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).
I haven’t read as many full books as I would have liked in 2014, but I have read more short fiction from the various SFF `zines. I am pleased by this, and pleased that this means I have a “Best Of” List to offer to you. Bear in mind that I read AT LEAST 30-40 works of genre short fiction in 2014 so this was by no means an easy decision to make, I had to consider many factors when compiling this list but the #1 factor was how unforgettable the story was to me, and if I kept thinking about it after I read it.
So, without further ado, here are my favourite short stories (or novelettes, or novellas!) of 2014:
1. Tessa Kum, The Fate of All Wens, Review of Australian Fiction
Tessa is one of those people who happily straddle the interstices of literary fiction and speculative fiction. I count The Fate of All Wens as one of the literary highlights of the year for me. There is something both so startling and so classical about the prose in this elegant novella, reminding me of dreaming awake in between pages of hardbound library books, and yet the ethos that guides these words are starkly contemporary. I love the way the text takes the reader from the earthy to the transcendent. All in all, this story is a joy to read and I hope the author writes more.
2. Eugie Foster, When it Ends, He Catches Her, Daily Science Fiction.
Haunting, elegaic, and a fitting last offering from one of my favourite SFF authors. I remain heartbroken by her passing, and this story stole my breath when I read it. Both by its heartbreaking beauty, and by its sad prescience. I cried reading it the first time and digested it in silence twice thereafter.
3. Alyssa Wong, Santos de Sampaguitas, Strange Horizons.
This dark, disturbing tale caught me from the first paragraph and I just could not stop reading. Anyone who has had night terrors can tell you why this resonates. Anyone from South East Asia with night terrors, doubly so. I don’t want to conflate the superstitions and terrors of more than one country in this region, but in some things, there are distinct correlations. Shared this with the students of my Gothic class (M.A. in Postcolonial Literature students) and they connected with it.
Equal parts science, haunting, history and loss, this is one of the most extraordinary short stories I’ve read in 2014. Usman Tanveer Malik was definitely one of the best literary-in-genre discoveries of 2014 for me.
5. Rahul Kanakia, Seeking boarder for rm w/ attached bathroom, must be willing to live with ghosts ($500 / Berkeley), Clarkesworld Magazine.
Goodness, how could you resist this story? It’s both funny and heartbreaking, and I enjoy the author’s wit and turn-of-phrase.
6. Yoon Ha-Lee, The Contemporary Foxwife, Clarkesworld Magazine.
I am a fangirl of Yoon Ha-Lee’s writing and The Contemporary Foxwife is a delight of a tale. A foxwife on a space station? Lovely!
7. Ann Leckie, She Commands Me And I Obey, Strange Horizons.
I have yet to read Ann Leckie’s much lauded books, starting with Ancillary Justice, so I was a bit apprehensive I would be lost when I read this tale. Oh, I was lost alright. Lost in prose so tasty I wanted to eat it, and a world that maddeningly tugs at the brain, both familiar and alien at the same time. I have a feeling I’m going to be making her books a weekend priority one of these months. Good stuff.
8. Rose Lemberg, Stalemate, Lackington’s.
I honestly cannot decide what I admire most about this story, the language, the dialogue or the world-building. I think you could say all three. How could I resist imagery like the following?
The language is familiar—like the warmth of meals shared between friends unknown, like the glinting of the tall glass domes, their shadows trembling in the heat of double suns. The memories dance and reflect off the polished blank steel of his mind, then scurry away.
The answer is that I can’t!
9. J Y Yang, Patterns of a Murmuration, in Billions of Data Points, Clarkesworld Magazine.
I have concluded that JY Yang is one of the lights from SEA that blazed past more than one hurdle in 2014, and turned out to be one of the most prominent writers from this region. I had some trouble deciding which of her stories I liked best, and decided Patterns of a Murmuration, in Billions of Data Points is it. Stark, troubling, and with a compelling cadence, this is one of the most unforgettable short stories I’ve read in 2014.
10. Bogi Takács, This Shall Serve as Demarcation, Scigentasy.
I am a fan of scifi stories that involve a planetary “over-soul” of some sort, and have been one since I was a teenager. As such, reading Takács’s offering in Scigentasy delighted me beyond words. E has a gift for twisting language in unusual ways, but in that twisting of language and context, still manages to suffuse eir words with warmth and heart. Thumbs up for a memorable convention-defying read that still felt very classic (When I say classic scifi, I mean Joanna Russ and Ursula K LeGuin, just so you know)
11. Vajra Chandrasekera, Dharmas, Shimmer
This story I felt ought to be read aloud almost with a beat, the rhythm of the prose propelling you into the narrative which brings you straight into Sri Lanka. I actually read this story twice when it was first published, which should tell you how much I enjoyed it. It’s one of those works of short fiction that could easily be made spoken word.
12. Indrapamit Das, A Moon for the Unborn, Strange Horizons.
This story is just so sad and so lyrical. The first time I read it, it just gripped me and I couldn’t stop thinking about it. It is also full of all of my favourite things in a short story.
