All posts by Eeleen Lee

UPDATED! List: 130+ Asian Speculative Fiction Authors (with links)

Eeleen Lee:

So proud to be included on this list!

Originally posted on Carrie Cuinn:

Updated to add suggestions from the comments/email/Twitter. All authors mentioned prior to 4/3/2014 now included. If you’re not on this list but should be, or you’re on it but want me to link to a more recent story or current website, please comment below.

I’ve been wanting to expand my reading to include more international speculative fiction, and more non-white American authors. I am privileged to know a couple of brilliant writers who also happen to be Asian, and that seemed a good place to start my reading*. I put together a list of work I’d been meaning to explore, and then solicited ideas from Twitter and the SFWA forums. Most people suggested the same couple of names over and over again… while it’s, honestly, wonderful that we’ve reached a point in SF/F where these authors are being read and discussed at all, there’s so much more diversity in our…

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KL Noir : Blue


Finally it’s here, all ready for release on 21st April 2014! Featuring 15 short crime stories, compiled and edited by me. Here’s a sneak peek of  what’s in store:

KL Noir returns and the third time‘s a charm with this latest selection of fifteen stories about law and disorder in the metropolis. Direct from the recesses of the city lurk tales of murder, suicide, rival gangs, robbers and sleaze, mixed in with dystopic visions, black magic and the occasional decomposed corpse. Plunge deep into the underworld where the guilty and innocent rest in peace, or rest in pieces

Table of contents:


Facebook page:

If you happen to be in Kuala Lumpur on the 21st April 2014 the book launch will be at Kinokuniya KLCC, event details are here

Moon Finger

A short yet eventful tale of a boy who keeps trying to disprove an old wives’ tale. Sheer luna-cy guaranteed!

Moon Finger

Don Liu financed the Malaysian Space Habitat and Interstellar Telescope, aka as the MySHIT.

Blame it on his grandmother.

This obsession with the construction of Big Dumb Objects In Space began when Don was nine years old. Bored during his annual visits to his grandmother’s house, he would make his way up to the roof and gaze at the night sky. On various nights Don called Grandma up to the roof, eager to show off his knowledge of moon phases.

“Waxing moon!” Don pointed up at the night sky.

Faced with this precocious display of knowledge, Grandma trotted out the old superstition about how if you point at the moon, you’d get a cut behind your ear.

“Why?” asked Don.

“Bbecause you will anger the Lady in the Moon and the Jade Rabbit!”

Ridiculous as it sounded to him, Don didn’t mind Grandma’s  explanation, as she lived alone with her guinea pig since Granddad died, Grandma must’ve felt some kinship with the Lady in the Moon and her rabbit. But  the severity of the penalty increased with each visit over the years and turned into outright THREATS:

  1. “Both of your ears will get cut off!”
  2. “Your tongue will be pulled out!”
  3. “You’ll be blinded!”

Such groundless threats had no effect on him. Don figured a way to piss off Grandma even more. The next year he visited he brought his telescope and set it up on a tripod stand. This time he was armed with FACTS and he told them to Grandma when she found him on the roof:

  1. “There’s no Lady in the Moon because there’s no life on the Moon.”
  2. “There’s no rabbit in the Moon too. Those rabbit-shaped markings visible on the surface are traces of ancient lava flows.”
  3. “Moonlight takes 1.3 seconds to reach the Earth, so the cuts, blinding or tongue-pulling would occur 1.3  seconds later. Fair warning!”

Grandma didn’t know what to say to Don and retreated from the roof.

“I hear you’ve been rude to grandma.” admonished his father during the car drive back home.

“Not my fault – she kept telling me idiotic superstitions about pointing at the Moon!” Don replied.

“Superstitions do contain a grain of truth – no matter how miniscule it may be,” his father conceded, ” Now we are shooting all sorts of things into space. But remember– in your grandmother’s time the Moon was out of reach.”

“I’m so glad I don’t live in the Dark Ages!” Don returned to his game on his iPad.

Grandma died years later when Don was at home during a university break. The dead can’t speak to the living but their voices leave behind persistent echoes. Wide awake during the funeral and stoned out of his mind, Don gazed at the closed casket and was reminded of the old superstition. He attempted to rebutt it in his mind, but ended up creating more questions than he could answer. Such as:

  1. What’d happen if you point at the moon during a lunar eclipse? Since the moon is obscured by the Earth’s shadow would you still get a cut on the earlobe?
  2. What’d happen if you point at the Sun during a solar eclipse and unintentionally point at the Moon, since it is in the way?
  3. What if you’re standing on the Moon and you point at the Earth?
  4. What’d happen if you point at Ganymede, the largest moon in the Solar System?
  5. What’d happen if you pointed in the general direction of the largest moon ever discovered in the history of astronomy?

