Browsed by
Category: News

OK! NEW WEBSITE!

OK! NEW WEBSITE!

AS PROMISED/THREATENED, in the new year of twenty-seventeen I have shifted web addresses entirely and you can now find me, blog and all, at jyyang.com. This website will stay up as-is, as an archive of All That Has Gone Before, but please bookmark the new website to keep up with all the new and exciting stuff that’s going on with me (and there is plenty!)

Thank you!

New year, new job…. new identity?

New year, new job…. new identity?

So 2016 was a bit of a shit year.

Thank goodness 2017 is here to make it all better! Or not. No, I’m not looking forward to the 20th of January, either, and I’m not even American.

Still, time goes on. I’ve made a couple of significant changes in my life this year that deserve a blogpost of their own.

New job!

I returned to Singapore in September last year after finishing my creative writing MA at the University of East Anglia. The next few months were spent writing a second novella, entirely rewriting the first one, and cleaning up a novelette (which I eventually sold to Tor.com!)

Alas, as productive as a few months spent writing were, it couldn’t last, and I had to look for a Real Job after all. Bills not going to pay themselves, et cetera. Thankfully I did get one! As of January I’ve started work at Epigram Books as a fiction editor, and let me tell you friends, it’s great being part of one of the current bulwarks of Singapore literature. In my first week I got to work on a manuscript that was part alt-history, part post-apocalyptic military SF. With queer characters! I think pleased doesn’t begin to cover my reaction.

Seriously, I can’t express how much of a perfect fit this job is for me right now. I work three days a week, so I have a chunk of time every week to get my own writing done! While paying the bills! AND contributing to the development of literature in Singapore. I’ve definitely lucked out on the job lottery.

This might be the closest I ever get to living my best life, who knows. (I’m very happy.)

New pronouns!

Here’s the other thing. It’s a big one. At the start of the year I came out as non-binary/genderqueer. Figuring out what the deal is with my gender is an ongoing, shapeless process, full of blurred lines and grey areas. But this much I know: I don’t identify as a woman, I never really have, and I definitely prefer the use of they/them pronouns.

I explained it to my group of NB friends this way: I’d say things like “as a writer and a woman”, but what I really meant was “I identify with this tribe of women writers” while not actually feeling like a woman on a personal level. I had been socialised as a woman, and I largely presented as one, so it was something I identified with, but it wasn’t something I actually was. And once I realised that I didn’t… really have to stick with being “””a woman”””…. I realised I didn’t want to.

So here I am, not a woman, not quite agender either, just definitely not a boy. Drifting in a gender fluid (hah), hoping to find a shore. Or not! Solid ground is so overrated.

Here I thought that approaching my mid-thirties meant I would have got all this stuff sorted out. HAHA. Let’s not get started with trying to navigate being a nonbinary person and a lesbian.

In any case, what this means is that AT SOME POINT, I am also going to leave this website behind. That “some point” actually being within the next month or so. I’m not a “miss” (please use Mx. honorifics for me!) so it makes no sense to have a website that has “MISSHALLELUJAH” plastered across the top in large-point font.

It’s a good thing. A fresh start. I wanted to get back to blogging regularly this year, and a new author website with a new domain seems the best time to sort out what kind of blogger I’m going to be. I’ve got a few domain names picked out already, but there’s still muttermumblewordpresssitedesignsetup etc mumblemumble…. I’ll keep y’all notified.

(I’ll keep this domain here– it’s not going anywhere– but I will actively redirect people to the new website.)

My twitter handle, at least, is deliciously gender-neutral. Small favours, that!

I wrote an interactive fiction story! And it was fun!

I wrote an interactive fiction story! And it was fun!

Somewhere last month I had a bit of interactive fiction come out on sub-Q, a slip of a piece called Before The Storm Hits. It’s a story that takes the form of a to-do list before the world ends. If you haven’t played it through I suggest you do so now, because the blog post that follows contains SPOILERS.  It’s a very quick playthrough– each round should only take a minute. (Although you might want multiple playthroughs because reasons.)

Right. Now that we’re all on the same page…

I’d promised to send sub-Q editor Tory Hoke something for the magazine about a year ago, because I was real keen to try out writing interactive fiction. My initial idea? To do a horror story in the style of a Duolingo language lesson.

