Alec Ash

Alec Ash is a writer and journalist in Beijing, and founding editor of the Anthill

Posts by Alec Ash

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Bright Lights, Big Dreams

Inside the world of reality TV dating shows – by Alec Ash

 

When rock didn’t make him famous, Lucifer tried TV. Rustic had burnt bright but short. D-22 club had closed in early 2012, and the scene had moved on. But talent and dating shows were booming, and here he looked for a new adoring audience.

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Wish Lanterns

A new book by Alec Ash

 

While we've been publishing stories from China by you, dear readers of our little colony, your humble editors have also been beavering away at their own writing. Now that fruit is ripe for the tasting. So gather around. That's right, it's time for some shameless self promotion and abuse of editorial privilege as I plug my own book.

On top of my own journalism, and anything else that keeps me in my noodles, for the last four years I've been germinating, researching and writing my first book, Wish Lanterns: Young Lives in New China. It's literary nonfiction, a deep dive into the lives of six young Chinese of my own generation, and it was published yesterday by Picador.

The book is very narrative in conception, and jumps between the six people I write about, telling their stories from childhood to mid to late twenties. There's Lucifer, an aspiring superstar (who was in Rustic for those who know it); Snail, a country migrant from Anhui who gets addicted to World of Warcraft; Fred, daughter of a Party official from Hainan; and even a love story, though I won't spoil the surprise by revealing which two characters meet each other halfway through the book.

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Hutong Neighbours

The unbearable lightness of Beijing – by Alec Ash

This story was published in While We're Here, the Anthill anthology just out from Earnshaw Books 

 

Mrs Wang the widow has lived on Xiguan Hutong for thirty-five years. She's an old Beijinger, born in 1951, and has been within a cabbage's throw of the same vegetable market for most of her life. Her childhood home was in Daxing Hutong, in the same block; her primary school was in Fuxue Hutong, two alleys down; her early teens were in Nanluoguxiang, back when it was just another residential ginnel. In 1980 she married a man who owned property in Xiguan Hutong (reinstated after the Cultural Revolution ended). She worked in a small factory five minutes walk away, making musical instruments from flutes to French horns. When her husband died four years ago, her son moved in with his Mongolian wife. Mrs Wang took a bedroom at the back to live out her retirement watching Chinese soaps, coddling her infant grandson and complaining about how her daughter-in-law complains about her.

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In the Gulou days

Reminiscence, history and a walking tour of Beijing – by Alec Ash


Nostalgia is hard to keep up with in China. That old bar, that old neighbourhood, that old friend – memories accrue quickly along with the fast turn-over here, silt at the bottom of a swift river. Circumstances change, people come and go. Just count the number of new restaurants on your street. The way we talk about last year is the way folk back home talk about last decade. The constants – rent hikes, food poisoning, strangers taking selfies with you – are almost comforting.

The space I feel most nostalgic about in Beijing is the courtyard between the drum and bell tower.

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An End of Days Story

Science fiction by Fei Dao – translated by Alec Ash

 

When mother was little, she told father she wouldn’t marry him if he were the last man on Earth. This wounded father deeply. Driven by grief and indignation, working with a bleak resolve, he became a resident space station maintenance worker. From tens of thousands of feet up in space he kept a solitary watch over the planet, distancing himself from humanity, from Earth, and from mother.

Later, when father was the last man on Earth, mother did marry him.

In that dark, stifling space station with only the stars for company, he used all the energy his job left him to nurture his resentment for mother, finally vowing that he would never love again. But when he came back down to Earth she was the only woman left.

They had no other choice.

***

Shortly before, humanity had no idea that it would soon die out. Blindly optimistic, we were completely unprepared when disaster struck.

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