Writing through COVID-19 and Horror Readings Panel

To celebrate Women in Horror month, I’ve partnered up with the amazing Kit Daven and Elizabeth Hirst to present a panel on how writers are surviving COVID-19 on Feb 27 (free event link here). We’ll also be reading our horror stories.

Admittedly I have a little bit of imposter syndrome because I don’t write in just one genre. I’m greedy and as a speculative fiction writer, my stories may involve horror, fantasy and science fiction all mashed together sometimes. For my horror author pic I used the PITU app which I adore to make myself look eerie. My husband says I laugh like a maniac whenever I use this app, but I can’t help it, it’s hilarious to play with!

For this panel I will be reading a pure horror story – My Girl, which I made a YouTube reading of (link here) earlier this month. It was inspired by a time when I had a miscarriage. In this story, a woman has a chance to giver her dead baby life by stealing the life of another baby’s. If this was possible, would women do this? I have no doubt that some would and some wouldn’t. It depends on a person’s values in the end even if they are in a horror story.

I’m also trying something new at this panel, the King Sumo raffle service. We’ll be giving away some Dark Helix books in a digital raffle and one audience member will walk away with a few books.

See you at the panel!

Business over Hot Pot

Last week I had a business meeting with The Artist Blueprint Company‘s President (let’s call him K) and we really like to eat while talking. We went out for Taiwanese hot pot buffet and we cooked a lot of raw food (beef, lamb, chicken, pork, quail eggs, vegetables, noodles, etc) in a boiling cauldron of soup. The Artist Blueprint is another publishing company based in Toronto that specializes in diverse stories. We have done very different things as Dark Helix is broadening its horizons on subject matters (we got a lot of criticism from the Asian community about our Trump book) and exploring magazine publishing while Artist Blueprint is looking to create more merchandise creation beyond their current e-books. We are always looking for opportunities for collaborate and it’s good to brainstorm together.

Alas that night was my husband’s “night out” so I needed to bring my 3 year old son to my meeting. He’s ok once Paw Patrol is on the iPad (I admit I feel guilty for having judged other parents for doing this before I had my son) since he falls into zombie mode and I can talk without interruption. I’ve been asking for permission to bring my son along to informal meetings because it makes my life easier. K is a really cool guy and he has no problems. In another meeting my husband had a work emergency and I had to bring my son because I couldn’t find a last minute babysitter. The person I met with was male and he was questioning me on my motives (meeting was for planning a literary conference). He said I should focus on being a mother and to drop my volunteer work for conference planning. I told him that all my work is to make a better future/world for my son…On the flip side, in a meeting with ladies on creating a seminar series for writers, they said they wanted me to bring my son so they could play with him!

On Twitter today, a business reporter, Sheera Frenkel (@sheeraf) shared her story about how hard it was to get to a tv station to do reporting on behalf of the New York Times because of child constraints. She talked about how hard it would have been to book a nanny for 7am on the day of before rushing to the tv station and that she gave up many opportunities because of her child. The trolls came out, both males and females. Males told her that she made journalists seem lazy because they couldn’t do their job properly. Females said that sacrifice was inevitable and to stop complaining. Both sexes went on about how their jobs were worse and how they can handle life better.

At a recent conference, someone told me that they were surprised that I had a child. I don’t try to hide this, but I don’t bring it up either unless asked. I am very aware there is stigma from some against people with children because it is deemed to be a weakness. That children are the ultimate excuse when deadlines are missed, the reason why parents can’t do more social events, etc. For those who are balancing trying to keep a social life, work and be a good parent, it would be nice to see more encouragement rather than beat downs on Twitter. For every one nice comment there are thirty comments about how weak the parent is and how stupid they are. Why can’t people just be nice to each other?! We all have our own struggles and in helping each other we can all do a little bit to make the world a better place.



Can Men Breastfeed?

A few weeks ago, I commented to my Viking husband that men are supposed to be able to breastfeed. After all, they have nipples like women and granted, they would need a boost of prolactin hormone, but it is a possibility. A Scientific America article talks about the real possibility of breastfeeding men and how throughout history there have been references of men breastfeeding babies in the absence of a mother.

This youtube video here shows a man pumping his breast and doing feeding his infant son. The reactions are fairly negative from his friends who thinks he is being weird and even his wife gives him an odd look towards the end. If a baby can get nutrients and a range of protective antibodies from the mother, I think it would be beneficial to get a fair share of protection from their father too!

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed in my husband’s reaction to a potential experiment. He thought I was being silly, but I was serious about attempting to make him produce milk! Really feeling the shaft here as I have to carry this baby thing for nine months, not sleep due to lots of bladder pressure, rejig my organs, have a painful childbirth, take 1 year off and breast feed (my sister compared breast feeding initially to a shark attack). Also, my productivity in everything is slowed down as well since I am exhausted all the time which makes me feel useless on a daily basis. Of course he says he’ll pay the price in different ways…so we’ll see!

I am a "generic Asian"

Happy New Year!

