Where You Can Find Me at the Singapore Writers Festival

It hasn’t even been two weeks since I got back from New York, but I already need to gear up for the 2014 Singapore Writers Festival. Once again, I’ll be heavily involved this year; Anya’s also old enough now that I think she’ll enjoy the Little Lit events, so we’ll be hitting quite a few of those as well.

So here’s my schedule, including events in which I’ll just be in the audience, if you’d like to catch me:

SWF 2014 Opening Ceremony
(By Invitation Only)
SMU Campus Green, Makeover Tent, 31 Oct, 530-730pm

Little Lit: Storytelling for Little Ones
(Free and Open to All)
National Museum of Singapore, Children’s Wing, Explore, 01 Nov, 1200-1230pm

Little Lit: Guided Craft: Dinosaur Art
(Free and Open to All)
National Museum of Singapore, Platform, 01 Nov, 300-400pm

Panel: Worthy Failure vs Mediocre Success (panelist)
(Festival Pass Event)
Singapore Art Museum, Glass Hall, 01 Nov, 530-630pm

Brand New Books: Trivialities About Me and Myself by Yeng Pway Ngon
(Free and Open to All)
SMU Campus Green, Festival Pavilion, 02 Nov, 1000-1100am

Brand New Books: Ten Things My Father Never Taught Me and Other Stories by Cyril Wong and The Space Between the Raindrops by Justin Ker (moderator)
(Free and Open to All)
SMU Campus Green, Festival Pavilion, 02 Nov, 1000-1100am

SWF Makan
(By Invitation Only)
Food For Thought, National Museum of Singapore, 02 Nov, 1230-130pm

Panel: Superheroes Aren’t Everything
(Festival Pass Event)
SMU, Campus Green, Makeover Tent, 02 Nov, 530-630pm

Brand New Books: Junoesq Literary Journal edited by Grace Chia Kraković
(Free and Open to All)
SMU Campus Green, Festival Pavilion, 05 Nov, 700-800pm

Kirstin Chen in Conversation with Alvin Pang
(Free and Open to All; Non-SWF Event)
BooksActually, 07 Nov, 730-900pm

Meet the Author: Karen Joy Fowler (moderator)
(Festival Pass Event)
National Museum of Singapore, Gallery Theatre, 08 Nov, 1000-1100am
(For those unable to make this session, Karen is doing another MTA event at Kinokuniya Neo SIMS at 430pm.)

Brand New Books: Tibby and Duckie by Emily Lim, Bo Bo and Cha Cha Cook Up a Storm by Jason Erik Lundberg and A Boy Named Harry by Patrick Yee (panelist)
(Free and Open to All)
SMU Campus Green, Festival Pavilion, 08 Nov, 230-330pm

SWF Lecture: “Words Are Not Paint: Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Cultural References” by Jonathan Lethem
(Ticketed Event)
National Museum of Singapore, Gallery Theatre, 08 Nov, 500-600pm

Panel: The State of Literature
(Festival Pass Event)
SMU, Campus Green, Makeover Tent, 09 Nov, 1130am-100pm

Meet the Author: Paul Theroux
(Festival Pass Event)
National Museum of Singapore, Gallery Theatre, 09 Nov, 230-330pm

Panel: Writing for the Global Audience
(Festival Pass Event)
SMU, Campus Green, Makeover Tent, 09 Nov, 400-500pm

Whew!

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Filed under Books, Lit Festivals, Reading, Singapore, Writing

New York, October 2014, A Week in Pictures

The trip was insanely busy, and so much fun that I didn’t want to leave when it was over. Warning: selfies abound. (Photo credits can be found on my Facebook profile.)


5 Oct:

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Arrival in NYC, greeted with a big smile and bigger hug from my sister Kristin.


6 Oct:

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First New York breakfast, at Café Bene in Washington Heights

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SFWA Reception at The Manhattan Penthouse, where I got to see some old friends, including the very talented Eugene “E.C.” Myers.


7 Oct:

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Visit to Forbidden Planet; this little comic zine was about the Friday the 13th baddie, but I couldn’t resist the chance to be a narcissistic twit. (Later, I also visited Midtown Comics, as well as the Avenger’s S.T.A.T.I.O.N. at Times Square, but didn’t get any photos.)

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Visit to The Strand, one of my favorite bookstores in the world; I found an out-of-print hardcover of Milorad Pavić’s novel The Dictionary of the Khazars (Female Edition).

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Lunch at The Hummus & Pita Co. with good friend (and awesome writer) Jonathan Wood.

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Belated birthday dinner with Kristin at Uncle Nick’s Greek Cuisine; we of course had to order the saganaki.


8 Oct:

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Morning critique session at Books of Wonder with Juliet Ulman, who gave me such insightful editorial feedback on my novella The Diary of One Who Disappeared that I’m still absorbing it.

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PEN Member Mingle at Prohibition, where I chatted to novelist Daniel Akst, and Kristin was a huge hit.


9 Oct:

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Visit with my Aunt Elise; we had dinner at Vamos al Tequila in Brooklyn before my reading at WORD.

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Front display at WORD Brooklyn, featuring books by me, Alvin Pang, and Cyril Wong.

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“What Writing Means in Singapore” at WORD Brooklyn; Alvin, me, Cyril.

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Reading “Occupy: An Exhibition” from Red Dot Irreal.

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Post-reading group pic: The Butcher, The Baker, The Candlestick Maker (according to Alvin).


10 Oct:

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Visit to the Brooklyn Superhero Supply Company, where I found a cape, mask, “energy-boosting” bracelet, and Jovian-fronted tee-shirt for Anya.

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“The Local Cosmopolitan” at Book Culture, which doubled as the Singapore Literature Festival opening party; I read “Taxi Ride” from Red Dot Irreal.

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Post-event photo by Tim Tomlinson; this is what relief and exhaustion looks like.


11 Oct:

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Talking to Cyril before the start of the day of panels at the 92nd Street Y, where I was thankfully only an audience member.

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The packed, and quite diverse, audience at 92Y; here’s poet Eric Thomas Norris asking a profound question.

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The book signing/mingling at the end of the day; me, Kirstin Chen and Christine Chia.


12 Oct:

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“Reading Culture” at Book Culture (again, but what a great store); I read from “Always a Risk” from The Alchemy of Happiness.

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“Encore” at McNally Jackson Books, which doubled as the closing party. I read (and mostly avoided stumbling over my words in) “Bachy Soletanche” from Red Dot Irreal. This is a post-event group photo with the festival authors who were left (some had to leave early), as well as the organizers, Jee and Paul.

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Got to finally connect with Amanda Lee Koe after this event and talk to her about her MFA program at Columbia, and her Singapore Literature Prize shortlisted collection Ministry of Moral Panic. Above: Amanda, Sarah Tang, Joshua Ip; Below: me, Amanda, Cyril.


13 Oct:

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Washington Heights on my last day in NYC, a fantastic neighborhood on Manhattan’s upper west side. I left late that night from JFK.


14 Oct:

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In transit, at Hamad International Airport in Doha, during a seven-hour layover. It was a looooooong flight home.

So, yeah, it was an amazing experience, and I had an incredible blast in the city of my birth. I really hope I’ll be able to get back there again soon.

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Filed under Lit Festivals, New York, Reading, Singapore

Where You Can Find Me in NYC

Next month, I’ll be flying from Singapore to New York City to be part of the inaugural Singapore Literature Festival in NYC, alongside a baker’s dozen other remarkable fiction writers, poets, and dramatists. I’m only there for a week, sadly, and it’s looking like that week will be jam-packed; when I’m not involved in the festival itself, I’ll also be spending some time with family and friends (and meeting with Juliet Ulman to discuss my novella, The Diary of One Who Disappeared). So if you want to catch me while I’m in town, your best bet is to check out one of the events I’m participating in.

So here’s my schedule:

SFWA Annual Reception for Industry Professionals
(SFWA Members and Guests Only)
The Manhattan Penthouse, 06 Oct, 700-1100pm

PEN American Center Members Mingle
(PEN Members and Guests Only)
Prohibition, 503 Columbus Avenue, 08 Oct, 630-830pm

What Writing Means in Singapore
(SLF Related Event—Free and Open to All)
WORD Bookstore (Brooklyn), 09 Oct, 700-830pm

The Local Cosmopolitan
(SLF Opening Party—By Invitation Only)
Book Culture, 10 Oct, 700-900pm

Book Signing
(Entry by ticket to one of the 92Y events)
92nd Street Y, 11 Oct, 600-630pm

Reading Culture
(Free and Open to All)
Book Culture, 12 Oct, 200-400pm

Encore
(SLF Closing Party—By Invitation Only)
McNally Jackson Books, 12 Oct, 700-900pm

More details at the full SLF programming schedule.

As mentioned above, the events at WORD on the 9th and Book Culture on the 12th are free, but all the ones scheduled at the 92nd Street Y are ticketed. Also, I’m likely to be at all the events on Saturday the 11th from 2pm onward, in the audience, so please do come up and say hi (and don’t worry that you’ll be bothering me, because meeting folks is a big part of the whole trip). I’m also happy to sign books at any point, not just during the official signing slot on the 11th.

Hope to see some friendly faces there!

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Filed under Books, Lit Festivals, Reading, Singapore, Writing

The Zero Theorem

I’m a big-time fan of Terry Gilliam; I’ve seen every feature-length film he’s directed except for Tideland, and I know I’m (almost) always in good hands (the very obvious exception being The Brothers Grimm, which had a handful of great moments amidst a largely chaotic mess). Brazil and Twelve Monkeys number amongst my all-time favorite films, which is why I’m so excited that Gilliam has played to the strengths of both those movies for his latest near-future masterpiece, called The Zero Theorem.

Gilliam has had a number of problems with distribution for this film, which is why he’s taken the interesting tactic of pre-releasing it for video-on-demand streaming to places like iTunes one month before its theatrical release in the US. I’m guessing that the hope here is to generate lots of buzz by word-of-mouth in order to get butts in movie theater seats, and I really hope it works, because this film deserves to be seen on the big screen; it’ll be interesting to see how this plays out in the next several weeks. I bought it on iTunes last night, and have watched it twice (I think I’ve got a better handle now on the symbolically heavy ending than after the first viewing).

Ever since the release of Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim, I’ve tried to pay much more attention to the visual vocabulary of films, and The Zero Theorem would seem to reward this approach; Gilliam has never been a particularly strong storyteller on his own, which is why his best works are collaborations with others who are (Tom Stoppard and Charles McKeown on Brazil, Chris Marker and David & Janet Peoples on Twelve Monkeys, and now Pat Rushin on The Zero Theorem). His strength remains the visual rather than the verbal, and this new film exemplifies his command over the image; a freeze-frame on any moment in its 107-minute run-time is like a high-definition painting, the mise-en-scène always in control and artfully composed.


