One Step At A Time: How writing, like running, isn’t always the Olympics

One Step At A Time: How writing, like running, isn’t always the Olympics

I’ve never been an athletic person. As a child I hated PE lessons: I was the heavy-limbed, rotund child at the very back of the class, chest tight and miserable, suffering in the swamp that is Singapore’s idea of acceptable weather. Every year we had to take a national physical fitness exam consisting of six parts, and every year I struggled to pass the most daunting section of the exam for me: The 2.4-km (1.5-mile) run.  Six rounds on the inside of a running track, and I’d start walking in the second round. To pass you needed to finish the run within seventeen minutes; I usually took more than twenty.

I’m not good at running.

I hated running and PE lessons so much that the moment I got into college and exited the regimented timetables of public education, I stopped exercising altogether. For eight years I performed as much physical activity as a sea slug. There was an actual point where my body tried turning itself into one. I had to see a doctor for mysterious knee pains and she told me my thigh muscles had atrophied  so much my kneecaps had come loose and were grinding against the bones of my lower leg. Intervention meant doing squats and lunges and other things to strengthen the muscles of the legs. No running.

Eventually, as a working adult, I started going to the gym, doing weights and mat exercises and group yoga classes. Slowly, my fitness level improved. I went from turning into a limp noodle after the warm-ups for dance class, to managing to survive a whole hour upright. I thought, I’m alright at this. Working out is fun! It’s stress relief and I eat and sleep better and my mood always improves after a good hour or so of sweating. I kept at it and it made me happy.

When I moved to the UK, an income-less student clinging to her life savings in a currency half the strength of the pound sterling, I needed some way to work out that involved no money whatsoever.  I had my trainers tucked into one of my suitcases. My university has long roads and a sweeping green next to a lake. The answer seemed obvious.

The first time I ran the circuit encompassing dorms, university and lake green, I had to walk down stairs sideways for a week. After that, it got easier. My leg muscles adapted to the new demands I was putting on them.

By the markings on the map they handed out to new students, the route I run is just about 2.4km long, more downhill bits than uphill ones. I run it about two to three times a week, in the mornings when the student body remains stubbornly rolled in their blankets. The lake half of the run is always a delight. There have been sunrises in a hipster’s pastel palette, there have been rolling sheets of fog.  In subzero temperatures the spongecake ground firms up and the grass crunches with white frost. I take it easy, slowing on the uphill bits and speeding up going downhill only if I feel like it. Running along the green I always put on the Dragonborn theme from the Skyrim soundtrack to get myself pumped up.

For the first time in my life, I’m enjoying it.

I’m still a terrible runner. I’m slow as hell. 1.5 miles two times a week is practically nothing. Pushing my heart rate too fast will give me a migraine later in the day, so I make sure I never get too out of breath.

This morning, as I ran through a university still hollow and quiet at 7.30am, a man joined me as I hit the last stretch of the route, 300m uphill along the lake green. He was going a lot faster than I was. He came from behind, overtook me, and then continued going, footsteps sure and competent as he drew away from me.

I felt suddenly self-conscious, watching the red back of his shirt growing smaller in my vision. I thought, damn, I should try keep up. This leisurely jog isn’t even proper exercise. You suck at this running thing.

And then common sense took over, and thought, so what? So what if I suck at this running thing. I’m not running a marathon, I’m not training for the fucking Olympics. I run because it feels good and I enjoy it. Why do I have to measure myself against this stranger, who’s probably also enjoying his run?

When I was a kid, I hated running because there was a teacher at the end of the track, stopwatch in hand, timing every round and failing whoever didn’t make the cut. It made me afraid of running because measuring myself against everyone else’s abilities made me feel defective and worthless. The idea that I might just like running seemed unthinkable.

I’m glad I was wrong.

I think the same thing applies to writing. It’s something that I’ve turned over and over in my mind lately. It’s awards season, and that means watching all my brilliant friends win nominations for the amazing work they’ve put out in the past year. It’s a time of great celebration, but also a time of intense impostor syndrome. I feel an immense pressure to keep up, to write that story that will get you on a ballot, get you in a Year’s Best, get your name as a footnote in history somewhere.

