Marshall Moore's Blog
October 1, 2018
I just finished the first draft of the book I’ve been wanting to write for… oh, probably 30 years now. This would be the memoir of my life up through graduation from university. The title is I Wouldn’t Normally Do This Kind of Thing (yes, like the Pet Shop Boys song). The last few chapters are a bit rough, and there are things I need to go back and do to it (people who deserve more time on the page, names I need to change now that the thing is written, etc.). But it’s done.
July 22, 2018
I am in the process of compiling an anthology of writing from expatriate Americans. There has already been some interest from a university press, and a number of contributors are already attached to the project. Depending on the type and number of submissions I receive, I may do this as two books: one volume as academic research and the other as creative nonfiction/ memoir.
Here’s a bit of background on the book:
There has been very little scholarly work into contemporary American expatriate writing — not because it isn’t there, but because for cultural and political reasons, Americans are not supposed to want to leave the US. If the desire to leave is to make that departure permanent, there are denunciations of these overseas Americans’ patriotism. It’s unthinkable, borderline treason. The writers of the Lost Generation have attracted a certain amount of scholarly attention, but at that time, the word “expatriate” was a neologism, in very limited circulation, and seen as a pejorative. More recently, academics specializing in business and management have done some scholarly work on the subject, but the focus has generally been on overseas assignments and their impact on families and productivity. Immigration is in the news every day, but US emigration is rarely discussed at length. As transnational identities have become more commonplace within the last two decades, the notion of expatriation has become less cathected — for some, more a matter of paperwork and practicality than emotion. At the same time, discourse around the notion of American expatriation has resulted in bitter polarities: FATCA being seen as a financial dragnet to punish Americans who have dared to leave the homeland, and disenchanted Americans overseas scoffing at “homelanders” whose experiences and worldviews are too limited to conceive of better lives abroad. This anthology is not intended as a polemic or as a vehicle for America-bashing. However, there are reasons why an estimated nine million Americans live overseas, and in light of the current political climate, this topic is timely and important.
Areas of potential academic focus:
Demographic trends in US expatriation
Renunciation of US citizenship
Trumpism and the lure of expatriation
Transnational identities versus expatriation
America as dystopia
History of US expatriation
African-American expatriation in response to institutional racism
Expatriation and class
FATCA and other punitive measures against US expatriates
Canada as refuge: myth vs reality
Political divisions and their impact upon the decision to expatriate
Expatriation in literature
Gender and expatriation
Patriotism and expatriation: can they coexist?
Health care overseas vs the USA
Questions to consider (CNF/memoir):
What made you decide to move abroad?
Is this a permanent move, or do you anticipate returning to the US someday?
Has the present political situation influenced your decisions, or had you already made them before the 2016 election?
Why did you choose the country or territory where you live now, and do you expect it to be your permanent home?
Have you taken another citizenship, or do you plan to?
What is your daily life like now, compared to when you were in the US?
(Note: For this volume, I am looking more for the story than for the justification, so while it’s important to keep these questions in mind, there also needs to be a story.)
If you are interested in contributing to the research volume of the book, please send an abstract of 200 – 300 words plus 4 keywords and a brief bio containing your academic affiliation. Please also send a CV. Contributors to this volume must be academics but may be of any nationality.
If you are interested in contributing a chapter to the creative nonfiction/ memoir volume, please send a brief query stating where you live and how long you have lived there. For this volume, you need not be an academic, but you do need to have lived abroad for a significant amount of time. (If you have moved back to the US, that isn’t necessarily a deal-breaker, but it’s something you should be prepared to discuss.) American citizens (by birth or naturalization) only, please.
Note: Contributions from Africa and South America would be of particular interest.
