2022 #2: Every Version of You
Cover reveal, a live reading, and personal musings about why I wrote this book :')
ALT TEXT: A book cover in dark blue and black shades. The title 'EVERY VERSION OF YOU' is at the top in futuristic, blocky font. The middle of the cover has a sketch of a bald, Asian woman dissolving into dots. At the bottom, 'Grace Chan'. In smaller text below, the endorsement: '"Asks what it is to be human. Visceral, mind-bending and tender." Inga Simpson.’
I, uh, can’t believe I get to say this: here’s the cover of my debut novel!!! I’m completely swept away. Everything from the formless blue and black background, to Tao-Yi’s fragmenting face, to the font choice perfectly captures the spirit of my story. And to top it all off, the dissolving dots will be done in HOLOGRAPHIC FOIL. That’s right, peeps. It’s going to be GLITTERY.
I think it’s incredibly cool that Rachel Ang was commissioned to illustrate the cover. Not only is she a fellow Jacinta di Mase Management artist, but I’ve long admired her work for its sharp, honest, and yet tender tackling of themes like bodies, technology, trauma, healing, and creativity.
Here’s the blurb for Every Version of You:
In late twenty-first century Australia, Tao-Yi and her partner Navin spend most of their time inside a hyper-immersive, hyper-consumerist virtual reality called Gaia. They log on, go to work, socialise, and even eat in this digital utopia. Meanwhile their aging bodies lie suspended in pods inside cramped apartments. Across the city, in the abandoned ‘real’ world, Tao-Yi’s mother remains stubbornly offline, preferring instead to indulge in memories of her life in Malaysia.
When a new technology is developed to permanently upload a human brain to Gaia, Tao-Yi must decide what is most important: a digital future, or an authentic past.
A story about virtual reality, identity, love, migration, change, and what it means to be human. Never Let Me Go meets Black Mirror, with a dash of Murakami surrealism thrown in, this is speculative literary fiction at its best.
If you like the sound of that, can read an extract from Chapter 1 for free.
Every Version of You will be released in Australia on 26 July 2022 in print and e-book.
Pre-Order Links (but I encourage you to enquire and order at your local bookstore, if you can!):
The Next Big Thing: As the World Turns
I’m doing a reading! Live! With a bunch of very talented writers like Leah Jing McIntosh, Pirooz Jafari, Else Fitzgerald, and Denice Dabu! You can listen to them (and me!) and grab a drink and a nibble and a copy of Every Version of You, too, if you like!
The Moat, 176 Little Lonsdale Street Melbourne
Monday, 1 Aug 2022
Tickets are required, pay-what-you-can: https://www.wheelercentre.com/events/as-the-world-turns/
Why Did I Write This Book, Really?
As publication date nears, my brain circles back around to how this book started. I feel like it’s almost impossible to answer the question of why I wrote Every Version of You. In some ways, it feels like the idea seeded in my mind of its own accord, grew, cocooned, turned to mush, and reformed into a new beast, with very little oversight. It’s odd to voice such a thought, almost as though I’m humble-bragging or brushing my hands of ownership. But it’s not like that—I think I’m saying that the story and its characters had a life of their own. Even though I had the grand sketch of the tale in my head, I was definitely figuring out what I was trying to write (the deeper stories, I mean) as I wrote and rewrote.
I remember lying on the floor of my study (don’t ask—sometimes I assume odd positions) back in 2018, scribbling in a notebook. Two people who love each other deeply, but are torn in different directions when technology transforms them. How do you keep loving someone, when they change and change into so many different versions of themselves throughout their lives, and when you, also, change? Is there a point at which the new person is completely different, disconnected, discontinuous from the old? What if I made that discontinuity literal and physical, in the form of mind uploading?
At the time, I was thinking and feeling a lot about relationships—familial, platonic, romantic—and the way we come into them, pass through them, and leave them behind. I was experiencing a sort of uneasy melancholy about how we touch and change one another’s lives, like molecules bumping together, exchanging energy, and then part and move on, often never to meet again. I mean, how many times do you know that it’s the last time you’ll ever see someone?
The process of drafting Every Version of You helped me to turn my uneasy melancholy into perhaps a serene melancholy. There’s a personal philosophy underlying the book: of all events, all relationships, no matter how transient, being immortal and undying in some way, simply for having happened.
So although there are a lot of feelings in the book—about love, change, loss, diasporic identity, technology, the mind-body relationship, virtual reality—perhaps that is the core of the story, and the best answer I can provide as to why.
I hope you find something in the book for you.
Next newsletter, I hope to update with more about Every Version of You, and—hopefully—a bit of poetry!
Until then, I hope you stay warm, well-sugared, and surrounded by cushions and reading material—