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[poetry]: Golden Apples of Desire, Golden Apples of Revenge

by on Apr.08, 2018, under Poetry

(c) Nin Harris, 1999/2014/2018. All Rights Reserved.

(Pamphlet A632: Museum of Printing History
Description: Ritual Song B4325, used in the Woosteris Mystery Plays)

 

I

Invocation

Listen! I have made you a story
aglow with whorled patterns,
viridian inlaid with leaf-of-gold
upon a diamond-shaped frame,
cobalt borders interweaving deepest teal,
snaking knots of oracle’s purple.

Spider-sister working on the loom;
Arachne, in feminine hubris
dares challenge the Grand Complect.
One woman, nexus of many threads and patterns,
atones for the flouting of Neith’s design
she weaves ‘til warp and weft
transports her into the over-soul.

frigid atalanta’s curling toes poised for flight; her breeze-trembled nose
and tensed limbs like a marked stag in a Sviegian hunt
or a wild boar slain in the name of desire.


II

The Captive Empress

Hyacinths and frangipani bloom outside these prison walls,
fragrant with the balmy sea-kissed air of a Lith Gurland night.
I huddle on a marriage bed, my legs crumpled against my abdomen;
my mind remembers tortured cries of livestock sold in auction
to grace banquet tables of my Dvenri brothers groomed
and tortured as hostages-in-arms, and janissaries.
Tonight I weave in whispers a tale for the Fratricidal Emperor
(though we utter not this name in his presence that hurts
the eyes with the sharpness of a thousand envenomed daggers
)
He has done his worst but the living is still sweet.
I fear more the void of no thought where all stories die.
I must make it good, must make him ache to hear
how Sinbad found the roc’s egg in far away Mirozkh
how old lamps for new spirits a palace away,
how the Noble Chef put an end to doomed Lusini for
the fourth time since its creation in a sugar-laden
slaughterhouse of hook-clawed butter-daughters silvered
by the light of a bloodthirsty moon; I must ensorcell him
with tales of enraptured krakens and
the ovallei priests of a spectral Ocean cradling
the three-masters and conquest-notes
of Reldarian pirates and red-robed spider monks;
I must lay upon him with the artifice of lovers the cantos of
Renduk Milder, that imperial poet-panderer of illicit desires,
that charlatan of the masses. Let me spin this tale then.
Let me pray that the morning sun that shines
through the ornate iron bars will not be my last.
I am running out of stories now that the Caliph of Mirozkh
has made his bride from the sea speak —
she has given him a son and treasures from beneath the waves.
“The princess he has surrendered at long last”,
I say with a twist of my lips, knowing he will like that,
knowing that I bide my time till the day when my word-weavings
will capture his final breath.
My store of tales scant themselves, shriveled mid-sentence
in my craw as the thousandth night approaches
Should I tell him of the golden apples of desire?
I have kept this tale for last
I will watch as his eyes cloud over with love,
with this witchery that I have brought into the world
— a smitten butcher with blood-stained hands from a dozen deceased wives
And ten dozen slaughtered siblings kneeling at the altar of my stories
while beneath my bed I cultivate
a family of asps fit for a frenzied end.

daughter athlete freedom-fighter huntress
you would run free up and down
mountain ranges
you would be an argonaut
temptress who is never tempted
the downfall of hunters
and lustful Barlishyan lycanthropes.

“We must bring her low!”
— the Woman Who Weaves
caresses the orchard’s pickings
and waits for an enterprising suitor
to call upon her name.

 

III

The Smitten Adventuress

“I will have none other, father
than the one fashioned by my hands!”
Kept hidden in an old recipe book
is the formula for a man & so
the youngest and best-loved daughter
has put on an apron of pristine white
building a man out of caraway seeds,
the thickest celestial cream
to inspire a mystic’s visions,
eggs crafted to be a Barlishya’s doom,
essence-of-violet and honey from the holy bees
and the sweetest candied blood oranges
fit for the Empress of Desire.

Sixteen months to mould you
sixteen months to nurture
I’ll whisper you the secrets of velvet-wrapped desire,
anoint you with the syrup of wild berries
plucked from the hidden groves of the Svieg.

She will climb over the Southern Crescent Range
She will swim the River Svieg as it snakes in and out of cities and the Forest,
She will befriend a family of frogs, court robber-kings and Mirozhi hermits
She will get: a golden tambour, a cartwheel, iron stakes ,
a golden dress, a golden spinning wheel,
and strings of jewels to win back a candied heart.
“Will you not listen? It is I who loved you well!
The jewel-winged arlishya that guards this halls
has turned your heart from mine!”
He drowns in drugged slumber
while servants whisper and crouch
beneath a twice-carved archway,
“I will sing to you of golden apples. Will you not listen?
You once loved this tale so well.”

