I read voraciously. At maximum speeds, I can read for 10 hours straight for days in a row and devour up to 200,000 words in a day. Since becoming disabled, I spend a lot of time reading when I am too chronically ill or in pain to do anything else, which essentially happens every single day.
However, it would be a complete and utter lie to say I was reading anything but fanfiction. And honestly, it would be equally false to say that I have been regularly reading anything but fanfiction since I learned I was gay in middle school through my not-so-bizarre fascination with BL (Boys Love) manga. Once freshman year of high school hit and through the mysterious ways of now-dead Tumblr, I learned I was transgender and non-binary, and then it was basically the final nail in the coffin for any lingering aspirations of becoming a bookworm in the traditional sense.
It’s a matter of representation. It would be bad enough looking for representation by-and-for cisgender gay Southeast Asian-Americans, but it’s essentially impossible for a transgender one that doesn’t end with the involvement of a shovel and a six-foot grave. I also vastly prefer to read fantasy, and I have no tolerance for Eurocentricism in my fantasy or for non-Asians’ Orientalism.
But as a child, I was quite a happy bird when it came to books, and the books I read then still influence me now. The Abhorsen Trilogy by Garth Nix and Tithe by Holly Black have been extremely formative for me for the type of fantasy I aspire to create. They were written decades ago, but still remain quite subversive in the modern Game of Thrones-dominated landscape of fantasy. Nix’s series features teenage girls using necromantic bells to raise the dead or lay them to rest in the process of saving the world. Black’s series is a keystone of urban fantasy since the modern setting is used as urban grit, and the otherworldly aspects remain brilliantly ethereal, with such majesty that gets lost in what most people think of as urban fantasy: the fantastical made mundane through such things as Paranormal Investigation Agencies and vampires going to high school.
I’ve kept tabs on what the big boys of publishing put out, and there’re some trailblazers for QTPOC in fantasy, namely TOR, but I can’t help but keep my reservations. The publishing world is a lot different now than it was 15 years ago, but is different enough? Is change happening fast enough? For some, it is. And I’m happy for them.
But if I had to have my say, I’ll stick to my childhood favorites and the wide and well-tagged world of fanfiction.
Xuan Nguyen | FEYXUAN is a disabled fey orchestral music composer, writer-poet, and illustrator-designer. Their recent projects have involved the solo development of aesthetic interactive fiction games exploring the nuances not exclusive to the following: power, trauma, madness, nonbinariness, divinity, and monstrosity. LIAR, LIONESS (Feb 2021) and the demo for OCHITSUBAKI【落ち椿】(March 2021) are out now. Their books include LUNG, CROWN, AND STAR (Dec 2020, Lazy Adventurer) and THE FAIRIES SING EACH TO EACH (Feb 2021, Flower Press). Xuan Nguyen is the Art Director of Lazy Adventurer Publishing, and they help Grimalkin Records as a Graphic Designer.