After the funeral and several lines of cocaine, these questions drove Don mad, so he wrote an article and submitted it to the International Space Agency’s quarterly journal. They rejected it without comment, but here’s an excerpt:

“…Lets say you live on a planet such as Jupiter, which has *65* moons. On a romantic Jovian night, you have one arm around your date and you point at the multiple moons in the sky (for the purposes of this article  imagine that Jupiter has a solid surface, breathable atmosphere,cloud-free skies and parks for lovers…) “Oh darling look, there’s Io, Europa, Callisto, …OW!OW!OW!”

Don graduated a year later and put his MBA to good use. Through a dorm-mate, he invested in a start-up company operating out of a tax haven in Iceland, launching makeshift satellites into the Earth’s orbit. Don rode the 21st century wave of tech start-ups and made it big. He made it so big that although he didn’t have the necessary skills, knowledge and expertise, he had more than enough money to hire the people who had them, and to get the right people to pull strings and slash through red tape.

To the people-higher-up, he proposed MySHIT, a combination of the Hubble Telescope and the International Space Station, locking into a geostationary orbit around the Earth. Since Don provided the funding he oversaw all aspects of MySHIT. The people-higher-than-the people-higher-up didn’t care what MySHIT did or how it looked, as long as the country was occupying one of the  prestigious orbital slots in space around the Earth and the Moon, slots which were usually taken by developed countries and developing nations with budding space programs. The gamble worked– international investors sudden took notice.

Besides, the people-higher-than-the-people – higher- than the people-higher-up did’t care about exploring space. They gleefully rubbed their hands  at the chance to use future MySHIT expenses to write off big spending on other Big Dumb Public Projects. Don Liu could have launched a huge turd into space and stuck a middle finger up to the rest of the world.

Which was exactly what he did with MySHIT.

“It’s not like we had zero idea of what MySHIT looked like during the planning stage, ” said the head of the design team (who had his face pixellated) in an exclusive interview with CNN’s Cooper Anderson, a year after the MySHIT Lunar Accident, “Liu had been very specific about the specs. He had a vision and was determined to realise it.”

At that point in the interview, Anderson referred to the infamous photoset of MySHIT, taken by the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory. From one angle the telescope shaft and its housing looked like a massive turd covered with reflective and solar panels. From another angle, the long shaft of the telescope receded into the background leaving the bukly of the main section of the labs, engines and living quarters prominently in the foreground.

MySHIT resembed the severed hand of a giant flipping the birdie, if said giant was wearing a glove covered with glitter.

After MySHIT was launched (in stages) from an undisclosed and top secret location in the Gobi Desert and assembled in orbit, the world laughed and scoffed at MySHIT and at Don. Questions were raised in the UN , and the USA, Russia and China engaged in furious negotiations to form a three-nation agreement about about stricter enforcement of Space Law.

In the meanwhile, internet memes were circulated and people watched the night sky for a glimpse of MySHIT. Fans of the late Michael Jackson were angered by the glittering gloved hand resemblance and sent death threats to Don’s office in a Shanghai mega-skyscraper. They needn’t have gone to all the trouble – Don was never there.

Don was high up in his home office suite on MySHIT and his refusal to speak to the media resulted in more speculation and ridicule, such the following memes, such as “DON LIU DOESN’T GIVE A MySHIT” and “WOULD MySHIT BE BIGGER THAN UrSHIT?”.

Don didn’t care – he was literally living the high life and he had all the time in the world to devote to stargazing.

He managed to formulate answers to the four out of the five questions which had troubled him and set him off on the journey to building MySHIT:

1. Nothing happened when I pointed at the Moon with the MySHIT Optical Reflector Telescope (ORT).

2. There was a solar flare the second after the MySHIT ORT was aimed at the Sun, but the tech team reported no cuts behind their ears or injury to other parts of the body.

3. I made a trip to the Moon’s surface to answer this question – when I pointed at the Earth some dust settled over my visor and scratched it. An irrelevant outcome.

4. The MySHIT ORT was pointed at Ganymede, the largest moon in the Solar System is a moon of Jupiter. Since light from Jupiter takes 43 minutes to reach the Earth, the tech team waited for 86 minutes (a round trip) before reporting no cuts behind their ears or other major injuries.