Golden apples to bring a glow to her cheeks
Golden apples to fan long hidden embers to a conflagration
Golden apples that will be scapegoated as she picks them one by one
Golden apples will he throw to trap the tempest in mid-stride
Golden apples spiked with desire with secrets to beguile a beguiler anew

I surrender to you in delirium, induced by a debt unpaid.

 

IV

Woodswitch, Loomsmother

My primordial roar holds back a melting glacier
by calling forth an avalanche.

Autumnal moon, you watch me drift
amongst bristling trees, branches like antlers
upon my brow, my berry-stained feet and lips.
I dance within Sviegian hidden grottoes overgrown with moss
as another city sinks into the tentacled embrace of Lake Llendrys,
— an avatar of dreaming, a whisper in the night;
listen to my night-wail as I pull the wool over your eyes,
protecting, still protecting my little corner of paradise.
Still crouching in labyrinths, still whirling in moonlit bacchanals.

Come and catch me if you can
Come and love me if you dare;

An ungainly Atalanta running around
ghosts of arboreal stadiums to escape
the beguilement of golden apples
that live within my throat
and snake within my craw,
that lodge within my heart
and pushes these words onto
epics and tales to snare you,
to win me free, to win us free.


(Loomsmother’s curse hits a quivering mark –)

Watch me grow claws, Beloved.
Listen to me roar in wrath.
We will be as two lions in a
temple where once two lovers clasped.


This poem started life as “Golden Apples” in 1999, and I wrote it after I finished my final law exam. In those days I was feverishly rereading Italo Calvino’s Italian Folktales, Lucius Apuleius’s The Golden Ass, and I was reading A.S. Byatt’s Possession for the very first time. This story came out like a fever-dream. It was on my website for many years and I received a lot of positive feedback about it. I took it down around 2006 (honestly I don’t remember exactly when) because I had intentions of making a poetry collection. Around 2014 when I was planning on making a chapbook of all of my Sesen short stories, I retooled and remixed this poem for it. I’ve worked on it off-and-on since then, and am pleased to offer it here on my website. (It’s a bit difficult to submit this to poetry markets since it’s a poetry reprint).

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Publication Notes: Being An Account of The Sad Demise of The Body Horror Book Club in The Dark Magazine , Issue 35, April 2018.

by on Apr.08, 2018, under Author News and Updates, Publications!

Being An Account of The Sad Demise of The Body Horror Book Club started life quite simply, as Drip. It was to be a realist work of fiction of quiet psychological horror and middle-class despair, featuring a book club, and elements of crime fiction. It was going to be my first Granta submission so I carefully worked on it. I was mildly inspired by Margaret Atwood’s short story writing style, which could be a bit chatty and gossipy. But I am not quite a realist author and I couldn’t stop the fantastic from creeping in, especially after it was finally rejected from Granta after being held for months. So in crept the creepy and the supernatural elements! It’s so far my only story set in Puchong and reflects my life living in a condominium.

And yes, I’ve heard some scary things in this apartment. And yes, I’m one of those people who bug security and management about things. But it’s easy to let things slide, isn’t it? It’s easy not to think about the sounds in the night. And in a land drenched with folk horror and superstition, who is to say what you’re hearing is human after all? I think this is why more than one of my stories waver between crime and horror — it’s the stuff in the papers and the magazines. It’s the sinew of our existences as Malaysian. Also, I finally dove into J.G. Ballard’s books last year and was chomping at the bit to say things about them. Delighted when I found a way to weave that into this story, and super-chuffed when it got accepted! I keep thinking people won’t buy my odd stories but they keep proving me wrong! Gosh!

Anyway! After I re-shaped this story, I submitted it to a couple of places. Then I sat down, and improved it some more. And lobbed it at The Dark shortly after When The Night Blooms, An Artist Transmutes: A Three-Act-Play came out. Two days after, as a matter of fact. Boy was I gobsmacked when it was accepted. But thrilled! And very happy it found a home at one of my favourite magazines. Also happy with the positive reception!

In case you’re wondering, no I’ve not set up a Book Club in this condominium complex, though I did fantasize about doing so, and about screening applicants. But not after this has been published. That’ll be tempting fate! 8)

(If people I actually knew were to actually agree on a SFF/fairy tale book club however, I may be persuaded — I keep trying to set up reading groups AND KEEP FAILING FFS WHY DON’T PEOPLE WANT TO CHAT ABOUT BOOKS ONCE A MONTH)

On another amused note: I found out there’s actually a “Ranjini” on our home-owners’s board. I giggled a bit to myself when I heard. It may have been a nervous giggle.

