2019 Singapore Writers Festival Schedule

The 2019 Singapore Writers Festival is now less than seven weeks away, and my appearance schedule has been confirmed. I look forward to SWF every year, because it’s like a family reunion with all my writer friends in Singapore, and I’m especially excited this year because it’s been curated by my good friend Pooja Nansi, who is keen to give a platform to newer and more unexpected authors. (Though I myself am not terribly new or unexpected.)

So if you’re in Singapore from 1–10 November, I hope to see you at the following events and/or around the civic district during this time!

1) Panel: The Absurd, the Mundane and Everything in Between
The Arts House, Living Room, 02 Nov, 630-730pm

How do we make art from arbitrary, absurd, and mundane moments in life? Can boredom be interesting? Three writers interrogate the humdrum weave of the every day and discuss how they have incorporated such moments to craft narratives that reveal poignant truths about the human experience.

2) Launch: Keeping It Fresh: A Defence of Originality
Book Launch of The Angel Tiger and Most Excellent and Lamentable
The Arts House, Gallery II, 08 Nov, 700-800pm

Authors Jason Erik Lundberg and Barrie Sherwood will look at the idea of short story collections and how they are put together, and how authors/editors keep it fresh. With so many stories being told year after year, can stories truly be original? There will also be a Q&A and a book-signing at this event.

3) Panel: Ruling the Galaxy (moderator)
The Arts House, Living Room, 09 Nov, 500-600pm

When writing about intergalactic empires and space adventures, to what extent do writers need to be mindful of scientific plausibility? Should they abide by space travel rules at all? Three writers discuss why they’ve chosen to set their stories in space and how they’ve imagined an entire interstellar universe.

4) Launch: Uniquely Singapore(an)
Book Launch of Best New Singaporean Short Stories: Volume Four
The Arts House, Living Room, 09 Nov, 830-930pm

Editors Jason and Pooja will discuss what makes a great Singaporean short story. Is it simply making characters Singaporean? Do the situations have be uniquely Singaporean? Jason and Pooja will also shine the spotlight on new authors whose offerings are included in this latest volume of short stories. There will also be a Q&A and a book-signing at this event.

5) Panel: Not Here, Not There
Asian Civilisations Museum, Ngee Ann Auditorium, 10 Nov, 1230-130pm

In the wake of growing nativism in the world today, how do these writers consider the notions of belonging and not belonging in their works? Who or what determines the right to belong, and how should we discuss the nuances involved in acts of staying, moving, and settling?
 
 

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A Fickle and Restless Weapon: First Novel Accepted for Publication!

Publication Agreement for A Fickle and Restless Weapon

Some very excellent news to announce: yesterday the contract was signed for my novel, A Fickle and Restless Weapon! It’s my 25th book but my very first novel, and it’ll be released in June 2020 from Epigram Books. I could not be more excited! I started work on this book in my final semester of graduate school, way back in 2005; there was a lot of worldbuilding and character development and experiments in tone, but once I had the first line, I knew that there was something special here:

It was late morning when Zed arrived, incognito.

(I ended up adding a prologue later, so this is no longer the first line, but I still love it and its nod to Kafka.)

I worked on it off and on for the next few years, but then got stuck at about 30,000 words and didn’t know where to go from there. Something was holding the novel back; something fundamental wasn’t working. This was around the time that I started teaching secondary school in Singapore, which was more than a full-time job and required all of my mental capacity, so I put the book aside for a couple of years. And as frustrated as I was that I wasn’t able to write the book during that period (though I did create flash fiction regularly to keep my hand in), I needed that time for my brain to subconsciously identify the problem and come up with a solution.

One of my protagonists, Zed, was supposed to experience a fall from grace that would push him out of his relatively comfortable life and propel him into the obstacles I set up for him. And to dramatise this fall, I portrayed him as an arrogant asshole who actually had his life transformation coming to him. But since the first part of the story is from his POV, I realised that this was alienating to the reader. Zed needed to be more accessible from the start, so that when his fall comes at the end of that section, we’re compelled to turn the page to find out what happens to him next.

