Fey, found in other places as FEYXUAN or Xuan Nguyen (they/them)
Xuan Nguyen is a writer and artist who does music as FEYXUAN. They have two chapbooks, THE FAIRIES SING EACH TO EACH (Flower) and LUNG, CROWN, AND STAR (Lazy Adventurer).
Their story THE HAND YOU’RE DEALT: TAROT, DISABILITY, AND HOW YOU WIN THE GAME can be found in Epoch Issue 01: Beginnings
Where do you find inspiration?
I find the most inspiration nowadays through learning other languages, particularly Japanese and the language of orchestral music composition. In music, there’s something called polyphonic melodies which mean multiple melodies layered over one another, happening simultaneously, rather than just one melody with accompanying parts.
I am extremely drawn to polyphonic compositions in either classical orchestration like Philip Glass, or contemporary koto masterpieces such as those by Sawai Hikaru, or even in compelling layered samples in electronic music like Justice’s work.
My fluency in Japanese made an enormous breakthrough after I started training my ear to make orchestral compositions, a trade I entered into on somewhat of an impulse.
My current work is about “language and how it dies.” By this I mean the way that two people can know the same language but they don’t have the paradigms to understand one another. And the concept of finding different languages such as through visual media forms and symbolisms or musical orchestration or literal foreign languages just like Japanese being ways to expand and redefine communication.
It relates to my piece in Epoch because of the way that disability and heavily stigmatized Madness isolate those at the intersections of being dealt a bad hand. The failure of others to learn your language and instead speak only to their own experiences said in their own words is, I imagine, related to colonialist standards of enforcing a privileged, Imperial tongue, but it is also a matter of being unwilling to give compassion.
The long and short of it is that I find inspiration in finding new ways to communicate with others, such as by analysing music compositions and how they make me and my friend feel, or working on my Japanese lyric writing and game development with my friend who is extremely fluent.
Why do you write/create Creative Non-Fiction?
I write creative non-fiction as another way of telling my truth to people who might listen. I am part of what I call “The Rare Kind,” and all of the people who are part of this that I’ve met so far are schizo, dissociative, or simply Mad, and transgender, except in the case of one friend who I suspect would in another life be nonbinary if only due to a lack of attachment or relation to masculinity.
Of this Rare Kind, I think I am the only one who has the capacity and the means and the faculties to share the story of who I am and my Madness and what it makes me and what I make of it with the world. It is my way of trying to make myself understood by more and more people who otherwise show no interest in who I am or what will become of me because they expect the world to kill me.
And by the gods, the world is trying. But as I have begun to say, The odds are against me, but the gods are on my side.
The odds are against me, but that doesn’t mean I’ll stop trying to redefine the game.
What are you reading now? (If you aren’t reading anything, let us know what other art you’re consuming)
I am reading and watching an anime called Kakuriyo: Bed and Breakfast, which is a slightly weird translation of what the actual inn is…but it really is the only way to translate the concept to a concept that’s natively English, I think. I’m watching the anime to hone my listening comprehension—I can understand 90% of the audio without subtitles, though I need it sometimes for the plot-heavy material. And I’m also reading the manga in the original Japanese, and very, very slowly attempting the light novel.
Kakuriyo’s draw for me is that it is an anime about an adult woman, rather than a teenage girl, who is not at all sexualized and whose premise has a very folklorish atmosphere. Kakuriyo translates to “hidden realm,” and the protagonist is basically entangled in the affairs of the hidden realm and in particular the master of the inn, who is also an oni lord, which is a type of Japanese ogre. There are all sorts of spirits that combine mythical technology such as flying, fiery airships that look like old sailing ships, as well as everyone being adorned in kimonos and sometimes shapeshifting or using their spiritual powers or mentioning that they have lived tremendously long lives.
Kakuriyo appeals to me as the type of “urban fantasy,” to use a natively English term, that is similar to Holly Black’s fairy books which combine an otherworld with the modern day without losing the ethereality and majesty of that otherworld by making it into the mundane.
It is also approximately at my level of Japanese (casually fluent, not particularly good with vocab in any speciality, but able to write and listen fluently), based on the anime and the manga, so I am absolutely thrilled to work with it.
Where can we follow you and find your work?
I’m releasing an operatic libretto, a novella, my first orchestral album, an EP, and my first game all in the first quarter of 2021, so keep checking in on my links for updates!