Okay, let’s start things off a little differently this time.
Since we're all talking about race, there's something I wanna get off my chest, something that other people have already articulated, but I think bears repeating.
In America, systemic racism perpetuated by white supremacists results in death and overall harm visited upon black communities, as well as other minorities.
But systemic racism is not just perpetuated by Caucasians in every country. Singapore's majority race is Chinese, and while this hasn't directly resulted in the deaths of Malays, Indians and Eurasians, harm has still been visited upon these communities in other ways.
Those brownface ads are just the most public example, but it's everday interactions that really hurt. The most common are these "harmless" racist jokes we all share. Now, I'm guilty of espousing this inaccurate idea that this makes us equal. Malays make fun of Chinese, Eurasians make fun of Indians, and so on and so on. Fair is fair, right?
But, while the harm within those jokes might generally be equal, within the greater context of our society's dynamics, the effects change. An Indian woman who faces jokes from other races, for example, also has to deal with the fact that she doesn't see herself represented as well on Channel 5 as her Chinese friend. A Malay guy has to laugh off jokes from other races, while also dealing with broader stereotypes associated with his religion.
Imagine a lifetime of that. Now, imagine being told that you're being "too sensitive" if you're hurt by this.
I understand that the notion of Chinese Privilege rubs Chinese people the wrong way. But Chinese Privilege isn't just about Chinese people. It's about how this system has been disproportionately set up to the benefit of some over others.
I'm a straight dude with a white-sounding name. I'm less affected by this than other people, like women in general, women of colour specifically, or openly LGBTQ+ people. But I spent the first thirty or so years of my life hating the colour of my skin, and that's affected my self-esteem and my confidence.
Now, imagine how much worse it is for others.
My point is, when you use or see the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter, yes, absolutely, have the lives of African-Americans at the front of your thoughts. Their struggle is urgent and immediate. But also, think about what the idea of #BlackLivesMatter represents within the context of Singapore or your own country. Think about the shit that our own minorities face and how much we feel that their lives matter.
And now, back to our regularly scheduled newsletter.
Buy my books
TALES FROM A TINY ROOM: a short genre fiction collection.
MR MEMPHIS: a supernatural wuxia/ western comic.
It was the first anniversary of TALES FROM A TINY ROOM’s expanded edition on 24 May, so let’s take a stroll down memory lane from around this time last year.
Clockwise from the top, we’ve got my panel at Books Kinokuniya with O Thiam Chin, Clara Chow and Meihan Boey; myself with Carlo Pena from the Singapore Book Council at the launch of the expanded edition at BooksActually; and Kieron Gillen hugging his copy, thanks to Derek Des Anges.
And, no, I don’t plan to re-visit the bald look again any time soon. It is decidedly Not Me.
A spirited return
You’ll notice, at the end of our latest and ninth episode, that Sing Lit Station gets a special mention. That’s because this episode and the next five were made possible thanks to their generous HALP Fund, which was created “to support literary arts practitioners.”
It feels truly wonderful to get this type of support from an organisation built by writers for writers—the kind of support that allows me to actually devote full days to work on GHOST MAPS without worrying about getting other, paying jobs to make up for those days.
Toe-tally out of commission ha ha ha fuck ow
I was pretty much bed-ridden for all of last week with what was my worst gout flare-up ever. Did you know that Rice Krispies contain soy? Well, they do, so fuck you, Snap, Crackle and Pop.
As such, a couple of projects that I’d hoped to get done by now are still being worked on. This includes a digital appearance I’m recording for probably July, as well as new scripts for GHOST MAPS. Plus, I was also planning to give PROJECT: MANSIONETTE another look, but it’s a bit hard to appropriately edit my own work when I want to chop off my fucking toe.
I’d like to get most of these cleared soon, hopefully by this week, so that I can take it easier next weekend for my birthday. (My brother got me a sweet Creative Technologies sound system that I spent a whole afternoon setting up with my record player, laptop and TV. I’ve pretty much turned into my dad.)
The 2020 book shelf
I spent May slowly catching up on my reading. Not as much as I’d like, but it’s something.
With the exception of Pattern Recognition and his non-fiction collection, Distrust That Particular Flavor, none of Gibson’s post-Neuromancer books have stood out for me. I’ve enjoyed them just fine while reading them, but I wouldn’t exactly rank them as favourites.
Agency certainly isn’t earning a special spot on the bookshelf in my heart either. That said, I don’t know if it’s because I was more open to this world than when I read The Peripheral—or whether it’s because the main character feels more likeable and has a quirky trait akin to Cayce Pollard’s—but I’ve definitely been enjoying it more than most of his other books.
(I don’t disagree that reading The Peripheral is essential before jumping into Agency, but I haven’t read The Peripheral since it first came out and I can barely remember the plot, let alone the characters, and that hasn’t really affected my appreciation of Agency.)
(Fun fact: I actually have a line from Pattern Recognition tattooed on my arm.)
I’ve written a review of The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates. I normally reserve my IG book reviews for Math Paper Press titles, and I’d finished The Water Dancer back in January, but I figure we could all use a bit of black excellence right now. Also, it’s an amazing book.
I’m also continuing a little comic-reading project that I’ve not been able to devote time to since late last year.
Basically, I re-read huge chunks of comics and write about them. I did a whole series on Amazing Spider-Man a while back, and I’ve been slowly working my way through my Batman comics. After that, as requested by Meihan Boey, I’ll be tackling a couple of X-Men runs.
It is probably me at my dorkiest, so if that’s your thing, do check it out.
A lot of this edition was written before this week and, quite frankly, I’ve not been in the right mood to add much more to it. I’m usually pretty good at finding my own peace amidst the chaos, but I think if you’ve got a shred of empathy, even the smallest glimpse at the world outside is going to make you feel terrible.
That said, I want to end this edition on a couple of positive notes. First, I’d like to say a little something to a very special someone.
In my brightest days and my darkest hours, she has always been a beacon of happiness and hope. She constantly makes me want to be a better person, if for no other reason than to be worthy of her love. Happy Birthday, Nadia.
And secondly, if you want to support #BlackLivesMatters, but are on a tight budget, watch this video and don’t skip through the ads.
100% of the advertisement revenue this video makes through AdSense will be donated to the associations that offer protester bail funds, help pay for family funerals, and advocacy listed in the beginning of the video.
One more time, here’s where you can buy my books.
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See you at the end of the month and take care, everyone.