Category Archives: Monster Tales

Pacific Monsters Update

Pacific Monsters – table of contents

Asian Monsters is presently on the short list for the British Fantasy Society award for best Anthology and Chikodili Emelumadu’s short story Bush Baby from African Monsters made this year’s Caine Awards shortlist. 2017 has proven to be a good year for monsters. 

We are pleased to announce that Pacific Monsters is due out this November. Pacific Monsters is the fourth volume in our world tour exploring horror continent by continent, beginning in Europe. See more about the series and the monsters here.  

In this collection, we explore the old myths and monsters in the Pacific region with short stories, graphic stories and art from Australia, New Zealand and some of the Pacific Islands. Margrét Helgadóttir is once more the editor.

Our gorgeous cover series by Daniele Serra will continue for this fourth volume. Dani is a previous BFS Best Artist winner and is up for the award again this year.

 

Table of contents:

  • Tina Makereti: ‘Monster’
  • AJ Fitzwater: ‘From the Womb of the Land, Our Bones Entwined’
  • Rue Karney: ‘The Hand Walker’
  • Michael Grey: ‘Grind’
  • Octavia Cade and Dave Johnson (art) : ‘Dinornis’
  • Raymond Gates: ‘The Legend of Georgie’
  • Jeremy Szal: ‘The Weight of Silence’
  • Simon Dewar: ‘Above the Peppermint Trail’
  • Iona Winter: ‘Ink’
  • Bryan Kamaoli Kuwada: ‘All My Relations’
  • Tihema Baker: ‘Children of the Mist’
  • Kirstie Olley: ‘Mudgerwokee’
  • Michael Lujan Bevacqua and Dave Johnson (art) : ‘I Sindålu’
  • AC Buchanan: ‘Into the Sickly Light’

The book will have illustrations by Laya Rose, Lahela Schoessler, Kieran Walsh and Eugene Smith.

Monster Writing Contest Runner Up : Shona Kinsella

At the Water’s Edge

by Shona Kinsella

Anna swore as she stumbled over a tree root. Her ankle throbbed; she added it to her growing list of aches and pains. These stupid boots had rubbed her feet raw, the muscles of her legs ached, her shoulders burned from the weight of her backpack and her head was pounding. Why had she ever thought it was a good idea to come on this hike? She wasn’t an outdoorsy person. Not like Hayley. 

            Anna rolled her shoulders and tried not to think about the tall, blonde woman who had joined Jonathon’s walking group.

            ‘I hope she’s wandering around alone, too,’ Anna muttered to herself.

            It was all because she had gone to the pub with them last Friday. She had seen the hungry way that Hayley looked at Jonathon, and how he had leaned towards her when he was speaking. When Anna had taken his hand, he seemed surprised to be reminded that she was there. So, of course, when they started discussing this hike, she had to say she would come along.

            The worst part was that Jonathon had laughed; implied that she wouldn’t be able to go the distance. Of course, he was right. 

            Half an hour into the hike, she knew it had been a mistake. She had bought brand-new hiking boots and hadn’t had time to break them in properly. She wasn’t used to carrying all the equipment she needed and had no idea how to read a compass or a map. She ended up feeling like an idiot. A frumpy idiot, in her baggy combat trousers and old jumper, while Hayley swanned about in a vest top and jodhpurs, showing off her long, slim legs. Seriously, who even wore jodhpurs?

            The group was supposed to be going about half-way up the hill – which Jonathon insisted was only a small one, but it looked enormous to her – and then looping around it and back down the other side to the loch. They had all strung out, as people teamed up with others at their own pace. Of course,Hayley, had attached herself to Jonathon and Anna, sighing or rolling her eyes every time Anna had to stop for a rest or to adjust her backpack.

            They had started looping around when the fog came in. It was so sudden; Anna had never seen anything like it. She had bent down to tie her shoe lace and when she looked back up she couldn’t see Jonathon or Hayley. She had called out to them but the fog muffled her words, making them sound quiet even to her own ears.

            Anna started off in the direction she thought they had been going. She figured Jonathon and Hayley must be just ahead and she would catch up with them within minutes but that had been over an hour ago. Of course, she couldn’t get a signal on her phone since they were at the backend of nowhere and only crazy people came here. She had no choice but to keep walking and hope she ran into them. 

            Someday we’ll look back on this and laugh.

