Friday, October 23, 2015

#SEAsteampunk news!

I haven't really been posting here much about the IndieGoGo Campaign for The SEA Is Ours: Tales of Steampunk Southeast Asia. Mostly because I've been pretty obnoxious about it on other social media platforms (sorry, Twitter and Tumblr followers and Facebook friends). Also because in the first couple of weeks of the campaign, I was emotionally exhausted by the whole thing. 

It is now twelve hours to the end of the campaign. We hit the ground running, and we actually reached the base goal of $8,000 on Day 15. There was a lot of weeping involved. Since then we have been aiming for the first stretch goal, and we hit that the other day, too. 

Joyce and I will be working on a teacher's edition for the anthology. We hope to have it done by early next year, and it will be available for download, probably with a pay-what-you-like fee. 

The book has now been sent off to the printers, and it will be ready for the shelves on November 30. It's a delay from the originally stated November 1 date, because our publisher, Bill, recently suffered a tragic loss in his family. 

Bill himself will be going to Europe for the next few weeks, and when he gets back, he'll be making many, many, many trips to the post office. (Customs for international shipping takes about 5 minutes each parcel, aaaaaaaaand he does it on top of a day job! No, don't ask me how he does it, yes, lean back and stare in wonder.) 

Thanks to everyone who's been supporting us so far, and looking forward to your reactions when you get the book!!

Hamilton: The Musical

Do you like musicals, friends? I do. I don't get to see them often, and the last one I went to see was Allegiance. I'm not good at reviewing theater, but I do like it. Have you heard Hamilton, the Broadway musical about Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States of America? I heard the original cast recording when it first dropped on NPR, and it made me weep, but last night, I sat down to listen to it more closely on Spotify, accompanied by lyrics and commentary from Genius, and I wept harder. I do not recommend the experience of doing it while grading papers. 

And after it was done and I was considering the genres it had been written in, its themes of history-making, its subtle digs at today's climate of anti-immigration and economy, I thought to myself, this musical has a most steampunk sensibility!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The SEAsteampunk IndieGoGo Goes Live!

In the midst of the quarter starting, one more round of prospectus revisions, and further research, plops into my lap the IndieGoGo campaign for The SEA Is Ours: Tales of Steampunk Southeast Asia! We need to raise $8000 to pay everyone involved. (The anthology will go to print whether we reach this goal of not, but it would be really nice to get paid.) The campaign ends in 30 days, and while we've got a strong start right now, we really need to keep it going.

Two of our Special Guest Rewards have been snapped up, but we have more forthcoming! So keep an eye out!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The Steampunk Postcolonialist @ CONvolution 2015!

I just got my schedule for CONvolution 2015: LEGION OF FANDOM! Unfortunately I will miss the Friday, because TA duties occur then, but I'll leave Riverside as soon as possible to hie myself to Burlingame! The schedule is now live, but here are the ones specific to me:

Saturday 10:00 - 11:15, Harbor B
South East Asian SFF
Science-Fiction and Fantasy are global. Our panelists discuss the works and perspectives of South East Asia.
Panelists: Jaymee Goh, ZM Quynh, Bryan Thao Worra, Emily Jiang

Saturday 11:30 - 12:45, Sumac 
Non-European Steampunk
Pat MacEwen (M), Jaymee Goh, Bryan Thao Worra

Saturday 14:30 - 15:45, Pine
Diversity in Speculative Fiction
Gregg Castro (M), Jaymee Goh, Thaddeus Howze, Bradford Lyau, Balogun Ojetade, Sumiko Saulson

Sunday 11:30 - 12:45, Pine
Asian Ancestresses
Jaymee Goh (M), Emily Jiang, Bradford Lyau

Sunday 13:00 - 14:15, Oak
Reading 3
Kyle Aisteach, Sumiko Saulson, Ms. Amy Sterling Casil, Bryan Thao Worra, Jaymee Goh

I have no idea what I'll be reading for Sunday yet! But hopefully you'll stick around and come see me and my fellow readers anyway. I'm especially excited to be on panels with fellow steampunk POC Balogun Ojetade and Bryan Thao Worra! You will also meet zm quynh, who will be in The Sea Is Ours: Tales of Steampunk Southeast Asia!

Emily Jiang and I have been on Asian Ancestresses before, when it debuted at WisCon a few years ago, and  it was a blast! I am also looking forward to renewing acquaintance with Bradford Lyau, long-time fan-scholar and one of the first researchers using the Eaton Special Collection at UCR!

