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Story excerpts

Here are short excerpts from the seven stories featured in the anthology Queer Taiwanese Fiction: A Readeredited by Howard Chiang. We're grateful to Cambria Press for letting us feature them here.

1, “Late Spring” by Li Ang (translated by Yichun Liu)

Tang Keyan asserted that unless two people actually had sex, most of these affections might just be a kind of confusion or conjecture. Especially among intellectuals, who were constantly exaggerating and scrutinizing their personal attachments. It’s like they’ve caused an epidemic of “questioning.”

“Of course, some people say it’s a lifestyle, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with it,” Keyan continued. “If you don’t accept your fate, or try to struggle against it, you’ll just end up suffering more. It would be better to clarify things from the start. You are who you are. You can’t become who you are not.”

2, “On Her Gray Hair Etcetera” by Tsao Li-chuan (translated by Jamie Tse)

Theoretically, Fei-wen should be touched—was this not a poignant and magnificent lesbian love story on display right before her eyes? Her mother and Little Chen—yes, Little Chen is a woman, an old tomboy—a real “old uncle.” Little Chen had hooked up with her mother, and the two ran off together, leaving the city they knew. Her father was cast into an abyss of shame and hate, so fathomless that he breathed his last before he’d reached the bottom. Ah, the mother who abandoned her husband and children…… Fei-wen didn’t know if she should praise or condemn her. Tongzhi comrades, Xu-gui and Chen Yue-zhu, other than being a fellow tongzhi, they had no ties with her at all, right? Fei-wen tried her best to review the facts objectively, to remind herself that if they couldn’t be mother and daughter, wouldn’t it be enough if they were just fellow tongzhi? Yet, the ineffable feeling in her heart remained.

3, “Howl” by Ta-wei Chi (translated by Yahia Zhengtang Ma)

I had pondered these issues: Why did my friends and I panic over Amoeba and avoid seeing him? Did we seriously fear that he would pass the virus to us? I daresay that was partially true, even though we knew full well that as long as we didn’t have sex with him, (who’d wanna fuck around with Amoeba?), there was little risk of his transmitting the virus. What were we so afraid of? I wasn’t sure what the others thought, but I found his arrogant speech and outrageous behavior rather unbearable. Yet, I was somehow unable to resist him, oppose him, or reproach him. Amoeba had reason to be reckless. Due to his condition, healthy people like myself felt like they owed him something—we either had to submit to his demands or at most keep our distance. It was almost as if we’d stolen his youth; like if it weren’t for us, no such misfortune would have befallen him. Being patient with Amoeba was how those of us who’d managed to stay healthy so far could pretend we’d atoned for our sins. Why pretend? Maybe because I wasn’t sure if this counted as “atonement.” I wasn’t even sure what counted as sin.

Amoeba’s face seemed to say, “I may be sick, but you are sinful!” How I loathed to see his face! Oh, how I reveled in Schadenfreude! How gleeful was I at his misfortune! Honestly, I wondered who could stand the sight of him.

4, “Muakai” by Dadelavan Ibau (translated by Kyle Shernuk)

I didn’t know what to say. Should I tell Granny that there is a person called Hak, and that this Hak person is in love with Hsiu, and that Hsiu also loves her? Or should I be more direct and say that Hak and Hsiuhsiu are both women and love one another but can’t be together, which is why they are suffering? And that after several rounds of separating and getting back together, now, they have finally decided to be together.

Or should I say that there can be love between women. Just like between a man and a woman.

I hurried here from Taipei, it appears, to tell her that Muakai ran off with another woman.

5, “Violet” by Hsu Yu-chen (translated by Howard Chiang and Shengchi Hsu)

That was the second time I tried Black Cat—Ol’ Kela was ditching his stash before going abroad—and it hit me like violets blooming after winter thaws.

I followed the same method as before: first take ecstasy, then, when it starts to kick in, pop a Black Cat. The table was bare except for a clear plastic bag, now empty. The two pills it had held—red and white gel caps—entered my stomach three hours ago. Glaring up at me from the sticker label was a pair of cat eyes, under them a line of Japanese kana that spelled out the English word “sexual.” Black Cat was a strong aphrodisiac, but dwelling as I do in the isolation of my room, I didn’t use it as such.

My body waited—waited for the space-time vortex to begin its rapid revolutions—waited with my lips cracked and dry. Although my room was air conditioned, my forehead and neck streamed rivers of sweat. Limbs paralyzed, I lay on the sofa. It was a quiet afternoon in the last days of summer. The mosaic glass windows were shimmering crystalline screens locking the warming climate safely outside. A ray of light passed through the door and reflected off the tiles; a dazzling current of liquid mercury slowly flooded the room. The world hadn’t changed. I hadn’t experienced a long journey full of chance encounters as I had the first time I did Black Cat…I merely surrendered, again and again, to a dizziness that kept me spinning in place.

6, “A Daughter” by Lin Yu-hsuan (translated by Shengchi Hsu)

Naughty secrets, you must be a hunk; hunks are usually naughty. I discovered Dad’s instant messenger when I was on his computer the other day. Dad, you are quite tech savvy for your age, aren’t you? I nosed around in his chat logs and decided to say hello to one of his contacts.

The contact ended up sending over dozens of photos of Dad in Mom’s dresses. One by one, these photos filled up the entire screen. Must be Dad’s secret admirer. What a weirdo! I made a face at his profile picture on the screen. But Dad, I can see that white dress must be your favorite; it looks amazing no matter how you change your poses. I love it so much, too. I always thought that dress outclassed everything else in that old wardrobe whenever I put them on. Dad, don’t you fight for the dress with me….

 But there may be no need to fight after all. We can always take turns wearing it, can’t we? Dad has left the dressing room in his suit, and my husband and I are getting ready to go back out for the toasts at every table. Mom is seated at the top table with uncle’s wife nearby; CC and Zhu Jiekai are at two different tables at the far end of the banquet hall. How much money did you two put in your red envelopes?

7, “A Nonexistent Thing” by Chen Xue (translated by Wen-chi Li and Colin Bramwell)

“Okay. So, in Taiwan, artificial reproduction is only an option for straight couples, which is super irritating. If you’re like us, you have to go abroad. It’s best to go to the US, of course, but you’re looking at spending over a million Taiwanese dollars on the cost of travel, surgery, and so on. Many Chinese lesbians fly to the US to reproduce. Some packages even get you a green card.”

“I heard that you used to be able to do it in Japan, but that’s not possible anymore. The first viable place I thought of was Thailand. Then I went to an experience-sharing workshop and a mother told me that it’s forbidden there. The only option in all of Southeast Asia is Cambodia.”