Deadline for abstracts/initial queries: Oct. 1, 2018
Target deadline for chapters (subject to change, depending on the publisher): May 1, 2019
Research: 5000 – 7000 including reference apparatus
CNF/memoir: 3000 – 6000
Standard serif font, 12 point
Double or 1.5 spaced
Citations & references: style TBD (in the first draft, just be consistent and be prepared to adjust if needed)
Queries and submissions:
July 9, 2018
The first few reviews, interviews, and other items of publicity are out:
This wonderful review from Out in Print was published first: https://outinprintblog.wordpress.com/2018/05/28/inhospitable-marshall-moore-camphor-press/
Next up was this one in Dark Scribe Magazine: http://www.darkscribemagazine.com/reviews/inhospitable-marshall-moore.html
Obviously, any author would be very pleased with a pair of reviews like these!
More recently, two more came to my attention.
There’s this brief but positive one at the Critical Mass blog (scroll down a bit): http://www.dondammassa.com/R3A2018.htm
And then there’s this bundle of joy (ahem) at Horror Talk: https://www.horrortalk.com/books/inhospitable-book-review.html
Now, I know writers aren’t supposed to respond to negative reviews. Any publicity is good publicity, right? As long as your name’s spelled correctly and the link works, the job is done. I also think the reviewer’s perfervid loathing of the book is a positive. He didn’t get it at all, major points flew right over his head, and perhaps most importantly, he got some facts wrong and generally displayed a remarkable level of ignorance. It’s actually fine if someone doesn’t like the book. Authors get in trouble if they try to micromanage reader experiences. But when a critic makes glaring errors, then it’s a different situation. That’s what I’ll focus on here:
I don’t understand the relevance of the discussion of debut novels. This was my fourth novel and seventh full-length book, eighth if we include The Queen of Statue Square.
The supernatural element of the story is introduced at the end of Chapter One, and there are other occurrences in subsequent chapters (more on this in a moment). The review makes it sound as if the spooky stuff doesn’t happen until much later in the book.
The “ridiculous nature in which the plot concludes” is in fact a significant aspect of traditional Chinese ghost beliefs, and the ending is based quite closely on one of Yuan Mei’s zhiguai stories in Censored by Confucius.
There also seems to be an underlying assumption that I fundamentally did not know what I was writing about. The bits about Hong Kong are the way they are because I live here. People don’t entertain at home, for example. They eat out. It’s because the apartments are small and the restaurants are good. And the bit about Isaac being a stereotypical gay best friend got on my nerves a bit. I’m gay myself and I don’t deal in stereotypes. But I can let those things go. What I want to come back to is the fact that the reviewer spent so much time talking about the fact that I wrote Inhospitable as part of my PhD. By calling so much attention to it and then saying dumb things that showed he missed major points at the outset, he also calls attention to his failure to grasp the level of research that went into the writing. I researched ghost stories and horror, and specifically the intersections of Western and Chinese ghost lore, and the book is the way it is as a result. The pacing, for example, and the timing of the occurrences of the ghost encounters. The matter-of-factness he had a problem with. And so on. All deliberate, all based on exhaustive research. What I’m trying to say is that it’s odd that he went to the trouble of digging up some background information about me and the book but apparently didn’t make the connection that I might actually have known what I was doing. Part of this is to do with a general lack of understanding about the creative writing PhD. It is not a “university creative writing exercise,” and calling it that is borderline offensive. But even within the academy, there is no shortage of people who don’t understand how the CW doctorate works and what goes into it. Put simply, it’s a PhD and you bleed for it.
Of course it’s disappointing that he found it boring and the pacing too slow and the characters dull and so on. If he felt the execution was not successful, that is fair and I can live with it. I’m also not too fussed about his struggle with the genre. Pretty much all of my work is interstitial in that respect, and that doesn’t work for some readers. I’ve always challenged expectations and conventions in my writing, and this isn’t the first time I’ve made a reviewer foam at the mouth and it won’t be the last. I’m choosing to look at this as a positive review in a peculiar way: I’d rather make someone fucking hate the book than be meh about it. The Concrete Sky inspired similar levels of vitriol when it came out 15 years ago, and there were people who really didn’t like An Ideal for Living and Bitter Orange.
