Tuesday, September 5, 2017

New fiction! "The Last Cheng Beng Gift"

by Alan Bao

It's the day of the Hungry Ghost Festival! I went to the Thien Hau Temple on Sunday with my friend S. Qiouyi Lu and Nilah Magruder. There were monks chanting for most of the holiday weekend. It was also very hot, because there was a heat wave in Southern California (and about 7000 acres were burning near LA). 

Coincidentally, it's also the first Tuesday of the month, which means my Lightspeed Magazine story "The Last Cheng Beng Gift" is now up for free reading!! I also talk about writing the story in the Author Spotlight

Friday, September 1, 2017

Lightspeed Issue 88 is on sale!

The September issue of Lightspeed Magazine is now available for purchase! I'm really excited about it for several reasons. First, the incredible cover by Alan Bao:

It's a smaller version of the illustration he did for my short story, "The Last Cheng Beng Gift"!! It's my first ever story to become the cover story for a magazine, and hopefully it won't be the last! 

Secondly, I share an incredible table of contents... I'm in this issue with stories written by Genevieve Valentine and Tobias S. Buckell (who writes incredibly fun Caribbean space opera!!) and the non-fiction is by some of my favourite fiction writers, Amal El-Mohtar, Theodora Goss, and Joseph Allen Hill!!

Not only that (sub-second-point??), while my story goes live in the first week of September, my Clarion classmate Giovanni de Feo's story, "Ugo" goes live in the last week of September! That's like, a werejelly sandwich!!! Gio read his draft of "Ugo" to me and my roommates out loud, and at the end of his reading, I burst into tears. I'm so excited to be in this issue with him, and with that story, too!! It is a story of time-travel, determinism, the resentment of giving up dreams for some pre-determined narrative, and sacrifice for loved ones. I hope everyone else will recognize how great a writer he is!

Thirdly, it's Issue EIGHTY-EIGHT which is a really really really auspicious number in Chinese numerology!! "Eight" in Cantonese sounds like the word for "prosperity" so whenever people can choose a good number to use (for say, car license plates, or phone numbers), there's sure to be someone claiming some number of 8s in them. 

And finally, my story goes live on the Lightspeed website next Tuesday, Sept 5th, which is the day of the Hungry Ghost Festival itself! It's the fifteenth of the lunar month, which makes it the peak time when ghosts can get out of the Underworld... most people celebrate it around then, although some diaspora communities will caution their children to walk carefully throughout the whole month. I will attempt to attend one of the all-day rituals at the Thien Hau temple in Los Angeles Chinatown this weekend!

You can purchase the issue right now, or wait as the content is released. I will post on the day my story goes live with the full illustration by Alan Bao

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Upcoming story! "The Last Cheng Beng Gift"

Today marks the first day of Hungry Ghost Month. On the 15th day of the 7th lunar month, which is September 5 this year, Chinese people, at least in Malaysia and Singapore, will celebrate the Hungry Ghost Festival. 

The Hungry Ghost Month is when the gates to the Underworld open, giving the ghosts reprieve for a time to wander the earth, and visit the living. Because ghosts don't eat in the Underworld, they are, as one might expect, hungry, so now is a really good time to feed the supernatural myriad. We will leave food out with our prayers overnight, inviting the ghosts to eat. It's good karma to feed the hungry, whether alive or dead.

It's also a very exciting time! There will be a lot of live shows, and the first row of chairs will be empty to make way for the ghosts so they can watch. Back In The Day the shows used to be traditional Chinese opera; nowadays they can be more contemporary entertainments, like live performances or stripper shows (because, you know, ghosts can still appreciate the sexy). 

It's also a spooky time! Because the dead walk among the living! During this month, we are cautioned to walk with care, especially at night, because you never know what ghost is out to prank you. 

What is especially exciting for me this Hungry Ghost season is that my latest short story, "The Last Cheng Beng Gift" will be out next month, in September! Cheng Beng, or Qing Ming, was actually in April--it's the time when we visit the graves of our ancestors and clean their graves. If they have passed recently, Cheng Beng is also the time to burn joss money and other joss things that family members may want in the afterlife, like a house, or clothes, or, these days, high-def televisions and laptops. 

I'm honoured to say that "The Last Cheng Beng Gift" will be in Lightspeed Magazine. I wrote it in Week 1 of my Clarion workshop under Kelly Link. It is about a Singaporean matriarch in the Underworld who receives a strange gift from her wayward daughter: a coupon to a fish spa! Joyce Chng and I made a pact to each write a fish spa story, so this one is dedicated to her. (You can read her fish spa story in Rambutan Literary #4!) Although it is centered around Cheng Beng events, Hungry Ghost Month is also an important time in the story. The illustration will be done by Alan Bao, and I think it is really cool! So keep an eye out for a little Chinese lady gracing a magazine near you soon!

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Upcoming fiction in SUNVAULT

Sometime in the summer of 2015, I was tinkering with a story idea and asked my dad, "if you could go back thirty years and remembered everything that happened, what would you do?"

I was thinking something along the lines of, what stock markets would he invest in, or what different career moves would he make. But no, he said something completely different, way more personal, and laughed. Then relented and said he'd pay more attention to my grandparents, his parents, to make sure they didn't suffer declining health as soon as they did. 

My response to this question, and the little exchange we had after, is in my upcoming story "The Reset," in Sunvault: Tales of Solarpunk and Eco-speculation, forthcoming from Upper Rubber Boot Press. The story starts thus:

"It is now five years after the Reset. I have stood trial for my complicity in it and come away innocent."
I drafted "The Reset" in a single day. I had the kernel of an idea from the morning's conversation with my father, and for lunch, I packed my laptop and went to a new-ish cafe near my house. (SS 15 has seen a lot of new cafes open over the last 14 years since I left home. My favourite of these cafes closed down a year before, alas, so I had to try out someplace new.) I ordered a chicken chop and a pot of tea, settled down on a low couch with a coffee table, and started to write.

I finished the draft within four hours. I also managed to not cry in public.

It took me several months to place this story, and each time I tweaked it some more. It was a hard process because the emotional core is so complicated and I just didn't know how to communicate it. I hope it gets through. It's a weird and complicated and fraught core. I hope you like it.

Sunvault: Stories of Solarpunk and Eco-Speculation will be available Aug 29, 2017. You can pre-order it through various means, and there is a drop-down menu of indie bookstores across the United States and Canada! Support local bookstores! *waves flag*