Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Full Steam Ahead: Catching up with J. Damask

A while back, we did an interview with author J. Damask aka Joyce Chng, for Asian American Press and I've kept in regular touch with her since because of her insight and perspective on science fiction and fantasy in Singapore and Asia, particularly from a Steampunk perspective. 

Her writing is always lively and intriguing and she's finishing up the final stages of getting the Southeast Asian steampunk anthology The SEA is Ours out with her co-editor, Jaymee Goh of Silver Goggles fame. The SEA is Ours will be coming out this Fall from Rosarium Publishing. I had a chance to catch up with her recently about her other upcoming projects and other ideas that have been on her mind lately!

You always have so many projects going on at once. What are your top  three at the moment you're really excited about?

Aww, thank you.
1. The SEA is Ours
2. Dragon Dancer (a picturebook about a boy and a dragon)
3. Something I have been working – shhh, it’s a secret...

What are some of the things you've learned while editing "The SEA Is Ours?"

That working with a like-minded and passionate co-editor (Jaymee!) is awesome. That we really have talented people from Southeast Asia.  That bringing together this group of talented people is a journey of its own.

"The SEA Is Ours" is a really ambitious project! How did you get  involved in the first place, and what are some of your hopes for it  once it's released?

Jaymee and I have been talking for a long time about a publication by Southeast Asians for Southeast Asians. We tossed around ideas – and finally, we had a brainflash to start something on Southeast Asian steampunk. We both love steampunk and would want to see stuff from Southeast Asian writers.

In your novels, you're often working with some interesting themes of  family and transformation. What are some of the directions you're  thinking of taking for your characters next?

I am still in the middle of planning. I am not sure if I want to write more in the Jan Xu Adventures world (including Gabriel Sutherland’s story – I still need to go back to his story and write more. Now if I have more time!)

Likewise for my werewolves-in-space space opera: there is a sequel, but I have to work on it. Definitely issues that the main characters have to face, carpets being pulled under their feet etc etc.

As a writer, what are some of the current concerns you have about the 
way we're discussing diversity in world literature?

Oh, yes, that.

As a writer, I feel that the diversity push in the States is different than the concerns faced by writers of different non-US countries. For example, Southeast Asia is already diverse and the key issue is visibility (at least, in places like the States and the United Kingdom). At the same time, market needs (let’s be serious, publishing) are also different. So, the key thing is to have the markets meet (or least, agree on common grounds)

World literature is diverse and in order to walk the talk, we need to include things like translators and translations, because many of the diverse works are not in English and not all writers are Anglophones. Indeed, even for SFF writers writing in English, they have their first languages or mother tongues

What's your advice for a beginner who is interested in getting  involved with writing?

Write. Write even more Do not give up Find like-minded friends and mentors who will inspire you.

What are some of the things you think are overused in Steampunk  literature? Where are there areas where you feel we can go next after  "The SEA Is Ours"?

Gears. Steam. Gears

The worlds we see in The SEA Is Ours open up endless possibilities. We have skywhales. We have trains. We have volcanoes. We have people from parts of Southeast Asia doing funky and creative things!

I would like writers to look at their landscapes. In Southeast Asia, we have the Ring of Fire. We do not have seasons like the Northern Hemisphere. Instead we have monsoons, typhoons and hurricanes. Even the energy resources are not just steam-related, but solar, wind, thermal etc!

Who are some of the voices in Steampunk that are really exciting you today?

Jaymee GohSuna Dasi and Dru Pagliassotti.

Who do you consider some of your biggest role models as a writer?

Kari Sperring, Judith Tarr, Han May and BingXin.

Travel often figures heavily in Steampunk literature. If you could travel anywhere in the world like "Around the World in 80 Days," today, what would be some personal 'Must-Sees' for you?

Petra, Jordan, The Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey. Egypt, especially Cairo. Russia. The Grand Canyon in the United States. My ancestral home in Fujian, China.

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