Since the internet slowly became accessible to many in the 1990’s, there has been an explosion of sites dealing with Faeries. It evolved into a culture of its own, splintering into different groups as diverse as the Gothic to the Wiccans. There are also those interested in the Faerie stories of their youth, associating these entities with benign, angel-like spirits representing innocence and goodness. This list is by no means exhaustive, as I have only picked out what I considered to be the most relevant for this list, as well as those providing the most information.
Articles, Essays and Other Relevance
An essay by Jeremy Harte about faerie abduction. It is a relief to bump into articles and essays such as these which actually cite sources and sound like some thought has been put into it considering the pages upon pages of poorly researched sites I’ve had to wade through! Other essays by Harte found on the `Net include Hollow Hills which is about the fabled dwelling places of Faerie, the intriguing Dark Green – Some Disturbing Thoughts about Faeries and Medieval fairies: Now you see them, now you don’t.
An article linking faerie belief to the landscape of the mind: inclusive of Jungian psychoanalysis, by Elisabeth Oakland. Also an essay which contains citation, which gets this site’s nod of approval.
The Faery Tradition
Another essay highlighting a wholly different aspect and kinds of believers in Faerie.
Article about Tumuli and faerie linkage.
Article by Donald E. Simanek about the ever-controversial and ever-discussed Cottingley fairies. I like it because it contextualizes the affair with the interesting Spiritualism movement which arose at the end of the 1800s.
E-texts and other valuable resources
Translated by D. L. Ashliman who is arguably the `Net’s most valuable source of information on folklore and fairytales with his exhaustive library of texts.
The complete e-text of Croker’s hard to find book.
Another e-text: an ethnographical study of the Fairy Faith.
Subcultural Visuals: The Professionals
Much of the current craze in Faeries is fueled by the work of fantasy and mythopoeic artists who have made their vision of the Otherworld accessible to the masses. This section lists the more popular “usual suspects”, who are also the largest victims of copyright infringement. Fame, apparently, is a mixed blessing.
The art of Brian and Wendy Froud. Brian is perhaps one of *THE* most influential figures in so far as conceptualizing Faeries in this current age is concerned. His art and art derivative of his vision can be found everywhere on the `Net. A beautifully designed site. For more information read Faeries and The World of Froud, an article by Terri Windling.
Stephanie Pui-Mun Law’s site is more than just Faerie pictures. Mythic contexts abound, and is a true feast for both the eyes and the mind of mythopoetically inclined visitors.
Subcultural Proponents: Examples of Faerie Subculture online
One of the first sites that incited the formation of an online Faerie Subculture. This site created a networking system for those Faerie-inclined and brought forth the idea of humans somehow being Faeries. This made this site very popular (as well as much-imitated).
In the Twentieth (and 21st) century, it seems as though belief in faeries encompasses so many different arenas of thought and practice. I have included this link to illustrate another facet, Faerie Wicca or Faerie Shamanism.
One of the most intriguing things I’ve seen develop over the past decade or so is the rise of costumed events and costumed subcultural proponents which combine a steampunk aesthetic with fey aesthetic. A lot of this is connected to the gothic subculture, but only to a certain extent. The Faery Balls and conventions that occur worldwide are a prime example of this phenomenon.
Faerie Websites of Note
Sites which are a happy marriage of attractive design, interesting information, and that something extra which makes them worth revisiting.
A well designed and comprehensive site detailing several denizens of the irish faerie pantheon. Interesting and intelligent write-ups coupled with lovely art.
One of the oldest resources on faeries on the web, dealing with Puck and other tricksters who have made their way into popular culture via folklore and literature.
Providing a glossary of the Italian Faerie Pantheon.
Since the World Wide Web went “public” in the mid-to-late 1990s, there have been a plethora of sites dealing with myth and folklore that have come and gone. This list combines and connects resources related to myth as well as folklore and fairytales. While the ontological structure and behavior of a myth differs from that of a fairytale, there are enough cross-overs between the two storytelling forms. Some of the sites listed below appear to have realized this as well, as their purview straddles both types of tales.
One of the oldest resources online- still the place to go if you’re looking for quick mythic reference.
A fairly straightforward resource dealing with Greek, Roman and Celtic mythology.
A comprehensive encyclopedia and resource for world myths.
Godchecker – your Guide to the Gods
Boldly proclaiming that they have “more gods than you can shake a stick at” and that they provide “mythology with a twist”, Godchecker is an exuberant resource that provides a look at different mythologies, gods and spirits from different parts of the world. Also check out their official twitter which tweets you a different God per day so you can read up on the relevant mythic entry.
A comprehensive directory of Mythic links with annotations.
Like the title promises, a resource page for online references in mythology, comparative spirituality and anthropology with a bias towards Joseph Campbell.
Cultural and Regional-Specific Myth Essays and Guides
An excellent resource for Hindu mythology, especially with regards to iconography.
An article by the Myth Encyclopedia about themes, motifs and roots in African mythology.
A thoughtful resource on Indian Mythology, connected to Indian spirituality and the meanings behind mystical icons and signs.
An offshoot of pantheon.org, this page seeks to provide a comprehensive list of Gods in African mythology from different parts of Africa.
A thoughtful and critical essay on Creation Myths and African concepts of creation
Intriguing glimpse into the world of the Anasazi.