5. Unable to answer this final question- the tech team resigned en masse last week and returned to Earth.

Don discovered a new exoplanet orbiting Alderberaan in the constellation Scorpio, but lost out in his bid to name the planet “Henessey Exo.”. Various tinpot dictators (including the PM) and entrepreneurs seeking instant publicity bombarded Don with requests for a tour of MySHIT. He rebuffed them all, and soon began gradually dismissing of the rest of the staff, technicians and lab personnel. The onboard computer,  MySHIT PC, took over the running of the station. It was all working out very well for Don.

Until MySHIT crashed into the Moon.

The exact causes of the mishap are still not known, although the MySHIT PC’s black box records nothing out of the ordinary in the station’s operation until an hour before the event. Don is heard talking to himself and yet addressing his long deceased grandmother:

<Black box transcript excerpt>: “….nothing happens when you point at the Moon at any time! The size of the finger or finger-shaped object doesn’t matter too! You hear me, you silly old lady? I don’t have any cuts behind my ears, my tongue is still in my mouth and I can still see! Just to prove you wrong for eternity I am going to manually change the orbital position of this station so that it will always point at the Moon!” <sounds of metal grinding and explosions in the background>

MySHIT crashlanded on Tycho, the impact crater in the Moon’s southern hemisphere and the one facing Earthside. No one on Earth heard the explosion, because sound does not travel in the vacuum of space, but when they saw a massive turd/ hand-flipping-the-middle-finger disfiguring the surface of the beloved Moon, the international furore could not be silenced.

“CLEAN UP MySHIT!” raged the headlines. All the people-higher-than-the-rest-of-the-people-lower-down denied any involvement in MySHIT and claimed that since the space station was a private venture, the onus was on Don Liu and his associates to salvage the wreckage. The MySHIT wreck was not of national concern.

However, Don did not have to wait long for a team to pull him out of the wreckage and transport his battered body back to Earth. After anesthetising him in the shuttle, the team pulled a black bag over his head.

Don came to when they pulled the black bag off him. He was still breathing recycled air and the low ceiling above him was stamped with sheet metal. He was in an underground bunker. He thought he was still trapped inside MySHIT.

Later, he really wished he was.

“Do you know who we are?” asked a female voice. Don focused his eyes, and saw he was sitting across a table from a young Chinese lady dressed in camoflage fatigues.

“No?” replied Don, and received a blow to the head.

“Wrong answer.” said the lady and gestured to the wall behind her. Don’s tearing eyes read the red letters painted on a banner of pearly white silk:


“What is this shit?” spat Don, “Do you know who I am?”

(Another blow to the head)

The lady laughed, it sounded like a glass window breaking. “You got a real nerve talking about shit when you’re the creator of the biggest piece of shit in human history!”

“Okay, the game’s up — how much do you – or your army want?”

The lady sneered at Don, “We don’t want your money! We want you dead. Before that, tortured to death for your sacrilege against Our Lady Moon!”

“OUR LADY MOON!” three guards behind Don saluted the banner and genuflected.

“AND HIS LORD RABBIT!” the lady clasped her hands in prayer.

“What is this- a cult?” Don asked, now petrified as the anesthesia had worn off.

This time, a guard lightly pistol-whipped Don.

“Stop hitting him,” the lady waved the guard away, “Mr. Don Liu needs to understand the penalty for his crimes against our Lady Moon.”

“Penalty?” yelled Don, “Says you and what army?”

By way of reply, the lady pointed at the banner on the wall. Don shut up and whimpered while she continued talking:

“MyShit besmirched the face of the Moon every time it passed in front of it. We were tolerant but not accepting of this and the presence of the space station. When we heard of the crash we rejoiced, and thought our vigilance could come to an end. Until we saw the mark MySHIT left on the Moon.”

Don pleaded, and tried to get up, but the pain was too much, “I’ll get my team to salvage and clear up the wreckage! Just let me go and I’ll give you and your army anything you want!

“Anything?” asked the lady.


“So be it.” and she snapped her fingers at the guards.

They put the black bag over Don’s head again. Don’s body was later discovered at the Gobi Desert launch site, missing both of his ears and his tongue. His eyes had been plucked out. At a checkpoint near Siberia, the border police arrested a guard of the Army of the Moon Lady, but never caught Don’s lady interrogator or the rest of the army.

