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.
Since I won’t have any more publications in 2015 (but look out for me in 2016, as there will be both online AND print publications), here’s a list of what was published this year. I’ve had an epic year for acceptances. My first professional publication was on the 2nd of November 2015, which means that I will be eligible for the John W Campbell award in 2016 and 2017. I am also eligible for various other things for both poetry (Rhysling) and fiction (Hugo, Nebula, World Fantasy) although I post this with the knowledge that eligibility is no guarantee of anything. There is a HUGE number of excellent writings in the genres at this point by very brilliant authors.
I’ve been writing for a very long time, most of my stories take years to craft, and it’s only in 2014 that I got my act together and gained the courage to start finishing most of the stories, and started submitting them.
My Bunian Empire milieu stories straddle genres. Some stories are straight-up fantasy/alternate history, others are steampunk, and towards the space opera/planetary romance tales, they’re more SFnal than fantasy. This particular tale is alternate history and fantasy, and is the basis of the rest of the tales. The Medicine Woman started out as a tale within a tale in what was going to be my grand Malaysian mythic road-novel, Abeyance, but she needed her own story, so I started working on it around 2005-2006. It’s gotten some pretty decent reviews, and I’ll always cherish what Lois Tilton of Locus Magazine and Charles Payseur of Quick Sip Review said about it. A.C. Wise has also written a very thoughtful review about this story in the A. C. Wise Recommends Women to Read column over at SFSignal.
This one quietly came out in October but wasn’t really noticed. It’s an urban fantasy desipunk tale set in Brisbane. It took me seven years to write. It’s one of my stories in which I grapple with culture, identity, what it is like to be marginalized, and what it is to mourn, written when I was away from home and grappling with my multiple identities. It is the first of my two bereavement tales to come out this year. There’s been no reviews thusfar for this tale.
This is my Bunian Empire milieu space opera, in which I talk about humanity, the problem of consciousness and sentience (part of my ongoing issue with the Consciousness problem as written about by the philosophers of mind: Dennett and Chalmers amongst other), and yes, it is my most romantic story. Charles Payseur wrote a lovely review about it here, Lois Tilton was not very impressed with the narrative, but I still enjoyed her write-up of it. I personally call it my “Waiting for Godot” in space, because it’s meant to be heard as well as read. It also received an honorable mention from K. Tempest Bradford over at the io9 newsstand, and was reviewed over at Tangent (where it was called “a very cool story”), SFRevu, and RocketStackRank.
This is also my first professional publication in one of my dream publication venues, the story that has now made me eligible for the John W. Campbell award.
Merlusine in Liminality Magazine, Spring 2015, edited by Shira Lipkin and Mat Joiner, 2015.
Reversed Polarities in Strange Horizons, edited by Adrienne J. Odasso and Sonya Taafe, 2015.(This has now been nominated for the 2016 Rhysling Awards for long poems).
Hi, if you’re a Malaysian eligible for awards, please don’t be shy to send me your names/names of stories, or the names of others! Follow the format below! You usually have to have at least a supporting membership to nominate people for the Hugos or the John W. Campbell award (requires your first pro sale — eligibility runs for two years. Check the SFWA list of pro-markets). You will also need a SFWA membership to vote for the Nebulas.
IMPORTANT NOTE: This is for basic eligibility requirements only. Stories will likely get nominated based on individual merits and (sadly this is the case for now but will change during the 2017 cycle of the Hugos) the number of nominations.
*DISCLAIMER: since I am the compiler, I really don’t think it’s necessary for my name to be there, as it’s quite embarrassing. I have however made a post of all of my 2015 publications (fiction and poetry) for people who may be interested.
- Fadzlishah Johanabas, Songbird (Interzone). Eligibility: Hugo Award for (Short Story), Nebula Awards (Short Story).
- Angeline Woon, Underneath Her Tudung (Cyberpunk: Malaysia). Eligibility: Hugo Award (Short Story), Nebula Awards (Short Story).
