On the Thickness of Skin by Angela Slatter

I’ve dealt with a lot of rejected/dejected writers this week, for one reason and another. They’ve been dejected because of the rejections. It’s completely understandable. Rejection hurts.

It somehow says ‘You’re not good enough’, no matter how confident you are of yourself as a person or as a writer. Sometimes a writer’s week brings more than one rejection, which just feels like the Universe has given you a paper cut and rubbed lemon juice into it.

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Letter from Jakarta, and Cloud Permutations Release

Letter from Jakarta & Cloud Permutations

Lavie Tidhar

I’m late to the guest-blogging season this time around, but I have an excuse – I’m currently writing two novels and a novella back-to-back, which gives you an idea of how absent my social life is at the moment. Of course, it doesn’t help that I’m spending a couple of months in Jakarta – if you haven’t been, don’t. Someone should probably write a paper on The City as One Giant Traffic Jam, or maybe that’s China’s sequel to The City and the City. In any case, here I am. The question is, will I ever be able to get out?

It’s kind of a depressing city, book-wise. The few bookstores have a remarkable lack of novels, in either English or Bahasa. There are books – technical manuals, self-help guides, that sort of thing. Young adult fantasy seems to be the only type of novel widely available, though that appears to be mainly translations from English.

To find real Indonesian books one has to go to one of the second hand book markets – the bursa buku – where you’d find some wonderful Indonesian pulp novels (at least, they have wonderful pulp covers) and a lot of comics, but where the English novels seem to be composed entirely of ex-pat reading material, which is in turn made up pretty much by Jackie Collins’ back-catalogue.

I knew I should have bought that e-book reader before I left.

I did bring some paperbacks with me, but I’ve run out quickly. Still, if you haven’t already, do pick up a copy of Jedediah Berry’s quite wonderful The Manual of Detection. I think my next purchase will be an e-book reader, as much as I think the technology isn’t quite there yet, nor are the prices. There’s nothing like carrying a load of paperbacks around with you to remind you just how heavy paper is. And what do you do with them once you’ve read them?

So I can’t find books to read. Which is a little depressing.

What’s cheering me up at the moment is that my latest book has just come back from the printers. Cloud Permutations is a novella published, in a limited edition hardcover edition, by PS Publishing in the UK. It’s a planetary romance, sort of – the story of a planet inhabited by Melanesian settlers, and about a boy who wants to fly. I get to make all kinds of bilingual jokes in it, which I always enjoy. In Vanuatu, the shared language (in an archipelago of over one hundred distinct languages) is Bislama, a form of pidgin English also common, with some differences, to the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea. I was trying to come up with a word for alien in Bislama while writing this, for instance, and a friend suggested wan smolfala grinfala man I no blong ples ia.

Which translates as a small green man who’s not from here.

Part of the problem of defining alien, or the other, if you prefer, in Bislama, is that pretty much anyone not from your village or, possibly, island, is from somewhere else. The term I had a problem getting to grips with at first was man ples. I wasn’t sure what it meant. Was it the place of man? I tried to use it once in context and got very confused looks.

What man ples actually means is, literally, a man of this place. So you’re either Man ples or you’re not Man ples, in which case you’re a waetman. Waetman – from, well, white man, obviously – can refer to most people not from Vanuatu. So that you get a waetman blong Japan, for instance.

So you have Man ples, waetman, and blakman, all used as markers for people’s identity, but this is compounded by the fact each island is a stronger identity within the larger context – Man Tanna is not Man Bankis (that is, a person from the island of Tanna most certainly does not identify himself as a person from the Banks islands), a blakman blong Afrika is most certainly not Man Ples, and a waetman blong Bankis is not at all a European: he’s an albino from the Banks.

So Cloud Permutations is about a world settled by a generation starship that had carried Ni-Vanuatu people into space. It is a world of islands and ocean, of a mysterious, vanished alien race called the Narawan, a world dominated by clouds and still run on kastom, the old ways. Narawan, literally, means another one, not-this-one-but-the-other-one – more simply, the other.

It’s the story of Kal, a boy from a remote island who simply wants to fly – the one thing forbidden on Heven, a world where the clouds may be sentient – and his journey to fulfil his dream, across a world filled with mysteries and secret knowledge and danger.