“The prisoner was the strangest one I’ve seen,” recalled the guard. He had been present during Don’s torture and murder, “His final words before we punished him were, ‘Grandma, I’m so sorry, you were right after all!’.”


downloadI blame my degree in Postmodernity for my delay in readingKwaidan. Lafcadio Hearn’s translation and retelling of Japanese ghost tales for a Western audience, was to me at the time, an example of 19th century Orientalism- another woodcut landscape of cherry blossoms, bamboo, monks and wandering lovely kimonoed ladies, seen through the spooky mist of a supernatural story.

But what have recent Japanese horror movies shown a global audience? A unique way of generating fear by taking on the mundane. I dare you to watch Dark Water (1999) and not get a chill every time the plughole is clogged. Or rent the DVD of The Ring and not jump if the house phone rings during the movie.

Hearn demonstrates in this engaging book that transforming everyday objects into unlikely conduits for supernatural activity appears to reach far back into Japanese literature and folklore. In Kwaidan, mirrors, bells, wells and even insects are supernaturally suspect; cherry blossoms can be inhabited by spirits of dead mid-wives, a monk encounters a corpse-eating demon that is later revealed to be the troubled spirit of another *monk* and those beautiful kimonoed ladies are really snow demons wandering around in human guise.

Planting Evidence: How Atmosphere Can Improve Your Writing

Originally posted on Drew Chial:

Pondering Bones

Stealing References

The bridge was a tunnel of chain length fence. It rattled with every step, a giant slinky bouncing. Waves rippled through the diamond patterns. Industrial lights swung from their hooks. My goggles turned them into spirit orbs, ghosts of urban explores who’d fallen through the gaps. With a GoPro mounted to my helmet, I struggled to maneuver around them.

The miner’s cap was heavy enough already, the camera made it dig deeper into my scalp. It hurt, but nothing chafed like the breathing mask. Tracing my muzzle, its straps cut right through a cushion of facial hair. The apparatus recirculated this morning’s coffee with every breath.

Seventeen stories beneath me, the river raged. This rickety structure was all that me from diving into it. I threaded my fingers through the rusty wires, incase the boards weren’t up to the task.

When a swarm of mayflies filled my headlight…

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Amok Low Resolution

Amok by Solarwyrm Press


My science fiction short story about a Japanese celebrity chef shacking up with sea pirates and staging an invasion (yes, you read that correctly….) “Yamada’s Armada’ is one of the 25 stories in Amok: An Anthology of Asia- Pacific Speculative Fiction edited by Dominica Malcolm and published by Solarwyrm Press:

At approximately 85,000 words and 252 pages, this is a collection of 24 stories set in the Asia-Pacific region, past, present, and future. They include traditional mythology, re-imagined fantasy and mythology, dystopian futures, speculative new technologies, and more

Check out the crowdfunding campaign at Indiegogo here

Festive food

Happy New Year to all blog readers. The annual exodus back to my parents’ hometown happened. Which could be connected to the Year of The Horse.

Ahh food, the staple of any festive season. Food lubricates the merrymaking machine, along with alcohol ( for Chinese New Year, its Henessey X.O or Jolly Shandy), providing a sense of  family. However, as I gaze upon jar after jar of pineapple tarts, love-letters and mini deep fried prawn rolls,  the festive machinery has started to be rendered obsolete by modern methods of crass production.

Take the pineapple tarts, for example, or rather, don’t take them. Especially when you get the type  shaped like stuffed dormice and the jam filling looks like jellied hamster turds, instead of golden dollops of sweetness. Mini prawn rolls fare no better when they are compacted and deep-fried to an unbelievable hardness. The riot police will be using prawn rolls instead of plastic bullets to disperse unruly crowds. Love-letters are aptly named- after being stored in a Milo tin for two or three days, they fragment into forlorn shards, and you are left to pick up the pieces while all your aunts tactfully inquire, “Waah! Still not married yet?”.

The quality of foodstuff is not strained; it droppeth like the gentle rain from heaven. I am not asking for manna during any festive season but I protest the wanton proliferation of substandard manufactured traditional foods. Whereby mass production churns out copies of copies, until the originals are rendered meaningless and forgotten.

Why do we eat pineapple tarts during Chinese New Year? Who invented the pineapple tart? When was the first recorded pineapple tart consumed? These may seem like inane questions but at least mull over them when you unscrew the red plastic lid off the pineapple tart jar. Perhaps, once upon a time, a single pineapple tart contained a whole pineapple, as prawn rolls must have contained whole prawns before being downsized to their modern pellet-shaped incarnations. Love letters used to stand the test of time (until Chap Goh Meh) despite being shaken and stirred in a metal tin.

