Wednesday, 15 August 2018

My Translation of 'Crazy Rich Asians' Mandarin version of Coldplay's 'Yellow' into English - Enjoy!

I never realised the significance of 'Yellow' for Asian Americans until today. 

As a Mandarin speaker, I am used to referring to myself as 'huangzhongren' - Mongoloid/yellow, and to me, yellow is such a happy, bright and cheerful colour which also happens to be the colour of life-giving loess and of the Yellow River, so to realise that 'yellow' is a slur and that it has negative connotations has come as a bit of a shock, but hey.

As someone who was born and raised in Britain, I loved 'Yellow' because it was a very catchy song with a good tune and lyrics, plus Coldplay was played everywhere back then, during the height of Britpop; my family and I would drive into the countryside and sing ourselves silly to this song. This was the first pop song we introduced one of my white friends to, and he became so obsessed by this song that he used to play it endlessly on the piano. It's definitely up there with every song by the Chemical Brothers :-)

流星 'Meteors', Zheng Yun's version of 'Yellow', has been shortened and sung by Katherine Ho as part of the soundtrack to 'Crazy Rich Asians'. I have listed Katherine's short version, and have added Zheng Yun's omitted lyrics after Katherine's version.

'Yellow' Original Version (in English) written and sung by Chris Martin of Coldplay
流星 'Meteors' (in Mandarin) written and originally sung by Zheng Yun 郑钧
Translated with love from the UK by Beanie Lei 

I wanted to know
xiǎng zhī dào
  知 道
How long a meteor could fly for
liú xīng néng fēi duō  jiǔ
流 星    飞 多 久
And whether its beauty was worth looking for
tā de měi lì shì fǒu zhí de xún qiú
它的美丽 是 否 值 得去 寻 求
The flowers of the night sky scattered and fell behind you
yè kōng de huā sàn luò zài nǐ shēn hòu
夜 空  的花 散 落 在你 身 
(It made me) happy for a very long while
xìng fú le wǒ hěn jiǔ
福 了我 很 久
The wait was worth it
zhí dé qù děng hòu
值 得 去 等 
And thus my heart rushed madly
yú shì wǒ xīn kuáng bēn
于是 我 心  
From dusk till dawn
cóng huáng hūn dào qīng chén
    昏  到
(Until I) couldn’t bear it any longer
bù néng zài chéng shòu
不 能    
(Then my) feelings and hopes landed in your hands
qíng yuàn zhuì luò zài nǐ shǒu zhōng
       坠 落 在 你手 
The rain became a rainbow in the night
yǔ huà chéng hēi yè de cǎi hóng
雨 化   黑 夜 的 彩 虹
And gossamer cocoons became breezes in the moonlight
tuì biàn chéng yuè guāng de qīng fēng
蜕 变    月 光  的 清
Turned into breezes in the moonlight
chéng yuè guāng de qīng fēng
  月 光   的 清

Repeat five times:
In happiness (I) leapt into your torrents
xìng fú tiào jìn nǐ de hé liú
幸福跳 进 你的 河流
And swam all the way to the end
yī zhí yóu dào jìn tóu
一 直 游 到 尽 头
Leapt into your torrents
tiào jìn nǐ de hé
跳 进 你的 河

I wanted to know
xiǎng zhī dào
  知 道
How long a meteor could fly for
liú xīng néng fēi duō  jiǔ
流 星  飞 多 久
And whether it truly is beautiful
tā de měi lì shì fǒu
它的 美丽 是 否

Lyrics that were left out:

I made a wish

wǒ xǔ gè yuàn

我 许个    

I made a wish for protection

wǒ xǔ gè yuàn bǎo yòu

我 许个    保 佑

That my soul would be stilled in this most glorious of moments

ràng wǒ de xīn níng gù zài zuì měi de shí hòu

  我 的 心 凝 固 在 最 美 的 时 候

(When my) feelings and hopes landed in your hands

qíng yuàn zhuì luò zài nǐ shǒu zhōng

       坠 落 在 你手 

The rain became a rainbow in the night

yǔ huà chéng hēi yè de cǎi hóng

雨 化     黑 夜的  彩 虹

And gossamer cocoons turned into breezes in the moonlight

tuì biàn chéng yuè guāng de qīng fēng

蜕 变      月 光   的 清 

My feelings and hopes will not see the bright day again

qíng yuàn bú zài jiàn míng mèi de tiān

  愿 不 再 见   媚 的 

In happiness (I) leapt into your torrents

xìng fú tiào jìn nǐ de hé liú

幸福跳 进 你的 河流

Leapt into your torrents

And I was freed

nà li duō zì yóu

那里 多自 由

I made a wish that this most precious of moments would be preserved

wǒ xǔ gè yuàn bǎo yòu zài zuì měi de shí hòu

我 许个     保 佑  在 最 美 的 时 候

I made a wish

wǒ xǔ gè yuàn

我 许个   

Monday, 30 July 2018

Thoughts on the Summer Sales!

I was paid some royalties today :-D! Thanks to the exchange rate, I had enough to buy the cheapest dress in the sales from H&M! It's an unusual tent-shaped dress with no collar, fluffy sleeves, and a cornflower-blue flower pattern. It isn't the most beautiful dress, I think, but it is really practical and so lovely and cool to wear in this heat. I think I shall frame it once it wears out, to remind myself that this was my first ever purchase with my royalties.

On a side note, I noticed that spring/summer 2018's womenswear in a shop for mature shoppers which I won't name was in a wild, dazzling array of styles, patterns and colours. There were sleeveless tops, tops with huge bell sleeves, long crimpled skirts, tiny shorts and skirts, earrings, necklaces, handbags, weekenders, trainers, flip flops, sandals, socks, pop socks, makeup etc. Encouraged by what I saw, I thought I would get something in the sales for the men in my life, so I went to the men's section, where I never normally go unless I have a birthday to cater for. What I found left me reeling. All the colour, flounciness and variety for women was distilled into jackets, shirts, t-shirts, ties, and socks in monochrome navy blue, black, beige, white, and brown. It was just so boring.

I came away feeling very sorry for mature men in general. Is it discouraging for them to know that when it comes to clothes, they can't be flashy like lions, or colourful like peacocks and birds of paradise? It's the summer! Why was the menswear I saw so drab and dull? The most colourful item I saw was a tweed sort of pattern on a flat cap. When it comes to this summer's clothes, have all mature men received a memo to chuck colour, vibrancy and variety out the window? Hmmn.

Anyway, thank you to my readers, you have made this Beanie a very happy Beanie! :-D!

Friday, 27 July 2018

My review of 'Keystone Bone: The Complete Trilogy' by Jesper Schmidt

‘Keystone Bone: The Complete Trilogy’ (Amazon link here) is a vivid tale which brings something new to the genre of fantasy which is based on Norse/Nordic mythology and popularised by Tolkien. This is so exciting for me that I have found it most helpful to compare this trilogy from Jesper Schmidt, a Dane, with more familiar fantasy books from J R R Tolkien and Terry Pratchett, who are English. Schmidt’s descriptions of dragons and elves (who he calls ‘Duian’) are fascinating, as is his focus on certain aspects of his female characters and his clever and unique treatment of their matriarchal religious practices in their patriarchal societies. His pacing, in which he somehow manages to balance his characters’ stories with building up their worlds, helped me to devour ‘Desolation’ even faster than I did Tolkien’s ‘Fellowship of the Ring’.

They do say ‘never judge a book by its cover’, and as a female reader (and this is something I do not think about normally, I have to admit), I did initially have reservations about reading books with female protagonists entitled ‘Degradation’ and ‘Damnation’, and I did wonder what route these would take, but rest assured, these titles do not match the content of these two books.

‘Degradation’ and ‘Damnation’ need to be read more than once, and each reading cannot be quick. They actually delve into unusual, extreme forms of ritual, magic, self-discovery and self-redemption in a PG-12, maybe ’15 rated’ way. The most arresting part of ‘Degradation’ is the exploration of ‘willpower’ and ‘arrogance’ (which I do not normally see in many books I read), while ‘Damnation’ introduces something I have never seen before in fantasy: what I can only call ‘red herring protagonists’ and ‘red herring antagonists’ (as opposed to scene-stealers like Greebo in Pratchett’s books). It does take time to work out who is who, and does feel anticlimactic at times, but this does mean that the plot/storyline to ‘The Keystone Bone Trilogy’ stays constant throughout.

