by JW Stebner
I had the pleasure of asking L Chan a few questions about his short story, “The Last Trophy of Hunter Hammerson,” as well as his inspirations and the boom of SFF work coming from Singapore. L Chan has been published elsewhere in Metaphorosis, The Dark, Augur, and Broadswords and Blasters with stories being transformed into podcasts by Podcastle and the Overcast.
If you wish to learn more about L Chan and the other authors of Issue 2, you can find their bios by clicking HERE.
JW: What inspired you to write “The Last Trophy of Hunter Hammerson”? Is this the type of story you usually write, or a departure from the normal?
LC: A few things. First was to examine the monster hunting trope, particularly where it applies to video games, like Dark Souls, Monster Hunter, Skyrim. Most of the time you’re welcomed back into civilisation as a hero, when really the player has just ambushed giants who were minding their own business, or punching dragons in the nuts. So quite a lot of that grand heroics versus the reality of what circumstances a hunter would triumph against such monsters.
Format wise, it was a choice to write it in the form of a news article with editorial comments. A shout out to the non-standard formats that I’ve liked over the past few years: Stet by Sarah Gailey in Fireside and Ten Excerpts from an Annotated Bibliography on the Cannibal Women of Ratnabar Island by Nibedita Sen in Nightmare. You lose some closeness to the character in this format – but you get to play with oblique twists, like experiencing the story as the narrator as well as the editor reading the piece.
JW: You’ve described “The Last Trophy of Hunter Hammerson” as a “weird story about the veneration of old heroes, monster slaying and environmental justice.” Can you elaborate on that?
LC: There were a couple of themes clashing here – the old Weird fiction themes of horror being adjacent to civilized reality, and the more environmentalist themes of the world adjacent to ours being in balance. Miyazaki’s Princess Mononoke and Nausicaa are two of my favourites. Having a fungus control a former monster hunter and set up a nature reserve was a meeting of these two themes.
JW: At the beginning of 2020 you published a three piece series with Metamorphosis Magazine. Can you tell me a little about that? The story, the format, and why you decided to break it up into three pieces instead of publishing it as one single piece?
LC: Sonata is one of my two forays into pieces above short story territory. The 3 issue split was something decided by the publisher, although the piece had already been written in a three chapter format. The piece itself is a sort of steampunk adventure – Sona, a scion of a minor house specialising in assassination rescues a captive retired soldier to escort him to the home of his dead mother. The fun part was describing a magic system that was based on physical forces produced by music, with its organization based along symphonies, and oddly enough, musical licenses. I really should get back to that world one day, it was meant to be a two or three novella series, and ends with quite a bit of double crossing.
JW: In recent years, we have seen a boom of SFF talent coming from Singapore. Authors like Vina Jie-Min Prasad, Neon Yang, and yourself, to name a few. Many literary magazines are now widely accepting translations including Clarkesworld, Strange Horizons, Samovar, and the StarShipSofa podcast. What does this say to you about the larger cultural shift that we are seeing in SFF?
LC: I think there’s a larger move towards more representation in all of fiction, in ways that tell stories that have universal human themes in under-represented communities rather than mining them for exotic value. Online submissions systems and email submissions help but that shift towards being more open to other contexts and other points of view being valid, across readers and publishing power structures, that helps.
The other thing to speak towards is that a boom in publishing means a boom in talent, I think a lot of the talent has really been there before; storytelling is something that comes to us all. Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines and South Asia may seem to have more but I assume that’s the prevalence of English in these countries. We’ll see more of the rest soon. I think it less to be about talent, but publishing opportunities.
JW: Can you describe your personal writing process? Do you use any visuals for inspiration? Perhaps you have a special candle that you light when you’re writing or a specific chair reserved for brainstorming?
LC: I wish! I am at least 90% a pantser, although I think unless people write via stream of consciousness there are people who plan everything and people who largely plan at most the scene their doing. I’m more of the latter, and sort of play things out in my head like a movie over and over (not even when I’m writing), and slowly get things down when I have the time. That process probably affects my writing style more than I’d let on, there’s details that I don’t catch because of the way I visualise scenes and the messiness of the process.
Case in point for Sonata, the editor thought that I needed one more interaction scene between two characters and I was like… yes, what if they interacted on a parkour race of floating airships docked twenty stories up in the sky.
It’s a wonder anything makes its way to print, honestly.
JW: How might interested readers keep up with your future work?
LC: The best place to catch up with me is twitter @lchanwrites, although I keep https://lchanwrites.wordpress.com/ for yearly summaries of my work and just as a place to plonk my contact details. Don’t expect much writing content, I mainly post pictures of my dogs.
An extremely talented author to keep your eye on, L Chan will no doubt be a name that you will continue to hear for years to come. If you would like to read the issue which includes L Chan’s short story, you can find it HERE.