Growing Fins

Onwards The Day

by on Feb.22, 2017, under Academia, Aural Chambers, Food Notes, literary writing, sf/f, writing

Met my goals last night apart from not actually reaching 1k words in Watermyth. I did add 500 words and cleaned out a lot of stuff. We’re not really at the stage of adding wordcount, at 123k-something words that’s already a hefty, mostly-done novel. I’m just smoothing transitioning and pacing. This is kinda like “epic clockpunk mythic fantasy for people who like Virago Books novels” so eh — I’m worried about my pitch to agents. I’m going to start at the top for this. Tackle my fears and work my way down.

Please note I’ve asked no one ever for any introduction to agents. Maybe it is because I am always very shy. Mostly it is because I am arrogant and egoistic enough that I want to catch their attention through my words and the quality of my work. I’ve actually never really needed introductions. I mean — at my first WorldCon, I was at the same panel with China Mieville, in a packed large hall. Mind you, there were catty remarks on social media of “getting actual famous people to be on a panel with China” later on — but that was kinda missing the point of the panel about inclusion.

So I had people coming up to chat with me after that, and I knew some people in fandom who were there, and I chatted with them. And random others just came to make friends with me. That was Aussiecon. It was nice despite my bout of crying because of sensory overload and hurt feelings and waugh.

I didn’t need introductions at Loncon either though there’s always the scumbag few who want to treat you like a loser nobody author who are there to provide emotional labour and angkat bontot-ting (sorrylah beb). But generally, I go through life expecting to do things the hard way and not ride on anybody’s coat-tails as far as that is concerned. I just work my butt off basically. I guess there’s also the added privilege (if you could call it that) of being a minor internet presence from the late 90s — so even though not many people know me, enough did.

I’m thinking about this because every now and then there’s some flap in the SFF-sphere  (like the great flap of last year) and it’s  almost always about this exclusivity game of “who you know” and yes — this exists at work also. I am sure I wouldn’t have gone very far if I didn’t have protectors, of sorts. I’m very grateful to them. Similarly in SFF, I do have my protectors — and I am SUPER grateful to them. But I didn’t get to know them through the schmoozing way. I want people to reflect on that. Because I’m proud of that.

I want to be true to who I am as a person and to my work ethic. I want to be an author who puts out works of literary merit that make people think, not a personality, not a popular figure. I also like getting paid and I hope to make more money off this writing thing. That would be very nice. I’ve had a rough life in terms of abuse, family estrangement, various heartaches. I think that is why I appreciate these creature comforts so much. In this at least I am a typical Cancerian — I need my nests of comfort and cheer. And when that Cancerian is also a Wood Rabbit, aiyo — what you expectlor. My beautiful, comfortable sanctuary-fortress against a cruel, cold world.

(I’m daydreaming about different condo locations so aiyoh must faster faster get book deal and sale — I know exactly where I want to stay but damn mahal)

To-Do List

  • 2k words in Chapter Two of Millenial Book. (It is a good thing I am prolix and my wordcount ratio per day has already improved)
  • Send claims letter and documents to Treasury Unit
  • Read 2-3 books today 🙂
  • Work some more on Watermyth — I think I cannot add wordcount benchmark at this stage. When it’s done, it’s done. I think it’s a pretty okay novel thusfar — I’m just trying to ensure there’s a “grab” or “wow” factor for agents. I want them to have hearts in their eyes when they read this 😛
  • FFS try to do SOME exercise.

What I ate today: 

Nasi Campur: Rice, Masak Lemak Ayam (I took the chicken drumstick), stirfried green beans, green mango kerabu/salad, deepfried tempeh salad, paceri nenas (pineapple paceri).

Coffee: My last sachet of Old Town Hainanese White Coffee at work


Listening to:

Lawrence English’s Cruel Optimism on Spotify. It’s a 2016 release but I’m only now listening to it.

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by on Feb.21, 2017, under Academia

Oh thank God. My grades have been revised and are quite respectable now.

