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Clarkesworld issue 96

Posted on by June in News | Leave a comment

clarkesworld 96

 

It’s not every day one has a story up at Clarkesworld, so I thought I’d commemorate the publication of my story “Patterns Of A Murmuration, In A Billion Data Points” with an actual blogpost. I wrote this story as part of a flash fiction challenge, with added prompts from my lovely Clarion West classmate Kelly, and folded in a Tuckerisation request from my friend Wayne Rée (who incidentally has out a book of short stories). It’s about mothers, and death, and revenge. Also Big Data. Possibly. Definitely.

I’m also really thrilled and really looking forward to Clarkesworld’s new project to publish a translation of a Chinese SFF story with every issue! Yesssss. One of my greatest self-regrets is that I’m not proficient enough with my mother tongue to be able to read literature in the language– I want to read more Chinese SFF but I know my Mandarin CMI (I have very poor character recognition–I can understand a great deal of the spoken language but I can barely read it beyond an elementary level). I am deeply ashamed that I have to wait for English translations (the older generation will mock you, 华人不会读华语), but at the same time, I’m just really happy that they’re available.

The first of the series is a brilliant, magical CNY story by Xia Jia, “Spring Festival: Happiness, Anger, Love, Sorrow, Joy“, translated by Ken Liu. All the little touches–the superstitions, the precarious family ties– just made me really, really happy to read. I’m sorry. I keep saying I’m really happy. I should probably stop that.

Conventionally speaking

Posted on by June in People//Places | 2 Comments
Zen, Fabio and I at NineWorlds

Zen, Fabio and I at NineWorlds

The dust has settled and I’m peering over the precipice of a new job which begins September 1st, so I thought it would be a good time as any to get this pesky con-report-blog thing out of my way.

See, I’ve never done this before. I attended NineWorlds and WorldCon, and they were the first proper SFF cons I ever attended. It involved several long-haul flights, layovers in airports steeped in 38C weather, and living out of a green suitcase for two weeks.

In between rolling chains of hotel lobbies and rooms in other people’s houses, I met folks. Folks I was meeting for the first time in person. Folks I was meeting for the first time, period. And folks I was meeting after too long a time apart.  At the end of my travels, back in Singapore, I made a list of people whom I met, and whom I wanted to thank on Twitter. The list had over fifty names on it. I ended up just tweeting a picture of the list instead. It was that kind of experience.

I mostly made this post to address this Daily Dot article that went around earlier this week (How The Growing Generation Gap Is Changing The Face Of Fandom) The basic premise was that NineWorlds = good and inclusive because it’s a young con run by young people! And WorldCon = awful on the diversity front because old white men.

Well. I attended both cons as a young queer Asian woman and I think that’s a pretty unfair assessment of what the cons were actually like.

With my CW2013 classmates Vince and Allison

With my CW2013 classmates Vince and Allison at WorldCon

I think the article was trying to make a point about the difference between the classic SFF establishment and the diversity-oriented, for-inclusivity trend that the fandom and business has been swinging towards in recent years. Unfortunately, it chose to do so by making a ham-fisted division between Older People and Younger People, which is not just reductive, but also kinda shitty. There have been queer and minority folks in SFF fandom for decades, agitating for change, and reducing classic fandom to “full of old white men” pretty much erases them.

I’ll say this: Most of the folk I met at the two conventions were older than I. We had such insightful conversations. It isn’t about age, it’s about mindset.

That’s not to say there weren’t differences in the way the two conventions felt to me. The panels I attended on representation and non-western SFF in NineWorlds were, on the whole, much less 101 and a lot more to my taste, while the ones I attended (or rather, were on) at WorldCon had a much higher percentage of folks in the audience who were clueless or said things which had been discussed and debunked online over and over. But I think that’s to be expected with larger cons. Larger cons equal larger groups equal a larger number of casual fans, who are not as well-versed on SJ topics. For most part these audience members were usually shut down fairly quickly by moderators and panelists, so it was all good. (If a bit annoying).