- Angeline Woon, Luckless Tin Elephant (2016 Young Explorer’s Adventure Guide). Eligibility: Hugo Award (Short Story). (to be published in December 2015)
- Ted Mahsun, What the Andromaid Reads at Night (Cyberpunk: Malaysia). Eligibility: Hugo Award (Short Story), Nebula Awards (Short Story).
- Jaymee Goh, Liminal Grid (Strange Horizons). Eligibility: Hugo Award (Short Story), Nebula Awards (Short Story).
- Cassandra Khaw, Red String (Fantastic Stories of the Imagination). Eligibility: John W. Campbell Award.
- Cassandra Khaw, In the Rustle of Pages (Shimmer). Eligibility: Nebula Awards (Short Story), Hugo Award (Short Story), BSFA Awards (Short Fiction)
- Cassandra Khaw, Her Pound of Flesh (Mythic Delirium). Eligibility: World Fantasy Award (Short Story), Nebula Awards (Short Story), Hugo Awards (Short Story).
- Cassandra Khaw, Rupert Wong, Cannibal Chef (Abaddon Books). Eligibility: Hugo Award (Novella), BSFA Awards (Short Fiction).
I have a new short story up, “Your Right Arm” in Clarkesworld Magazine, for Issue #110. It is a very solid issue with some really lovely tales, I’ve read through three of them and am eager to read the rest! That cover art is also incredibly gorgeous and I need to figure out how I can enlarge it, print it and get it framed. A Julie Dillon art print with my name on it! OMG!
I am really happy to be published on one of the most prestigious magazines in SFF but putting out a publication of this calibre every month takes a lot of toil and funding, so if you can, do support Clarkesworld Magazine so that we can have many more years of publications from them!
Here’s what I posted on my FB page about it this morning:
I am beyond thrilled to be in Issue 110 of Clarkesworld Magazine along with Naomi Kritzer, Sara Saab, Krista Hoeppner Leahy, Xia Jia, Tim Sullivan, and last but not least, my personal SFF hero Ellen Kushner who writes with Ysabeau S. Wilce in this issue! This is my Bunian Empire space opera, featuring the last human, cybernetic apsaras, and my philosophy of mind/qualia noodlings. So thrilled someone bought it, and that someone was Neil Clarke (and Sean Wallace)! I wrote this the day (and night) Eugie Foster moved on to the next world and after I read her piece in Daily Science Fiction and cried for about an hour. I wanted to write a story that conveyed the sense of loss I felt for the genre, and that had the kind of heart and soul I found in her works. I’m still not sure I got there, but I am truly humbled to be a part of this really awesome issue. There are really solid tales in here! And check out that gorgeous cover!
This story took me seven years to write.
I got the idea for it sometime in 2006, and I knew I wanted it to have a crafter protagonist and I wanted the crafting aspect to be the heft of the story. I knew I wanted it to be a “big” story –I wanted to grapple with big ideas. Naturally, it took me that long to be satisfied with it. When I packed up to go to Brisbane in 2007, I promised myself it would be my Brisbane story. And so it was. I traveled with it. It made me brave. It took me to my first indie gig, it made me walk through Fortitude Valley alone at night, it had me travelling to various markets on the weekend. It had me walking across parks close to midnight because I wanted to find the best place for the fights.
It changed some more when I returned to Malaysia.
In 2013, it became the story I submitted repeatedly. It became the story that nearly broke my will to write more.
But it remains the story I love best. As I just told a friend, I knew I wanted to write about the big ideas in this story, I knew it had a concept, but I wanted to give it heart and heft. I’m still not sure if it’s there, but a lot of work and sweat and love went into this tale. With huge thanks to the very awesome editor Rashida J. Smith with whom an invigorating conversation about the story took place, which helped me smooth some of the transition issues. I learned so much just from the very incisive questions she asked me.
It’s been a very busy semester so I have been terribly remiss about blogging, but I do have squeetastic news about publications and such to share!