The Theoi Greek Project provides an in-depth look not just at the themes and characters in Greek Mythology but also instances of these themes in classical literature and art. It also provides the reader with a much-welcomed Theoi Classical Texts Library so background reading into the featured myths may be done. Goodies include the Orphic Hymns and various fragments and poems by Hesiod. Well-designed site which provides a valuable resource!
A helpful educational resource for students and teachers.
Mythology, Folklore and Cultural Contexts
C.G. Jung, Archetypal Psychology, Cultural Mythology and more.
Information on Joseph Campbell, his work and other resources.
A remarkable endeavour that looks for mythic (as well as mystical) contexts in history and culture.
At the forefront of the drive towards interstitial arts, Terri Windling’s site features thought-provoking articles on both myth and folklore, galleries and interviews with proponents of this “movement”.
Featuring the “Journal of Mythic Arts”.
Exhaustive Folklore and Fairytale resource- a *MUST* visit if you’re actively pursuing information.
A site devoted to “devoted to cultures, living and ancient, and the promotion of world communication and world peace”
Magazines, Journals and Semi-prozines for Academic Writing, Essays, Articles and Fiction/Poetry
Literary Journal for Fairy Tale scholars and other academically inclined folklorists. One of the best resources available for contemporary peer-reviewed articles on folklore.
Now discontinued journal which is an offshoot of the Endicott Studio for the Mythic Arts, this trailblazing journal is still a valuable archive of posts, articles and resources for all things pertaining to the mythic arts.
A magazine and blog which features stories and poems written in the grand tradition of revising and revisiting fairytales. Host to critical and well-thought out reviews on books, anthologies and other literary contributions to the genre as well as critical essays on fairytales.
A fairly established recent independent online quarterly journal which features poetry written with mythic and fairytale themes in mind. The poetry and recordings of poetry are all of literary quality and the site is a delight to navigate.
This magazine is unique in that it reaches back into something that not many realize today. Apart from retold folktales which contain mythologems, fairytales can also be literary tales with certain qualities. As a site that encourages the germination of newer fairytales and fables, it sits nicely in an overlooked niche not just in the online fairytale market.
An online magazine accepting submissions and publishing critical and non-fiction articles on fairytales, as well as news about current literary offerings in the genre.
Dante’s Heart is a mixed genre/medium online Journal which accepts submissions for mythic art, poetry, fiction, theatre, flash presentations etc and is committed towards the active creation of myths and reclaiming it within an artistic venue. It combines the traditional expectations of text with the potential for online venues for performance spaces and is therefore something to watch out for!
Good place to start for students/seekers of myth, anthropology, comparative religion and spirituality.
One of the oldest and most comprehensive online repository of faerie tales, myths and other relevant texts and links.
Need to brush up on your Greek myth? Forgotten exactly which classical text an allusion comes from? This library is an invaluable resource for the student or enthusiast of Greek mythology.
Complete E-text of the novel by Apuleius, featuring the first recorded instance of the Legend of Cupid and Psyche.
An invaluable resource containing PDF files to historical and fictional accounts of the Malay Archipelago, linked to the myths, legends and folk tales found in the Sejarah Melayu (Malay Annals)
Newsletter of the Mythic Imagination Institute which is supports the
Mythic Journeys conference.
Atmospheric and welcoming resource for mythopoets and fantasists online.
Joseph Campbell Mythology Group Newsletter
Aquafemina’s newsletter, brought out every moon. Exploration of myth, spirituality and art
(c) Nin Harris 1999-2010
“Harp and carp, Thomas,” she said,
Harp and carp along with me;
And if ye dare to kiss my lips
Sure of your body I will be!”
“And see ye not yon bonny road
That winds about the green hillside?
That is the way to fair Elfland,
Where you and I this night must bide.”
One of the most intriguing story threads within the faerie folktales of the British Isles is that of Thomas the Rhymer. The tale of a brash young poet who is swept away by the Faerie Queen to become her lover is, doubtless, both romantic and exciting. However, there are other elements that make this tale a compelling one. The ballad, called either “Thomas the Rhymer” or “True Thomas” or Thomas and the Fairy Queen provides the narrator a way to detail the protocol of the Faerie court to his audience, and provides the audience with a human (hence familiar) glance into the world of Faerie. Secondly, the resolution of the tale, with the “fateful” gift that transfigures his life, serves as a rather colorful explanation for the powers of a very real personality in Scottish History, that of Thomas of Erceldoune. This gift, includes seeing the future; indeed, this Tom has been documented as making a lot of famous prophecies.
The force of Thomas’s personality comes up in the many versions of the Thomas tale. He has been given many names – True Tom, True Thomas, Thomas the Rhymer, Thomas of Erceldoune as well as Thomas Learmont. His name has cropped up in many modern tellings of the Faerie Court, including those by Raymond E. Feist, Ellen Kushner, Sherri S. Tepper and Diana Wynne Jones. In the latter two, a connection is made between the “Thomas the Rhymer” tale and another scottish “Tom” – the figure captured by the Faerie Queen in “Tam Lin”.
What follows is a little compilation of quotations and allusions to Thomas as well as a list of twentieth century fantasy/faerie fiction in which he makes an appearance.
