Meet a Contributor: Chally!

So everyone can get to know our contributors a bit better, we’ve decided to run a series called “Meet a Contributor”. Each Contributor will be interviewed by the others in turn.

Chally, as represented by her mass of curly hair against a cloudy sky.

Hey, everyone. My name is Chally. (You are probably wondering how to pronounce that; I generally tell English speakers to think of it as ‘Hah-lee’.) I started writing my individual blog, Zero at the Bone, at the end of last year. This year I joined the Radical Readers feminist online bookclub, then lovely FWD/Forward, then, to my unended shock, Feministe. I am rather fond of knitting, baking, and all things pink and sparkly, but don’t tell the other feminists!! I am also very glad to be getting to know you all; here’s a bit about me. Actually, quite a lot so it’s under the cut.

Anna: Chally, I know you’re not as lucky as I am, to live in the wonderful amazing super-splendiforious land of Canadia. But, let’s say you were to live here. What are the first five things you’d do in Canada, and why? Note: Visiting me is not on your list of options. Canada is very big, and I move around a lot.

If I were to live in Canadia? Well, let’s think…
1. Pine over not getting to visit lovely Anna. Oh the pain, the pain of it all.
2. Visit my family in Toronto, who I haven’t met in a good ten years now.
3. Giggle at everyone’s adorable accents and ignore their suspicious looks when I do so.
4. Check out the scenery! I want to walk among maple trees and play in the snow. Snow is a thing of legend where I live!
5. Plan a party in which every dish features maple syrup.

lauredhel: If you had a Tardis and could go back to the past for just one day, where and when would you go? Who would you want to meet?

(For anyone who doesn’t know what a Tardis is, it’s a time and space travel machine in the television series Doctor Who.)

That is a tough one. It is potentially very sad-making, so I will come up with a happy answer. Perhaps Japan a thousand years ago. I would love to meet Murasaki Shikibu and listen to her spin her stories. She wrote The Tale of Genji, which is considered the oldest surviving novel! And I should so like to know what her real name is – it has been lost to time – as she deserves to have it passed down through history.

Or 1970s USA. I would so like to pick the brains of the fabulous feminist science fiction writer Alice B. Sheldon. She lived such an incredible life, doing everything from intelligence work for the US military to research science to chicken farming! She had a way with words that cuts to the heart of things. I’d want learn a bit about the woman behind her writing persona of James Tiptree, Jr., and tell her how much her writing has meant to me.

Or eighteenth century France, to meet Louis XV’s mistress, Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson, better known as Madame de Pompadour. Curiously enough, there is a Doctor Who episode featuring her, “The Girl in the Fireplace”. When Mme de Pompadour was nine years old, a fortune teller told her mother that she was to be the king’s mistress, and this middle class woman ended up essentially ruling the country. That’s pretty incredible.

(Sensing a theme here?)

Or visiting my own birth would be pretty cool. Or some important stage in my life. Though what could I say or do? I guess that’s the case with travelling anywhen: how could you properly use the opportunity, and could you change things if you did? Ought you to?

… though if I had a Tardis, what I would probably do would be to track down the Tenth Doctor and have adventures with him!

meloukhia: I know you’re a guinea pig fan; how do you feel about Capybaras?

I will be honest with you. The first time I ever heard of capybaras was a few months ago when one appeared in my favourite webcomic, YU+ME: dream. (He was selling cabybara gyros made from his cousin, Steve.) This is because I am from Australia, and while we have cool animals like koalas and platypi and kangaroos here, we do not have capybaras. They seem very cute! Of course, how could an animal related to guinea pigs not be?

kaninchenzero: I understand you read science fiction/speculative fiction, and it’s just about all I read, so. The publishing industry in the US is insular, shall we say. Is there someone ASEAN I should be paying attention to?

I have heard this about the publishing industry in the US, particularly with regard to sci fi. The thing about the Australian publishing industry (I’m not sure about others in the region) is that it is small and books are expensive to produce. Most of what sells here is imported. Just about all my favourite SF/speculative writers are American, because that’s the community I found first, and probably the biggest one, too: Octavia E. Butler, Ursula K. Le Guin, Marge Piercy, Karen Joy Fowler and of course James Tiptree, Jr. (yes, they are all feminists!). (And people, you need to go read Octavia Butler, even if you read one piece of fiction in a year, seriously.) I have a few SF writers from this region I’ve dipped a little into or have noted to read: Lucy Sussex springs to mind. And Lauredhel has just reminded me of the Aurealis Awards. As for non-SF writers, I have a few favourites! Garth Nix is a lovely YA fantasy writer. I also like Emily Rodda’s children’s stuff, and Morris Gleitzman. I read a lot of YA/children’s fiction! Katherine Mansfield was one of the great women writers of the late nineteenth/early twentieth centuries, and she was from New Zealand.

