5 by 5 · Malaysiana

5×5: Zen Cho

I’ve always been interested in what local publisher Buku Fixi have been releasing, but most of their books weren’t the sort that I normally read, until Zen Cho’s Spirits Abroad.

Spirits Abroad is really a collection of (mostly) previously published SFF short fiction. I loved that a lot of the stories were exactly the sort of thing I liked, perfectly blending the real world with folklore. And as a  MAJOR plus point, this time the folklore were the ones I’ve grown up with, because Zen Cho is also Malaysian. I really ought to write about the book in a different post, because I want to flail about all the stories. Earlier this year Buku Fixi released another anthology full of the sort of things I like in my SF, Cyberpunk: Malaysia, edited by Zen. This, too, I will write more about in a future post.

This month Zen released a novel, Sorcerer to the Crown, which I had included in my “2015 books I’m anticipating” lists here and on GR. I’m expecting it to be as awesome as – if very different from – Spirits Abroad. My copy just arrived yesterday, and I can’t wait to start reading!

Anyway, here are Zen’s top fives (and top 1 for one of the questions):

whiteboots1 uprooted AKitS Cover amanliesdreaming gokusen

Top 5 favourite childhood books

  • First Term at Malory Towers by Enid Blyton
  • White Boots by Noel Streatfeild
  • The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien
  • Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery
  • Villette by Charlotte Bronte

Top 5 fictional characters you’d love to meet

  • Death from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld
  • Temeraire from Naomi Novik’s Temeraire series
  • Stephen Maturin from Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey/Maturin series
  • Yankumi from the manga Gokusen by Morimoto Kozueko
  • Anne Shirley from L. M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables series

Top 5 fandoms you’re currently into

  • Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell (the Susanna Clarke novel and the BBC series)

Zen’s note: I can’t truthfully say I’m currently into any other fandoms! I’m a serial monogamist when it comes to fandoms.

Top 5 SFF books you read recently

  • Uprooted by Naomi Novik
  • Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie
  • A Man Lies Dreaming by Lavie Tidhar
  • Cyberpunk: Malaysia by various authors
  • A Killing in the Sun by Dilman Dila

Top 5 creatures/spirits from myth/folklore

  • Dragon
  • Pontianak
  • Qilin
  • Manananggal
  • The Monkey King, Sun Wukong (though a bit disrespectful to call him a creature)

Thank you very much, Zen, for answering these!

5 by 5

5 x 5: Seto Kit Sau

I remember the first words Kit said to me – or they may be just the first words I remember her saying to me – “have you read The Pinhoe Egg yet?” It surprised me because at the time I read mostly Asian Lit and fantasy war gaming books, and I didn’t think I talked about DWJ much. It was much later when I joined our store’s merchandising team and got to know her better.

Anyone at our store will tell you that Kit is a hard person to work with. I would agree, but I also think that is one of my favourite things about her – she’s passionate about her work, and is very good at it. She also does most of the buying at our store, covering picture books and children’s non-fiction, toys, lifestyle, graphic novels and music scores, among others. Before working at our store, she had worked at a library and a comic book shop, so she really is a know-it-all, and I mean that in the best way possible.

Because of this, I had given Kit pretty generic Top Fives to choose, and let her define the questions however she wanted.

Bone Cooked Seraphina Strange Tales of Liaozhai Mulan

Top Five Graphic Novels/Manga… that changed the way I saw/thought how comics should be

  • The Sandman by Neil Gaiman (and various illustrators)
  • Mermaid Saga by Rumiko Takahashi
  • Bone, Jeff Smith
  • Johnny the Homicidal Maniac by Jhonen Vasquez
  • A Contract With God by Will Eisner

Kit’s note: There are so many and I did not want to choose favourite ones as some are not available in English

Top Five Asian Books… that have contributed to my meager education on Chinese culture

  • Chronicle of Chinese Emperors
  • The Strange Tales of Liao Zhai by Pu Song Ling
  • Myths of China by T.Werner
  • Journey to the West (a graphic edition)
  • The Strange Cases of Magistrate Pao by Leon Comber

Kit’s note: Why? I’m not an expert. Yes, I’m Asian and sadly-uninformed-about-my-own-culture Chinese, and although much is being done to rectify it … I have not reached the end yet, nor seen the light.

Top Five Fantasy Worlds… I like to read about but don’t want to live in

  • Pellinor
  • Discworld
  • Old Kingdom and its environs
  • Middluns, the seven Kingdoms and its neighbours
  • Goredd

Kit’s note: This was getting pretty bad. I was clueless at this point … the best ones (have not read enough), the worse ones (have not read enough, plus if were bad, not worth reading).

Top Five Books I’d Recommend to Foodies… who need a little dose of reality

  • Cooked by Michael Pollan
  • Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer
  • A Bone to Pick by Mark Bittman
  • Grain of Truth by Stephen Yafa
  • The Coconut Oil Miracle by Bruce Fife

Kit’s note: Although I have been buying cookbooks for at least 5 years now, but I don’t own many across cuisines. Partly because I mostly like to eat Asian, and more importantly, the husband prefers. And recommending cookbooks means you recommend the ones which work and taste good. Hard. So, here’s my cop-out.

Top Five Stories About Girls Pretending to be Boys

  • Huang Rong, Legend of the Condor Heroes (any version, except original book as I have not read it)
  • Hua Mulan (both the Chinese TV serial played by Anita Yuen, and the film version by Vicki Zhao)
  • Leonie Saint Vire (These Old Shades, Georgette Heyer, book)
  • Go Eun-Chan (1st Shop of Coffee Prince, K-Drama)
  • Haruhi Fujioka (Ouran High School Host Club by Bisco Hatori, manga)

Kit’s note: The easiest one to do!!! No sweat, this one.

Also check out Kit’s interview with Malaysian picture book writer/illustrator Wen Dee Tan at Local, and Kit’s blog, Minding the Gaps in Between.

5 by 5

5×5: Daphne Lee

This started out from a random conversation with my friend Kit about book covers. Kit and I are both particular about book covers, and we both love lists – we had even started a tumblr once just for making Top Ten Lists, but then work just got too busy to continue making lists. Anyway, somehow after all that I thought of doing a simple monthly thing where I ask different people to make lists. And Daphne Lee gets to be the first victim.

Daphne is one of my favourite people, and one of the ones I know that reads widely. We don’t always agree on books, but I think that’s part of what makes conversations interesting. She’s an editor and writer and reviewer, and currently writes a column about local fiction. I asked Kit to describe her, and this is what Kit said: “Annoying. Assertive. Angsty. But also adorable, and ascerbic.”

Daphne’s Top 5 Book Covers 

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Continue reading “5×5: Daphne Lee”