There’s a scene early on where our hero Qohen Leth (played brilliantly by Christoph Waltz) has been invited to a party by his gregarious supervisor Mr. Joby (David Thewlis, in one of his best performances), being held in a soon-to-be foreclosed mansion; nearly every single person in attendance is dancing to music that only they can hear through their white earbuds, plugged into devices that look suspiciously like next-gen iPads and iPhones. The mansion is full of people absorbed in their own little worlds, refusing to engage with anyone else in the real world. When Qohen—who only came to the party to persuade Management (Matt Damon) to let him work from home—starts choking on a grape, no one comes to his aid (and one person even takes a photo of him as he’s gasping for air), except for an enigmatic sexy young woman named Bainsley (Mélanie Thierry), who will play a significant part later on (although she’ll drift dangerously close to Manic Pixie Dream Girl territory).

This striking scene encapsulates what Gilliam is more preoccupied with these days: not so much the oppressiveness of authority (although there is still a bit of that here too), but how “social” technology has isolated us from our fellow human beings more than ever. From The Guardian: “I find myself sitting at my computer and seduced by the internet. The web gives me access to all the knowledge in the world—but I worry to myself: do we have real relationships any more, or only virtual relationships?”

Qohen himself works as a “cruncher of esoteric entities” in the Ontological Research Division, sifting through vast oceans of public personal data (buying habits, favorite colors, political preferences, clothing brands), an extrapolation where the Facebookian proclivity to share all has been pushed to the extreme, so that it may be interpolated by the intelligent neural-net mainframe at Mancom, a shadowy megacorporation that wants to solve the question of whether all life and mass and energy in the universe will just disappear one day in The Big Crunch, so that everything and everyone that has ever existed will turn out to have been utterly pointless, reduced to zero. When Qohen is tasked with solving this question, called the Zero Theorem, he’s put in direct conflict with his unerring faith that the phone call he’s been expecting for most of his life will finally reach him and reveal his purpose in the universe.

Though so much of Qohen’s existence throughout the course of the movie is the internal landscape of his calculations and entity-crunching, it is his physical environments, and his relationships with Mr. Joby, Bainsley, and Management’s 15-year-old computer wunderkind son Bob (Lucas Hedges), that humanize him. His home is a burned-out church adjacent to a sex shop, abandoned long before by monastic monks, so gorgeously adorned and set-dressed that I was astonished to discover it was a created set rather than an actual rotting church, and it becomes another character in its own right. It’s interesting to note that while Qohen is engaged in solving the ultimate existential question, his home and his friends are what keep him grounded in the real world, and ultimately open him up to the implications of solving the Zero Theorem itself.

Supporting performances by Tilda Swinton as the buck-toothed Scottish virtual therapist Dr. Shrink-ROM (a kinder sort of companion to her northern English character in Snowpiercer), and Sanjeev Bhaskar, Peter Stormare and Ben Whishaw as the doctors who evaluate him for disability leave, and Gwendoline Christie (better known as Brienne of Tarth on Game of Thrones) as one face of the intrusive interactive advertising that follows Qohen throughout his nameless European town, fill out the absurdities of Gilliam’s world. As opposed to the drab grey bureaucracy of Brazil, and the bleached-out duotones of the post-apocalyptic future in Twelve Monkeys, the exterior world of The Zero Theorem is a riot of color. The film has been called the final installment of Gilliam’s dystopian triptych, but this is a dystopia oversaturated to the point of neon, where the consumerist impulse is fed by bright sensory data rather than human nature being controlled by force, although in the end it is all just one more form of manipulation.

There are many echoes and callbacks to Brazil and Twelve Monkeys. Slim and Chubs, two Laurel-and-Hardy-type clones in charge of bringing Bob to and from Qohen’s church, recall the Central Services technicians Spoor and Dowser. Mr. Joby feels like a kinder and more generous version of Michael Palin’s Jack Lint. The hairless physicality of Christoph Waltz echoes the baldness (and nakedness) of Bruce Willis’s James Cole, and Qohen’s existential angst is a direct descendant of Jonathan Pryce’s Sam Lowry. Bob calls everyone else Bob, just like the homeless prophet in Twelve Monkeys. The tubes-and-wires bio-technological system that Qohen uses to crunch entities, and the lighting used in Qohen’s church, are reminiscent of both films. The gigantic mainframe at Mancom, referenced from a grimy disused boiler room, feels like the inverse of the cooling tower used in the torture of Sam Lowry. And instead of Sam Lowry’s magical fantasies of escaping his reality by becoming the Hero, we get Qohen Leth’s inverse obsession about the meaninglessness of existence.

(Unrelated, but I also loved the musical touch of including a jazzy piano cover version of Radiohead’s “Creep” as the background music on Bainsley’s website before she and Qohen have haptic virtual sex.)

So there you have it, an existential visually stunning retro-futuristic dystopia directed by an American, starring a German, co-starring a Frenchwoman and a Briton, and filmed in Romania. See it however you can.

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Filed under Art, Dystopia

Penguins and Prejudice

“I needed to become a First Amendment absolutist, and I still find it uncomfortable being a First Amendment absolutist. I was not put on this earth to be an absolutist about anything. I’m somebody whose natural response to an awful lot of stuff is to say: yes, I see your point of view, or at least to try and find common ground. But when it comes to the First Amendment, there is no common ground.” —Neil Gaiman (The Art of Neil Gaiman by Hayley Campbell, p. 191)

The last two weeks in Singapore have been very eventful for the literary community. On July 8, a post appeared on a Facebook group called “We are against Pinkdot in Singapore” bragging that after only one complaint to the National Library Board, two children’s picture books — And Tango Makes Three by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson, illus. Henry Cole (2005) and The White Swan Express: A Story About Adoption by Jean Davies Okimoto and Elaine M. Aoki, illus. Meilo So (2002) — had been removed from library shelves, without any kind of review process, because they did not conform to a reductionist definition of “pro-family values,” a euphemism often employed by the religious right to refer to a heterosexual family situation with one man, one woman, and their children. The action had been confirmed by Ms Tay Ai Cheng, Assistant Chief Executive & Chief Librarian, whose email message was reproduced in the post.

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Illustration by Henry Cole, layout by Jaxe Pan.

Two days later, after much uproar among writers, readers and parents, the news came that not only was NLB not listening to any of the feedback decrying their decision, but that in fact they were going to pulp the books, despite the many possible alternatives (reshelving them, donating them, holding them for the annual library book sale, affixing a parental discretion label, or just ignoring a single solitary complaint about them). Let me repeat that: because one member of a right-wing extremist group took offense to the very idea of two male penguins raising a baby penguin, and same-sex couples adopting children, Singapore’s national repository for knowledge and information was going to destroy all copies of the two titles.

This story was picked up by Boing Boing, The Washington Post, The Guardian, BBC News, Al Jazeera, NBC News, The Huffington Post, The Independent (UK), Human Rights Watch, PEN International, and other international news sources. I’m not sure what NLB was hoping to accomplish, but instead of quietly going away, it turned into a global news story.

In the days to come, it was made public that earlier in the year, NLB had also pulped Who’s In My Family?: All About Our Families by Robie H. Harris, illus. Nadine Bernard Westcott (2012), as well as three other non-fiction books by Harris about changing bodies and sexual health. These had been done quietly, and unannounced to the public.

Banning books is never the solution, but the destruction of books is a symbolic attack on knowledge itself, and was perhaps the worst possible decision NLB could have made. I am not a Singaporean citizen, but I still pay taxes in Singapore every year, and a portion of those taxes go to support NLB. It is not in my interest, or in the interest of any others who share my viewpoint (which is a lot of people), that books be removed from NLB shelves just because a hate-filled vocal minority wish them to be.

Several brave writers decided to boycott NLB, cancel already-scheduled events in protest, and refuse to work with NLB in the future. Playwright and novelist Ovidia Yu quit her position on the Singapore Writers Festival steering committee because NLB is a programming and venue partner. Three judges for the non-fiction category of the Singapore Literature Prize resigned. Novelist and AWARE Communications Director Jolene Tan and concerned mother Germaine Eliza Ong organized a (legal and permitted) read-in at the NLB Atrium called Let’s Read Together!, which attracted four to five hundred people, many of them parents who read the banned books and others to their children (it set the record for being the first political protest held in Singapore outside the confines of Hong Lim Park); I was one of these parents, and I was proud to bring my daughter Anya to her first act of civil disobedience, even if she really didn’t know what the hubbub was about.

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Reading And Tango Makes Three to Anya on my iPad. Photo by Alvin Pang.

Despite all this blowback, NLB CEO Elaine Ng seemed befuddled by all of the foofaraw and “saddened” that people were so angry at them, but NLB was not changing its decision to keep the books off the shelves. Jasna Dhansukhlal, assistant director for NLB’s public library services, told My Paper that “We have withdrawn the titles, there’s no putting them back. [...] Basically they’re pulped and no longer in existence.”

As the second week of this scandal wore on, LGBT writer friends of mine and allies became despondent, publicly despairing that despite unofficial mentions of tolerance, it was now official government policy to discriminate against “alternative lifestyles”: books with even a whiff of same-sex relationships are a danger to Singaporean children, and have to be destroyed. Several of those same friends mentioned that they simply saw no place for them in Singapore anymore, and wanted to migrate at the earliest opportunity; another said that he was giving up writing altogether.

Finally, this past Friday, Minister Yaacob Ibrahim (Minstry of Communications and Information, who earlier defended the decision to remove the books) ordered NLB to reinstate the two books, but to place them in the adult section of the library. This seemed like a compromise for everyone, although it still felt like a ghettoization. The fact that they weren’t being destroyed (despite official statements to the contrary) was a very good thing, but the books were still being treated by NLB as toxic to children, which gets to the whole crux of the matter.

(By the way, you can see a more detailed round-up of everything that happened here at TODAY.)

This was a two-part issue, about free expression and inclusivity. Unlike the USA, where I come from, Singapore has no such thing as the First Amendment (“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”) Any of the rights that are taken for granted under the First Amendment have to be petitioned for in Singapore, and if the government doesn’t like what you have to say, they can deny you those rights and there is very little recourse. Part of free expression is the unfettered access to information, and by banning the books and then announcing that they were pulping them, NLB was making it clear that a secular governmental organization could easily deny the citizenry that access.

As for inclusivity, Singapore has (with joyous zeal) imported the culture war from the USA, with the religious right gaining a more vocal foothold in political influence. That NLB was willing to just roll over and cower to the will of this group is notable. Also notable is that the only demographic group targeted here is the LGBT (or QUILTBAG, to be more accurate) community. And Tango Makes Three and The White Swan Express contained examples of same-sex relationships, and this is the only reason that they were challenged. (It must also be pointed out that representation does not equal promotion or endorsement, but this nuance is lost on the zealot mind.) Homosexual sex between men is still illegal in Singapore, and while the government is forward-thinking in so many ways, they are frighteningly backward when it comes to including the QUILTBAG community in mainstream society. How can you consider yourself a First World country if you are actively oppressing an entire demographic?

