Ghostly Research Ahoy

My parcel from Malaysia has finally arrived! Hey, it only took three months to arrive in UK.

I am in an amazingly good mood right now, and I’m not sure if it’s because of the combination of chewy milk candy, meat jerky, murruku savoury snacks and white coffee I just wolfed down after rescuing them from the somewhat battered box.

But a huge chunk of the box included research materials for the novel (or series) I’ve been planning! And it’s so exciting to have a bit of home with me. I worried it would get lost. Here they are:

The last time I was back in Malaysia, I invested quite a lot on horror/ghost films, specifically those most likely to feature how that culture ‘deals’ with said evil. My brother was awesome enough to bring me to this store selling a whole lot of titles, but I found there were too many to choose from! After going through some hilariously written movie synopses, I had to put quite a number of them back.

In the end I chose two Hindi, two Chinese and only one Malay ghost film(s). Mostly because I was less sure how Indians and Chinese dealt with ghosty nasties in films. I would have bought more, but I couldn’t afford it!

You will not believe the amount of research I had to do before and while writing Malaysian Dark! I had to read up on bomohs (Malay shamans), Hinduism, Taoism, feng shui, spiritual/medicinal herbs, and the folklore and mythology of the Chinese, Malay and Indian cultures.

And that’s not counting the 2,000 photographs and videos I took of wacky places/plants/things the last time I was home 😀 All this research is definitely exhausting, but still immense fun. I must remind myself however that the researching should never be used as an excuse NOT to write.

Moreover, part of me wants to be careful not to read too many ghost stories like Russell Lee’s and so on, of which Malaysia has plentiful! As much as I want to be inspired and informed, I don’t want it limiting the kind of plots and scenes my imagination could come up with. By all means, acquire a foundation of knowledge, but don’t copy from the research, I say to myself!

The UK has its Fortean Times. Malaysia has its own huge array of magazines on weird supernatural stuff. Nearly all of them are written with a heavy Malay slang, but I can sorta get the gist of it. Here are some of my favourite article titles within:

The Husband who Cast Spells with Black Chicken Head Soup

Married to a Jin

The Employee who Bewitched his Boss

UFO Lands in Gobek Village?

Victim of a Rain of Needles

His Corpse Smelled Sweet…

Dialogue between a Pocong (Burial Shroud Ghost) and a Pontianak (Malay Vampire)

“For 3,000 years, I have lived in this place…”

Penis Bitten Until Broken Off

We might laugh, and I might be (a freethinking) Christian, but I am inclined to treat Malay ghost folklore with a pinch of salt and a great deal of careful respect. After all, I come from a country where many people take ghosts for granted. Chances are, you’ll always find someone who knows someone who’s had a supernatural encounter, for instance. Whatever my views are on these things, I’m also of a mind that there are things out there you don’t laugh at or make light of. After all, who are we to assume we know everything about the world?

And last but not least:

This book of 366 Malaysian Folk Tales was a brilliant find for me! Although the title is aimed at children, the book features stories I’ve never heard of from states all over the country. Some are old childhood favouries, like that of Sang Kancil, the mousedeer.

And then there’s the fairy tales that are just plain bizarre. One story from Sarawak, Borneo, starts off with:

“Kill me and eat my flesh,” said the monkey on the tree. Kasaan happened to be standing under the tree.

“I have no intention of eating your flesh,” said Kasaan.

“Don’t waste time, kill me and eat my flesh, hurry!” said the monkey.

They tell this to children? COOL.

Oh, and the book No Plot? No Problem! is an awesome read I would highly recommend 🙂 Lots of tips on writing around family commitments, distractions and other forms of *cough* procrastination.

My Increasingly Swelling Library

It feels damn good to add all this to my meagre stockpile of research material here in Edinburgh. Here are some of the awesome titles I took with me from Malaysia:

This is a lovely encyclopaedia of Malaysia's spirits and demons. Very interesting reading! A bit thin, though.

A lot of it is fluff, but charming reading nonetheless.

This was to help me get an idea of the bewildering array of gods and mythology within Hinduism. It broaches more on Hindu concepts however.

Since one of my characters is sort of trained as a Taoist medium, I had to learn what their philosophies are (Man do I know how to pick them ;). Good book. Clear and straightforward.

That and the small mountain of feng shui books I keep borrowing for research! Too many to list 🙂



Filed under Fantasy, Leisure, Matahari Books, Novel, Photography, Procrastination, Writing

6 responses to “Ghostly Research Ahoy

  1. Pen

    I would like to inform you that the following post has been explicitly copied from your blog onto another site, potentially without your consent and/or knowledge: Ghostly Research Ahoy.

    The offending url is:

    It is believed that the author of this site is attempting to gain monetarily from stealing others’ work and posting it along with false Gravatar information.

  2. Thank you very much! I don’t know if it’s a coincidence, but I sent the site’s webmaster an email some hours ago.

    Wow, thank you for the link. Are you some kind of crusader or something? 🙂

    • Pen

      I don’t think it’s a coincidence, just as I don’t think the fact that the site was very recently taken down entirely is a coincidence. Because in the first five hours or so since I’d originally spotted my post on that site, I send the admin an email threatening a DMCA notice and contacted about seventy or eighty of the original authors, some of which probably responded immediately with legal notices of their own. And a fellow blogger drew some unwelcome attention to the site by publicly pointing out the illegalities of the site.

      As for a crusader, I think not. I’m not the first to do something like this, and I know I won’t be the last. I just think people should know their rights in these scenarios. And while a lot of people do know what to do in case of blatant plagiarism, a lot of other people don’t.

      • Holy cow, you contained eighty authors? That is simply amazing!

        I didn’t know you were one of the authors. Much thanks again for the alert 🙂

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