            Just now she was struggling not to cry. She leaned against a tree and sank to her knees to rest her feet for a moment. From this changed vantage point, she noticed a glimmer between the trees. Water. The loch!

            She climbed to her feet again and limped on, careful to step over and around the roots that seemed to grasp for her feet. If she managed to keep the water in sight, she should be able to make her way down to the loch. The rest of the walking group should be there – or, if not, they should show up sooner or later.

            She stepped out of the trees and before her lay a gentle, grassy slope down to the water’s edge. The fog was burning off and Anna could feel a hint of warmth from the hidden sun. 

            Small for a loch, she thought, looking around. She could see around the shore; there was no sign of anyone. Anna frowned. She had been at the back of the group. How could she possibly have gotten here first? Where were the others? Could they have gone back without her?

Panic started to rise in her chest and she could feel her heart rate speeding up. This was ridiculous. Jonathon wouldn’t have gone without her. Whether he was making eyes at Hayley or not, he was the most responsible person she’d ever known. He would not go home until the whole group was accounted for.

Maybe they went back looking for you and you passed them in the woods?

No. He would have insisted that someone stay by the loch in case she came this way. There was definitely no-one else around, as far as she could see; but the far end of the loch was fuzzy from here. It was possible that some of those shapes she thought were bushes could be people.

The water caught Anna’s eye and she looked longingly at it, imagining the coolness against her tortured feet. Before she could stop herself, she had her feet out of the boots. She carefully peeled her socks away from the blisters that had burst, blood causing the wool to stick to her. She rolled up her trouser-legs and limped down to the water. She dipped a toe in and squealed at the cold but then stepped forward so the water came up to her ankles. Her blisters stung but the relief to the soles of her feet made it worthwhile.

Movement caught her eye, out towards the middle of the loch. She stood and watched for a few seconds but saw nothing. Probably a fish jumping for its dinner; still a shiver ran down her spine. It’s not like this place in big enough to have a Nessie, what are you worried about?

She turned back towards the far end of the loch and stopped short, letting out a small scream. Right in front of her, standing in the shallow water, was a horse. The most beautiful horse she had ever seen. Dappled grey, it’s colouring resembled the fractured sunlight on the surface of the water. It was wearing a bridle and reins but no saddle. Anna looked around for its rider but could still see no-one. Perhaps they had been separated in the fog like her and Jonathon.

The horse nuzzled her and Anna stroked its nose, looking longingly at its back. It had been a long time since she had ridden but it would be so much easier than walking back. Still, what would the horse’s owner say? More practically, could she even get on without a saddle and stirrups?

As if it could read her mind, the horse knelt, bringing its back to the perfect height for her to climb up. Anna chewed her lip and looked around. She could always ride around the loch and check for other people. She climbed onto the horse’s back and took hold of the reins.

‘No!’

Anna spun in her seat, looking for the source of the scream. The noise had frightened the horse, causing it to head deeper into the loch. Anna pulled on the reins to turn it back to shore but it wouldn’t obey.

‘You have to get off!’ It was Hayley – Anna could see her now, running out of the treeline further along from where Anna had emerged. 

‘I’m only going to ride around the loch,’ Anna called back. ‘You’re scaring him, you have to stop shouting.’

‘Get off!’

Anna hauled at the reins. Water rose up the creature’s flank, lapping against her knee. She looked down when something brushed against her leg and screamed. A body floated past, just below the surface. It was one of the guys from the hiking group. Anna tried to slide off the horse but found herself stuck.

‘It’s not a horse, it’s a kelpie!’ Hayley screamed. ‘You have to get off!’

‘I can’t!’ Anna called back, the water coming over the horse’s back to cover her thighs. ‘I’m stuck.’

‘The bridle! Pull the bridle off!’ Hayley was running into the water now.

Anna scrabbled at the bridle, her shaking fingers unable to find purchase. Another body floated past and Anna began to whimper as she managed to get her fingers under the strap of the bridle. In one, swift motion she pulled the bridle over the horse’s head.

Anna splashed into the water, the horse that been holding her gone, the bridle still in her hand. She went under and thrashed around in panic until Hayley grabbed her and pulled her to the surface, helping her back to shore.

‘Jonathon?’ Anna asked.

‘He went back looking for you. I stayed in case you found your way here. The kelpie got the others. We saw it.’

