Editing Beyond the Non-Western World: Notes on a panel from ICFA44 in 2023

Screencap from Zoom with Oghenechovwe Donal Ekpeki, Cecilia Tan, Mimi Mondal, Neil Clarke, and Mary Anne Mohanraj
This morning was the ICFA panel on “Editing Beyond the Non-Western World,” which was intended to feature guest of honor Oghenechovwe Donal Ekpeki, as well as myself, Mary Anne Mohanraj, Neil Clarke, and moderator Mimi Mondal. As it has turned out, Oghenechovwe was detained when he traveled to the USA to attend the NAACP Image Awards and denied a visa for entry, meaning he could not attend ICFA, either. And I am missing the convention also, even though I’m currently only a 90-minute drive away, because I’m in the Tampa area where my father’s health is failing. (He was giving last rites in the hospital a few days ago when his doctors believed his expiration was imminent, so I cancelled my plans to go to Orlando, but now that he is home and having home hospice care, he seems to be holding up…! Thank you everyone for all your good wishes and prayers!)

Although the panel room had no WIFI, Mimi had the idea to try to bring us into the panel via Zoom using her own cellular data plan, and this effort was largely successful, but in many ways was a perfect metaphor for the difficulties of publishing writers from outside the USA or Great Britain. One common theme of the panel’s remarks was that there are systemic and logistical barriers to entry for writers from the non-Western world, including issues with currency conversion and difficulty of access to markets and source materials. And another theme was how often the only entities redressing the situation were individuals applying their own resources.
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Support BENT for LEATHER, Cecilia Tan’s short story collection

Banner image from the Kickstarter for Bent for Leather showing a pair of polished boots
Guess what I did? I launched a Kickstarter in the wee hours, hoping to be able to publish a collection of my queerest, kinkiest short stories in time for International Ms. Leather and Bootblack in April.

My previous short story collections have jumbled my kinky and vanilla erotica together, and have also mixed my heterosexual stories with my queer ones. BENT FOR LEATHER, the title I’ve chosen for this one, is specifically the stories that inhabit the particular queer corner of the leather bar in my soul where my lesbian, butch, and transmasculine characters hang out.

Over on the Kickstarter campaign page I’ve listed the table of contents, and I’ve described a bit more about my aspirations for this book… as well as why it took until I put this table of contents together to realize that my own relationship to my gender has always been one of my central themes. I feel like it’s only in the past 5-6 years that I really have been dealing with my “gender stuff,” but obviously, it’s been there all along.

The main thing I’d like to spend the Kickstarter money on is professional proofreading, design, and layout. If we exceed the initial goal, the stretch goal I’d really like to hit is the one that makes me write an all new story to add to the book. That would of course be the most fun of all!

Please help me spread the word if you are able to.

2023: The Year of Speeches

Speaking engagement plans for 2023 are shaping up:

  • March 15-18: ICFA, Orlando, FL
  • April 20-23: IMsLBB Piscataway, NJ
  • May 19-22: MISTI-Con 10th Anniversary, Laconia, NH
  • June 5: StoryStudio workshop online
  • July 5-9: SABR National Convention, Chicago
  • July 13-16: Readercon, Boston area
  • August 20-23: EFACon, Alexandria, VA

Okay, maybe it’s a bit of an exaggeration to call this The Year of Speeches, but it’s what it feels like. Yes, I’ve been a keynote speaker or guest of honor for a few conventions before, including HELIOsphere and the OutWrite festival. But this year there will be two really disparate ones that really frame my extremes:

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Duck Day 2022: Bistronomy

Now that I finally posted last year’s Duck Day notes and photos, I can do this year’s, which had the theme of “Bistronomy.” This year’s meal had the constraint on it that we were going to be in Singapore for the TwoSet Violin concert and wouldn’t get back until basically 6 days before Thanksgiving — functionally 5 days since jet lag wiped out an entire day — and normally we would have to start more than a week in advance to both source all the ingredients and do other prep of pickling, growing sprouts or herbs, etc etc. So we knew we had to keep ourselves from getting too ambitious, and we wouldn’t have time to run test recipes.

As it turns out, we’ve got so much stuff in our larders and already in process, though, and have stockpiled so many cooking techniques over the past several years, that we could pull it off in 5 days without straining ourselves too badly.

