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*

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

New fiction! "Eruption"

Anathema Magazine #2 is now up, which means my latest short story, "Eruption" is now up and available for reading online! 

I wrote "Eruption" in Week 3 of Clarion, under Andy Duncan. For some reason all the stories that day were somewhat of a similar theme: mine is essentially a misandrist utopia (I call it my #killallmen story); another classmate wrote a misandrist dystopia (in which boys are locked in a giant enclosure for a certain time); and a third wrote a somewhat misogynist attempt to establish a utopia free of women (but in ways that also harmed young men). It was a day

This story combines two ideas I had floating about: the story of a woman slowly succumbing to mental degradation, which surfaces a lot of terrible memories about the founding of her city, and a story of an underground slave people rising up to destroy their oppressors. It is inspired partly by this 1906 illustration by William Balfour Ker and a dream I had:

with added "the floor is..." meme
I've never read the novel that the illustration is supposed to be for, but I might sometime in the future. 

#killallmen as a hashtag often gets criticized or derided by men as being misandrist, boohoo feminists are showing their true violent colours. MRAs often ignore the reason why it's a joke. I wanted to think through what it would mean to actually carry out a genocide of an entire gender known for its violence and oppressive history, what it would take, what kind of consequences there would be. The establishment of a utopia is never an uncomplicated thing.

I hope you enjoy "Eruption"