I began writing Cloud Permutations shortly after I arrived in Vanuatu, in the comforts of Port Villa, the main town on the large island of Efate. I finished it, much later, in my little bamboo hut on the shore of Vanua Lava, one of the most isolated and remote islands on Earth, when I could snatch moments of battery life from the single solar power unit on the island, the volcano in my sight, wreathed in clouds.

It has, I hope, magic and danger, chases and excitement, long lost secrets and a vanished alien race, monsters and friendship, romance and adventure. It begins, the way such stories should always begin: Long Epi Ailan I bin stap wan man blong majik –

That is, On the island of Epi there lived a magician.

Lavie Tidhar is the author of The Bookman (Angry Robot Books) and follow-ups Camera Obscura and Night Music, both forthcoming from the same publisher. His latest book, novella Cloud Permutations, is just out from PS Publishing in the UK.

Shared Worlds Continues

I am smarter now than when I started the day. Always a good feeling. Today the credit is due to Holly Black and Carrie Ryan, who brought their brilliance to Shared Worlds today in the form of classes for the students and a great reading (including roleplaying out a classic con!) at the new and local Spartanburg bookstore, Hub City Bookshop.

Holly Black kicked off the day with a phenomenal presentation of the cultivation and calibration of magic systems in fiction, including identifying how and why magic needs to cost the wielder something, and why casters of spells don’t just take over the world—and your story. Follow that with a great Q&A with both Black and Ryan on how to design magic systems for your own fictional world, and you had a great thought-provoking morning.

Then, after offering up their expertise to the students in their individual study groups, by helping to tackle issues of character motivation and the difference between a cliché and a classic, they came back to the lecture hall for another round of antics. This time it was for Holly Black’s patented exercise of plot and fairy tales, in which the students re-imagined the Rumplestiltskin tale as a near-future plot, complete with artificial intelligences and corrupt CEOs vying for control of tomorrow’s marketplaces. A crazy, energetic exercise, great for helping the kids come to understand how to plot a story—and how to re-envision familiar plots as unfamiliar stories.

Every day, at Shared Worlds, I ask myself where this camp was when I was in school.

Monday’s Content

In Monday’s Original Content at the World SF Blog, I interview Paolo Chikiamco, editor and founder of Eight Ray Sun publishing. This in connection with the Alternative Alamat project.

At poc.net, this article on the first YA novel by a Filipino.  Tall Story by UK-based Filipina writer, Candy Gourlay was purchased by David Fickling books in 2009 and has been released in the UK, the US and just this month in The Philippines. A note of interest: Candy mentions how this book is influenced by the Bernardo Carpio myth. There’s a link to an interview with her by Tarie Sabido which gives more insight into the influences and the process through which Candy went through to get this novel published. Something that jumped out at me from the interview is this part:

But it was only when one agent told me, “Why are you writing about English characters? A first novel should reflect the author’s experience.” that I realized that I was not mining the wealth of experience and story that my heritage had to give. It was only when I started setting my stories in the Philippines and using Filipino characters that my writing really came alive. (click on those lines for the entire interview)

At the Rocket Kapre blog, Paolo Chikiamco has posted a Pantheon of Philippine Deities. Quite a comprehensive one. It takes time to read through, but it’s worth it.

The Philippine Speculative Fiction anthology which is going into its sixth year, has also opened for submissions and it looks like this time the anthology will be published digitally instead of in-print.

There are a good number of anthologies in the wings from Filipino publishers, but I just can’t seem to keep up.

From this distance, it looks like the Filipino Speculative Fiction scene is thriving. One would think that an increase in visibility and accessibility equates to an increase in readership. Last time I was home, I was told quite brutally at several bookstores that they rarely stocked books by Filipino authors as the demand for fiction/novels by Filipino authors was practically non-existent.*

With the release of Candy Gourlay’s book,  and with the increased visibility of the Filipino writer in the genre scene, I find myself hopeful. Hopeful that bookstores will start to stock more books by Filipino writers of genre. Hopeful that more Filipino publishers will open their doors to books written by Filipino writers. And most of all hopeful that more Filipinos are reading these publications and supporting our writers.

*It seems ironic but it is very typical Filipino to have this attitude that once it’s been published abroad it must be really good. Change comes very slow and we are still bound by that mentality.

