Call for Submissions – Immersion: An Asian Anthology of Love, Fantasy, and Speculative Fiction

Call for Submissions: Immersion: An Asian Anthology of Love, Fantasy, and Speculative Fiction

Deadline: Open February 15, 2018 – December 31, 2018 (deadline extended from previous Oct deadline)

Asian Canadian Writers’ Workshop and Dark Helix Press are collaborating! We are searching for submissions for “Immersion: Love, Fantasy, Science” an anthology of speculative fiction stories to be published in the summer of 2019.

The anthology editors are Allan Cho, (Inside the World’s Major East Asian Collections), JF Garrard (Trump: Utopia or Dystopia, The Undead Sorceress) and William Tham (Kings of Petaling Street).

Construct a story about an Asian main character set in an immersive alternate past, present or future. Fill this reality with hints of reality, magic, or fantastical but believable science. If you are interested in writing about a motorized caravan train across the Silk Road, or sages searching for magical apprentices in the South China Sea, now is your chance. We also like good wuxia swordplay and other martial arts as much as we enjoy postcolonial politics and other contemporary topics. Draw on your heritage and transport us to a different world.

We are collecting short stories and flash fiction; please make sure there is a beginning, middle and an end.

Stories may be dark in nature, but no gratuitous violence, sex, or racist content. Novel excerpts not encouraged unless they tell a complete story.

For more details on how to submit, visit Dark Helix Press’ website link.

Please read the instructions. Stray stories are hard to keep track of and do get lost no matter how good they are!

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The Year Christmas Got Cancelled

This was written for the Renaissance Press Holiday Blog Roll 2017!

One year, a fake auntie (not blood related) gave my sister and I a real Barbie doll to share. We never had a real Barbie before because they cost too much. We only got the Bargain Harold’s or Woolco generic dolls. I remember not wanting to play with Barbie anyways because I would rather play with Transformers, which was more interesting. 

A few days before Christmas, a blood curdling scream went through the house. My seven year old sister and I were doing extra Kumon math exercises without any joy. We shrugged and continued our grueling work. Mom screamed a lot; she could be either yelling on the phone at someone or mad about something on tv. Our tiny bodies tensed when she appeared in the doorway of the living room, holding a severed Barbie head by its long blonde hair.

“Who did this?” Mom demanded in her loud voice in Cantonese. Her giant afro perm bobbed up and down, as she stormed into the room and flickered a severed Barbie head by it’s long blonde hair in our faces. She was a tiny woman, but had enough power to topple over any mountain or rip apart any savage animal in our eyes.

Being the wiser ten year old, I shook my head and spoke calmly. “I don’t know mommy.”

My sister was frozen with fear, but after a few seconds of silence, parroted me in a squeaky voice, “I don’t know!”

Both of us looked around for our younger brother who was five. He was nowhere to be seen, but it didn’t matter, he was the golden child and could do no wrong.

“Christmas is cancelled! No more presents! You are naughty children and presents should go to good children!” My mother was livid that no one was owning up to destroying an expensive doll. We rarely got any toys from our parents because there was no extra money in an immigrant family home in which chocolate milk was considered a luxury. 

I sighed and tried not to roll my eyes. A few years ago my mother had suddenly told me that Santa didn’t exist, but my cynical seven year old self was already aware of this. I was more upset then that my shrine to Jesus had been ignored by everyone and became an atheist soon after. As the first child, I was continuously being experimented on by my parents.

“But we don’t get presents from you anyways,” my sister smirked.

“I’m talking about all presents! Even from other people! You are all bad children!”

“No, mommy! I want presents from the uncles and aunties and Santa!” My sister started wailing and crying.

Mother looked happy that one child had reacted to her stern lecturing. “There is no Santa! Hahaha! Now who took apart this Barbie?”

“I don’t know,” I said in an exasperated tone.

My mother shot daggers in my direction as she glared at me.

“It wasn’t me!” My sister sobbed, her chubby cheeks becoming red and streaked with tears.

“No one is confessing? No more Christmas!” My mother stormed off to dispose of the doll head.

“What do we do now? What did she mean that there’s no Santa?” My sister asked me.