But harping on that pressure will send me sliding down a rabbit hole of insecurities that has no bottom. I don’t want that. I don’t need that.

I write because I like writing. I write because I have stories I want to tell. I write because I want to share these stories with people. There’s nothing more to it than that.

If I keep trying to measure my writing up to some arbitrary standard, it’ll never end. There’s always going to be someone more brilliant, someone who writes more poetic stories, someone who writes more crowd-pleasing stories.  Wins more awards or wins bigger awards. The teacher at the end of the track will never be satisfied.

I know that if I treat the art of writing like the fucking Olympics it will drain all the pleasure out of it for me. Writing isn’t a sport. There aren’t winners and losers. You can’t come last in writing.

Recently I read an article in the New Yorker where Haruki Murakami talked about his running habits, and how it relates to his writing. It’s a great article, full of lovely insights (as expected of the man), but what I keep coming back to is this particular bit:

I think that I’ve been able to run for more than twenty-five years for one reason: it suits me. Or, at least, I don’t find it all that painful. Human beings naturally continue doing things they like, and they don’t continue doing what they don’t like.

I realised I felt the exact same way about my running, even if what I was doing was on a scale miniscule compared to his (he runs marathons! That’s more than 40 km!)

I keep running because it suits me. And I keep writing because it suits me. If I try to make it anything more than that, I’ll ruin it.

And so it goes.

Do we count as real writers, too? (aka that thing about Clarion. that. thing.)

Do we count as real writers, too? (aka that thing about Clarion. that. thing.)

Before I begin, I must preface that these are entirely my personal reflections based on my very specific personal circumstances and are not quite meant to be a well-reasoned commentary on larger things, yet–

Here I am, dipping my toes into an ocean full of very large fish with equally large teeth to bite me with.

I want to talk a bit about Neil Gaiman’s tweet.

You know, that one.

Neil posted this a couple of days ago, and within hours of the tweet hitting the surface of the Internet the SFF patch of the pond was boiling over. The implication that attending Clarion, or a similar workshop, is a mandatory step on the path to successful writerhood, predictably went down like a lead balloon.

Many people rightfully pointed out that attending the Clarions, with their six-week, four-figure dollar commitment, is not one many can afford. Or are physically able to, due to health and disability access issues. I pointed out that this goes doubly hard for international applicants, who have to work in (often four-figure) plane tickets in addition to terrible exchange rates, deal with international travel, being in a different time zone, culture etc in order to attend.

Neil has since clarified that his tweet was meant, obviously, to be hyperbolic, and obviously you don’t need Clarion to become a writer! And lots of people had come on to Twitter to exhort their credentials (publications, awards, best-ofs), all achieved without the help of the workshops.

I fully agree. Said as someone who applied to Clarion West because Neil Gaiman was teaching that year. (I’d never heard of it before that. You’d be surprised by how few outside the pro/semipro SFF writing community know what it is.) “Attend Clarion/Clarion West/Odyssey etc. workshops!” is not even a feasible piece of advice I’d give anyone asking “how do I become a writer like you” because  it’s neither a helpful nor practical tip. I’d rather give them a list of markets to submit stories to and suggest they follow a ton of writers or writing blogs and also, read a fuckton of stuff and learn from it.


Completely honestly? I know I would not be the writer I am today, if not for Clarion West.

This is not exaggeration.

I know what Clarion West did for me. Here: Before I attended, I had barely completed any short stories. I had no idea about submitting to venues outside of Singapore’s tiny writing community. I didn’t have beta readers I could send stories to for critique, or other SFF writers to talk to to bounce ideas off. None of my friends was in the business of regularly writing or submitting short SFF to anyplace. It was just me, alone, no idea what I was doing, no idea that it was even a sort of lifestyle that other people might do on the regular.

But because I attended Clarion West, I found a community of friends to talk to about writing. I joined a neo-pro forum (Codex) which taught me about submitting, about rejectomancy, helped me create new stories (some of my best-received stories started off life as Codex contest stories). Having a support group, a group of excellent beta readers, kept me writing and submitting enough that I began to sell stories. And then started being asked to write them.