Strange Coins and Flooded Cities

Hi there. My name is Will Hindmarch, and I teach at the Shared Worlds creative-writing camp founded by Jeff VanderMeer and Jeremy Jones. For the second and final week of the camp, I’m here at Wofford College being the sub-Jeff in Jeff’s considerable psychic and professorial wake. I am a pale substitute—I know Jeff VanderMeer and I am no Jeff VanderMeer—but I’m scrappy and eager to please. So I’m pacing myself and preparing to withstand the merciless heat and weather the incredible energy given off by the students here at the camp.

I almost didn’t make it here. I got stymied by a twelve-hour thunderstorm in Chicago that flooded out the expressways and drowned stretches of the surface streets. But, a day late, I’ve made it on-site and already met the throng of eager students and the cunning Holly Black, who’ll spend tomorrow teaching and reading. More on that once it has, you know, actually taken place.

As I write this, I am sitting on campus in the midst of a raucous and surly thunderstorm, hoping against hope that the power doesn’t go out. I need the lights to solve a puzzle Jeff left behind for me: a pile of enigmatic and exotic coins, arranged just so on my desk.

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A Quick Introduction to a Malaysian and Malaysian SF/F

Hello wonderful readers! I am Jha! Sorry to be so late to the party here. I have excuses, but you don’t want to hear them. So instead, I will do the thing I should be doing, which is writing about pop culture stuff and generally being entertaining while still adding my ish to this here lovely blog.

Right now, I am blogging from my family home in warm, humid Malaysia. Most of the year, I’m in Canada, the Great White North, where I’ve been studying since 2003, and going back for a post-grad degree, with a proposed thesis on steampunk and postcolonialism. If you’ve ever read my steampunk blog, Silver Goggles, you’ve been reading my early homework for my Major Research Project. And obviously, also, rants about the Lack of Diversity in Steampunk, and Folks Gettin’ It Wrong, and How That Should Change.

So, I’m going to chat a bit about science fiction and fantasy here in Malaysia. For today.

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The PC Challenges of Being an Editor

Maurice Broaddus is the author of the novel series, The Knights of Breton Court (Angry Robot).  His dark fiction has been published in numerous magazines, anthologies, and web sites, most recently including Dark Dreams II & III, Apex Magazine, Black Static, and Weird Tales Magazine.  He is the co-editor of the Dark Faith anthology (Apex Books).   Read his blog where he often opines on issues of race, religion, writing, and pop culture and learn more about him at www.MauriceBroaddus.com.

Not too long ago, Jeff interviewed me about the anthology I helped put together, Dark Faith (Apex Books is currently having a 40% off sale on all versions of it).  Now I’ve seen controversy after Fail Storm about essentially white/male-washed table of contents for various anthologies, even long before I sat down to begin putting together this anthology.  Luckily, I rarely have to wait too long for someone to give me an excuse to write about the topic.

Not too long ago there was a bit of a dust up regarding the anti-racist, anti-fascist anthology Never Again, put together by a couple of U.K. editors.  [Technically, I do have dual citizenship (which only is a problem come World Cup time when England plays the U.S.).  And “editor” is one of the hats I wear (along with “writer” and “person of color”), so let’s see what kind of trouble I can get into.]  As with most internet dustups, I simply made some popcorn, watch the ever-so-polite drama unfold and then went about my business.  However, in discussing why there were no people of color, one of the editors made this remark:   “Would you have preferred us to target and include writers on the basis of their skin colour, not their writing?”

As editors, we don’t have the luxury of hiding behind this as a defense, because this is a straw one at best (and no amount of “my best friend is black” style waving is going to save you).  Not to mention that this is a fairly ignorant, or at least ill constructed, “defense” because it’s not like these two possibilities are mutually exclusive.

For the record, the final “stats” of Dark Faith TOC:, for those playing along at home, was 5 poems and 26 stories by 17 men and 14 women, at least four people of color involved (I say “at least” because I can only tell so much from people’s Facebook pictures plus there are the additional stories in the chapbook associated with the anthology, Dark Faith:  Last Rites).

At no point did I worry about any sort of “PC testing” of my table of contents (will I have enough POC?  Will there be any women?).  That’s a ridiculous way to go about putting together an anthology.  The other reason it was a non-worry?  It’s not that difficult to produce a table of contents that has diversity.  Now I’m not even talking about forcing the issue of diversity in a TOC.   I’m saying that these days you have to almost go out of your way to produce an anthology without diversity.  Three simple steps:

-open submission period.  For about five months we had an open submission period.  We put the word out widely that we were looking for stories regarding a particular theme.  And that was just putting the word out in the places we know genre writers tend to frequent (my blog, Ralan’s, Duotrope, a few message boards).  If we wanted to actually be more intentional, we could have gone to specific boards which cater to writers of color.