I’ll need to figure out what extra community outreach I need to do for this year though. The research stuff — I want to go on sabbatical plus attachment so that might help.

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Tonight’s Goal: Keep Breathing Edition

by on Feb.21, 2017, under Academia, sf/f, writing

Because I need this:

  1. Finish 4 more THIN BOOKS. DONE. Today I read a play, two poetry collections, and two short works by William Morris! 7 more books to reach my goal of 20 books in February!
  2. Add another 1k words in this chapter for the Millenial book. I’m laying out the theoretical underpinnings tonight. Tomorrow hopefully some close readings. Booyah. I apparently have a lot to say after over two years of intensive research, and you know — actually interacting with some of these authors. I’m actually quite excited about doing this myself.
  3. 500 words in Watermyth plus edits.

2k words seems doable though I already added like 1-2k in the Plan B millenial book earlier at work. Which is why I am kinda extremely tired right now.

Kay. I am going to read for about an hour now. I don’t think I’ll be cooking much in the next 2-3 months yo. Too much writing to be doing.

This weekend I also want to FINALLY finish my Adichie article so I can submit it on Monday. Then I can get back to my Cassandra Khaw article. Heh.


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by on Feb.21, 2017, under Academia

It’s SO GOOD that I am not on social media nor Codex right now because I am uber stressed up. Second week of semester and the scramble for class times/scheduling/rooms have begun. I will have early morning classes two days a week. I am a bit worried but not too much — I am hoping it will help me meet my goal of having more regular hours, to be honest.

The reading of books is helping to calm me down. Just now, I had dinner at Manhattan Fish Market. Had a lobster bisque and fish&chips w/ cherry snapper. Was going to have a coke light but I decided I was too wound up so had a peach iced tea thingie.

I did some red tape today to get rid of my general feeling of anxiety. Tomorrow I need to put in a claim — I have a new research assistant but he isn’t available every day of the week because he’s working three jobs. I gave him this gig because he’s living on his own and the money he’s making is not enough still (who pays someone a measly RM1000 to run around doing P.A. work? In this economy?) Anyway, I’m giving him the bigger remote tasks since he’s intelligent enough to handle it.

The thing that is stressing me up the most and has been stressing me up for weeks is the millennial book project. Today I put Plan B into action. We need a book. The chapters from others are not coming in. So I decided to make two books and I am err, going to finish this book in err…three months? When it’s taken me more than three years for my Oyeyemi and Adichie monographs?

**breathes into a paper bag**

Damn straight I’m panicking.

But I have a schedule of work and an alternate TOC. 1 chapter’s 3/4 done. I already got the green light from publisher to update my Manglish Cyborgs article so it can be part of this collection. And I have another 3 in drafts stages. My plan is 5 chapters. So finish a chapter in February (if I average 2k words per day I will be done by next Monday), 2 chapters in March, 2 in April, then revisions and submission in May.

**breathes into a paper bag again**

I may have to reinstate my daily to-do lists to keep me on track.

The good news is I met my February short fiction writing quota already. I’ll try to do a bit more Watermyth work but apart from that…

**breathes into a paper bag yet again**

Oh god why me. Next time I apply for a research grant I won’t put down “BOOK” as research outcome anymore. Err.

Okay. Anyway the  good news is, it will be a good dry run for when I want to submit my Adichie and Oyeyemi monographs. Second good news — assuming I can pull this off, I will have authored three academic books by end of 2018.

Now I am going to curl up in a foetal heap while whimpering gently to myself.

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Beren, Luthien and on Not Being Tragic

by on Feb.21, 2017, under Academia, Book Notes: Mythopoeic/Speculative Fiction, Cinema and Television, Interconnectivity, On Reading

My thoughts right now (apart from work-related anxieties — some of which I’ve slain by tackling 2-3 different red-tape matters) are of Beren and Luthien. I finished re-watching The Battle of Five Armies from my PVR last night and found myself more emotionally attuned to it from when I watched it on the big screen. So many feels. I cried when Thorin died (but errm, that moment when Bilbo was overcome with grief — OTP? OTP???? Kesian!)