Moving on, there’s also an interview in Entropy, thanks to the awesomeness that is Peter Tieryas: https://entropymag.org/an-interview-with-marshall-moore/
And The Next Best Book Blog did a cool feature on me and my writing space: http://thenextbestbookblog.blogspot.com/2018/07/where-writers-write-marshall-moore.html
As more reviews are published, I’ll post them here. Thanks for reading!
May 18, 2018
There’s lots to announce! First of all, Inhospitable is out. Finally! At last! Here’s a link to the Camphor Press page for the book. There, you can either order it directly from them, or you can follow the links to Amazon and the other e-retail suspects: https://camphorpress.com/books/inhospitable/
And there’s a book launch this weekend (Sunday, 5/20/2018, at 4pm) here in Hong Kong! Here’s a link to the Facebook page. It’s actually a joint launch with Xu Xi’s Insignificance, which Signal 8 Press is publishing in June. If you’re in Hong Kong, you’re welcome to join. In addition to doing our own readings, some of the actors from Liars’ League HK will be doing them too. It promises to be a very fun event: https://www.facebook.com/events/598963510451727
(It’s open to the public, by the way. No one will be checking to see if you’re on the List.)
Next up, some short-story goodness. QLRS, Singapores’s literary journal, has published my short story “Love Is a Poisonous Color”: http://www.qlrs.com/story.asp?id=1414
My short story “Everybody’s Cleopatra” was featured in the last LLHK event: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vPBSl0WG5kw
And another new story, “These Are the Days of Miracle and Hunger,” will be in the next one (May 28).
Last but not least, I was on RTHK Radio 3’s talk show Morning Brew with Phil Whelan earlier this week. Here’s a link if you’d like to hear me jabbering about Inhospitable, ghosts, and the book launch (you may need to scroll down): http://www.rthk.hk/radio/radio3/programme/morning_brew/episode/503694
March 9, 2018
One of the cool things about having a book coming out is being interviewed. I enjoy the process so much more now that it takes place mostly online. Back in 2003, when The Concrete Sky was about to be published, a friend who wrote for one of the gay magazines interviewed me. Earlier that same day, my then partner and I had just moved chaotically from Portland to Seattle. We were a half step away from being homeless: the owners of the company I had worked for in Portland were in dire shape financially and were paying only a half or a third of what I was told I was supposed to be earning. Once it became clear that I had burned through my savings and maxed out my cards, our bills were going to become impossible. We put our shit in a storage unit, moved into my ex’s cousin’s extra bedroom, and basically had to start over. If I’d had any presence of mind at all, I’d have suggested we wait a week. Lacking it, I proceeded. And after I hemmed and hawed my way through questions that ought to have been simple, my friend said in exasperation, “Be articulate!”
Mercifully, my circumstances are better now.
Bookish.asia has interviewed me in my role as publisher at Signal 8 Press. You can read it here:
Also, the guys at Camphor Press have set a pub date for Inhospitable, May 17. That’s about two months away! Kind of hard to believe.
And the next book is going to be the memoir I’ve been chipping away at for what feels like centuries. The working title (which I doubt will change) is I Wouldn’t Normally Do This Kind of Thing (yes, I stole the title from the Pet Shop Boys song), and it focuses on my horror show of a life up until I graduated from college. I’m pretty much done with a very rough first draft and am now tidying it up to make it readable enough to show other people. I’ve also been reaching out to various friends and relatives whose names are in danger of appearing in it. Eventually I will write another novel, but for now, this will be my next book.
(Still no word on the two edited/co-edited academic books at the proposal stage. Fingers Everywhere Are Crossed.)
February 13, 2018
There are a few new developments where my writing (creative as well as academic) is concerned, and I’ll be presenting at a couple of conferences this summer.