I shrugged. “It’s ok, she’ll calm down and change her mind. I’m sorry, the whole Santa thing was really mom and dad all along.”

“Oh,” my sister said as she wiped her tears. “No wonder Santa always gave us such crappy presents.”

As with many things, I was wrong about mom changing her mind about un-cancelling Christmas. I also never found out who tore off the doll head. In the following years, any presents given to us were never seen by us. It’s presumed that they were re-gifted to another child who deserved presents. 

***********************************

Although we didn’t get presents at Christmas, we still got red pockets (cash) at Chinese New Year, birthdays and whenever we passed any big tests. Admittedly all the red pockets went into our bank account which we later learned was paying for household expenses. 

There is a Chinese idiom about daughters: “Daughters are water poured out of the family after they get married.”

After I started dating a Caucasian Canadian guy in university, my Christmases were spent with his family. We eventually married as well and he was relieved that there were no fights about splitting up the Christmas holidays since my family didn’t celebrate it.

My sister and I have children now and they have great Christmases compared to our childhoods. Maybe we are trying too hard to compensate for the fact that we didn’t celebrate it or have any toys and want our kids to have everything. I hope that the kids don’t end up being spoiled brats! They will sigh as I tell them this story about Christmas being cancelled and probably won’t believe me since grandma always brings them presents!

Beauty of Cantopop

Growing up we listened to a lot of Cantonese music from the 70s-90s due to my parents refusing to listen to contemporary English music (except for oldies from the 60s, that was acceptable). A few years ago I confessed that I loved Sam Hui music to a friend. He told me I was an old fashion person because a lot Cantopop music has moved on with the rest of the world into dance and hip hop.

Every since China took back Hong Kong in 1997, there has been more demand for Mandarin products than Cantonese. However, in my opinion, Cantonese entertainment still reigns supreme as the writing styles in TV/movies are mature and always keep the audiences watching for the next plot twist. In China, the industry is still “new” compared to Hong Kong and maybe I’ll get addicted to something in Mandarin, but it hasn’t happened yet. Sadly there used to be over 300 films a year coming out of Hong Kong, and now there is only 30 as all the money is in China.

Regardless, an article in the South China Morning Post explains why Cantonese is still such a great language. (quote from article: “seng gau char siu ho gor seng nay”, which literally means “better to have given birth to a piece of barbecued pork than you”. )

chines barbecue pork
amazingribs.com Chinatown Char Siu

A lot of the music my dad liked to listen to ranged from very calm songs about waiting for someone (English lyrics to Danny Chan – 等Wait) or funny ones about the common man getting ripped off by the boss (English lyrics to Sam Hui – 半斤八兩 Half a catty, eight taels).

Lately I’ve been listening to this music again and it makes me cry because I remember sitting bored in the living room with the family while watching the horrible music videos of these songs on tv. A lot of Cantonese tv was family oriented and after dinner we would all sit down to watch tv and eat fruit. I remember thinking that I couldn’t wait to leave the house for life to start. Now I finally understand the longing and nostalgia of times gone past because people can’t be brought back from the dead.

Anyhow, I wanted to share  a few Cantopop songs via YouTube to those interested in trying out a new type of music. Other than the melodies being catchy, the lyrics are well written and usually the performers had great voices. There was less focus on “packaging” versus talent. Many of these legendary singers have died or retired. A few of them are still around and are still doing well. I don’t listen to much new Cantopop anymore unless they are title songs to tv series but these oldies are always welcomed in my home!

Sam Hui – 半斤八兩 Half a catty, eight taels (1976)English lyrics here, about the common man always getting the short end of the stick!

We are a bunch of working guys Working as slaves for money for life

Leon Lai – 愿你今夜提房距 Hope You Will Not Leave Tonight (1993)English lyrics here. This was the theme song to the TVB series The Legendary Ranger, science fiction series with aliens and a kick ass bodyguard (Faye Wong)! Leon was my fav of the Four Heavenly Kings!

Hoping you will not leave tonight.
But you have disappeared in such a hurry
to live a life in another world to be with someone else.