This year’s meal was highly influenced by last year’s trip to Paris. (The trip to Singapore was of course also an influence but there’s no way we were going to come home and try to work out Peranakan cuisine in 5 days, so it’s only there in a few spots.) In addition to the fancy ADMO dinner, we also managed to eat at Septime, one of the leading restaurants in the “bistronomy” movement. If you are from the Boston area you might have eaten at Journeyman, which was also a very bistronomic place. The Green Goddess in New Orleans was another notable US entry to this type of restaurant, and my fave is Edison Food Lab, Jeanie Pierola’s original place in Tampa (still there!).

“Bistronomy” was coined when various chefs, trained in the usual French haute cuisine style, found themselves not wanting to spend seven figures on tableware and having to have a huge staff needed for the typical fancy restaurant, and instead preparing a hyperlocal, constantly changing menu in more casual settings. (I’d almost call it “food forward” if it weren’t ludicrous to imply that stuffier, more traditional restaurants were not somehow also about the food…?)

Among the hallmarks of bistronomy: pickling your own stuff in house, growing your own herbs (since you are a small place and not trying to do 200+ covers a night…), inventive “outside the box” fusion…. heeyyyyyy, does this not sound like the way corwin and I cook and eat all the time?? A second theme emerged, though, which was basically: reuse – recycle – repurpose.

So he bought the Bistronomy book by Jane Sigel (get it on Bookshop, Amazon, Indie boosktores) just to look at recipes and read up on the history a bit more, and we planned our menu while jaunting around Singapore. (I think we were at the Michelin-starred restaurant Meta, which is deeply Korean while at the same time being very much in the French tradition of fine dining, when we came up with most of the menu.)
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Duck Day 2021 (last year’s food porn, finally posted!)

grid of photos from my phone, showing mostly various iterations of the ampersand shaped cookie, but a few of corwin prepping duck with the cleaver

grid of photos from my phone, showing mostly various iterations of the ampersand shaped cookie, but a few of corwin prepping duck with the cleaver
Apparently, I never got around to posting last year’s Duck Day compilation of photos and recipes…? So I’m quickly trying to put it together now before I post the 2022 ones…!

Since there was no Duck Day in 2020 because of the pandemic, we decided our theme for 2021 would be “Togetherness” expressed as menu items that included an Ampersand (&). But it being us, some things were not as simple as their names might imply:

Bacon & Eggs
Bread & Butter
Spaghetti & Meatballs
Soup & Sandwich
Milk & Honey
Salt & Pepper
Cookies & Cream
Peanut Butter & Jelly

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Paris: ADMO: December 2021

So, corwin and I went to Paris (yes, France) in December 2021, to celebrate our 30th anniversary and also to celebrate our latest booster shots and go somewhere that still had COVID regulations in place that made sense to us. (Of course we know so much more now about re-infection and all, but this post is not about that.) At the time I posted a long twitter thread with lots of photos but who knows if Twitter is even going to be around or functional soon, so I’m reposting here, with some tweaks for blog format:

So, the big thing that got us out of our semi-quarantine and all the way to Paris was some friends invited us to join them for what promised to be a stellar meal, a tasting menu worthy of corwin and my 30th anniversary. So, yes, here is a food porn thread!

It’s my first time in Paris, and we had been here a few days already before the night of the big dinner, but hadn’t made it over toward the Eiffel Tower yet. We took the Metro from our hotel in the 11th arrondissement and came up to a stunning view.

corwin and ctan with the Eiffel Tower on a moonlit night

The Eiffel Tower at night, across a moonlit river Seine, is pretty hard to beat. Our destination was just across the water, where a couple of the world’s most decorated chefs have set up for 100 nights. You can’t really call that a “pop up,” can you?

Alain Ducasse, the current leader in most Michelin stars, Albert Adria, of el Bulli fame, and some of their associates, collaborated on this unique gastronomical effort and they dubbed it ADMO and situated it in the Musee du Jacques Chirac.

I’d love to talk about nothing but the food, but really it’s not possible to discuss the meal or ADMO without the context, and that context is COVID and the tremendous impact on the restaurant industry, on travel, on the food supply, and on how people gather.

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Why I went all the way to Singapore to see two guys play violin

Okay, I have a lot of thoughts about TwoSet Violin, and they’re not all going to fit in one blog post. But this is my personal blog where I write about whatever I want, so here goes. You want to know why I went all the way to Singapore to see two guys who play violin? Keep reading.

