An Interview with Jade Song

In an interview with Write or Die, you mentioned that you consider yourself an artist over a writer. How do you think the role of an artist differs from the role of a writer?

To me, there’s really no difference between being an artist and being a writer. My writing is part of my art. Writing is just one part of the art I make and love, so therefore I think of myself as an artist. My favorite art of any kind understands and celebrates the lineage and inspirations it comes from, so whatever I craft, whether it be writing or not, I always seek this approach.

Ren’s coming of age in your debut novel Chlorine is so heartbreaking and raw, yet oddly comforting. There aren’t many stories that describe the violence of coming of age as a queer girl of color in the US this honestly. How important was it for you to center Ren’s identity as a cultural “other” in your exploration of the pain of girlhood?

I don’t view Ren, or queer girls of color in general, as a cultural “other”—if anything, I view her, and me, and us, as the center, which includes all the complexities of who she is and who we are. If anyone wants to view her as an “other,” that’s their own conundrum to work through. I wrote this exploration centering her and her experience.

You’ve mentioned that you’re fascinated with imagery of “weird, queer transcendence,” and that this played a role in writing Chlorine. How would you compare Ren’s transcendence to Cathy’s lingering longing for Ren evident in her letters? Do you think Cathy is unable to transcend, either similarly or unlike Ren?

To me, Cathy transcends in her own way: she’s in love with someone else. To be in love is to be terrified; to be in love is to choose the terror despite; to be in love is therefore to transcend. Yet being in love with another is a common form of transcendence in the way Ren’s viscerally weird and strange transcendence is not. So, comparatively, Cathy’s arc pales.

There are at least two distinct forms of cell death: pain-free programmed cell death (apoptosis) and inflammatory unplanned cell death (necrosis). Menstruation is necrosis meaning anyone who has a uterus literally goes through a process of death and rebirth every month. Unfortunately, Ren still struggles with painful periods, even at her most dedicated to competitive swimming. Can you tell us a little more about how you sought to link the violence of menstruation with Ren’s bloody transformation?

Thank you for that interesting fact. Cell Death would be a great band name! I think there was no way for me to write a coming-of-age girlhood-driven story involving body horror without including menstruation. To me, it’s biologically violent, gushing out blood and stomach pain like it’s no big deal, and, as you said, it’s a monthly bloody transformation, so when writing fictional bloody transformations, I just can’t leave it out.

You’re also a fantastic short story author. In Bloody Angle,” the narrator explains their vengeful cannibalism by citing Newton’s third law: “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” Racism plays a crucial role in “Bloody Angle” and Chlorine. When expressing your characters’ anger towards prejudice, did you ever feel pressured to justify their actions to people who wouldn’t understand?

Thank you! I never really feel pressured to justify characters’ actions to people who wouldn’t understand because I’m never really thinking about people who refuse to understand. When I write, I’m thinking about me and my friends and my community and my family and everyone/everything else I care about.

Yes, there was some need to justify the reactive acts of violence—the murders in “Bloody Angle” and the body horror in Chlorine—but the justification is more so to explain the character motivations and plot. After all, the narrator in Bloody Angle says, “If you are struggling to understand… my story is not for you.”

Image credit: Jade Song

You’ve expressed how Chlorine came from a place of cathartic anger, while your short story collection and novel in-progress come from a place of love and understanding. How did you allow yourself space to safely express your anger without letting it consume you?

Art has always been the safest channel for my emotions. The making, the gazing, the understanding—it’s incredibly life-affirming and lifesaving. It’s because of art that my meanest inclinations and worst rages do not consume me, so just by allowing myself to listen to the art I then become free.

You have a beautifully curated Instagram account, @chlorinenovel, to share updates and related artistic influences you enjoy. What forthcoming books, movies, music, or other forms of media you are looking forward to consuming?

I can’t wait for the new Jackie Wang book, Alien Daughters Walk Into the Sun, to arrive in the mail. In 2024, I’m excited to read the new Akwaeke Emezi novel, Little Rot, and the new Hanif Abdurraqib book. I’ll be seated at every new Hansol Jung play in theatres, and I’ll be the first in line at the cinema when Julia Ducournau’s next film with A24 is out.

If you could give your past self one piece of advice about the publishing industry or process, what would it be?

You can say no.

Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

Writing and being a writer are two different things. One is to focus on the work, and one is to focus on the community, the success, the end product. Neither are wrong, and both feed into each other, but I do think deciding which path is more important to you will make everything else come easier.