When that didn’t pan out due to personal brain limitations, I got the idea of a story told by to-do list, where crossing out an item the list advances the plot. I came up with a story premise and things were falling into place.

In that semester I was taking a class on publishing for my Creative Writing MA. One of the things we could do for our final assignment was submit a creative-critical piece, which meant something to do with publishing, like a blog for example (a route which most students took).

I asked my tutor if I could submit a interactive fiction piece. It was something new to her, so she said yes. YES I CAN WRITE A SHORT STORY FOR PUBLISHING PURPOSES AND ALSO SUBMIT IT AS SCHOOLWORK, GOD I LOVED BEING A CREATIVE WRITING GRAD STUDENT

The thing about the creative-critical piece is that it’s a split: 3000 words of a creative piece, and a 2000-word critical essay about the creative piece.

Yes. I had to write an actual essay about my short story.

It was fun, though. I wrote a background on the history of interactive fiction, in which I got to quote Max Gladstone and figure out how to cite a tweet in an academic paper.

I ended the essay with a reflection on the process of writing the story, and the unique challenges therein. Since I’ve already written the bloody piece, I thought I MIGHT AS WELL share it with y’all!

When creating Before The Storm Hits, I set out to design a piece that demonstrates how the interactive elements of a work of fiction can be used to enhance its artistic merit. This was achieved through designing the piece so that there is no linear order to the narrative.

There is no single narrative: The reader comes away with only the information that their choices allow them. By limiting the number of choices the reader can make, it is entirely possible to have a playthrough of the text that never mentions the main crisis of the story—that Alex has taken the travel tickets meant for Camry and the protagonist. It is therefore possible that a reader only gains complete understanding of the events that unfold after multiple playthroughs.

Leaving aside metatexual analysis, the meaning of traditionally-published pieces comes primarily from the text of the work itself, which is largely immutable. The order of the text is fixed: A traditionally-published book would have a fixed beginning, middle and end. Even choose-your-own-adventure books, which employ branching narratives, have distinct beginning and ending points.

This is not so in Before The Storm Hits. The order of the text itself changes depending on reader choice, and the meaning of the text therefore changes depending on its position. I call this form of narrative a stacking narrative because, like a tower of toy blocks, each piece of the narrative may be placed at any position within the tower. In the examples given [in the , the same closing line “If that’s how it is, that’s how it’s going to betakes on different implications and levels of tension depending on whether they lead on to the next segment in the story, or come at the end of the entire narrative. Thus, a large part of the story’s overall meaning is derived from the hypertexual elements of the piece.

While writing the piece, I ran into a bunch of technical intricacies that, in hindsight, I should have realised when I conceptualised the piece. But none of it occurred to me until I was actually in the process of laying down the words.

Creating such a narrative structure posed challenges. While writers strive towards specificity in meaning while constructing narratives, I had to tend towards ambiguity, knowing that enough had to be left open to reader interpretation based on what had come before, or would come after. This allows reader interaction to infuse meaning into the text of the narrative, something which was only made possible through electronic means. While writing, it was not enough to plan out the different scenarios that had to be available; I had to keep in mind the flexible order of the sequences while writing the text of each.

The piece was extremely short partly because of the word limit I had for my assignment: 3000 words had to include all the text for the various iterations, an explanation of concept and gameplay, and two complete runthroughs of the story to illustrate what I’m on about. It’s difficult when all you can submit is a bunch of paper! I had initially imagined something bigger– a longer list, with five choices, but the word limit didn’t allow for it.

Which was just as well– short as it was, the current story took an immense amount of planning and tweaking. It was about the right size for a first-time experiment in interactive fiction, I think. Now that I do have that experience, I feel more confident in tackling longer pieces! Interactivity is fun to play around with and there’s so much you can do with it, narratively.

Which is why I’m super-thrilled that Strange Horizons, one of my favourite SFF mags ever, is planning a regular feature for interactive fiction, working together with sub-Q’s editor, Tory! If their annual fund drive reaches $23,000, interactive fiction will Become A Thing in their mag. It’s one of the many great stretch goals along the way, which also includes Samovar, which will focus on translated fiction (<3!)