‘I’m never leaving the city again,’ Anna vowed.

Monster Contest Winning Story

Momma’s Embrace

by Heather Johnson  

“My teeth,” she groaned loudly through barely parted lips. “They hurt too much. Can’t read today.” Muriel was never entirely sure the creature understood. Its response to most of her speech was to cuff her rudely on the ear. “Need green stuff again for teeth. Munch-munch, all better.” She mimed chewing on a handful of invisible herbs.

The creature snorted and then growled softly, “Murrr. Uhhnn,” as it rose, hunched at the peak of the ceiling. “Rooowm!” it rumbled as it squeezed out the door. From her corner of the dark room, Muriel counted to five hundred before slipping out into the thick woods. If she were lucky, she would pick the direction opposite of the creature’s destination.

She thought of it as a dream more than a memory. A memory would be too much to bear. Her stomach could never settle with that memory in her brain. The dream began with Muriel perched on a stool and reading aloud while her mother cooked dinner. Sunshine streamed in through the window above the sink. And then the back door of their home burst inward and a wall of musk, teeth, claws, and pale yellow fur stomped into the kitchen. An arm like a timber hit Muriel in the chest and knocked her off the stool. She lay face down on the tile for a moment as her breath returned. She felt the thud of her mother’s body hitting the floor. The mother grunted and screamed to her, “Muriel, run! Get up and run n–!”

Muriel pushed herself up just in time to see the beast twist off her mother’s head as if it were opening a new bottle of ketchup. It seemed to smile as its mouth opened impossibly wide and it took a bite. Clawing her way up the fronts of the cupboards, Muriel stood at last and ran for the front door. She heard the house shaking, counting 1, 2, 3, 4 booms behind her before she was picked up by the back of her sweatshirt. The beast dropped her onto the slippery kitchen tile. It tapped a giant unripe-banana toe on the book she had been reading. “Uhhhnnnn!” It grunted, lips dripping with thick blood. It kicked the book toward her. “Uhhhnnn! It insisted, smacking Muriel’s head with a giant paw. “Uhhhhnnnn!” It nudged the paperback, it’s cover now heavy and dripping, into her lap with one horrible toe. 

And Muriel thought she understood. The beast sat. It twisted off an arm and crunched away as Muriel began to read in a surprisingly steady voice, “Today we is not believing in snozzcumbers…” It was dark by the time the beast was done with its meal. The pot on the stovetop had long since boiled dry and she’d gotten to the part about the queen. The beast was full and sleepy. Certain she would be dessert, Muriel gathered her courage to get up and run once again for the front door. She grabbed the hot pan with the sleeve of her sweatshirt and threw it at the beast’s head. It let out a grunt as if inconvenienced. But this time after the beast took a few lumbering steps toward her, her recapture was punctuated with a strong blow to the head. She didn’t even remember being shoved into or carried in the old seed corn sack she eventually woke up in.

“Monster!” Muriel had screamed when she found herself alone with the beast inside a dark one-room shack. The horror of everything fell on her. She screamed hysterically, nonsensically. When her voice began to give out, she whispered accusingly again and again: “Monster. Monster.” The creature tapped its chest with a paw, producing a heavy thump. It seemed to smile, although the rows of finely pointed teeth and enormity of the mouth only made its appearance more terrible. “Maaamaaa.” It stated, swatting her in the side of the head. “Maaamaaa.”

She wasn’t sure how long she’d been with the creature. The seed corn bag, now barely a bag, was her mattress in the corner of the mossy cabin that leaned inward on itself. Much had happened in the meantime too. She was sure she was quite a bit taller. Many of her teeth had fallen out. Some of them had grown back in. She knew how to avoid getting hit or dragged by her mat of hair: compliance. She ate the food, lumps of raw meat. She stayed inside. If she had to call it something, Muriel called it Mama, although in her head, she spelled it M-o-m-m-a. Mama had been the word she wrote on cards and Christmas presents.

Momma seemed to live for eating and stories. Certainly grooming was not a priority. Muriel was grateful for the mercy of no longer being able to smell its stench. She was certain that she smelled the same way. Every day, sometimes several times a day if the beast was not out hunting, Muriel read stories aloud from a pile of books. Over and over, by flashlight. The bottom of the pile was damp and molding on the mud and moss floor. Some were too damaged to read properly, so she improvised as she turned the mildewed pages. New flashlights would appear regularly. New books too. Less often, an article of rumpled, blood-spattered clothing would be waiting for her when she woke up. Muriel had taken to shoving the dead flashlights into the gaps in the wall. Lacking Momma’s thick fur, it was often too cold to sleep.