January Staff Picks

Inanna Carter

My Time at Sandrock

Farming sims and RPGs have been around for quite some time. The classics of Harvest Moon and Story of Seasons, the iconic Stardew Valley, the upcoming Fields of Mistria—they’re not going away for a long time. Now, take that and add…building?

My Time at Sandrock is an RPG where rather than moving to a new town to take over your deceased grandfather’s farm, you move to a new town to take over a builder’s workshop. The full release recently came out, and though I only just got around to starting it, I’ve been having a blast. This game is heaps better than its predecessor, My Time at Portia (though Portia has a special place in my heart).

Aside from building for the community, you can mine, fight, farm, and form relationships with the other townsfolk. It’s something you can easily sink your time into, and overall, it’s a great game. The writing is witty and the plot keeps you on your toes. Games like Sandrock and Portia, ones with complete storylines, remind me so much of books. They don’t have to be perfect or extraordinary, but if the story is engaging and the characters evoke emotion, then I’d say they end up being something pretty special.

Dominic Loise

Wesley Dodds: The Sandman

When I talk about the Sandman, I am not like most comic book fans. The character I am talking about isn’t Spider-Man’s granulated, morphing foe or Neil Gaiman’s groundbreaking goth-classic character. My Sandman is the Golden Age character, Wesley Dodds. Dodds, in his WWI gas mask, stood out to me against his WWII counterparts by wearing a three-piece suit, trench coat, and fedora while the rest of the Justice Society of America were flexing their muscles in tights and domino masks.

The new DC Comics miniseries by writer Robert Venditti and artist Riley Rossmo delves into Dodds as a man-of-mystery hero rather than a two-fisted, vigilante crime fighter. Venditti writes to the core of the character by looking at the nonviolent nature of the Sandman’s sleeping gas and PTSD from Dodds’ father in WWI, which led to his path as a hero and experiments with nonlethal weapons.

Rossmo’s art style is perfect for a series that needs to be grounded in the urban alleyways of gangster pulp and other times drift away in the dreams of a tormented hero trying to make the world safer. Besides hired thugs and gang bosses, the main villain is a darker version of Dodds, using toxic gases and tapping into the hero’s horrors and his work against chemical weapons in warfare.

Wesley Dodds: The Sandman shows a character a step between comic book and pulp novel heroes. It also shows the mindset of someone trying to make the world better between two world wars all while dealing with local violence and injustice in his city.

Sara Santistevan

Marry My Husband

*SPOILER ALERT* The following contains plot details about Marry My Husband.

If Marry My Husband is just your run-of-the-mill K-Drama, then I sincerely regret sleeping on K-Dramas until now! Based on a Webtoon by Sung So-jakMarry My Husband follows the story of Kang Ji-won, a woman who gets a second chance at life after she is murdered by her husband and best friend, who were having an affair.

I’ve often wondered what life decisions I would make differently if I got the chance to go back in time with the knowledge I have now. I also love a good revenge story! What makes Marry My Husband special is the plot’s seamless acknowledgement of some of the technical complications of time travel. In early episodes, we learn that in her previous life, Ji-won was diagnosed with stomach cancer, which was implied to result from gastritis due to the stress of her marriage. When Ji-won is thrust back into her life prior to her illness, she learns, through a series of experiments, that although future events can’t completely be avoided, they can be delayed or passed on to someone else. With this knowledge in mind, Ji-won makes it her mission to set up her best friend and future husband to avoid her fate.

Along the way, Ji-won forms genuine friendships, learns to stand up for herself, and grows more confident in her appearance and personality. Oh, and don’t worry—there’s plenty of romance, too, courtesy of the mysterious Yoo Ji-hyuk, Ji-won’s manager who seems to know more than he should about Ji-won.

Five Emotional and Existential Narratives About Cats

What is it about cats that make people fall so obsessively in love with them? They’re cute, unpredictable enough to make for perfect meme fodder, and sensitive to human emotions, but I have another theory. A study conducted by Samuel Gosling with the University of Austin, Texas found that, compared to dog owners, cat owners are generally more artistic, intellectually curious, and emotional. So, perhaps cat owners are more easily able to see themselves in their furry companions and learn what it means to be human through the eyes of a cat.

All that said, is it really a surprise that cat lovers also make fantastic storytellers? If you’re still not convinced that cats can help us cope with our existential crises, indulge in these heartwarming and sometimes bittersweet stories that delve into the intricate lives of cats:

1. The Cat Who Saved Books

Here at Brink, we’re all about promoting literacy and the importance of storytelling as a force that can change the world. So, this quirky yet emotional novel, The Cat Who Saved Books, was practically a mandatory pick for this list.