Strange Horizons has done incredible work for diversity over the years, including the recent Queer Planet special issue, and I got really excited when Vajra Chandrasekera joined them as fiction editor, as I have been a fan of Vajra’s work for a while. They also published Bogi’s incredible hypertext poem You Are Here. I can’t wait to see what they might cook up with interactive fiction– I’m sure it’s going to be worth it!

 

Fire! And Embers!

Fire! And Embers!

Elements: Fire kickstarter!

If you, like me, exist at the intersection of SFF and comic stuff, then you’d be familiar with the gorgeous, award-winning Beyond anthology of queer SFF comics. The same press is now running a Kickstarter for a new anthology, Elements: Fire, an anthology of comics by creators of colour!

When anthology editor Taneka Stotts approached me to ask if I’d like to take part, I was ecstatic. My contribution, A Burner Of Sins, will be illustrated by the amazingly talented Yasmin Liang

The story is set in Singapore. Nadya burns away people’s regrets, for a price. When an old friend from school asks her for help, she has to consider the consequences of her vocation.

This week Yasmin put up a WIP panel from the story and I nearly yelled because of how amazing it was:

CnJ17gdVMAAfoBB

Look at that. Look at the incredible amount of detail. I cannot, cannot, wait to see what the finished version looks like.

The Kickstarter campaign runs until the end of July. Because the project is so fabulous, it has already hit its funding goal, so what this is, is really a pre-order campaign. So go. GO AND PREORDER THIS AMAZING BOOK I WILL HAVE A STORY IN.

DO IT NOW.

 

51456A23NXL

ALPHABET OF EMBERS

I have a story in this very lovely collection of ethereal flash fiction that is now available for sale! Transfers To Connecting Flights was birthed during Nine Worlds in London, 2014, when the convention was held at a hotel next to Heathrow and planesong accompanied me on the way back to my room. It’s about love and wants and devotion and I’m very fond of it. Plus, have you seen the author lineup??

You can pick the book up from Amazon. Do it. You won’t regret it.

WHO HAS TWO THUMBS, A BRAIN FULL OF WEASELS AND A LITERARY AGENT? (it might be me)

WHO HAS TWO THUMBS, A BRAIN FULL OF WEASELS AND A LITERARY AGENT? (it might be me)

I didn’t think I’d be at this point so soon.

Really. If you’d asked me anytime last year whether I thought I’d get agented before the end of 2016, I would have laughed. “I write short fiction. I don’t do long form, I don’t have enough for a collection. I’m years away from being in a position where I can query agents.” That was my utter and sincere belief.

It turns out that I am also incredibly lousy at predicting the future.

All that is a roundabout way of saying that I am thrilled, absolutely thrilled, to announce that I am now represented by DongWon Song at Howard Morhaim Literary Agency, a.k.a. I now have a literary agent, a.k.a. how in the green rubber-encrusted hells did I get here?

Well, it happened, and here I am. I’m extremely pleased. DongWon has been on my “one day when I start looking for agents” list since he started at HMLA. We’ve had some really good chats and I’m excited to work with him on my weird secondary-world, science-fantasy etc etc projects!

Hopefully I’ll have more exciting news to announce soon, but in the meantime:

AGENT ACQUIRED

(DON’T JUDGE ME, YOU KNOW I HAD TO)
FICTION ROUNDUP JULY 2016

FICTION ROUNDUP JULY 2016

I wanted to do a roundup of the stories I had out in the last few months, but a quick check has revealed that I haven’t done a “here’s what I have out” thing since June 2015. It is now July 2016 and I am apparently much worse at blogging than I thought.

SO,  like, I’ve had a few stories out in the past couple of months…

The Blood That Pulses In The Veins Of One

“You lie dead, but not lifeless. For life resides in you still, its signature imprinted upon the architecture of your bones, in the webbings of your brain, in the atoms knitted into meat. Since we last met, your being has inhaled the world around it, spinning nitrogen flesh around bone moulded out of metal and dust. These atoms lie vibrating, locked into place, eager mouths waiting for my knife to set them free.”

My immortal-alien-cannibals story appeared in Issue 10 of Uncanny Magazine, in a TOC that was spectacularly amazing, and that I’m still not over two months later. It’s about two immortal aliens, last of their kind, locked into an endless cycle of consuming one another. This is what happens when I attempt to write a happy love story.

