Tag Archives: guangzhou

Roach on Scare Street!

Roach, my ‘creature feature’ short story, is included in the new anthology, Night Terrors Volume 12 on Scare Street Publishing.

Here’s the ToC:

1. Cross Words by Peter Cronsberry
2. Hybrid by Justin Boote
3. Pipe Dreams by William Sterling
4. “For My Next Trick…” by Bryan Clark
5. Blood Debt by Susan E. Rogers
6. Smudge the Head by Kyle Winkler
7. See Me by Charles Welch
8. Half Larva, Will Travel by Andrey Pissantchev
9. Just We Two by Shell St. James
10. Caustic Whispers by Zach Friday
11. Roach by C. M. Saunders
12. Unarmed by Warren Benedetto
13. Gwen Speaks by Ron Ripley

I wrote the first draft of Roach in the autumn of 2019 when I was teaching at a college in Guangzhou, southern China. There are a lot of cockroaches in Guangzhou. The nucleus of the idea came from a news item I read about Chinese cockroach farms.

I ended up doing a ton of research and writing an article for Fortean Times magazine about it. fascinating stuff. These farms breed millions and millions of the little critters, the official line being that they are used in Chinese medicine. As a bi-product, they can also be used in waste disposal and even as a food source. Who knows? The whole thing, like most things in China, is shrouded in secrecy. This has led to speculation that these genetically modified insect armies could be weaponised, though probably not in the way described in the story.

As if cockroaches weren’t scary enough, right?

Night Terrors Vol 12 is out now on ebook and paperback.


Surzhai in ParABnormal magazine

My short story Surzhai, about an ill-fated meeting between modern day sex traffickers and a bunch of ancient Chinese warriors with supernatural powers and an axe to grind, has just been published in ParABnormal magazine.

parabnormal

I wrote the story in the summer of 2019 after returning from a road trip through the Guangdong countryside with my then-girlfriend. We saw a lot of little isolated dwellings, and I began to wonder what life was like in those places, largely removed from the trappings of modern life. I’d read a news report about young girls being kidnapped in rural China and being sold into the sex trade, and as we all know, at least in fiction, you can’t have evil without good. Everyone loves a revenge story. Somehow, all these things became intertwined in my mind, and Surzhai emerged.

The Mandarin words ‘sur’ and ‘zhai’ combined mean something close to ‘Death Cult’ in English, at least colloquially, though I know it isn’t a direct fit. My Mandarin is awful, and I was scrambling to find something authentic sounding which had some kind of relevant meaning. It was a balancing act. You can send complaints to the usual address.

ParABnormal Magazine is a print digest released by Hiraeth Publishing which publishes original stories, articles, art, reviews, interviews, and poetry.

From the writer’s guidelines…

The subject matter of ParABnormal Magazine is, yes, the paranormal. For us, this includes ghosts, spectres, haunts, various whisperers, and so forth. It also includes shapeshifters, mythological creatures, and creatures from various folklores. If your story also has science fiction or fantasy elements, we regard that as a plus.

One last word on language and linguistics. Hiraeth Publishing are based in Iowa (like Slipknot!), but interestingly enough, ‘Hiraeth’ is an old Welsh word. There is no direct English translation but it means something close to ‘homesickness’ or a sense of yearning/regret. As a proud Welshman, that struck a chord with me.

The latest issue of ParaABnormal is available now…

 


27 Everywhere

The number 27 has been a big part of my life for, well, since forever. I’ve blogged about it before here and there. It just seems to follow me, cropping up far more than it should. I’m still none the wiser about how it works or what any of it means, but as I get older I have become better at recognizing signs and patterns. I used to think that when I encountered number 27 it was like a ‘thumbs up’ from the universe, meaning I was somehow on the right track. But over time it has slowly become apparent that I was wrong.

Now, I firmly believe that the arrival of 27 heralds a period of seismic change in my life. Kind of like a warning. It happens in clusters, and the more incidences involving the number 27 there are, the bigger the changes I am to expect. I know it’s just a number, and by the law of averages I’m going to come across it occasionally, especially if I’m already sensitive to it. But I can go for months without seeing it once, and then bang. It’s everywhere, all the time.

When I tell people about this they usually think I’m nuts, or they just put it down to coincidence. So this time I decided to take some photos to document it. As a bit of background, when this all happened between late 2019 and early 2020 when I was living in Guangzhou, China, and working as an IELTS instructor.

My then-girlfriend and I talked about destiny a lot. And one day she bought me a surprise gift, mostly because I was born on March 27.

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That seemed to kickstart the ’27 burst.’ And how.

Just to clarify, all these instances happened within a few of weeks of each. Sometimes there were several a day and became so commonplace that and I didn’t even bother documenting all of them so what you see here is a selection of the most impressive. 

Anyway, here goes.

One day I had to go to the government offices to file some paperwork. I took a cab.