The South East Asian region is a heady mixture of hybrid nations straddling the waterways and trade routes between India and China. Rich with much-disputed spices, regions yielding gold, tin ore and precious wood such as teak, it was inevitable that different cultures, civilisations and religious beliefs would clash with each other. Sometimes, there would be assimilation, whether peaceful or violent. Growing up, I was treated to tales of pre-Islamic empires such as Sailendra and Srivijaya, which spanned major parts of the Nusantara (the Malay Archipelago), as well as the stories of Indochinese empires and the clash between the forces of Siam and China in their bid for the Malay Peninsula. This historical backdrop provides the fodder for many stories. The tales of Thailand and Cambodia are rich with Buddhist iconography melded with local animism, while the Malay archipelagoes developed their own unique, intrinsic culture which assimilated the storytelling patterns of both the Hindu and Buddhist traditions with that of local animism. Later, as Islam became the main religion, the Islamic motif added a new, distinct note within the weaving of the tales.
I’ve been inspired by these tales, both in writing and visual representations. The painting below, The Lilypad Princess, was in part influenced by what would eventually evolve into Learie’s tale within Domus Exsulis – my dreams of those long-ago empires of Srivijaya, Sailendra and beyond:
This issue of Arthropod Trails is by no means extensive. I feel like I have barely scratched the surface of the wealth of tales found within South East Asia. I suspect that it will be, at the very least, a series in two parts, since I would like to devote more space to other regions in South East Asia. It has been interesting looking for the translations; most of the sites I found were a mixed bag. I found the most helpful sites were by bloggers who wove translations along with personal anecdotes about how the stories figured in their life. Other sites are businesses with pages devoted to explaining the stories behind names. I thought this was peculiarly appropriate; after all, folktales and legends will continue to be woven into the practicalities of everyday life, whether we acknowledge them or not. To a certain extent, tourism commodifies these stories. Whether for better or worse, I leave it for others to decide. I’m more interested in dreaming rich, textured dreams which I will then transfer onto either visual or text-based mediums!
While I was stalking the folklore and myths of Thailand and Indo-China, I came across a reference to the Himmapan Forest which intrigued me. The Himmapan Forest is said to exist somewhere between India and Nepal. Stories about the forest are steeped in both Buddhist lore and local folktales, and many of the figures in Thai art which have these hybrid animals are said to live within this mystical forest. I was particularly taken by the Thep Kinnaree and would like to do a visual representation of it someday! There are many other creatures within the Himmapan Forest, however, and here are artistic depictions of Thai mythical creatures such as the Naga, the Hong, the Kinnaree, and the Garuda (some cross-over with Indonesia here). Life in Vientiane has an intriguing account of the Himmapan Forest, describing it as a “secret palace” where there are people who are half-bird and half-human.
A fascinating page offering the basics of Indonesian Myths and Folktales, connects it to Indian Mythology. In particular, the writer explores the evolution of the Five Pandawas who were found in the Mahabarata and the Bhatarayuda within Indonesian folklore.
I also discovered a page about the Myths of Origins and the Deluge of Indonesia, I was particularly taken with this, because I’d been looking up different versions and manifestations of the Deluge. It’s inevitable that an archipelagic region would have tales such as these.
This waterlogged tale from Indonesia is about a very different sort of watermaiden, found within the Legend of Lake Toba, which I referenced within my poem, Golden Apples, a kind of trans-cultural paean to the wild woman/storyteller.
Unbeknownst to most of the western world, the Malay Archipelago had more than one woman warrior or queen in its arsenal of tales. In Hikayat Panji Semarang, the entire heroic romance in old Indonesian Malay features a female princess who cross-dresses as a man so she can be a warrior! One of the most famous Malay female warrior queens is Cik Siti Wan Kembang. I found it interesting that the most helpful pages on Cik Siti Wan Kembang were anecdotal blog posts but it was inevitable. Daring to Speak Bahasa is a thoughtful post which touches on malay folklores and legends. The blogger writes about how the legends personally affected and influenced her, delving into the complexities of Malaysian race politics. On the other hand, Reunited in Negeri Cik Siti Wan Kembang is a less political blog post detailing a journey into Kelantan, with foodbloggery and a painting of the warrior queen.
Another strong female icon within Malay folklore is The Princess of Mount Ophir, or Puteri Gunung Ledang. This story revolves around a princess (or demigoddess) who lived up a mountain and who swore to take no one as her husband. Of course, such an oath would be a challenge to most powerful patriarchs, and so the legend was born. The Fairy Princess of Mount Ophir (Puteri Gunung Ledang) features both the story and the popular culture references in Malaysia by Sejarah Melayu, which is in itself an extensive site dedicated to the documents, archival research and folktales behind and surrounding the Sejarah Melayu (Malay Annals) manuscript. Malacca Tourism’s pithy and concise (as well as accurate) version of the Puteri Gunung Ledang tale is also a helpful read, particularly because it doesn’t serve up the overblown, romanticized versions that now exist due to popular culture. Like many of these tales, mysticism is tied with a message about the abuse of power.