Getting to know people in the community meant that I actually had reason to attend conventions, and it also meant I was asked to be on the programming at conventions when it came out that I was attending them.

Getting to know people in the community meant getting to know editors and agents. And that’s important if you want to be a writer.

Without having attended Clarion West,  would I have been able to break into this SFF community that I’m part of right now?

I’m really, really not so sure. No question I’d still be writing, but I’m quite sure I wouldn’t be writing as often. Opportunities to have stories published in Singapore are a lot fewer, and they tend to be for very very small print runs. We don’t really have much in the way of online zines.

What would people see when they looked at me? “I’ve never heard of any of these things you’ve been published in. Are they even any good?”

Would they consider me “a writer”? Eh. What do you think?

So. Million-dollar question. Am I saying Neil’s hyperbole was actually right?

I want, desperately, to say no. Of course not! That’s such a terrible idea!

But I feel that saying that would be lying to myself. That for somebody like me– living and working outside of the UK or US– different culture, different continent, different context–  breaking into the SFF publishing scene, getting people to actually sit up and notice you, even getting better at your craft, is extremely. fucking. difficult. Selling one story, or two, or even five, is not enough (see my previous whiny post on this topic).

For somebody like me, attending a major workshop like Clarion is an instant way to break down that giant, looming, daunting barrier. And that helps. That helps so much.

But, as I said, I’d never give that advice to anyone who asked me for advice, because IT IS TERRIBLE ADVICE. Even if you could get the funds (and the Singapore government is good with disbursing grants, especially if you can convince them of how prestigious the workshop is), it’s six fucking weeks, and who can take six fucking weeks off work and family and life??

I wouldn’t say that. I would say– Go. Write. Submit. And then pray. Pray that the Nameless Deities of the realms of publishing smile upon you. Then I would send the young hero-to-be on their way, and try not to think of the long, merciless desert roads ahead of them, and hope that they would not come to hate me.

The point of this post– if it were to have a point, and not merely be a rambling collection of thoughts– is not that workshops are necessary to become a serious writer. The point is that for people who don’t have easy access to a support system, it feels like it’s necessary in order to break into the global SFF scene. And it shouldn’t be.

The question is, then,  how committed are we to diversity if we rest so much of a person’s legitimacy as a writer on the same old systems that are skewed, if everything that we consider SFF is still largely tied to the Western, Anglophone publishing sphere. Where do writers from backgrounds like mine belong, unless we break into that system?

Do I have good answers to this? Fuck no. I’m just some schlub who has no idea what she’s doing. But I’d like people to think about this, at least. Because we are here. We exist. And I’d like to think we count as real writers too.



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.

UPDATES, June 2015 edition!

UPDATES, June 2015 edition!

Over the last month or so I made a couple of sales and a bunch more things came out. I thought to myself, time to make a blogpost with updates!

And then it turns out I haven’t made an update post since October last year so this one turned into a giant. textwall.

An announcement first, though. I’ve recently started as first reader for Strange Horizons, which has been excellent so far. The only downside is that I now have to read so much slush each day, it’s putting a serious dent into my ability to keep up with the vast array of published fiction each month. Regrettably, this means that I’ll no longer be doing my Fiction Nuggets round-ups, so if I’m quiet on that front, this is why.

Right then, on to the textwall…


Apparently, one of the side effects of selling stories is that at some point, these stories will be released into the wild. I really thought I only had a couple to link, but since I haven’t done an update post in eight months there are a bunch more to link than expected.

As a chronically lazy person I’m just going to drop links to the ones which came out earlier this year.  Cold Hands and the Smell of Salt in DSF, Tiger Baby (a reprint) in Lackington’s.  Then there’s A Sister’s Weight In Stone,  my week 2 Clarion West story, which came out in the May issue of Apex. (It’s an alternate steampunky (ish???) Singapore with dragons and Samsui women!)

Red Is The Colour Of Mother Dirt, one of my Clarion West application stories, was included in the Athena’s Daughters 2 anthology after the Kickstarter campaign hit its stretch goals. The book is out now, and you can buy either an e-book or print copy here! The story centers around Sal, a woman who runs up against her Martian colony’s draconian laws when she tries to sneak into a hospital to visit her dying sister while on her period. Yes, I wrote a story about menstruation. Course I did.

