Farewell to the Anthill

The end of one colony, and the beginning of the next

 

Five years ago, in the autumn of 2012, I returned to China after two years out, working in London. My previous blog from Beijing, in my Wudaokou days learning Mandarin, was the painfully lime-green Six (2008-10), following the lives of six young Chinese peers – the germ of an idea that evolved into my first book Wish Lanterns, published by Picador last year and a BBC Book of the Week. That autumn of 2012 I launched a new group blog or "writers' colony" of narrative nonfiction – the Anthill – on the premise that everyone in China had a story to tell.

Half a decade on, we've had quite the run. We expanded the site to include fiction, thanks to fiction editor, novelist and friend Tom Pellman, who after 11 years in China is now the other side of the pond in Monterey. We hosted two boozy storytelling events: Writers and Rum and Scotch and Stories. In 2015 we published an anthology, While We're Here, with Earnshaw Books. We were a Danwei Model Worker and a Browser Golden Giraffe. And we posted 380 stories, from a thangka of blood to (full circle) an old tale out of Tibet. But now our revels are ended, and our friendly ant icon is waving not hello but goodbye.

Every end is a beginning, and the Anthill is delighted to announce it is folding into a new online publishing venture, the Los Angeles Review of Books China Channel, which launched today. I've been writing for the LARB China Blog for yonks, and now, thanks to a generous seed grant from the Henry Luce Foundation, the blog has expanded into a bigger magazine-within-a-magazine. I'm the new managing editor, on a part-time basis along with a team of China hands old and new, under the wizardry of Jeffrey Wasserstrom. To find out more, read our opening words and follow us on social media and email to not miss a post. Our newsletter will port across to the new China Channel, so if you don't want to receive it just click unsubscribe.

Some highlights, some memories:

Flower Town The rise and fall of a Sichuan village – by Sascha Matuszak

Finding Fabien  A supermodel is born – by Jon Rechtman

My Father  Family history of the first gaokao – by Karoline Kan

The Book of Changes  Twenty five years in Chinese jazz – by David Moser

Dumplings  Clashing laowai – a short story by Michael Salmon

Shower Business  Last days of a Beijing bathhouse – by Robert Foyle Hunwick

Big in Beijing  Tales from expat pond life – satire by Carlos Ottery

Roots and Leaves  A journey back to one's origins – by Courtney Han

Beijing in your Pocket  A photo essay by Christopher Cherry

Writers in China  A poem by Anthony Tao (our poetry editor)

Above all else, thank you to everyone who has made this labour of love such a pleasure, from our readers to the 120+ ants in the hill who have contributed. Our closing also coincides with the last night of Cuju bar, our spiritual home (largely as it's ten metres from my own home) where we held our memorable Writers and Rum night, that like us is moving onto new things. I'll be there tomorrow (Tuesday) all night if anyone wants to come say goodbye. It has been an honour, and see you on the other side.

- Alec

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