Another example of this may be found in the Mahsuri stories.The legend of Mahsuri is the prototype tale of the virtuous wife who has been wronged by nobility, due to gossip, ill-will and the abuse of power. Up till the late-80s, it was said that the island of Langkawi was put under a curse for seven generations by Mahsuri, which is why it could never develop. Around the 1990s, there was a tourism boom on Langkawi, and it was said that the curse had lifted. Many of the attractions on the island revolve around Mahsuri’s story, and there is also a musical about the whole thing, which I saw as a kid. Here’s a fairly accurate and decently written rendition, for the website of an Australian Satay House, of all things!
One of the things I love about the stories of the Far East as well as those of South East Asia is the deep romanticism mixed with pragmatism. There are elements within these tales which are very much public-spirited, containing elements of therapy or catharsis. Happy endings are not typical or required; some tales may be moralistic, while others are peculiarly enigmatic. The legend of Ulek Mayang has always been one of my favourite stories, and is particularly enigmatic. The story is part of a ritualistic performance that includes song, dance and mantras. Like many, I was first introduced to it via a dance performance on a school concert day. The story put chills through me, as it should, because it was both otherworldly and incredibly sad, filled with the human longing for different realities. This is pretty much consistent in other East Malaysian performances, such as the Mak Yong. The story is of the relationship between the fishermen and the spirits of the sea (or mermaid princesses), and is about seven playful sea princesses who caused the fishermen to go unconscious. There are mantras within this performance which has all the hallmarks of psychotherapeutic healing linked to ritual (The book, Religious and Social Ritual: Interdisciplinary Explorations edited by Michael B. Aune and Valerie DeMarinis has very good examples and explanations of this. I’ve used it before in my Masters in Literature thesis, and it will likely be helpful for those of you interested in ritual.). Here’s a page with a clear, concise and well-written exposition of the legend.
For further reading, First Day Covers has a page on Malaysian folktales, served in concise paragraph form. Also, here’s an interesting variation of the Raja Bersiong (fanged king) story I was not aware of, related to the origins of the town, Baling. And yes, Raja Bersiong is another wicked king, who developed a penchant for human blood in his curry after a cook accidentally cut his hand while cooking a royal feast.
Africa has Brer Rabbit, Malaysia has its own, witty little mammal, Sang Kancil. The fragile mouse-deer is an iconic figure within Malaysian folktales and children of different races would have been told these stories both at home and at school. Most of the tales are about resourcefulness when you’re outwitted by bigger and stronger animals in the forest. Sejarah Melayu details the connection between the Kancil and the legend of the founding of the Malacca Sultanate by Parameswara. I’ve always been interested by the significance of the tree within this tale. The Sultanate takes its name from the Malacca tree, but the entire experience is mystical.
Outwitting a Crocodile seems to be the most well-represented Sang Kancil tale on the world wide web, but I am interested in finding more.
Cambodia evokes images of a hidden empire within a tropical forest, with sacred apsaras guarding its ornate, stonework enclosures. I was enchanted by the following sites which gave me a glimpse into Khmer folktales which were a mixture of folk wisdom and Buddhist beliefs.
Khmer Folktales by My Cambodia News.
A page of Khmer Folktales by Cornell University’s South East Asia Outreach division.
Khmer Fashion Lab’s translated Khmer folktales.
To Sell a Donkey (folktale).
Alamat, A Phillipine Folktales, Myths and Legend Page is a site that lists out the different folktales, myths and legends according to different elemental domains, featuring creation myths as well as legends. Beautiful in both its organisation and its sentiment, I would definitely list this as a must-visit if you’re interested in pinoy myths and folklore. For something a little older, Folktales from the Phillipines by D.L. Ashliman provides interesting reading and context, while, for something more local, there’s a blog dedicated to Pinoy folktales.
When I think of electronic fiction back in the nineties, I think of illumined words in darkness and sparkling lights. Doubtless, some of this would be caused by what is becoming a nineties web-page joke: animated gifs, embedded midis and texts that sometimes glistened with starling truths but which often fell down, sluggish with over-glittered kitsch and clichés. Some succeeded, some didn’t. Over a decade has passed. Some of the texts that I enjoyed and I would have liked to link to have disappeared into the ether. Some of the authors remain, but have either moved on to print media or have done other venues and projects on the internet. But works of magic still exist, and still glisten on this world of wires, signals, binaries and hexadecimals. They will continue to inspire and be inspired by print media, and there will be crossovers in either direction.
I have been writing in this medium for over a decade now, and when I began, my ultimate goal was, as it is now, the print media. My own vision of a faerie isle bathed by the light of the storm, which I began in 1997, owed something to various manifestations of the Amor and Psyche story, as well as the Countess d’Aulnoy’s Laidronette. As with many other purveyors and lovers of myth and fairytales, this expanded into its own tale, with its own set of mythologems. It was not perfect, I was very young and very inexperienced when I started writing about a mad dwarven perfumer named Ipede Dwinkum, and an equally mad young princess who disappeared through a muggy green swamp in search of her Serpent. The stories went through several changes and revisions, and my world grew as I grew up.
