Interview #101 – Author, Editor, Academic, Jaymee Goh, Part 6

Welcome back for the conclusion in our talk with Jaymee Goh , co-editor of The Sea Is Ours: Tales of Steampunk SEAsia.

Read Part One here.

Read Part Two here.

Read Part Three here.

Read Part Four here.

Read Part Five here.


Airship Ambassador: If you weren’t an editor and author, what else would you be doing now?

Jaymee Goh: Ugh, I don’t know. I mean, I would hope that I’d be doing something just as creative. If I had let my family bully me out of my dreams, I’d probably be an accountant or something equally terribly unsuitable for my temperament, and miserable.


And, I mean, I am doing something else besides editing and authoring. I’m a PhD candidate; I’ve been a teaching assistant and researcher alongside the writing and editing. Hopefully I will continue to teach and research alongside my writing in the future. I love teaching—writing has its rules, and grammar is a pleasure to teach. Introducing students to new ideas is wonderful; watching them grow is priceless. Researching—finding out things I didn’t know—is just joyous. And it all feeds into why I write. All that love has got to go somewhere.


AA: Most of the authors I’ve talked with have some type of day job and that writing is their other job. What has that situation been for you and how has it helped/hindered begin a published writer?

JG: Goodness, jobs have been terrible for me! When I graduated with my BA, I was in a region where jobs were hard to get unless it was customer service. I also was terrible at applying. Somehow I landed a full-time job as a marketing intern. I’ve also temped as a receptionist here and there. Part of why I went to grad school was because of the job market.

And actually, temping and other kinds of busywork that keeps my hands occupied by my mind otherwise free is quite good for my creative brain. I’m an introvert who likes people, so receptionisting at a relatively quiet place was really fun.

As an academic, the creative work comes out less easily, and I have to save it for weekends or summer, because the rest of the time I’m working at another kind of writing. There are of course stories that won’t be ignored so I bang out a draft quickly for them and edit when I can (or when a deadline for submission looms).

But I do have to say, having a job where I don’t have to fear poverty or the hard emotional labour dealing with unreasonable bosses has been a very good thing indeed. I’m a bit nervous about being on the job market, but hope springs eternal that I’ll find something where I won’t kill my brain working.


AA: Looking beyond steampunk, writing and working, what other interests fill your time?

JG: The usual? Social media, music, eating food, taking long walks, and reading. I also like baking, and a friend I met through steampunk taught me how to sew, so I do that too. If I have time, I garden. I am teaching myself embroidery. I sleep a lot, too; I really like sleeping. I don’t know… normal human things, I guess. Pokemon Go.


AA: How do those interests influence your work?

JG: When on social media, one learns all sorts of stuff! Like, comedic timing and delivery, through memes. Important lessons! Food and sleeping and long walks are very important embodied experiences—I think good fiction comes from being able to express what is in the body.

Baking and sewing, as I mentioned before, use a different part of the brain. Also when you learn what’s in your food, or how fabric falls—those are also important embodied experiences! The taste of things and knowing what causes those tastes are simply metaphors for understanding how the world I build works. And making clothing is basically figuring out how to put things together and the visual effects afterwards. (Broadcloth is not good for foofy skirts.) Same thing with gardening—different plants have different needs, will thrive in different climates, based on their physical structure.

I don’t know about Pokemon Go, though. I really only got that because my dad got it. But it gets me out on walks and it’s something to do while I walk to and from school.


AA: There’s only so much time in a day – what interests don’t you have time for?

JG: TV. I let everybody else tell me what’s good on TV and show me the relevant GIF sets. Games, especially the big narrative ones which require several hours of playing to finish. And boys. Who has time to waste on romance, really, when there are romance novels?


AA: Ha, yeah, boys. Talk about a major time investment! What other fandoms are you part of (as a fan or participant)?

JG: Ooof. I’m actually not a very good fan? Steampunk isn’t really a fandom to me; it’s an aesthetic that one can deploy. And being a fan feels like work, in following what the other fans are doing and consuming their work in some way, and I don’t tend to have time for that. But when I do, I’m usually a fanfic writer—I’ve written fanfic for Final Fantasy VII, and Girl Genius. There was a time when I wasn’t a fanfic writer, but a curator of a fan Tumblr, which has by and large fallen to the wayside because The Discourse has thinned out—this was when Jupiter Ascending had just come out, and its fandom was a baby that needed encouragement because the movie got so much shit. I’m not hardcore about The Discourse, but I do like media analysis, it’s why I’m in grad school, and I did some of that for Pacific Rim as well.


AA: Ahh, Jupiter Ascending. It does have great design aesthetics. What is on your to-be read or watched pile right now?

JG: …… wince groan To be watched? I can’t even.


AA: Are there people you consider an inspiration, role model, or other motivating influence?

JG: Very many! I think I’ve already mentioned a few people. To add, Nisi Shawl is just—an amazing human being: compassionate and generous and giving and so very kind! And an amazing writer and teacher! I’ve never taken a class with her but just spending time with her is so edifying.

[NOTE: We interviewed Nisi here.]

Rose Lemberg is another incredible human being… they put up with so much of my angst! And another amazing writer; Rose kindly agreed to Skype in to speak to my Clarion classmates, and they said, when world-building, one must be willing to “destroy one’s canon” which was frankly mindblowing. A wonderful poet, I think Rose has been very important in demonstrating good editorial practices towards diversifying the field. Since they also write while in academia, they have been such great support in my own journey in balancing academy with creativity.


I would like to grow up to be like K. Tempest Bradford, who has a no-nonsense, take-no-prisoners kind of attitude in how she deals with bigots.

My sewing teacher, Wilma Montgomery, has also been a wonderful role model, as a grown adult who has seen many shifts in her own life and met them all with a fortitude I don’t know I would have had myself, but I hope I do should the occasion arise! I didn’t understand the sentiment of “my mother is my best friend” until I met Wilma.

This isn’t really a full list but if I did a full list and missed out one person I would feel guilty, so I shan’t even try. Suffice to say, I’ve got some wondrous folk as part of my life.


AA: What is the best advice you’ve been given?

JG: I waver between two! “Shoot for the moon; even if you miss, you’ll be among the stars” and “learn from other people’s mistakes because you won’t have time to make them all yourself.” The former is very romantic, of course, but the latter strikes me as very practical. I read them in some spammy email when I was a teenager, so I’ve kind of stuck with them all this while.


AA: Three quick-fire random questions – what is your favorite chocolate covered food, actor to have lunch with, and outfit that you don’t have in your closet yet?

JG: Truffles; Michelle Yeoh; three-piece suit.


AA: When you do interviews, what is something that you wish you were asked about but haven’t been?

JG: Mostly I wish interviewers would follow up with other questions to unpack stuff I say. Or my opinion on Foucault or Derrida or Sara Ahmed. Ask me about Hannah Arendt sometime.


AA: Now I have questions for next time LOL Any final thoughts to share with our readers

JG: The revolution shall be agricultural, squirrels are socialist, earthworms are the true proletariat of the earth, and rah rah universal basic income.


Thanks, Jaymee, for joining us for this interview and for sharing all of your thoughts.  Hopefully it won’t be another 100 interviews before we welcome you back!


Keep up to date with Jaymee’s latest news on her website, blog, and on Twitter.

You can support Jaymee and our community by getting your copy of The Sea Is Ours here.

Also, check out her exhibit page at The Steampunk Museum.

Published in: on January 6, 2017 at 7:58 pm  Leave a Comment  
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