkesworld story even though I tried to play it cool by submitting it to two other places beforehand — mostly because I had Prosthetic Daughter in CW slush, also when you want a thing too much you’re kinda scared to go and try to get it. So no, I didn’t scare the good editors with this anecdote during my submission, I was still trying to play it as cool as I could, given that I submitted it directly — and bashfully– after the publication of Prosthetic Daughter.

(3) I started drafting this after my PhD studies began in earnest in Brisbane. Sometime between 2009-2010, but some elements were still unclear to me. Why was this engineer of mine unhappy? I left it aside and started making outlines about the ecosystem of Psychereon. One day, I wrote a passage about her changing identities, and driving tourists to the edge of dead volcanoes — and that imagery really struck me. Well of course she had been happy somewhere else, but why did she have to leave?

(4) I mused about the “why” of it until 2015 when I wrote a further rough draft about what she’d left behind — and then it became a story of “after first contact” and I really just dove deep into language, and longing. I was already immersed in cephalopodic images and I’ve been writing underwater passages and stories since forever so it was a natural progression for me.

(5) Last year, my grandmother died. Around the time when I was going for various ceremonies as an eldest grand-daughter “not of the faith”, I was struggling with grief, anger, and feeling out of place. I wanted to write a story that was a warm hug  to sooth my sadness and frustration because nothing made sense. And there’s this sense of sometimes as a hybrid you’re alienated from your own cultures, even if people are kind to you. But my grief is not Aakriti’s grief and she remains distinctly herself.  Ever had a character who argues back to you as you try to write her? That’s Aakriti for you.

IMPORTANT NOTE: none of my Tamil aunties was maligned in this story, although I’ll admit freely that the frank, mischievous and no-nonsense attitude of Cousin Sharanya may owe a thing or two to my Youngest Aunt. I even gave her one of Youngest Aunt’s favourite things to say (don’t worry, I’m buying her dinner!).

Mostly, I didn’t want this to be a tragic story. I have seen too much sadness. I wanted a story that says, “Hey, it’s okay to relate to your culture(s) in an awkward way, to have all of this love, conflicted emotions, and frustration — there’s a place for you and you can decide how/where you want to be.”

(6) Cephalopods! You can’t read and consume tons of things about Cephalopods in popular culture without eventually writing about them! First contact stories always fascinate me but also, I always wonder why the romantic ones are almost always humanoid. But a couple of Clarkesworld stories broke the mould where that’s concerned so of course I wanted to continue that grand Clarkesworld tradition.

(Incidentally, I’m somewhat amused by the fact that an ex-flame/crush is crazy about all things cephalopods, but no crushes were maligned in the making of this story. But I would be lying if I said not even a smidgen of that leftover emotion slipped into this story. Sorry bro, I’m not buying you dinner. Hope you’re not having sleepless nights! I could have left this out but I am a norty person.)

And there you have it. I could write about the other things that went into the weaving of this tale — thoughts about state borders, thoughts about repression, gender identities, language, immigration, family, the ethics of being an ally etc — but, I’d rather you read and unpack the layers yourselves. It’s one of my most straightforward stories, but for all that, it’s also one of my most layered.

And if you like it, you might (if I may be so vain as to say) be happy to know I’m writing a sequel about another figure I have come to love from this story. I love this Tamilian family I created almost as much as my own family and I want to tell more of their stories.

In closing, thank you Neil, Sean and the rest of the Clarkesworld team for making one of my dearest SF dreams come true! I can’t believe this is out in Clarkesworld! OMG! YOU HAVE NO IDEA!!!!1111

(I have no chill you guys, seriously no chill when this is concerned!)

Reversion in Clarkesworld Magazine, Issue #131, 1 August 2017

 

 

 

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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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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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Publication Day: “Butter-Daughters” in The Sockdolager, Fall 2016, Issue 7

by on Oct.20, 2016, under Author News and Updates, Publications!

Hello!

Surprise story publication day!

I actually dreamed about the butter-daughters sometime in 2009. I woke up around dawn a bit scared of the dream because it was so totally vivid and surreal. So I typed out as much as I could remember in a notepad. This was before I had read Borges’s Fictions. I knew I wanted it to have the kind of first-person account you get in thick compendiums of supernatural sightings. When I returned to the story in 2014, it became a planetary romance but with that same folkloric kind of slant. Since this was post-my reading and rereading Borges, that was an influence.