The thing that stood out to me most about the two cons, if I had to say anything, was that they were both felt very white to me. And this is coming from someone who probably hung out with more POC than the average con-goer. SFF fandom, in general, is still very white. Most of the SFF spaces I’ve been in–even those which make it a point to be inclusive– are majority white by sheer numerology.

In fact, WorldCon felt like it was much more diverse to me, possibly because NineWorlds was more of a local con and it looks like the British SFF scene is very white (which doesn’t surprise me). LonCon was a big-ticket event which people would travel further for. It was noticeable to me, but, as I said, I didn’t feel unwelcome, or alienated by, the con atmosphere.

At the Strange Horizons party at WorldCon

At the Strange Horizons party at WorldCon

I have hope. At the Hugos we watched Sofia Samatar take home the Campbell. John Chu win Best Short Story and Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice be awarded the Best Novel prize. We also witnessed the SFF community collectively thumb their noses at old-school bigotry by ranking Vox Day’s nomination lower than No Award. I’m very glad to have been part of both conventions. These are my people, and no, we aren’t perfect. But I believe we’re taking steps in the right direction.

LonCon 2014 Schedule! Storytelling! And representation!

Posted on by June in People//Places, The Geek Beat | Leave a comment

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Hurrah! The schedules for LonCon are finally out!

This is the first big, people-from-all-over SFF con that I’ll be attending and also the first con of the same kind in which I’ll be sitting on panels. With that in mind, I’m hoping that four panels isn’t more than I can chew…  this is a reasonable schedule, is it not?

Here’s what I’ll be on. Mostly discussions of ways to tell stories, and matters of representation in media.

1) Recentering the World Storm: John Clute’s “Fantastika” and the World

Thursday 14th August 16:30 – 18:00, Capital Suite 6 (ExCeL)

With Geoff Ryman, John Clute, Glenda Larke and Gili Bar-Hillel. Talking about John Clute’s definition of “fantastika” in the context of a world where non-Western, non-Anglophone storytelling traditions exist.

2) Content and Form: Writing SF/F in non-Western Modes

Friday 15th August 13:30 – 15:00, Capital Suite 8 (ExCeL)

With Amal El-Mohtar, Aliette de Bodard, Rochita Loenen-Ruiz and Nick Wood. Talking about non-Western forms of SFF storytelling.

3) Beyond Bechdel

Friday 15th August 20:00 – 21:00, Capital Suite 7+12 (ExCeL)

With Kate Heartfield, Kate Elliot, Jed Hartman, Julia Rios. Discussing other tests of diversity in film and media.

4) The Knowable Other?

Saturday 16th August 19:00 – 20:00, London Suite 2 (ExCeL)

With Viktoriya H, Michael Morelli, Ashley Pollard, Justina Robson. Discussing the trend in media where “Others” are increasingly taking on human form (Cylons in BSG, androids in Almost Human, etc) (I don’t think it’s a trend and I don’t think it’s that new)

As a softener, to warm me up to LonCon, I’ll also be attending NineWorlds from 8-10 August. I won’t be on any panels there, but I might be doing a reading–more on that later!

Really excited at the prospect of meeting folks I’ve gotten to know over the past year or so in person. NOT TO MENTION A NUMBER OF MY CLARION WEST CLASSMATES. IT’S NOT LIKE I’M EXCITED ABOUT THAT PROSPECT OR ANYTHING.

August is going to be fantastic. Hope to see y’all there!

The National Library Board

Posted on by June in Media Critique, What, I Say! | 1 Comment

Tired dog :(

If I were a cleverer and more eloquent writer this blogpost would be coherent, it would have a beginning and a middle and an end, it would have a point and it would stick to that. But I am not that writer, and my feelings over the past few days have oscillated from annoyance to anger to disbelief and back again so many times that that pendulum has broken and rolled a death spiral onto the floor coming to rest somewhere near “tired”.

I’m tired.

I could tell you what it’s like. It’s having someone you thought was a friend – somebody whom you thought loved you and supported you and would welcome you no matter what – having that somebody stand in the harsh light and turn into this stony, unreachable figure, expression unreadable. You root for them and you root for them until the truth hits you in the face and you can’t deny anymore that your trust was misplaced.