I’ve finished a new short story, “The Man Who Loved Airline Food.” The idea for this one came to me at the very end of 2017 on a flight back to Hong Kong from Brisbane. The actual writing was more of a slog than my short stories tend to be, meaning it’ll require edits of great brutality, finesse, and precision, but the story itself is quite okay if I do say so myself. I’ve got another one in the works, as well, but I set it aside to focus on this one.
My new (at this point, I should qualify that with an “-ish”) story “Everybody’s Cleopatra” will be read at the upcoming Liars’ League Hong Kong event “Near & Far” on Feb. 26. If you’re in HK that night, you should come. It’s at 8pm at the Social Room in Central. This is shaping up to be one of our strongest nights in recent memory. I’m looking forward to it.
I have a couple of academic papers in the works, as well. The one currently eating my life involves a critical look at LGBT representation in horror (film and TV more so than literature) during the Trump era, which for the purposes of this paper I’m construing to be from the time he announced his candidacy. There hasn’t been enough time for much to be produced, with the notable exception of the latest installment of American Horror Story, but I’ve noticed a couple of things. This is particularly interesting for me because I am not a Freudian and I have some… questions, shall we say, about horror critics who reference castration anxiety and the uncanny without having any apparent training in psychoanalysis or even psychology. I have similar qualms about queer theory, which I find dated and pointlessly negative. I’m all for interrogating, challenging, and defying heteronormativity, but some queer readings (a) cross the line into pointlessly demonizing it without offering up a workable alternative couched in language the people most likely to be able to implement it could pronounce, and (b) overlook important intersections such as race, class, and religion. I have a feeling this will eventually be part of a larger project, and certainly one that is outside the scope of this particular Trump/horror paper. For now, the trick is not to chase up so many of these strands of research that I lose focus on what I’m supposed to be writing about.
In addition to the one on author platform that I may have brought up on an earlier post, I’m also working on one based on the notion that certain works of fiction could only have been written by expatriate authors. I’ve spotted patterns in the writing-advice materials I have read over the years, specifically where character and setting are concerned. Cultural appropriation is a tricky subject, and it has bearing on this topic as well. What else are we supposed to write about when we’ve lived outside of our native cultures for years? Who’s to be the arbiter of authenticity, anyway, and how do the things writing students are taught about setting and character intersect with these sensitivities? I’m still trying to figure this one out and will actually be on a panel at the upcoming 15th International Conference on the Short Story in English this summer in Lisbon talking about this very topic.
I’ll also be presenting at the Great Writing Conference in London on the subject of author platform, a subject about which by now I have quite a lot to say.
Oh, and Inhospitable will be out in a few months. Xu Xi and I are planning a joint launch party in May for our new books. Hers is titled Insignificance, I’m the publisher (wearing my Signal 8 Press hat), and we’re calling the launch event the Five Syllables and Starting with I Party. (Not making this up. It was my idea, actually.)
December 17, 2017
I would like to offer an invitation and a challenge. I have a fairly broad level of scientific literacy, an MA in applied linguistics, and a PhD in creative writing. If the Trump administration thinks it can ban the CDC from using the words vulnerable, entitlement, diversity, transgender, fetus, evidence-based, and science-based, I will happily offer my assistance in revising scientific papers to the most accurate and preferably devastating effect possible. By forcing researchers to work around these words, the responsible government officials are requiring the affected scientists to unpack them. This will work out better for the researchers than for the administration, and I intend to help.
Every word that the federal government has banned can be worked around. Here are a few examples that come immediately to mind:
“Vulnerable”: If a certain disease is more common in vulnerable populations, this can be phrased as something along the lines of “This condition may occur in populations typically deprived of ~~” or “…populations lacking such necessities as ~~~”
“Entitlement”: If this is intended as a way of keeping researchers from talking about social-welfare matters, then something like “public benefit, such as Social Security or SSDI,” followed by a fact-based comparison of how the US compares to other countries that are still civilized.