I have a story in the inaugural issue of Bahamut Journal, which you can purchase right here.  It’s a great issue, with content from the like of Lauren Beukes, Nisi Shawl, Rose Lemberg, Alvaro Zinos-Amaro, etc etc etc. (Seriously, it’s a fantastic TOC, go check it out). My story is titled (deep breath) Re: (For CEO’s Approval) Text for 10th anniversary exhibition for Operation Springclean and it comes in the form of an email reply to another email and may or may not be informed by my brief life as a civil servant. And also the rat invasion of Singapore.

And then there’s Letter From An Artist To A Thousand Future Versions Of Her Wife, my flash story in Lightspeed’s Queers Destroy Science Fiction! special issue. It is a massive issue, with an incredible amount of incredible fiction, and my story is one of the ebook/print-only exclusives. So you’ll have to purchase if you want to read it. But do it anyway, because it’s a whole lot of amazing SF by QUILTBAG folks for a few dollars. It’ll also annoy annoying people!

I might have to do a separate post for the QDSF! story. I feel I should!


In the time that’s gone by, I’ve also sold a bunch of things; some of the things I’ve sold have actually been published because I am just that slow at updates.  A quick list of the pending ones, then:

  • A House Of Anxious Spiders will appear in the August issue of The Dark. It’s set in a world where, instead of arguing, spiders come out of your mouth and fight instead.
  • Song Of The Krakenmaid will appear in the Fall issue (around Oct/Nov) of Lackington’s. I basically sold them tentacle porn. This is my second story with them, and the first original, and I’m super-pleased about it.
  • Secondhand Bodies, about intersections of class, race and body policing in Singapore, will appear in a future issue of Lightspeed! I’ve wanted to sell something to them for years, and all of a sudden they bought two stories from me. It was a bit of a trip.
  • Temporary Saints, a flash piece which killed in Codex’s Weekend Warrior contest, has been acquired by Fireside. It’s centered on a mortician living in a town where kids get strange powers before dying. Cheerful!
  • Ya-Ya Papaya, one of the earliest stories that I had published (in 2011, by a local zine), will appear on Pornokitsch as a reprint at some point. I’m excited!
FICTION NUGGETS superpost: Jan – Mar 2015

FICTION NUGGETS superpost: Jan – Mar 2015

So it turns out that if you’re trying to run a monthly short fiction round-up, the moment you fall behind it leads to a rolling avalanche of neverending stories that will bury you.

Sorry for the long lull in fiction roundups for me. I was planning to do a roundup of November & December stories in Jan, then it turned to Nov-Jan stories in Feb, and then here we are. I had to make a choice, and I picked dropping the end-2014 stories for the ability to actually reasonably handle the 2015 stories. (Part of my reason for doing this is because these roundups will be super-useful for picking my nomination slate for the next awards season, so I had to prioritise the 2015 stories.)

Moving forward, I’ve come up with a new system to help me tackle these roundups a little more easily. For each month, I’m going to spotlight about three or so stories I highly recommend, and then a longer list of stories I also really enjoyed reading. For this round, I didn’t get to read as many venues as I’d like, something I will fix in the upcoming monthly roundups.

So, without further ado, the stories I liked from Jan to Mar:

Three Cups Of Grief, By Starlight  by Aliette de Bodard (Clarkesworld) – A tale of tea, talking ships and family ties. Three people deal with the death of someone close to them. I have a soft spot for sentient ship stories,  (a mushy, boiled-in-the-pot lump the size of Jupiter), but this one raises the bar with its lush prose and subtle tangle of emotions.

Documentary by Vajra Chandrasekera (Lightspeed) – On the notebook I lost I scribbled down: “A WEREHELICOPTER STORY VAJRA OMG ILU”.  Seriously, though. werehelicopters. If that weren’t enough to sell you in the story, consider this: A haunting story about the costs of war told in the spliced-together narration of a documentary . One of the most brilliant and imaginative things I’ve read in a while.