Sadly, that’s a very white and AusNZ-centric list I have there. As a non-white person, the overwhelming presence of whiteness in popular fiction frustrates me not only for the lack of non-white presence, but because white thought, myth, story blocks take over the reader’s imagination. (Read deepad’s I Didn’t Dream of Dragons.) I was lucky enough to have access to fiction from a variety of cultures as a girl, and in primary school I went exploring for stories from my own culture, but I seem to have become lost in white imagination since. It’s quite sad, really.

That answer went off on quite a tangent. I guess what I’m trying to say is, I’m lost, too.

annaham: What’s new on the knitting front?

I keep forgetting to take photos of my work before I give it away! Here are some knitted pieces I made a while back. Right now I am knitting a ribbed hat which is a lovely orangey brown colour. Here is the pattern. It’s going very slowly as I’ve been busy lately and also I keep making mistakes! Hmm. I’ll take a photo of my epic ongoing French knitting project:

A large pile of French knitting, resembling coloured rope. Different parts are in different colours: yellow, orange, rainbow, silvery, cream, pink, green, blue, goldish...

Her name is Josie and she is over 300 metres long.

Ouyang Dan: I scream, you scream, we both scream for ice cream! What is your best ice cream experience? I NEED DETAILS!

The best ever? That is a tough ask. Well, the other day I was at a fancy ice cream place, and they took so long with my order that I got free ice cream!! A couple of days later I had three flavours. My second latest was watermelon and tiramisu. Tiramisu is an old favourite, and I’d been meaning to try watermelon for years, so that was pretty great. Later today (it is Sunday, I am writing this from the past) I am heading to the beach and will eat more ice cream! I have been advised to cut down on dairy but surely a scoop or two couldn’t hurt, right?

… I eat so, so much ice cream.

abbyjean: i love reading fiction. what’s your favorite work of fiction?

abby, you expect me to pick just one? Well, my favourite novel is presently The Time Traveler’s Wife (did you catch my review?). My favourite author has long been Ursula K. Le Guin, and of her stuff I like Four Ways to Forgiveness and “Another Story” best. I read Margaret Atwood’s The Blind Assassin at the start of 2008 and it blew my mind; I couldn’t enjoy other fiction for weeks after that. Octavia E. Butler’s writing is so good I can only read a little at a time, because I just get that overwhelmed with her writing. (I wrote about Ms Butler too!) I think she’s possibly the best writer I’ve ever encountered. As I mentioned above – twice! – I am a great fan of James Tiptree, Jr. Tip’s “The Women Men Don’t See” brought me into a feminist identity. Look, I just love fiction, it feels like I belong there.

amandaw: Have you traveled much? (Including within the country – going to Oregon from California was traveling for me!) Where have you gone? Where would you most like to go in the future?

I haven’t left the country since I was a little girl, actually. I’m based in Sydney, which is located in the state of New South Wales on Australia’s east coast. I’ve travelled over a fair bit of NSW, which is enormous, and it is pretty spectacular. My favourite part is just an hour or so from Sydney, though, the Blue Mountains. They’re blue because of the shine of eucalyptus oil in the sun! I’ve ventured out to Queensland, and the Australian Capital Territory (though never the capital city of Canberra itself!), and I visited Victoria for the first time last year. I was head over heels for Melbourne within an hour of arriving. It’s a stylish, arty city with really good public transport, exactly my kind of place. If you ever go to Melbourne, there is a fantastic gelato place called 7 Apples on Acland St in St Kilda. Oh, St Kilda.

In the future, my first pick would be the United States, because I so want to visit my family there. And I have family everywhere from Los Angeles to Atlanta to New York, so that would be quite a trip! That’s probably my primary attraction to travel, actually, piecing together my scattered family.

Is there anything else you want to know, readers? (Or, um, maybe that was a bit much for you.) Please go ahead and ask me your own questions if you’re so inclined.

22 thoughts on “Meet a Contributor: Chally!

  1. Me too – I just said it mentally as Chally – Ch as in Chair and ally as in ally. I knew Australia was weird, this just confirms it!

