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Asian Heritage in Horror Month: An Interview with Addie Tsai

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What inspired you to start writing?

I’ve written poems since I was eight years old. In third grade, I won third place for a Mother’s Day contest. So, initially, I wrote poems for my mother and stepmother. But it wasn’t until I wrote a poem about childhood trauma for an English class assignment in high school that I connected to writing as a practice to make sense of the most troubling experiences I was facing.

What draws you to the horror genre?

Around the same time that I started writing poetry, I also became an avid reader of fiction. I fell in love with Anne Rice’s The Vampire Chronicles, which became a source of inspiration for me when I began to write fanfiction of Queen of the Damned, focusing on a story that centered on original twin vampires. I’m interested in the ways that horror can speak to the most destabilizing dynamics and issues of our world. I’m also drawn to horror for the way it can express the fears we have of the borders between our bodies and the outside world.

Do you include Asian and/or Pacific Islander characters and themes in your writing with purpose, and if so, what do you want to portray?

I always include Asian characters and themes in my writing. I don’t imagine that ever-changing. I want to bring awareness, complexity, and representation to a broad landscape of Asian American identity, as well as mixed-race Asian American identity. I not only write about what I wished existed (and what I still wish was more prevalent in American fiction and literature) but I also write about Asian characters and themes in order to find my readers, my larger community.

What has writing horror taught you about the world and yourself?

I think what horror has taught me most is that at the center of all horror is an attempt to grapple with the deeper questions of what it means to be human. In that regard, it teaches me what is at the heart of those questions for myself (sometimes offering me this realization for the first time), and also how those questions are at the center of most of the conflicts that dominate horror tropes and media.

How have you seen the horror genre change over the years? How do you think it will continue to evolve?

I think this is an incredibly exciting moment for horror because we’re seeing horror reflect the complexity of bodies and representations in front of the curtain, rather than relegating those with marginalized identities–such as queer people and people of color–to a trope, a horror-tinged metaphor. No longer relegated to subtext, what we can imagine and embody in horror becomes multi-layered and can then speak to the social and political horrors of our times in new ways. I think this is only the beginning of that evolution.

How do you feel the Asian and/or Pacific Islander communities have been represented thus far in the genre and what hopes do you have for representation in the genre going forward?

In terms of fiction and literature, I think we have a long way to go toward representing Asian and/or Pacific Islander communities, although I’m excited by such writers as Trang Thanh Tran, Jade Song, and Kayla Kumari. I would also say that Asian characters in the media written by non-Asian writers and creators are often represented in problematic ways. Similar to the genre in film, I find that we’re seeing the most representation that’s consumed/read/viewed by a larger public in Asian media, and I’d like to see more Asian American horror (both fiction and film) integrated into the genre in North American communities.

Who are some of your favorite Asian and/or Pacific Islander characters in horror?

Anna from The Vampire Diaries, Jade Nguyen from She is a Haunting, Trang Thanh Tran, and Sadako Yamamura – The Ring.

Can you recommend some Asian and/or Pacific Islander horror authors for our readers to check out?

See above!

What is your best advice for horror authors today?

My best advice is to consider new ways to complicate the genre and to consider dismantling horror tropes in startling ways.

And to the Asian and/or Pacific Islander writers out there who are just getting started, what advice would you give them?

Don’t be afraid to show our representation in all its dimensions. Don’t shy away from Asian characters who are monstrous or unsympathetic. Let’s show a full range of what Asian stories and characters can be.


Photo-by-Mx.-Bex

A queer multi-gendered (any/all) biracial Asian artist and writer, Addie Tsai is Assistant Teaching Professor at William & Mary and also teaches part-time in Regis University’s Mile-High MFA program in Creative Writing. They collaborated with Dominic Walsh Dance Theater on Victor Frankenstein and Camille Claudel, among others. Addie is the author of Dear Twin and Unwieldy Creatures, which was a Shirley Jackson finalist for Best Novel. They are the features & reviews editor, as well as fiction co-editor for Anomaly, and the founding editor-in-chief for just femme & dandy.

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