- My poem, Reversed Polarities, went up on the first week of June over at Strange Horizons. It is a poem that is not about the most obvious thing, although solitude is obviously one of its themes. If I were to describe it in keywords it would probably be the following: P Ramlee movies, the male gaze, hybridity, mirrors/the masculine imaginary, phenomenology and various other things. It _is_ a speculative and SFnal pome after all 🙂
- Story! My first semi-pro sale, Sang Rimau and the Medicine Woman is now up on Issue 7 of Lackington’s! I’m so happy because it’s my first Bunian Empire/bunianverse tale that I get to share with you guys. This work of short fiction is based on some elements from Hikayat Raja Muda, stories about the bunian from various other Hikayats and oral recountings (and P. Ramlee movies), plus my re-interpretation of Tam Lin and Goblin Fruit. Also features my recurring obsession with were-tigers due to “real life” encounters. Yes, I really did see a tiger spirit Malay bomoh in action when I was a teenager. It was terrifying but in retrospect intriguing. Also, the Malay reserve land “kampung” I lived in during my twenties was full of stories about phantom/spirit tigers. The Medicine Woman herself has been haunting me since I started writing Malaysian Gothic short stories for myself around the age of 18. She also appears in one of my novel drafts, my grand Malaysian road novel, Abeyance. Don’t know when I’ll return to that novel, but I’m really chuffed that people can read her story now! 8)
- I am taking part in the Clarion West write-a-thon again. This is my fourth year supporting it, and this year I’d like to get as far as possible tying up the structural edit of Watermyth, the first book of the Watermaidens Trilogy (Book Two and Three will be named Rosemirror and Woodsgyre, respectively).
- Speaking of Watermaidens Trilogy, here’s a great tease for what the central mythic element will be: Amor and Psyche! This should come as no surprise to anyone who has followed my sites since the 90s (huh, are there any left). It also connects to my bunianverse/Bunian Empire stories in a very significant way. I am SUPER excited about that.
- Umm, I’ve signed contracts for a couple more short stories since my last post here. 😀 😀 😀
- 2015 will see not just my first semipro fiction but also my first pro fiction. It’s been such a year of extremes! The bad stuff is pretty bad! But the good stuff is damn awesome sauce.
- Truancy 2 is underway! It will launch hopefully towards the end of August! We have really cool stories and reprints! Plus! An awesome roundtable! And interview! And article!
`kay. Will post again hopefully soon. DO donate to Clarion West through my write-a-thon profile (there’s an excerpt from Watermyth there!). Thank you! <3 <3 <3
Gosh! I actually have news about Watermaidens!
- I’ve tied up (finally!) the narrative arc of the novel, and have moved into structural edit/revision phase. I think I moved out of First Draft a couple of years back, what with the constant revising and tweaking, but I hadn’t tied up the story arc.
- The ending has now been written, everything has been placed where it should be placed. And while I say that this is the structural edit phase, I’ve already done the bulk of the structural edit this past week. I’m now at the stage of brutally hacking away and excising everything unnecessary (there’ll be tons of “deleted scenes”, ha), and then playing around with dialogue, language, leitmotif, texture etc. I call this “the fun part” because now I can just enjoy the storytelling without fretting about my destination. Getting a finished/polished novel should take me a few more months, given my academic duties, other writing/research/editing responsibilities, but we’re definitely getting there.
- While Tower of the Rosewater Goblet (the chapbook edition) never got indie-published, just working on it and finalising it taught my subconscious a lot about the pleasures of completing something massive, and I grew up a lot as a writer during that intense fortnight in December when I was finalising it. It wasn’t a loss — it’s really helping me with all of my projects this year, both academic and creative. Learning how to complete something is one of the greatest rewards a creative person can give themselves. I’m really chuffed I’ve reached this stage with Watermaidens, and I’m going to enjoy this current stage, that I have been pining for, for years. Not going to rush the process because this is golden.
- * while the chapbook will probably never get indie e-published, I’m really hoping to have good news to share about individual stories that have been extensively edited/refined since the chapbook version went out to various preview readers. They’ve already been receiving such lovely feedback and such. Hope springing eternal and all that!
Also a reminder that my poem “Reversed Polarities” will be up over at Strange Horizons in June. I’m working on a recording of the poem for their podcast.