So I reconceptualised his character from scratch and rewrote those first 30,000 words, and that momentum allowed me to continue on and on until I eventually reached the end. As a sort of bookend, I crafted the final 30,000 words during the 2012 Write-a-Thon for the Clarion Writers Workshop. A few months later, I started my job as Fiction Editor at Epigram Books, and came back to the manuscript for editing. I engaged a number of trusted first readers, who gave me excellent feedback, which I used for the next draft.

At that point, I sent the novel off to a literary agent who had apparently been following my short fiction career up to that point, and he agreed to represent me. I was thrilled to work with him, but after an initial flurry of submissions to publishers, he unfortunately sat on the book for the next five years and became less and less communicative. In early 2018, I broke off our association; earlier this year, I pitched the book to my boss at Epigram Books, since it shares a fictional universe and timeline with Diary of One Who Disappeared, and it was accepted, at last, 14 years after I first imagined the story (and 7 years to the day after I first started work at Epigram Books).

I’m incredibly excited to be able to share this novel with readers next year, and I feel that it’s some of my best work. So yay! I’m officially a novelist! 😀

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Now Available for Preorder: Two New Books!

     

In October, I will have two new books out: Most Excellent and Lamentable: Selected Stories, a “greatest hits” fiction collection that draws from my 18-year career thus far; and Best New Singaporean Short Stories: Volume Four guest edited by Pooja Nansi, the latest instalment of the definitive anthology series of current Singaporean fiction writing.

Very likely, Epigram Books will be launching both titles this November at the 2019 Singapore Writers Festival, but you can also preorder both titles now directly from the publisher (and get them mailed to you as soon as they arrive from the printers)! Short stories galore!

I’m so excited for the release of both these books, and I can’t wait for y’all to read them. If you are a book reviewer for a legitimate venue, email me so we can get a review copy to you ASAP.

Praise for Most Excellent and Lamentable

“This is a superb collection of beautifully crafted stories. They range from exquisite miniatures that render entire worlds within a few words to longer stories rich with the complexities of human interactions with the Other—where the Other might be a foreign tourist, a shaman, a fish that speaks or a wombat. Infused with a Southeast Asian sensibility, these tales transcend boundaries in the best tradition of speculative fiction.”
Vandana Singh, author of Ambiguity Machines and Other Stories

“Phlogiston (I am assured by usually reliable sources) does not exist…and yet something rare is powering these shimmering, surprising, infinitely combustible stories. Strange energies crackle throughout this most excellent collection.”
Andy Duncan, author of An Agent of Utopia and three-time World Fantasy Award winner

“In Lundberg’s narratives, endings are transformations, a change from one state to another: from ignorance to knowledge, from pain to understanding, from confusion to bliss. Death is a primary instigator, but it is not alone. Epiphanies and sad wisdom inhabit endings as well, and reveal the seeds of continuance. ‘What comes after’ and ‘what happens next’ are concerns of the author’s work, and he shares his take on karmic cycles and serpentine circles as he reveals the tantalising ever-afters. It is love that happens afterwards. Love continues. Identity continues. Remembrance continues. The story continues for it never truly ends, with each ending offering a new beginning, or a continuation, after profound changes. It is this insight, this narrative truth, that creates impact—that hope is never truly lost, and what is now is only for now.”
Dean Francis Alfar, Palanca Grand Prize-winning author of Salamanca and The Field Guide to the Roads of Manila (from the introduction)

From the preface of Best New Singaporean Short Stories: Volume Four

“Our stories are everywhere we look, and those stories matter; they are as varied and as manifold as we are. The pieces here are by student writers, full-time writers, hobbyists—some of the writers are based in Singapore, some are away from the city, and others call this city home, however momentarily. But all these stories speak to the very human truths of loss and desire in one way or another.”
Pooja Nansi, author of Love Is an Empty Barstool
 

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Diary of One Who Disappeared E-book Available for Preorder

The book launch for Diary of One Who Disappeared is fast approaching, so mark your calendars! All of Singapore is invited!