Hacken Lee – 红日 Red Sun (1992)English translation here, a great song for any bad day!

the path of life so twisted and winding, I have walked it
when did you start to accompany me on this path, giving me encouragement?
like the red sun, this fire lights up the real me
walking together, we can climb a thousand mountains

Jenny Tseng & Roman Tam – 問誰領風騷 (1987) – couldn’t find English translation, this is the theme song to a Wushu superhero series in ancient China. They both have AMAZING voices!

Anita Mui – Stand By Me (1988) – couldn’t find English translation, this was a thank you song to her fans for standing by her for many years.

Leslie Cheung- 有心人 A Man of Purpose (1996)English Lyrics here. This was the theme song from the gender bending romance movie, Who’s the Woman, Who’s the Man?

Wish I could have yet grown up Look for the one simply by instinct

Danny Chan – 等 Wait (1984)English lyrics here. A really sad and beautiful song about being depressed because a love left.

Wait
Lonesome till deep into the night
The night gradually becomes desolate
The night gradually becomes dusky
Don’t say that you’re the one choosing people
People can also choose you

Sam Hui – Heart of a Loafer (1976) – English translation here, a song that reminds you to be humble and don’t be overly anxious.

If life destines something for you, you will have it in the end
If life destines you never to have it, there is no point forcing it

 

 

 

Reel Asian 2017 Articles

The Toronto Reel Asian Film Festival is heading into town and I’ve been dispatched by Ricepaper Magazine to cover it. A few pieces were also done for Looseleaf Magazine, a Project40 Collective publication based in Toronto. Since festivals want press coverage before the festival is open to the public, I’ve been busy writing and watching the films as of late. When my husband asked what it meant that I was dispatched to cover this, I told him that it meant he had to babysit more!

I’ll continuously be updating this page as more work gets published, the Reel Asian Film Festival runs November 9-18, 2017 and a lot of the films get only one showing, so grab tickets while you can! For inspiring film makers there are lots of seminars on how to hone your craft or handle taxes, but you have to reserve your spot ahead of time.

For parents with krakens, there are Wee Asian events on weekends with free animation films and crafts for children. It’s at the TIFF building which means lots of space and large bathrooms for diaper changes.

Events

Reel Festival Overview of events

Press conference coverage for The Posterist (Hong Kong, 2017) 

Wee Asian Diary Entry 

Film Reviews

Summary post of all film reviews

Stand Up Man (Canada, 2017)

Bad Genius ฉลาดเกมส์โกง (Thailand, 2017)

Dear Etranger 幼な子われらに生まれ (Japan, 2017)

A Whale of a Tale おクジラさま〜ふたつの正義の物語 (Japan 2017) 

The Posterist (Hong Kong, 2017) 

Interviews

Summary post of all interviews

Simu Liu, Kim’s Convenience Actor

Aram Collier, Director of Stand Up Man

Nattawut Poonpiriya, Director of Bad Genius

Yukiko Mishima, Director of Dear Etranger

Kristine Estorninos, Reel Asian Head of Programming

Looseleaf Magazine article

Film review: Jesus is Dead (Philippines, 2016)

 

Diversity Is For The Next Generation

Lately I’ve been asked a lot about why I do what I do by other writers and random people I deliver talks to.

Recently I participated in a panel about The Ghost In The Shell Controversy at Anime North and had originally written initial thoughts here – comparing the movie to a sub-par hamburger. Before the panel started, a fellow panelist whispered, “I’m glad that we have a token Asian on this panel!” Yup, I was the only non-white person on a panel which was about diversity.

Originally I wasn’t sure if we had enough material to fill an hour criticizing this Japanese manga based movie, but the audience filled the air with questions. The audience was very respectful and really wanted to understand why there was a controversy. A few panelists believed that nothing should change and things were fine. It was a bit disappointing, but I thought it was good that they had a forum to voice their opinions.

I was impressed that another panelist said that their issue was that the movie was about an Asian girl who grew up to become a white female robot and they found this horrifying as well as sad. That being Asian was not perfect and the worst! After they said this, black girls in the audience started snapping their fingers in the air!

We were asked again and again why there was a diversity problem in this movie. Finally I blurted out, “The issue is that the Asians in Asia don’t care about the Asians in North America!” An Asian girl approached me at the end and thanked me for that.