Folding Beijing by Hao Jingfang (Uncanny) – Ken Liu is a gift to the SFF community, both for his incredible fiction, and his translations of amazing Chinese SFF stories, like this one. This tale of a Beijing partitioned in space and time is a parable of the way wealth and class divide our societies. From the description of working class life to the bureaucratic twists of life in the civil service, everything was layered with a thick crust of realism that spoke to me (hi there! civil servant from a working class background speaking!). I must admit that reading Chinese SFF always comes with a  bittersweet pang for me, because on one hand, everything just sings to me so much more, yet at the same time I’m aware my Mandarin language skills are so poor that I can only rely on English translations.

The Sixth Day by Sylvia Anna Hiven (Beneath Ceaseless Skies) – Two sisters living in a barren, apocalyptic landscape struggle with the responsibilities of their special powers: One can raise corn from the cold dead ground, one can jump six days into the future.  When it comes to fantasy, my preference is for contemporary or near-future fantasy is totally my wheelhouse, and the deft handling of emotional weight makes this story a compelling read.

Of Blood And Brine by Megan E Keefe  (Shimmer) – I was delighted by the sensory tapestry of this story, the way scents are described.

Thus prepared, Child gathered the cloth into her hands and brought it as close to her nose as she dared. The aroma was warm, spice-tinged. Cardamom and violet with the faintest whiff of balsam. The sea would be a pleasant addition to such a scent, but Child had no idea how to blend such an aroma.

The story is straightforward, but its impression lingers on the tongue and in the mind. It tastes like a little sliver of a richer, bigger world I want to find out more about.

Meshed by Rich Larson (Clarkesworld) – I’m surprised by how much I liked this story, considering that it’s about sportsball of some sort, populated almost entirely by a cast of men (there is a brief mention of the protagonist’s girlfriend, but that’s it). But somehow, I was won over by the snappy prose and the pace of the story. A sports agent tries to recruit a potential star athlete, but there’s a catch: He doesn’t want implants put in for sensory broadcasts of his exploits. An entertaining read.

The Language of Knives by Haralambi Markov ( – This is a story about a world where you turn dead people into cakes. People cakes, my friends, people cakes. That alone should have made it the best story ever, but there’s thread about destiny and strained family ties all laced into it, and it is a juicy, delicious read. Not even sorry, guys. Not even sorry.

A Beautiful Memory by Shannon Peavey (Apex) – Here I have to confess a bias: I read this story when it was baby at Clarion West, and that makes me inordinately fond of it. But this was one of my favourite stories from CW, which, you know, included Nebula- and Bram Stoker- nomimated stories, so that’s saying something. The protagonist of the story has an unusual skill: She pulls emotion-birds out of her head and sells them. Full of spare, gorgeous prose and twisted spikes of imagination.

Pocosin by Ursula Vernon (Apex) – A little god comes to die at the doorstep of a witch, and she has to deal with all the people who come after it. The charm of this story lies in its lush sense of location. It’s so grounded in the place it’s set, and it was a delight to read.

This is the place of the carnivores, the pool ringed with sundews and the fat funnels of the pitcher plants.

This is the place where the ground never dries out and the loblolly pines grow stunted, where the soil is poor and the plants turn to other means of feeding themselves.

This is the place where the hairstreak butterflies flow sleekly through the air and you can hear insect feet drumming inside the bowl of the pitcher plants.

This is the place where the old god came to die.

Sing Me Your Scars by Damien Angelica Waters (Apex) – The titular piece of Damien’s short story collection is a beautiful heap of body horror. A young woman has her body replaced, part by part, by her mad scientist husband, turning her into a stitched-together manniquin of other women. Creepy, dark, and delightful to read.


Unravelling by Julia August (Lackingtons‘)
Coming Of The Light by Chen Qiufan (Clarkesworld)
The Shape Of My Name by Nino Cipri (
Indelible by Gwendolyn Clare (Clarkesworld)
The Half Dark Promise by Malon Edwards (Shimmer)
The Animal Women by Alix E. Harrow (Strange Horizons)
And the Winners Will Be Swept Out To Sea by Maria Dahvana Headley (Lightspeed)
The Apartment Dweller’s Bestiary by Kij Johnson (Clarkesworld)
What the Highway Prefers by Cassandra Khaw (Lackingtons’)
Maiden, Mother Crone by Ann Leckie and Rachel Swirsky (Lightspeed)
Cassandra by Ken Liu (Clarkesworld)
The Ticket Taker of Cenote Zaci by Benjamin Parzybok (Strange Horizons)
Requiem for Solo Cello by Damien Angelica Walters (Apex)
Drinking With The Elfin Knight by Ginger Weil (Giganotosaurus)

Campbell Eligibility Post 2015!