I’ll just close by saying that even though the books are now available in the library again, the National Library Board has still not admitted to any wrongdoing, nor have they made any attempt to reach out to the QUILTBAG community. Until both are done, I will not participate in any NLB-led literary events to which I am invited. This decision has taken much consideration, and the dust has settled a bit, so I cannot be accused of jumping on any bandwagons or acting rashly in the heat of the moment (although I must note that these and similar accusations were aimed at my literary comrades during the last two weeks, and they are entirely baseless).

If I am asked to be a featured author again at the Singapore Writers Festival this year, I will accept, but I will make it a point to bring up this issue on any panel I am given (which may discourage them from inviting me; so be it). I will be there regardless, to promote the Epigram Books literary titles under my editorship.

Echoing Neil Gaiman’s quote at the top of this post, free expression and inclusivity are not up for negotiation, and there can be no common ground with those who would chip away or seek to destroy either one. A civilized society must have both.

(N.B. This post was revised on 22 July to add hyperlinks, clarify statements, and tidy up the prose.)

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Filed under Books, Parenthood, Public Libraries, Singapore

Let me explain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up.

Happy Friday the 13th! Just in case you missed it, or if you don’t regularly follow my Facebook feed, I released a LOT of announcements this week:

1) Fish Eats Lion is now available as an ebook from Infinity Plus Books, at all major ebook stores [full post].

2) My next picture book, Bo Bo and Cha Cha Cook Up a Storm, will be released in October from Epigram Books [photo proof].

3) LONTAR issues #1 and #2 took the top bestselling spots at Weightless Books for May 2014, and are also now up at the Nook and iTunes stores [full post].

4) The contents for LONTAR issue #3 were finalized, and the journal will hereon be published by Epigram Books [full post].

5) My story “Taxi Ride” appears in the Summer 2014 “Starry Island” issue of MANOA Journal, which will be available at Kinokuniya near the end of July, and can be pre-ordered now [press release | order page].

6) Amanda Lee Koe’s fiction collection, Ministry of Moral Panic (which I edited), made the 2014 longlist for the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award [award site].

7) I will be in New York City in early October, appearing at a WORD Bookstore event in Brooklyn and at the inaugural Singapore Literature Festival at the 92nd Street Y [full post].

A very fortuitous week, the best in some time, career-wise. I am doing my best to be grateful for the influx of good news, rather than expecting a falling anvil from the sky at any moment.

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Filed under Awards, Lit Festivals, LONTAR, Publishing, Singapore, Writing

NYC-Bound in October!

I’ve been sitting on some exciting news, and have just been given the go-ahead to announce it: I will be in New York City in early October as part of the inaugural Singapore Literature Festival! So excite!

The festival takes place on 10-12 October at the 92nd Street Y, and is being organized by Paul Rozario-Falcone and Jee Leong Koh. It is a “community-led, grassroots event that aims to build awareness of Singaporean writing among readers, editors, and publishing professionals in New York; connect Singaporean and other writers; and offer a platform for regular readings of Singaporean literature in New York during the rest of the year.”

I’m joined by a fantastic array of Singaporean authors, in whose company I am honored and flattered to be included: Alfian Sa’at, Kirstin Chen, Christine Chia, Tania De Rozario, Colin Goh and Woo Yen Yen, Haresh Sharma, Joshua Ip, Isa Kamari, Pooja Nansi, Alvin Pang, Wena Poon, and Cyril Wong.

In addition to the festival proper, I’ll also be appearing at a bookstore event along with Alvin Pang and Cyril Wong at WORD Bookstore in Brooklyn on 9 October. Kinda like a pre-festival fringe event. We’ll be discussing Singaporean prose and all kinds of other stuff.

I’m meeting with Juliet Ulman to go over the edits to my novella The Diary of a Man Who Disappeared (recipient of a NAC Creation Grant), and would love to be able to meet up with other NYC-based peeps as well; just shoot me a message via email or Facebook, and we’ll see if we can’t make it happen during the limited time when I’m there.

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Filed under Lit Festivals, Singapore, Writing

Fish Eats Lion Now Available As Ebook

Fish Eats LionIt only took a year and a half, but the ebook edition of Fish Eats Lion is now available!

Just published by Infinity Plus Books with a brand new cover, the anthology is now available at Smashwords, Amazon US, Amazon UK and Amazon CA. (N.B. The book is now available at the Nook, Kobo, and iTunes ebook stores as well.)

“Lundberg combines accessibility with a uniquely Singaporean flavor in his selections. SF readers looking to expand their horizons will enjoy visiting new worlds from an unaccustomed point of view.” —Publishers Weekly

“I doubt I’ll read a more engaging collection this year. [...] There’s a rich optimism to be found here that speaks of lesser-known spec-fic writers rising to a challenge, and that challenge being more than adequately met.” —Pete Young, Big Sky

“Entertaining in this post-colonial era, it hints at how storytellers can become mythmakers, with the power to change the world.” —Akshita Nanda, The Straits Times

Many folks contacted me after the print edition was published in late 2012 about inquiring after an ebook edition, and I want y’all to know that I was listening. I’m very glad that Keith Brooke decided to work with me on bringing this out; he’s taken the same care and attention to detail that’s evident in my other Infinity Plus titles, and produced something that we’re both happy with.

Red Dot Irreal The Alchemy of Happiness Strange Mammals Fish Eats Lion

(Please note that this edition does not include Stephanie Ye’s “The Story of the Kiss,” at the request of the author. So if you have a hankering to read Stephanie’s piece, you’ll need to seek out the print edition.)

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Filed under Publishing, Singapore

Goodbye, Jay

I found out about Jay Lake’s passing last night before bed, which is a terrible time to hear such devastating news. Not enough time to really process things, and I was angry. Even though I’d known this was coming, for a long time now, it still hit me hard, and I was pissed off once again about the unfairness of the world.

Waking up this morning after tossing and turning all night, I was heartened to read the great tributes on Facebook from people who knew him, as well as the remembrances at io9 and Tor.com.

I don’t remember the first time I met Jay. He was a force of nature in the speculative fiction crowd for years before we actually shook hands. But when we did, it was like seeing an old friend again after a long absence, as though we were buddies in a previous life. He was generous and welcoming right away, even though I was still a nobody, and I was struck by how incredibly full of life he was.

I was there at WisCon for the infamous three-way pool noodle fight between Jay, Tim Pratt and David D. Levine to determine the winner of the Campbell Award that year, and laughing so hard I couldn’t breathe. David was master of the noodle, but Jay ended up winning the award, and was effusively gracious in his acceptance speech.

At another WisCon (or maybe it was the same one, I can’t remember now), a big group of us went to lunch on the streets of Madison one day, and happened upon a pub that was open. As we were chatting, someone on the other side of the pub lit up a cigarette. Upon seeing my wrinkled-up nose and sour expression (even though the guy was across the room and I couldn’t really smell it), Jay asked what was wrong. I pointed at the smoker, then Jay laughed and patted me on the back and said, “Jason, we’re in a bar. What did you expect?” I had a rebuttal all ready to go about the smell destroying the taste of my food, and second-hand smoke, and reasons, but then immediately realized that he was right and I had to get over myself.

Jay was phenomenally prolific, which initially shamed me, but then inspired me to increase my rate of output. He forwent a lot of the media consumption that I was (and still am) involved with (I don’t think he even owned a TV), and took his writing career extremely seriously. For a while there, he was writing a story a week, and they were wonderful, beautifully rendered works of prose.

I was privileged to share a table of contents with him in Intracities (edited by Michael Jasper) and Text:UR—The New Book of Masks (edited by Forrest Aguirre), and to be able to publish his writing in A Field Guide to Surreal Botany. He came very close to buying a few of my stories for the groundbreaking Polyphony anthology series (which, along with Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet and the Leviathan anthologies, helped to shape speculative fiction of the last decade), and his rejections were always filled with encouragement.

2004 Strange Horizons Oregon Workshop

Pictured, l to r, top to bottom: Jason Erik Lundberg, Jason Stoddard, H. Courreges (Harry) LeBlanc, Jay Lake, Brian Wade, Diana Sherman, Mark Teppo, Brenda Cooper, Dawn Burnell

I had the very good fortune to attend the Strange Horizons Oregon Workshop in 2004, run by Jay and Mary Anne Mohanraj. I learned an incredible amount, and got to experience some wonderful camaraderie with other writers at similar points in their careers. Above is the group photo of us that Mary Anne took, with Jay in one of his trademark brilliantly colored shirts with a big grin on his face. This is how I choose to remember him now.

The way he approached his cancer, knowing from the outset that it was terminal, was incredibly brave. He documented every step in the process on his blog, and when his health worsened and he was too weak to do so, his partner Lisa updated in his stead. He faced death with integrity to the very end.

Jay was an incredibly kind and generous person, and my life is better for having known him.

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AGENTED!

Apologies for the lack of updates here, but I’ve been working hard on a number of big projects lately, which has occupied most of my writing headspace. However, I now have some big news to share.

I am thrilled, no, make that piss-my-pants ecstatic, that I now have a literary agent for everything except for my children’s fiction.

You guys, I have an agent! AN AGENT!

Henceforth, I’ll be represented by Kristopher O’Higgins at Scribe Agency. I’ve been a big fan of Scribe since they started hosting parties at WisCon years ago, and they also represent a bunch of authors whom I greatly respect and consider friends: Darin Bradley, Mark Teppo, Forrest Aguirre, Berrien C. Henderson, and Marguerite Reed (you can see the full list here). I’m also jazzed that I’ve signed with Scribe during the year of its tin anniversary.

Kris has my 130,000-word novel, A Fickle and Restless Weapon, and will be working with me to tighten it up, and then shop it around. I really feel that this is my breakout work, and I look forward to seeing what he does with it.

SUPER YAY! SNOOPY DANCE!

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BB&CC Book 3 is Now Out!

Earlier this week, the finished copies of Bo Bo and Cha Cha and the New Year Gift were delivered to the Epigram Books office, which means that the book is now out! If it’s not already, it’ll be on bookstore shelves all over Singapore very soon. Here I am signing copies:

bbcc3-signing

This is the third book in the series, and I’m quite proud of it; I introduce a couple of new characters (Kevin the red panda and Saloma the orangutan), incorporate many Singaporean Chinese New Year traditions, and open a discussion on the importance of friendship (from wherever it may come), empathy, and open-mindedness. There are a few echoes back to Book 1, but it’s also very much its own book.

My editor Sheri Tan and I had initially thought to do a CNY book all on its own, as Book 4 in the series, and have Kevin’s visit be the major thing about Book 3, but when the book got delayed because of illustrator Patrick Yee’s many commitments, we decided to combine the two into one that celebrates both CNY as well as the friendship the pandas have with Kevin.