The Asian culture has been well established in Asia. But Asians in North America that don’t consider themselves Asians from Asia. This is a new phenomenon. Well, not that new, given the railroads were built in the 1800s and all. The new generations of Asians or “bananas/coconuts” (white on inside, yellow/brown on outside) grew up in a different culture and are outsiders in North America and in Asia. We are discriminated by our ancestors’ culture and in the culture we live in. We aren’t good enough for either sides.

The diversity issue is important to us because we know we don’t want to go back to Asia and want to contribute to the society we live in currently, outside of Asia. We want to share our insights and add to the arts. However, when you are told over and over again that you are not good enough to contribute anything; while being told that yes, you are an equal in society (since you pay taxes), you become angry at the hypocrisy.

“You’ll never be seen as a Canadian,” my father told me once. “People think you are from China.” He was telling me to stop believing that I fit into Canadian society and to accept that there was no equality here. He always thought that I was a naive optimist who dreamed too much. If there is no change, he is correct, we will never be able to fit into society we live in.

The other day I met with some famous Asian Canadian writers to invite them as guests to speak at a future Asian literature conference in Toronto. I had to bring my toddler with me because my husband couldn’t babysit last minute. Anyhow, these two men (both had no kids) were asking me why I was planning a conference when I had a child to take care of. What was my motive? 

I do what I do for the next generation, was my answer, as I held my wiggly toddler who was kicking me in the shin the whole time. He’s half Asian and half Caucasian – he’s not going to fit in anywhere as a halfie (or hybrid as some people tell me). Sometimes I feel guilty because I think life would have been easier for him if he was fully Caucasian. That somehow my Asian blood contaminated his future. I know this stems from an inferiority complex, of being told everyday that you aren’t good enough…Fighting for equality is draining and there are days when I just want to give up.

But, I can’t give up, I don’t have a choice. By bringing more Asian literature and diversity debates into the world, the next generation will not have to fight as much to have their voices heard and perhaps live in a better world we envisioned for ourselves when we were younger.

Heck, to be honest, I don’t want to waste my time debating about being Asian or what not either. Until everyone is on equal footing, these conversations will continue. As I mentioned in one of my talks at Anime North, there are more robots and aliens on book covers than Asian people! Somehow, that doesn’t sit well with me, which is why I speak up as much as I can.

World Building On A Road To Hell

The following are some thoughts which I will be sharing at Anime North on May 27/17 at the World Building for Authors panel.

Recently I was looking up some ideas on what to talk about at this world building when it suddenly occurred to me that I have been doing it every day for almost a year now. Last June, after my father died, I got into a huge fight with my family.

Elderly relatives (especially one over 100) was not allowed to know that he died. People believed that they would die from shock from hearing the news. I was the outlier and eventually caved because of a group vote.

In Asian culture, one is not supposed to share bad news. I am the one banana (yellow on outside, white on inside) who feels that bringing out the truth is the best so solutions can be discussed. Well, in case of death, there is a stigma against any discussion, usually people just don’t talk about it. When an aunt died of cancer last year, I wasn’t allowed to attend the funeral either because I was on maternity leave and weak, therefore, spirits from beyond could harm me. During her time of illness, no one in the extended family knew. She wanted to die in secret and didn’t even want a funeral. When I fought to let people know my father died, I was fighting not just family, but the Asian culture as well.

Anyhow, my father was a devoted family man and visited these elderly relatives every day. After work he would drop by to cut up grapes or prepare other snacks for the ones in nursing homes. For immobile relatives in wheelchairs, he would take the time to drive them out for dim sum and groceries every weekend. Now that he has gone I haven’t been able to fulfill even half of what he did for these people while he was alive.

Since he disappeared, I have been asked questions everyday:

Where is your father? they would ask. Sick, not feeling well, I would say. Why isn’t he visiting? He hurt his leg. What is he eating? I’m cooking and freezing meals (technically true as I was dropping them off at the house to feed mom). Why didn’t he come to my birthday party? He was busy.

Indeed, the road to hell is paved with good intentions!

In the beginning I felt a lot of pain whenever I spoke to them because I felt guilty about lying. I had many breakdowns during the first few months and would start crying after I left the nursing home. None of these elderly people have dementia and their memories are better than mine.