When she felt, once again, on the verge of losing her mind, she worked up the strength and courage to run away. Muriel had no hope that she would truly get away. Momma always found her. There would be consequences. Bruises, maybe broken bones. She’d lie in her corner again, consumed by the physical pain. She would heal. Read. Plot. This process had played out six times. She knew the count only because she’d started keeping track with tick marks on the wall after the third time.  

Her seventh foray into the woods began with a step that landed on a sharp stick. It sank into the tender arch of her bare foot, but she didn’t have time to acknowledge it. She limped farther into the woods, cautious of her noise, her smell. Momma’s senses were finely tuned. It was, after all, a skilled hunter and stalker. Muriel wondered if the wind had already betrayed her. She paused, not breathing for a moment, listening for heavy footsteps or shaking trees but hearing only her heart and the involuntary grinding of her teeth. 

In the past, with the hope of getting away for good, she had rubbed herself with wild ramps, mud, and damp leaves to try to mask her scent. This time, her goal was merely distance and time away. She pushed through the thick brambles as quickly as should could, as straight as she could. She imagined a clearing ahead. Maybe a house or a convenience store. A bait shop. Her face and arms were covered in scratches but she tried not to think about Momma’s ability to smell blood. She focused on getting through to whatever was beyond the woods. The squirrels scolded as she pushed through the brush. She wished she could strangle all of them into silence. The birds too. Who knew what they were telling Momma with their songs? Muriel imagined its massive body stooping to rip herbs from the ground, and then turning its propane-tank-sized head to the sky to sniff the wind and listen.

And then she spotted a shade of orange she hadn’t seen for a lifetime. She moved closer, cautiously through the woods. She discovered a gravel road, just yards away. On the opposite side of the road, a woman in an orange vest bent to pick up trash with a spike. She hadn’t seen another person in a lifetime either. The woman in the vest looked up in Muriel’s direction and briefly scanned the woods before getting back to work.

Muriel squinted down the road in both directions. There was no car in sight. No house. Just a gravel road, one person, and more woods. But surely something was nearby. Maybe something useful. Maybe near enough. Will I scare her? Muriel wondered. I might look like a monster. I do look like one. Will she run away? Muriel imagined the woman’s fate if Momma found her.

The familiar shaking of earth and treetops and the breaking of branches interrupted her thoughts. It was inevitable. She’d never really planned to get away. Muriel took one step backward toward the steady booming. She briefly pictured the cabin and the moldy books, recalled the stench and the memory-dreams of Momma’s brutality. Muriel stepped back toward the road, where the woman looked past her, gaping. “The end,” she whispered to herself, dashing onto the road with her arms open wide.

 

Congratulations to Heather, we hope she enjoys her swag.

Monster Writing Contest

WINNER OF THE MONSTER WRITING COMPETITION
The mission with our Fox Spirit Books of Monsters book series is to give the monsters their comeback, to reestablish their dark and grim reputation, and to bring into the spotlight the monsters hiding in the far corners of the world. We published volume three of our Fox Spirit Books of Monsters: Asian Monsters last November and Margret Helgadottir is now editing volume four: Pacific Monsters, to be released this November. 

To celebrate the monsters, we have had a writing competition the last months, inviting authors to send in their best monster flash stories. We are thrilled to see that authors still know how to tell a good monster tale. We know it is quite challenging to both write a good monster story and to tell it with few words. 

Margret has now read all the flash stories and selected the winning story and the two runners ups. She says it was a really tough decision and that there were so many good stories she sadly had to put aside. 

She has picked the dark story “Momma’s Embrace” by Heather Johnson as her favourite, you can all read it here on the blog tomorrow morning. Heather will receive a copy of the three first monster volumes, plus a Fox Spirit Books Tote bag with our awesome new notebook and pen. 

As the two runner ups, Margret has picked the two stories “Waking Up Underground” by Richard Marpole and “At the Water’s Edge” by Shona Kinsella. We will publish these two stories here tuesday. Richard and Shona will both be sent a tote bag with our cool Fox Spirit note book and pen.

