2020 Round-Up and Awards Eligibility

For me, 2020 felt slow, and at times painful, frustrating, and confusing. It was easy to compare myself with others who seemed to be having lots of short fiction publishing success, and feel demoralised. However, when I cast my mind back to where I was a mere one year ago, I’m reminded of how far I’ve come in a short space of time. I am immensely grateful: not only for my writing journey, but for the security of my day work and living situation, and for the support systems around me.

Here are the things I’ve published in 2020. My novelette, Jigsaw Children, is eligible for the Hugo and Nebula Awards, and grants me eligibility for the Astounding Award.

Jigsaw Children
Clarkesworld (Issue 161, Feb 2020)
Audio Version available on Clarkesworld Website / Podcast

13,000 words. A science fiction novelette set in twenty-second century Hong Kong, about gene splicing, mothers, attachment, and identity.

I think I’m reasonably lucky, only having five parents. I guess my donors didn’t have too many risk mutations. Some of my classmates have been spliced together from eight, nine, even twelve donors. I don’t envy them the task of juggling their Chinese New Year dinners.

Father’s House
Aurealis (Issue 29, Apr 2020)

2500 words. A short story touching on themes of brain connectome mapping, illness, immigration, and the things that parents pass on to their children.

He removes his shoes and places them neatly next to his father’s black sneakers.
His father’s voice floats from the kitchen. ‘Henry. How’s work?’
‘Fine, Ba. I’ve taken a few days off.’
‘Just to help me clean? Are you sure that’s a good idea?’

The Ethnographer
Andromeda Spaceways Magazine (Issue #79, Jun 2020)

5000 words. A far future science fiction story about inequality and powerlessness. A solitary, empathetic ethnographer travels to a far-flung planet and gradually discovers hidden ruptures in the alien society.

I step down from the Linnaeus into a crimson haze creased with shadows. The wind howls like a banshee symphony. At once, I understand why the Vullon have no hearing organs: the noise of this alien planet inspires madness.

Of Hunger and Fury
Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women, Omnium Gatherum (Sep 2020)

3600 words. A Malaysian Chinese gothic horror story. When Fen Fang returns to her family home in Malaysia, long-forgotten ghosts begin to creep into her skin.

When I see my mother standing in the front yard, two decades disappear in a blink. I can hardly bear to look at the faded white walls, the creeping lattice of vines like bloated veins. She pulls the metal gate open. Her bare wrists look strangely vulnerable. My husband bounds over to her, grasps her hand in both of his, leans in to peck her cheek.

Mother of the Trenches
Unnatural Order, CSFG Publishing (Dec 2020, available to pre-order)

2700 words. A quirky, tentacled, symbiotic, fantasy tale about power, knowing yourself, ocean pollution, and deep, dark places.

You turn your little eyes to me, taking in my massive shapelessness, the dark patterns shifting over my skin, and my many arms, coiled around us like a nest—protecting, tasting, thinking. Your gaze flicks upwards and crosses paths with mine.
Your fear turns into disgust.

If you’d told me a couple of years ago that I’d have short fiction in two dream Aussie SFF venues, I wouldn’t have dared to believe it! The Ethnographer and Father’s House are very different stories, but both were a challenge and a joy to write. I feel very lucky to have had them edited and published by Andromeda Spaceways and Aurealis, respectively. And, of course, I’m perpetually over the moon that Clarkesworld accepted Jigsaw Children–which, now that I reflect on it, has many thematic overlaps with Every Version of You.

As I spent a large portion of the year studying for a specialty exam, I didn’t get to write and submit as much as I’d hoped. But with the exam well and truly behind me now, I’m set to dive into structural edits for EVOY and more short fiction projects!

As always, thanks for reading and lingering for a little while. May the end of your 2020 be reflective, restorative, and as peaceful as can be in these times.

Novel Announcement: Every Version of You

In a perfect, deathless world, what does it mean to love and let go?

OK so I kind of spoiler-ed myself a couple of weeks ago but I have some RIDICULOUSLY EXCITING NEWS.

Picture: primary-school-Grace, hunched over the dining table, scribbling stories in exercise books and dreaming of publishing a Real Book one day.

Now picture little Grace’s dream coming true. Yes indeed, the (electronic) ink is dry! My debut novel, Every Version of You, is going to be published by Affirm Press!!!

Every Version of You is a science fiction novel set in late 21st century Australia. It features a Malaysian Chinese Australian protagonist, Tao-Yi Ling, and her partner, Navin, as they grapple with the rise of virtual reality and mind-uploading technology. It explores continuity of identity, love, migration, consumerism, bodies, illness, change, loss, and cultural grief. It hopes to channel the spirit of Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go, with a dash of Black Mirror.