Being An Account of The Sad Demise of The Body Horror Book Club in The Dark Magazine , Issue 35, April 2018.

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Publication Notes: “Violets On The Tongue” in Clarkesworld Magazine, Issue #139, April 2018

by on Apr.07, 2018, under Author News and Updates, Publications!

Sometime between October-December 2014, I’d decided I’d probably never get my short fiction traditionally published, and I set about putting together a chapbook with Tower of the Rosewater Goblet, Butter-Daughters, and other stories of Sesen. In December, over an intense fortnight, I penned three new stories, and completely revised/revamped the three I had already written. Violets On The Tongue was as much an afterthought as was Eggs aka Morning Cravings. You see, I was going to call the stories by these titles:

Eggs (Morning Cravings)
Cream (Redacted since it’s still in submissions)
Butter (Butter Daughters)
Rosewater (Tower of the Rosewater Goblet)
Honey (Violets on the Tongue)
Blood-Oranges (Still being revised, never submitted anywhere yet)

My clever idea was then to come up with a recipe that had all of these ingredients. I haven’t done it yet but I rather think a Rosewater and Blood-Oranges cake might actually work.

(If you make a recipe with these ingredients, feel free to share it!)

Anyway, somewhere along the way I was convinced that self-publishing was maybe not a good idea and there was hope for me yet. I got a couple of acceptances, and more than one person reached out to me and talked me down off that ledge. I appreciate that still after all these years. So in 2015 I spent a lot of time refining those stories, and then I added What The Stories Steal to what seemed to be a collection still in my mind. (hint, jolly big hint)

So, during that intense period in December 2014, Honey was written and it was around 2-3k words, focused on the living crystal, the alien bees, also on Lashav and Eshe. I didn’t quite expect how it turned out, honestly! I wanted it to have the elements that I always wanted to write about the first generation of Arrivals on Sesen. A first contact story, but this isn’t quite that. I certainly didn’t expect to include string theory and pragmatic philosophy but it sort of happened. As did the fact that this story became a sort of meditation not just about identities, but about ontology. I also had great fun playing with Putnam’s hypothesis along with other philosophical concepts. I’ll forever call this my qualia-punk story.

I’ve always known (since teenhood) that Sesen was a planet occupied by humans who then evolved into their own society with tribal custom and histories (blame star trek, star wars, Ursula k LeGuin, Poul Anderson and various other SF authors I read during my nerdy teenhood). I then toyed with the idea of the tensions/resentments brewing amongst the Arlishya/Barlishya because of it (you see that in nearly all of my published Sesen stories to date), so I felt this story explained the beginning of that as well as the connection to the Bunian Empire stories on earth.

I bounced this story off several slushpiles but while my other Sesen stories sold, this one languished. It’s a strange thing that’s very hard-SF in its ethos in one sense but fantastical in another sense. But my short-story writing craft also improved and I took out a lot of unnecessary scenes and explanations. I also went deeper into the interactions and motivations between all three characters.

Originally it was going to be an entirely different story and Eshe/Gyasi were going to be a couple but you know how characters are. You plan one thing for them and they go down an entirely different direction altogether. This is because characters aren’t us — they exist within their own worlds and I’ve always listened to what my characters want to say because I’m a strong believer in the fact that every storyworld has its own inner logic and verisimilitude. I’ve become very fond of Eshe/Gyasi/Lashav and I hope you’ll like them too!

Also, several easter eggs are strewn throughout this tale. I revised What The Stories Steal after I wrote this one and well, the connection lies in a stack of pragmatic philosophy books 🙂

There are other easter eggs which may or may not become apparent if you read the other published Sesen short stories. There are more on the way! Plus! The Yrole Triptych!

(I do hope both “Cream” and “Blood Oranges” also find homes, because that would be really neat. Also, I think if you like my other Sesen stories, you may dig them. Yes, they’re all also connected through gustatory metaphors and imagery as conceived as integral parts of our ontology. What happens when a literary scholar and thinker writes SFF. I am so sorry, it’s a feature, not a bug of Nin Harris stories.)

Violets on The Tongue in Clarkesworld Magazine, Issue #139, April 2018.

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Publication Notes: “Benefactors of Silence” in Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Issue 243, January 2018

by on Apr.06, 2018, under Author News and Updates, Publications!

