On May 5, 2018, I pitched my short story collection at the Publishing Industry Day at The Free Word Center in London. Feedback on the below spiel was received positively all around:
I am a Mandarin interpreter by trade, and my short story collection “The Naked Wedding” is set in China. Specifically, in the southern metropolis of Shenzhen.
While Beijing and Shanghai have long been major cities, Shenzhen was a cluster of fishing villages until a generation ago.
It is the unsung epicentre of the world economy, a city that boasts at least five downtown areas with skylines that put Bladerunner to shame. It has the headquarters of seven Fortune 500 companies but most of my characters experience poverty that will leave readers in no doubt that China is still a third-world country. Shenzhen is where the Foxconn suicides took place.
I also write about the rulers of this city, who have moved from the barnyard to the boardroom so fast, they have not had time to shed the manners along the way. It is the 21st century’s Wild West.
One story, already published by Fabula Argentea, is about a Foxconn worker who is reincarnated as an iPhone. The villain of this story is the phone’s owner, a guy named Kevin, who spends way too much time on Tinder.
Another story, “Shuang”, takes a rather slapstick approach to female infanticide. It was described by its Canadian publisher as being “deeply feminist”.
Here is an excerpt from an as-yet unpublished story: “Kobe Bryant and the Freedom Swimmer”:
Fei is ten years old, the age at which Hongbo’s life changed forever. Hongbo has seldom told the story so it has not been exaggerated with time. “Whatever happens, don’t let go,” he can still hear his father say in moments of solitude. With one knee on the sand, Hongbo’s father stretched a floating device over the shank of his son’s elbow and tied it where his biceps would one day be.
The capitalist world was lit up across the one-mile stretch of South China Sea. With no moonlight and most military resources being used in preparation for Typhoon Nora, this was their best opportunity.
It was Li’s third attempt at escaping to Hong Kong. Some friends appeared to have made it but most perished along the way: shot by border guards, eaten by sharks, blown perpetually off course.
“Climb on my back.” Li stepped into the water.
“Try not to make a sound.”
The year was 1973 and China was far from the world. His father being a pariah and Hongbo a pariah’s son, the known was more feared than the unknown.
For three days, they had lived like guerilla warriors in the vast mangrove forests of the Guangdong coast: His father had spent months memorizing maps and learning which wild plants were edible. He earlier used his assigned bathing time in the Matou River to practice swimming, telling his teenaged supervisor that he was exercising.
The water passed Hongbo’s knees. He clung to his father’s bulging chest as they leapt into the black, phosphorescent waves.