Tag: vietnam

“The Moon Over Red Trees” up at Beneath Ceaseless Skies


My colonial Indochina story “The Moon over Red Trees” is up at Beneath Ceaseless Skies: you can read it here. This is something of a departure for me: I haven’t done historical fantasy in a while, especially not in that time period. Would be very happy to hear what you think.

I’ve updated the story page of “The Moon Over Red Trees” with copious author notes: go here, though they’re spoiler-filled and better read after the story.

Links aka Aliette on the web


Briefly emerging from my winter sleep, aka “full-time care of the snakelet while holding a day job and writing a novel/novella ™”, to point out a couple of places I’ve been this week:
-Roundtable on fantastical creatures at The Book Smugglers, with Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Shveta Thakrar, Octavia Cade, Marie Brennan, Whiti Hereaka, Rochita Loenen-Ruiz, E.C. Myers, Benjanun Sriduangkaew, Bogi Takács, Joyce Chng and me: part 1, part 2. I talk dragons (rồng) and turtles (rủa) in myths!
-My Beneath Ceaseless Skies Aztec steampunk story “Memories in Bronze, Feathers and Blood” is re-released as part of the Audio Vault, with a new introduction by me on the genesis and worldbuilding of the story: listen here.
-Still at Beneath Ceaseless Skies, the new issue, available at Weightless Books and Amazon, contains my colonial Indochina fantasy “The Moon over Red Trees”, as well as fiction by Richard Parks, K.J Parker (OMG I’m sharing a TOC with K.J. Parker!), and Gwendolyn Clare

Sale: “Days of the War, as Red as Blood, as Dark as Bile” to Subterranean Online


Hum, so, that story about the phoenix?

I’ve sold it to Subterranean Online for a future issue. Many thanks to Yanni Kuznia for the invitation, and to Gareth L Powell and Rochita Loenen-Ruiz for the feedback (extra thanks to Rochita for putting up with my total absence of a brain). It’s set in the Xuya continuity, some time after On a Red Station, Drifting (and even has a returning minor character from that novel). Features mindships (of course), the Four Saintly Beasts, and the Vietnamese concept of “duyên” (wonderfully economical concept, a headache to translate into English though!). Also, I actually wrote this while feeding the snakelet nonstop, which is probably worth a zillion achievement points all by itself…

A few disjointed thoughts on other cultures and diversity in SFF


A few disjointed thoughts on other cultures and diversity in SFF

This is a collection of stuff I’ve already said elsewhere or on this blog, but for what it’s worth… The usual disclaimer applies: these are my personal opinions and my personal experience (I know not everyone has the same opinions and I certainly don’t pretend to speak for everyone!). I also don’t pretend to have easy solutions for everything I mention here (and God knows I made some of those mistakes myself, and will continue making them, but hopefully I’ll improve on that front as time goes by); but I think it’s better to know all this stuff and then decide how to handle it rather than go on being blissfully unaware of it.

Warning: this is me in ranty mode, not helped by the 3 hours of sleep I got over the past few days (yup, I know that I volunteered for that whole sleepless thing. But doesn’t change much to how I feel…)
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Today’s amusing cookbook


A guide purporting to be an encyclopaedia of Asian ingredients. Under fish sauce, it recommends the Tiparos and Squid brands as being the best ones. Maybe, if you’re doing Thai cooking? They’re both Thai fish sauces, and for Vietnamese dishes I have to admit I’ve never found them to be much use (the book doesn’t go into the fact that there are huge regional variations on fish sauces, which is odd because it specifies this for soy sauces…).
Bonus points: under “typical dishes”, it lists “larb (Vietnam, Thailand)”. I have no idea about Thailand, but larb sure as heck isn’t a typical Vietnamese dish (in fact, I had to look it up on the Internet, and Wikipedia tends to suggest it’s a Lao dish. Way to go on mixing up all the countries of the Indochinese peninsula, guys).

On political and value neutral


Expanded from my twitter feed, because I feel it bears repeating.


I’ve been seeing a lot of gender-focused work described as “political”, with a strong negative connotation to the term political–it seems what is meant by “political” isn’t really “relating to the public affairs of one country”, but rather “involved, committed, with a message”. Which in turn is rather puzzling when you think on it–if a work isn’t involved [1], doesn’t have anything to say, then should we still be reading it? And are there really works that don’t have anything to say?

Even “escapist” literature or Hollywood movies have a strong underlying message and promote equally strong assumptions (on the value of escapism, on cultural dominance, etc. I could dissect lowbrow Hollywood movies but don’t have the energy here–maybe for next time!).

I remain puzzled by the assumption that some literature can be value-neutral, as if that were ever possible. It is not. Every single piece of literature/art is embedded in the culture/sub-culture that gave rise to it. I’m not doing cultural existentialism here–it’s not *because* something was produced in, say, France, that it will have X and Y and Z; but something produced in France by a French writer will be infused with *some* degree of French cultural background; same for US productions, etc. Every single piece of literature bears the assumptions and the worldview of its creator, who in turn bears the assumptions of the culture they’re part of  (and, to some extent, the work bears the assumptions of its reader, who might interpret it through different filters than the creator).