See you soon, Bay Area!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Some #SEAsteampunk news!

So while I get back on track with my PhD adventures (which I will definitely post more about in a bit!) I had some news to share about The SEA Is Ours: Tales Of Steampunk Southeast Asia!

Firstly, we have a Facebook page, and a blog! That is where I've been posting most of the news. You'll also find me nattering about it on Twitter under the #SEsteampunk hashtag, of course. If you go Twitter-searching, or tweeting, use the hashtag, because when you search "the sea is ours" on Twitter you get some really strange results--mostly maritime border declarations, U.S. Navy merch, and folks taking selfies on the beach. 

Secondly, ARCs have gone out! If you are a reviewer and would like to review The SEA is Ours for your media site, please fire me an email! I will have you know that this anthology is built to appeal to all sorts of audiences. Except for racist white people who can't handle stories that are not about white people. (We don't have very many stories with white people in them.) 

Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, you can pre-order The SEA Is Ours on Amazon now! 

Fourthly, the fundraiser will be in September! I'll post more details when I can. Save some money for us! And keep with us--Joyce and I recorded some goofy videos when I last went to Singapore to see her. You'll get to see and hear us in all our accented glory.

Monday, April 27, 2015

PhD Adventures: Inscrutably Oriental--Some Sartorial Observations on Intention and Reaction

Some of you readers may be familiar with my steampunk magistrate outfit that I've worn to conventions across North America:

This is not me; this is the designer, Jeanette Ng.
I look like this, as well you know, or should.

I commissioned this in 2010 from the Costume Mercenary, a history-graduate-student-moonlighting-as-designer for Live Action Roleplaying (LARP) outfits. The idea was this: the character I was gestating would be a magistrate for one of China’s colonies in Maritime Southeast Asia, most likely one of the Malay sultanates (present-time Malaysia, where I am from). Chinese traders had established their own port communities since the 1400s at least, and until China closed its borders after the Zheng He expeditions, clearly had imperialist ambitions abroad. The character would be a lead in a LARP game Ay-Leen the Peacemaker and I had thought up. 

The game would involve my character accusing Ay-leen’s partner of smuggling opium into the colony, and Ay-leen would lead the players through the game, collecting clues to both clear her partner’s name, and educate the players about the extent of the Opium Wars that led to the establishment of a British colony in what is now Hong Kong. 

Although the LARP Game never happened (I'm still holding out that it will, though), I still wore the outfit to steampunk conventions across Canada and the United States, firstly out of a sense of satisfaction with how fantastic the whole outfit is, secondly to kickstart conversation in which I talk about the Opium Wars and of Chinese diaspora communities, and thirdly to embody what steampunk could look like when divorced from the Victorian aesthetic. 

Now, if you read this blog, you presumably know a bit about steampunk, so you know that roleplaying a steampunk persona, or a “steamsona,” is very popular, because it gives newcomers a thematic idea around which to start building their costume. One goes in or out of character to steampunk events, and theoretically, if all else fails in finding things in common to talk about, we can always ask each other about our steamsonas. 


Friday, April 17, 2015

PhD Adventures: An Anecdote Apropos of Nothing

During a presentation of Steam Around The World, when I was taking questions, a young woman, white woman, wearing a robe of some sort, stood up, to explain her costume, which went something like this: "this is the costume of an Orientalist. I'm purposely dressing wrong just like how they would have done it back in the day. It's supposed to show how ignorant the colonizers were back in the day that they would appropriate clothing from the natives like this. So it's not that I'm dressing to be a racist, just to look like how they would have done it back in the day."

I didn't really know how to respond to it back then, but this moment, among many other such moments, has stuck with me to this day. The more I think about it, though, the more I'm filled with secondhand embarrassment for this girl, so I guess it's good that I didn't really have an answer for her back then, because I think today I might have just burst out laughing in her face. 

Monday, April 13, 2015

PhD Adventures: A Brief Bibliography of Articles About Mad Scientists

A while ago I posted my transcript for the paper I wrote on mad scientists, and promised to post the articles I found and used (not all cited). Some of them are easily found on JSTOR, others on Project MUSE. 

