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!
This is just a general news and “catch-up” post. Hope everyone’s doing well. I’m trying to get my ducks in a row as usual, as I have many deadlines and things I want to do before the new semester starts in February. I’m almost (phew!) done with grading, thank goodness so that’s a load off my mind. I also submitted a chapter to an academic book and am trying to finish various other bits of academic writing. But, onwards to more creative stuff!
(1) My speculative poem Reversed Polarities was nominated for the Rhysling Awards (long poems). My thanks to whoever nominated me, and to my awesome editor Adrienne J. Odasso who is also a candidate! Good luck to everyone who is in the running! I’m still gobsmacked and happy people actually thought of me and my poem.
(2) K. Tempest Bradford listed “Your Right Arm” as an honorable mention on io9’s newsstand in the December edition.
(3) Charles Payseur reviews “Tower of the Rosewater Goblet” over at Quick Sip Reviews. I am still a newbie pro writer so it really makes my day when people discuss and actually understand what my fiction is trying to do!
(4) I was also on A.C. Wise’s December edition of “A.C Wise Recommends Women to Read” over at SF Signal. I was incredibly pleased, especially since it includes a review of “Sang Rimau and the Medicine Woman”.
(5) Rashida J. Smith, the editor of Giganotosaurus has compiled a list of the stories she published in 2015, inclusive of my “The Faerie-Maker”. Do check it out. It’s an excellent publication and I am proud to be published there.
Do note that there are other reviews, mentions and recommendations for my stories, but I am listing the most pertinent. My thanks to everyone who took the time to read, think about, discuss and review my stories.
(1) (a) Mythic Folk was hacked, alas. And in my attempt to fix things I bungled up and deleted the whole site without making backups (shamefaced look). Fortunately I had the layout saved but that is about it. This means the Mythic Folk Community
is no more, but I’m slowly working out what I want to do with the domain, since I have it and the design will need to be rebuilt from the ground up. I will likely be using it for media reviews and for my Aural Chambers posts but I have happily also found some of the missing posts so am in the process of reconstruction! (ETA: Not giving up on this community yet! But the new Mythic Folk Community blog will be focused on articles, reviews and posts. No poetry or fiction. I think this will make it a stronger blog as it will be more focused.)
(b) I am slowly moving my poetry back here. There may be a *small* poetry gift next month!
(2) Still working on Truancy 2. Sorry for the delay, the roundtable is still happening!
(3) Domus Exsulis is now back up on the internets.
(4) What to expect on this blog in the future:
(a) More fiction and SFF recommendations, when I have the time. In keeping with my policy on my now retired book blog, I will only write about things I like, and will not be posting negative reviews. I leave that to professional reviewers as it’s a part of my life I have no desire to return to. When I was reviewing for other publications, I felt like I’d murdered a kitten every time I had to write a negative review so I clearly do not have the stomach for it. However, I would like to amplify voices and stories I think deserve more notice. So those will be a part of (hopefully) Arthropod Trails in 2016.
(b) Poetry! Things I have published on this domain in the past will be published here again because I can’t submit them to magazines anyway, so might as well keep an archive here.
(c) Apart from my literary hypertext project Domus Exsulis, 2016 may be the year when Thresholds finally goes live.
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.