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  • New Steps for the Development of Taiwanese Queer Fiction (II)
    Aug 09, 2022 / By Chang Yi-Hsum ? Translated by Jenna Tang

    Read Previous Part: https://booksfromtaiwan.tw/latest_info.php?id=178

     

    The above three novelists are all deeply influenced by Taiwanese literature. With initial observation, we can tell that the earliest Taiwanese queer novels are modernist writings that are, at the same time, partly-autobiographical and confessional (take Qiu Miaojin (???) as an example) and they have been staying afloat in Taiwanese literature and history. The influence of Taiwanese queer novels has gone beyond coming-of-age stories and romance novels, and have entered a more diverse realm where social conversations take place. Writings from queer writers who were born past the ’70s, such as Ghost Town (???) from Kevin Chen (???), a story based on Yongjing, the author’s birthplace, and Kan Yao-Ming’s (???) Becoming Bunun (??????) can both be perceived as a reflection of this new phenomenon.

    Besides the titles mentioned above, since the “Liberate Hong Kong, Revolution of our times” movement, a considerable amount of writings from Hong Kong writers has begun to appear in Taiwan. Some of these authors studied abroad in Taiwan, and some have settled on the island. Although “Hong Kong’s fate” is the most distinctive theme, the key element in so many stellar writings is the excellence of these authors’ skills. What these writings address aren’t limited to historical trauma. In this trend, a musician from Hong Kong, Wang He-Ping (???), who had studied in Hualien, has written That’s the Hormones Speaking (?????). Just like the title, the author intends to let hormones, who exist without a language, speak out. In her work, queerness is filled with both piercing, sensory strength and the overthrowing of established rhetorics.

    Last but not least, the upcoming short story collection from Tetsuya Terao (????), Bullets Are the Remaining Life (?????), is worth mentioning. Once a resident of San Francisco and a former Google software engineer, the author perfectly presents the landscapes of this professional field, as well as the background of Taiwanese nationals who reside in the States. There are three other elements that bring attention to this author’s writing: first is his style – he writes in a cold, piercing, yet concise and moving way, making the reading experience fast and pleasurable; secondly, in contrast to general assumptions, queer people who work in engineering and earn high salaries, don’t necessarily have easy lives. They might feel lonely in this elite environment with such high pressure. Scenes of queer people who died by suicide, who had suicidal thoughts, and who lived with the memories of other queer people who died by suicide appear frequently. The sense of despair isn’t to overly evoke emotions, but to be understood as “a state of mourning”, which gives it an even more profound meaning. Third is the profound existence of queer desire, and how it is never strengthened despite any positive feedback and experiences. Sexual enlightenment or sexual awakening, despite bearing the nature of humility, setback, and void, is still a part of the desire. Therefore, the queer community that is brought out by Tetsuya Terao, also joined the literary tradition that never gives up on “individuals who fell apart”.

  • New Steps for the Development of Taiwanese Queer Fiction (I)
    Aug 08, 2022 / By Chang Yi-Hsum ? Translated by Jenna Tang

    Looking at the genre, Taiwanese queer poetry is gaining force; as for fiction, there is no shortage of great works; as for essays about coming out of the closet, they picked up the rhythm slightly later – the queer essay collection Thorns and Waves (???) didn’t get published until 2022. Scripts started with Tian Chi-Yuan (???), with some established styles, and Chien Li-Ying (???) is one of the most compelling authors. In addition, the photography book Hand in Hand, Together  (???????) incorporates photography and many queer communities’ personal statements. In the same genre of works that focus on this social movement and its course of development to strive for the equal marriage rights between 2016 and 2019, is The Calm After the Storm (????). Movie director Huang Hui-Chen’s (???) The Priestess Walks Alone (????T??) bears significant importance: it is a moving confession from an adult daughter whose mother identifies herself as lesbian. In the following report, I have selected a few queer novels to focus on:

     

    Starting from 1997, Taiwan began to establish a university major in Taiwanese literature. This development was perceived as a means to preserve Taiwan’s languages and history, but was thought of less as being related to creative works, or even to advocacy for queer writings. If one wanted to learn more about queer culture, after the ‘90s – majoring in English, American Literature, or other Foreign Language Literature was the primary option.

    After 2017, new changes and literary phenomena made us look back to the turning points in 1997. First of all, Yang Shuang-Zi’s (???) two novels, Seasons of Bloom (????) and Taiwan Travelogue (?????), are about the female queer stories that took place during the Japanese colonial period in Taiwan. The author had a firm grasp of Taiwanese history, causing queer literature, which is oftentimes introspective, to suddenly gain a unique sense of space. Lin Hsin Hui’s (???) short story collection, Human Glitches (????), is interwoven with horror, bringing in objects and sci-fi writing to deconstruct the established gender disciplines. One of the stories in the collection, “Cover Up” (??), was selected as a main source text for adaptation for the 2020 Taipei Golden Horse Film Academy’s final presentation. Ho Wen-Jin’s (???) That Day, We Searched Our Ways Behind a Chicken Butt (??????????????), on the other hand, is a work without any reservation, which embraces the queerness and the interactive dialectics of Taiwanese literature and history. The tradition of “?? changing stars” (a ceremony performance in which people change the gender of a fetus) is compared with transgender surgery: the former is the changing of gender under others’ expectations, while the latter is a personal decision – showing an excellent ability for criticism. Besides all this, the author has solid comedy skills. The sharpest section of this novel was the part that precisely reveals under which circumstances will queer memories be erased.