“Diversity”: Instead of saying “as a part of the CDC’s diversity efforts,” something along the lines of “as a part of the CDC’s mission to be as inclusive as possible to minority groups who have traditionally experienced discrimination, such as ~~”
“Transgender”: “Trans men and women” or “trans people.”
“Fetus”: How about the British spelling, “foetus”? Or the more scientific “embryo”?
“Evidence-based” and “science-based”: These are actually the easiest. “Based on all available evidence,” “Based on the science,” “Based on research,” “Based on evidence gathered from multiple studies,” and so on.
What you will see here is that if you unpack the terms that educated people have taken for granted, sometimes to the extent that the implicit messages have gotten lost, the meaning is actually more troublesome for the regime. It’s more specific, more accurate, and more problematic in its exposure of underlying truths.
Here’s the part where I say how I really feel. I detest what is happening in the USA, and I despise the Trump administration. As a gay man, I am in one of the groups they would like to eradicate. As an alumnus of the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics, I have a respectable network of scientists, health-care professionals, attorneys, and government officials, more so than I would otherwise normally prefer to let on. I may not live there, but most of the people I care about in this world still do. Here’s the part where I step up and stare these fascist imbeciles down. My personal email address is articulate dot ink at gmail dot com. If you are in the CDC and affected by this, and would like informed, scientifically literate assistance from someone who is qualified to help, I can either assist or put you in touch with people who can.
This bullshit will not stand. I am in a position to do something about it. Here is my sincere offer to help.
December 13, 2017
Earlier today, I finished a new short story I’d been working on for a couple of months, “The Trousers Had Opinions of Their Own.” This was one of those peculiar stories that came to me out of nowhere. Or not: if you’ve read my novel An Ideal for Living (it’s okay if you haven’t; neither have most other people), you’ll recognize some of the tropes. In any event, I’m very happy with it, at least in the sense that as a first draft, it isn’t terrible. Once I’ve polished it, I think it will be very good. Perhaps even one of my better ones. I plan to submit it to a certain publication before I leave for Australia next week (the deadline is 12/31/2017, and I will not be able to work on it while I am away), but fortunately I think the first(ish) draft turned out rather well.
Am I the only author who thinks that the language of writing needs an update? Now that 99.99% of us use computers to write, we don’t really have clear boundaries around drafts any longer. I am not nostalgic about this. The language needs to be updated. That being said, I am not ready to propose an alternative yet. I’m just aware that we need one.
I now have five short stories in circulation, waiting to find good homes:
“The Trousers Had Opinions of Their Own”
“These Are the Days of Miracle and Hunger”
“Love Is a Poisonous Color”
I was also circulating an excerpt from Inhospitable, but I’m going to stop doing that now that the book is only about 5 months away from publication.
Also: Have I mentioned (the word “announced” sounds a little pretentious) that the next book (of fiction, anyway) will be my fourth collection, and that unless I come up with a title I like better (which I doubt will happen), it’ll be Love Is a Poisonous Color? This just feels right; I’m not sure when I’ll decide I’ve got enough stories for it to stand alone as a book, but that’s the glue that will bind them together. Assuming the world doesn’t end (these days, that’s something we actually do need to take into account), look for that in 2019 or thereabouts.
November 14, 2017
Huge news. I’ll get to the point. I’ve sold Inhospitable, the novel I wrote for my PhD. Camphor Press in Taipei will be releasing it sometime in mid-2018, probably May or thereabouts. I’m very pleased (honest) to have finally had the good sense (it eventually kicks in), to check for good regional publishers. Yes, I’ve made queries with agents and presses in the US and UK. There’s been a certain amount of “we like this but it’s not for us, best of luck, happy trails, go in peace,” the usual stuff those of us who enliven the margins grow weary of hearing. There’s a lot out there at the moment at how bound by stereotype publishers (and, I suppose, agents) in the West still are: the Asian characters (even if they’re hyphenated Americans or Brits) need to be othered, exoticized; the settings have to be alien, dangerous. Despite the book’s subject matter, that’s not how I approached the people and the places in it. After all, I live in Asia, so apart from my well-researched ghost lore and some circa-WWII history, there aren’t many Oriental whispers and ancient Chinese secrets. It’s comforting and encouraging to know that the book will be put out by a publisher who actually gets it. Updates as I know more!