Things have changed substantially in this arena. While lay-people and clueless academics deride online fiction, they still mine the internet for ideas and the random fiction of unknown writers, to use as examples on courses about online fiction, or for other purposes best not discussed in polite company. There is a wealth here which to me is a second coming of all those anonymous oral storytellers who used to walk up and down immeasurable byways through the corridors of time and culture. While self-publishing and online publishing will continue to be viewed with suspicion and stigma by some quarters, I believe that the cross-over between mediums will contribute to, if not legitimization, at least a partial acceptance. As with other mediums, certain venues are more reputable than others and certain types of online fiction will gain more credibility than others. What is the key? It is really the same as other mediums, first, there has to be a certain standard, secondly, a form of peer-review. Basic rule of thumb seems to be that if it is accepted by a certain group or level of peers, it’s legit.
Where does it leave the rest of us who are somehow in-between, not quite legit or peer-reviewed? I don’t know. There are days, when being a writer on these frontiers for over a decade is more painful than other days. Days when you feel your work is cannibalized, your effort is thankless and futile. But at the end of it, all I can see are positive outcomes. It is good if there are crossovers and more and more people are aware of web fiction as a new and dynamic medium in which the boundaries of the text can be challenged, where a true hyper-textual model is possible, beyond what Joyce could envision. It was because of this delirious possibility that, armed with myth, literary theory and a deep love of James Joyce, I started my own hypertextual, storm-tossed web in 1997. I wanted to dive into text; my desire was for a living breathing textual world to wrap around me and my I-narrators. I wanted to do strange things with point of view and tenses.
There is a fluidity here that allows writers to bridge the gap between text and performance, taking us into myriad possibilities with regards to story arcs, points of view and how both reader and writer is re-defined by the hypertextual experience. In the end, this isn’t a story about peer review, the relative obscurity of hypertextual authors or any of our many defeats and occasional triumphs. A story could start in one section of my web, and end in another, while cross-referring an earlier note, posted several years ago. Text bogles or dragons could meander from the actual fictive spaces to my editorial ramblings. There are so many gaps, gashes and crevices available to people who delight in this arena. And there are so many ways in which the narrative voice can develop which simply cannot be done in more traditional mediums.
So, if you ask me why we write, weave and sometimes dream about the manner in which we are going to present this content to you, I will assert that this is a by-blow of all the permutations of experience that we undergo as storytellers, mythmakers and word-children. The nature of who we are has not changed. The arena has. The medium shifts. While my tale is hardly a success story as much as it is a rite of passage experienced by someone who grew with the internet and who passionately loves it, it remains an example of how diverse web-published fiction can be and how many paths lead here and depart from here.
Online fiction on the Web: Crossovers and Success Stories
Online fiction and literature has been the subject of literary and narrative theory for the past few years but it still remains fairly obscure and on the fringes of acceptability. I would suppose some of the reasons for this include the wide diversity in both subject matter and quality. However, over the past decade or so, there have been notable cross-overs between print authors and online fiction. One of the earliest to test the fluidity of this form was Tad Williams, notable author of Memory, Sorrow & Thorn and the Otherland books. While not the first to create episodic online fiction, he was arguably one of the pioneers of this medium who was also an established author. The Shadowmarch community was initially formed so that fans of Tad Williams would be able to subscribe and pay for instalments of the stories. The stories overlapped both a traditional fantasy world and the eerie interstices of Faerie. Eventually the Shadowmarch project was canned and we got the Shadowmarch print series, with two books out and the first part of the third book in the works (and much anticipated by his fans!). Other established authors who have published online include Elizabeth Bear, whose Shadow Unit is an imaginative episodic collaboration with writers Sarah Monette and Holly Black. Shadow Unit still has an active audience and fairly efficient business model.
Another example of electronic fiction that succeeded in gaining both critical acclaim as well as a working pay model is Shelley Jackson’s Patchwork Girl, a feminist retelling of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. I would be remiss and unscholarly, if I did not mention one of the more recent and more interesting cross-over endeavours, by the fairly established fantasy writer, Catherynne M. Valente. The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making is a novel, posted in episodic form, which is (still) offered free but is fueled by donations which one can offer via the tip jar on her site. Valente is apparently no stranger to online fiction, from a brief visit to her site, I note that she has both an Omikuji project as well as The Ice Puzzle (2005). Like many of more recent fantasists such as Jeff Vandermeer, John Scalzi et al, word of Valente’s new novel exploded through the blogverse/web 2.0-verse sometime in June and is a testament to how blogging, tweeting and internet culture has evolved, creating more than one bridge between traditional fiction and its online manifestation.
Notable Examples of Online Hypertextual Literature
This list is not exhaustive; there are numerous directories with works of online literature, ebooks, `zines with short stories and other examples of novels published in episodic form online. Some of these are more prominent than others and I will leave for you the pleasures of discovery! For this particular list, however, I limited myself to sites with complete stories, linked by hypertext, which were free to read and which were self-sufficient examples of what hypertextual fiction can do, and which crossed the frontiers of fiction by making full use of the hypertextual experience. Novels published on blogs or websites alone do not count for this list. If you know of any other websites which fit this bill, please let me know.
