Sneak peeks into Every Version of You. The usual year-end reflection. My year's stories, paired with recommended drinks and ~*vibes*~. And ahead to 2023!
I type this missive on a solo date to a cafeteria in Melbourne suburbia. I’ve treated myself to fancy pasta and a turmeric latte because I found out today that Every Version of You is on the Debut Fiction longlist for the Australian Indie Book Awards 2023 (whaaat!?). My hair is haphazardly dotted with bobby pins, my eyes are gritty and droopy, my belly is full of pesto sauce, my teeth are limned with orange grains, I feel a little delirious—it’s a semi-perfect moment, which is perfect. I can’t believe 2022 is coming to an end and it’s already time to send out a year-end newsletter.
In my last issue, I was revealing the cover for Every Version of You and preparing for release day. Now the book has been out for more than four months! It has accumulated a string of generous reviews! It has been spotted out in the wild—from Napier in regional New Zealand to an airport in Karratha, Western Australia! Apparently, this little story about virtual reality and replicating minds and falling in love and family is actually making people laugh and cry and think and feel.
Let’s start with my 2022 Round-Up and Awards Eligibility — with a twist!
I had a lot of fun pairing my stories for 2022 with ~*vibes*~ and recommended drinks. This year, I published 4 short stories, 1 novel, 1 story for Magic the Gathering, and 2 poems. I also published 2 non-fiction articles and did a few interviews and podcasts. You can check out the full list in this blog post.
A few sneak peeks into Every Version of You:
Various places I have edited this book: in my study, in a string of cafeterias, on a darkened plane surrounded by sleeping passengers, in a hotel room in Thailand, on a threadbare mattress in a bungalow in Ipoh, in my office at work (shhh…)
Supermatch (the dating algorithm that knows you better than you know yourself) pairs Tao-Yi and Navin with a 99.8 compatability rating. But Navin changes their first date: Supermatch recommends going canoeing on a virtual lake, but Navin suggests they meet in the physical world, at a diner in Fitzroy. In doing so, he introduces a new variable into the calculation. Unless, of course, Supermatch already predicted that Navin, whimsical and spontaneous at nineteen, would do so…
In my earlier drafts, Neuronetica-Somners (the corporation behind Gaia) conceals the fact that the original physical body is destroyed in the mind-uploading process. Tao-Yi’s journey to headquarters set this up as a big emotional reveal towards the end. But after a lot of pondering and feedback from friends (I got such a range of responses—from “oh shit the originals were killed!”, to “of course it would be that way”, to acceptance of the virtual self as continuous and equivalent), I decided to do a big reshuffle during the structural edits. In the final version, people know that the physical body needs to go; they just don’t think too hard about it—maybe because it’s not much fun to think about unpleasant, difficult things, maybe because two generations from now, people have more fluid concepts of the self. If your new, digital self has the same self-narrative, despite the interruption to the corporeal self, then surely it can be considered you, subjectively and objectively? After all, we exist only in the present moment, our identities dependent on the narratives we carry.
Every Version of You is truly out in the wild. Last week, I left a pristine copy with a special message in a tucked-away street library…something I’ve always wanted to do :’D
How does it feel to have the book published? my friends ask, and I never quite know how to answer.
Release day was exhilarating and surreal, observed from the quietude of my home. With days, reviews began to arrive. I was gobsmacked, buzzing, waving my phone in front of B’s face whenever I was tagged in something exciting.
But I was exhausted from adjusting to parenthood. Sleepless nights, circular days, the physicality of caring, the disorientating mix of unpredictability and tedium, everything strange and mundane and exquisite in the smallest moments. I had to fling expectations to the winds: expectations for the book (what shape it would take in readers’ minds), and expectations for myself (what shape I presented to an imagined audience). The debut could not look how I’d imagined, because I simply didn’t have the time or the energy. I let go of a book launch, and of doing a hundred and one things for publicity. I summoned the powers of adrenaline and excitement for the panels, interviews, podcasts, and book signings organised by my wonderful publicist.
Learning curves were steep (more like rugged slopes with precipitous drops, really). Speaking events have forced me to evolve. Letting go of how I’m perceived, focusing on discussing things that really matter to me…it’s a work in progress. I realised that I was often glossing over details due to worrying about spoilers or a lack of confidence, but I needn’t hold back—people want to hear a substantial discussion.
Cheesy as it sounds, I’m grateful for where this book has taken me. I’ve been able to grow as a person, speak at events, and meet other writers and artists and thinkers. It has been incredible to hear from readers who’ve enjoyed Every Version of You.
It has made me realise that publication day was not make-or-break, as I’d irrationally feared, but only the very beginning. I have hurled this little story into the tides of fate. It is no longer mine alone. It is a body, separate, moving with its own momentum, multiplying and mutating each time it touches another’s mind.
I’m reminded of something someone wise said…about how every piece of writing contributes to a writer’s cohesive body of work. My creations have always felt a little haphazard—trying my hand at this and that, straying across genre, fumbling with new forms. But I’m beginning to see that there are some themes to which I keep returning: personhood, otherness, duplication, minds, technology, love, and what it means to be human. It’s exciting to think that I’m writing the shape of a bigger oeuvre of work—one that will change with time, one that I’ll discover as I do the work.
Ahead to 2023
2023 will look different but just as exciting. I have a couple of releases slated:
Holy Revelations, a personal essay about Christian mythology, evangelical churches, and Asian Australian diaspora, appears in Unquiet Spirits: Essays by Asian Women in Horror. I’m truly honoured to be included in this anthology, which features twenty-one essays interweaving the spiritual and mythical with reflections on otherness, identity, duty, and power. It’s out in February 2023, and you can pre-order it here.
Death By Water, my scifi horror love story about a bionic archaeologist investigating a failed mission on the remote planet Orpheus, appears in From the Waste Land. This wide-ranging collection of speculative fiction tales inspired by TS Eliot’s poem is already available in paperback, and will be available in e-book and a limited edition signed hardcover in 2023. Find out more here.
The Devil’s Hair, a horror story about kids bargaining with a demon in Lysterfield Park, will appear in Where the Wild Things Are Vol. II, from Deadset Press.
And one of my favourite stories will be getting a dream-come-true reprint!!! I can’t wait to share more.
Finally, I’ll be doing a bit of travel next year and appearing at a few very exciting bookish events. I’ll announce these as soon as I’m able, so stay tuned!
In the meantime, I wish you a festive season filled with impromptu karaoke, toasted marshmallows, cheesecake, cookies, rainy days, overgrown gardens, getting lost on walks, portals to other worlds, the smell of pine trees, and absolutely no New Year’s resolutions.
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Will the hard copies of From the Waste Land be signed by you or someone else?