-my “rolodex”.  Don’t get me wrong, I have a pretty color-filled rolodex to begin with, since as you know, all the black kids sit together in the cafeteria.  That being said, that’s an important fact:  my rolodex naturally has POC in it.  Authors I like to read, people I’ve met, people I want to work with.  If your rolodex lacks diversity, it may be time to color up your world.

-look.  Without submissions, without my own personal contacts, I am still aware that there are plenty of authors out there.  Authors I’d love to see stories from, whom I’ve read, whom I’d like to work with, who I’m simply aware of if only by reputation.  If I still was at my wit’s end, I could simply ask folks who know the players in the field better than I.

Now, I’m perfectly aware of the fact that no matter what you do, someone will find fault, real or imagined with the final product.  My simple take away point is this:  if you’re going to have an anti-racist anthology or do any sort of compendium on the history of a genre, you may want to mix in a person of color (especially for the former, if only to have the actual perspective of someone who has experienced it).

Putting together Dark Faith was fraught with its own concerns:  do we represent all faiths?  Are we respectful to all perspectives?  Are we being sacrilegious?  Are we treading TOO lightly? And I’m positive we’ve left plenty on the table for folks to criticize.  As an editor you can’t worry about that and yet you HAVE to worry about that.  You do your best and let the final product stand on its own merits.  But you at least have to try to make a good faith effort.

State of Today’s Mushroom

Today’s guest-mushroom has paused her reading in order to create this entry.

Today’s mushroom carries around a copy of The Third Bear. Due to constant interruptions, today’s mushroom has not even finished reading the first story.

Today’s mushroom wonders. Is the bear a hero or a villain? In this story, the bear wreaks havoc.What is the third bear thinking?

Once the story leaves the writer, the story belongs to the reader. What the reader thinks of the story, how the story affects the reader, how the reader engages with the story, these are things out of the writer’s control. Was it the writer’s intention for me to think about the third bear as the hero in his own story? I don’t know. I haven’t finished the story yet. Perhaps there are no heroes in this story, perhaps there are more than one. What is a hero anyway?  And do I really need heroes for me to like a story?

Today’s mushroom considers heroes. Are heroes tasty?  If I mixed them in with my soup, will heroes make me heroic too? Heroes and the consumption thereof . . . hold that thought. Ha, ha.

Today’s mushroom is having an attack of absurd melancholy. It happens even to the best of mushrooms. But heroes. . . yes . . . perhaps heroes have those too. Who are your heroes and if you consumed them what would they taste like to you?

Today’s mushroom wanders off to read some more. Hopefully, the mushroom will finish reading this story before more interruptions occur.

**updated to say: I finished reading the first story. A five star story, definitely awesome. Off to read more.

The Danger of A Single Story

Today’s inspiration comes from watching this video talk given by Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie–The Danger of a Single Story.

Some Philippine Speculative Fiction Links

In the wake of discovering that I had forgotten to renew the domain name of the Philippine Speculative Fiction Sampler, here are a couple of online (so you can read them now) publications that publish fiction written by Filipino authors:


The Farthest Shore: Fantasy from the Philippines edited by Dean Francis Alfar and Joseph Nacino

Demons of the New Year

Demons of the New Year edited by Joseph F. Nacino and Karl de Mesa


Usok edited by Paolo Gabriel V. Chikiamco

Also, here are some stories published this year in other online venues:

“Urban Phantoms” by Anne Abad (Expanded Horizons)

“Once They Were Gods” by Eliza Victoria (Expanded Horizons)

“Betamax for Starters” by Katya Oliva-Llego (Expanded Horizons)

“Bearing Fruit” by Nikki Alfar (Fantasy Magazine)

“Hi Bugan ya Hi Kinggawan” by Rochita Loenen-Ruiz (Fantasy Magazine)

“Adrift on the Street Formerly Known as Buendia” by Nikki Alfar (Bewildering Stories)

“Alien Hand” by Grace Talusan (Solstice)

“To Slay With A Thousand Kisses” by Rodello Santos (Beneath Ceaseless Skies)

“The Hunger Houses” by Raymond G. Falgui (Innsmouth Free Press)