Congratulations to all three authors! We wish to thank all that sent in their stories for the chance to read them. 

The stories will later be added to the free fiction page for people to carry on enjoying. 

Monster Writing Competition

Monster writing competition – We want your monster stories!

We published volume three of our Fox Spirit Books of Monsters: Asian Monsters a few months back and Margret Helgadottir is now working on editing volume four: Pacific Monsters, to be released in November. The mission with the series is to give the monsters their comeback, to reestablish their dark and grim reputation, and to bring into the spotlight the monsters hiding in the far corners of the world. To celebrate the monsters, we’re having a writing competition.

We hereby invite you to write your best monster flash story and send it to us before July 1st 2017 midnight (GMT). We want speculative and dark flash stories with full plot. We ask that the stories take place on Earth. We are not looking for fanfiction, satire, erotica, paranormal romance, splatter or overly gory stories. The stories must be written in English.

Only one entry per author. No simultaneous submissions allowed. All entries must be original and unpublished elsewhere, including your blog. We ask that the stories are at a minimum of 500 words, but no longer than 1500 words. Paste story in body of email and send to: ‘narjegerredaktor at gmail dot com’ and title the email with ‘Monster writing competition.’ Margret will read all the stories and select the winning story and to runners up.

The winning story will be published on Fox Spirit Books’ webpage. The winner also receives a copy of the three first monster volumes, plus a Fox Spirit Tote bag with awesome notebook and pen.

Story number two and three will also be published on Fox Spirit Books’ webpage plus win notebook and pen.

If any questions, contact Margret on the email address above.

Asian Monsters : Margret Helgadottir

The World Tour of Monsters

by Margrét Helgadóttir

I am so happy that Asian Monsters is now out from Fox Spirit Books, after one year of work. Asian Monsters is the third volume of the annual Fox Spirit Book of Monsters series. We started with Europe in 2014 and continued with Africa in 2015. Next stop will be the Pacific area in 2017 before we end the world tour at the continent of America.

This year we stop in Asia. We present you tales of beasties from the nights of urban Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong and Lahore to the monsters of the mountains and forests, told by fourteen authors who are either from, have lived in, or have another strong connection to this wide stretching continent. We want to show the world not only all the great monsters but also all the wonderful authors in the world who tend to be ignored in the western popular culture. Who else should tell us about the monsters from their regions but the authors who know them best? Thus, from volume two (Africa) I have searched for authors from the region who can either tell a tale based on local folklore or even come up with a monster of their own. I also try to locate illustrators and graphic artists from the regions we visit but have not managed to have this hundred percent in the books.

Photo Credit Margret Helgadottir

What I have learned from the monster book series, is that every country and region in the world has wonderful dark and eerie tales of monsters, some of them really old, maybe even thousands, of years old. No matter where you are in the world, the monsters have been someone to blame when bad things happen (sudden death of dear ones, bad luck, ship wrecks) or a source to explain mystical things happening around humans (like thunder and lightning). Many monsters also challenge the humans’ thoughts and fears of what happens when you are dead, or the relationship between human and the animals in wilderness.

If you are familiar with the book series, you might have noticed that we were two editors on the first two volumes, yours truly and the lovely Jo Thomas, who knows 25 Ways to Kill a Werewolf. Jo had a special responsibility for the graphic stories and the art. In the last volume, African Monsters, Jo unfortunately had to step aside for parts of the production. Following up on this, we decided that I will edit the coming monster volumes alone. Then we’ll see. It wasn’t an easy decision, since the monster books are an idea and concept Jo and I created together three years ago, our baby so to speak.

Three years ago we demanded that something had to be done. We strongly felt that the monsters of this world are watered down and overused in the popular media, transformed into creatures which either long to be included in the human society and/or fall in love with a human girl. Also, some monsters have dominated the public scene in the last decades—vampires, werewolves, ghouls, demons, zombies—and they have mostly been from Western popular culture.

So Jo and I both felt it was about bloody time to show the world all the marvellous monsters which lurk, sneak, jump, glide, wander or fly around this planet, or even under your bed (you know they are there!). We also dreamed about giving the monsters a renaissance as real monsters, a comeback so to speak, their fifteen minutes of fame, with gorgeous art and in the style of a coffee table book so they will achieve a central and visual place in the humans’ homes. 