The obvious solution against crass production would be to make your own festive tidbits, but that is unfeasible with time-pressed modern families. As I watch my cousin bang away on the piano, I declare that we should also ( try to) enjoy any festive season while we can, and insist on quality over quantity. It sounds like a dreadful cliche but you do not want to be saddled with jars of stuffed dormice, riot pellets and shattered love letters after Chap Goh Meh. Particularly when you can’t give them away for Valentine’s Day.


“Oil on Canvas” in Love in Penang

Oil on Canvas

My short story “Oil On Canvas” is now available in the romantic anthology Love in Penang, edited by Anna Tan and published by Fixi Novo. The book will be launched at the Georgetown Literary Festival 2013 today. You’ll find my story together with many other fine Malaysian writers, who have written individual love stories, some sweet and bittersweet, but all delectable due to the common location of Penang, the Pearl of the Orient and a foodie’s paradise.

Ars longa, vita brevis

Yes, I wrote a love story (put down that drink before you choke on it in disbelief), in this case the proof is not in the pudding but rather in my story’s main ingredient, Dato Chuah Thean Teng.


My late granduncle is seminal Penang artist Chuah Thean Teng, and I visited his studio on Burma Road when I was young.  Satay Seller (1970) is a prime example of his experimental style. He was an exponent of batik painting and a true innovator.

The artist character in “Oil on Canvas” is not entirely based on Chuah  (he never worked with oil paints and he had no skeletons in his closet). But when his artwork was being auctioned off in Kuala Lumpur I had the initial inklings of a crime story about art theft and forgery during one of the auctions.  This developed into a more understated story about thwarted romance and artistic obsession.

The story’s title is from British New Romantic (I pride myself on thematic consistency…) band Japan’s fine 1983 live album Oil on Canvas.  Nothing to do with the fact that lead singer David Sylvian has a haunting voice like a Kabuki vocalist and is prettier than a GQ model (no thematic consistency here, just, errmm, coincidence…?).


In defence of crime fiction


Judging a genre by its covers

Some snobbery and prejudice against crime fiction still seems to exist, which is often dismissed as lowbrow and popular. I had a university professor who really hated The Silence of the Lambs (both book and film adaptation):

“It’s so violent and gory!” he complained.

“Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus  features scenes of dismemberment, mutilation, gang rape, and cannibalism.” I reminded him, and the discussion dragged on until lunch break…

Maybe it’s the cover art that really goes for the jugular: Bullets! Nooses! Blood! Shattered Glass! Exit Wounds! Or when the cover becomes an exercise in atmospherics: Woods, Shallow Graves, Roads, Alleys, and Lakes. As if publishers want to ensure there’s no mistaking The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo for The Girl With the Pearl Earring.

Cover art functions to attract the reader to pick up the book. However,  the graphic  is not really necessary, for the genre’s perennial success shows that crime fiction sells itself.

The ugly side of human nature

A fan of crime fiction may have encountered some of the following reactions (indeed, I have…): “How can you read that?!” or “ Isn’t real news horrid enough?”

A writer of crime fiction receives similar reactions (and again, I have…) : “How can you write this stuff?”, along with questions about said writer’s well-being and mental health: “Do you sit around all day thinking of horrible things to do to your characters?” or “Aren’t you morbid?”

It seems that a writer of crime fiction can never be morbid enough these days. The answer to all those questions is that it’s not the crimes per se which fascinate the reader and the writer — it’s the characters involved in the crimes. The unsavoury, gritty side of human nature that threatens to rear its head and makes people squirm because it asks tough questions about race, gender, corruption, and society.

In 1927, T.S Eliot observed, “The detective story, as created by Poe, is something as specialised and as intellectual as a chess problem…whereas the best English detective fiction has relied less on the beauty of the mathematical problem and much more on the intangible human element.”

Although Eliot displays a natural bias in favour of English detective fiction, he succinctly highlights the  “…intangible human element.” that is character. These days readers want more than mere puzzles in their mystery stories, they want defined characters peopling the story, and compelling protagonists.

Closing arguments

The next time someone asks you how you can read or write crime fiction, tell them that it is for a genuinely good cause. Readers find comfort and assurance that law and order prevail in stories. In Jorge Luis Borges’ essay ‘The Detective Story’, he reasons that, “I would say  in defence of the detective novel that it needs no is safeguarding order in an era of disorder. That is a feat for which we should be grateful.”