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When I arrived, I was early so I popped in a nearby McDonalds. This was my bill…

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On weekends, my girlfriend and I would sometimes buy a takeaway. The delivery guy would leave it in a bank of numbered lockers outside my apartment, and send a code to your phone to open it. There are hundreds of them, but that particular evening…

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In the midst of all this, I was reading on my Kindle a lot. the name og this book escapes me, but it struck me as especially relevant because that line, “It’s Christian, but just call me Chris,” is one I rehash on a remarkably regular basis, and it appeared at 27%.

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A few days later, my girlfriend and I went to McDonalds again (shoot me). You very rarely have to wait for food, but when you do they give you a number.

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Then there was the Chinese New year gala at my college. Every teacher was given a raffle ticket with a number. Here’s mine:

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Incidentally, I won a prize that night. A suitcase. Which I now take to be another sign. Another came when I treated my girl to dinner at a fancy restaurant. Our bill came to 702 RMB, which is 27 backwards.

It was cloudy but uncharacteristically warm at that time, even for Guangzhou.

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I had planned a trip back to the UK during the Chinese New year holiday, and treated myself to a box of craft beer. When it arrived, it had a random number scrawled on it…

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Whilst home, I published my fourth collection of short fiction. I paid an graphic artist to do some artwork for it. Here’s my bill:

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Then I received word from my college in Guangzhou that due to the coronavirus, we wouldn’t be able to return to work on February 27 as planned. Instead, we will have to wait until May at the earliest. This was not ideal. Consequently, my girlfriend and I decided to call it a day.

Presumably, these are the seismic changes the universe was warning me about.

As I write this (on 27 February) the current death toll of the coronavirus stands at 2,798.

(EDIT: Of course, as we now know the virus then went on to ravage the worldwide economy and claim tens of thousands of lives).

I was discussing all this with one of my students online one afternoon. She said the situation is not improving much, but at least the weather is getting better over there. She sent me a screen shot to prove it…

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In search of the Toddy Cat

A few years ago I visited Guangzhou, capital of Guangdong province, south China, with a Chinese friend. One of the things that struck me was how different everything was. Until then I’d been living in the north, in Beijing and Tianjin, and this was my first trip south. It was like walking out of a desert into a jungle. The climate was hot and sticky, and there was wildlife and vegetation everywhere. The people spoke a different language. Pu tong hua (Mandarin) is standardized Chinese, supposedly spoken by everyone in the country, but Guangzhou is one of the places where they speak Cantonese. The food was different. The people even looked different. In north China people are taller, and thick-set. Down south the locals are smaller, lighter and, it has to be said,better looking.

One afternoon we visited ‘animal place.’ I thought we were going to the zoo. The place turned out to be a massive warehouse-type place, full of animals in cages. There were cats, dogs, birds, lizards, and lots of things I couldn’t identify. One thing in particular stuck in my mind. It reminded me of a black and white Kuala Bear, with huge wide eyes. So cute! I asked my friend what this thing was.

“Cat.”
“It’s not a cat.”
“Special cat.”
“I don’t think it’s a cat. Do you know what kind of animal it is?”
“Cat.”
“What kind of cat?”
“Dragon cat. Special cat.”

I could see the conversation was going nowhere. If my friend knew what kind of animal it was, she didn’t know how to translate it into English.

They say in Guangzhou, that if it walks, flies or swims, the locals will eat it. I wanted to know if this thing was being sold as a pet, or as food. My friend didn’t know. She just shrugged and asked me why I cared. I left Guangzhou still wondering about this weird animal, and ever since I’ve hoped to be able to one day solve the mystery of the “Dragon Cat, Special Cat.”

That day finally came recently when I was browsing the news online and stumbled across a story about indigenous wildlife in southern China.

Meet the Asian Palm Civet.

Asian Palm Civet

Aka, the ‘Toddy Cat.’

So my friend wasn’t completely wrong. It certainly is some distant member of the cat family. Here’s where the story gets interesting…

The Toddy Cat is often killed for its meat, though the ones I saw didn’t seem to have much meat on them. Oil extracted from the meat and preserved is also sometimes used in Traditional Chinese Medicine. It’s good for skin conditions, apparently. Most bizarrely of all, though, is the animal’s purpose in the manufacture of Kopi Luwak, the most expensive coffee in the world. It’s so expensive because the coffee beans they use have passed through the Toddy Cat’s digestive tract. In other words, they feed the Toddy Cat coffee beans, wait for it to shit them out, then gather them up and roast them. Bizarre. The worst thing is that the farmers don’t treat the poor Toddy Cats very well. They are kept in cages and force fed coffee beans. They must be thinking, “No! Please, no more coffee, dude! Toddy wanna sleep, yo.”

No wonder they have those huge, freakish eyes.

Still, my curiosity is suitably piqued, and come payday I have vowed to invest in a modest packet of Kopi Luwak. Just to see what coffee that has been shat out by a Chinese bush animal tastes like. Curiosity killed the cat, they say. How ironic. I hope my curiosity doesn’t kill the cool Toddy Cat.

There has to be better jobs...

There has to be better jobs…


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