Hong Kong Writer's Circle Anthology - Gothic

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The Hong Kong Writer’s Circle’s 10th anthology, Hong Kong Gothic, delves deep into the city’s dark side. Amanda Sheppard speaks to editors Edmund Price, Marnie Walker and Kate Hawkins about the Hong Kong you rarely hear of, let alone read about

In a modern, cosmopolitan place that prides itself on being Asia’s World City, you’d hardly expect a flurry of popular literature focusing on murder, mystery and the supernatural. But that is perhaps what makes the Hong Kong Writer’s Circle’s (HKWC) latest offering such a compelling read. Aptly named Hong Kong Gothic, the anthology consists of 22 stories collated around the otherworldly. Focusing on both traditional folklore and contemporary explorations of Hong Kong’s underbelly and modern-day vices, Gothic is the HKWC’s 10th publication written by local authors and members of the HKWC – and a deep understanding of the city’s ins and outs is on show in the stories.

Since its inception in 1991, the HKWC has provided a platform for budding Hong Kong-based writers as well as creating a supportive community, with prominent active members such as published author and journalist Nury Vittachi. There is also significant cross-membership with other literary groups in the city such as Women in Publishing and Poetry Out Loud, and next year’s anthology, The Tale of Two Cities, will launch an inaugural collaboration series with the Singapore Writer’s Group.

With a decade of experience in releasing anthologies, the Writer’s Circle are well seasoned experts. Each anthology revolves around a different theme, with the only commonality being a strong Hong Kong element. Previous anthologies include Another Hong Kong, which focuses on alternative perspectives (from another time or place), and Hotel China, in which every character is either staff or patron at a hotel in Wan Chai. This year’s theme, as it is more a genre than a topic, is arguably more niche and relatively complex, and would appear to be a challenging. However, such difficulties were overcome in the early stages of the process, with the editors Edmund Price, Marnie Walker and Kate Hawkins compiling and distributing an extensive list of gothic novels for the writers’ reference, guaranteeing no shortage of inspiration. The HKWC also organises regular critique workshops, providing constructive criticism within the groups of writers from diverse backgrounds, from a Penguin published author to newbie writers. Long-time member Price’s primary industry is finance, and this anthology is Walker’s first published contribution to HKWC. “You learn so much by seeing people who are at the same stage you are, seeing how they respond to an idea,” says Walker.

But perhaps what makes the process most interesting is the fact that this reflects Hong Kong’s true identity as a cultural melting pot. “We have people from so many different cultures working on a Western based theme, bringing all of these ideas to it that a lot of us from Western cultures wouldn’t necessarily bring forward – because it’s not what we grew up with,” says Walker. Upon opening Hong Kong Gothic, the reader is invited to journey through four sections which instantly provoke intrigue. “Titling these sections was like creating little gothic stories,” says Price. “And the theme really lent itself to Hong Kong, and there were interesting trends that came out.”

But it is not the Hong Kong that we’re used to. This is much to the joy of seasoned editor Price, who remarks with humour: “I particularly like that nobody in the book goes shopping.” Even the book’s cover challenges typical understandings of Hong Kong. Designed by French artist Michel Guy, ifc Mall is portrayed as a threatening Gothic tower looming over the rest of Hong Kong, with a crown of thorns. Have a flick through – if you dare.

Hong Kong Gothic available at Bookazine, priced $150. For more information about the Writer’s Circle, visit hkwriterscircle.com.

 

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