    Which place is weirder – Canadia or Oz? Well, one is upside down… and the other is run by moose. This is tough. (USA! USA! I’m trying to be silly to release some of my tension, I really feel tense and pissed off… after an hour and half nap.) (Of course, my home is not far from internet laughingstock Tim Wiseman, mayor of Arlington who called Obama a Muslim just last week and wishes all his supporters would go to a Muslim country AND “you know, our forefathers had it written in the original Constitution that ONLY property owners could vote, if that has stayed in there, things would be different……..” so I can’t talk. Tennessee wins.)

    So you’re into SciFi – What do you think of Douglas Adams? (I feel so out of it – I adore the Hitchhiker’s Guide, but I can’t get into the Discworld series and it sounds funny! And I’ve never seen ANY Doctor Who episode. I’ve seen a lot of X-files though? Don’t hurt me!)

    Also, it’s a good thing you’re in Oz. The SciFi channel (part of NBC’s group of cable channels I think) recently changed its name to SyFy. Wy? No ydea.

  2. I want ice cream now.

    Garth Nix is good. I take it you’ve read Sabriel/Lirael/Abhorson?

    Asking for questions is an open-ended question which makes my brain lock up. >_< Um. How long is your hair?

  3. This year snow’s a thing of legend where I am in Canada too, it seems…we got our first snow today, and it was still only maybe two cm.

    I definitely need to read some of the fantasy/SF you recommend. It’s been far too long since I discovered a new SF author (I did read the one Tiptree story you mention, and really liked it! So…yeah).

    Finally, for the record: Not all Canadians are pro-maple-syrup! Some (such as myself) find it kind of ecchy.

    Though of course I would never impinge on your right to a wholly maple-based meal.

  4. Thanks Codeman, I didn’t know. (It still just seems weird.)

    My sister is in the same state I’m in, and she got snow this weekend.

    And woke me up at 8:45 (9:45 her time) to tell me.

    Of course it’s all gone, or it better be. She is so mean.

    Now who’s hogging the snow? My relatives in Nebraska and New Mexico. (My uncle in Alaska doesn’t count.)

  5. I have actually read some Garth Nix! I rather liked the Abhorsen novels. YA fic can be tasty stuff — I’m also fancrushing on Justine Larbalestier right now and I understand she’s Australian.

    Because I like to give book recommendations: I mentioned Ms. Dorsey (who’s Canadian) on your Feministe SF thread so I’ll not repeat myself. Hm. I’ve very much liked Liz Williams’s (she’s a UK citizen and has been around some) Detective Inspector Chen novels (so far Snake Agent and The Demon and the City) set in a near-future Singapore. It’s really nice to read worlds that aren’t the US or analogues of it.

    Samuel Delany (a USian writer) can be challenging reading — Dhalgren‘s structure is kind of experimental in places and he never flinches from depicting racism for what it is. But he has an amazing command of language and he’s been addressing themes of race and sexuality and disability in SF since way back and he’s so worth the effort. Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand is one of my favorite things ever and I am terrible at picking favorites. It makes me squeeful that his husband has a thing for men who bite their fingernails so there are wonderfully loving descriptions of hands in Mr. Delany’s books for him. It’s so sweet!

    Caitlín Kiernan’s (another USian) work is more horror than SF but her education is in vertebrate paleontology. The woman seriously knows her fossils. I love seeing her depth of knowledge integrated so seamlessly into Lovecraftian monster epics.
    .-= kaninchenzero´s last blog ..[Disability] Sometimes Things Go Badly =-.

  6. Yay, Chally! I now totally want tiramisu ice cream. Nom nom nom. I also want to thank you for mentioning Tiptree’s “The Women Men Don’t See”. I read that after you mentioned it previously (somewhere -vague handwave-) and it totally blew me away. While I was sad that it did not have a more positive message (which was reflective of social realities of the time, admittedly), it was still great to read such a powerful story by a feminist writing in the era of “hard sci-fi”. I now want to read more of her work when I have the time.
    .-= Lucy´s last blog ..The Transphobe Who Can Ruin Your Day =-.

  7. I clicked over to check out the comments on your Feministe SF thread and I have to tell you something important: for fuck’s sake don’t read anything recent by Sheri Tepper. The contempt for and hatred of disabled people got really really disturbing and creepy and scary. Some time when I am more stable and can actually handle doing so I will write something about it with examples from the text but it is seriously wrong. Specific works that are pretty safe are Grass and The True Game. She’s got a thing about disfigurement and moral flaws too.
    .-= kaninchenzero´s last blog ..[Disability] Sometimes Things Go Badly =-.

