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THE APEX BOOK OF WORLD SF 4 Interviews: Vajra Chandrasekera, Yukimi Ogawa, and Zen Cho

Lavie Tidhar, the series editor for The Apex Book of World SF series has kindly asked us to share a series of interviews with the authors that have stories in the newest installment, The Apex Book of World SF 4.

Here’s the synopsis:

Now firmly established as the benchmark anthology series of international speculative fiction, volume 4 of The Apex Book of World SF sees debut editor Mahvesh Murad bring fresh new eyes to her selection of stories.

From Spanish steampunk and Italian horror to Nigerian science fiction and subverted Japanese folktales, from love in the time of drones to teenagers at the end of the world, the stories in this volume showcase the best of contemporary speculative fiction, wherever it’s written.

You can also check out the table of contents here!

Now on with the interviews!


VAJRA CHANDRASEKERA

Vajra Chandrasekera lives in Colombo, Sri Lanka. His short stories have appeared in Clarkesworld, Lightspeed and Black Static, among others. You can find more things by him at vajra.me.

Q: Tell us a little about yourself.

Vajra Chandrasekera: My name’s Vajra Chandrasekera and I’ve been writing short stories, mostly speculative fiction of some variety or another, for a few years now. I’m a dog-and-cat person, but through a quirk of fate I’m currently living with fish. This is a metaphor for life, but also a real pet situation. Which is itself kind of a metaphor for life, if you think about it.

Q: Tell us a little about the story selected for the anthology & what this story means to you & what it’s inspiration was.

VC: “Pockets Full of Stones” was my first published story. I’ve been trying to come up with a totally new story about its inspiration every time someone asks, and it’s working out well so far. I borrowed the title from a line in a poem by Naomi Shihab Nye, “The Words Under The Words”, which is (among other things) about grandmothers.

Q: Why do you write in the genre that you do?

VC: I write a kind of post-expressionistic fantasy that doesn’t particularly mind masquerading as any of the more restrictive genres–hard sf, ghost stories, whatever–but only as a kind of fetishistic roleplay thing. That is to say, most of the time I don’t really write in a genre so much as I just find out later what genre it most looks like.

Q: What are you working on now & what do you have coming out next?

VC: I have several new things out in August, including a Spanish translation of my story “‘Ulder'”, a new story in the inaugural issue of Middle Planet and my first interactive fiction story, “Snake Game”, in sub-Q. You can find them all linked from vajra.me/publications.

Q: Who are some of your favourite writers?

VC: So many! I could be here all day with this answer. But I’ll constrain myself to just naming three of my favourite contemporary short fiction writers: Kuzhali Manickavel, Natalia Theodoridou and Carmen Maria Machado.

Q: What or who do you want to be next lifetime?

VC: I grew up in a culture that takes reincarnation as a given, so I came to aggressively disbelieve in it a long time ago. But in the event that I’m wrong about this, I’d like to be something peaceful, like a big old tree that dreams quiet green things for a thousand years.


YUKIMI OGAWA

Yukimi Ogawa lives in a small town in Tokyo where she writes in English but never speaks the language. She still wonders why it works that way.

Q: Tell us a little about yourself.

Yukimi Ogawa: I’m a folklore lover, especially yokai–Japanese spirit monsters. I love colors, as you can probably see in the story selected for the antho; and I love colorful minerals and enjoy polishing stones such as opals. I think I write too much about the things I love.

Q: Tell us a little about the story selected for the anthology & what this story means to you & what it’s inspiration was.

YO: The longer version can be found at: http://thebooksmugglers.com/2014/10/in-her-head-in-her-eyes-yukimi-ogawa-on-inspirations-influences.html

The shorter version would be, I was really intrigued by the fairytale which this story was based on. Why a bowl over her head? How was she seeing things? How did it work, hiding all the treasures? I needed to find that out in my own way.

Also, this is another story set in a world that I keep coming back to. This is the first time that it’s happening to me. I do love this world, and maybe in time, this world might expand, or get more detailed.

Q: Why do you write in the genre that you do?

YO: I don’t know–as far back as I can remember, my mind was full of fantastic elements, and I’m sure I often looked and sounded really weird to my parents and friends. A wonder no one ever complained, now that I look back on it.

Being a country girl helped, too, I guess. There were enough woods and paths around my house in which strange things could be hiding.

Q: What are you working on now & what do you have coming out next?

YO: I have a yokai story (yay!) which should be out next year, I think. Meanwhile, as always, I’m writing stories about colors and gemstones. And more about yokai.

Q: Who are some of your favourite writers?

YO: Ah! As there are way too many, can I name just Japanese ones? Kunio Yanagida, as I keep saying, although he isn’t a fiction writer but a folklorist. His insight helped me a lot in character-building with some of my yokai stories. There are many stories that I wouldn’t have even come up with, or been able to finish, without reading his books.

And Shinichi Hoshi, writer of many short-short SF stories; when I was younger I’d say my stories were influenced by his stories. Maybe not these days, but my love for short stories certainly started there.

Q: What or who do you want to be next lifetime?

YO: Mmm–a beautiful piece of opal? I can spend days just watching my colors change.


ZEN CHO

Zen Cho was born and raised in Malaysia. She is the author of Crawford Award-winning short story collection Spirits Abroad, and editor of anthology Cyberpunk: Malaysia, both published by Buku Fixi. Her debut novel is Sorcerer to the Crown, the first of a historical fantasy trilogy published by Ace/Roc Books (US) and Pan Macmillan (UK). She lives in London.

Q: Tell us a little about yourself.

Zen Cho: I’m a Malaysian living in London. I write stories about aunties, magic spells and colonialism. In my copious free time, I work as a product safety and product liability lawyer.

Q: Tell us a little about the story selected for the anthology & what this story means to you & what it’s inspiration was.

ZC: “The Four Generations of Chang E” grew out of the idea of Chang E, the Chinese moon goddess, as the ultimate metaphor for the Chinese diaspora. After all, how much farther can you travel from home than the moon? The story is me thinking aloud about how different generations have different experiences of immigration, cultural disjunction and diaspora.

Q: Why do you write in the genre that you do?

ZC: I mostly write fantasy because I think it’s fun. It also helps when I don’t know what happens next in a story: throw in a couple of dragons and things are bound to get interesting.

Q: What are you working on now & what do you have coming out next?

ZC: My first novel, Sorcerer to the Crown, is coming out in September 2015 from Ace/Roc Books (US) and Pan Macmillan (UK and Commonwealth). It’s the first of a historical fantasy trilogy set in Regency London, about England’s first African Sorcerer Royal and the female magical prodigy who annoys him. I’m currently working on book 2.

Q: Who are some of your favourite writers?

ZC: P. G. Wodehouse, Terry Pratchett, Karen Lord, Diana Wynne Jones, Susanna Clarke, Amitav Ghosh, L. M. Montgomery, Edith Nesbit, Patrick O’Brian, Penelope Fitzgerald … the list goes on!

Q: What or who do you want to be next lifetime?

ZC: I think I’d better be a Buddhist monk or nun. That’s probably my best chance of getting closer to becoming a bodhisattva.

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Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000040_00007]
Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000040_00007]

About Kristin Centorcelli (842 Articles)
Kristin Centorcelli is the Associate Editor at SF Signal, proprietor of My Bookish Ways, a reviewer for Library Journal and Publisher’s Weekly, and has also written for Crime Fiction Lover, Criminal Element, and Mystery Scene Magazine. She has been reviewing books since late 2010, in an effort to get through a rather immense personal library, while also discussing it with whoever will willingly sit still (and some that won’t).
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