Here’s the synopsis:

It’s Chinese New Year, and Bo Bo and Cha Cha’s artist friend, Kevin, has come from China to celebrate with the pandas, as well as show his work at a special New Year exhibition. The pandas’ friends at the Mandai Zoo are eager to meet Kevin, but when they do, Kevin is mean and nasty to them! He’s not happy that some of the New Year customs are different from the ones in China. He even tells Kera’s daughter, Saloma, that her painting is awful. Bo Bo and Cha Cha try to convince their friends that Kevin can be really nice … but it takes a little orangutan to show Kevin how to be a good guest and an even better friend.

Seow Kai Lun at The Straits Times interviewed me about the book for a special Chinese New Year supplement that appeared in the 12 January Sunday edition:

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How would you share Chinese New Year (CNY) customs in Singapore with friends from overseas? This is the exact situation that pandas Bo Bo and Cha Cha find themselves in when their red panda friend Kevin pays them a visit from China in Bo Bo and Cha Cha and the New Year Gift, a book which will be released [by Epigram Books] during this festive season.

Author Jason Erik Lundberg says that the book was conceptualised as CNY celebrations are a big part of Singaporean culture. Though the customs are not explicitly explained, ‘they are shown as a natural part of both the book’s setting and plot, and hopefully invite discussion between parents and children who are curious about which traditions are shown,’ he says.

In the interview, I was asked what the “general objective” of the book was; my answer wasn’t used in the article, but I’d like to reproduce it here:

I do not believe in picture books as mere teaching tools. They are not pedagogy; they are literature. Yes, children may learn a lesson by the end of it, but it is not my place as the author to tell them what to think. Above all, they should be entertained, and done so in a manner that could not have been accomplished in any other medium; the combination of written text and colorful illustrations appeals to both sides of the brain, and has been scientifically shown to be the best method of retaining information. But in the end, I hope that I’ve been able to tell a story that children enjoy and want to make a part of their lives.

We’re launching the book at Woods in the Books (my favorite children’s bookstore in Singapore) on the afternoon of Sunday, 9th February, and here’s the flyer for the event:

bbcc3-launch

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A Very Belated Update (With Pictures!)

Today is Chinese New Year in Singapore, and so I thought I’d finally update this blog after being so negligent for the past few months. (Although I do have the excuse that the last few months have been freakishly busy, but still, I was feeling bad about it.) By its nature, this will be quite long, and in chronological order, but at least you’ll have some pictures with which to break it up.

Back at the beginning of November, I was once again a featured author at the Singapore Writers Festival. This year seemed even more packed than previous ones, and I was exhausted by the end of it, but had such a fantastic time. Some of the highlights:

Launching three books I edited for Epigram Books: The Last Lesson of Mrs de Souza by Cyril Wong, Ministry of Moral Panic by Amanda Lee Koe, and The Epigram Books Collection of Best New Singaporean Short Stories: Volume One.

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(L to R: me, Amanda Lee Koe, Cyril Wong)

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(BNSSS contributors, L to R: Stephanie Ye, Wei Fen Lee, Alvin Pang, Yu-Mei Balasingamchow, Alfian Sa’at, me. Photo by Ann Ang.)

Being on the “Alternate Realities” panel with Dean Francis Alfar, who is even more handsome and charming in person.

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(L to R: me, Rajeev Patke (mod), Dean Francis Alfar. Photo by David Seow.)

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(Dean and me goofing around afterward at the signing table. My brother from another mother.)

Hanging out with Terri Windling, one of my literary heroes, and one of the biggest influences on me as an editor.

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(L to R: me, Terri Windling, Jasmine Ann Cooray)

windling-autograph
(I still spazz a bit when I look at this signature.)

Participating in the SWF Fringe debate, “Fairy Tales Screw Us Up“, even though it took place in the old Parliament chambers at The Arts House, because that wasn’t intimidating at all.

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(I was on the opposition team, and led my argument with the epigraph by G.K. Chesterton that appears at the beginning of Neil Gaiman’s Coraline.)

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(Audience Q&A, L to R: Felicia Low-Jimenez, Adan Jimenez, Josephine Chia, Sjón. I was totally freaking out that Sjón was there, because I’m such a big fan of his work; I got to meet him several days later, after one of his panels, and talk to him just for a bit before he had to rush off.)

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(L to R: Harris Jahim (prop), Verena Tay (prop), Charlene Shepherdson (prop), Margaret Supramaniam (opp), Carolyn Camoens (mod), Paolo Chikiamco (opp), me (opp), and William Phuan (director of TAH). It was great to see Paolo in action (he won the “best debater” award), and to spend a bit of time with him as well, something that doesn’t happen often enough.)

Meeting Mohsin Hamid after his lecture “I Don’t Believe in Reality”, and having him sign my copy of How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia (one of my favorite books from 2013).

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There were many other events I attended as well, including the Epigram Books launch of The Tower by Isa Kamari and Confrontation by Mohamed Latiff Mohamed (which I edited, and which was listed as one of the Most Satisfying Reads of 2013 by The Business Times), and I got to hang out quite a lot with Jasmine Cooray (an all-around wonderful person and amazing poet; look for her new collection from Math Paper Press this March). It was such a whirlwind event, and the organizers really outdid themselves.

***

For Christmas, Anya and I flew 30 hours from Singapore to the US to spend the holiday with my family. It was a wonderful two and half weeks back in my home country, and I felt reconnected to a part of myself that I hadn’t seen in quite some time. Even though I Skype with my parents every weekend, and my sister every few weeks, I hadn’t seen them in person in two years, and I just can’t explain how good that made me feel, to be in their presence once again, and how sad I was when it came time to leave. It was also so great to visit (even if briefly) with my dear friend Heather Dye-Frink and her husband David, and have Anya play with their two girls, who are around the same age.

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(Anya is deep into a pink phase, and loved this outfit to pieces.)

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(Anya coloring with her Auntie Kristin on my parents’ covered porch.)

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(Anya helping out her Papa with a sudoku puzzle.)

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(Me, Anya, and Kristin at a playground near my parents’ house. It was cold enough for heavy coats, but not for snow.)

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(Anya playing with her Yiayia.)

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(The Christmas tree, and the dining room table set for Christmas dinner.)

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(Anya playing Santa’s helper, and handing out presents on Christmas morning. She did so well!)

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(Me and my little girl, near the end of the trip. Photo by Mike Oniffrey.)

***

At the beginning of January, Theophilus Kwek and I launched our new Babette’s Feast chapbooks at BooksActually, and Embracing the Strange made its official way out into the world. I’m very proud of this odd little hybrid essay/memoir/metafiction, and I hope that readers get something out of it.

***

To my absolute and utterly delight, Strange Mammals was favorably reviewed in The Guardian by Eric Brown. “Jason Erik Lundberg’s third collection, Strange Mammals, gathers 25 short stories in which literary naturalism gives way to the surreal, the absurd and the magical. [...] Lundberg has the enviable talent of achieving emotionally resonant effects within just a few pages.” This has made my month.

***

I was one of the judges in the 2013 Quantum Shorts competition organized by the NUS Centre for Quantum Technologies, and sponsored by Scientific American, Tor Books and Tor.com. The winners were recently announced, and I was pleased to see that two of my three choices took home the top prizes in the Open International category. Congrats to everyone!

***

I have a reprint (“Ikan Berbudi (Wise Fish)”) in the just-released ebook anthology Outpouring: Typhoon Yolanda Relief Anthology, edited by the always fantastic Dean Francis Alfar. Proceeds from sales will go toward the ongoing efforts of the Philippine Red Cross, and I’m very proud to be a part of this book, and to share a table of contents with folks like Jeffrey Ford, Ken Scholes, Nikki Alfar, Kate Osias, Rochita Loenen-Ruiz, Berrien C. Henderson, and many others.

The book is now available for Kindle and Kobo, and soon on the Flipside, Weightless, Wizard, and iTunes ebook stores. It’s for a very good cause, so pick up your copy today.

outpouring

***

Red Dot Irreal and A Field Guide to Surreal Botany are once again available in North America, thanks to the efforts of my spiritual big brother and good friend James Artimus Owen. They’re part of the Coppervale Showcase, which was created “to shine a light on exceptional books created by even more exceptional people, to hopefully increase their readership while giving readers a wonderful experience of discovering books they may otherwise have missed.”

If you have been wanting a copy of one of these books (or both), but didn’t want to pay the shipping from Singapore, you can now order them directly from him; quantities are limited, so I’d recommend getting them sooner rather than later. And while you’re there, do yourself a favor and also pick up an issue of Argosy or a book or art print by James himself; the man is crazy talented and has a really big heart, and deserves your support.

***

New information on the release of Bo Bo and Cha Cha and the New Year Gift, but I’ll put that in a separate post after this. Whew.

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Examination of a Review

Strange Mammals ST reviewStrange Mammals was reviewed in yesterday’s edition of The Straits Times (right next to Amanda Lee Koe’s collection Ministry of Moral Panic, which made me smile), and although I appreciate that this may have made more folks aware of the book than before, I’m croggled at how many misperceptions and false assumptions and flat-out lazy pronouncements are littered throughout.

It’s generally considered bad form to respond to reviews, especially bad ones, and when it comes to opinion and preference, I do hold my tongue. However, there are so many inaccuracies here that I feel the need to set at least some of it straight.

The first of these is that reviewer is trying to ascribe the perceived differences in quality (although even these are extremely vague) between the book and my earlier collection Red Dot Irreal to some kind of chronological shift; she seems to assume that RDI was written by an “immature writer,” “a young, frustrated man who was adjusting to his new life in Singapore”. RDI came out in 2011 and Strange Mammals came out this year, so I must have written them in order, right? Um, no.

RDI, The Alchemy of Happiness, and Strange Mammals form a triptych of sorts, in that they collect almost all of my short fiction to date. The stories that were previously published in each book range across ten years of production (and the copyright dates of these pieces are easy to find ); there is a lot of overlap between them, in terms of when the stories were written, so I see them as concurrent books. Many of the pieces in Strange Mammals (if not most) predate those in RDI. So to try and justify any kind of progression or maturation of style or subject matter from one book to the other (especially within the span of two years) is fairly ludicrous.

The reviewer also mentions an authorial tic, in that I use the word “apotheosis” “in almost every story within Strange Mammals“. I went back to the manuscript and did a quick search, and “apotheosis” shows up only five times. I am willing to concede that this is one of my favorite words, and it is a noticeable one, but the fact that it only shows up five times within 60,000 words (which would make its occurrence 0.0083% of the total word count) hardly makes it even close to a most-used word. Even giving the reviewer the benefit of the doubt and going by the number of stories in which the word shows up, we’re still only talking five out of twenty-five stories; 20% is certainly higher than 0.0083%, but it’s still a far cry from “almost every story”.