And that had me thinking again about my kingsfoil article and how Tauriel/Kili could have been PJ satisfying his never-to-be-fulfilled urge to get his fingers on the movie rights to The Silmarillion. All of the dramatic components of Beren/Luthien going against Morgoth are recreated in micro in their fight with the Orcs. Even in Tauriel asking for her emotions to be taken away. I’m also glad that Tauriel lived, and in a sense, it was Kili who got fridged.

Some people didn’t like Tauriel there, but they also didn’t want Arwen to be more active — the way she was in the first trilogy. Hey, I’m fine with it.

But all the same — I’m thinking about Beren and Luthien, and the fact that all of the grand romances of Middle Earth are tragic. Yes, even Aragorn’s and Arwen’s love. The love of Faramir and Eowyn is quietly tragic — I am sure on some level Faramir knows that it’s because Eowyn can never have Aragorn.

The happiest relationship we have is Samwise and Rosie Cotton. That seems intentional. Just like these legends pass into the memory of Middle Earth, we begin to realise the hobbits are part of the inheritors of that land, and need to learn to make their own lives apart from the incandescent, flawed glory of the folk that went before them.

(All of the grand races of Middle Earth are flawed, tragic, full of corruption, rank with civil wars — and this shows Tolkien’s own cankered view of any sort of ur-Race. Yes, I’m still reading WWII resistance into Tolkien’s works — because it makes sense to me. Morgoth and Sauron are of course the embodiment of corrupted “light”. Even the Orcs are descended from Elves and Men. Saruman, like Gandalf was a Maia. Again they reflect the thought that excess light leads only to darkness. Ungoliant would not have come if the two trees had not been so incandescent)

This brings me back to Samwise, Rosie and their family. In the end, it’s the quiet, sustained, tenacious existences that prevail in Middle Earth, tying us back to what Tolkien writes:

If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.

I kind of enjoyed Iain M Banks’s Matter for that reprise between the relationship of Frodo and Samwise. Although Banks takes the metaphor even further and implodes his Frodo while Samwise inherits the earth in a far more dramatic way. For all that it is a send-up of heroic fantasy, Matter is in a sense true to its registers, even in the tragic end.

Here ends what I have been thinking about all morning.

PS: Of course there’s Thorin and Bilbo slash on the internets. OF COURSE. And pictures. OMG. 😮

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Memory, Fragility, Memento

by on Feb.21, 2017, under Interconnectivity, sf/f, writing

All of these publishing triumphs are so fragile, so transitory sometimes — that you feel you want something solid to hold on to the moment. Contributor copies, mementos. That is why I made a promise to myself after the first few semipro payments disappeared into the Paypal sinkhole of recurring online payments to subscriptions and Truancy authors. Yes, some of it should be used to pay frightening bills. But to always have something concrete with those pro payments. That is why I have a “Your Right Arm”/”Tower of the Rosewater Goblet” Acer laptop, a “Tower of the Rosewater Goblet” carpet, a “What The Stories Steal” bedsheet and comforter spread + Yankee Candle (the rest of that money went to bills and groceries) — while the rest of the smaller payments went to smaller bills, Truancy authors and whatnot. My “Auto-rejection: An Outro” plus “No. 165, Independence Lane” payments from Fixi Novo last year came in time for my airconditioning servicing and small repairs — and yeah, for “The Faerie-Maker” I paid my Truancy authors AND bought all three books of the Imperial Radch trilogy. I know some people think it may be tacky to use Ann Leckie money to buy Ann Leckie books. But for me it was a memento of how precious the moment was, how badly I wanted to be published in Giganotosaurus. Something I’d always remember in the form of those books.

Notice for what we write comes and goes — in a sense it’s like the music industry. You have your moment of notice (not fame for me), then you must accept that moment will pass — or you will wind up like those frenzied obsessive sorts who — when bankrupt of inspiration, do not know that it means you must let your subconscious grow fallow, must heal, must rest. Instead, they feverishly read and keep up with an imagined competition, to cannibalize their ideas and to repackage as their own ever-shifting, “brand”*

But you know, if you don’t surrender to the ebb and flow of these things, you’re not doing yourself any favours.

