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 nominated for 2015, which was a HUGE surprise to me but a very nice one — thank you to whomever decided to nominate me! 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!
- 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)
- 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)
- 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)
- 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)
- 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)
- 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)
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.
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.
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.
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.