‘The Keystone Bone Trilogy’ contains far more action and much less dialogue and humour (humour is in the eye of the reader, so I am willing to be corrected on this) than Pratchett, and holds back where Tolkien would have gone overboard. There are, for example, no appendices describing languages, and no drinking songs. This does speed up the pace of the trilogy, and introduces a certain moodiness without sacrificing too much detail of the worlds that have been built.

The conclusion of the trilogy and fates of many of the characters are unexpected, and the ending might close off the possibility of sequels but certainly not spin-offs, which I would really welcome as there is still a lot left to explore. I do hope Schmidt will continue with the worlds he has created, and look forward eagerly to any new tales he might have.

Wednesday, 18 July 2018

My Review of 'Cody Quan' by Louis Leung - sorry, it's a bit long!

I came across 'Cody Quan' by Louis Leung (available on Amazon Kindle) and was glad I read it. This post is rather long, but I think it needs to be, and it was originally posted in Goodreads.


This book gave me goosebumps in a good way. It is the mirror to 'Crazy Rich Asians', and I am glad that self-publishing exists because it has given underrated, underrepresented authors like Leung a much-deserved platform. Given its subject matter (the characters in this story are not filthy rich and are mostly Chinese American, there are a lot of extremely ugly, horrific discussions about religion and racism, and there is no constant oppression of Chinese/Asian women happening), this book would never have been published traditionally. Self-publication is its main strength, because it has allowed what I would say is a unique, unheard, Chinese-influenced, American storytelling voice to shine, even if this voice does not use the fanciest words or sentences to tell Cody's story.

'Cody Quan' and 'Crazy Rich Asians' are the only books in the English language which address the questions of being Asian and Chinese with a positive exuberance I can identify with. Like 'Crazy Rich Asians', and most unlike a typical English-language novel, Leung's 'Cody Quan' stars a huge, HUGE cast of distinctive, memorable, male and female characters who are three-dimensional (maybe at least 2.5-dimensional in some instances) and living incredibly fast-paced 21st century lives, in the 21st century, who are satirised in a genuinely funny way; it is so refreshing to read American books like 'Cody Quan' and 'Crazy Rich Asians' for this reason. Having said that, Leung's humour is surprisingly British; I laughed out loud at many of his introductions to his characters, and appreciated why the humour happened when some of these characters changed for the worse.

What makes this an American story, and a story which can only happen in the US, are Leung's Chinese characters having to live with this bizarre, stifling, authoritarian form of Confucianism that is unique to fictional Asian/Chinese Americans, as well as the race- and gun-based cultures surrounding Cody. All this left the third act, 'Karma', feeling very different from Act I and Act II: Mosaic Design Studios, and the ending was not believable for someone Chinese like me who was raised in the UK.

I do not think that 'Cody Quan' is solely for an Asian/Chinese market. Leung's hilarious, energetic descriptions of being in your 20s/30s and taking career-based risks of all sorts will resonate with a wider audience, and Leung's wry observations of the society Cody lives in will stick with me for a long time; I believe that Leung should continue with writing novels AND short stories which will allow his pithy observational skills to shine through. The relatively muted ending to Cody's story arc does leave the door open for sequels and spin-offs, and I am especially keen to see how Cody, Mr Quan, Kiki, Daphne, Maple and Mindy will fare in these. Keep up the good work, Louis; I hope to see a project manned by you and Kevin Kwan in the future.

Saturday, 14 July 2018

'The Promise: Part Two of the Norse Myth Soap Opera Trilogy' is now in the Amazon Kindle bookstore!

Here it is; my newest book, 'The Promise: Part Two of the Norse Myth Soap Opera Trilogy' is now out (click on this link to buy a copy from the Amazon Kindle store)! Here're the cover and blurb:

'Odin, chieftain of Asgard, enjoys helping out his human friends and family whenever he can. His wife, Frigg, lavishes her time and attention on The Promise as their sons, Baldr and Hodr, get swept up in an extraordinarily deadly rivalry for love and power. In the meantime, Odin’s third son Thor and adopted son Tyr begin a series of adventures with Odin’s ex-thrall Loki, whose children are taken to Asgard in questionable circumstances. Against all this, the Dead soldier on, and Odin has to turn to an unlikely source of help whose ambitions, tenacity, and adventurousness are more than a match for his own...