Photo Credit Margret Helgadottir

The monsters in the Fox Spirit books of Monsters don’t sparkle or have any desire to be a human or part of the human society. These monsters have no interest in you except tearing you apart or putting terror in your heart. Bless them.

In the continent of Asia you find the shape-shifters, the flesh-eating walking dead and the great monsters of the lakes and sea. Also, what has struck me while editing this volume is all the spirits and ghosts who exist in much of the Asian folklore. Several of these spirits and ghosts are mischievous, some quite terrifying, many sad.

The stories in African Monsters were about place and origin, about immigration and going home—maybe a strong witness of how much the soil of Africa means to these authors. Home is an underlying theme in Asian Monsters too but here it’s not so much about the place but about the family itself and the strong relationships between loved ones, dead, living or not there.

This time we have managed to include one translated story, the lovely story by Xia Jia (translated by Ken Liu), something I am immensely happy about. Hopefully this is something I will also be able to include in the coming volumes and I am grateful for any recommendations of authors who tell great monster tales in other languages than English.

I have tried to be loyal to Jo and my mission with the monster books and hopefully I have succeeded in this with Asian Monsters. I wish to thank all who have made this book possible: Adele Wearing and her fantastic team at Fox Spirit Books, people who have helped out with research and local knowledge, Daniele Serra for his wonderful cover art, and all the amazing authors and artists. Thank you!

***

Margrét Helgadóttir is a Norwegian-Icelandic writer and editor living in Oslo. Her stories have appeared in a number of both magazines and print anthologies such as In flight literary magazine, Gone Lawn, Luna Station Quarterly, Tales of Fox and Fae and Girl at the End of the World. Her debut book The Stars Seem So Far Away was published by Fox Spirit Books in 2015 and was shortlisted as Best Collection to British Fantasy Awards 2016. Margrét is co-editor for the Fox Spirit Books anthologies European Monsters (2014) and African Monsters (2015). African Monsters was also shortlisted (Best Anthology) to British Fantasy Awards 2016. She is also editor for the Fox Spirit Books anthologies Winter Tales (2016), Asian Monsters (Dec 2016) and Pacific Monsters (Nov 2017). Learn more on her webpage http://margrethelgadottir.wordpress.com or chat with her on Twitter (@MaHelgad)

Asian Monsters : Eliza Chan

The monster who breaks the ice with, “Where are you from?”

By Eliza Chan

“I’m from Glasgow.”

“No, where are you from originally?”

It’s the conversation opener that every person of colour has been on receiving end of. The persistent refusal to accept that I’m, as I say I am, Scottish. I bat it off, tell the asker that I’m from my mother’s womb, glare at them, pretend not to hear. But they don’t give up. They ask again, perhaps, I didn’t hear them the first time.

“Where were you born? Your home land? Your ethnic origin?”

I was born in a hospital just south of Loch Lomond. I have a West coast accent and I worked in a kilt shop when I was a student.

“Ah, you are from China,” comes the sage reply when I finally capitulate. As if, now that a neat label has been put on my ethnic origin, it makes everything better. That the unknown quality was worrying them too much to just talk to me. And the thing is, if they bothered getting to know me, it would come up. I talk about my mum with her Chinese traditions, my husband cooking Asian food, my terrible Cantonese and my trips to Hong Kong.

I always knew we were different. We lived in a commuter town near Glasgow, one of only three Chinese families in the local area. I convinced the kids at primary school that Jackie Chan was my uncle and that I could kung-fu paralyse them with two fingers. I was jealous of their Sunday roasts, going to church and having special spoons just for soup.

But guess what? The belligerent questions don’t just come from White-British people.

When I first went to university in Edinburgh, other Asian students kept asking me if I was a BBC. I shook my head, having no affiliation with the TV channel, until it was finally explained to me.

“You are. A BBC- British Born Chinese. A banana.”

The Asian international students saw me, and other British-Chinese people, as yellow on the outside, white on the inside. Bananas. I speak Cantonese like a 5 year old and I didn’t know the origins of the Dragon Boat or Harvest Moon festivals. I don’t believe in the healing properties of herbal soup, I have showers in the morning and sometimes, I even wear my shoes indoors!

