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. 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!
Butter-Daughters, The Sockdolager, Fall 2016, Issue 7, 20 October 2016.
So, I’m all caught up with my Publication Day posts now. I decided not to post about the three reprints (3 for fiction, 2 for poetry) because that would be a bit much. The things I’ve been in have been mentioned on various media however, which was nice.
I’ve got a couple of acceptances but I have a new policy of not spelling out where, even after I’ve signed the contract. Just consider me superstitious! They’re both semipro acceptances and hopefully you’ll all be hearing about that sometime in the not so distant future.
What else? There have been a couple of poetry readings, which were good practice for me, I suppose. Doubt there’ll be anymore. I’m basically just focusing on finishing up my novel right now, so am lying low. Despite all the publications, I’ve been pretty low profile in other ways. And I’m not going to be shilling myself for various things. Seems futile and I’d rather just focus on writing better stories. My game plan? Craft and Grace. Craft and Grace.
Hope everyone is fine.
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
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.
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).
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):
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!
(c) Nin Harris 2012. All Rights Reserved.
I smooth warpaint on
my features as a mark of
war, not of seduction.
It is a reminder that the inner face
remains for the intrinsic me.
The warpaint is read as
an invitation for conquest.
There is no happy ending
for this tale; no rant
against being objectified
will be effective.
I have elected to be
a woman and by being a woman,
I mean painting my features
not hiding my curves
and letting my hair flow
like a war-general
rather than a seductress
Naturally this means
I cannot be a feminist
because I have not
decided to be gender-neutral
because I have not decided
to obliterate everything
that is womanly about me.
I have had a lifetime
of having a boy-cut hairstyle;
dressed in little girl clothes
chosen by an abuser
aimed at suffocating
any sign of sensuality
I choose beauty not so I
can be prey or victim.
I choose beauty as an
act of aggression.
I choose love,
not because I like being vulnerable
I choose love because there
is nothing more empowering
or as humbling
as true knowing
I choose love — and this is a
fine distinction. I choose it.
Poets have written about
love being an animal
that chases you down
but the truth is that in love
as in war, there is always choice,
There are many loves,
and one does not need to be
the recipient of a love given
grudgingly, against the
better nature and inclination
of its giver.
If love is not to be war then
love must be given freely
or not given at all.
If beauty is not to be war
then we should be allowed to wear
all of our colors boldly without
anyone insisting that
we remain weak and vulnerable
for them alone
Love is not the fetishising
of unnatural and imbalanced
Love is not of imposed
choices by those who do
not know the strength
of our individual hearts.
If Love is not to be war
then let us choose to
be powerful and glorious
in all of our unions.
(c) Nin Harris 2014. All Rights Reserved.
Metaphorical Miles Crosses
have littered my life
as I wait for my true love
in different shapes and forms.
They pass me by on dappled horse, on bicycles
on their own two feet, but never have I pulled.
Never have I held a lover in my arms, to wait,
until I twist with pain against a red-hot brand.
I’ve twisted from the blister of words and games;
but in recall we can admit, they carried not the sting
of faerie punishments; more the default of humankind.
Now, if I were to see a milk-white steed
riding past me on the highway; I would pull the
rider down only to pull myself up.
I would ride away with my hair
flowing behind me in
an eldritch halo
I would join the host for one foolhardy night.
Note: I’ve returned to the motif of Tam Lin again and again since my teens. This poem references both that ballad and a song I wrote at the age of sixteen. Consider it a Midsummer’s gift for all of you.
(c) Nin Harris 2014
Slithering into a burrow
Mr. Wend-his-Way meets
his match in my afternoon
of devices and tropes.
Bear-like, his words amble
like shagged paw-prints upon
foliage strewn forest-path
but our parallel journeys
take us nowhere close
to the East-of-West-of Moon-Sun
Home for Literary Strays.
Instead, I cast a backward glance
and turn left where the highway
intersects with our
secret arboreal treks.
I hitch a ride with a bejewelled
stranger in a red car peddling
rich bass and high speed
while Mr. Wend-His-Way
settles down in his burrow to
dream of castles-in-the-muck we
built out of territorial tusslings.
c) Nin Harris 2014. All Rights Reserved.
I string instruments automatically
the fear of forgetting forgotten
— fingerpads and joints take over.
The body remembers competence
even when the soul does not.
Someday, my fear of losing you
will be forgotten.
All guitar strings must be replaced
but the music does not
fret the changing
of the nylon guard.
Someday I will make a song
sweeter than the jangling
cacophony of your regard
like an ill-tuned string
frayed at the edges
waiting to snap
with juddering speed
like whiplash against
the skin of my face.
Someday, my fear of not-loving you
will be replaced.