- The Ballad of Sand and Harry Soot by Stephanie Strickland
- Through the Cobweb Forest by Connie Toebe and Lisa Stock
- Odysseus She by Katherine Phelps
You might also want to browse the Electronic Literature Organization’s Showcase of Electronic Literature.
Critical Reading, Electronic Literature Advocacy and Literary Theory
- Electronic Literature Organization
- Booting the Binary Bard by Katherine Phelps
- Narrative as Virtual Reality: Immersion and Interactivity in Literature and Electronic Media by Marie-Laurie Ryan (book)
- Materiality and Matter and Stuff: What Electronic Texts Are Made Of by Matthew Kirschenbaum
- “Do you want to hear about it?”: The Use of the Second Person in Electronic Fiction by Ruth Nestvold
- Hamlet on the Holodeck: The Future of Narrative in Cyberspace by Janet H. Murray (book)
Once upon a time, mythopoetica.com’s Afterimaginings newsletter had a Webbed Feet category to share unearthed web-treasures. This web-adventurer’s notion of binaried and pixellated beauty may not be yours, but that’s besides the point. The point is that there has lately been an over-reliance on Web 2.0 which obscures, rather than enables our finding these hidden pockets of beauty, be they visual or intellectual.
Needless to say, Webbed Feet is now back and renamed Arthropod Trails! Not sure of the frequency of these editions, consistency is not my forte, so I’ll just post them when I post `em. Let’s break past the binary lockdowns and walled gardens!
The Art of Daniel Conway
I discovered Arcipello (Daniel Conway)’s art on deviantart and love the way he works in the motif of floods and water into his visually stunning dreamscapes. His website is a visual treat and should be explored.
The Modern Historian
Kevin is a bona fide historian, since he’s pursuing a PhD in history and has a passion for what he does. His “this day in history” daily posts are a treat to read as they’re both informative and visually appealing. They’re also available as twitter and rss feeds. If you’re a history geek or love these bits of information, I highly recommend this site.
The Faery Crossing
Originally, a lot of the sites that I looked for on my Anansi’s Trail postings would be faerie sites. Over the years it got harder to find the sites that spoke to me of faerie without being tacky or twee. This site was one of them and I am glad to see it is still around and still possesses visual magic. Also, the font-lover in me goes squee at this site.
Design is Kinky
Art and design news, and well-curated exhibits. Design is Kinky indeed.
Aunt Violet’s Book Museum: (a home for decayed gentlewomen)
If you love old books, old dust-covers and decorative binding, then this website is a treat to visit. The collection includes literary ghost stories, swashbucklers, the novels of H. Rider Haggard and the e-zine The Weird Review. Run by the author Jessica Amanda Salmonson, this site is a reminder of how a simple, no-frills html design which is well-curated is a visual treat on its own merit – even more so!
* The name of this category/series has since changed from Anansi’s Trail to Arthropod Trails, and this document has been edited to reflect this change.
An Alternative List of “Best Cult Books”: Spanning Generations, Geographical Locations and Countercultures
by Nisi Shawl and Nin Harris
Nisi: Cult books are, by my definition, books that introduce the reader to a culture, a group of people who share values delineated by the book. Such books may be big seller or underground hits passed along via loans, but they have an impact beyond that of run-of-the-mill works. And they draw people in rather than merely preaching to the choir: they convert readers into believers.
Nin and I noticed that a list promoted by the Telegraph seemed very male, very white. This list is meant to supplement and complement that list. It includes a token three white males. One of these is gay. As for the other two, what they’ve written about racial issues could certainly only have been written by members of the dominant paradigm.
Of the 50 books on the Telegraph list I’d read 26. I suspect that by producing this list we’re not saying that the other one is necessarily invalid, but merely that Nin and I may have been invited to different cults than were those who created the Telegraph’s version.
Nin: When I posted the Telegraph’s list of Best Cult Books on social media (with the inevitable accompanying rant), I noticed the discrepancy between what the Telegraph considered influential and what most of us from the postcolonial/Othered world would consider influential. Nisi agreed that PoC and women/non-heteronormative people were poorly represented on that list. So here’s our alternative. Ground-breaking in their own way, not necessarily global, the books listed have made waves in more than one cult. Nisi began by offering 33 books on her list, and I compiled the rest. It took some time and hard thinking. We invite those of you who may have other books that you’d prefer to be on the list to leave a comment, or to share an alternative to our alternative list!
(Note: HTML does lists differently from M$ word, so for purposes of curiosity/accuracy/context since we have different cultural/geographical backgrounds and are from different generations , Nisi did the list and annotations from books #1-33, and I listed books #34-50 and provided those annotations.)
- 100 Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez: The Telegraph lists Labyrinths by Borges, but really, there can be more than one Latin American magic realist title on a list of cult books.
- The Female Man by Joanna Russ: Women, often relegated to the margins of literature as we are to the margins of other endeavors, have produced several cult fantasies and science fictions in those marginalized genres. I’m only naming five.
- The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin: For many this was a gateway drug leading to a barely satiable demand for more feminist SF.
- Woman on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy
- The Art of War by Sun Tzu: For those wanting to join the cult of the CEO.
- The Autobiography of Malcolm X: You *had* to read this if you wanted even a modicum of street cred.
