The Ion Curtain and Other Stories

The Ion Curtain

Thrilled to reveal that my upcoming SFF space opera, The Ion Curtain, has been acquired by Rebellion Publishing, slated for release in 2022! Huge thanks to my agent, Jennie Goloboy, who got the deal through so quickly. Seriously thought it'd take far longer, given I only signed on with an agent in January. Enemies to lovers, rogue ASIs, space espionage and more: I'm looking forward to this book getting released into the wilds. Hope everyone will check it out when it is!

I first started writing this book years ago, a draft 0 of a sort that only reached a publishable form last year. It's been a wild ride, and I'm halfway through writing part 2. Will try to finish that this year. It's been a tough year to write anything, just as tough as last year for me, what with the pandemic situation still being so unstable (Singapore AND Melbourne are both locked down right now), and its concurrent flow-on effects on my personal life. Can only try, I guess. Wish all of you also in the same writing straits the best.

What I've been Watching

Tianbao Fuyao Lu, also known as Legend of Exorcism, is a gorgeous danmei adaptation that looks like an ongoing Final Fantasy cinematic. It's beautiful, the characters are engaging, and the xianxia action is animated beautifully. About a half-demon who goes to the mortal realm to investigate his parents' deaths / run errands, only to get roped into an Exorcism Department run by a mortal with no cultivation. Hilarious, beautiful, and moving donghua.

Ancient Detective is a 24 episode mystery detective wuxia, focused on an amnesiac detective investigating the situation behind his father's death. At times typically wuxia, with its melodrama, OTT plotline backstories, and fun fight scenes, for a het wuxia, Ancient Detective actually doesn't have that many annoying "FMC loses all her brain cells in the presence of the MC" sort of scenes. The FMC has the highest kill count in the show, the MC is the "sickly beauty" trope with a mysteriously large troupe of handsome male friends, and only the 2nd FMC can be somewhat annoying. Great watch, if with an abrupt ending hinting at a potential future season 2.

Imperial Coroner is an entertaining, lighthearted guzhuang drama about an FMC whose dream is to become an Imperial (accredited) coroner. She goes to the Imperial City to takes the accreditation exam, only for her life to get increasingly out of control as she accidentally runs into the Commandery Prince of An, the MC. The mysteries are great, though anyone with remotely any medical knowledge likely has to suspend disbelief watching this show. The court drama is fun, the characters are awesome on their own, the 2 FMCs have amazing chemistry. The downside is the main het romance, which runs from being ludicrous (FMC and MC using "scene reenactment" to fall repeatedly into each other's arms, as if you'd ever be able to do that to a prince) to just facepalm terrible as a certain love rival is introduced. If you can skip past or just endure the laughable main romance, it's a fun watch.

What I've been Reading

Since Word of Honour, I've been binge-reading the danmei (Chinese BL novels) genre, leaving my English to-read list in the dust. I can't help it: danmei novels are often very readable, and span anything from pure crack to Imperial intrigue plotlines that are better and more intricate than Game of Thrones, to just OTT "What the hell did I just read" storylines. For people interested in trying the danmei genre, you can buy the books on jjwxc (if you can read Chinese) and look up the fan translations on Read the tags on Novelupdates before reading the books! I'll list down the notable books I binged in the month of May in order of favourites:

苍梧宾白 | 黄金台 / Golden Stage | One of the most popular danmei novels for a good reason: it's an incredible, satisfying read. Imperial and military drama, arranged marriage, fake enemies, pining... it's easily one of the best books I've ever read, and likely my favourite book of the year. Unlike most danmei, the couple switches, everything is well-negotiated, and things are (mostly) maturely discussed. Of the "one character rules the Court, the other rules the battlefield" kind of trope: the MC (Main character) is a general who suffered a crippling injury in suspicious circumstances. To curb the power of his family, which has hereditary control of an army, the Emperor bestows a marriage on the MC to the ML (Male love interest), who is a "known" Imperial errand dog of the emperor. Love this book: if you read only one book on this list, read Golden Stage.