  1. What: Launch of Diary of One Who Disappeared
  2. Where: Books Kinokuniya main store (Orchard Road), Takashimaya SC
  3. When: 6 April 2019, 2-3pm
  4. Why: To listen to a discussion of adaptation, superpowers, politics and parallel universes
  5. How: Moderated by Cyril Wong

It’s important to have a big showing at the launch, in order to boost sales for the first week, and to encourage Kino to stock the book well. And I’d love for y’all to be there to help me celebrate a work that took five and a half years from conception to publication.

ALSØ, the e-book edition of the novella is now available for preorder (yay!) at the following places:

ALSØ ALSØ, the print edition is available for purchase RIGHT NOW at these places:

Exciting times! WØØT!

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Event Schedule: Diary of One Who Disappeared

Diary at Huggs-Epigram Coffee Bookshop, photo by Christopher TohDiary of One Who Disappeared is now back from the printers, and I’ve gotten my author copies (check out my Facebook page for the unboxing), yay! The paperback will be available in fine Singaporean bookshops by start of April (and, as you can see from the photo, it’s actually already for sale at the new Huggs-Epigram Coffee Bookshop), and the ebook will be available on all major platforms as well (more on this later).

So, now that the novella exists (plusyay!), it’s time to post my upcoming event schedule in support of the book’s release. If you’ll be in Singapore for the month of April, or in Penang during Star Wars Day, please come on down to the below events to help me celebrate!

2 April, 640-700pm
Radio Interview
Money FM 89.3: The Curve with Michelle Martin & Bernard Lim

Michelle had me on her show last year to talk about LONTAR issue 10, and then graciously agreed to moderate a LONTAR retrospective panel at the 2018 Singapore Writers Festival, so I’m very excited to talk with her again, this time about my own fiction.

6 April, 200-300pm
Official Book Launch
with Cyril Wong (mod)
Books Kinokuniya Neo SIMS (Orchard Road)

This will be the official launch for the book, so if you can come to any event, come to this one. Sales for this weekend are very important, and can determine whether the novella makes Kino’s bestseller list, not to mention national bestseller lists (for which I can only hope). A big jump-start at the beginning can also result in healthy regular sales months and years afterward. Kino has been a wonderful partner with Epigram Books, and I’m very grateful that they’re allowing us the space to launch the book there.

22–23 April, 1030am–530pm
Artist-in-Attendence
Huggs-Epigram Coffee Bookshop (URA Centre)

If you’ve read Singaporean news lately, you know that the Huggs-Epigram Coffee Bookshop (a collaboration between Epigram and Huggs Coffee) has just opened its doors, the only bookstore in the country right now selling books that exclusively focus on Singapore and Singaporean writers. As a continued part of that grand opening, the Artist-in-Attendence programme has been established to give Singaporean writers and artists an exclusive table to work on their art. “If you’ve always wanted to know how authors work or gain inspiration, or simply wanted to thank your favourite author—here’s your chance. Don’t be shy, come and say hi.” Also, the coffee is pretty damn tasty.

4 May, 400-600pm
Bookstore Event
Gerakbudaya Bookshop @ Hikayat (Beach Street)
George Town, Penang, Malaysia

Since my first invitation to the George Town Literary Festival in 2016, I have been welcomed by Gerakbudaya’s director Gareth Richards and his wonderful staff, and made to feel seen. So I was especially excited when they agreed to bring me in to their sister store, Hikayat, to launch the book in Penang. As I mentioned above, the event will take place the day before Ramadan starts, i.e. Star Wars Day (May the 4th…), so expect me in my Empire Strikes Back shirt.

Thanks in advance for showing up and allowing my fiction some space in your life (doubleplusyay!).

If you’re unable to attend either the Kinokuniya or Gerakbudaya launches, you can still order the book from either store, or direct from Epigram Books or Local Books; be sure to indicate whether you would like a signed copy.