The bib is also annotated in case you cared to know what the articles are about, from my perspective at least. I really enjoyed reading them, especially the Allen piece, so I hope you find them too!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Transcript: "Steampunk Mad Scientists: Exclamation, Effect, Affect" @ ICFA 36

Recently I had the chance to present a paper at the International Conference of the Fantastic in the Arts, which is like a major East Coast Science Fiction conference, and rather than save myself some trouble and present a paper I'd already written, I decided to write a whole new thing! Because after all this could get folded into my dissertation project and get me thinking about more coherently. This was the abstract I submitted:
In steampunk, the figure of the mad scientist looms in the background, either benign inventors who enable the technofantastical imagined setting, amoral villains threatening the world, or the space in between as morally-ambiguous sympathetic enactors of change with questionable methods. Literarily, they provide an avenue to explore the darker side of human choices; theatrically, they offer a chance to chew the furniture. This paper will survey how the figure of the mad scientist has been taken up in various steampunk media—Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan series, music by steampunk bands Vernian Process and The Clockwork Quartet, and the webcomic Girl Genius. Though the narratives and the scientist figures are wide-ranging, they retain similarities in the depictions of their methods and psychological profiles even as they are deployed self-reflexively. The paper will then compare these mad scientists with one of the original mad scientists, Mary Shelley’s Victor Frankenstein and evaluate the influence of the trope on the steampunk subcultural values and aesthetic.

However, as I developed the paper, I realized that this abstract was full of lies and I didn't actually want to do a survey of steampunk mad scientists, because that sounded totally boring! I betook myself to the databases to learn everything I could about mad scientists (which was, actually, a lot of fun, will post my annotated bibliography if anyone is interested) but just couldn't figure out an angle with which to tackle the subject.

Then I had to fix something in my apartment, and it needed some problem-solving skills and some other knowledge, and when I was done, I threw my hands in the air and shouted, "SCIENCE!" I am sure everyone in this room has done this. If you have not, I 100% recommend this experience. 

Friday, February 20, 2015

#SteampunkHands: Steampunk as Unlearning

For those of you who are new to me, my blog, and my work, you should probably be forewarned that I have a reputation for being hyper-critical, rather ornery, impatient with fools, and dissatisfied with the way most steampunk works. 

When I first discovered steampunk, it seemed like a whole new world of thinking about history had been opened to me. I emailed my friend Ay-leen the Peacemaker incessantly. Our emails kept getting longer and longer. My writing had new life, new purpose. 

Around the same time, I discovered postcolonial theory. I didn't know what it was, exactly, only vaguely knew about it from conversations surrounding RaceFail. I was finally coming to terms, years after leaving home, with what the word "identity" meant, and what ignoring it meant for my writing. While visiting a friend at St. Francis Xavier University (the Nova Scotian one), I grabbed a book off a shelf that caught my eye, an introduction to postcolonial theory (because Nova Scotia has a delightsome inter-library loan system that is prompt, timely, and flexible, and I still miss it). 

I fell in love with it, and fell in love with myself in a more full way, neither of which would have been possible without discovering steampunk. 

A lot of people think of steampunk as a subgenre. Some call it an aesthetic (finally!), because it moves between mediums easily. In 2011, I cited Martha Swetzoff, calling steampunk a conversation with the past, a conversation with ghosts who cannot be laid to rest, because they are not addressed. I wrote about the ghosts that relive the violence of the past, and how cultural appropriation is the demand for access to these ghosts, in order to inflict further violence on them under the guise of benign consumption. 

There are other ghosts one must be in conversation with. 

When I began writing steampunk stories, I created a new world in which the British never took over the Malay sultanates, while they certainly have a presence. In this world, the Golden Age of Islam never ended, and has developed all kinds of technologies at a sophisticated level, enough to create an airship that can cross great distances. The Malay peoples have learned how to breed birds that carry messages from depot to depot. The kingdoms of what we now call South Asia too have seen inventors rise despite the boundaries of the caste system. 

Like my fellow writers, I have suffered from anxieties of authenticity. I quietly scream pain at how much of my ancestors I don't know, and how little access I have to them. By dint of colonial history, my primary language is English, and by dint of personal history, I have access only to a language of the majority of my home country, which is not the language of my ancestors either. (Note that I do not lament knowing this language, which I have made bend to my will.) There are stories I will never have, never recover, there are gaps in the alternate history I have written.