There is no such thing as meaningless fluff, because even the “shallowest” of fluffs carries an implicit value of what makes fluff; of what doesn’t challenge the majority of readers; of what kinds of escapism are efficient and “don’t engage the brain” [2]. For instance, going off on adventures away from one’ s family, saving the world and getting the girl might be the majority idea of what constitutes escapism in Western society; it will hardly be the case everywhere. Escapism in ancient/modern Vietnam [3], for instance, has a greater chance of focusing on saving one’s community and one’s elders, and romantic attachments have much less of a place, or at least there’s much less imbalance between those and the other kinds of attachments. (don’t want to do broad sweeping cultural generalisations, but I’d argue that in a system of Confucian-derived values, there is a much larger weight on fraternal/friendship bonds than on romantic love, and yet a larger weight on elder/younger family bonds than on any of these. Works produced *within* that kind of society which challenge those norms tend to do so in a specific and characteristic manner, for instance by elevating bonds of friendship over all other ones; just as mainstream Western works tend to challenge traditional Christian values in specific ways).

Coming back to “gender-focused” work, I think we see the same fallacy: the definition tends to be applied to anything with a cast composed mostly of women. On the one hand, I appreciate the need to qualify stories that challenge the status quo; on the other, there’s something… sticky about the lack of balance there: stories that have an all-male cast are equally gender-focused and promote the patriarchy to an even larger extent than female-focused stories (because it’s much easier to promote the status quo), and not applying this term to them fails to challenge the notion that culturally dominant stories are somehow value-neutral and “invisible”. And I find that bothersome: if we can’t recognise our own set of dominant tropes and how everything is geared to accommodate them, to produce them and to propagate them, then being in a position to recognise there is an (unequal) status quo and being able to challenge it are just going to be that much more difficult. It’s like the air you breathe: that you don’t think of it doesn’t mean it’s not there and doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a *huge* influence on you.

Very disorderly thoughts; I apologise for the mess. But I just wanted to put them out there, because “not involved” seems like a dangerous fallacy to me. Do I make sense?

[1] I know that to some extent this is about the “forcefulness” of said work and how vigorously it tries to get its point across; but that strikes me as the beginning of a slippery slope that looks a lot like the tone argument (anything people don’t want to hear gets tagged as “too vehement”). Hard to know when to draw lines; and I don’t pretend to have easy answers; just putting (rather obvious!) thoughts out there…

[2] Think for a moment on what  “doesn’t engage the brain” implies, and you’ll realise that a necessary prerequite for this is “doesn’t challenge my deeply-held beliefs/doesn’t challenge the majority view I’m used to”.  I’m religious, so anything that is actively hostile to spirituality has a much larger wall to leap in my hindbrain; but this is partly offset by the fact that the (French) society I move is largely atheist, and that I’m thus inured to negative portrayals of religion.

[3]  Bit of a tricky thing to separate influences, as Western culture is so ubiquitous even in modern (and colonial) Vietnam that it has started to bleed quite significantly into the culture/erase non-compliant bits of it. And again, general trends rather than specifics; I don’t want to do cultural existensialism, but equally cultural specifities shouldn’t be casually swept under the rug under cover of “we’re all the same deep down”.

Fun with cha gio (fried rolls) and a Philips Airfryer


Fried rolls

Fried rolls

So… this weekend’s cooking experiments saw me invading the kitchen of my in-laws and making chả giò (fried rolls). It’s actually a lot more fun to have victims, er, helping hands I mean, to take on some of the work involved in making the rolls. Making the stuffing and wrapping the rolls is about 90% of the work, and for me alone it’s usually a good half-day’s work. Here we made short work of the 30+ rolls in under 2 hours; I understand now why making this (and making dumplings) is a communal activity!

We also got to try out my in-laws’ Philips Airfryer, which deep-fries food with a minimal amount of oil: in this case, the H kindly brushed all the rolls with frying oil (which was some work :p), and we then studied the problem of how to adapt the recipe to an Airfryer. First attempt was dumping rolls in the Airfryer basket and cooking them at 200°C for 20 minutes, flipping them once during cooking. This proved effective but time-consuming: the basket could only take 6 or so rolls, and 20 minutes is a long time when you’re already hungry. We then switched to an intermediate method: cook the rolls in a 200°C-oven for 20 minutes, until they just start to turn golden. Then dump them 6 by 6 in the Airfryer basket, and cook them at 200°C for 4 minutes on each side. Much, much more effective.

The final result doesn’t *quite* look like it’s been deep-fried, but I have to say it’s not too shabby, and the rolls tasted great!

(also, the H now wants us to do dumplings in the Airfryer. I think he enjoyed the entire thing a bit too much :p)