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Now Available for Preorder: My New Novella!

Diary of One Who DisappearedLast month on social media, I shared the cover art for my brand new novella, Diary of One Who Disappeared (being released in April 2019), and now the book is available for preorder from Epigram Books!

I’m so excited that this slim book will finally be seeing the light of day, and I can’t wait for y’all to read it. I’m a bit burned out on doorstoppers at the moment, so in case you’re the same, this is perfect for you, a compelling story that can be (conceivably) finished in one sitting.

If you are a book reviewer for a legitimate venue, email me so we can get a review copy to you straight away (most likely PDF, but we might be printing some ARCs for local reviewers).

We’ve gotten some lovely praise quotes in already (and are expecting even more):

“A fantastic tale of the possibility of revolution—both personal and political—inherent in every moment.”
—Ken Liu, multi-award-winning author of The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories

“Through communiqués, missives and the common email, relationships unfold and splinter within a futuristic world ruled by religiosity and prejudice, mirroring our present-day political climate in terrifying but revelatory ways. Diary of One Who Disappeared also convincingly offers a morality tale about how the ramifications of our actions and thoughts, even our unconscious desires, extend beyond the realm of our known universe.”
—Cyril Wong, Singapore Literature Prize-winning author of Ten Things My Father Never Taught Me

“A story of interpersonal and international politics, a haunting exploration of how one defines and redefines oneself, a thriller and a human tale of personal growth. If you are looking for intelligent, thought-provoking speculative fiction, board the airship from the repressive North American Union to cosmopolitan Tinhau. Readers of thoughtful, humane fiction are in for a treat.”
—John Kessel, Nebula Award-winning author of The Moon and the Other

I’ll be presenting the novella this coming Friday at the Epigram Books biannual sales conference (which this year we’re calling First Look Showcase: Stories About Stories) for industry professionals. If they like what I have to say, there’s a good chance that they’ll order bunches of copies for their bookshops, or devote some page space in newspapers and magazines. Wish me luck!

And also go preorder the book! 😀

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My SWF 2018 Author Schedule

SWF logo

In just a few weeks, the festivities for the 2018 Singapore Writers Festival will kick off, and I’m happy to have been invited as a featured author once again (this will make the seventh year in a row). I’ll be around for much of the festival, but here are the events that I’m directly involved with.

1. Panel: Achieving Utopia
with Patrick Williams (mod), Thea Lim and Rachel Heng
The Arts House, Gallery II, 02 Nov, 800-900pm

2. Launch: Short Stories About Home (moderator)
Lion City by Ng Yi-Sheng & Marriage and Mutton Curry by Dato’ M. Shanmughalingam
The Arts House, Gallery II, 03 Nov, 130-230pm

3. Reading: Alluvium: The Journal of Literary Shanghai
with Tina Kanagaratnam (mod), Chua Chee Lay, Daryl Lim, Xiangyun Lim, Lynette Tan, Tse Hao Guang and Cyril Wong
The Arts House, Gallery II, 05 Nov, 730-900pm

4. Panel: LONTAR Retrospective
with Michelle Martin (mod), Victor Fernando R. Ocampo and Christina Sng
The Arts House, Festival Bookstore, 08 Nov, 730-830pm

5. Panel: The Uncanny (moderator)
with Han Yujoo, Intan Paramaditha and Jon Gresham
The Arts House, Blue Room, 10 Nov, 200-300pm

My author page is incomplete, and the LONTAR event will not be on the programme (since it’s being organised by BooksActually for the festival bookstore), so please refer to this page for the most complete information.

So yeah, I’m going to be pretty busy with my own events, and I’m super excited to attend David Sedaris’ SWF lecture, “Love, Death and Family Life: Postcards from David Sedaris,” and I’ll be taking Anya to some of the SWF3 (SWF For Families) events, but do please say hello if you see me (likely looking a bit dazed).