It’s mentioned that the collection does not have a cohesive theme, like RDI and TAoH did, and I am well aware of this fact, but here it’s presented as a detriment, something that makes the book “a bit disjointed and not quite as satisfying to read as his earlier books.” I will admit that linked short story collections (whether through theme or character) can provide a more fulfilling reading experience, but un-linked collections have existed for a looooong time; much as I would like to take credit, I did not in any way invent this organizational type of book (an example of  one other book like this, published just this past year, is George Saunders’ Tenth of December; I can name at least a dozen others off the top of my head). This detail is presented as if I have not fulfilled a promise, either given through the cover copy or some other publicity material for the book, when, from the time it was announced, I have always referred to it as a “kitchen-sink” collection (which of course takes it name from the idiom “everything but the kitchen sink”), meaning that the contents would be highly varied, their main commonality being that they were written by me. If the reviewer doesn’t like un-linked collections as much as linked collections, it’s a fair cop, but what is not is damning the book because it’s not the book she wanted it to be. (And if she honestly felt that the book was “disjointed,” my next question is naturally going to be, “In what way?”)

Strange MammalsCertain details given (my birthplace, my religious views, my college alma mater, the dictionary definition of “apotheosis”) are simply irrelevant to discussion of the book. As is, frankly, any comparison to Red Dot Irreal. For a review of only 250 words or so, so much real estate is given over to such mundane detritus that discussion of the book on its own merits never actually comes into play. And it is this that is most frustrating; the reviewer spends so much time on stuff that really doesn’t matter and has no place in a book review, or complaining that her unfair expectations were not met, that the whole review becomes ultimately useless. This is something I might expect to see on a blog, but not in the Books section of Singapore’s national newspaper.

Bad reviews I can deal with; I’m a big boy and can handle thoughtful criticism. I’m also fine with gut-level reactions; not everyone is going to like my writing, and that’s okay. But lazy reviewing such as this does a disservice to any potential readers of the book, and to literary discourse in general.

If you’d like to buy Strange Mammals and judge it for yourself, you can find it in the following places (just in time for Christmas!):

Paperback: BooksActually | Books Kinokuniya | Borders/PopularAmazon | Amazon UK | CreateSpace

Ebook: SmashwordsNookKoboiTunesKindleKindle UK

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Interview in I-S Magazine

I was recently interviewed by Clara Lim for the November issue of I-S Magazine, which should be out soon if it isn’t already (my favorite café, which normally stocks the magazine, doesn’t have any copies yet).

They posted some “grabber” lines from the interview on the website, which make me look far more decisive and pithy than I actually am. And while I appreciate it, this extracting also removes the nuances from my actual answers; they feel a bit like contextless non-sequiturs. I don’t know if the interview in the print magazine is also like this, or if my full answers were used, but regardless, I feel that it’s important to have the full thing out there. So here you go.


Tell us about your new book.

I’ve actually got four new books out right now: a hybrid-essay chapbook, Embracing the Strange (Math Paper Press); the first volume of a new anthology series, The Epigram Books Collection of Best New Singaporean Short Stories (Epigram Books); the first issue of a new literary journal, LONTAR: The Journal of Southeast Asian Speculative Fiction (Math Paper Press); and a new collection of short fiction, Strange Mammals (Infinity Plus Books). The first item is a small offering at 14,000 words, and the second and third were projects on which I was the editor, so I’ll talk a bit more about the fourth.

Strange Mammals is a representative collection of my short fiction published over the past decade, which didn’t already appear in either of my previous two collections, Red Dot Irreal and The Alchemy of Happiness. It’s what is called a “kitchen-sink” collection, in that the stories are not linked by theme or character, and gathers together twenty-five of my short stories published in various literary journals, magazines and anthologies since 2003, including some pieces original to the book.

All of the stories are what could be thought of as literary speculative fiction, which is set in a place that looks an awful lot like our world, but one that is slightly off-kilter or sidewise, so that the fantastic is possible and metaphors can become literalized. Other names for this type of writing include slipstream, irrealism and interstitial fiction; it is very much in the vein of writers like Neil Gaiman, Salman Rushdie, Aimee Bender, Haruki Murakami and Ursula K. Le Guin (although I fully recognize the presumption inherent in putting my work in their company).

Who and what influence you? Or do you write under the influence?

When I was a bit younger, I tried writing under the influence a few times, but upon later examination the prose just didn’t make much sense, and was far less shiny in the sober light of day. It was a lot like dictating a dream, which may make complete sense within the internal dream world, but reads like utter nonsense once fully awake.

I’m naturally influenced by other writers, and make a habit of keeping up my relentless reading schedule even when working on something long-form, like a novel or novella. But I’m also very much influenced by visual art and music; I’m a bit busy now to make regular museum trips, but the Internet is fantastic for finding a wealth of visual stimuli. Often, I write while listening to the music of Nine Inch Nails, and Trent Reznor’s other sonic projects; his songs often put in me into a sort of in-between dream state that facilitates creative thinking.

What are your dreams like? Describe a recent one—it can be bizarre or silly or just incredibly mundane.

I actually don’t remember my dreams as much now as when I was younger. However, I did have a dream recently where I was in my bedroom and my four-year-old daughter came in and slept on the floor at the foot of my bed. In the dream, I got out of bed and tried to pick her up to carry her back into her room, but she was as heavy and immovable as a boulder. She said, “Daddy, I like it here,” and so I shrugged and got back into bed. I’m not sure if it means anything, other than to remind me that she has her own preferences that sometimes differ from mine, and that I need to respect that difference.

What things/hobbies (esoteric and otherwise) are you into?

The typical content consumption: reading, watching movies, listening to music. I’ve recently gotten back into console video games after a gap of about seven years; at the recommendation of some trusted friends, I bought a PS3, and have so far finished L.A. Noire, Sleeping Dogs, Red Dead Redemption, Uncharted 3, LEGO Batman 2, and Rocketbirds. I’ve got Bioshock Infinite and the Mass Effect trilogy on deck, but won’t get to them until after I’ve finished revising my novel. [N.B. I did crack open Bioshock Infinite a couple of weeks ago, and am quite loving it so far.]

How do you spend a typical Friday or Saturday night?

Having a small child, most weekend nights are spent at home, although every so often, I’ll drag her along to a reading or literary event at BooksActually or The Arts House.

What were you like as a kid? Any childhood dreams?

My path in life has been fairly linear: from the time I was about seven years old, I wanted to be a writer, and most of my choices since then have been in support of this goal.

What’s funny to you that other people don’t seem to get?

I like to think of myself as a classy, reasonably sophisticated guy, but fart jokes just crack me the hell up. I saw the South Park movie on opening weekend in 1999, and was sore all over for a week afterward for all the laughing.

What turns you on?

Besides the obvious things, intelligence. I have little patience for stupidity (and even less for purposeful stupidity), so people who display intelligence are almost immediately attractive to me, and I try to surround myself with as many of them as possible. An example of someone I haven’t actually met yet is Junot Díaz, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author and recipient of a MacArthur Genius Grant; he’s so effortlessly smart about any number of topics, and I could just listen to him talk all day on YouTube.

Describe your day job.

I’m the literary fiction editor at Epigram Books, so my mornings are filled with editing manuscripts that we’ll be publishing, communicating with authors about contracts and reviews and book launches, liaising with the in-house designers on interior and cover design, reading submitted manuscripts and deciding whether to acquire them, managing the books under my care on Goodreads and our own website, applying for arts grants, and discussing publicity strategy with our marketing department.

Of course, I don’t do all of these things every day, but it’s sometimes surprising how many things I have to juggle at once. I only work there part-time, and often the most difficult part of my job is actually finding the time to read the manuscripts, both the ones I’ve already acquired and those I’m considering.

In the afternoons, I typically head to a café with my laptop and either work on my own writing, read submissions for LONTAR, or focus on publicity for my book(s) that have just come out or are coming out soon (of which I’ve had to do a lot lately).

What do you do when you want a break?

Sadly, writers never get a break. The times when I’m not directly writing or revising, I’m still constantly thinking about the current work-in-progress, and counting the minutes until I can get back to it.

What annoys you?

People who are inconsiderate. If your head is so far up your ass that you can’t bother to show the slightest shred of human empathy or kindness, then you are utterly wasting your time on this earth.

What makes you sick to the stomach?

Violence against children, whether it is physical, sexual, or emotional. It always bothered me, but now that I have a young daughter, any news of this type reduces me to a blubbering mess. I honestly cannot think of a worse thing a person could do than assault a child, who is by nature defenseless and at the complete mercy of the world around them.

When was the last time you committed a sin or a crime?

I consider myself a law-abiding citizen; however, a few years ago, I did receive over email an MP3 of a song I did not pay for: “Home” by Nine Inch Nails. It was released on international versions of the album With Teeth, and was very difficult to get ahold of; it was also, at that point, the only NIN song I didn’t have in my collection (the rest of which I did buy), and its absence was driving me a bit batty. A friend had a copy and emailed it to me, and it has since become one of my favorite NIN tracks.

Do you have any political or religious persuasion?

I’m a Humanistic Buddhist, in that I treat Buddhism more as a life philosophy than a religion. This follows the Mahayana tradition in the optimistic belief that human beings are at their core good people, and that harmful thoughts or acts are the result of unawareness of the true nature of reality. I don’t necessarily do a lot of chanting of mantras or meditation, but I do try to carry this attitude into every facet of my life.

In terms of politics, I’m very concerned with social justice and civil liberties, so I definitely lean leftward. I’m not affiliated with any specific party, but for a while I was a member of the Green Party of the USA.

What do you live for?

The moments spent playing with or just being in the presence of my daughter. She’s in preschool now, and is a brilliant little person. She’ll say things that are unexpected, which show incredible empathy and understanding for someone so young, and which just blow me away. She also has a wonderful sense of humor, so we laugh a lot together as well.

Wax poetic about a topic of your choice.

So the café in which I do much of my writing is in the CBD, which means that it attracts customers who work at the nearby financial institutions. I typically write with headphones on, but every so often I’ll eavesdrop on their conversations, which are full of corporatespeak and euphemistic buzzwords and all are concerned with either the acquisition or retention of wealth. And I’ve discovered that I’ve developed a nigh-pathological revulsion for this type of interlocution.

This persistent emphasis on money money money at the expense of almost everything else, including happiness, is anathema to my sensibilities. I taught at an independent secondary school in Singapore for four years, and my principal was shocked into silence when I turned down a promotion in favor of fewer working hours. I now make enough money to live on, and a bit more for the occasional nice dinner out or movie or new books or toy for my daughter, and that’s enough for now. To strive for so much more than that just doesn’t make sense to me; I have much more useful and fulfilling ways of spending my time.

Famous last words.

“I hope I left the world better than how I found it.”