I’m still gobsmacked by the way this story got accepted and published!

It happened like this: Every semester I make my class on dialogue with students rather adventurous. I tend to make 2-3 students stage an impromptu sketch, and I ask the rest to write their own flash fiction based on the sketch their friends come up with. Additionally, I teach them to format dialogue by writing my own short dialogue for them.

I do this in real time. It’s a no guts, no glory situation. Also, I’m a bit of a show-pony sometimes like that.

So I sat down last year in class and typed out this dialogue between two characters. And as I typed it, the story grew, and grew. Students watched as I wrote “You will never be Lusini”, watched as it became a 300-word flash piece, on the powerpoint slide. Later, after their sketch, while they were writing down their own flash fiction pieces, I finished the story and turned it into a 700-word flash piece. I was also talking to them about narrative voice and mentioned that Beneath Ceaseless Skies had very specific editorial directions when it came to voice. I wrote it in a limited first person POV, and showed them how to format it in Standard Manuscript Formatting to illustrate the voice/style that might fit this publication.

Later that night, after coming home I was going to send it to DSF because it was short. But the story grew, and grew into a tale of Lusini, that’s been haunting me since I finished writing Butter-Daughters, and then started penning its sequel. And I thought about how much I wanted to be published in Beneath Ceaseless Skies.

The story was already over 1k words and so with a deep breath I lobbed it at BCS and was completely astounded when it went into revisions (customary for BCS) and then I was given a contract. It was — almost fairytale-like in how surreal the whole process was. I kept pinching myself. I’m still pinching myself, to be honest!

But I was also so happy to be able to give my students a happy ending to that adventurous exercise in teaching creative writing and I hope they will also be brave enough to submit more of their own works!

Another thing I love about this piece is that it returned to me a kind of lyrical style of writing I had when I was younger but which disappeared during and after my work on my PhD dissertation. I mourned the loss of that voice and was so glad it came back to me.

Benefactors of Silence in Beneath Ceaseless Skies  , Issue 243, 18 January 2018. 

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Publication Notes: “When The Night Blooms, An Artist Transmutes: A Three-Act Play” in Issue 31, The Dark Magazine, December 2017

by on Apr.06, 2018, under Author News and Updates, Publications!

Starting from this post Publication Day posts will be transformed (gradually) into “Publication Notes” posts, given my tardiness! This short story/play was published in December, which was over 4 months ago!

I wrote the first draft of this play in 1996 after spending many nights painting a Gothic/surreal painting of a woman coming out of a flower, with a tower in the background. It was always a painting and play infused with my homesick longing for Penang. I grew up on the island and it feels like I spend most of my life missing Penang or being haunted by events that occurred there in my childhood. These dreamscapes and nightmares infuse my sleeping hours.

The painting itself is not very good but I may revisit the theme at some point when I’m able to dedicate some time to the visual arts again. The idea of the story being postcolonial Gothic existed at the time even though I didn’t know postcolonial theory existed as a thing (that happened years later during my M.A. in Literature). But I was always a history nerd and had written more than one thing around the time of the East India Company. This one seemed to spool out as a play. I went with it. A few years later as an academic who had started to do research in postcolonial theatre and who discovered monodramas, I formatted it accordingly (circa 2006-2007), but I was never fully happy with it so I didn’t submit it. Was it a play? Was it a short story?

Of course, now we know the answer is “both”. Around the time I started wanting to submit to The Dark, I was attracted to the call for submissions that asked for unusual formats they’d never seen before. “Ahah,” sez I. “I’m going to send them this play one day!”

But I was still never sure so I lobbed my other creepy stories at them, which they never quite liked enough to buy. And then last year I went on a one-week adventure in Penang while having health issues — that in itself made it a rather intense trip. This story was edited and made fully a three-act play while in Penang, while ingesting that surreal magical creepiness I always associate with nights by the beach in Penang, but it was also in part influenced by my emotions at that point in time.

I submitted it as threatened, and a few weeks later, it was accepted. And I was absolutely gobsmacked at the positive response to this murder pontianak play of mine! Thank you everyone!

And to my surprise, more than one reviewer read it as “a short story, framed as a play”! Well, of course. But I’d still love to see it performed one day 🙂

And there you have it. A spoiler-free publication note!