This hasn’t changed much since I first wrote it all out and submitted it in 2014 to Alphabet of Embers along with Moult. Moult was accepted, and this got a lovely personal rejection that said it could not be accepted since Rose had accepted Moult! From then on, it got to that much coveted second round at DSF, also at FSI but never sold. I kept it on ice for a bit, and half-wondered if I wanted to flesh out the story to submit. But, I decided to give this story another chance. I modified the ending a bit so it was more obvious that the narrator was a male chef in his later years (sorry spoilers) and then sent it out again. I was so happy that the lovely editors at The Sockdolager decided to accept it and happy it was in such a good and spooky issue.

I really love this story and am very happy that I can now share it with the world. This is now my third Sesen story to be published this year. Squee!

Also, I suspect I AM going to be writing another, even more Borgesian story about the events at the heart of this one.

Butter-Daughters, The Sockdolager, Fall 2016, Issue 7, 20 October 2016.

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Publication Day: “Moult” in An Alphabet of Embers

by on Oct.05, 2016, under Author News and Updates, Publications!

This issue went live sometime in July. I am still trying to catch up on my publication day posts but I’ve decided not to have individual posts for the reprints (I’ve had about 2-3), so this is basically it for now!

Moult was essentially written in a single sitting, sent out and got accepted a few weeks later. It is a story about transformation, about shedding your skin and becoming something else — either metaphorically, or literally. At its root however, it is a story about language and what it does to us. This is one of my stories that uses both English and Malay.

Moult, An Alphabet of Embers, Stone Bird Press, July 2016

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Publication Day: “Morning Cravings” in People of Colour Destroy Science Fiction

by on Oct.05, 2016, under Author News and Updates, Publications!

This issue came out on the 1st of June. I am still trying to catch up on my publication day posts.

“Morning Cravings” is the second of my Sesen stories to be published this year. “Morning Cravings” is an intimate kind of story, and is relatively smaller in scale. I like writing small, intimate vignettes set in complex worlds. I was very influenced by Italo Calvino’s literary phantastic aesthetic when it came to science fiction (see his Cosmicomics) as well as a more literary story of his depicting a couple. However, that was just a passing influence. The actual story is based on the idea of taboos and the intersection of cultures. In this case, that of the Dvenri, and of the Barlishya, one of the peoples native (in a sense) to Sesen. Derthye is actually the protagonist of the second book of the unfinished Yrole Triptych so in a small way this story is a bit of a spoiler, but I am glad to be able to share the haunting tale of her life with Ycliss. It’s been one that’s haunted my brain for a few years now.

Morning Cravings, People of Colour Destroy Science Fiction, Lightspeed, 1 June 2016.

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Publication Day: “Auto-Rejection: An Outro” in Trash (Fixi Novo)

by on Sep.12, 2016, under Author News and Updates, Publications!

Trash, along with the other Urban South-East Asian books was actually launched in April, 2016. However I’ve had a terrifyingly packed 2016 and the times when I wasn’t bogged down, I was staring in space trying to regain energy and marbles lost during the hectic period. So, this is the first of my “belated” Publication Day posts.

“Auto-Rejection: An Outro” started life as an actual outro for the collection that never happened: Rejection Songs aka #allofthebirdshavebeenreleased. They were to be a set of Bunian Empire stories that were more urban, more surreal, more literary and with cyberpunk-noir elements in them. My premise for this particular story during revisions was “What if I retooled the Little Mermaid as a penanggalan-in-training story?” but the actual story was drafted in an indie/hipster outlet while waiting for a Russian punk-rock band to play (“I Am Waiting For You Last Summer”), a few hours after I discovered I had to go for a biopsy for the lumps in my breast.

The clinic nurse who called me gave me the wrong dimensions for the lumps so those are what’s given in the short story — but it spooled out from there. It came from a place of pain and regrets, but spooled out into its own storyverse, anchored in Brickfields, where I used to work. Brickfields to me used to be quintessentially Kuala Lumpur in a wonderfully multicultural way. But with KL Sentral and various other newer buildings there, the landscape has changed quite a bit. I wanted to capture that tension in this story, as well as the tension between old colonial values and the trauma of everyday living. What do we keep? What do we throw out?

I think this is one of my most emotional stories — with only some autobiographical instances in it. For example, there was no crushbird during the night when the story was drafted. I kind of imagined myself as the protagonist and what she would write during the setting. It’s what I do a lot when I write stories, a kind of literary performance utilising the same strategies I use when I teach the Stanislavski System to performance students.

Auto-Rejection: An Outro, 11 April 2016, Trash (Fixi Novo) (Print/ebook).