It is too easy to say that into that aphoria we write new things, because it is an alternate history, not true history. However, to say that is to ignore whole histories of erasure, of writing over, of having been written over. Those of us who write today know well we write from lenses tinted by the knowledge of the colonizers. (There are those who would defend those anthropologists and explorer for having "preserved" knowledge of these lost peoples and stories; to them I say, why could they not have stopped their own from performing the genocide?)

In writing steampunk, I must carefully consider that which I know, and how I know them. I must think about how I know and speak of the knowledge I have. I must be careful to consider whether I do an injustice to the histories I am writing of. If I craft something new into this empty space, I must think: does this reproduce what I know? Does it push back in such a way that it reinforces colonial structures, rather than move beyond them? Do I reproduce stereotypes? Am I writing characters who are full, complex human beings, with varying intentions and drives in life? Is this a logical way for this history to develop, given the resources, values, and priorities of these particular communities and characters?

Through steampunk, I commit to a process of unlearning a lot of things that have shaped my life, my views of history and of different peoples and cultures, even my own. I commit to listening to other people reprimanding me if I write their people in a way that reinforces prejudicial views of them. I commit to finding new ways of telling stories, of re-discovering, of re-shaping, and commit to the knowledge that to find out what would be truly new, truly transformative, I must know what has passed.

In this workshop and classroom of steampunk, where the mainstream idea is to learn learn learn and absorb as much knowledge as possible, I ask that we carefully consider letting go of certain things we have learned, self-consciously, carefully. In this way, we can say, we are truly re-writing history, in a way that reflects the values and ideals of the present that we wish to adhere to, that upholds a standard of being we aspire to.

Because, especially for those of us with these gaps, we must write, we must fill those gaps with our own visions rather than the ones we have been fed. If we do not do it for ourselves, someone else will, someone with blithe disregard for the history of the gap.

We must unlearn that which continues to shape the present that harms peoples.

Otherwise, the steampunk we perform is all steam, sound and fury, signifying nothing. 

Sunday, February 8, 2015

THE SEA IS OURS Roundtable: Olivia Ho #SteampunkHands

Olivia Ho hails from Singapore, and writes to us from Scotland (ah, we fine expatriates) a story that rather fits the theme that informs many other stories in this anthology: COMPLETE LADY-FEST. Cranky ladies, angry ladies, confused ladies, curious ladies, smart, smart-mouthed, ladies ladies ladies. Here she gives us an anecdote of explaining steampunk to her father, whose response is 10000x more awesome than my own dad's:

THE SEA IS OURS roundtable: Timothy Dimacali #SteampunkHands

When I first read Timothy Dimacali's story, I said to my co-editor, "Joyce, this thing has got flying whales." I didn't yet link him to the story I had read and adored in Alternative Alamat, "Keeper of My Sky," a retelling of a love story between an earth goddess and a god who holds up the sky. "Flying whales, Joyce," I insisted, to which Joyce replied, "flying whales!" It immediately made me think of the Fantasia 2000 segment, "Pines of Rome." As it turns out, butanding aren't whales, but very large catfish generally. Which I am also all for!

Saturday, February 7, 2015

THE SEA IS OURS Roundtable: Pear Nuallak #SteampunkHands

Pear Nuallak's story finishes off the anthology, a fine, crisp, clear, queer wine. They write to us from the seat of steampunk, England, and from there deliver this finely-crafted story of chittering clockwork bugs, lady spies, and ambitious village girls caught in the whirl of political upheaval. 

THE SEA IS OURS Roundtable: Robert Liow #SteampunkHands

Robert Liow hails from my own home country, and like me, doesn't live there either. He writes to us from Singapore, with a story featuring a childhood game of FIGHTING SPIDERS. I have never played fighting spiders myself, but it's hard not to be aware that this is a thing. Combining this game with the technofantasy of steampunk, "Spider Here" has got the makings of a dramatic movie! 

Friday, February 6, 2015

THE SEA IS OURS Roundtable: Alessa Hinlo #SteampunkHands

Alessa Hinlo is one of those small and fierce women that we Asians should be famed for. I had the joy of meeting her, after a long time being aware of each other through social networks, at WisCon last year.  Her story, "The Last Aswang," feels like a knife cutting in, and twisting. It is also a very strong example of steampunk that moves away from the materials we commonly associate with it to more nature-based materials--an indigenous steampunk form!  