When The Night Blooms, An Artist Transmutes: A Three-Act Play in The Dark Magazine , Issue 31, December 2017

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[poetry]: The Soul’s Kiss

by on Mar.10, 2018, under Poetry

(c) Nin Harris 1997

How does one discern the imprint of a soul?
it is lighter than a fingerprint upon your skin
which only magic dust can show
The kiss of the sun
leaves its imprint in darker hues
its glory against your form
leaves a lengthening shadow as you walk
but a soul’s kiss?
it leaves no mark upon your hue,
the make-up of your being,
but how it mutates your soul!

Less obvious than the sun’s glory,
the glow of the soul is an invisible thing
but one which can char and tar and scar
a soul beyond recognition much fiercer
than any ball of gas could aspire.

A soul’s kiss
is a dream in the night
half remembered in images which do not coalesce
it is a blanket of softest down
dulling your senses when you walk and talk
with untouched beings
who never have known
who never could know.

*
What then is its secret?
this soul without form
intangible conception
in a compact of dreams.
what is this soft glow
that is so much stronger than the sun ?

*
A mountain of gold for the genius
who invents a soul-scanning machine
let us cut across the futile questings
of dreams, poems and songs,
soul questing maps of obscure formulas.

Is Science the answer?
could all your achievements
against time and space and all laws of nature
discover the origin of this soul upon mine?

*

What is the imprint of a soul?
child of nightmares; a scream in the dark,
or a Zephyr coming to carry one
off the dragon’s rock of isolation
like Psyche so long ago.
the fall of sunlight within a clump of weeds
once mundane, now a glorious
profusion of life.
The beguiling mystery of tunes half-remembered
it is a door tantalisingly left open
in the marble halls of daydreams
it is the sweep of red and cobalt blue
upon a thick white canvas.
this pattern of my days
this purpose-shaping chisel
is a hand through a darkened doorway
beckoning me upwards toward the light
it is a rock that carries me on
a downward spiral

*
scientist and philosophers!
I defy you to try
and discover the geometry of this force.
I defy you to render this dark magic onto prosaic ink on paper
— or blinking letters on a screen.
If x= the effect on my existence
and y= the purpose of my days,
how many more letters of the alphabet
would it take to command a solution
to this uneasy formula
can those mysterious digits
find the spark of words not remembered
and features blurred by the light of dreams?
(August 1997)

Notes: I sat on the steps outside a lecture theatre one morning after listening to Maria Callas arias on my commute. I was a third year law student who was spending more time reading the Classics (Greek and Roman poets and philosophers) and listening to classical music and the opera than she was reading the thousands of cases and legal notes assigned to her. (But I still read quite a lot. I was a dutiful law student who sometimes stayed in the law library until 8-10pm). Suffice it to say, being inundated with facts, probabilities and reasonable doubts, my poet’s soul rebelled and wanted something…more. Many poems of this ilk were the result.

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Nin’s Recommendations for 2017

by on Jan.08, 2018, under Arthropod Trails, Lists!, SFF

Hello! I didn’t read enough short stories in 2017, but the ones I read I really enjoyed. Here are a selection of the stories that really stuck with me, since it is tradition for me to do this list in one way or another every year and I don’t feel comfortable doing my own 2017 eligibility post without actively recommending others as well.

  1. Seven Salt Tears by Kat Howard (Lightspeed)
  2. Twilight Travels with the Grape Paper Man by Sara Saab (The Dark)
  3. Monster Girls Don’t Cry by A. Merc Rustad (Uncanny Magazine)
  4. The Waduf by Naru Dames Sundar (Kaleidotrope)
  5. A Series of Steaks by Vina Jie-Min Prasad (Clarkesworld Magazine)
  6. Never Yawn Under A Banyan Tree by Nibedita Sen (Anathema)
  7. Merrick by Vajra Chandrasekera (Liminal Stories)
  8. The Cold Lonely Waters by Aimee Ogden (Shimmer)
  9. Every Black Tree by Natalia Theodoridou (Beneath Ceaseless Skies)/also check out The Nightingales in Plátres (Clarkesworld)
  10. Darkness, Our Mother by Eleanna Castroianni (Clarkesworld)
  11. These Constellations Will Be Yours by Elaine Cuyegkeng (Strange Horizons)
  12. A Marvelous Deal by Kate Dollarhyde (Beneath Ceaseless Skies)

Novelettes

  1. We Who Live In The Heart by Kelly Robson (Clarkesworld)
  2. Darner by Jonathan Laidlow (Strange Horizons)

Novellas

A strong showing by the Singaporean Contingent this year!

