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Guest Post by Shanna Germain: The Importance of Grief in the Stories we Tell

16 Feb

Today on Skiffy and Fanty, we have a guest post from Shanna Germain. Shanna is the author of myriad stories, books, and games, as well as the co-owner of Monte Cook Games. Her most recent works include Numenera: The Poison Eater, No Thank You, Evil!, and Torment: Tides of Numenera—an Explorer’s Guide.

The Importance of Grief in the Stories we Tell

Our movies, shows, and books often tell us a particular story about grief. It goes like this: two people are grieving about the same thing — the loss of a child, let’s say — and they grieve differently—one wants to talk about it and one doesn’t, let’s say. And this fundamental difference in how they grieve tore them apart. And eventually they excised that grief thorn and were able to move on. Maybe together, maybe apart. Continue reading

Listening To My Ancestors

24 Jun

Author’s note: This blog post will be a little bit different from the usual SFF in SEA variant.

Recently, I was rocked by a wonderful and startling revelation from my dad about his grandmother. My great grandmother was a herbalist and a travelling physician. From his tone, I could tell my dad admired her. She had “ben shi”, ability, talent. She could do stuff.

Yet, my grandmother, my great grandmother’s daughter, wasn’t that forthcoming. She let out her stories in weak spools. She didn’t talk about things that made her sad. According to my dad, she quarreled with her mother who forbade her to leave for Nanyang (the Chinese term for Southeast Asia). My grandmother left for Singapore soon after that. Imagine the wounds still unhealed, the words left unsaid, unvoiced. My grandmother passed away last year.

My paternal grandparents came from Hui’ An, Fujian. Isolated from the mainland, Hui’ An still retains characteristics of a minority group in China:  the women’s clothing are unique and more reminiscent of clothing from Indo-China. The Hui’ An people are nominally Han Chinese. They are a coastal people, fishing and harvesting/farming oysters as part of their livelihood. At the same time, the women folk work at granite mines. Still deeply patriarchal, Hui’An society has women working at the coast and at the workshops while men idle away at tea houses. As a result, the women are tough, resilient and innovative. Continue reading

IDIC and the problem with gatekeepers

27 Apr

When I started writing what I loved (science fiction) in about 2007, I didn’t have the impression that science fiction was US-centric. In fact, I thought that science fiction was like Star Trek’s philosophy of IDIC. Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations. Wasn’t science fiction supposed to be like that? I mean, I did submit stories before and one even got published. That was in 2000, when I was fresh out of university, armed with a postgraduate degree. So, when I started writing in 2007, I thought it was still peachy, and a writer like me — a writer from Southeast Asia — would be easily accepted.
My steampunk story “A Matter of Possession” was published by Crossed Genres in 2010 in their issue on alternate history. It was my first entry into an interesting scene (I couldn’t use ‘community’ — didn’t feel much of it, though). I realized, to my shock, that people like me, people living outside the United States, had (still have) difficulty getting their stories published. The gatekeepers of serious science fiction were standing at the gate and barring entry to those trying to find their way in. Often, the accepted stories were written by white men. I wondered who made the gatekeepers gatekeepers? Who had set the rules and regulations? Is science fiction going to be a pub where unwanted and unwelcome folk are kept outside the window, desperately staring in while the accepted cliques mingle, laugh and have fun?

Who chooses who will write our future(s)? Continue reading

Worldbuilding: Why It Ain’t So Easy

21 Nov

So, I appeared at an event at the San Marcos Library on Sunday where I’d been asked to give a talk about research. During the question and answer section, someone asked me why I would go to all the trouble of setting a fantasy in the real world? “Why do that when you can just make stuff up? That’s easier, after all. It’s a short cut!” 

Yeah. Um. Not so much. First, writing isn’t easy, nor is making up stuff. Worldbuilding is hard work — very difficult, detailed work. If you’re not thinking about the worldbuilding aspects of your story that much, then what you’re doing is probably derivative, and that’s not good. It’s far easier to work with environments with which the reader is already familiar than it is to make up a foreign world and make it plausible. There are certain cues Continue reading

On Writing: Cold and Dead

10 Oct

I don’t believe in literary trend tracking. I never have. Largely, the reason why is I’m a contrarian. If hordes of people are headed one direction, I’m very likely to push against the flow — particularly if the flow is overwhelming. More often than not, I’ve found that doing so has been helpful. It keeps me ahead of the game, as it were. I simply don’t trust fads, and I certainly don’t trust mobs. In large groups, people tend to think less of the consequences of what is happening. I want to think. I want to make my own decisions. I’m not interested in doing something just because it’s fashionable. Plus, I’ve been around long enough to know that the moment when everyone is doing it is the moment one should flee the scene. The pattern is as old as humanity. Look up the Dutch Tulip Bubble of 1637 if you don’t believe me.

That’s why whenever a newbie writer asks me if they should follow trends, I tell them not to bother. They’re bullshit. Understand that by the time you finish Continue reading

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