THE SEA IS OURS roundtable: Ivanna Mendels #SteampunkHands

I got really excited over Ivanna's story, which brings to life (well, kind of) an old familiar legend--she calls him Malin Kundang, I call him Si Tenggang, but it is essentially the same story: a rich man passes through his home village, where his mother recognizes him. Ashamed of his past, he refuses to acknowledge her, and she curses him to turn to stone. Ivanna is a lot kinder to Si Tenggang than I am, but I was extremely excited nonetheless! 

Thursday, February 5, 2015

THE SEA IS OURS Roundtable: L. L. Hill #SteampunkHands

L. L. Hill is a woman of few words. So few, I actually don't know that much about her! We will call her a woman of economical words, since she is also a poetess. Her story in this anthology has that same quiet air about it, as all her emails do:

THE SEA IS OURS roundtable: zm quynh #SteampunkHands

zm quynh I first met at WisCon, tapping away at her laptop during downtimes between panels. She was working on a larger project, she told me. This is her first ever short story sale, and I'm pleased to introduce you to her work. 

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

THE SEA IS OURS Roundtable: Paolo Chikiamco #SteampunkHands

I am so so so so pleased to be able to say that I've published Paolo! I first came to know of him through his work at Rocket Kapre, and then at Usok. He told me about his steampunk comic, set in Spanish-era Philippines, High Society (purchasable on Kindle!), and the prequel, "On Wooden Wings," which has since been published in Steampunk III: Steampunk Revolution. The story he has written for us, "Between Severed Souls," takes place between these two works. 

THE SEA IS OURS Roundtable: Kate Osias #SteampunkHands

Kate Osias sent in a reprint from one of the famous Philippine Speculative Fiction Annuals, and as soon as I finished it, I was breathless, and did my best impression of King Haggard from The Last Unicorn: "I must have it... I must have it, for my need is very great!" Fortunately, my co-editor, Joyce, agreed heartily. "The Unmaking of the Cuadro Amoroso" infuses mathematics and the arts with a passion!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

THE SEA IS OURS Roundtable: Marilag Angway #SteampunkHands

Marilag Angway's story, "Chasing Volcanoes," is a high-flying (literally) adventure (we have a few of these) filled with different kinds of women, moral grays, principles, politics, and compassion. She coined a neologism, "malambaso," for this story, which is a combination of two Tagalog words, to name flexible glass!

Monday, February 2, 2015

Steampunk Hands Around the World 2015! Steampunk + Earthworm = ?

Airship Ambassador Kevin Steil has been doing this event for a while, but this is the first year Silver Goggles will be participating! I have posed questions to my writers of The Sea Is Ours: Tales of Steampunk Southeast Asia, and will post their answers as they get to me! 

I, too, will post some thoughts reflecting on this year's theme: "Our Playground, Our Classroom, Our Workshop." It's an interesting theme, considering I have spent the last two years in classrooms of some sort of another. If you are here because of Hands Around The World, be warned that I deal very little in images.

Well, I will give you one, under the cut:

Tuesday, January 20, 2015


It's been a while! What with grading and assisting teaching and writing my dissertation proposal and going to conventions and whatnot! 

But! The manuscript of THE SEA IS OURS is done and handed to my publisher, and I am pretty confident that nothing else will be changed, so here is the table of contents!

On The Consequence of Sound - Timothy Dimacali
Chasing Volcanoes - Marilag Angway
Ordained - L. L. Hill
The Last Aswang - Alessa Hinlo
Life Under Glass - Nghi Vo
Between Severed Souls - Paolo Chikiamco
The Unmaking of the Cuadro Amoroso - Kate Osias
Working Woman - Olivia Ho
Spider Here - Robert Liow
The Chamber of Souls - Z. M. Quynh
Petrified - Ivanna Mendels
The Insects and Women Sing Together - Pear Nuallak

We have have first-timers and some more established writers, and all except one writer are of SEAsian descent, which I'm very proud of. Some of them you may know from the Philippine Spec Fic Annuals which is rather difficult to get outside of the Philippines, so I'm pleased to be able to have them here. They are all really talented, and I'm 100% certain that this anthology will have a particular voice that no other steampunk anthology (or anthology using the word "steampunk" in its title) has. You will have to read it to decide whether you agree with me.  

We are finalizing the AMAZING cover and I will announce that soon too! It is very similar to the postcard that Khor Shing Yin made for us to promote ourselves a while back.