It’s scrolling through your Facebook feed and seeing one person after another after another after another get in on the bandwagon, and then ministers are listening and political newsmakers are getting involved, so all of a sudden you’re hoping that something might change and a happy ending might come out of this, but it doesn’t, it doesn’t, and it all comes crumbling down in a media circus and empty rumbles of “”"community norms.”"”

I want to say intelligent things. I want to argue that fixating on the pulping of the books is a pointless exercise because whether the books would be destroyed or kept in a locked box in the basement is immaterial and we’re turning an issue of bigots exploiting state apparatuses for their own means into a paean to the sacred physicality of books. I want to shout at every person insisting this is not just about gay rights but really about the all-encompassing and universal right to read because no the whole thing is SPECIFICALLY about gay rights and it was SPECIFICALLY gay-themed titles that were targeted by a specifically anti-GLBTQ group out of the thousands and thousands of books that the library carries so to pretend otherwise is massively erasing of context and telling gay folk that their struggles aren’t important enough to warrant their attention unless it affects you also.

But I’m tired.

I see more and more reports cropping up on my newsfeed: From BBC and BoingBoing and WashPo and the like. I see boycotts and calls to arms and guerilla read-along sessions. I see the writing community I hang around more worked up than I’ve ever seen them. There is a fine frothing anger being worked up and spilling over the rims of the bucket they’ve tried to put us in.

But through this all I just can’t shake the feeling that there’s no happy ending in this. Even if the library recants after all this pressure, puts the books back on the shelves, it feels like too little, too late. Things have been said. Boxes opened and bridges burned. We’ve seen where priorities lie. And we don’t know if the bigots will strike again–and maybe this time they won’t make the mistake of crowing about their achievements.

It feels like the world is telling me, over and over again this year, that no matter how much progress we make there’s always people committed to rolling that progress back, people who openly compare queer folk to cancers and oppressive state apparatuses too afraid of change that are always willing to give them the time of day. There’s no happy ending in this.

And I’m tired.

 ETA: A convenient news tab that collects a smörgåsbord of news articles pertaining to the NLB’s pulling of the books off the shelf. Background, development, ministerial comments, letters to the editor…

Write a ton

Posted on by June in People//Places | Leave a comment

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A year. One year. Oh, how much a year can change. At around this point last year I thousands of miles away, in a gigantic house full of warm and amazing people I was only just getting to know, about to embark on an adventure I still haven’t properly managed to process in my head.

Clarion is one of those epoch-making experiences, I think, whose significance only becomes clear after you’ve passed through it. While you’re there it’s hyper-real, hyper-focused: Read those stories before class. Finish those words by today. Do your laundry before you run out of clothes. Six weeks on I left Seattle not knowing if I’d gotten any better at writing. Mostly I was just sad it was over, and sad at the idea that it might be a very long time before all my newfound friends and I would be together again.

Only now, after a year, have I begin to realise the impact the workshop has had on me. I’m more confident as a writer – did I not finish six stories in six weeks? I aim higher – I know I’m capable of writing better stories. I’m a better reader, critic, beta reader – workshopping 100+ short stories in slightly over a month will do that to you.

Since I’ve graduated from Clarion West I’ve sold two stories to pro markets – one came out in Strange Horizons this week and one will be in Crossed Genres next month (for their flash fiction issue). A year ago this would have been a pipe dream.

As a class, my Clarion West cohort has been responsible for over forty stories, published and forthcoming, since the workshop ended. Resident thing-gatherer and cheesestrawmaker Hel has listed them out on this page. Fantastic, isn’t it?

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So. You see. Clarion West has done many good things. It bears fruit, and the harvest is bountiful. I would love for it to encourage the flowering of emerging writers for many, many years to come.

I had help in getting to Clarion West. So did many of my classmates. Plane tickets are expensive and students from all over and all sorts of background get accepted into the workshop. Grant money has to come from somewhere, food and accommodation aren’t cheap, and there are instructor fees, and a dozen other things — the bottom line is, Clarion West is a non-profit organisation running a big, high-quality workshop every year, and relies on the generosity of donors to continue running the workshop.