Your turn to embark on a crime (writing) spree

Currently seeking submissions for KL Noir: Blue, the third installment of KL Noir, an anthology of crime stories set in Kuala Lumpur.



Writing in your head


Sometimes we don’t have pen and paper, or access to a computer, and during those times we panic. As if our bright ideas are like pet goldfish brought back from a fair – we have to put those ideas in their proper place or fear losing them.

But consider the renowned Russian writer Fyodor Dostoyevsky. He had no access to pen and paper for SIX years while interred in a Siberian prison camp and he was granted no privileges.To have attempted to scrawl anything in secret would have resulted in more beatings and torture. Grim conditions for any human being, yet alone a writer.

What did he do? Dostoyevsky wrote in his head. He composed and memorised entire novels and essays without writing them down. In 1857 he was allowed to publish some of his work while still serving his sentence, and after his release he churned out novel after novel. You may know some of them: Crime and Punishment, The Brothers Karamazov, The Idiot….

There is no need for the prison camp treatment, but we are all in our individual wall-less prisons. Confined by day jobs, family and social obligations. No time for writing. You don’t have to compose your magnum opus while on the bus every morning, but writing-in-the-head works very well for smaller tasks, such as opening lines, short stories and character sketches. Don’t be scared of forgetting anything. I promise you that when an idea grabs you during one of these head-writing sessions, it will be all-consuming.

Related to crime and punishment…(not the novel)

Currently seeking submissions for KL Noir: Blue, the third installment of KL Noir, an anthology of crime stories set in Kuala Lumpur:



Call for crime fiction submissions: KL Noir : Blue


I have many feathers in my cap (writer, proofreader, social scourge…). and the most recent addition is editor. Via a series of convoluted events — mainly, Amir Muhammad of Buku Fixi asking me “Do you want to be the editor for KL Noir: Blue?” and me replying, “Yes.” I am now the editor for KL Noir Blue.

What is KL Noir: Blue?

It is the third installment of the KL Noir series of short crime fiction set in Kuala Lumpur, published by Fixi Novo the English language imprint of Buku Fixi.  Previous volumes are Kl Noir: Red (which includes my short story “Oracle of Truth”) and KL Noir: White

What are we looking for?

Now seeking short crime fiction submissions of 2000-5000 words. The anthology will be published by Fixi Novo in April 2014.

What sort of stories do we want to read?

Blue evokes order, calm,and  harmony —  like a solitary swimmer in a pool. But is that a swimmer or a corpse floating face down? What price for diving too deep for answers and rocking the boat? Should you call the police? Who can you trust? Don’t just scratch the surface — go below it, disturb it. Render it unrecognisable.

What does it mean to live, thrive or survive in Kuala Lumpur, a city where lines are easily blurred (not in a Robin Thicke way…) and law is marred by disorder ? Your story does not have to include brushes with the law (but include them if you can) as much as they should be about transporting your readers into dangerous new urban territories peopled by memorable characters.

Send in stories related to crime, detective or suspense fiction. This includes police procedurals, detective stories, sleuths, revenge , heists and locked-room mysteries, etc. and whodunits and howdunits. Bullies, addicts, pimps, con-artists, crooked cops and gun and fun-loving criminals are also accepted.

When do we want it?

Deadline: 31st December 2013

Email submissions or queries to:

Preferred submission format:

  • 12 point Courier, Arial or Times New Roman. (No Comic Sans Serif *PLEASE*)
  • Double spacing
  • Number your pages on top right-hand corner of each page.
  • Refer to William Shunn’s manuscript format as a handy guide.

Daily Mail headlines from Middle Earth


All of my tweets on the #MiddleEarthDailyMail hashtag that was trending last week:

  • Horse meat found in 4 out of 5 Rohan school lunches.
  • Hoodie Nazguls Attack Helpless Hobbits In Prancing Pony Inn.
  • Goblin Food Is Bad For Your Elf.
  • “The Eye of Sauron is an invasion of privacy!” according to latest polls.
  • Ents March Against Fangorn Forest Deforestation. Saruman the White unavailable for comment.
  • “No one tosses a dwarf!” Gimli speaks up for abused dwarves in latest campaign.
  • Exclusive Arwen interview: Why she says 10 out of 10 Human-Elf marriages fail to stand the test of time.
  • Gollum Added to Middle Earth Sex Offenders Database.
  • “Would you like mushrooms with that?” Radagast the Brown found homeless and high on drugs in Mirkwood Forest.
  • Smaug the Dragon Is Red Hot as He Destroys YET another village. (Exclusive pictures on page 4).
  • “My Precious! We Wants It!” How addiction to new street drug, 1Ring, destroyed my life!” according to Gollum.
  • Broken Middle Earth: How Orcs stole jobs from millions of Morian miners.
  • Grima Wormtongue, (King Theoden’s spokesman) denies any knowledge of horsemeat in Rohan school lunches.
  • “Boil ‘em! Mash them! Stick’em in a stew!” Samwise Gamgee charged for grievous bodily harm against potatoes.
  • “You shall not pass!” Balrogs complain of bigoted treatment at Moria Border Control.
  • Shire housing shortage is forcing MILLIONS of Hobbits to live in holes in the ground and pay bedroom tax.
  • Austerity causes Rohan Army at Helm’s Deep to recruit underage soldiers.
  • “50 Shades of Gandalf the Grey!” Galadriel kisses and tells of their steamy fling! More on page.11
  • Equal opportunities gone mad! Smaug the Dragon named as Middle Earth’s next Finance Minister.
  • “One ring to rule them ALL!” A wizard, an Elf, a Dwarf, a human and four Hobbits smash largest paedophile ring ever found in Middle Earth.
  • Seige of the Prancing Pony Inn – at least four Hobbits have been unaccounted for.
  • Oliphant driver denies being on drugs as he lost control and drove into Mordor troops, killing thousands.
  • Millions of Elves using immortality and fake drivers’ licenses to claim OAP benefits.
  • King Elrond denies using the Well of Galadriel to watch porn.

New science fiction short story “Future Gardens”

Illustration by Kazimir Lee Iskander

The wonderful people at Fixi Novo, and the organisers of #WORD: The Cooler Lumpur Festival 2013 asked Malaysian six writers to envision Kuala Lumpur in 2063. The result is a collection of six science fiction stories published online at FUTURA and it asks the question:

“Is our future bright? Beautiful? Bureaucratic? Bent on destroying us? Find out with FUTURA

Three stories have been published so far and my story “Future Gardens” includes illustrations by the very talented Kazimir Lee Iskander.

“Future Gardens” is a cautionary tale of the extremes a large corporation may go in order to preserve a very precious resource in the future: Viable living space. Michael Crichton’s 1973 film  Westworld  was an inspiration and I did consider inserting a paraphrase of the film’s tagline “Boy, have we got a vacation for you!” into the story.

Another influence that sneaked in under the radar was Corey Hart’s 1985 hit, “Sunglasses At Night”. Streaming music while your write is a double-edged sword.

© Dana Rothstein | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Very Honest Motivation

© Dana Rothstein | Dreamstime Stock Photos
© Dana Rothstein | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Remember those motivational posters that were so popular in the 1990s? Didn’t they get really sickening after a while, with scene after scene captioned by some trite axiom or phrase? Its not surprising that the backlash came with Very Demotivational Posters

I wish that a motivational poster came out with the following caption, “I’ll Show You Motherf*cker!”- possibly the motivational sentiment (but not inspiration) behind many a historical moment:

Numerous Mongol army officers: “You can’t conquer the whole of Asia on horseback!”

Genghis Khan: “Eat horseshit, motherf*kers!”


Various Macedonian army officers: “You can’t conquer the world!”

Alexander the Great: “I’ll show you, mallacas!”


Ancient Chinese court officials: “You can’t build an entire wall to keep out the Mongol invaders!”

Emperor Shuang Zhi : “I’ll show you real great *wall*, motherf*ckers!”


Pope Julius II: “I bet you can’t paint something on this ceiling.”

Michelangelo: (to himself) “I’ll show you, you motherf*cking eminence!”


Various members of Congress: “You can’t abolish slavery!”

Abraham Lincoln: “I’ll show all of you four score and seven maternal fornicators!”


Various US inventors and patent holders: “You’ll never invent a working lightbulb!”

Thomas Edison: “I’ll show you where to shove it, motherf*ckers!”


Friend/writing tutor/ relative/ agent/: “You’ll never make it as a writer!”

(Insert your name here) : “I’ll show all of you motherf*ckers!”


Scary Tunes

(This was originally a Halloween post but if you write horror it should be relevant at any time of the year.)

Halloween approaches like a horde of zombies outside a makeshift survivors’ camp and the usual lists of Scariest Films/ Books/ Stories/ Urban Legends rear their disembodied heads.