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How Did It Get to September???

by on Sep.03, 2016, under Acceptances!, Author News and Updates, Publications!, SFF, Watermaidens

Hello!

Gosh, it’s been some months since I updated this! Mostly it was because I was simply terrified at the number of “Publication Day” posts I needed to do, and I told myself I would wait until everything I was in for the year was out!

It’s been a pretty fruitful year as far as publications go. I’ve had reprint requests as well!

Here’s a picture of all the print anthologies I am in thusfar for this year (excluding Up-and-Coming, which was in ebook format only):

contributor copies

 

I am grateful to everyone who has reviewed and read my short stories. I am pleased about being in all of the publications you see in that picture.

Individual belated “Publication Day” posts will happen eventually.

For now, know that I am hard at work at finishing Watermyth, and am still actively sending out short stories and academic articles. I’m also still working on my academic monograph on Helen Oyeyemi.

I’ve had an acceptance towards the end of August. I’m really pleased about this because it’s a Borgesian planetary romance culinary flash fiction piece with a soupçon of body horror, set on Sesen. I was really worried it was too odd for most markets, but the editors who bought it apparently really liked it, so yay! 🙂

In many other ways, it’s been a pretty challenging year for me. There have been nonstop deadlines, and two deaths in my family. I’ve also had health issues and have been adjusting to life with insulin. But I can’t complain about the amount of publications I have this year. It’s just getting to the next level that’s been incredibly challenging, lately.

I hope everyone who reads this website is doing well, and that you’ve all had a fruitful and happy few months.

 

Till the next update!

xoxo

Nin

 

 

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Publication Day: “Tower of the Rosewater Goblet”, in Strange Horizons

by on Jan.06, 2016, under Author News and Updates, Publications!, SFF

It’s been a rather hectic week so this is actually 3 days late, given that publication day was on the 4th of January, 2016.

Every story I write is special to me in a different way. This story had its genesis in a very dark place I was in, during the “Annus horribilis” of 2009 when I suffered a major injustice that I knew would never be redressed. It had me questioning the nature of storytelling, and of originality. Anyone who has ever read or worked on TS Eliot’s Tradition and the Individual Talent (I wrote a paper about his essays during my MA days, back in 1999) will know that old saw about “there’s nothing new under the sun”. But there are other complicated questions, questions about ethics, questions about what some of us simply will not do and what others will do without guilt or shame. As I asked in the old Arbitrator story I wrote in 2009–how does any storyteller accuse another of this when all that we are is made out of stories and the ideas of others?

Tower of the Rosewater Goblet began as a sort of meditation on that, but I set it in Sesen, and the story grew into a meditation into various other intersecting concerns: appropriation, colonization, autonomy. But that sounds very political, doesn’t it? It started that way, it didn’t end up that way, once I got to know Erheani and her family, and then Madame Li-Yan, and started to care for these characters. They dictated the story. The pamphlets did the rest. I was and remain passionate about pamphlets and pamphleteering culture. While working on Nigerian-English Literature for my PhD dissertation I did some side-research on the Onitsha pamphlets, and last year I did some pretty intense research on the Early Gothic Revival pamphlets. I wanted to capture some of that freewheeling grandiosity in this story, and the romance/love of printing presses and how they’ve been integral to the blossoming of more than one post-colonial nation.

 

One of my long-lost uncles was a newspaper man back in the 60s-80s in Ipoh, Perak. He died a few  weeks ago. I’m thinking of that, and the history of the press in my country as well. And how fragile all of these apparatuses for voicing ourselves and telling our stories are. How vulnerable we are to censure, and sometimes worse than that, erasure.

If this story was political, it’s political because it is a story I wrote to deal with my own demons and vulnerabilities. I wish I was as strong as Erheani, but maybe that’s why I wrote her. I wrote her for people like me, for the kind of heroes I want to read about, and I hope she’ll mean to you what she means to me. If even a little bit. Because this story is my antidote for all of those inner demons that tell me I cannot write, that I’m never going to amount to anything, that I’ll always be this fat, this ugly, this worthless. But inner demons are like that, aren’ they? They’re the internalization of all of the ugliness we endure in life, the things that are said to us, the things we are made to believe, because they reflect the self-hatred and the fear of others.

This story I wrote so I could laugh in the face of all of those inner demons. But I can share this medicine, this anti-demon spell. It helped me. If you need it, I hope it’ll help you as well.

Tower of the Rosewater Goblet, 4 January 2016, Strange Horizons.

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