the fireside
chats recounted
xiangjun zeng

XJ's Facebook page

4th February 2020:

Greetings from the Red Desert. It's a new year, and the winter chills heralds new beginnings. Did you make any resolution for this year?

We often hear people saying they don't make resolutions because most people can't make it last more than 3 months, and they might as well not bother.

I don't see it that way. Yeah, maybe you wanted to go to the gym to lose weight and you could only make yourself go for 3 months.

You know what? That's still 3 months better than if you never went. The next time, go for 4 months. Then 5. 6.

Before you know it, you would have rewritten your own story.

2020 is going to be an exciting year. We have many plans laid out, which we can't wait to share. The first of which is, from 15th of Feb to the 17th, the Adventures of Longtail will be at the Fan Expo Vancouver!! It's a baby step, but big things are made of thousands of tiny steps.

Not only that, but we have decided to expand the scope of the Adventures of Longtail by adding illustrations. We'll be unveiling them throughout the year to build a more solid sense of the wonder of the Red Desert and beyond. 

The chapters will slow down because I, the author, am also the artist, and there's only so many hours in the day. I regret that, but with your continued support, I aim to bring more tales from A Distant Sun to you. 

Stay tuned, dear readers, more details about Fan Expo to come!

My Warmest Regards,


Link to the first podcast of 2020:

18th November 2019:

Today we discussed Joseph Campbell's Hero of a Thousand Faces, the Hero's Journey and how it relates to science fiction stories.

Myths and legends often speaks about stories that reach deep within the human psyche. How does the Hero's Journey affect the way we tell stories?

Share with us your favourite heroic tales!

21st August 2019:  

Last week, Zendexor and I had our first Fireside chat. After a brief but mighty struggle with technology, wherein we wrestled our recalcitrant mics into submission, we were finally on our way.

It was a great conversation. A sometimes funny, often rambling but always interesting discussion. We even kept to the main topic, somehow. It was as it should be; a relaxed chat between friends about subjects interesting to us all.

And the main topic for this week was the moon.

As the human race send its probes further out into space, and as we continually lift the veil of the cosmos to slake our curiosity, we have also slain the mysteries that compelled us to seek them out in the first place.

Certainly the tales of the distant orbs become more desolate with each entry of our scientific journals. Possibilities shrink, and imagination withered.

The one place that seemed immune to this slow death of wonder is the moon. There have been all sorts of tales about the moon stretching into antiquity, and to modern days. C.S Lewis, Arthur C. Clark and H.G Wells all had their own takes and their own spin.

All of which we talked about in the Fireside. We have made available the chat on my YouTube channel as a podcast for the readers. We would love it if you would share with us your thoughts. Tell us about your favourite tales of the moon, and why it resonated with you.

The Fireside will be an ongoing conversation about storytelling and we hope to open it to more parties as we go along. In our next episode we are going to talk about journeys. Specifically, the hero's journey, the Quest, the Call to Adventure - howsoever you name the impulse which that takes the hero out of his/her parents' basement and sets them on the Path. I look forward to that topic very much and hope to leave you, dear reader with something worth thinking about.

Without further ado, welcome, to our Fireside. Come pull up a chair and join us. The room is warm and inviting with virtual ale and the flames of Fellowship.

Youtube link:

27 June 2019:

Some days, when I think about technology now, and what it was like when I was growing up, it feels like I am living in a science fiction movie.

I think back to the days when making a call to another country meant jiggling with clunky country and area codes. It meant going through international switchboards and operators before patching through finally to the person we wanted to talk to.

Often, the voice on the other end sounded like they were talking through tin cans.

A 5-minute call was a luxury. A half hour call could rake up quite a princely ransom in telephone bills. An hour? Unheard of.

Now with Skype, WhatsApp and much other telecommunications software, getting in touch with another person in another country is sufficiently easy to seem like a dream.

A few weeks ago, Zendexor and I had a brief chat over Skype. After over a year of email exchanges, I had thought it a good idea to "meet" in person the man who runs the website in which many of us have spent many hours reading tales from the Old Solar System.

It was quite wonderful. We talked about books (of course), about world building, about what drew us in when we read a finely woven tale. We talked about the craft of writing and our favourite story tellers.

In all honesty, I don't regard myself as a writer. I see myself more as a storyteller, and writing just happened to be the way I chose to tell those stories. Zendexor, it was clear from our conversation, has a much more subtle and deep appreciation for the craftsmanship and the art of writing than I do.

We have only just skimmed the surface in our half-hour conversation, and I can't wait to have another. It is very exciting to hear insights from other fellow story tellers. If everything goes well, we will have another conversation soon, and I would love to share it with the regulars on this site.

Thinking back, the best part of the conversation for me, was talking about the books and authors we have read. One of my favourites is John Wyndham. He was a British science fiction writer who wrote a series of short novels in the early 1930s.  Then came longer novels in the 1950s.

The Kraken Wakes, absolutely my favourite. The Midwich Cuckoos, another fine tale. One that raised the hair on the back of my neck far more than Lovecraft ever did. The Chrysalids, The Day of the Triffids, Chocky

The way John Wyndham wrote just captured me. It is that fine balance between mystery and exposition. We catch a glimpse of the 'other'. The alien, the monster, the catastrophe. We feel their far-reaching impact and influence together with the characters, but we never really get to see the 'enemy' in full sunlight. It is that tickling of the imagination that draws me to his writings.

Sadly, we will not have any more stories from John Wyndham, and I can only hope to find more writers like that.

I can't wait for our next conversation. What could be more fun than two fans of tall tales nerding out over our favourite stories? If our schedules match, we should be able to get in touch again in another two or three months’ time!

Comment from Zendexor:  The chat was indeed hugely enjoyable.  Regarding John Wyndham, apart from his unsurpassed tales of disaster set on Earth, there are three OSS tales in his collection The Seeds of Time - the macabre "Survival", the tense, riveting "Dumb Martian" and the wonderfully elegiac and atmospheric "Time To Rest".