Sunday, 31 December 2017

Retrospective 2017.

Oh hello! It's been a while huh!

I figured I'd better update this because I've been networking with other writers from around the world and I didn't want them googling me up and then finding my blog and all there was on it was a page from way back in May and then another from way back in 2015.

So anyway, what's been up with me this past couple of years? Well it so happens, quite a lot!

It's been a good 2017 for me. I won 3rd and consolation prize in the prestigious biannual Malay SF novel writing competition, Sayembara Fiksyen Sains dan Teknologi UTM-Utusan. This also means I had two SF novels published this year, Dunia Hanyalah Pentas, and Yang Diselindung Samudera, which I co-wrote with Nor Azida Ishak and Fadli al-Akiti.

I'm particularly proud of Dunia Hanyalah Pentas, which is a YA cyberpunk murder mystery thriller (phew! what a mouthful!) set in my hometown of Ipoh, a quiet little town which isn't really the kind of megalopolis one usually associates with cyberpunk. But I think I pulled it off, and with style too (if I do say so myself, *cough cough*).

Yang Diselindung Samudera was a novel project proposed by Azida, and is a Dan Brown-esque thriller. It's pretty much a spiritual sequel to Leksikon Ledang, the second prize winner of a previous season of the same SF novel writing competition, written by Azida and Fadli al-Akiti (and one I had no part in). I helped write the outline and complete several scenes, Fadli helped add in some ancient Malay flavour, and Azida mostly did the rest, so she is the one who really deserves most of the praise here.

Later in the year, I also had an essay published in Dewan Sastera ("Pengkritik Bukan Muslim Mahir Membaca Teks Melayu Islam: Apa Salahnya?") and a book review published in Tunas Cipta ("Fiksi Buat Marquez oleh Ruhaini Matdarin").

Being published in Dewan Sastera was quite unexpected. I've never considered myself well-versed in Malay to the extent that I am qualified to be published in it. But in the March 2017 issue, some asshole wrote a lengthy article basically arguing that non-Malays were not qualified to judge a Malay literary competition because they were not Muslim. This somehow ticked me off enough that I decided to write a 2000 word response asking what the hell does religion got to do with a literary competition. I guess the editor liked it enough to include it in the May 2017 issue.

Those were all Malay writings but I had some achievements on the English side as well. I had two short stories published, one in Nang 3: Fiction ("The Novelization of Welcome Back, Mr. McDonald") and another on Eksentrika ("Heat").

I'm quite proud of "The Novelization of Welcome Back, Mr. McDonald" because it's a light, funny piece but unfortunately it's a piece that has to be read after viewing the Japanese film it's inspired from. The publisher of Nang Magazine also included some cool art, one of which was a poster for my story which I thought was ridiculously awesome.❤ It's a cool magazine which has a planned run of only 10 issues, so if you haven't yet, go check it out, especially if you're a fan of Asian cinema.

"Heat" was an extended version of the original story I titled "Do Djinn Dream of Burning Sheep" which I admit is a better title, but I felt the PKD reference wasn't done justice by the story. I previously mentioned back in this post but basically it's a whimsical little story. Some people like it, I hope you do too.

My goal for 2018 is to have more English short stories published in Western markets. Wish me luck and I hope everyone else has good writing luck too!

Previous Retrospectives:

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

So you want to submit to Little Basket, eh?

Little Basket has been published two years in a row now, and Fixi Novo has recently announced that we are going to do a third one. I've been lucky, proud, and honoured that I've been chosen to be co-editor three years in a row now (along with people like Tsiung Han See, Catalina Rembuyan, and Eeleen Lee, who are much cleverer than I am).

So what is Little Basket? Little Basket is an anthology of new Malaysian writing, published annually. Each year we seek to publish exciting new works, whether short fiction, poetry, comics, or creative non-fiction, by upcoming or established Malaysian writers, or non-Malaysian writers writing in and/or about Malaysia. If we were feeling any more pretentious, we'd call it a "literary journal" but we're trying not to be pretentious, so we shan't call it that.

If you're familiar with what Fixi Novo (and its parent company, Buku Fixi) publishes, you'd know they usually publish fiction that lies on the more pulpish end of the literary spectrum. That's still true with Little Basket, but as editors, we like to think we're open to anything, as long as it tickles our fancy.

With that said, here are some tips for submitting to Little Basket. We've gotten a lot of queries over the past few years about how to submit and what to submit so I figured it would good to compile a basic kind of "listicle" (I hate that word) for those who are interested in submitting.

TIP #1: Buy a copy of Little Basket
Or better yet, buy both editions! They should be available in any of your major bookstores (Popular, MPH, Kinokuniya, etc.) and if not, they are available from either of the two branches of Kedai Fixi in Sunway Putra Mall and Sunway Velocity Mall. And those options are not suitable for you, you may purchase a copy online from Buku Fixi's website.

The most important thing about buying a copy is that you are supporting a local publisher and are contributing towards the possibility of Little Basket continuing in the future.

The next more important thing is that all you actually need to know about submitting can actually be found in the book itself! From what email to send to, what the word limit is, and when the deadline is.

This seems to be the most sensible advice because if you want to submit to a publication, wouldn't you like to read it first to get a sense of what sort of material they publish? Yet you'd be surprised how many people submitted to Little Basket last year without even purchasing the previous issue. (We could tell because these people asked questions that betrayed the fact they hadn't read Little Basket before.)

So that brings me to...

TIP #2: Read Little Basket
By actually reading the publication you're actually submitting to, you'll get a feel of what sort of writing we like and if you pay enough attention you might see that there's a running theme (cough food cough).

But don't think you can get away with writing exactly like what we've already published. The point of Little Basket is to publish new writing after all.

TIP #3: Send us your best stuff
And by that I mean, don't send in your stream-of-consciousness piece that you wrote for your blog last night complaining about your break-up. Send us your coolest stuff! Your freshest stuff. Stuff that comes from the heart, or your deepest, darkest recesses of your mind, no matter how zany and wacky it is!

But most important of all, send us stuff you've polished, rewritten, and double-checked and triple-checked. A few typos here and there are fine, but if the main character changes her name half way through, you might not have put enough effort into it before sending it in.

TIP #4: Don't complain about our criteria if you intend on submitting
So every year we've had at least someone question our policy of accepting stories with "only" 2000 words. 2000 words is not enough to tell a good story, these people claim. It's a shame we will not be able to accept your more-than-2000-word story so I guess we will have to choose stories from all the other great writers in our slush pile instead.

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