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Filed under Books, Buddhism, LONTAR, Nine Inch Nails, Parenthood, Publishing, Singapore, Writing

Guest Blogging for Strange Mammals

This past week I got paperback author copies of my three Infinity Plus titles, and have done a couple of guest blogs in the service of promoting my new kitchen-sink collection Strange Mammals.

The first was for the “Story Behind” feature at Upcoming4.me:

Kitchen-sink collections are bizarre beasts. There’s not a single unifying theme that connects the stories, nor are they linked with characters that continue throughout the book. What they are instead is a representative gathering of an author’s output over a given period of time, and they present a wider sense of the writer’s thematic and philosophical preoccupations. My own preoccupations tend toward the bizarre in the everyday, whether this is showcased by an alcoholic talking wombat with a penchant for Greek food, an encounter between a rock god and a djinn, or a supervillain henchman with a giant screw for a head.

Strange Mammals has had a long and tortuous gestation. It originated as my Master’s thesis at North Carolina State University in 2005, when it was titled Lies and Little Deaths. After the manuscript was rejected by a small press a couple of years later, I reevaluated the stories within, took some older, less-accomplished pieces out and replaced them with newer (and hopefully better) ones. I kept tinkering and refining as my individual short story sales progressed, and in 2010 retitled the book Realities, Interrupted and submitted it to another publisher. It came this close to publication, but then the funding for it disappeared, and, therefore, its chances at existence.

The second was for the blog for Infinity Plus, the publisher of the book:

Human beings are strange mammals. Just thought I’d get that out of the way.

In the animal kingdom, all mammals eat, sleep, mate, and fight to defend themselves. (This, of course, applies to non-mammalian animals as well.) But human beings are the only type of mammal that also questions their own existence and identity. Who are we? Why are we here? What are we supposed to do with the limited time allotted to us?

Evolutionarily speaking, intuitively, this is exceedingly odd. On the face of it, wondering what you want to be when you grow up should actually interfere with, rather than aid with, your continued survival; debating the merits of becoming a fireman versus an astronaut is not entirely helpful if a lion is chewing through your stomach. But this strange and constant questioning has actually done the opposite, and led to human beings, as comedian Louis CK famously pointed out, successfully pulling ourselves out of the food chain. We have survived as a species not in spite of this preoccupation, but because of it.

These questions have spurred on both miraculous innovation and horrific atrocities, but regardless of the results, they are at the fundamental heart of humanity. Literature is one of the few avenues so thoroughly equipped to examine these questions, and speculative fiction is particularly keen, through its slanted focus, on transcending mere fact and approaching truth. (Although anyone with a definitive answer is selling something.)

And lastly, my brilliant little daughter, who turns four years old this week, gave a completely unprompted (really, I swear!) plea on her daddy’s behalf:

Available from: Amazon | Amazon UK | CreateSpace

Ebook: SmashwordsNookKoboKindleKindle UK

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BNSSS Honourable Mentions

The Epigram Books Collection of Best New Singaporean Short Stories: Volume One is now out and available and making its way into all of Singapore’s major bookstores. Yay! I just can’t express how excited I am about this book.

Last month, I posted the anthology’s table of contents, and now I’ll be revealing the Honourable Mentions that are listed in the back of the book (very much inspired by the same practice of Ellen Datlow, Terri Windling, Gavin J. Grant and Kelly Link for The Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror series):

  1. Andrea Ang, “The Dark Star,” Ceriph no. 4.3 (Sleet) (2011): 13-18.
  2. Ann Ang, “Communion,” Ceriph no. 5 (2012): 84-89.
  3. —. “What He Want to Say, Which Is Right to Say,” Bang My Car (Singapore: Math Paper Press, 2012), 32-40.
  4. David Bobis, “Child,” Ceriph no. 3 (2011): 40-43.
  5. Felix Cheong, “In the Dark,” Vanishing Point (Singapore: Ethos Books, 2012), 15-25.
  6. —, “The Little Drummer Boy,” Vanishing Point (Singapore: Ethos Books, 2012), 35-47.
  7. Joyce Chng, “Metal Can Lanterns,” International Speculative Fiction no. 1 (2012): 3-5.
  8. Dave Chua, “The Beating,” The Beating and Other Stories (Singapore: Ethos Books, 2011), 19-49.
  9. —, “The Disappearance of Lisa Zhang,” Fish Eats Lion, ed. Jason Erik Lundberg (Singapore: Math Paper Press, 2012), 365-384.
  10. —, “The Divers,” Innsmouth Free Press no. 9 (2012), http://www.innsmouthfreepress.com/?p=16366.
  11. —, “Fireworks,” The Beating and Other Stories (Singapore: Ethos Books, 2011), 183-201.
  12. —, “The Vanishing,” The Beating and Other Stories (Singapore: Ethos Books, 2011), 115-119.
  13. Ian Chung, “Snowflakes,” Weirdyear Flash Fiction, May 5, 2011, http://www.weirdyear.com/2011/05/5511.html
  14. Noelle de Jesus, “Mirage,” Fish Eats Lion, ed. Jason Erik Lundberg (Singapore: Math Paper Press, 2012), 261-276.
  15. Gwee Li Sui, “Grandfather’s Aquaria,” Balik Kampung, ed. Verena Tay (Singapore: Math Paper Press, November 2012), 71-78.
  16. Manoj Harjani, “The Man Who Skipped Breakfast,” Ceriph no. 2 (2011): 35-38.
  17. —, “Primordial Clam Chowder,” Ceriph no. 4.5 (Cosmic Latte) (2011): 7-9.
  18. Judith Huang, “The City,” The Ayam Curtain, ed. J.Y. Yang and Joyce Chng (Singapore: Math Paper Press, 2012), 133-135.
  19. Lucas Ho, “KY USB,” The Ayam Curtain, ed. J.Y. Yang and Joyce Chng (Singapore: Math Paper Press, 2012), 29-30.
  20. Isa Kamari, “Green Man Plus,” Fish Eats Lion, ed. Jason Erik Lundberg (Singapore: Math Paper Press, 2012), 251-259.
  21. Amanda Lee Koe, “Coast,” Coast: A Mono-titular Anthology of Singapore Writing, ed. Daren Shiau and Lee Wei Fen (Singapore: Math Paper Press, 2011), 147-153.
  22. —, “Star City,” Microcosmos: Orbital Decay (Singapore: Kaleido Press, 2012), 11.
  23. Wei Fen Lee, “The Acoustics of Living in an Interval,” Microcosmos: Orbital Decay (Singapore: Kaleido Press, 2012), 7.
  24. —, “Coast,” Coast: A Mono-titular Anthology of Singapore Writing, ed. Daren Shiau and Lee Wei Fen (Singapore: Math Paper Press, 2011), 111-114.
  25. —, “Swimming Upstream,” Quarterly Literary Review Singapore 10, no. 1 (2011), http://www.qlrs.com/story.asp?id=814.
  26. Annabeth Leow Hui Min, “Ascension,” The Steampowered Globe, ed. Rosemary Lim and Maisarah Bte Abu Samah (Singapore: AS¡FF, 2012), 5-15.
  27. Desirée Lim, “Coast,” Coast: A Mono-titular Anthology of Singapore Writing, ed. Daren Shiau and Lee Wei Fen (Singapore: Math Paper Press, 2011), 210-213.
  28. Jeffrey Lim, “Last Supper,” Fish Eats Lion, ed. Jason Erik Lundberg (Singapore: Math Paper Press, 2012), 75-97.
  29. Sharanya Manivannan, “Coast,” Coast: A Mono-titular Anthology of Singapore Writing, ed. Daren Shiau and Lee Wei Fen (Singapore: Math Paper Press, 2011), 164-168.
  30. Natalie Marinho, “Savour,” Quarterly Literary Review Singapore 10, no. 3 (2011), http://www.qlrs.com/story.asp?id=849.
  31. Ng Yi-Sheng, “Coast,” Coast: A Mono-titular Anthology of Singapore Writing, ed. Daren Shiau and Lee Wei Fen (Singapore: Math Paper Press, 2011), 140-143.
  32. O Thiam Chin, “The Good Husband,” The International Literary Quarterly no. 17 (2011), http://interlitq.wordpress.com/2012/02/03/the-good-husband-a-short-story-by-singaporean-author-o-thiam-chin-will-constitute-interlitqs-fiction-in-english-for-04-02-2012/.
  33. —, “What Are You Hiding?” The Rest of Your Life and Everything That Comes With It (Malaysia: ZI Publications, 2011), 102-120.
  34. Alvin Pang, “A Better Place,” The Ayam Curtain, ed. J.Y. Yang and Joyce Chng (Singapore: Math Paper Press, 2012), 141-146.
  35. —, “A Brave New World?” TODAY, August 9, 2012, 8.
  36. —, “Patience,” What Gives Us Our Names (Singapore: Math Paper Press, 2011), 41-42.
  37. Gemma Pereira, “The Tissue-Paper Man,” Quarterly Literary Review Singapore 11, no. 4 (2012), http://www.qlrs.com/story.asp?id=955.
  38. Phan Ming Yen, “Symphony No. 5,” That Night By the Beach and Other Stories For a Film Score (Singapore: Ethos Books, 2012), 45-86.
  39. Jayanthi Sankar, “Read Singapore!” Ceriph no. 2 (2011): 84-87.
  40. Alfian Sa’at, “Child,” Malay Sketches (Singapore: Ethos Books, 2012), 213-217.
  41. —, “The Morning Ride,” Malay Sketches (Singapore: Ethos Books, 2012), 67-70.
  42. —, “Notes From a Sacked Relief Teacher,” Quarterly Literary Review Singapore 10, no. 1 (2011), http://www.qlrs.com/story.asp?id=811.
  43. —, “The Sendoff,” Malay Sketches (Singapore: Ethos Books, 2012), 105-109.
  44. —, “Three Sisters,” Malay Sketches (Singapore: Ethos Books, 2012), 25-28.
  45. Lina Salleh, “Artifact #1N-327,” The Ayam Curtain, ed. J.Y. Yang and Joyce Chng (Singapore: Math Paper Press, 2012), 101-106.
  46. Prabhu Silvam, “Trees Don’t Die In September,” Ceriph no. 2 (2011): 71-76.
  47. Michelle Tan, “Garisan Kuning,” The Ayam Curtain, ed. J.Y. Yang and Joyce Chng (Singapore: Math Paper Press, 2012), 67-70.
  48. Verena Tay, “Floral Mile,” Balik Kampung, ed. Verena Tay (Singapore: Math Paper Press, November 2012), 137-150.
  49. —, “The Land,” Spectre (Singapore: Math Paper Press, November 2012), 25-46.
  50. Gwyneth Teo, “Battery,” The Ayam Curtain, ed. J.Y. Yang and Joyce Chng (Singapore: Math Paper Press, 2012), 55-59.
  51. Royston Tester, “A Beijing Minute,” Quarterly Literary Review Singapore 10, no. 3 (2011), http://www.qlrs.com/story.asp?id=851.
  52. Jeremy Tiang, “HOPE,” 2012 Singapore Writers Festival: Passages, last modified November 1, 2012, http://www.singaporewritersfestival.com/index.php?option= com_content&view=article&id=99&Itemid=66.
  53. —, “Sophia’s Honeymoon,” The Istanbul Review no. 2 (2012): 51-57.
  54. —, “Stray,” Philippines Free Press, November 5, 2011, http://philippinesfreepress.com.ph/?p=4388.
  55. Jen Wei Ting, “Belle and Sebastian,” Quarterly Literary Review Singapore 11, no. 4 (2012), http://www.qlrs.com/story.asp?id=949.
  56. Samantha Toh, “Swimming Pool,” Quarterly Literary Review Singapore 11, no. 2 (2012), http://www.qlrs.com/story.asp?id=918.
  57. Kristina Tom, “So Far, So Good,” Ceriph no. 5 (2012): 52-60.
  58. Catherine Rose Torres, “Coast,” Coast: A Mono-titular Anthology of Singapore Writing, ed. Daren Shiau and Lee Wei Fen (Singapore: Math Paper Press, 2011), 219-232.
  59. —, “Her Sacred Dust,” Ceriph no. 4.2 (Ivory) (2011): 5-7.
  60. Tse Hao Guang, “Salt,” The Ayam Curtain, ed. J.Y. Yang and Joyce Chng (Singapore: Math Paper Press, 2012), 137-139.
  61. Ronald Wong, “The Taxi Ride,” Ceriph no. 5 (2012): 66-68.
  62. Daryl Yam, “Apocalypse Approaches,” Fish Eats Lion, ed. Jason Erik Lundberg (Singapore: Math Paper Press, 2012), 153-185.
  63. —, “The Girl and Her Giant,” Ceriph no. 4.2 (Ivory) (2011): 9-20.
  64. J.Y. Yang, “Captain Bells and the Sovereign State of Discordia,” The Steampowered Globe, ed. Rosemary Lim and Maisarah Bte Abu Samah (Singapore: AS¡FF, 2012), 114-144.
  65. —, “Where No Cars Go,” Fish Eats Lion, ed. Jason Erik Lundberg (Singapore: Math Paper Press, 2012), 213-248.
  66. Stephanie Ye, “The Billion Shop,” The Billion Shop (Singapore: Math Paper Press, 2012), 43-65.
  67. —, “Bons at Sirius A,” Ceriph no. 2 (2011): 12-20.
  68. —, “Coast,” Coast: A Mono-titular Anthology of Singapore Writing, ed. Daren Shiau and Lee Wei Fen (Singapore: Math Paper Press, 2011), 58-73.
  69. —, “The Story of the Kiss,” Fish Eats Lion, ed. Jason Erik Lundberg (Singapore: Math Paper Press, 2012), 19-29.
  70. Yeow Kai Chai, “Coast,” Coast: A Mono-titular Anthology of Singapore Writing, ed. Daren Shiau and Lee Wei Fen (Singapore: Math Paper Press, 2011), 99-100.
  71. —, “Tahar,” Balik Kampung, ed. Verena Tay (Singapore: Math Paper Press, November 2012), 39-53.
  72. Yong Shu Hoong, “The Great Dying,” Balik Kampung, ed. Verena Tay (Singapore: Math Paper Press, November 2012), 57-67.
  73. Yuen Kit Mun, “Feng Shui Train,” Fish Eats Lion, ed. Jason Erik Lundberg (Singapore: Math Paper Press, 2012), 279-297

