All posts by Mary Fan

Announcing BAD ASS MOMS

Too often in fiction, I’ve found myself asking: Where are the moms?

Dead moms are a long-established trope in stories, especially in sci-fi/fantasy. Mothers are, culturally speaking, meant to be nurturing figures who protect and coddle, and one of the easiest ways to force a protagonist to strike out on their own adventure is to get rid of the safety net that is Mom. I’ll confess that, as a writer, I’ve fallen into the same trap more than once (in my defense, I’ve killed off an equal number of dads).

When you look at stories—and the way we talk about stories—there’s this sense that when a woman becomes a mother, she ceases to be the heroine of her own story. Instead, she’s relegated to a supporting role for her children, who are now meant to be the center of her life and the only reason for her existence. There are exceptions, as there are in everything, but overall, we’re left with the impression that once a woman becomes Mom, her tale ends. She fades away and, often, disappears altogether. Or, if she does remain, her destiny is disproportionately influenced by her children when compared to their impact on Dad. Continue reading

Mary Fan Visits the Crimson Keep

Want to know a fun fact? Contributing to Tales of the Crimson Keep was the first time I’d written in an already-established world. It was both exciting and a bit intimidating—as most new things are. As far as sandboxes go, the Crimson Keep was a pretty vast and flexible one. The premise of an ever-changing fortress with unlimited possibilities within the walls meant that nearly anything was possible.

At the same time, the first edition of the anthology was already out, and there’d already been many stories set in this world. The last thing I wanted was to write something that would be inconsistent with what was established.

The first thing I did was read every scrap of the first edition to get a feel for what kinds of stories fell into the world of the Crimson Keep. The answer: many kinds. Some were funny, and some were more serious. But all felt like they were skating across a glimmering pool of whimsy.

I decided to leave the established characters be and introduce the Keep to someone new: a visitor from another part of the world who, like me, was seeing the Keep for the first time. And so I created the character of Meilin, a girl who came all the way from the Far East on a quest to the Keep. How fascinated would she be by the fortress’ dangers and charms? How much trouble would she run into?

Of course, I couldn’t just let her run amok in the Keep. I had to send someone along to make her life even more different. I’m not entirely sure why I settled on a childlike, chaotic neutral spirit with phenomenal supernatural powers and the eternal mental age of a kindergartner. Maybe it was because that seemed to me to be the embodiment of the Keep’s fanciful nature.

The story’s title, “Glisk of the Keep,” is a double entendre. I’d recently learned of the word “glisk,” which can mean either refer to light (e.g. rays spilling through clouds, a glint in one’s eye) or mean “glimpse.” Somehow, it seemed to fit my mischievous spirit, who lived in the Keep and caused trouble for all within its walls. But since “glisk” also means “glimpse,” and Meilin would only get to see a small part of the fortress (since she’s a visitor and not a resident of it), it also seemed to fit with the story.

I hope you’ll check out my story in the newly renovated Tales of the Crimson Keep and have as much fun reading it as I did writing it!

Tales of the Crimson Keep – Newly Renovated Edition is now available at your favorite booksellers.

First Post from the Asylum

Hey everyone! I’m Mary Fan, sci-fi/fantasy author and latest inmate of the asylum that is Crazy 8 Press. Y’all are probably wondering how I wound up in this madhouse. Well, let’s start from the very beginning. Hey, this is a getting-to-know-you blog, isn’t it?

I’ve been a bookworm for as long as I can remember… in fact, I read so much as a kid that it got me in trouble. Flashlights under the covers, hiding books under the mattress (not because they were “adult” or anything, but because my parents didn’t like me having so many, since I’d read instead of doing homework), spending breaks and lunchtime in the library… I was THAT kid. I inhaled a steady stream of children’s books and Western literary classics (often introduced to me by Wishbone… Who remembers that pup?), much of which included elements of fantasy (though not so much sci-fi, as I recall). Since my parents are Chinese immigrants, the entertainment in our house was slightly different than in most American homes. I had Disney movies and Star Trek: The Next Generation on TV, but other than that, I was largely out of the loop. Which is why I don’t get most ‘80s and ‘90s  cultural references today (what’s a Full House?)

No sooner do I join this bunch, than I am asked to judge my first Masquerade at Shore Leave. What a night that was!