Rooted in Old Norse, Danish and Latin sources, "The Norse Myth Soap Opera Trilogy" is a contemporary, modern retelling of the Norse myths in three novels: "The Vision", "The Promise", and "Wolf's Father".'

Designing this cover was hard as I had to alter what I originally had in mind. I had envisioned an arm ring and a sword somewhere, but somehow, this did not fit the themes of the story I eventually told. In the end, I drew an abstract picture of what I perceive to be a jotunn horse instead; I suppose that jotunn horses must look like Icelandic horses but with additional features, and there is something about a horse's spirit, no matter where they are from, which ties in better with the themes of my retelling.

Coming up with this cover meant that I had to go back to the drawing board with my other covers so that 'The Vision' could be seen as part of the overall story arc of 'The Norse Myth Soap Opera', and 'The Prophecy' could be part of the story arc, or a standalone story altogether, and with these new covers done, I thought the cover of 'Five-Penny Rhymes' could do with some improvement, too, as the font was too small and faint and the size of the cover did not look right.

So here are my new covers!

I am now pushing back 'Wolf's Father: Part Three of The Norse Myth Soap Opera Trilogy' to autumn/winter 2018, as things are really busy, and after 'Wolf's Father' is done, I have another trilogy planned. Again, I have updated my list of my books - do take a look!
Thank you to all my IRL, Twitter and Google+ friends and family for all your support! :-)

Saturday, 16 June 2018

Some Thoughts on Diversity in UK Publishing

Lionel Shriver’s response to Penguin Random House’s diversity policy resulted in many, many responses, but of all the responses to Shriver, Peter Gordon’s stood out, because for someone like me who is an author as well as a reader, this passage from his response shows that Penguin Random House AND Lionel Shriver are right, and that it is precisely because of this that self-published works are the future both for authors and readers:

A Chinese author from China in translation adds just as much diversity – arguably more – than an emigré writing in English or a second-generation British-Chinese or Chinese-American writer. From my viewpoint in Hong Kong, writing from an ethnically Asian writer in the US or Britain is not necessarily terribly Asian at all: a Chinese-American novel, for example, often has more in common with mainstream American fiction than it does with Chinese fiction written in China in Chinese.

I consider that such sentiments were written without understanding what ‘Asianness’ and ‘Chineseness’ are, and without regard to the completely different novel-writing traditions which exist in Chinese and English, but I digress. In the light of the above, the following examples must be considered to see why both Penguin Random House AND Lionel Shriver are right, and the implications for readers if a publisher or literary agent shares the same views as Gordon.

Lu Xun, Albert Einstein, Sax Rohmer, Pearl S Buck, Amy Tan, Kevin Kwan, and Pingping Wong have all written 'fiction about Chinese people’. Lu Xun was ethnically Chinese, lived in China, but was multilingual; Rohmer an Irish reporter in Britain who did not speak, read, and write any Chinese, never visited China, and based his novels about Chinese people on the few he wrote about as a reporter (and yes, they were criminals, but bear in mind that he was a reporter); Einstein a German Jewish scientist who did not speak, read, and write any Chinese and visited a small Chinese city over two days; Buck a white American missionary who was born and lived in China, spoke and wrote in Chinese, and had a Chinese name; Tan an ethnic Chinese, culturally a mix of American and Chinese, who has lived all her life in the US; Wong an ethnic Chinese born and raised in London, and culturally a mix of Singaporean, British, and Chinese, while Kwan is ethnically Chinese, raised in Singapore and the US, but culturally a mix of Singaporean, American, and Chinese. 

If Gordon’s thoughts were policy, then only Lu Xun’s writing would be published, and it is solely for this reason that I, as a reader, must disagree with him. I insist on having the choice to read all of these authors' works. For publishers, the benefits should be clear: more money will change hands for works a reader likes (hello Lu Xun, Pearl S Buck, Amy Tan, Kevin Kwan, and Pingping Wong; bye-bye Albert Einstein (I'll buy his physics-based works only, very reluctantly) and Sax Rohmer). 

