I am always SO EXCITED when friends of mine get published (like my old friend from grad school Liz, who is tearing it up at The Atlantic, among other places), partly because it gives me hope I will get more of my work out there than the handful of poems I’ve published, but mostly (I swear) because I am just so happy that the rest of the world gets to see how awesome they are as well. So I’m really excited that my friend Tiffany Tsao has had a story published (not her only publication by any means) in issue two of Lontar, a new journal of speculative fiction (sci-fi, fantasy, etc) about/from South East Asia. I actually found out about this issue first from the blog of Eliza Chan, whom I’ve been a fan of since her story “The Boy Who Made Stars” in Fantasy Magazine–I ran across her work while I was trying to get back into publishing my own work in 2010-2011 (I was able to get a good number of poems out 2011-12), and actually started this blog after seeing hers and thinking that a blog might actually be a nice sort of web-presence to have for my author bios (since my old geocities site had gone away a year or two before that).
The issue costs just $2.99 for the e-book version, so I picked that up earlier today and read through three stories (the first plus Tiff’s and Eliza’s) and a couple of poems. Really impressed with Tiff’s and Eliza’s stories. Eliza Chan’s is a really cool fantasy/magical realism (I think we would have to call it both… which is a bit weird, but hey, interstitial fiction is hot, right?) with a folk-lorey feeling, and oh, it was SO FUN to read something like that built on non-European folk culture–which would be a major point of this journal, I believe. The world of speculative fiction has become incredibly rich the last decade or so, as space for non-Euro-Tolkienesque fantasy (beyond orientalizing caricatures) has opened up, and to be honest, I am still processing the possibilities there are for the genres I grew up in, and working through how my own voice can productively fit into this. Heady stuff.
I had a chance to read some of the poetry as well, and I’ve got to say, looks great–this is a quality rag, not some fan-fic outlet.
And Tiff’s story–oh, SO GOOD! Sort of near-future science fiction this time, rather than the fantasy of Eliza Chan’s (or the first story in the collection, which is actually about Korea rather than South East Asia…). I had such a great time reading it, and was really impressed at the way it developed–engaging from the start, but deepening at an accelerating rate after a few pages. OK, part of what endeared it to me was how it was so clearly her voice, as in after the first paragraph or so I could say “only Tiff could write this,” as well as the fact that it is such a nice (speculatively hyperbolic) treatment of the academic experience, as well as (potentially) concerns over the relationship between the “real world,” the academic world, and the world of the privileged and powerful (not saying she wrote this as any sort of manifesto, just getting into what my reading highlighted)–and as powerful as I found it as an academic from a non-academic family, it seems all the more pertinent to (if still science-fictional) the experience of my academic friends from South East Asia–which, again, would fit the purpose of a journal like this, and it was nice to get an image of the academy (again, even if set in the future) that takes into account both the echoes of Western modernity that continue to resound throughout the academy, as well as the much more varied population that you find in the international academy–in other words, a view of the world that goes beyond the default assumptions we tend to grow up with and into.
Like Eliza Chan’s piece, this story revolves largely around family and memory, and the conflict (spoiler alert? not too much…) has to do with struggling against the fading of both. Again, I have to say that what really drew me in with Tiff’s story was how well she moved from a light, somewhat comic treatment of the material (being “Tweeded” as the way in which one became a scholar–hence the image of a tweed jacket that I took from wikicommons, though I daresay it is not nearly frumpy enough) to… oh wait, you need to read it for yourself.
Seriously, $2.99 is a bargain just for Tiff’s story, but so far this whole issue looks really good. And for those who don’t tend to read short fiction or poetry, well, this and other journals are a great, inexpensive (often free) way to provide healthy markets for talented writers, young and old, who are putting out quality, thoughtful, and entertaining work. OK, I’m biased, as Tiff and her husband Justin are old friends of mine and I MISS THEM AND WANT THEM TO BE RICH, as well as the fact that I would like to be getting more of my work out there, but you know, I really do think the world would be a better place if more people took a half hour a week to read some poetry and short fiction. I’ve listed some places you can look for this sort of thing before, but here are a few recommendations again (really short list, sorry–just what came to me at the moment–if you have favorites not listed here, put them in the comments!!!):
Well there you go. Thinking now of putting together a short post on my own progress in my creative endeavors lately, but we’ll see… probably better if I just get back to work on some of them.