  8. It’s okay, codeman38, I don’t speak IPA anyway!!

    Oh, the ‘ch’ is not an Australian thing, heaps of Aussies do the chair thing too. In fact, the pronunciation I gave above isn’t the pronunciation I prefer, I’m just not sure how to render it to English speakers and probably a lot of you can’t physically create the sound!

    Douglas Adams… I read the Hitchhikers books, and they were very good in some ways, but I have this feeling that I had some gender problems with it. Can’t remember, really. I’ve just read my first Pratchett, a Discworld novel called Wyrd Sisters. He’s very good! You need to watch Doctor Who, Kaitlyn!

    Now what kind of Australian SF/fantasy fan would I be if I hadn’t read the Old Kingdom stuff, Shiyiya? He’s great.

    As for my hair, it changes length according to its mood. Mostly it’s just past my shoulders, but sometimes it’ll be just below my ears. Sometimes I’ll wake up in the morning and it’ll be a totally different length from when I went to sleep! When it’s straight, it’s quite long, most of the way to my elbows.


    kaninchenzero: Why haven’t I read Samuel Delany?? I’ve been meaning to for about two years and now I want to all the more! I’ve never read any Tepper, and now I don’t think I will.

    Oh, you must, Lucy. Scroll right to the bottom of Tiptree’s Wikipedia page for more stories available online!

  9. The ‘a’ is more an ‘ah’ than the flatter ‘a’ in Sally, but pretty close to that, yeah! It’s hard to render this stuff in text I guess.

  10. I assume the ch is like the ch in chanukah that I also can’t pronounce? (and loch, iirc.)

    I never have any idea the nationality of authors, heh 😛 I’ve read the Old Kingdom ones, and I think five of the Keys To The Kingdom ones because that was all that was out and in my school library. And some of the Seventh Tower ones but they were kinda… young. They made me think of Animorphs for some reason.

    I do fantasy waaaaay more than SciFi. I antirecommend that anyone ever read Anne Bishop. Because torture scenes. Horrible ones. I don’t know why a friend recommended her to me D:

  11. Yep, that guttural. 🙂

    Keys to the Kingdom!! I can’t wait for hte last one! I started the first Seventh Tower the other day but didn’t bring my library card, but I think I’ll take it out sometime.

  12. I think I only got to Wednesday or Thursday. Not positive which, was too long ago and my memory is too wonky. Wouldn’t mind reading them again! I think the bit of Seventh Tower that made me think Animorphs might have been the covers. The editions I saw were very…. shiny.

    And my memory has now popped up with its intermittent notice of HEY YOU LIKED THIS BOOK AND THEN IT GOT LOST! about a book I lost about TEN YEARS AGO. Yes, I would like to still know where my copy of the My Side Of The Mountain trilogy was but do I have to think about it so often?! I even remember the author which I’m quite bad about a lot of the time >_< (Jean Craighead George!)

  13. Chally – “Oh, the ‘ch’ is not an Australian thing, heaps of Aussies do the chair thing too.”

    I’m sure they do. I just like taking any chance to call Oz weird. 🙂

    Oh, and some of my best friends are Ozzies. 😉

  14. Desserts and relatives and reading are all very well…but I want to know about the truly crucial things. What’s your favorite kind of shoes? Do you color coordinate with your latest knitting project? Are you wearing them now? And what about Margo Lanahan?

    (also Sheri Tepper’s Sideshow centers on conjoined sister-brother &has interesting things to say about gender & social construction of disability.

    US trip must include the Midwest, last full weekend in May!

  15. Oh, Chally! (Pronouncing it correctly this time.)

    My Hebrew name (???) starts with the same sound. And yes, many English speakers are hopeless with it.

  16. My favourite kind of shoes is no shoes at all! I am fond of my ballet flats, and my trusty toffee-coloured sandals, and I was given a rather lovely (if slightly too big) pair of velvety heels the other day. Alas I have yet to coordinate my shoes with my knitting, and right now it’s too hot for shoes or knitted things! A May trip does not look to be possible for some years, but I would love to attend WisCon! It has been a dream of mine ever since I heard of it. I would love to meet you all.

    There you go, Tlönista! We’re neither of us alone in our unpronouncability!

  17. Chally – oh, barefoot is best! Then flipflops or thongs or whatever people call them.

    Then…. way down the line… comfy tennis shoes. (Or sneakers. or running shoes. I grew up calling them tennis shoes though I’ve only played real tennis a few times.)

    Then dressy sandals with low or no heel.

    Then… when you’re 150 and in the casket all dolled up – stilettos.

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