  1. Black Tides of Heaven by J.Y. Yang (Tor.com) (actually personally I prefer Red Threads but I understand the author wants this to be the one so it can stand for the duology which was one of the highlights of my reading year).
  2. Water into Wine by Joyce Chng (Annorlunda Enterprises)
  3. A Portrait of the Desert in Personages of Power (Part I) (Part II) by Rose Lemberg (Beneath Ceaseless Skies)
  4. Binti: Home by Nnedi Okorafor (Tor.com)

Novels

  1. The Dragon With A Chocolate Heart by Stephanie Burgis (unsure if novel or novella tbh)
  2. Raven Strategem by Yoon-Ha Lee
  3. Noumenon by Marina J. Lostetter

 

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(Hopefully) Sparkly Goals for 2018

by on Jan.01, 2018, under Academic Writing, SFF, The Escritoire, Thoughts on Writing

Hello! It’s New Year’s Day so I thought I’d post in the escritoire instead of @ Growing Fins (my unofficial public author blog) about my writing (and reading) goals for the year. Good way to keep me honest!

 

I have a motto every year and this year is no different. My mottos for the past 2-3 years have been in tandem with my growing into my life as a professional SF author with all of the various challenges and travails that come with it. The same applies to academia.

This year, however — I wanted it to be a little different. When you’re being busy, whoosh, a decade can pass you by and you go, “Whoops, what happened to my life?”

So this year, because of my heart scare (still waiting to find out if I am okay and if it is just gas/anxiety/whatever) and because I’ve really NOT been listening to my heart, this year’s motto (as announced on twitter sometime in Nov/Dec 2017) is, Sparkle, and Listen to Your Heart.

The “Sparkle” bit comes because I tend to default to wanting to hide in the shadows because I don’t want people to think I am conceited or bragging or whatever. I still want to be lowkey, but I also want to glitter and sparkle enough. I want to bedazzle my life, and my year. Suffice it to say, I’m terrified my life is in a rut and — my living situation isn’t going to change because I’m staying put in my condominium, and in my job. So I will have to bedazzle my life in other ways. Lowkey make it exciting, sparkling, magical and adventurous. Can it be done? I hope so!

Onwards to my goals!

  1. Last year’s 12 for 12 in 2017 short story writing challenge (born @ the Codex Writers Group) served me very well indeed. I wound up with 14 short story drafts and I find the act of just committing to writing one short story a month helped to ground me. So I’m doing 12 for 12 in 2018 again. Onwards!
  2. I’d like to keep querying agents for Watermyth while working on Rosemirror. I’d like to be agented by year’s end and working towards a book deal (and hopefully acquiring one). I hope I shan’t be too disappointed by year’s end!
  3. In 2017 I had three fiction publications and four fiction acceptances. I’d like to aim for 6-8 fiction publications in 2018.
  4. I’d like to have at least a couple of reprints out this year.
  5. I’d like to write thirty new poems this year.
  6. Finish my Malaysian Genre monograph and have it accepted by an academic publishing house.
  7. Submit 6-7 academic articles this year with an average of one every two months. I have enough fairly advanced drafts that this is do-able.
  8. Write 3 book reviews and have them published. I don’t do hatchet job “I don’t like this” type of book reviews so I’ll only choose books I consider of merit and I’d like to do them real justice.
  9. I’ve committed to two blog posts for a certain site so that’s on my list, but I’d also like to write more blog posts for other people/sites as part of SFF community service. I want to give back a bit more to this community that has been so good to me.
  10. Work on two twine/IF/hypertext stories. I’m getting rusty and it is time to brush up my skills. My modest success with Bungalow Sari One on twitter has invigorated and excited me and I’d like to get back to work on it.
  11. Reading: I’d like to hit 100 books again this year 🙂

And that’s all!

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2017: A Review of the Year in Publication

by on Dec.06, 2017, under (post)colonial Gothic academia, Author News and Updates, The Escritoire

Updated 8 January 2018:

Hello, I like to do yearly review posts rather than merely eligibility posts because I strongly believe that things like accolades and awards are outside of my control. Besides, I’ve been raised to be a very proper lady and though I always failed and disappointed elders while growing up — there’s still a lot of those imperatives hiding inside me, telling me not to push myself forward too much. But it’s become an industry norm so I decided to capitulate and make this a bit clearer for everyone. I would be very happy indeed if nominated, yes. So thank you if you’re nominating — I don’t know you, and I don’t know if you will but if you do, <3 <3 <3

I don’t really think it would happen so I’d be quite contented with more readers. I say this every year, and it’s true every year.