There’s a lot of really great fiction being produced in Singapore right now, and one of the editor’s hardest tasks is narrowing this down to the very best; but these stories that didn’t get into the anthology have merit, and are well worth tracking down for further reading.

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It’s a Three-Book Day!

Three-Book Day!

Third book, Strange Mammals, not shown.

Holy crap, today is an embarrassment of riches!

Strange MammalsI woke up this morning to the news that my new collection from Infinity Plus, Strange Mammals, is now available for ordering both in print and ebook formats. There was also this nice bit from Keith Brooke: “I really shouldn’t rave about individual titles – I genuinely love all the books we put out, otherwise why bother? But I did particularly enjoy this one – a real treat for anyone who loves stylish, strange contemporary fantasy.” Which is something that an author can never hear enough from his publisher. I should hopefully be seeing my author copies in a few weeks.

BNSSS Vol 1So I was already riding pretty high when I went in to work. Then, during our fortnightly Books-in-Print editorial meeting, our printer dropped off the freshly-finished copies of Epigram Books’ October titles, including The Last Lesson of Mrs de Souza by Cyril Wong, Ministry of Moral Panic by Amanda Lee Koe, The Wayang at Eight Milestone by Gregory Nalpon, and, most importantly, The Epigram Books Collection of Best New Singaporean Short Stories: Volume One! The printers did an amazing job, and all the books are just damn beautiful; they should start appearing in fine bookstores in a couple of weeks.

Embracing the StrangeAnd then, as if that wasn’t enough, I headed over to BooksActually after work, and picked up my author copies of Embracing the Strange: The Transformative Impact of Speculative Fiction, which just came out yesterday (just squeaking under the wire to still be considered a September book)! There aren’t any autographed copies in the store yet, because they ran out of “Signed Copy” stickers, but I’ll be heading back over sometime soon to put my signature in a bunch of copies.

Holy wow! All of this, on top of the release of LONTAR #1 a couple of weeks ago, has made me a bit drunk on publication ambrosia. My head can barely fit through a doorway right now.

Now it’s time to promote them! I apologize in advance for all the flogging I’ll be doing in the coming months, but now that they’re all published, we’ve got to sell them! Buy buy buy, people! And bye-bye!

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Announcing the Release of LONTAR #1

LONTAR issue #1 is now available!

lontar1_cover

Issue #1 Contents
01. Etching the Lontar | Jason Erik Lundberg (Editorial)
02. Departures | Kate Osias (Fiction)
03. Love in the Time of Utopia | Zen Cho (Fiction)
04. Philippine Magic: A Course Catalogue | Paolo Chikiamco (Non-Fiction)
05. Jayawarman 9th Remembers the Dragon Archipelago | Chris Mooney-Singh (Poetry)
06. The Immortal Pharmacist | Ang Si Min (Poetry)
07. Stainless Steel Nak | Bryan Thao Worra (Poetry)
08. The Yellow River | Elka Ray Nguyen (Fiction)
09. The Gambler | Paolo Bacigalupi (Fiction Reprint)

At long last, the first issue of LONTAR is now available for sale at BooksActually and online at the BooksActually Web Store, and very soon at all Kinokuniya branches in Singapore. We’ll also be releasing the issue as a DRM-free ebook bundle (PDF/ePub/Mobi) later this month.

My thanks to all the contributors, poetry editor Kristine Ong Muslim, and publisher Kenny Leck for making the issue a reality. And thanks to the amazing art direction of design superteam Sarah and Schooling for making it so incredibly gorgeous. This is really something you’re going to want to hold in your hands and rub all over your face.

I went and picked up my copies today. I was quite excited.

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Announcing The Epigram Books Collection of Best New Singaporean Short Stories: Volume One

The Epigram Books Collection of Best New Singaporean Short Stories

Cover design by Lydia Wong
Cover photograph by Darren Soh


Enter the book giveaway at Goodreads!

“Singapore’s fiction revival is on track! Thirty-five years after Robert Yeo’s landmark curation of the best national stories of his time, the project re-begins with a fresh slate of short fiction that rightly welcomes several new names. Jason Erik Lundberg has done an outstanding job of choosing stories you will want to return to—like rooms in the head—for years to come!”
—Gwee Li Sui, author and illustrator of Myth of the Stone


Contents

  1. Introduction | Jason Erik Lundberg
  2. The Tiger of 142B | Dave Chua
  3. The Hearing Aid | Vinita Ramani Mohan
  4. The Illoi of Kantimeral | Alvin Pang
  5. Lighthouse | Yu-Mei Balasingamchow
  6. Seascrapers | Stephanie Ye
  7. Because I Tell | Felix Cheong
  8. Sleeping | O Thiam Chin
  9. Agnes Joaquim, Bioterrorist | Ng Yi-Sheng
  10. The Dispossessed | Karen Kwek
  11. Harmonious Residences | Jeremy Tiang
  12. Randy’s Rotisserie | Amanda Lee Koe
  13. The Protocol Wars of Laundry and Coexistence | Koh Choon Hwee
  14. Zero Hour | Cyril Wong
  15. Walls | Verena Tay
  16. Copies | Eleanor Neo
  17. Welcome to the Pond | Wei Fen Lee
  18. Scared For What | Ann Ang
  19. Joo Chiat and Other Lost Things | Justin Ker
  20. Anniversary | Phan Ming Yen
  21. The Borrowed Boy | Alfian Sa’at

I am very proud to announce the contents and cover design for the first volume of The Epigram Books Collection of Best New Singaporean Short Stories, to be published in October, and officially launched at the 2013 Singapore Writers Festival.

After spending months reading dozens of literary journals, magazine issues, anthologies, and single-author collections, I narrowed down the list to the above twenty stories, evenly split between male and female authors. A list of honourable mentions will also be provided in the back of the book for further reading.

The Epigram Books Collection of Best New Singaporean Short Stories: Volume One curates the finest short fiction from Singaporean writers published in 2011 and 2012. This ground-breaking and unique anthology showcases stories that examine various facets of the human condition and the truths that we tell ourselves in order to exist in the everyday. The styles are as varied as the authors, and no two pieces are alike. Here are twenty unique and breathtaking literary insights into the Singaporean psyche, which examine what it means to live in this particular part of the world at this particular time.

Until 4th of October, you can enter to win one of only two Advance Uncorrected Proofs of the anthology at the book giveaway at Goodreads. The scope of the giveaway is quite wide (the major Anglophone countries and Southeast Asia), so enter today!

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SWF 2013 Schedule

Earlier today, the programming was released for the 2013 Singapore Writers Festival (this year’s theme: Utopia/Dystopia), including the full list of invited authors and speakers. It looks like they haven’t yet linked up the authors with their events, but if you’re inclined you can check out my author page.

In addition to the usual suspects, I’m particularly excited to see the following folks at this year’s SWF: Dean Francis Alfar, Fatima Bhutto, G. Willow Wilson, Guo Xiaolu, Jo Fletcher, Mohsin Hamid, Paolo Chikiamco, Sjón, and Terri Windling (!).