The Cat Who Saved Books, by cat-fanatic author Sosuke Natsukawa, is a touching story that begins with the death of Rintaro’s grandfather. One day, while Rintaro is looking after the bookstore his grandfather left behind, a cantankerous cat named Tiger the Tabby enlists him on a mystical adventure to save abused and neglected books from their owners. Along the way, Rintaro learns how to process his grief and rely on his friends for support.

If you love Studio Ghibli films as much as I do, you’ll also be enchanted with the inspiring whimsy of The Cat Who Saved Books. True cat lovers will find the Tiger the Tabby’s grumpiness charming and familiar, and true bibliophiles will feel inspired to dust off all the books from their endless “to be read” shelf and start reading!

2. “My Cat is Sad”

“My Cat is Sad” is a tear-jerking poem featuring a glimpse inside the mind of a loving cat. This poem had a bit of a viral moment, which caught poet Spencer Madsen by complete surprise. 

Written in free verse in a style similar to prose, the true heart in this poem is in Madsen’s ability to imagine your average household cat as an alienated yet child-like being who longs to be with and like their human family members. I’d be lying if I said this poem didn’t convince me to give the cats I know little bits of human food every now and then to make them feel loved (as a consequence, my mom’s cat now occupies an empty chair at the table whenever anyone sits down to eat a meal). 

So, if I’ve convinced you to read this poem, make sure to read it when you have enough time to give your cat plenty of pets and treats after.

3. A Man and His Cat

We love comics here at F(r)iction, so it should come as no surprise that A Man and His Cat comes highly recommended! Originally published as a webcomic, this story is now available in physical form, and has since inspired a children’s picture book, a live action TV Drama, and a mobile puzzle game. 

A Man and His Cat is a heartwarming Japanese manga series following a widower who adopts the oldest cat at a pet store—an important reminder to us all that senior and disabled cats deserve love, too. 

Future volumes of this comic feature charming vignettes of the daily life of Kanda Fuyuki (the man) and Fukumaru (his cat). One of the cutest moments features Kanda thinking of a suitable name for his new cat. He eventually settles on “Fukumaru,” which roughly translates to “joy” or “blessing,” showing just how much happiness Fukumaru the cat has brought to the elderly man’s lonely life.

In other words, if this heartwarming story doesn’t make you want to run to your nearest shelter to adopt the most overlooked cat, then what will?

4. Puss in Boots: The Last Wish

Puss in Boots: The Last Wish is the most recent installment in Dreamworks’s Puss in Boots series. To be completely honest, I was somewhat hesitant to watch a “children’s movie,” but after hearing the stellar reviews, I caved. Plus, who doesn’t like indulging in a little nostalgia once in a while?

Puss in Boots: The Last Wish follows the titular swordscat on an adventure to restore his eight lost lives by finding the legendary Wishing Star. Viewers are treated to a humorous montage of how Puss in Boots lost each of his previous lives in a fashion true to both the character and cats in general. Plus, in his search for the Wishing Star, Puss in Boots must confront what has to be the most compelling villain in a contemporary children’s movie: Death. As the unsettling big bad wolf emphatically says: “And I don’t mean it metaphorically or rhetorically or poetically or theoretically or any other fancy way. I’M DEATH. STRAIGHT UP!”

4. Stray

Who says video games can’t be a powerful vehicle for storytelling? Stray is an adventure video game about a cat who must find his way back home to his feline family after falling into a dystopian cyber-city with robot inhabitants. In this world, humans have long gone extinct due to an unnamed plague (something we surely don’t need to take as a warning…right?).

What I found most exciting in the days leading up to Stray’s release is that you play as one of the most adorable and intelligent cats ever! If that selling point alone isn’t enough to make you purchase this game immediately, you can also make him meow, take a nap, scratch furniture, and rub against the legs of humanoid robots! Also, I cried at least five times. 

With all that said, it shouldn’t be too surprising that Stray has a 10/10 rating on Steam. My only critique is that this game is far too short; I could play as a heroic cat exploring a cyberpunk city every day for the rest of my life!

If you’re looking to add more cat-themed works to your “to be read/watched” list, some honorable mentions for this list include Cat Poems, A Whisker Away, and I Am a Cat. Exploring these diverse narratives reveals not only what it might feel like to live as a cat, but also shines a light on the very human struggle to find meaning and companionship.