Debut novelist Sheung-King joins us in our final Indie Reading Room of the season with You Are Eating an Orange. You Are Naked. (Book*hug Press), an enchanting novel of ideas that follows young transnationals on their travels through culture, land, and food. Embracing the playful surrealism of Haruki Murakami and the atmospheric narratives of filmmaker Wong Kar-wai, Sheung-King gives us a lyrical, bold, and wholly unique voice in Asian-Canadian literature in this debut.
Read on for our Q&A with Sheung-King about the impetus behind his novel, what artificial intelligence has to do with his next project, and what he finds liberating about writing short fiction.
Then, head over to the
ALU Instagram for a short reading by Sheung-King from You Are Eating an Orange. You Are Naked.
All Lit Up: Tell us a little about your book and how it came to be.
Sheung-King: You Are Eating an Orange. You Are Naked. is not an immigrant story, in the sense that my characters aren’t struggling to conform to Western society, neither are they rediscovering their “roots” in a place that their parents left. Mine is a story about young transnationals, people who are, in a sense, rootless, identify with more than one country and culture. They travel, eat, and explore each other’s worlds while challenging Orientalism along the way. The inspiration for this book comes from my travels and my wanting to challenge Eurocentric tropes.
ALU: What, outside of literature, inspires and informs your work?
SK: I’m learning about artificial intelligence and I plan on using the principle and ideas behind the development of AI as motifs to comment on the current state of Hong Kong, post-colonialism, transnational bodies, religion, and government structures. These comments will be made indirectly. Much like Orange, my next collection draws inspiration from films by directors such as Wong Kar-wai and Edward Yang, where romance is at the centre of the narrative, and larger ideas lurk just beneath the surface.
Hong Kong is a city-state with an expiration date (2047). It is also the financial hub of Asia, located right next to Shenzhen, the tech hub of Asia. I think it will be interesting to use tech motifs (but not venture into sci-fi) to tell stories about Hong Kong. In one of the chapters, In "July We are All Children" (working title), one of my characters has the ability to turn herself off, using meditation, allowing her to become completely indifferent to change. This metaphysical phenomenon, based on principles of cognitive science, is used to address the fact some Hong Kongers, living in a city with an expiration date, simply want to be turned off, and become completely indifferent to change.
ALU: What do you enjoy most about writing short fiction? What’s the toughest part?
SK: Perhaps the thing I enjoy most about writing short fiction is that I don’t have to linger on ideas for too long. Within a limited space, I get to discuss a set of ideas as much as I want and afterwards, I can let it go. That, to me, is liberating.
ALU: What’s a book you recently read that you would recommend?
SK: I’ve been reading the hard sci-fi trilogy, Three-Body Problem (Remembrance of Earth’s Past). Cixin Liu is brilliant, combines the postmodern narrative techniques, using Chinese folktales, references to Greek mythologies, and original fairytales to create a hard science fiction plot, driven by the development of virtual worlds and an impending alien invasion. This collection is easily the best science fiction I’ve read.
ALU: Tell us a fun fact about yourself.
SK: Right now, I am enrolled in a Masters of Design in Strategic Foresight and Innovation at OCAD University. I’ve been working on a project, to design and develop curricula that foster social responsibility and creativity in innovation, across disciplines. I’m in touch with a private school that has campuses in Brazil, the U.S., and China to develop an academic program, specifically in their Shenzhen campus, that combines social-science fiction, studio work, and hardware design and making, to nurture socially-aware inventors and innovators of the future.
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Sheung-King is a writer and educator. His work has appeared in PRISM International, The Shanghai Literary Review, and The Humber Literary Review, among others. He is currently a lecturer at the University of Guelph and Sheridan College. You Are Eating an Orange. You Are Naked. is Sheung-King’s debut book. Originally from Hong Kong, he lives in Toronto.
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