The day in 2015 that C Pam Zhang was laid off from her first job out of college, she celebrated with friends at the park, then promptly made plans to move to Bangkok.
She had been working at a tech start-up in San Francisco for several years, she said, “kind of stress-testing this question of whether I could be happy doing something that was not writing.” But the layoff felt liberating, so she decided to live off savings for a while and give writing a real shot.
“I was like, I’m giving myself a year,” Zhang said in an interview last month. “I’ve been complaining all this time about not having the time to write. Will I actually write when I have the time, or am I just a big fake?”
Over seven months in Thailand, she wrote more than a dozen short stories, in the process landing on the sort of work she wanted to do: speculative fiction that dealt with themes like death, migration and loneliness.