Campbell Eligibility Post 2015!

Hello friends!

As you may be aware, I am eligible for the John Campbell Award For Best New Writer this year. Since the Hugo + Campbell noms are coming to a close (ends March 10 2015 at 11.59 PST!), I thought I’d put up a post to remind folk about the stuff I had out last year.

Storytelling For The Night Clerk (Strange Horizons) – My first pro sale! A story about cyborgs and which narratives get to be told. This story was recommended by Lois Tilton in her review, and placed fourth in Strange Horizon’s reader poll for their best stories of 2014.

Patterns Of A Murmuration, In Billions Of Data Points (Clarkesworld) – A sordid tale of loss, revenge and omniscient AIs, Another recommendation by Lois Tilton, and it tied for third in the reader poll for best Clarkesworld 2014 story. (Considering how strong the CW slate  is, not something to sneeze at!)

Harvestfruit (Crossed Genres) – A fun little flash piece, and by “fun” I obviously mean “full of war and death and loss and patricide”.


if you’d like to do a bit more reading to get a general sense of what I write and also because I’m too lazy to do a separate update, my story Tiger Baby, which I wrote in 2013 for a Singaporean anthology of cat stories, was recently reprinted in Lackingtons‘. It’s not eligible for any of the awards either way, but I’m quite proud of this one! Amal El-Mohtar did a lovely review of the story for her Rich And Strange column on  (SPOILERSSS) <3

Yes, J, but who are you nominating for the Campbell Award?

I’m glad you asked!!! I am constantly delighted by the amount of talent my fellow emerging writers possess. My recommendations for the Campbell are: Usman T. Malik, Alyssa Wong, Sam J. Miller, Carmen Maria Macchado and Natalia TheodoridouEvery story of theirs I’ve read  has punched me in the gut. They write such beautifully emotional stories and are all worthy candidates for the award.

Thank you for your  consideration!

Award Eligibility Post, 2014

Award Eligibility Post, 2014

Right. I have been encouraged to make one of these, so here we are. My award-eligible stories from 2014.

I didn’t publish that much last year. Mostly I had three stories out in the places that people know–my first pro sales and I’m very glad of them. Some people have said very nice things about them too, for which I’m grateful. Yay, my little babies  have found places in people’s hearts!

All three of my works published this year have been sci-fi, and are eligible for the Hugo, the Nebula, and — as was  just brought to my attention today– the BSFA.

I am also eligible for the John Campbell Award For Best New Writer. It’s the first year I’m running. **

Storytelling For The Night Clerk at Strange Horizons — My first pro sale! My baby. It was favourably reviewed by Lois Tilton, and later made her list of favourite stories in 2014. It also made Nina Allan’s list of recommended 2014 fiction.

Harvestfruit at Crossed Genres — My first flash sale, to CG’s special flash issue. I know flash is a hard sell at awards time, but I listed it here for completeness of portfolio (since, Campbell, etc)

Patterns Of A Murmuration, In Billions Of Data Points at Clarkesworld — aka, “Why the hell couldn’t I have picked a shorter title?” Seriously though, if I had to pick this is probably my favourite story that I’ve sold this year (and thus far). Lois Tilton also liked this one, and it also made her favourite stories list. It was tipped as noteworthy on Fantastic Stories of the Imagination and the Verge, and also made Usman Malik’s and Nin Harris‘ 2014 best-of lists.

Seriously, everyone– thank you for your consideration, thank you for reading, and thank you for your support.

**I don’t feel I’ve read enough in 2014 to come up with a good best-of round-up list, but my picks for Campbell award nominees? Usman Malik, Alyssa Wong, Natalia Theodoridou, Rachael K. Jones, Carmen Maria Machado. Every story of theirs I’ve read has blown me away. Highly recommended.