There’s a spectrum within the British-Chinese community. Some are immersed in Chinese culture. Their friends are Chinese, they grew up watching wuxia dramas and singing Canto pop on home karaoke machines. On the opposite end are those who want to fit in with Western friends, who refuse to speak Chinese and reject Asian friendships. But most of us vacillate between the two. I found it difficult to make Chinese friends growing up. Within the already small community, finding people who love fantasy and geekdom was even more difficult. There didn’t seem to be space for reading, writing, crafting, philosophical debates with friends. The likelihood is, if I had stayed in Glasgow, I would have rejected most of my Chinese culture.

But I moved.

I moved to Japan because I loved anime and J-pop. But I also moved because I never tired of asking my mother how she had survived in the UK, 17 and illiterate, speaking not a word of English, and only learning how to use a knife and fork on the plane. She just got on with it. And I wanted to do the same thing. To challenge myself to live in a country where I didn’t speak the language.

Japan was a culture shock to me in a way it might not be to other gaijin. I had no problem with the daily rice meals, the unidentifiable meats, the chopsticks and noodle slurping. I had a problem with being invisible. Suddenly I went from being the one person of colour at most events, to another anonymous Asian face. My colleagues with their white skin got special treatment, strangers complimenting them, making allowances, whereas all I got was a confused look as I stumbled over Japanese words.

There are so many local events in Japan. From the onidaiko devil drumming festival in Sado to the belly button festival in Furano, traditions are still well and truly alive. Hello Kitty is seen in every souvenir shop with a different food or clothing to denote the local area and tourists flock to buy the regional foods as gifts.

“What festivals do you have in Glasgow? What are your local foods? Your local costume?”

asian

For this first time, I was not questioning if I was Chinese enough, I was questioning if I was Scottish enough. I didn’t have all the answers. I had to Google some, shrug off the others. And perhaps no-one knows all the answers. Because my experience is Glasgow, and around Glasgow. I couldn’t speak for the islands, the Borders, the east coast. Heck, I couldn’t even speak for the south-side of Glasgow.

When I was in Japan, an American colleague said something that stays with me. Her husband was Japanese and they had several children together. She told me that in Japan, they call mixed race children “hafu”, much like we might say they were half-Japanese.  No-one was calling her children half of anything. “No,” she said. “My children are doubles.” Both Japanese and American, they have double the language, double the culture, double the joy.

And it’s only when I came to accept this dual identity that I stopped asking if I was enough of anything. The culture of the British-Chinese community is divergent from both Chinese and British. It’s not less, or half, it’s simply different. We have different words from Hong Kong Cantonese, different dishes in our restaurants. The big night out is Monday and weddings are often on Tuesdays, because the Chinese takeaways usually closed on Tuesdays. We all remember the worn VHS tape of a badly dubbed anime or drama, making its rounds through various families as the static lines grew with each rewind. We remember clingfilm on the TV remote and plastic on the dining room chairs. Christmas is widely celebrated by my generation but dependent on family, it has been lovingly hewn together like a delicious Frankenstein’s monster with fried rice instead of potatoes or roast pork instead of pigs in blankets. And even all of that is changing as more people get graduate jobs, find work outside of the takeaways, with people who have come from mainland China, Singapore, Malaysia and other countries.

Asian Monsters is a double, a Western-Eastern hybrid that has spawned something that new. And as much as I love folklore and mythology, I’m glad there is this creation, this monster still evolving as we evolve with it.

 

Asian Monsters : Eve Shi

In Which Doors Make A Great Analogy Tool

Eve Shi

In author interviews, one of the most frequent questions I receive is, “What got you interested in writing horror novels?”

Before December 2012, publishing horror novels—as in printed books that are available in Indonesian bookstores—was the furthest thing from my mind. My long fiction gravitates more toward fantasy and adventure. Then I heard that a certain publisher was going to accept horror novels for publication in 2013. For the record, the publisher is widely known for their romance novels, movie tie-ins, and gorgeous covers. I thought, why not? After all, it’s one of my favorite genres. So, during that December, I wrote a horror novel for the first time.

Since the novel is YA, my main concerns were—in no particular order—how to make the story scary, and how to depict relatable and fairly realistic teenage characters. (My own teenage days being a long, long way behind me) K-pop was extremely popular in 2012, so I peppered the story with K-pop references in the hope that it resonates with today’s teens. (Reading the novel, you could probably tell I had a casual interest in Super Junior)

The overall response to the novel seemed quite positive, considering I was an unknown. Since then, I’ve had four more novels published, not all of them of the supernatural bent. Thus, by challenging myself to write something I never had before, I opened a door of opportunity while expanding my writing repertoire.

