On “Bored”

My short story “Bored” was published in JMWW, a journal that alongside Smokelong and decomP, convinced me that speculative flash fiction was the highest pursuit.

This story is about sex workers in turn of the century Penang, Malaysia. It’s in a way a response to Lydia Kwa’s novel, This Place Called Absence, which is about turn of the century sex workers in Singapore. Kwa’s novel centers around a queer Asian Canadian woman, Wu Lan, who desperately needs some psychological closure on her father’s death, so she imagines Chow Chat Mui and Lee Ah Choi, two sex workers in Singapore whose trials mirror Wu Lan’s own.

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Inspired by her novel, I became deeply curious as to why anyone would imagine two historic queer sex workers to resolve their own traumatic issues. So I imagined “bulging” Xia and the “withering” narrator. I played with them in my imagination from time to time between aerobics and petting my cat. Sometimes Xia would appear in her satin robe swatting pretend bees with an electric tennis racket. Sometimes they said stuff in Mandarin, I don’t know what. But mostly it was the girls staring at me, legs folded on the hostel carpet, wondering what kind of pervy fiction writer would invoke their presence.

Overall I wouldn’t suggest re-imagining turn of the century sex workers unless you seriously feel like coping with some deep shit. I wasn’t ready, but I wrote this story and now I can go back to taste-testing wine over my divan.

For the setting, I was a tourist in Georgetown a while ago, so I know everything about that place that there is to know.

The first line of dialogue I basically ripped from chat room role-players.

For the title, I was listening to Faye Wong’s “Bored,” and I was all: yeah, that’s a word.

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