So this is my plug for the Clarion West Write-A-Thon, their annual fundraising drive.

For the past ten years a community of writers have spent six weeks writing, editing and submitting stories concurrent with the workshop, and sponsors donate money to Clarion West as they do so. I’ve signed up for the Write-A-Thon myself, and hope to revise the last of my workshop stories and write two new ones.

But more than asking for sponsorship during the Write-A-Thon, I want to encourage people to sign up for it.

The thing is, Clarion West has been offered a funding challenge: If 350 people sign up for the Write-A-Thon, they get US$2,000 in funding, straight up. That can pay for more than half of a student’s fees!

Guys, it’s really that simple. Even if you don’t manage to write a single word, or get a single cent in donations, just by signing up you’re already helping the workshop! It literally takes two minutes to sign up. It is so easy.

So! Sign up. Sign up. Sign up.

And who knows, with the encouragement and comradeship of dozens of folk plugging away with you, you might even write your next masterpiece!

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With Leslie Howe, who was the workshop director for Clarion West last year (we were her last batch!)

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With Neile Graham, who is the current director of the Clarion West workshop. <333

A plug for BooksActually!

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BoAk 1

Breaking my blogging hiatus to stump for my actual favorite bookstore in Singapore, BooksActually!

Now BooksActually are a fabulous indie bookstore, here, almost an institution in the local lit scene now. They, however, have been hit by rent woes in the past, because you know, Singapore.

So their ambitious new goal this year is to own their own space. No more renting, no more worrying about landlords jacking up prices once the lease is up– peace of mind to focus more on the business of book-selling and book-publishing!

To this end BooksActually are running a storewide fundraising sale – 25% off everything! – until the end of April. A FEW DAYS MORE! When I visited the place on Saturday I found it positively crammed with folk– a brilliant sign.

Here are some reasons why you should support BooksActually and support their sale.

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1) Because they’re a fantastic space for local lit events.

Here is a picture of my face courtesy of my friend Fikri. This was from the latest reading I did at BooksActually, as part of the 24-Hour Bookstore event on the 18th of April. Here, I am reading an excerpt from my story that’s in From The Belly Of The Cat. I also read a second story that night, from the excellent anthology of feminist writing, Body Boundaries.

Over the years I’ve attended many of such book launches are other literary events, sometimes as an author, sometimes as a reader. BooksActually is a great space for lit-minded people to meet up.

But you can also tell that this store needs more space. Anything above ten folk in the store and moving around the narrow corridors left by the TOWERING SELECTION OF BOOKS turns into this intricate, weaving dance which we are more familiar with on our morning commutes. “SORRY OUR BUTTS HAVE TO TOUCH AS I SQUEEZE BY BUT I WOULD REALLY LIKE TO GET TO THE OTHER SIDE OK THANKS”

BooksActually needs a bigger and better space so these awesome literary events can comfortably hold more people. And you can help them do so.


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2) Support local lit!

BooksActually supports a great deal of Singapore writing via Math Paper Press, which consistently puts out risk-taking and thoughtful local writing.

If you want to buy stuff that has specifically has my writing in it, you can find it in these collections: Ceriph volumes 3 & 6, Fish Eats Lion, Ayam Curtain (which I also edited), and From The Belly Of The Cat.

But don’t stop there because there are a lot of excellent books you can pick up from them. I recommend all the Ceriph volumes, poetry by Tania De Rozario and Pooja Nansi, the Babette’s Feast chapbooks (they are little nuggets of delight), the Balik Kampung books.

There are also non MPP titles such as Body Boundaries (mentioned above). I once bought a Croatian edition of a collection of Alvin Pang’s poems because hrvatski man, I still understand chunks of it and it’s beautiful. They carry Epigram titles too, such as Jolene Tan’s freshly-debuted A Certain Exposure. Which I have been told is excellent– I haven’t read it because it was sold out at BooksActually! But Kenny assures me he will be bringing in more copies.