I was maybe 11 when I first discovered sci-fi by way of two things: Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, and Jack Williamson’s Legion of Space. The year was 1999, and Blockbuster was out of The Sixth Sense, so I grabbed Phantom Menace instead because the case looked cool. Watched it, fell in love with it, decided I was a fan of space stuff. Hardcore old-school Star Wars fans are probably gaping in horror that this was my intro to the beloved universe, but hey, at least I found it at all. Then there was my discovery of the Wishbone edition of Legion of Space, which led me to promptly seek out the real version. Something about it spoke to me… I don’t recall exactly what happened in the story, but I remember being astounded by the sheer amount of possibility.

The next thing I knew, I was systematically hunting down sci-fi authors and checking out all their books from the library one by one (I literally went down the shelf and grabbed entire sections at times… hey, if there are only five Ben Bova books, I might as well take ‘em all at once!). Though I loved fantasy as well… what kid doesn’t love magic?… sci-fi was what really spoke to me. I think it’s because all the fantasy I read was very Western-centric, and at a certain point, I felt like I was reading about the same castles and dragons over and over. Sci-fi could be time travel, aliens, crazy tech on an otherwise contemporary earth… it was endless. There was also something about the aesthetic—I may have just been more of a science geek than a history nerd. I loved sci-fi and space stuff so much, I ventured alone into a sketchy Hong Kong hole-in-the-wall shop to buy pirated versions of the original Star Wars movies when I was 12. Terrifying, but totally worth it.

Last year I got to meet both Summer Blau and Sean Maher. That was certainly memorable.

As y’all probably know, no one obsesses like a tween girl in love, and that’s exactly what I was… completely, utterly, hopelessly in love with sci-fi and space stuff. So naturally, my next step was to try to write some of my own. The results were truly horrendous, but I spent the next several years—into the first two years of high school—scribbling silly, campy space adventures about an intrepid crew of explorers (and the commander’s tween daughter, who inevitably got the most important roles).

Fast forward half a decade. College put a damper on my writing dreams after rejecting me from their creative writing program three times, thereby convincing me that I was utterly worthless and should give up entirely (I channeled my creative energy into the music department instead). But a year after graduation, I found myself stuck in Beijing at my first job, which involved working weird hours to align with the New York office. In other words, a lot of free time late at night when everyone else is asleep. A good friend of mine in college—who HAD been accepted into the creative writing workshop—had been talking about how she wanted to get back into writing but wanted a partner to trade work with for motivation (she knew I’d used to want to write and tried many times to convince me that our creative writing department was just biased against me because I did spec fic instead of highbrow literary stuff). So I obliged and started an all-new silly, campy space adventure…except I’d also been reading a lot about artificial intelligence and consciousness at the time, so I decided to infuse that into the tale as well.

That book eventually became my debut, Artificial Absolutes. When I started writing it, all I’d wanted was to finish. I thought I’d just use it to pass the time and entertain my friend, then forget all this writing nonsense all over again. But you know that picture book, If You Give A Mouse A Cookie? It was like that. First, I just wanted to finish. When I finished, I wanted to make it good and started going onto online writer communities to get critiques and improve the thing. Then, I wanted to get published. After it found a home with Red Adept Publishing, I wanted to promote it. Since bookstore customers are more the crime-novels-and-women’s-fiction crowd, I chose to go straight to the geeks.

One of my many Shore Leave 39 panels with fellow inmate Glenn Hauman, left, Jennifer Rosenberg, David Mack, and Richard White.

Which brings me to Shore Leave, a fan-run Star Trek convention in Maryland that I’d discovered because one of my fellow Red Adept authors (who writes fantasy) is local to the area. That’s where I met the Crazy 8 crew a few years back.

When I first started my writing adventures, I kept indie publishing on my radar but felt like I needed the validation of an old-school publisher to be legit. Nowadays, I’ve accepted that I’m just too weird for most traditional houses. Not that I won’t still shop stuff around, but I foresee much indie publishing in my future. Still, even indies need support—no person is an island and all that. It’s just nice to know that someone has your back. So when Crazy 8 invited me to join their club, I was like “hells yeah!” I felt like I just got invited to sit at the cool kids’ table ;-)

And that, my friends, is how I wound up in the asylum.