梦溪石 | 无双 / Peerless | A close runner up to favourite book of the year, Peerless is by the same author as Thousand Autumns, and the book is set in the same universe. It's more of a wuxia book while Thousand Autumns is xianxia, and is a spy vs spy rollercoaster joy to read. The MC is the head of the Empress' spy bureau, while the ML is the head of the Emperor's spy bureau. Both are rivals, and while the MC seems like he'd likely die at any moment from illness, his intelligence far offsets the ML's high martial arts and peacock beauty. The ML is a hilarious narcissist. Intricate plotlines, great action, awesome characters.

Priest | 镇魂 / Guardian | One of priest's most popular books for a reason, and adapted to a somewhat mangled due to censorship but still popular live action, Guardian is an amazing modern/xuanhuan read. Loved the characters and the gorgeous worldbuilding and plotlines. One of my favourite priest books by far. MC is the head of a supernatural investigation government agency, ML is a professor who's far more than he seems. Intense pining with a typically priest dose of social commentary. Personally, while the book is a happy ending, I feel a bad ending made more sense for the sacrifice-based narrative, but I do love me some happy endings.

Priest | 默读 / Silent Reading | Another popular priest book, a police crime drama due to be adapted to live action, this book is an amazing read. Not sure how much of the police corruption main plotline can even get filmed, let alone the rest of the book's themes, which is very dark (child sexual abuse, human trafficking, rape, torture, the works). The twists are largely unexpected and the characters are amazing - MC is a police inspector, ML is a wealthy genius who happens to be the survivor of one of MC's first cases.

拉棉花糖的兔子 | 修真界最后一条龙 / The Last Dragon in the Cultivation World | Hilarious xianxia about a young (for his species) dragon who wakes up after a thousand year nap only to realise that his lake has been stolen by the world's largest cultivation sect to create a pretty water effect. The horror! The indignity! Dragon MC, powerful 'martial god' ML. A relatively short book for danmei at 40+ chapters, it's a funny, lighthearted read.

墨香铜臭 | 天官赐福 / Tian Guan Ci Fu / Heaven Official's Blessing | Adapted to animation and available to watch on Netflix, this book by the MDZS (The Untamed) author MXTX is ultimately a dark, depressing xianxia read with a big twist at the end that I didn't predict. This book has a diehard fandom, but can be difficult to get into, particularly if you don't read much xuanhuan. Come for the 600 year pining between the martial god MC and the ghost king ML, stay for the 3,000 lantern romantic gesture.

望三山 | 我靠美颜稳住天下 / I Rely on Beauty to Stabilise the Country | Despite the title, this Imperial drama novel is 80% court politics and serious governance thanks to the MC and 20% the 'mad dog' ML getting himself into trouble. MC is a political science major who transmigrated into the body of a sickly emperor in the prequel of a book, doomed to die in order to allow the protagonists to control the country. He decides to use his short lifetime to stabilise the country instead so as to hand over a good result, but the protagonists naturally fall in love with him instead. After 100+ chapters, MC finally breaks character over... potatoes haha, a total mood.

Priest | 六爻 / Liu Yao | Set to be updated to live action, Liu Yao is a hilarious read on the usual xianxia cultivation shixiong/shidi trope, where the MC is taken into a sect with a suspiciously useless and yet extremely wealthy shixiong ML. Despite not being good for anything, the ML's family is funding the tiny sect and its weirdly weaselly and unreliable shifu... only for their relatively happy lives to turn into collateral damage. As with priest novels, there is a sudden plunge towards a happy ending.

Priest | 锦瑟 / Jin Se | Apparently due to be adapted to live action, Jin Se is priest's take on the yao (demon) x human xianxia trope. Typical of priest, it veers off into amazing worldbuilding with social commentary (what should you sacrifice in the name of general prosperity?), with her usual sudden plunge towards a happy ending.