Seriously, there is a staggering amount of excellent Singapore writing available there. I’d be here all day if I tried listing them all. Go there and see for yourself. And go nuts. (p.s. they also have a webstore for international readers! 30% off all Math Paper Press books now!)

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3) Support for other creatives in SG! 

Hi let me introduce you to my darling succulent plants. I love them very much and I keep them on my table next to me as I work and I have personally named each one of them Lars. Shut up, Lars is a perfectly reasonable name for succulent plants. All of them.

I bought the Larses from a Green Banana pop-up store that was at BooksActually for one weekend. It’s not the first time BA as done tie-ups with other creative enterprises in Singapore. If they had more space, I’m sure they’d do more. As it is stuff is relegated to the tiny bench outdoors right now.

(I might just have wanted an excuse to post a photo of the Larses.)


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4) They’re just generally awesome ok.

Because they are. I just found out this week that my AWARE membership will get me a 20% discount at the store, because they’ve got a partnership going on, and they’ve been more than supportive of local LGBT movements. It’s just a generally nice place to give your money, as far as commercial establishments go.

So get going!

Of A Ross and Its Associated Thorns

Posted on by June in Media Critique, What, I Say! | Comments Off

Ross smaller

On the 28th of February, the last day of early-bird discounts, I finally gave up my dithering and bought a pass to LonCon 3. The convention, I had decided, would be my  Big Con of the Year.

That was also the day it was announced that Jonathan Ross would be hosting the Hugo awards.

Things then happened at the Speed of Internet and then very quickly, he wasn’t anymore.

That link from Bleeding Cool exemplifies a lot of the responses I’ve seen to Ross’ resignation from the post. A lot of “he’s a SF/F fan, Neil Gaiman asked him to do it, I am ashamed that the community I’m in bullied him off like that.”

Neil Gaiman has now commented to say that he is “very disappointed” by the Twitterstorm that was sent Jonathan Ross’ way, and he has taken his Hugo pin off his lapel as a result.

Oh dear.

First things first:  I have  attended an event that was hosted by Mr Ross, a closed-door press conference for The Walking Dead at Comic-Con in 2012. (I present as evidence the shittily-taken iPhone picture above as proof!) Yes, he is as big an SF/F nerd as claimed, and no, despite his reputation he said nothing that morning that set my teeth on edge, sensitised as I was already from a day full of racial microaggressions (that entire junket was not one I enjoyed). Had he remained as host for the Hugos, I still would have attended, just with a critical ear out for anything problematic he might say (as I always do).

Neil  was also one of my instructors last year at Clarion West, and I respect him greatly as a writer and as a consummate navigator of the storytelling industry. In his week with my class, I found him to be an incredibly generous and warm soul who, above all, listened. Even to us tiny baby writers! I am sure he made the suggestion to Jonathan Ross in absolute good faith, and I can understand why he would be disappointed by the outcome.

I still think they’re wrong.

I take issue with the way the events have been framed: A bullying mob, reacting with unwarranted anger, sending mindless vitriol to Ross. They’re not the only ones who have put it this way – lots of people have – but they are certainly the most visible.

But putting it this way invalidates the concerns of the people who rejected Ross as a host for the Hugos. Their opinions and feelings, too, deserve respect and consideration, even if put in a harsh manner.

The fact of the matter is when one has a sizeable media presence (like Neil and Mr Ross do), one is automatically conferred certain amounts of credibility. Media presence gets you listened to. Media presence gets your side of the story told in major publications like The Guardian and The Daily Mail.

This post by livejournal user a-d-medievalist lays it out very well. It’s not a simple case of bullies versus the bullied: Neil and Mr Ross come from extremely privileged positions in the SF/F community and beyond. The phrasing of the term “disappointed”, shaped around patronising tones, is especially problematic  in this regard. It’s something a parent would say to a child. It doesn’t say, “I see you as a human being with thoughts and concerns as equal to my own”; it says “why didn’t you behave in a way i find acceptable?”

I think it would have been interesting, in the fallout to this, to discuss things like the difference between public and performative personas, or how accountable one should be for things that are said in jest. Unfortunately, I suspect the tidal wave of disappointment will overwhelm and overshadow anything else in its way.