And this leads to a more pertinent question: given the current emphasis in UK publishing on an author’s identity and background, would Einstein’s observations be more publishable than Rohmer’s, Lu’s, Tan’s, Wong’s, Buck’s, and Kwan’s, simply because Einstein was a celebrity/scientist/‘white man’/German Jew and therefore ‘more trustworthy’ or ‘more sellable’? 

Instead of addressing these issues, authors’ personal backgrounds are now used to market works, and this has led to concerns that authors of fiction are not free to write about characters and topics of a different background to the author's, but if the examples above continue to be used, the question changes. Essentially, should Einstein and Rohmer not be published because ‘Einstein’s and Rohmer’s portrayals of Chinese people were based on fiction that arose from silly, prejudiced views which can only be spotted by a small, tiny group of readers' (which is sometimes dramatically worded as 'some minorities find Einstein and Romer's portrayals of Chinese people racist')? 

I believe that the solution is simple: it is down to a reader to make a choice to accept or reject a work, AND to choose to distinguish whether a work is grounded in fact or whether it is grounded in fiction that results from prejudiced views. 

Those who think that works of fiction can be used to teach others about emotions and about real peoples and cultures will find themselves sadly mistaken, because works of fiction (especially novels and novels in translation) are fiction, but emotions and real peoples and cultures are real. 

In many instances, having a traditional publisher behind a translation also does not guarantee quality. Having authored ‘The Prophecy’ and ‘The Vision: Part One of The Norse Myth Soap Opera Trilogy’, which are fantasy novellas based on Norse mythology, I had to do some research (because I asked too many questions) and came across a gazillion scholarly translations from Old Norse into English of a poem called ‘Voluspa’, which I eventually based all my novellas on. I have seen ‘Voluspa’ rendered as ‘The Seeress’s Prophecy’, ‘The Vision of the Volva’, as well as ‘The Sayings of the Wise Woman’, and to top this off, there is a long Voluspa  and a short Voluspa, and there are actually three versions of the long Voluspa because two original Old Norse texts were combined to create a third text! For one poem alone, information had been added, removed, or made up because of a translator’s bias towards or against people, ideas, or things in Norse mythology and culture, and if this could be done in scholarly studies (NOT retellings, which are subject to a reteller’s imagination) of Deities of ‘white’ culture, imagine the damage done to mere mortals like me who come from a culture which is seen as 'not white/of colour/BAME and therefore automatically inferior/disadvantaged/possessing an advantage of some sort which is not liked by whites'.

The only way for us readers to get a sense of what will nourish us in mind and soul is to distinguish whether we are reading fact or fiction; to ask why we are reading (is it to learn? Or to be entertained?); visit and/or live in as many places as possible; listen to and empathise with a wide variety of people from backgrounds different to ours; and read works in the language they were written in, not works in translation.

Similar actions, I believe, will give authors an edge because it is only through a combination of experience and talent that an author can make a reader feel what his or her characters are feeling; immortality for an author beckons when a reader starts to see characters as real people. Apart from this, I think that timing and luck also help. For example, there were not many authors writing in English when ‘The Canterbury Tales’ and Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets were published, and likewise, there were no English-language novelists around when ‘Robinson Crusoe’ appeared.

Once we get a sense of what we want to accept or reject, we as readers can then distinguish between works that we are made aware of, and decide whose works we want to keep reading and buying.

That a box-based mindset based on identity has been allowed to sink itself, tooth and claw, into the very industry where only the written word and its power to evoke should reign supreme must be balanced with considerations of whether content should be deemed to be publishable, and what content is publishable.

Solely centering discussions around identity has polarised society at large unnecessarily and detracted from the real issue of some authors and readers not actually engaging with the world anymore. As traditional publishing in the UK has failed to address this, thus leading to unsatisfactory reading experiences and missed opportunities to unearth and nurture new talent, authors and readers like me have mined the exciting, fresh, and brave new world of self-publishing and found hidden treasures and sheer, unparalled diversity in authors, readers, and books. With the advent of the internet and cheap flights, we readers must not rely on the outdated mindset of using fiction (such as novels, and especially novels in translation) and the flawed reporting of facts to learn about real peoples and cultures anymore, but actively seek to live in and be part of the changing world we all share, and to enjoy each other for who we are.