Affirm Press is a wonderful, independent Melbourne-based publishing house who are behind Alice Robinson’s The Glad Shout, Pip Williams’ The Dictionary of Lost Words, and Christian White’s The Nowhere Child, amonst many others. Affirm Press are doing exciting things in the Australian publishing landscape, and their vision for Every Version of You closely aligns with mine. I’m so, so delighted to work with them to whip this thing into shape!

If you’d like to follow me on my writing journey, you can subcribe to this website for blog posts.

If you’d like to stan me in other media, I’m also on Twitter and Instagram, where in addition to word-wrangling updates I share my excitement about what I’m reading, watching, or, occasionally, munching.

For the ultimate fangirling experiencing, you can subscribe to my brand-spanking-new-shiny newsletter: Brains, Space, & Ghosts. If you like the sound of writing excerpts, behind-the-scenes info, inspirations, and occasional musings, I’d be honoured if you signed up! I promise not to contribute to loathsome spam, and will send out the newsletter no more than once a month, likely less often.

Thank you again, friends, for sharing in my excitement about my debut novel. Tao-Yi and Navin’s story means a great deal to me, and I can’t wait to bring it to life.

Every Version of You is due for release in early 2022.

A few blog appearances

“I want stories about Asian women who are both good and bad, who drive their own narratives, and make up their own minds. I want stories about Asian women who get to adventure, fight, run away, fall in love, not fall in love, destroy their enemies, plot wicked plots, exact revenge, save the world, or be wonderfully ordinary.

Hi friends,

I was fortunate enough to contribute to few interviews and round-table discussions in the lead-up to the release of Black Cranes.

Angela Yuriko Smith lets me waffle on about migration, the model minority myth, exploring our darker selves, and wanting characters who can do everything. Also, my dad teases primary-school-me about my character name choices.

The Black Cranes, myself included, share the inspiration behind our spooky stories on the Horror Tree Blog Tour.

Last but not least, Ginger Nuts of Horror hosts a three-part campfire chat with all the writers and editors about otherness and dark fiction. Delicious stuff.

The Ethnographer – Andromeda Spaceways Magazine #79

My short story, The Ethnographer, appears in Issue #79 of Andromeda Spaceways Magazine. The Ethnographer is my humble attempt to wrangle my feelings about inequality and powerlessness. It’s far from perfect, but I’m proud of it.

It introduces my second space voyager: the solitary, empathetic ethnographer, Egal Tyro, who journeys from their birth-planet, Mars, out of a desire to explore and commune with other life forms.

[My first space voyager was the bounty hunter, Orin, from my first ever published story, The Dunes of Ranza. Orin and Egal are both cybernetically-enhanced, non-binary, flawed, strong, deeply human. I love them both. I want to write them more.]

I also throw in an intelligent non-human species, visual and tactile languages, an alien planet with vast rocky basins that change colour as the sun shifts, giant rustling indigo plants, seedpod-milk, and at least three moons. Oh, also, ion-powered blimps. Preeeetty.

Thank you to fellow Aussie SFF writer Austin Sheehan and to my brother, Peter [ah, to be cursed with a sister who shoves stories under your nose every few months and demands critique], for beta reading the unwieldy draft and helping to whip it into shape.

I’m grateful to Andromeda Spaceways for accepting the story, and to editor Joel Schanke for a deft and thoughtful editing process. The issue has gorgeous artwork, including an illustration for my story (!). The stories are tied together by the theme of love.

It was also a very cool surprise to be in the company of writers AJ Fitzwater and Maria Z Medina. Maria’s lyrical, myth-infused story, Voice of God, took my breath away. AJ’s Tāne Mahuta was similarly an immersive, out-of-body, magical ode to nature.

You can purchase Issue #79 here or subscribe as a member on the Andromeda Spaceways website.

Hear, hear: narrating for AntipodeanSF

I still remember my only redeeming quality in Year Eight Drama Class was that I had a ‘nice reading voice’. So I tried something new recently: narration.

If you’re interested in listening to my sibilant s’s and palatable palatals, you can hear me narrate two snappy, quirky short stories for the AntipodeanSF Radio Show:

Bring Back The Night, by Robin Hillard [Amata, 26 July 2020] – From approx 8 minutes: https://antisf.libsyn.com/amata

The Slow, by Antoinette Ryder [Amanda, 5 July 2020] – From approx 22:30 minutes: https://antisf.libsyn.com/amanda

I tried listening to myself again, and I can hardly bear it! In hindsight, I sound bland. If I ever have another go, I’ll let myself get more into the story. It was a fun challenge though–it involved finding the right sized cardboard box, allocating the precise distance from phone to mouth to minimise spluttering plosives and background noise, and googling how to pronounce ‘detritus’.