However, here is a list of scary music which may help when you are writing horror by creating a conducive mood for your session. Scary tunes will keep you wide awake so think of the money you’ll save on coffee and Red Bull.

Feel free to add your suggestions for more scary tunes in the comments below. I look forward (arghh!)  to hearing them….

1. Atmospheres  Gyorgy Legiti (1963)
Part of movements “Kyrie” and “Dies irae” from “Requiem” by Gyorgy Ligeti. Atmospheres  is famously used in Stanley Kubrick’s “2001 – A Space Odyssey whenever the black alien monolith appears.

Sounds like?
The beautiful disembodied wails of dead souls swirling in the void outside a derelict spaceship as a swarm of nanobots eat away at the lining of your spacesuit (and that is just the introduction!)

2. Imperial March  John Williams  (1982)
Don’t laugh at the familiarity of this piece. Yes, now you can hum it but remember the first time you heard it during The Empire Strikes Back ? You thought the Empire was going to destroy your home planet.

Sounds like?
Darth Vader and legions of Stormtroopers marching into your home. What? Uh-huh these aren’t the droids you’re looking for muh lord….

3. Dead Souls  Joy Division (1979)
The title is based on Nikolai Gogol’s incomplete 1842 novel although you can’t really tell from the lyrics and Ian Curtis’ doom-laden singing.

Sounds like?
Icy desolation punctuated by stentorian vocals, dissonant guitars and a regimented drumbeat. The atmosphere from Manchester circa the winter of 1979 seeps through the ages to genuinely chill your bones.

4. Doctor Who Theme  Composed by Ron Grainer at the BBC Radiophonic workshop (1963)
The original was cut and spliced together on segments of analogue tape – no digital jiggery-pokery here.

Sounds like?
Sinister swoops, electronic ‘stings’ and pulsating bassline. Imagine your radio suddenly tuning into an alien signal from another dimension.

5. Tubular Bells  (Introduction)   Mike Oldfield  1973)
Famously used on  The Exorcist  soundtrack although I did not watch the film until I was much older. All I knew was that this was a rather sinister piece of prog-rock and was impressed by how well it sustained its mood.

Sounds like?
Leaves stirred up by an ill wind as you hurry past that ‘bad’ house in your neighbourhood.

Dreamstime (c)

Breaking your fight scene virginity

Sex and violence sell very well. So you have to learn how to write the darned scenes that contain them. But you’re not alone if you’ve never written a love or fight scene before. We’ve all been in that position. It’s daunting because involve similar — movements, limbs in awkward positions, adrenaline

Easier said than done. But let’s concentrate on the violence for this time.

You may not be choreographing a Hollywood fight scene but even the most far-fetched sequences are grounded in reality. Heroes dodge bullets and take beatings but they still bleed. I’ve discovered that it really helps to take an assortment of self-defence or martial arts class. You’ll discover that the most important part of combat is the mind. Strength and lightning-speed reflexes are nothing without control. You’ll also find out that most fights are brief and brutal. Real punches and kicks hurt (and you’re only sparring). I’ve been hit with the end of a fencing foil many times — so, imagine one lethal stab.

The other inhibition is related to writing love scenes. Some writers feel a little awkward at first, because they feel that readers may think the violence described in the story comes directly out of the writer’s own experience. Relax, just because you know of 50 different ways to kill a person with a pair of chopsticks doesn’t mean you’re a killer. A little more inventive, perhaps.

Life of Pi goes from page to screen without being lost at sea.

Life of adaptations

Source: Wikipedia
Source: Wikipedia

“Book to film” — the phrase sounds simple, like traversing two different mediums but the process is more like a change of state. Think of dry ice sublimating into carbon dioxide and the amount of energy required for the transformation. You may get a weak fizzing or a loud explosion before viewing the final product.

Some adaptations are good films but bad adaptations (Blade Runner is off-worlds away from Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?) or bad films and good adaptations (Perfume managed to convey the olfactory overload of the novel at the cost of pacing and charactezisation). When a film delivers on both counts (good film and adaptation), readers and movie audiences should rejoice.

Life of Pi is not perfect but it takes the best elements from an unfilmable source text. The main draw is the interaction between Bengal tiger, Richard Parker and shipwrecked boy, Pi Patel . If you thought the apes in Rise of the Planet of the Apes were realistic you will be glad that you are not stuck on the same lifeboat as Richard Parker.