白茶青欢 | 太子殿下,求和离!/ His Royal Highness, Wants a Divorce! | Funny Imperial drama novel about a chef who transmigrates into the body of a prince who had to marry the prince of another, more powerful country via arranged marriage. Came for the arranged marriage, stayed for the increasingly hilarious attempts of the chef MC to get a divorce, sometimes by printing it out on the food he makes for the ML. Also for MC 'inventing' mahjong.

一日知千 | 暴君宠婚日常 / Tyrant Pampering Wife Diary | One of several in this kind of trope where the MC or the ML is the transmigrator and either is a 'tyrant', in this Imperial drama the MC 'wife' is the one who transmigrates. Due to being poisoned from young, ML tends to go into the occasional berserker rage when he gets angry, and MC is the only one who can calm him down. Entertaining read.

乔柚 | 被迫和敌国太子联姻的日子 / Forced to Marry the Enemy Prince | Brought up as a princess due to handwave Daoist reasons, the MC is an extremely beautiful person who ended up being mistaken as a princess (despite being in male garb) by the enemy prince ML while leading the last stand defense of MC's capital city. MC marries ML for the sake of peace, and most of the book is about MC trying to find ways to ensure that ML doesn't find out that MC is actually a man. Happy ending, largely hilarious. The ML's Imperial family, for a change, is great.

唐酒卿 | 南禅 / Nan Chan | A xianxia novel about a dragon x a fallen martial god... starts with the dragon having to work its way up from being a demon carp, trying its best to suck blood from the fallen god. The vore is kind of visceral, the angst of some of the arcs is just flat out overwhelming, so enjoyment of this book depends on your appetite for knives and dogblood (pain and melodrama).

东方黄瓜 | 魔君总以为我暗恋他 / The Demon King Always Thinks I'm Secretly In Love With Him | Another hilarious xianxia transmigration story, where the MC accidentally transmigrates into a game character who's a demon general subordinate of the demon king ML. Thanks to his daily quests and the need to finish the game by getting the game protagonist to ascend to the heavens in cultivation, MC makes a few increasingly bad decisions that end up with the ML thinking that the MC is in love with him.

杀小丸 | 穿成炮灰之反派养成计划 / Transmigrating into a Mob Character to Rehabilitate the Villain Plan | A transmigration novel where the MC realises he's a cannon fodder character in a book, so he decides to try and use his role as a martial brother / da ge to push the villain ML onto the righteous path. Amusing read.

漫漫何其多 | 当年万里觅封侯 / Those Years In Quest of Honour Mine | Imperial court drama about a prince ML and a smart, loyal, if scheming MC loyal to another prince's family, one who lost the fight for the throne and therefore had its young descendants exiled to a poor region. Popular danmei book, interesting enough for me to read to the end, but not one of my faves.

大风刮过 | 皇叔 / Imperial Uncle | Not a huge fan of first person perspective, but it works in this book given how unreliable the narrator is. Imperial drama, where the Imperial Uncle has a bad reputation for scheming and political ambition when he actually doesn't. Some of the MC's decisions make you want to repeatedly facepalm, but the writing is highly readable.

今夕故年 | 师尊难为 / It's Not Easy Being a Shizun | A double transmigration xianxia novel, where the Shizun MC transmigrates back in time after being murdered by his fell-to-the-demonic-path ML disciple, and resolves to raise his disciple well. Unfortunately, the disciple also retained his "previous life" memories. Entertaining read.

风歌且行 | 狐妖修炼指南 / Fox Demon Cultivation Manual | A somewhat silly xianxia novel about an unsuspecting normal person who somehow has some of the blood of a fox demon king. Occasionally entertaining, though much of the time I was praying the MC would grow more brain cells. His shamelessness is funny, though.

Non-danmei books read in May:

Seichō Matsumoto | Inspector Imanishi Investigates | Japanese police crime novel that seems to be largely about how to stretch a tiny investigatory budget. Entertaining and gripping read by a master of the genre, one credited with popularising crime fiction in Japan.

A Final Note

Reading danmei is so much like binging popcorn... my English to-read list is suffering. Try the books anyway, even if you feel like you might lack the context.