If you don’t already know TwoSet, my recommendation is to watch a couple of their videos before you read this as it’ll all make more sense if you do. (Here’s a typical one, here’s a “reactions” one , and a “games” one.) If you’re already a TwoSetter and you’re here to bask in the afterglow of the #TwoSet4Mil experience, welcome.

Explain TwoSet in under twenty words:
Two talented violinists inspiring a new generation of classical music fans by being totally genuine goofballs on the Internet.

Explain TwoSet in under 100 words:
Two Asian kids growing up in Australia fell in love with playing violin, decided to go to music school (instead of med school), got actual orchestra jobs, then quit those jobs to devote themselves to their YouTube channel. Described as “classical comedy,” the channel is much more than that. Yes, there are funny skits about orchestra life, hilarious violin-based games, and “reaction”/roasting videos. But the channel is also about Brett and Eddy’s personal journeys and their relationship to classical music itself. And that’s the core that ties together all that with events like #TwoSet4Mil.

So… What’s #TwoSet4Mil?
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“Sacred Heart” erotic magic story video reading by Cecilia Tan

I’m writing this post from Orlando, Florida, where I attended ICFA 43 (Int’l Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts). ICFA is always great: a mix of sf/f writers with academics and students presenting their papers on various sf/fantasy and sff-adjacent topics like games and gaming, or the immersive fantasies of theme-park design, or connections between gothic literature and gothic subcultures.

One of the program items is sf/f writers reading their work. I opted to do a reading rather than speak on a panel this year, but I was undecided what story I should read. When I was packing for the con I was waffling about this one, entitled “Sacred Heart.” The story appeared in the Unfettered Hexes anthology (edited by Dave Ring, Neon Hemlock Press, buy it from Bookshop.org, Amazon, or your local indie bookstore) which was published for Halloween in October 2021.

This was, without a doubt, one of the short stories I wrote while procrastinating from working on my novel. But it was one of those ones where I sat down at the keyboard with a blank word processor document and it just poured out. Dave, the editor, only had a few small suggestions to make. It’s so rare when something just crystallizes like that, where it’s like you kind of see the entire thing right from the start. When I write stories like that, it’s like I see the first sentence or the first paragraph but that little piece is a fractal which contains the whole, and as I write through the story, more and more of it reveals itself, but it was all there right from the start.

But, still, two days before the con my internal censor was yapping at me: this story is kinda weird, isn’t it too weird? Maybe it isn’t that good. Maybe you should find something else, or write something newer, or… or… or…

Well, I read it, and people REALLY LIKED IT. Continue reading →

My 2021 Lockdown /Snow Day To-Do List

What’s a work-a-holic to do when the To Do list is neverending and winter is looming? Make a new To Do list of “not work” things to do, that’s what.

The truth of the matter is that it’s unlikely that my state or city will be going back into any form of lockdown this winter. But if we have a surge in COVID infections like last winter, especially of a variant that breaks through vaccinations, that could mean my household will decide to self-quarantine. Or there’s the possibility that extreme weather will visit us this winter in the form of heaps of snow and we’ll be snowed in. I’m almost hoping that happens a couple of times. Remember snow days as kids? A day off from school to stay in, play games, and read books while sipping cocoa? I could use the break, to be honest…

And if we end up back in some kind of quarantine, that’s the energy I want to take into it this time. Cozy time. So I’m daydreaming on what I’ll do. (Yeah, yeah, I know I’ll still probably work-work-work. But let’s dream a little, okay?)
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Cover Reveal: *Flesh Fiction* (delicious flash fiction!)

And here it is! The cover reveal for the new project I’m part of, put together by Mara White and Suanne Laqueur, FLESH FICTION.

If you’ve read my stories in books like The Big Book of Orgasms: 69 Sexy Stories and Gotta Have It: 69 Stories of Sudden Sex, then you’re already familiar with the “quickie” format of erotic flash fiction, where the idea is to leave the reader sopping and breathless in a story that is only a few pages long.

This one brings together some of the hottest names in spicy romance, including LaQuette, Satin Russell, JR Gray, Kat Savage, and also a bunch of writers I haven’t had the pleasure to read before… but I will now!

Here’s a teaser sentence from my story, which is entitled “Art in Oils”:

Oil paints are so much better than watercolors for showing a sheen of sweat, for capturing that gravid droplet of arousal fattening at the engorged slit. My own thirsty tongue searches my lip.

FLESH FICTION is available for pre-order now on the following sites. It releases October 5! Continue reading →