In any case, I hope you enjoy the twisty tales by Hillard and Ryder.

Thanks Nuke and AntipodeanSF for having me!

Hunger, fury, and lessons learnt from a short story

Yesterday, I finished editing the Malaysian Chinese gothic ghost story that I’ve been working on, tumultuously, with a fair amount of hair-pulling, for the better part of two months. Writing this piece was a great deal more challenging than I expected at the outset. I thought I’d share about what I struggled with, and consequently what I learnt about the craft of writing and about myself.

The first challenge I had to wrestle with was trying to write it ‘right’. All possible accusations of fraud leapt out at me. How can I claim to be a horror writer, when I’ve only ever written one other horror story (The Mark: and that was not with the explicit purpose to frighten, but to unsettle)? Who am I to write a Chinese ghost story when I’ve hardly lived in Asia and I have to reference-check every Chinese word I use? And how can I dare to label it as gothic when I had to spend an afternoon self-consciously Googling elements of gothic literature?

[It’s dark, it’s uncanny, it’s sensual, it has omens and spirits, it’s set in the 90s and there’s terrible phone reception—so, heck, I’m just gonna roll with it.]

Eventually, I figured out that I just had to write it ‘right by me’, although that in itself is much easier said than done. I had to focus on exactly what I was trying to convey, and shave away any pretence of being something else. My and my mother’s hazy recollections of talismans and spirits and superstitions are enough. The inspirations and influences from various things I’ve read, and places I’ve travelled, are enough. It’s enough that I’m emotionally honest with the reader.

The second challenge I had to overcome? My fear of being too…weird. What did I expect, really? In writing a story about suppressed hunger and fury, I found myself struggling with my own suppressed hunger and fury, wondering if I was coming across as too angry, too twisted, too much.

My story aims to be metaphorical and impressionistic, not explicit and didactic. I’m not trying to impart any particular lesson, but to inject you, the reader, into Fen Fang’s body: so that you can feel her feelings, grapple with her reality, and scramble as it distorts. I enjoyed this exercise immensely—using Fang’s senses, her behaviour, and even the form of her language and thought, to shape the narrative experience. It’s certainly the most metaphorical and twisty thing I’ve written so far.

Plus, yeahhhh, there’s a ghost in it!

I hope that I can share it with you soon.

Aurealis Awards 2019: Shortlisted!

Greetings, digital ghosts.

Just a little post to announce that my short story, The Mark, has been shortlisted for Best Horror Short Story in the 2019 Aurealis Awards.

 
Wang Yibo dancing on stage with a seductive twirl.
Mood

I’m feeling incredibly privileged and honoured that my second published work is an Aurealis Awards nominee.

Congratulations to all the other finalists: a stellar line-up!

https://aurealisawards.org/2020/03/25/2019-aurealis-awards-shortlist-announcement/

The Misplaced Giant – AntipodeanSF

Hello, internet!

My flash fiction, The Misplaced Giant, is live!

You can find it online here in Issue 255 of AntipodeanSF, for a limited time.

I dug this wacky little piece out of a folder of buried scribblings from my good ol’ university days, and thought it a perfect fit for a SF/F/H mag from the bottom side of the planet.

I hope you enjoy it.

PS. A narration by yours truly may be forthcoming.

***

Update (04/02/2020): The Misplaced Giant is no longer live on the AntiSF website, but you can still read it from the archives.

Brewing…

It’s been quiet on the blog front.

Life, work, and other inevitable mundanities have unfortunately slowed the writing down these past few months. My health has taken a hit, and it has been hard to find the mental and physical energy to work on my creative projects. But I’m hoping to make a slow U-turn, back towards the things that mean the most to me.

I’m delighted to share that the first draft of my novel-in-progress, Uploading, is taking shape. There are now 77,000 wacky, cyberpunky, meandering, feely, technophilic words in there!

This year, I’ve also had two super exciting acceptances. One is a short short story, and the other is a novella. I’ll have more news about these closer to their publication. Stay tuned!

Viva La Novella Shortlist & Excerpt: The Ship of Theseus

Earlier this year, I found out that my near-future, virtual reality, mind/body splitting, Asian-Australian spec-fic novella was shortlisted for Viva La Novella VII.

Needless to say, I had to pinch myself, oh, several hundred times.

If you like the sound of The Ship of Theseus, you can check out an excerpt of it now at Seizure Online. Thanks for reading!