I’ve somehow managed to crank out a couple of new short stories in the last few weeks. This feels like an interesting development because of how it came about: I had slogged through almost 4000 words of another one and grown bored with it (which rarely happens), finally come to the obvious conclusion that it wasn’t working, and set it aside to incubate a bit longer. Another story I’d been mulling over for ages, “Darjeeling,” kind of came together all at once, so I started on that one. I had generally known it would be a story about a ghost that likes tea, but the details had yet to resolve themselves. Once I began thinking about the story in a more conscious, deliberate way, I figured out where it was going. As I was closing in on the end, another idea came to me: I thought it would be interesting to write about a Welsh sin-eater, only updated. Or Marshallized, if you will. And voila, “Just Enough Murder in the Air” was born. I wrote that one with a specific publication in mind and have already submitted it. As for “Darjeeling,” there are a couple of places where I think it might be a good fit. I want to let it sit for a little while longer, at which point I’ll give it a polish and send it out.
One thing I try to be careful of these days is the habit of mind I’ve developed — and I suspect this is the case with many writers — of describing the creative process as if it were something external. It can feel that way, so it’s not the worst possible way of looking at it. Putting it in more mundane terms such as “a highly complex and ramified problem-solving process” strips it of its mystique. It sucks the fun and the mystery out of it. Besides, it’s not always a process we are conscious of as it is taking place. To me, the experience feels like moving an object forward or backward in my mind: when I bring it forward, I can consciously mull over the ideas, playing out sequences of events such as what might need to happen before or after, what might have caused this or that to happen, why someone might find him- or herself in that situation. If I haven’t already decided on the setting, I can try out different locales to see what seems to fit. (Case in point: I considered London, Vancouver, Portland, and Hong Kong for “Darjeeling” before realizing how well it would work in Edenton, North Carolina, of all places. It needed a slightly sophisticated but mostly rural town setting in order for all the moving parts to fit together as I envisioned. “Just Enough Murder in the Air” is set in Stockholm.) Alternatively, I can move the idea to the back of my mind, where there seems to be some kind of conveyor belt that will take it to whatever storage basement it belongs in. Now and then I can check in on it (my ability to retain and recall story ideas is pretty good, if I do say so myself), and if I find that it has incubated enough — or if I have become interested in it again for some reason — I can retrieve it and perhaps get to work.
One more thing before I wrap this up: I’ve been thinking (and reading) a lot more about the concept of author platform lately. Although there’s more to it than I want to say here (I’ve already written the first draft of a paper but I have proposed it for a conference next year and thus shouldn’t put everything out there yet), I’ll bring up one point: although I’m fully in favor of marketing, and as a publisher have seen the difference it makes when authors take an active (or, better yet, aggressive) approach, I also think that as a mandate, it falls short. Just this afternoon, I unfollowed some 400 Twitter accounts, many of which were authors whom I suspect of falling into the “your book is slightly similar to mine, so I’ll follow you on Twitter in the hopes that you will (a) follow me back and (b) be interested enough to buy my book” trap. No judgment. I’ve been guilty of it. However, it really doesn’t work. I’ve already got more to read than time to read it, which I believe is true of a lot of people out there. No matter how much you love books, there are too many potentially good ones out there and not enough hours in the human lifespan. This notion of author platform has been conflated with author marketing to an extent that I’m not sure most of the people out there in the authorsphere (to coin a term) can see the distinctions. When we’re publishing, we need to know what we’re being asked to do on our own and on the publisher’s behalf. There’s more to it than that, but… I’m still writing the paper.