Throughout December 2013 I had been travelling throughout Tokyo, Japan and Seoul, S. Korea since there was a major family wedding in Korea.

To my surprise, people thought that I was whatever they were and would speak to me at length before realizing I didn’t understand. Then I would get the “this girl is a deaf mute” look. This has happened before in China (I speak Cantonese, not Mandarin), but I didn’t expect people to think that I was Japanese or Korean.

A computer in 2009 simulated average faces for Asians, can you tell which faces are Chinese, Korean and Japanese? (click for answer as well as South Asian faces)

My Viking husband labelled me the “generic Asian” as he was quite amused by all this. With his red hair and beard, people didn’t even try to speak to him. I learned how to say “I don’t understand/don’t know” in Mandarin, Japanese and Korean. However, people sometimes interpreted this as I didn’t know the answer to a question. My brother in law suggested that I learn how to say “I have a mental disability” which may work better.

I was so amused by my new nickname that I decided to rename my blog to “Musings of a Generic Asian” from “Musings of JF Garrard”.

Unfortunately, there was some negative stuff as well which was obvious from angry speech and body language – that I am a terrible Asian as I am hanging out with non-Asian people. Usually it would be an older Asian man that would come up to me directly and say a long speech with nasty glares.

I was being made to feel ashamed that I was a bad Japanese/Korean when I was Chinese. I’ve never traveled to China with my husband, so I’m not sure if we would experience the same thing there. Generally, I think this happened so often because the older generation wants to enforce their rules on the younger generation.

Regardless, it was a wonderful trip and I have been inspired to create art again after a visit to the Seoul Museum of Art (SeMA) and National Musuem of Modern and Contemporary Art in Deoksugung. It was amazing to see the fusion of Eastern and Western art techniques and the powerful messages behind each piece.

I don’t think I’ll see my husband much this year as I want to finish up a few books, travel to a few conventions, start a podcast and create some cultural identity art!

Over the course of the next few weeks I’ll put together my pics and comments, so stay tuned!

Being Sold into Marriage Sucks…lesson from a "Scar Film"

Yesterday afternoon the TIFF goddess took me to see a depressing film called “The Women from the Lake of Scented Souls” (Winner of the Golden Bear at the 1993 Berlin Film Festival).  The main character is a woman named Xiang, who was sold at 7 years of age to a rich family and forced to marry a crippled husband.  She wanted to commit suicide, but didn’t, due to her iron mother-in-law’s lecturing.  Later on, she establishes a scented oil business and made her family the wealthiest in the village.  Her husband would party all night (watching singing and HK movies on boats with other men, as well as drinking) while she did all the hard labor, running of the business, etc.  They have a son who is mentally delayed (also has epileptic seizures) and a normal daughter.  One day her son demands a wife as he sees some children pretending to get married.  Since her son has a crush on a local girl from a poor family, she buys the girl to become her son’s wife after some manipulations of local lenders who couldn’t collect from this family.  The business grows bigger as a single, modern Japanese lady invests into the business, making  Xiang realize that her life is pretty crummy in the rural village and she has a really crappy husband.  In the end,  Xiang becomes enlightened as she realizes she may have destroyed this girl’s life by buying her and forcing her to marry her son.  So she offers to let the girl go.  But the girl cries as she doesn’t think anyone would want her as a wife.

The cinematography was incredibly beautiful in this movie and the people traveled down the river in wooden boats, adding to its exoticism.  The director Xie Fei was there, explaining that he had been sent to this village for “re-education” as he had been a professor during the Communist Revolution.  The TIFF staff who did the Q & A asked if he was sent to the village to learn, as if it was a vacation or something.  Xie Fei just smiled politely and said that he learned a lot about the struggles of women there, as he said the women did all the hard labor while the men partied on the boats, doing no work.  We learn that because of the Cultural Revolution, films were not made for popular consumption between 1966-1977.  He is a “fourth generation” director, which means he had received his training before 1966, but then had his career disrupted by the revolution.  This film is also considered a “scar film” which depicts the harsh reality of rural life, oppression, subjugation of women/peasants, old patriarchal system, death, destruction, war and lots of suffering.

women scented

Are Chinese women gaining more ground in society?  There are articles on rich Chinese women in Forbes and many are more educated than before; but there is much contradictory data on the web.  In a study by National University of Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy and the New York-based Asia Society, they state that just 10 of the 205 Communist Party’s Central Committee members are women, and no woman has ever held a spot on the Politburo Standing Committee, the party’s top decision-making body.  In a 2010 survey of women’s social status in China by the All-China Women’s Federation, 61.6% of men and 54.6% of women surveyed said that “men belong in public life and women belong at home,” which actually increased in numbers from a survey done in 2000.  Accounting firm Grant Thornton surveyed 200 businesses in China, of which 94% employed women in senior roles, which is good news.  If you are interested in reading more, there is an article with links about the topic here.

