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This interview is part of Staff Stories, a new feature for our nonfiction week. Strange Horizons has been around since 2000, and in that time, our volunteer staff has grown and changed, but many of the people and experiences here are hidden from readers. We hope these stories help connect our staff to you, giving faces to the people whose work is usually unmarked and often nameless. Our volunteers are a diverse and fascinating group of people, and we think you'll enjoy learning about them as much as we like working with them.
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This week, I'm interviewing Joyce Chng. Joyce is a Singaporean author and artist whose commitment to social justice and marginalized representation is paralleled only in the cuteness of their mouse drawings.
Vanessa Rose Phin: When did you join Strange Horizons, and what is your job here?
Joyce Chng: I joined Strange Horizons in 2016. I am a non-fiction/articles editor. I acquire and commission articles from authors and writers. So I work closely with them to help them bring their voices out and have them heard.
Vanessa: How would you characterize Strange Horizons nonfiction? What sorts of things does Articles like to focus on?
Joyce: Exciting, progressive, thought-provoking, broad to span across the genre (because genre is huge). Articles likes to focus on things that are relevant and current, matter to people (and to the editors), things that make people think. Diversity, awareness of the changes and shifts in genre fiction and SFF in general, willingness to explore issues fearlessly with sensitivity and compassion, the knowledge that SFF is more than just UK or US-centric: World SFF is also important to the genre as a whole.
Vanessa: What is your favorite project or event that you'd been involved with for Strange Horizons? Why?
Joyce: Wow, so many. My favorite project to date is the "Water Is Life" roundtable with Rebecca Roanhorse, Ishki Ricard, and Kate Elliot. I am a firm believer in climate change and that it affects Indigenous coasts and waterways. The roundtable was mostly prompted by the fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline and for many other continuous fights against intrusion into Indigenous lands all over the world. Climate change is not due to just the planet changing, but because of the thoughtless actions humanity has carried out over generations.
Vanessa: You've had many other hats, including teacher, parent, artist, and writer. What do you enjoy in your work? How do you balance your interests?
Joyce: Flexibility, versatility, and creativity. All these hats require these skills. Initially (when I was much younger), I used to worry that teaching would eat into my creativity, and teaching in Singapore was exhausting as we ended up wearing more than one hat—we were also administrators, counselors, parental figures, etc. Now, older and more circumspect, I just do what I can within my limits and not beat myself up for not meeting goals. Even my goals now are smaller, more tangible and achievable.
Balancing is a skill I am learning and unlearning daily. Learning to be kind to self (easier said than done!) is key to this. You can't balance spinning plates all the time, 24/7. You are not a superhero with super powers. Be kind to self, do one thing at a time.
Vanessa: I hear you use broadswords. When did you get into that?
Joyce: I am a trained medieval historian and I always love knighthood/chivalry. Always wanted to learn how to use longswords. So when I learnt that a school had opened up teaching Renaissance Italian longsword (Fiore), I jumped. And around that time (a decade ago, gosh!), it was relatively rare to have a HEMA school teaching that!
Vanessa: When you crave something sweet, what do you usually go for?
Joyce: These days I watch my blood sugar. I am not diabetic, but at risk (according to my doctor, since my chronic illnesses come in trios). So, I tend to go for…cheese tea. Which is basically melted creamy cheese on top of Chinese tea (unsweetened, of course). Cheese tea is a once-in-a-while treat. Bodies after a certain age protest much with dairy products.
Vanessa: What are some of your current projects and recent publications?
Joyce: Current project is grimdark wolves (an RPG thing I am writing for a publisher). Another (picture book) is still percolating at the planning stage. My two space opera books with werewolves with Fox Spirit Books (yes, there is a theme) are going to be published soon. My YA fantasy with swords and girls using them under Scholastic Asia is in the copy edits phase.
Recent publications include Water Into Wine (recced for Tiptree Award 2017, longlisted for Saboteur Award 2018) and Starfang: Rise of the Clan. Short stories include "The Thing You Feed" (The Future Fire) and "The Bridge" (Anathema Magazine).
Vanessa: What's something you're looking forward to this year?
Joyce: I know it's mundane and boring, but I look forward to a clean bill of health.
And hopefully, the publication of the YA fantasy.