Here’s my schedule of events:

02 Nov: Brand New Books: The Last Lesson of Mrs de Souza by Cyril Wong | Ministry of Moral Panic by Amanda Lee Koe | Best New Singaporean Short Stories edited by Jason Erik Lundberg
SMU Campus Green, Festival Pavilion, 1130am-1230pm

A psychological examination of a student-teacher relationship in the 1980s, The Last Lesson of Mrs De Souza is acclaimed poet Cyril Wong’s inaugural novel. Ministry of Moral Panic is Amanda Lee Koe’s fresh collection of short fiction that examines the improbable necessity of human connection in strikingly original prose. This launch of their latest literary offerings is moderated by author and editor Jason Erik Lundberg of Epigram Books.

Best New Singaporean Short Stories is Epigram’s biennial anthology series, with Volume One showcasing the best short fiction from Singaporean writers published in 2011 and 2012. Join Jason and five notable contributors in a discussion of their works.

(I’ll be moderating this entire session, since I edited all three books. Pressure!)

03 Nov:Alternate Realities
Singapore Art Museum, Glass Hall, 400-500pm

Life on this planet doesn’t seem to be panning out – is it time to build a new reality? Three speculative fiction writers discuss if it is easier to create stories or to live in the worlds they have created. Whose world would you like to be a part of?

Moderated by: Rajeev Patke

Featuring: Dean Francis Alfar, G Willow Wilson, Jason Erik Lundberg

(I can’t tell you how intimidated I am to be on a panel discussion with these folks.)

06 Nov:Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales Screw Us Up
Fringe 2013: Once Upon A Time
The Arts House, Living Room, 730-830pm

It usually ends with the prince and princess living happily ever after (or some variation to that end). However, life doesn’t often turn out that way. Do fairy tales skew our view of the world, and paint a picture too rose-tinted for our own good? Do they still have a role to play in our world today? Two teams of writers debate on whether fairy tales, in fact, mess with your minds, damaging you forever.

Moderated by: Carolyn Camoens

(I’m not a natural debater, but I’ll think of something to come up with.)

09 Nov: Brand New Books: The Tower by Isa Kamari | Confrontation by Mohamed Latiff Mohamed
SMU Campus Green, Festival Pavilion, 230-330pm

Join prolific authors, Cultural Medallion winner Isa Kamari and three-time Singapore Literature Prize winner Mohamed Latiff bin Mohamed, in conversation with acclaimed playwright Alfian Sa’at, for the launch of the English-language translations of their seminal works. Isa’s The Tower is a masterful allegorical tale of success and failure, translated for the first time into English by Alfian.

From Mohamed Latiff, Confrontation is a brilliant dramatisation of the period of uncertainty and change in the years leading up to Singapore’s merger with Malaya. Seen through the unique perspective of the young boy Adi, this fundamental period in Singaporean history is brought to life with masterful empathy.

(I don’t technically have anything to do with this launch, but I did edit Confrontation, and I published Isa in Fish Eats Lion, so want to support the both of them here.)

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Sweet Sassy Molassy Do I Need an Assistant

As I was last year, I am once again a writer mentor for the 2013-14 Creative Arts Programme; in an email to my mentees yesterday, I laid out exactly what I’m working on for the next several months:

  • Promotion for the first issue of my literary journal LONTAR: The Journal of Southeast Asian Speculative Fiction, being released any day now by Math Paper Press
  • Promotion for my chapbook Embracing the Strange, coming out in September from Math Paper Press
  • Novel revisions for A Fickle and Restless Weapon, to be finished by end of September and then sent off to literary agents in the US
  • Write a memoir-essay for the Math Paper Press anthology Altogether Elsewhere, and submit by end of September
  • Promotion for my new kitchen-sink collection Strange Mammals, released in ebook and paperback by Infinity Plus Books (UK) in September/October
  • Research and start writing a novella in October, The Diary of a Man Who Disappeared, which I am receiving funding for under the 2013 NAC Creation Grant
  • Promotion for the first volume in my new anthology series Best New Singaporean Short Stories (title tentative), released by Epigram Books in October
  • Write a story for the Math Paper Press anthology Skin, and submit by end of October
  • Publish my 2012 anthology Fish Eats Lion as an ebook through Infinity Plus Books (UK), likely in November
  • Write a story for the Math Paper Press LiterallyMaps project (by invitation only) and submit by mid-November
  • Promotion for my children’s picture book Bo Bo and Cha Cha and the Not-So-Nice Friend, released by Epigram Books in October January 2014

I’m also giving talks and workshops, moderating and sitting on panel discussions, and doing public readings (details on my Publicity page), as well as trying to accomplish my goal of having a work of flash fiction in every single issue of Twenty-Four Flavours.

And this is all on top of my day job as the literary fiction editor at Epigram Books; in addition to BNSSS, I have three more books that I edited coming out in October, all of which I’ll be spending time promoting: The Last Lesson of Mrs de Souza by Cyril Wong, Ministry of Moral Panic: Stories by Amanda Lee Koe, and The Wayang at Eight Milestone: Stories & Essays by Gregory Nalpon.

So, yeah. I’m almost to the point where I feel like I need an assistant to keep all this straight. I’m not so privileged as to complain about being so busy with work that I love doing, and being at a point in my life and career where I can actually put my time and energy into all these projects, but it looks like I won’t be able to unclench until somewhere around December.

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BB&CC 2 Nominated in Popular 2013 Readers’ Choice Awards!

Bo Bo and Cha Cha’s Big Day OutSome cool news this evening: Bo Bo and Cha Cha’s Big Day Out has been nominated in the Popular Bookstore 2013 Readers’ Choice Awards!

The awards are organized in conjunction with Bookfest@Singapore 2013 (which will be happening in December), along with the National Arts Council and the National Book Development Council of Singapore. Voting is open until 30th of September (you can vote for your favorite three books in each category), and as a nice bit of promotion, the book is discounted 20% in all Popular shops until 30th of November.

Also in the English (Children) category are three other Epigram Books titles: Sherlock Sam And The Ghostly Moans In Fort Canning by AJ Low (aka my good friends Adan Jimenez and Felicia Low-Jimenez), Justice Bao: The Case Of The Missing Coins by Catherine Khoo, and Whoopie Lee: The Big Spell Off by Adeline Foo.

If you’re a Singaporean citizen or permanent resident, please give the ballot a look; as an incentive, you’ll be entered in a drawing for $50 Popular vouchers and a one-year Popular card if a book you’ve chosen wins. So vote today!

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What a Week I’m Having

I was remarkably productive this week, to my surprise and delight. Here’s what I did.

1. A big chunk of novel revisions for A Fickle and Restless Weapon. These had been weighing on me for a long time, so it was great to finally get some progress done on them.

2. Proof the layout for LONTAR #1, which looks great.

3. Proof the layout for Embracing the Strange, which is also looks great.

4. Query an artist friend about possibly collaborating on a graphic novel.

5. Write a piece for the “nasi lemak” issue of Twenty-Four Flavours.

6. Turn in the manuscript of Strange Mammals to Keith at Infinity Plus Books.

7. Organize a microfiction collection (which I probably won’t be done writing until late next year, but it was still fun to start putting it together).

I also got some really great news that I can’t share, because it’s not official just yet, but hopefully soon.

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A Metric Pantload of Updates

It’s been a couple of months since my last proper blog entry, and things have been remarkably busy during that time.

Embracing the Strange and LONTAR #1 still haven’t come out, but indications are good that the journal issue will at least be out by end of July or beginning of October. *crossing fingers*

I’ve been writing flash fiction pieces for the new Math Paper Press broadsheet magazine, Twenty-Four Flavours, and having a blast. I’ve really missed writing such short pieces on a regular basis, as I did during the halcyon days of The Daily Cabal, and it’s great to have a friendly venue with which to explore the form once again. So far, I have sold stories for the first five issues (the second one, Century Egg, was launched this past weekend at The Arts House), and I’m hoping to have a piece in all twenty-four.

I turned in the manuscript for the third panda picture book, called Bo Bo and Cha Cha and the Not-So-Nice Friend, and am quite happy with how it came out; I think it’s the best of the series so far. It’s expected to come out in October, and  Patrick Yee is at work now on the illustrations.

I’ve been doing a surprising number of writer appearances and storytelling sessions lately, so many that I needed to create a separate Publicity page just to keep it all straight. If you’re keen to invite me for an appearance or talk, please check there first to make sure I’m not already booked.

I taught at the Creative Arts Programme‘s annual seminar once again, and had a great time, as usual. If I ever fear for the future of Singapore’s creativity, I just need to think about the eager and talented students at CAP and my fears are allayed. I’ve also agreed to be a CAP mentor once again this year, to guide a select number of mentees through their writing process in order to improve.

I’ve also been invited to be one of the international judges for the for the 2013 Quantum Shorts flash fiction contest organized by the NUS Centre for Quantum Technologies, along with media partners Scientific American, Tor Books and Tor.com. I’m in some very distinguished company; the other judges are John Scalzi, Patrick Nielsen Hayden, Mark Alpert, Mariette DiChristina, Artur Ekert, Paweł Frelik, Tania Hershman, and Lisa Randall (you can find bios for all of these remarkable people on the judges page). I can’t wait to read the stories submitted for the contest; one of my own, “TCB,” was posted as a “seed” story to provide some inspiration.

Revisions on A Fickle and Restless Weapon continue apace, and although it looks like I won’t make my self-imposed end-of-July deadline, I hope to get the book ship-shape by mid-August, and ready to send out to agents.

Whew. I think that’s enough for now. :)

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Announcing Strange Mammals from Infinity Plus Books

In September 2013, UK publisher Infinity Plus Books, which released ebook editions of Red Dot Irreal and The Alchemy of Happiness, will be publishing my new collection, Strange Mammals! As opposed to the previous two, which were organized by a loose theme, this will be a kitchen-sink collection, bringing together nearly all my remaining published fiction not already in book form.

In addition, I+ will also release POD paperback editions of all three books in uniform covers, which will look beautiful all together on a bookshelf.

I’ve had a wonderful experience working with Keith Brooke (the creative force behind I+) on these books, and indeed all the way back to when he first published some of my pieces on the Infinity Plus website, and I’m excited that these books will be available all over the world now, in both digital and dead-tree format.

Here’s the table of contents for Strange Mammals (subject to change); many of the pieces can be read individually for free, linked here on my website:

  1. Most Excellent and Lamentable
  2. The Artists Pentaptych
  3. Don’t Blink
  4. Avoirdupois
  5. Great Responsibility
  6. Strange Mammals
  7. Screwhead
  8. The Time Traveler’s Son
  9. King of Hearts
  10. Bodhisattva at the Heat Death of the Universe
  11. How To Make Chalk
  12. One Big Crunch
  13. Lachrymose Intolerant
  14. Jimi and the Djinn
  15. Multifacet
  16. Night Off
  17. Enlightenment
  18. Stuck
  19. TCB
  20. One Less
  21. Solipsister
  22. Wombat Fishbone
  23. Air is Water is Air
  24. The Apokalypsis Pentaptych
  25. Complications of the Flesh

These are very exciting times. :)

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