Nick Tchan (writing as Nick T. Chan) is an Australian writer. He’s sold stories to Lightspeed, Aliterate, 2nd and Starlight, Writers of the Future, Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show, and Galaxy’s Edge. In addition to random and malicious acts of authoring, Nick works as an instructional designer. Because he does not own a cat, he has long doubted his legitimacy as a speculative fiction writer.
Your most recent publication was in Lightspeed’s People of Colo(u)r Destroy Science Fiction special issue. Can you tell us a bit about the story, and the magazine it’s published in?
My story, “Salto Mortal”, probably operates on two levels. The first level is a fairly simple tale about a wife who flees for her life from her abusive husband. Instead of successfully making it to the woman’s refuge, though, she encounters a nagual, one of the aliens who took over Mexico a number of years ago and turned it into a mysterious, uninhabitable realm.
The second level is about identity and disguises and the interplay between them. It is very much a story concerned with self-identity, cultural identity and the forces that seek to erase them. It deals with masks, lucha libre, domestic violence and shapeshifting aliens.
I play with the themes of identity in disguise throughout the story. The main character has both her identity and her culture stolen from her, there are aliens attempting to imitate human beings and luchadores use masks and personas in the ring.
Issue 73 of Lightspeed was called the People of Colo(u)r Destroy Science Fiction! and was 100% written and edited by people of colo(u)r. It was led by guest editors Nalo Hopkinson and Kristine Ong Muslim and had writers like Steven Barnes, Octavia Butler, Sofia Samatar, Malka Older and Samuel Delaney. The idea was to bring together a team of writers and editors from around the globe to present science fiction that explores the nuances of culture, race, and history.
It’s not very apparent from photos, but I’m half-Chinese. It was a difficult question whether I fit into the magazine, but after discussions with my writing group (which is a pretty diverse group), I gave it a go. The story itself is a clear representation of how culture and look can be erased by a dominant culture and part of the story’s genesis arose from thinking about race in my own context. My struggles are different to someone who looks ‘”obviously” Asian. At the same time, I’ve had my own struggles with both overt and covert racial prejudice. (I’m also capable of tremendous clumsiness when it comes to matters of race and identity.)