     

    Read On: https://booksfromtaiwan.tw/latest_info.php?id=179

  • For Readers, Publishers, and Authors, E-Book Is a New Choice
    Jul 07, 2022 / By Wolf Hsu ? Translated by Jenna Tang

    Reading is one of the simplest ways to solve our doubts, learn new knowledge, experience different lives, and entertain ourselves. As a reader, I keep thinking about how the most ideal publishing market is one that will be able to satisfy all the needs mentioned above – no matter how obscure the information I am looking for, or how strange the stories I love – I hope I can always find the book I need most at the moment.

    However, we can look at it in a different way. As someone who has been working in publishing for so many years, I understand such a goal isn’t easy to achieve. There are three main reasons.

    First, it is about the size of the market. The act of publishing is full of cultural significance, but it is also a straightforward commercial transaction. Most published products are intended for the consumer market. The amount of books purchased by readers will directly impact publishing records. Looking at the publishing records based on Taiwan’s National Central Library’s annual number of ISBN applications: during relatively slow periods, Taiwan’s book market published around 36,000 books (2020), while at its peak over 57,000 books have come out (in 2021, including a growing number of eBooks and audiobooks). Neither of these numbers include books that were self-published, or paperbacks and eBooks that were published without an ISBN. Ruling off the exam preparation books and potentially overlapping books (the title with separate ISBNs for paperback and eBook form), every year, there are around 30,000 books being published in Taiwan, which shows the publishing houses’ intention to satisfy the diverse and niche tastes from the readers. However, these books mostly lack marketing resources. If readers didn’t actively search for these books on their own, it would be hard for them to simply stumble upon them. In the meanwhile, if sales figures aren’t as high, the publishing house will lose profits to support the company, making them less willing to publish these types of books.

    Another thing is, the publishing industry itself can be experimental. In fact, most commercial transactions that attempt to push creative works into the consumer market are all somewhat experimental. An experienced person working in publishing can normally foresee how many copies will be sold. However, the market variables can be extreme; bestsellers are usually underdogs that people don’t have much expectations for. What happens often is that the sales figures don’t reach their goals.

    No matter what the circumstances, a title without viable sales figures will put pressure on the publishing house – books still in stock are the third obstacle that keep the publishing market from becoming more diverse. Books that are still in stock take up space and cost extra storage rental for the publishing house. Not only are these books unable to generate profits, they actually increase overhead costs for the publisher. If a title isn’t selling well, the profits of the book may already have been completely depleted by the cost of the storage rental before the expiration of the first license period. If a title has very few books left in stock and the publishing house is considering reprinting or producing another edition, the staff also need to consider the space they have for books remaining in stock: most reprinted books no longer produce the same marketing plan as the first printing, so sales may be slow compared to a new title. Although the cost of reprinting the same title might be lower, the cost of storage rental for the remaining stock doesn’t change. Therefore, if a publishing house is feeling uncertain about the sales performance of a book, they might choose not to reprint the title, which means that the readers who are in search of the book will not be able to find them anymore.

    Of course, these factors are mostly relevant to most traditional paperbacks – the number of copies in print and the cost of storage rental have to be seriously considered if a publishing house is producing paperbacks. This is where eBooks can help relieve the burden.

    To take my own books as example, both my novels The Pretender and What A Wonderful World??????? skipped the traditional paperback publishing process and were instead published directly as eBooks. These books had been originally drafted on word processors and saved as digital files. It wasn’t difficult to convert them into the most commonly used EPub3 format. I also designed and drew the cover myself. Taiwan’s Readmoo application is the biggest platform for books published in traditional Chinese on the island. It is also a very convenient shelf system. I can update the title to the latest version at all times, and I am able to check the sales figures on my own. The paperback of my short story collection Fix went out of stock in 2021, although the TV series rights and the comic adaptation rights had been sold and both productions were in progress. After serious consideration, the publishing house decided to wait for the transition and the finalization of both the TV series and the comic before reprinting them. Since then, Fix has changed publishers and now has been released with additional content. During the period when the paperbacks were out of stock and before the new edition was released, eBooks became a very powerful way to balance the sales figures.

    By solving these issues with efficiency, the publishing market will be able to keep publishing diverse titles. Therefore, for readers, publishing houses, and authors alike, eBooks are a great way to boost the visibility of various titles. For the book market in Taiwan, it is especially important to invest more in producing eBooks.