Four And Twenty Blackbirds

“The doctor congratulates them. The baby is human, and healthy. Richard is on her instantly, bruising her shoulders with his joy, planting kisses on her forehead and neck and face. His—their—fortune is the five-month-old smudge in the grain of the sonogram, soft-boned and quivering and reassuringly feather-free. It’s been six long years: Years of cajoling, years of trying, years of navigating the risks. Now they are here.”

Earlier this year, the paper I used to work at made a typo and inadvertently invented a virus that turned pregnant people’s babies into birds. I was like “hands off all of you, I’m writing that story.” And I did. And I sold it to Lightspeed’s POC Destroy SF issue for their flash section.

Her Majesty’s Lamborghini And The Girl With the Fish Tank

“Like the first stroke of lightning from an oatmeal sky, Her Majesty’s Lamborghini escaped its pen the day before the world ended.

It had been a Tuesday. The Prime Minister and the Defence Minister were deep in a game rolling peppermint candies across the green plastic grounds of the Royal Palace when up ran the Minister of Education. He was the kind of thing that wore suits that clashed with his fur, matted and brown now with fear and perspiration. “Her Majesty’s Lamborghini is on a roof garden and won’t come down,” he chittered, murine whiskers twitching.”

This was my Clarion West week 4 story, an odd little tale about rogue supercars, war giraffes, and a strange girl with a very large fish tank. I had almost given up on selling it, so I was extraordinarily pleased when it found a home in LONTAR.

The wonderful folk at Storyological (amazing podcast discussing short fiction, subscribe!) did an episode where they reviewed this story, which you should check out after you read it! (Transcript here for people like me, who have issues with audio…)

Other stories:

I’ve also had a bunch of other things come out! (It’s been an entire %^$^ing year). A short rundown:

  • A House Of Anxious Spiders: In The Dark, Aug 2015.  Set in a world where, instead of having arguments, spiders come out of your mouth and fight instead.
  • Temporary Saints in Fireside, Oct 2015. Flash fiction. A mortician reflects upon the supernatural deaths of children in her town.
  • Song Of The Krakenmaid in Lackington’s “Dreamings” issue. Sapphic tentacle porn. Not kidding. And editor Ranylt got the amazing M Sereno to illustrate it.
  • Secondhand Bodies in Lightspeed, Jan 2016. Body-swapping, lesbian sex, race and class and body image in Singapore.
  • Unshaken  A short written for thinktank Nesta on the theme of “collective intelligence”, set around a fictional earthquake in Japan.
  • Dismantling London Written for the charity Geeky Giving, this short is a slice-of-life look at a woman who is tasked with… well, tasked with dismantling London. Available in the April bundle; proceeds go to neurology research.

And that’s all for now, I think. I have things on the sales front I hope to announce soon– stay tuned for that!

2015, the year I quit writing

2015, the year I quit writing

aka I am a wreck of a human being and you should not attempt to be my friend, ever

This is an attempt to do one of those year-end summaries that people have been doing, in the middle of January, because I am a fuckup with little to no time management skills and have just spent the last two weeks writing 13,000 words worth of fiction for submission to various things, which is basically the only way I ever get writing done anymore, with the threat of shame from breaking deadlines looming over my worthless head. But more on that later.

2015, in many ways, has been a watershed year for me, both good and bad (more bad than good, in my estimation). The major change was that I secured an Arts Council scholarship to fund my MA/MFA in Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia in Norwich. So I started grad school.

That entailed me selling or giving away 90% of my material possessions — all my books, art supplies, almost all my clothes and every last one of my musical instruments — packing what little I had left into two and a half suitcases, and flying halfway across the globe to the United Kingdom. My crowning achievement in 2015 was that I purged the numbers of my belongings enough that I managed to include my PS3 and its 23-inch TV monitor in the 35kg baggage allowance my airline gave me. At this point I outweigh the sum total of all the things I own.

Being in the UK has been its own trial. Norwich is small and vaguely provincial, food and transport are hideously expensive, and I have no friends here. I’m a deeply introverted and solitary person. I don’t make friends easily.  When I have neither the time nor disposable income to socialise, I don’t make friends at all.  Yes, the weather is amazing and the campus I live on is beautiful, but I can literally go weeks without any form of meaningful human contact whatsoever.(Ask me how my entire Christmas break has been. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve spoken to another human for longer than five minutes. One of those times was a dental appointment.)