I peeked through another door in 2015, when I dared myself to submit to paid English-language publications. That part of the publishing world had always seemed vast and intimidating to me (it still does). What’s the worst that can happen? I asked myself. Rejections, right? Okay, and maybe a bit of bruised pride.

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Unlike my novels, my short stories for English-language publications are based on local legends. Because why not use the opportunity to introduce Indonesian legends to a wider audience? Different medium, different purposes. For instance, what if those legendary figures are still alive today? What do they do, and do the events that once changed their lives still affect them? Exploring these themes was a new experience for me, and turned out to be a heap of fun.

In short, what got me interested in writing horror novels was an opportunity. Ditto about submitting to English-language publications, since many publications are open to the types of stories I enjoy writing. Walking through these doors has been eye-opening, and I’m ready to search for the next door.

Asian Monsters : Yukimi Ogawa

Our folklore monsters, yokai, are the way through which our ancestors tried to explain the aspects of the universe, otherwise unexplained at the time: mostly fear for the unknown. It’s dark, you want to reach the comfort of your home as soon as you can, but you find yourself unable to keep walking–if you feel something is trying to trip you, it might be a monster called sunekosuri, calf-rubber; if you feel as though something large is blocking your path, it might be nurikabe, the wall monster. 

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Image from _Konjaku Hyakki Shuui_. by Kokuri Babaa

Ghosts are categorized as yokai, too. People probably tried to explain *what happens* once you’re dead, by creating ghosts. Or perhaps tried to reconcile themselves with the fear for death, by imagining that something goes on after death of their body, even as monster.

Now, the main character of my story “Kokuri’s Palace,” Crone Kokuri (kuri means the temple’s kitchen, ko- is a prefix meaning old), I think, falls in this “explaining the unexplained” category, too. In our folklore she is an old woman living in an old temple. She strips corpses of their skins, eats the flesh, weaves stuff with the corpses’ hair. This is, I think, how people tried to see where corpses go after they are buried. By making her find the use for hair, they even explained how the hair lasted longer than the flesh, and what became of it.

The part about Kokuri wearing the corpses’ skin is entirely my creation. She is always depicted as a horrifying, grotesque kind of a monster, and I wanted to imagine her finding entertainment, even in her solitude. And I hope she wouldn’t mind my tampering with her nature–after I die, I’ll be burned down to bones, and will have nothing I can offer her.

Asian Monsters : Release Day

Hurrah! Welcome back to our continent by continent tour of the world of monsters! Discover something new and horrifying in the dark places and we put monsters back where they belong, lurking in the shadows of myth and tradition. So far we have visited Europe and Africa, and the books were accompanied with some fantastic blog posts by participating authors. 

This year we are visiting Asia and exploring monsters from many countries in stories and art.
Find Asian Monsters on Amazon.co.uk now!

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On Monday we begin a series of blog posts from the authors about monsters, both the sort in the book and the sort they deal with in life. 

Edited by Margret Helgadottir

Cover by Daniele Serra

A HUNDRED GHOSTS PARADE TONIGHT Xia Jia, translated by Ken Liu
GOOD HUNTING Ken Liu  
BLOOD LIKE WATER Eve Shi
BLOOD WOMEN Usman T. Malik
GOLDEN LILIES Aliette de Bodard
GRASS CRADLE, GLASS LULLABY Isabel Yap
UNRESTFUL Benjamin Chee
DATSUE-BA Eliza Chan 8
LET HER IN Eeleen Lee
THE POACHER OF QINGQIU CY Yan
ASWANG Fran Terminiello
THE VETALAS’ QUERY Sunil Patel
KOKURI’S PALACE Yukimi Ogawa
VIKURTHIMAGGA Vajra Chandrasekra, Art by Dave Johnson

Illustrations

A Hundred Ghosts Parade Tonight, Good Hunting, Kokuri’s Palace by Cindy Mochizuki
Blood Like Water, Blood Women, The Vetalas’ Query by Vincent Holland-Keen
Golden Lilies, Datsue-Ba, Let Her In by Kieran Walsh
Grass Cradle, Glass Lullaby, The Poacher of Qingqiu, Aswang by Imran Siddiq