Mr. Lovecraft Goes to China

Nick Stember delves into H.P. Lovecraft’s legacy, and a new Chinese collection inspired by it

Long a loomingly tenebrous presence in American pop culture, it was perhaps only a matter of time before the disturbing specter of H.P. Lovecraft slithered into Chinese. While the definitive history of Lovecraftian sino-fic remains to be written, Camphor Press’ new collection of Chinese short stories inspired by Lovecraft, The Flock of Ba-Hui and Other Stories, may well be the first to survived the journey into English, thanks to translators Arthur Meursault and Akira.

Although Lovecraft’s work had found its way into Chinese as early as 2005 with a translation of August Derleth’s classic 1969 collection Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos (credited to Hu Jianhong and Yu Yunling, published by Harbin Press under the title Myths of Lovecraft: Return of the Evil Gods), this particular iteration would seem to trace it’s eldritch origins back to late 2007, in the heady days before the bacchanal of the Beijing Olympics. On (one would imagine) a dark and stormy night of December 5, 2007, a subforum dedicated to the bestselling tabletop roleplaying game Call of Cthulhu (CoC) was launched on The Ring of Wonder (TROW), an online community for Chinese (and Chinese-speaking) fans of fantasy gaming, roleplaying and fiction.


Naked and Famous

A comics anthology brings the birthday suits – Nick Stember

While the ongoing war of the words between the panicking, pusillanimous Pussy-Grabber in Chief and a certain belligerent billionaire has delivered no shortage of choice headlines (‘BEZOS EXPOSES PECKER’; ‘BEZOS COULD SUE THE PANTS OFF THE NATIONAL ENQUIRER’), I would be remiss not to point out the fortuitously-timed forthcoming publication of Naked Body: An Anthology of Underground Chinese Comics (although, because I can’t help myself: ‘JEFF BEZOS GOES HARD…’).

In just under two weeks, Orion Martin’s Paradise Systems, in collaboration with original publisher Yan Cong and Hong Kong cartoonist Jason Li, has raised $12,570 USD and counting (of an original $8,000 USD goal) in preorders and bonus pledges on Kickstarter – bringing some much-needed attention to this small press publisher of translated underground Chinese comics, while also earning it a place in the annals of Chinese folks going au naturel to prove a point.


Personal, Poetical, Political

Nick Stember asks Christopher Doyle about The Hong Kong Trilogy

Admittedly, I’m a huge fan of your work, but I wonder with something so politically charged if you feel like people expected you to be giving answers? You know, Christopher Doyle makes a big statement, like Michael Moore or someone like that.

The point is to embrace the image: whether it’s the image on has of oneself or where one hopes to arrive – as an artist, a banker, a good mother, or whatever. It’s not how society and the tabloids need to “closet” you: it’s a volition, hope, and intention to be more than you would be alone that allows a public persona to help you to hurdle through to a very free and giving space.

Chinese Corner

Riddle Me This

Chinese word puzzles - Nick Stember

Can you read this?


This is an example of “See the Picture, Guess the Phrase” (kàn tú cāi chéngyǔ 看图猜成语), a kind of Pictionary for language nerds. If we translate the emoji into Mandarin we get “horse horse tiger tiger”… or mǎmǎhūhū 马马虎虎, which means “careless” or “so-so,” depending on the context.

My own path to this wonderful corner of the Chinese internet started with a simple, seemingly unrelated question: Are there Chinese crossword puzzles? How would that even work?


I Can Only Go by My Gut

A conversation with Singaporean novelist Jeremy Tiang

Nick Stember: You’ve said before that you dislike talking about your work, and I guess this is a little bit of an ironic or awkward place to start an interview, but I wonder if you could elaborate on this.

Jeremy Tiang: I think the work should stand on its own, and by the time it's out in the world, I don't have much more to say about it. I also don't like talking about work-in-progress, because I believe that if you say something out loud too much, it starts to feel limp and worn out by the time you come to write it. Really, I'd be much happier if author panels could just consist of me showing the audience pictures of my cat.