“Great, J!” you say. “The fewer friends you have, the more you can focus on writing!”

Which is a great sentiment. Except that I also haven’t been writing.

2014 was a pretty great year for me. Beginning March that year I sold an average of one story a month to a pro-paying venue. I had a couple of pretty good stories come out, that people responded very well to. People put me on their year-end lists. I managed to eke onto the Campbell longlist based on the strength of those two stories. I was a “writer to watch”. For the first time in my life I felt like my writing career might actually be heading somewhere.

Spoiler alert!! It’s downhill!!!

The majority of stories that I sold in 2014 came out in 2015. And those stories, when published, were met with a resounding chorus of fuck-all. What I did not know at that time, it that this is how the reception to the majority of stories published will go. A bunch of people will retweet or like the links you post, a couple more will say “this story was nice”… and that’s it. That’s it.

What I had run into, was the inevitable mathematics of publishing. It’s hard enough to get a story accepted by a good market. Hard. Hideously hard. But the struggle doesn’t end there. Once a story is out, it has to compete for attention with the literal hundreds which come out every month. And most stories just won’t gather that sort of traction. They just won’t. It’s the mathematics of it.

I got pretty lucky with my first two short stories. I did weird things with voice and structure which made them stand out. The stories I write tend to be a lot more run-of-the-mill than that. I’m not a genius. I’m not. I can’t churn out thought-provoking, genre-bending work with the regularity of an waxing moon. My initial momentum was not sustainable.

So I got discouraged. I got intimidated by the successes of others. I got– I got “oh god I’ve peaked in my career and I’m never going to write another good story and I’ll let down everyone who thought that I was a new writer with great potential”.

And let me tell you, all these things hit you harder when you’re outside of the US/Western SFF community. You can’t attend cons or readings or kaffeklatches because you live on another continent entirely. You’re in a different time zone. Your day-to-day lives don’t have the uniting factor of shared culture or politics. It’s difficult to make inroads or meaningful connections just through social media alone.

The only thing you have, are your stories. Which are drowning in a tide of other stories, struggling to be noticed. Publish or die, but even after publishing, die anyway.

Faced with these impossibilities I chickened out. It wasn’t even a conscious decision to stop writing. I didn’t think “oh shit, it’s too hard, I’m just not going to bother trying”. I just… found other things to do. I read more slush. I spent hours playing the piano. I started playing video games for the first time in my 32 years of life.

I haven’t written a new story for the slushpiles since March 2015. Writing for solicited pieces (or school deadlines, for that matter) has been like siphoning marrow from bone. I haven’t sent anything out to the markets since… I have no idea, actually. I’ve stopped keeping track. I have a revise/resubmit request from an amazing market I’m dying to break… from July. It’s now January. I haven’t revised the story.

So that’s where I’ve been, writing-wise, for pretty much most of 2015. I have one new story slated to come out in 2016, which is in Lightspeed’s January issue. That’s it, that’s the last of them. Even if I get around to writing and subbing new stories again, it’ll take months before I sell anything again–that’s just the reality of things. The mathematics of publishing. Given the lag time between selling a story and actually having it out, we’re looking at me literally not having any other stories out in 2016.

(Unless, of course, I manage to sell another story to Clarkesworld, which has the quickest sale-to-publication pipeline I’ve ever seen. But what are the odds of that happening? Like, seriously.)

This post isn’t even a “woe-is-me-please-come-tell-me-how-much-you-love-my-writing” ploy. I know at least some of you like the stories I write. I wouldn’t have sold them otherwise. This is a “state of the J” post, just in case anyone wonders why I stop having stories out in 2016. Sometimes I feel like I’ve let down all the people who were rooting for me to succeed in 2015. Sorry, guys.

It was good to get this off my chest, at any rate. I’ve been feeling this way for the greater part of 2015, but I didn’t have the courage to say any of it out loud, because as writers we’re not supposed to display our insecurities and weaknesses, else we exude the aroma of sour grapes and bitter never-was.

I say fuck that. Now you know.