Farewell to the Anthill

We're folding into the Los Angeles Review of Books China Channel


Five years ago, in the autumn of 2012, I returned to China after two years 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. - Alec


The end of the hill

We're closing our gates in a month


A quick housekeeping note, for our patient readers. Apologies for the radio silence on the Anthill in the last couple of months – I have been in Taiwan this summer, studying classical Chinese, and fiction editor Tom is based on the other side of the pond in Monterey, California. We also had a technical glitch, now fixed, that put the site out of commission for a stretch as some of you had noticed.

More importantly, we have news: the hill, alas, is closing down. In a month or so, the Anthill is folding into the new China Channel at the Los Angeles Review of Books, which I will be managing editor of (see more in this Q&A) alongside a terrific team of China hands, old and new. Over at LARB we will still be running narrative pieces, as well as much more, so think of it as a continuation. But the Anthill itself will be closing its gates for new submissions, although the site will remain up and archived in its entirety.

We still have a last few pieces to publish, starting with a son's moving tribute to his mother on qingmingjie. A handful more will follow, taking us to late September when the China Channel launches.

Thanks for following us these last five years, and watch this space for the new reincarnation! - Alec


Donate to the Anthill this xmas!

Give a little something to keep the colony ticking


We've had the 'donate' button up top-right for a while, but never drawn attention to it before. The Anthill, founded four years ago, has always been a labour of love, bringing you nonfiction sketches, fiction, poetry and photography from and of China. I've had less time to give to it of late, busy with my own writing, and we shed a tear to see our fiction editor, Tom Pellman, leave China last week after over 11 years. We're still putting up new stories, but this holiday season are asking for your help.

If you want to see more original writing on here, or just want to say thanks for what we've published to date, please give however much you feel like. This isn't a last-call, it's just a chance for you to give something back if you're feeling generous. All donations will go into a pot which we'll put aside for the site. Ideally we'd love to pay for contributions, and are looking into collaborations that might help that happen. If we get a good response from this, we'll find a way to keep the hill alive next year when the posts in the schedule run out. If not, we'll bow out after a good, long and very enjoyable run.

Festive wishes to all – Alec


A post-it note from the colony


Ed: Dear readers, a quick note before any more dust gathers on the Anthill. You might have noticed posting has been thin in the last months, and I'm sorry for that – I've been busy, and travelling in the UK and Asia since October. I'm now in Hong Kong, and if any readers are here please join me tonight for a book talk at the HK literary festival. I'm back in Beijing next week, and we'll be drip-feeding some terrific new stories on the site from then, including tales from freezing Dongbei and a torch festival in Sichuan.

Four years ago today (happy guanggunjie!) I published our first post from back in China, a dispatch from Tibet. Since then we've grown to a colony of over a hundred writers, and published over 330 stories as well as an anthology book. Now the Anthill is going through some changes, though we'll keep you in suspense until after the Chinese new year. Until then, keep following us and keep submitting stories: we'll still be posting, aiming for one new story a week, giving a home for new China writing.

Keep positive folks, and live the values you believe in. Nothing can trump an act of kindness. - Alec


While We're Here (in hibernation)


From 2012 the Anthill has published stories from China to bring this quicksilver and wonderfully various country to life. Since then we've put out 330 posts, hosted three events and been shortlisted for an award, with over a hundred writers in the colony and 11,000 monthly unique visitors. Now we also have an anthology, While We're Here, available on Kindle (print edition on Amazon in Feb), in the Beijing Bookworm and Garden Books in Shanghai, or from the publisher. (All proceeds to charity.)

We're not going anywhere, and will be bringing you more new and surprising narratives in 2016, including from a laowai rapper in Chengdu and a detention cell in Datong. But for now we're in hibernation this winter, while Tom and I focus on a couple of other things. We'll be back in March, and will try to post reasonably regularly. My own book comes out in the summer, and more on that later.

If you want to join the colony and publish your own story here, submit! We're looking for narrative non-fiction, fiction, poetry, photography and translation (crossposts welcome). For more info check out our submission guidelines, and ideally please aim to submit before Feb 29.

For the time being we're leaving you with links to ten of the best stories from this last year, in case you missed them. Happy reading, and happy 2016.