Which is not to say even we sleeping ones haven’t got an end-game — mine is quiet, sustainable momentum of publications and notice.

So I sleep, and dive into my dreams, and my books — and I feed myself on vision and ideas — those gleaming, numinous nuggets of nutrition for the soul and for the imagination. I remember that these successes are milestones of what I do and the person that I am, rather than things that define me as who I am. And I remember, you cannot stay on the apex of the moment all of the time — you will desensitize, you will feel nothing — you will do damage to your psyche.

And this is why we need chiaroscuro — shadows to balance sunlight, a shade so we will not have heatstroke from even our own light.

*I like to think I have my own “brand” though it’s not confined to metaphors, imagery, or catchphrases. No, it’s an overarching work-ethic and creative/artistic ethos. A vision I have of how I want my works to be, and how they should intersect. Where this is concerned, I’ve never thought small.

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by on Feb.20, 2017, under On Reading

Reached 30 books read today. Okay, so that included thin books (2 poetry anthologies, and a SARK nap book) but hey, it totally counts! I sighed with pleasure over Derek Walcott’s Midsummer. I must reread favourite poetry anthologies. My soul feels so NOURISHED.

I also reread German fairytales by Brentano, Goethe, Tieck and de la Motte Fouque. Man, Undine is creepier than I remember it. But I’m also returning to the volume after years of immersion in Gothic literary theory so I read everything differently. Amusingly, it made me MORE CREEPED OUT not LESS. Ahem.

So I have read 8 books now in February. Another 12 to go. In 8 days. Can I do it? Of course. See how many THIN BOOKS I read in two days? 😛

(Oh, I also reread Lucius Apuleius’s The Golden Ass last night, in one 1 hour sitting.)

I’ll add the books to my reading list here tomorrow. (already added to GoodReads).

The SARK book (which I reread) already made me sleepy and anxious to go off into la-la land … in Venice!

(hey I have to make up for lost time. The Hazlitt book is like 1200 pages long and I haven’t even reached half of it after all of these days. I don’t know why Goodreads has it at around 800-900 pages)

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Today’s Update

by on Feb.20, 2017, under Food Notes

I ate food and drank coffee.

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by on Feb.19, 2017, under sf/f

The timing becomes very clear now. Ve-ry clear.

o . O


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Half an Article

by on Feb.19, 2017, under Academia, Book Notes: Mythopoeic/Speculative Fiction, Cinema and Television

Dinner was the leftover maggi goreng, 1 chicken frankfurter and 1 starfruit (carambola). My current food-consumption watching is The Battle of the Five Armies. As I watched, I mused on the fact that never before was there such an intense concentration of hot long-haired (AND bearded) men (although the clean-shaven longhaired men were pretty hot too). Yes, with a photoshopped Hugo Weaving as Elrond.

I giggled.

If someone wanted to give me an award that was an Elrond statuette, I wouldn’t protest. Too much.

Which reminded me of that kingsfoil article I wrote for the now-defunct Mythic Folk. I tried to find it on the internet archive but only half of it was saved and the “more” jump was not there. The first half had quotes from Return of the King, but the missing half had quotes from the Silmarillion and specific scenes from the first Hobbit movie that I was dissecting. Oh well. I feel like my analysis was a bit “off”, anyway. It might be fun to revisit it at some point.

Bucket list item still remains a couple of Tolkien academic articles.

Speaking of which, I keep musing on how PJ improved at least in terms of representation re the Orcs. I was really furious by the first trilogy, but by the second trilogy you have very pale orcs, some of whom look almost Slavic — but there’s also this whole — I don’t know, almost nazi feeling re the Orcs in the Hobbit movies. Considering the influence of WWII oft-discussed and discarded re Tolkien’s unconscious motivations, it is rather apt.

And well, it’s really great to see Galadriel wig out 😉

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