Anyway, before I get into my rambling holistic review of the year, here’s what I have published in 2017. I have three eligible works of short fiction, and I think the IF may be eligible for *some* things but I’m not sure what so I’ll let you decide if you liked it enough 😀

Fiction

  1. Prosthetic Daughter in Clarkesworld (Issue 125), February 2017.  (SF: time-travel cyberpunk space opera, eligible for Hugos, Nebulas, SF thingies) — placed in Nebula Reading List.
  2. Reversion in Clarkesworld (Issue 131), August 2017. (SF: planetary romance, space opera, eligible for Hugos, Nebulas, SF thingies) — placed in Nebula Reading List, Tangent Recommended Reading List (2 stars)
  3. When The Night Blooms, An Artist Transmutes: A Three-Act Play in The Dark (Issue 31), December 2017 (Gothic/dark fantasy/horror, eligible for Hugos, Nebulas, fantasy and horror thingies) — placed in Charles Payseur’s Recommended Reading List.
  4. Bungalow Sari One (Twitter Interactive Fiction/poll story), on Twitter, December 2017. (Gothic/science fantasy/Horror, ???)

Poetry

  1. Jean-Luc, Future Ghost, in Uncanny Magazine (Issue 14), January 2017. (SF, eligible for Rhyslings)
  2. Tinwoman’s Phantom Heart, in Strange Horizons (Fund Drive Special Issue), August 2017. (SF, eligible for Rhyslings)
  3. Spice Islands, in Uncanny Magazine (Issue 19), December 2017. (not SFF)

Reprints (not eligible!)

  1. Auto-Rejection: An Outro (2016) was reprinted in Lackington‘s Summer Issue, 2017. Edited and improved version with a slightly tweaked ending because I felt I needed to make the irony more overt.
  2. Tower of the Rosewater Goblet  (2016) was reprinted in Shirtsleeve Press’s Event Horizon anthology for people who were eligible for the Campbell Award for Best New Writer.

Note: I’ve also recommended some of my favourite short fiction, novelettes, novellas, and novels by others in 2017 here.

My Personal Review of 2017 in Writing

2017 has been good to me in some ways, not so good to me in other ways. I’ve written 14 new stories thusfar, inclusive of 1 new novella. I finally finalised Watermyth, the first novel of the Cantata of the Fourfold Realms and started querying it. I then started working on Rosemirror, the second novel of the sequence. I’ve had some publications and good reviews.

On the academic front, I jettisoned my Helen Oyeyemi monograph (for now) because a chapter I wrote was published in Telling It Slant, a Helen Oyeyemi collection (Sussex Academic) — and that collection overlaps too much with my PhD research on Oyeyemi. Therefore, a great deal more work needs to be done before I can make a monograph I’d be happy sending out to publishers. Instead, I started work on my Malaysian Genre monograph and have done quite a bit on it thusfar and am fairly confident about sending out a proposal. I have also embarked on exciting new research collaborations, and am working on new articles and research ideas.

Things I like about 2017

I’ve managed to get coveted acceptances at both The Dark and Beneath Ceaseless Skies. It’s been my most prolific year in terms of poetry publication — and I’m not really very prolific where that’s concerned.  All up, I had three poems published in professional poetry venues — two in Uncanny Magazine as one of their solicited poets for Year Three, and one in Strange Horizons for their Fund Drive Special. I also wrote a blog post for Strange Horizons. I also can’t get over the fact that I had TWO Clarkesworld publications this year: which means I’ve had FOUR Clarkesworld publications, and have been in at least one issue yearly since 2015. I like numbers and I like continuity so this pleases me a lot. I’ve been more low-key in promoting my stories this year as this is my post-Campbell year but this year a lot more random readers have reached out to me to tell me they liked my stories. This means a lot to me and I’m really grateful/humbled people are reading and recommending my works.

Apart from that, my short story Auto-Rejection: An Outro was reprinted in Lackington’s Magazine, with an improved ending, and a gorgeous illustration by Pear Nuallak.

I was also quite excited when Clarkesworld got a review in Kirkus Reviews in February because Prosthetic Daughter was up so by proxy I indirectly finally got into Kirkus Reviews. Hey, I’ll take it, man. Other indirect things: Lightspeed’s People of Colour Destroy Science Fiction (2016), edited by Nalo Hopkinson, Kristin Ong Muslim, Berit Ellingsen et al. won the British Fantasy Awards. OMG! As some of you already know, Morning Cravings is in that anthology, which means a Sesen story is in an award-winning anthology. Fourteen year old me is still doing cartwheels inside my head! Another Sesen story, Tower of the Rosewater Goblet (2016) made it into the Locus Recommended Reading List so that was another awesome validation for me in 2017, even if I didn’t wind up being nominated for the awards.