This movie reminded me of my grandmothers as one had an arranged marriage and one did not.  The grandmother that got to chose her spouse seemed happier I suppose, but there were also other factors; such as her wealthier family background, a chance at education and a choice in career (she became a high school principle).  The other grandmother grew up in a rural community and was arranged into marriage at the old maid age of 18.  This grandmother laments that her family refused to educate her, although her father was a school teacher and ended up only being able to do manual labour or crafts for money as a result of this (farm & embroidery work).  Both grandmothers wanted the best for their children and grandchildren, especially the females, and passed on the lesson of the importance of education and not depending on anyone else for survival.  Years later I asked the grandmother with the arranged marriage if she ever fell in love with grandfather, like on the Hong Kong soap operas.  Her answer was that “it was different back then.”  Today, the project manager that I work with listened to my description of all this and commented on how in present day that things are skewed the other way.  People have fantasies and expectations of the other sex which are not realistic.  They are all looking for a perfect someone which does not exist.  The reality is that no one is perfect and being with someone means accepting their flaws.

The Price of Marriage in China is a fascinating article about modern spouse hunting in China in a country by the end of this decade, which will have a surplus of 24 million unmarried men.  Chinese women postponing marriage to pursue careers, but are pressured to try to marry before 28 or they become stigmatized as “leftover women” or shengnu. Opposite are shengnan, “leftover men”, mostly poor rural men left behind as female counterparts marry up in age and social status. The article follows Diamond Love, a dating agency for rich men (fees range from $50,000 USD to more than $1 million USD) who want women that are young, beautiful and of course, a virgin.  Interestingly, the agency rejected a rich woman client who wanted to spend $100,000 USD to find a husband which they said was impossible as she was too successful.  The reporter also follows a mother trying to find a wife for his son who has a lower salary than women he meets.  The girls either reject him, or offer to take care of him for the rest of his life.  Very interesting and long article, have a look if you have time!

It's the end of human society – women breadwinners!

Lately I’ve noticed a lot of articles which talk about the positive and negative rise of women in the workforce.  A recent Economist article, “The Natural Order”, mentioned that census bureau data in the US showed that four in ten American children live in household in which their mother is the primary breadwinner.  In typical American fashion, this sparked outrage from everyone’s favorite channel, Fox News and a panel of four distraught men went on about the impact on the poor children and how this is tearing marriages apart.  One of the guests, RedState editor Erick Erickson, stated that this trend is defying biology:

“I’m so used to liberals telling conservatives that they’re anti-science. But liberals who defend this and say it is not a bad thing are very anti-science. When you look at biology — when you look at the natural world — the roles of a male and a female in society and in other animals, the male typically is the dominant role. The female, it’s not antithesis, or it’s not competing, it’s a complementary role.”

Fox News blogger Suzanne Venker writes on a similar note to her fellow colleagues in her post, the “War on Men” –  that men don’t want to get married because “women are not women” anymore.  They are angry, bitter creatures who won’t let men take care of them.  The solution of course is: “Fortunately, there is good news: women have the power to turn everything around. All they have to do is surrender to their nature – their femininity – and let men surrender to theirs.”

So basically women should let men dominate them in work/life or the end of human society is in sight!

Another perspective is shown in the Globe and Mail’s article “Female breadwinners: Good income, bad outcome?” which talks about men’s problems with females earning more.  Basically as women become more educated and earn more, if they are married to men who are less educated and earn less, the marriage tends to end in divorce due to the frail man-ego.   As well, the  Economist did an article in 2011, The flight from marriage, which had some interesting statistics on women in Asia marrying later and the percentage of them not marrying increasing over the years.  The reasoning behind this shift in Asian society is due to women becoming more educated, wanting a man with higher education than themselves and having a job increases a woman’s autonomy.  She has more options which include not having a husband as she can support herself.

econ marriage asia

The guru that I often listen to is my 98 year old grandmother.  While growing up, she was not allowed to have an education and was put into an arranged marriage at the old maid age of 18.  Throughout my life she often told me that the only way for me to be happy in the future was to obtain a good education and job, so that I can support myself and not depend on men.  Being trapped in a bad marriage is worse off than not being married.  She was way smarter than my grandfather I think, so she was not that happy.  I wonder what choices she would have made if she had options.  Maybe I wouldn’t exist…alas…

These debates will continue until women and men are considered “equal” by general society – but then again, this may never happen due to gender differences.  Often, I have been jealous that my husband has never had monthly menstrual pains or have to imagine the horrors of child birth.  Complaining about this in business class made me seem like a dominant man-woman as my male classmates nodded nervously in agreement.

Another issue in these debates is that there is never a thought to consequences.  So if a women has children and is dependent on her husband, what happens if he dies/divorces her/leaves, etc?  This is a similar issue with pro-life arguments – people want all children to live, but no one wants to take care of them.  Do people practice what they preach?  Usually no!

My alternative solution to all this is to have all future generation of children created in artificial cabbage patch wombs, have robots do housework and parents put on the same schedule for “balance” family time at the end of the day.  Then one day, all the future children go berserk due to some DNA split gone wrong, blow up the planet Earth and the debate ends…hm…we can make a movie from this!