Over time I started to construct a world for them and me in which dad was still alive, but just sick and in bed. We do have relatives that get sick and disappear for twenty years, so this was the most plausible explanation. No one talks about it, pretending that it’s normal, but I suspect it must be due to chronic depression. After I explained that dad is probably experiencing the same thing as the “other relatives” there were less questions.

When an author builds a world for their readers, they have to think about many things. There are physical rules, society structures, the characteristics of their environments, food, clothing, relationships, etc. All the things which we adhere by and use on a daily basis. I have written fantasy and science fiction with such worlds I built for readers. I have edited stories and criticized other authors for breaking their own rules or writing nonsensical science.

Nothing however, compares to the world building I have to do now. It is a fragile world I have constructed because I am not the only author. I have siblings, aunts, cousins and other relatives that have the ability to destroy this world if they say the wrong thing. They usually run from questions asked about my dad and I told them that this is unacceptable. If you all agreed to keep the truth from her, at least keep your end of the bargain with me on speaking about dad as if he was alive.

I can speak all I want, but I know I can not control other people and can only do my part as best as I can. Many people have stopped visiting the nursing home for fear they will say the wrong thing, which is very sad. The only thing I can do is keep up with this mirage the best I can until it breaks.

Ghost In The Shell Movie is like a Sub-Par Hamburger

This is an excerpt from a talk I’m preparing for Anime North about the Ghost in the Shell Controversy on May 28/17.

Last week I had a debate about the Ghost In The Shell Movie with a friend who was born in Asia. I’m born in North America, so I knew from the start that our views would be very different. She said that she didn’t see any problems with casting in the movie because once an American company buys the rights to a Japanese product, it becomes American. Since the majority of the population is Caucasian, why wouldn’t they cast a Caucasian person? I told her that it really bothered the fans who expected the studio to make better choices with casting Asian actors and keeping the story close to the source material. The debate went no where so we agreed to disagree.

It got me thinking as well, how do I explain this controversy to people?

The best way I decided, was to talk about food. An American restaurant owner goes to Japan and tries the best teppenyaki dish in a restaurant. He falls in love and decides to buy the recipe to bring back to America. Teppenyaki fans in America are super excited that this dish is coming! Chefs who specialized in teppenyaki in school want to cook this dish, but never have because the restaurant owner never had it on the menu. There is a lot of hype and the marketing people go nuts.

On opening night, critics come to the restaurant to discover that they are being served a hamburger with teppenyaki sauce. The owner didn’t employ the chefs that knew how to cook teppenyaki to help because he didn’t think the dish would be suitable for Americans. Instead, he called in the hamburger chefs who decided to just take the teppenyaki sauce and cover a hamburger with it. After all, hamburgers always sell, right?! Teppenyaki fans refuse to go to this restaurant because they know that they are only going to be served the sauce and not the actual dish. The critics shake their head at this missed opportunity at being served a real teppenyaki dish in America and that regular hamburgers tasted better without the sauce. Teppenyaki chefs are disappointed that their skills are being wasted. The owner defends himself by saying that teppenyaki can be cooked by anyone and they made a good choice by selling the sauce on a hamburger which always sells.

There are many sides to this story and at the end of the day, the owner missed a chance to distinguish his restaurant from other restaurants by serving a dish people were craving for. Of course, the teppenyaki in America was not going to be the same as the one served in Japan. It was going taste different and new. People in Japan would never see the teppenyaki in America as being “real” teppenyaki…ever…so why should they care that it be done properly or not?

Ghost in the Shell is a product just like teppenyaki which Americans tried to import from Japan. As Asian people continue to grow up outside Asia, this debate will happen again and again. The new generations of Asians want to contribute to the society they are living in currently, not the one in Asia which their ancestors left behind. They want to see themselves represented in the media they consume and believe in the fair, just society that they supposedly live in.

Avatar, Dr. Strange and Death Note all had opportunities for studios to touch base with audiences, but they blew their chances. The only thing for certain is that dollars matter. If more money can be made with changing casting choices and hiring writers that understand the original material, I’m sure things will happen. Until then, the internet will just keep exploding with disbelief!