Apart from that, I didn’t get published much in 2017 in comparison with 2016 which was quite epic (and exhausting!)

But all the stories I had published, have now placed on recommendation lists! Three for three is not a bad thing at all! I am really grateful that both Reversion and Prosthetic Daughter have now been placed on the Nebula Reading List.  When the Night Blooms, An Artist Transmutes: A Three-Act-Play is also now in Charles Payseur’s excellent year-end recommendation list, while Reversion made its way into the two-star category for Tangent Online’s annual recommended reading list! I’m not really super-optimistic that they’ll go further than this — I’m just happy to be on a list where more people will read them 🙂

Thank you, from the bottom of my faulty heart. I appreciate everyone who read, recommended, accepted, and published my works.


Stats for people who like these things, according to the submission Grinder for 2017:

66 fiction submissions (give or take a couple I may have forgotten to log)
4 fiction acceptances. (1 acceptance from Clarkesworld + 2  from The Dark + 1 from Beneath Ceaseless Skies)

I tend not to log my poetry submissions. There may have been 5-6. I got 2 poetry acceptances in 2017.

 

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Tell It To Me, Baby: A Reprinted Process Post

by on Oct.22, 2017, under The Escritoire, Thoughts on Writing

Note: This is a post from the old Growing Fins blog, back in June 18 2009. It’s still relevant to my process so I thought I would share!

 

The problem with the generic, technical “Show, don’t tell” based advice dished out by writing workshops and writing books is this: it assumes all writing and storytelling must conform to one fictive model and one alone. Some of my best-loved storytellers are those who Tell, Tell, and Tell me some more. And I say yes, please Tell me more. And I say yes, dish me that info-feed, baby, if you’re dishing it the right way. Lay it on me.

It is within the resonance of their strong, individual voices that the “Show” element slowly resolves, without actually “Show”ing too much, just the faintest outline of a scene, letting the listener or individual flesh it out with their own minds. To me, this is the difference between technical aptitude as a writer and being a writer who allows a reader to dream. It’s the spaces in the mind. The Brontes understood this well, so did Tolkien. And so did other writers from non-canonical traditions. I think of the sparseness and the simplicity of Japanese verse, of the Malay pantun. I think of the storytellers of the old epics who gave us dizzying detail, but also a strong, resonant voice.

If I have to err on the technical nitty-gritty of my stories, I would. If my grammar falls by the wayside, if my pacing is not the best in the world. If, in starting my narrative in media res I have somehow disoriented my reader; if, I use run-on sentences in ways that dislocate them. If, I annoy you with a hanging participle. IF. I unforgivably dump an info feed halfway in my story. IF. I annoyingly, do not reveal what the story is about in my opening paragraphs because I am listening to the voice in my head that says Setting IS Character.

If, I do not write character-driven fiction that is obviously character driven because I am just that postmodern or capricious enough to want to hide my narrators in strange places. If I lay on too much philosophy that hurts your head. If. I commit unspeakable textual, grammatical errors but in doing so, still retain my voice. Would that make me a bad storyteller? Perhaps. But if I find my voice, who is to say? Even if it is buried, unheard. It is still a voice. Is a voice lost in a forest of slush still a voice or just unread text? Who is to say?

This is the battle I am fighting right now. And, I suspect, this is the battle I have been fighting all along.

Being the narratology geek that I am, I have my favorite storytellers. I also have, within that list, my favorite implied narrators, first or third person. I must admit to have inherited a narratological quirk or two from my days of writing my M.A. thesis on Angela Carter, but that is meant for another writerly wank. One of these days.

Angela Carter, Michael Ende, Italo Calvino, Umberto Eco, Boccaccio, Dante, various unnamed and anonymous writers of ancient epics and fairytales, Wole Soyinka, Guy Gavriel Kay, Anais Nin, Virginia Woolf, James Joyce, Sir Walter Scott, George Eliot, Isabel Allende, Gabriel García Márquez and I’m sure I’m forgetting half a dozen more. These are my mentors. These are my muses. And it’s been established that most of this would be casualties of the slush pile today. Which is not to say I have reached their level of narrative yet.

I’m just saying.

I’m tired of rules, period. I just want to write recklessly like I mean it. I want to write like it’s that fling with the guy you really shouldn’t be out with but here you are, at 5am, talking at breakneck speed and doing unwise things instead of keeping within the prescribed margins. Which, I never could stop myself from writing or drawing outside of the margins in school, either. Could you?

And now I go back to fighting with MY narrative.

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