- The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston
- I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
- Roots by Alex Haley: Propounding the radical concept that slavery was a story about black people. It’s taken more than 40 years for comparable work to emerge.
- Soul on Ice by Eldridge Cleaver
- House Made of Dawn by N. Scott Momaday: Cult poetry.
- Howl by Allen Ginsberg: More cult poetry.
- The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie
- Dhalgren by Samuel R. Delany: As much of a freak flag as long hair; cognoscenti insisted on reading it multiple times.
- For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide by Ntozake Shange
- Jambalaya by Luisah Teish: Feminist voodoo; the only book of its kind for decades, and still known in some spiritual circles simply as “the book.”
- Wild Seed by Octavia E. Butler: A tough pick between this and Kindred. But Kindred is often encountered as a requirement in college classes, while Wild Seed inspires the kind of fanatical devotion only cult literature can.
- Cheri by Colette: Not to get *too* Anglophone here; this novel pretty much made Colette’s international reputation and summed up the recently lost world of the Belle Epoque upon its 1920 publication.
- Black Looks by bell hooks: Ain’t I a womanist?
- Rubyfruit Jungle by Rita Mae Brown: As essential to 1970s dykedom as a leather-billed patchwork chauffeur’s cap.
- Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston: So one could understand black female antecedents’ lives verbatim.
- Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown
- Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich
- The Sensuous Woman by J: The radical idea that women had sexual cores to their beings. Oh, sure, and that this core was in service to their male partners.
- I Hate to Housekeep by Peg Bracken: The radical idea that women might not be all that deeply invested in spotless crystal and shiny waxy linoleum floors.
- Beloved by Toni Morrison
- The Color Purple by Alice Walker
- I Ching (the Wilhelm Baynes translation): Not just to be read, but to be used daily. (additional note from #mythicfolk TAB, I Ching enthusiast: “Compare across translations for better results”)
- Lady Sings the Blues by Billie Holiday
- Moosewood Cookbook by MollieKatzen: Don’t think cookbooks deserve cult status? What a great way to disenfranchise women–restrict them to certain concerns and then deny that those concerns included influential icons!
- Silent Spring by Rachel Carson: This book basically started the environmental movement.
- Diet for a Small Planet by Francis Moor Lappe: This book basically popularized conscience-driven vegetarianism.
- Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin: A white man finds out it’s not easy being brown.
- The Palm-Wine Drinkard by Amos Tutuola: He was doing slipstream PoC fantasy before it was cool. Not only possibly the most cult book, but possibly the most hipster.
- Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe: Influential to an entire body of literature and to aspiring poco writers and artists everywhere. Need I say more?
- Woman, Native, Other by Trinh T-Minh Ha: A clarion call for third-wave feminists of colour.
- The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe : This book influenced a whole slew of other books and is possibly the prototype for more than one subgenre, romance or Gothic or otherwise.
- Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza by Gloria Anzaldua
- Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
- Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen: really, I don’t think one could get more iconic in terms of cult figures than Mr. Darcy, do you? Also schooling generations of women on what to expect (and not to expect) from your Mr. Not-So-Right.
- Wild Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys: While it may seem a little difficult at first to imagine this as a “cult” book, the sheer conversation-starter quality of the novel, the fact that it was one of the very first “feminist revisions” of a canonical literary work, the fact that more than one late twentieth century novel alludes to it, and yes, the fact that it has fueled one aspect of a gendered counter-culture makes it cult in my books, regardless of whether or not it’s now almost a cliched offering on many college reading lists.
- Women Who Run With Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes: I’d explain to you why this book is important but wait, I need to run into the woods to howl at the moon for a bit…
- The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy: Problematic, maddening and exhilarating all at once, this book has won acclaim abroad but is rife with controversy in India. Love it, hate it, it is a literary masterpiece, and controversial enough to rate a cult rating.
- Matigari by Ngugi Wa Thiong’O : Ngugi Wa Thiong’O still inspires hushed awe in postcolonial literature circles, for his decision to write in Kikuyu instead of English, for his politics, which are encapsulated in books like the troubling Matigari.
- Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi : The graphic novel that introduced to most of the known world the fact that Iranian women had voices, a kick-ass attitude and a sense of humour.
- Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro : A haunting dystopian novel for our times which emotionally disturbs and grips most of the people who read it. Still discussed and debated, perennially troubling.
- A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth: When it came out it was one of the most-talked about novels for quite awhile, due not just for its epic length but for the intricacies of its plot. I can’t think of getting more cult than that.
- This Earth of Mankind by Pramoedya Ananta Toer: Written while incarcerated, the Buru Quartet (represented by the first volume here) is testament to the literary genius of a man who refused to be silenced while held as a political prisoner. An underground writer denied agency in his own nation, he’s been hailed as Southeast Asia’s best potential Nobel Prize Laureate.
- Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel: Only the book that started the whole cult of culinary fiction.
- Dykes to Watch out For by Alison Bechdel: the iconic comic strip that gave us the Bechdel Test, the benchmark (modified more than once) by which some of us judge works of literature, film, and television series. Made even more cult thanks to the good work of Anita Sarkeesian over at Feminist Frequency.