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Introducing BNSSSv4 Guest Editor Pooja Nansi!

Pooja Nansi and Jason Erik Lundberg, guest editor and series editor of
Best New Singaporean Short Stories: Volume Four.
Photo copyright © 2015 by Jason Erik Lundberg.

The contract has been signed, and so I am elated to announce that Pooja Nansi will be the guest editor of Best New Singaporean Short Stories: Volume Four! Yay, w00t and huzzah!

I’ve long wanted to work with Pooja on a project, and I’m so delighted that she’s agreed to curate our fourth volume of BNSSS (to be released by Epigram Books in October 2019). I’m a great admirer of her poetry and performance (Love is an Empty Barstool is one of my all-time favourite Singaporean poetry collections), her commitment as an educator (both as a teacher and as Singapore’s first Youth Poet Ambassador), and her eagerness to pay it forward by spearheading the incredible spoken word / reading series Speakeasy. And though she’s known primarily as a Young Artist Award-winning poet, she has a finely discerning eye for prose as well, and I can’t wait to see what stories she selects for the anthology.

As before, we are only considering previously published short stories by Singaporean writers. We will be already looking at notable lit journals as well anthologies and single-author collections by major Singaporean publishers. However, if you would like to recommend a published short story under 10,000 words, you can shoot me an email, and I’ll pass it along.

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Two New Books Coming Out in 2019

The contracts have at last been signed, so I can officially announce that Epigram Books will be publishing two books by me next year, scheduled for March and October, respectively: a novella called The Diary of One Who Disappeared (recipient of the 2013 NAC Creation Grant), and a “greatest hits” short story collection called Most Excellent and Lamentable (with an introduction by Dean Francis Alfar). Yay!

I’ve resisted submitting my own fiction to Epigram Books for a long time, because it felt a bit strange publishing fiction at the company where I’m the fiction editor. But I’m glad that it’ll be happening, and that I’ll be working with my colleague Eldes Tran to shape both of these manuscripts.

This all came about when I proposed reprinting Red Dot Irreal to my publisher, Edmund Wee, since the first edition is now out of print in Singapore (even if you can still find the Infinity Plus edition online). He countered with putting together a new collection, and I came up with the idea of doing a Selected Stories book that draws from my three previous collections, as well as one uncollected story and a brand new one written specifically for this book. Here are the contents:

  • The Stargirl and the Potter
  • Always a Risk
  • Wombat Fishbone
  • King of Hearts
  • Strange Mammals
  • Great Responsibility
  • The Time Traveller’s Son
  • Slowly Slowly Slowly
  • Kopi Luwak
  • Complications of the Flesh
  • Most Excellent and Lamentable
  • Bodhisattva at the Heat Death of the Universe
  • Bogeymen
  • Ikan Berbudi (Wise Fish)

At the same, I pitched my long-languishing novella, which my (now ex-)agent had not done anything with for four years, and thankfully Edmund agreed to take it as well. But after receiving some additional feedback, I realised that it didn’t address the world that we’re living in now, which is very different from the optimism and openness of four years ago. So I’m currently revising the manuscript to make it more relevant (and, frankly, better), and aiming at a mid-August deadline to turn it in.

So yeah, two new works of fiction by me out next year. It’s nice to be out in front of my own writing again. 🙂

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A Stargirl for Your Consideration

Even though Best New Singaporean Short Stories: Volume Three and LONTAR issue #8 and issue #9 were published last year, as well as my introduction to The Infinite Library and Other Stories by Victor Fernando R. Ocampo, only one of my own original* fiction works also appeared, although it’s one I have some definite fondness for. And since awards season is coming up once again, I thought I’d present it here for your consideration.

The Stargirl and the Potter” was published last July in Daily Science Fiction. Thank you again to editors Michele-Lee Barasso and Jonathan Laden for taking the story and giving it such a nice home. Here’s how it starts:

I tell you this tale as it was told to me so very long ago.

She appeared one day in the town. Nobody knew where she had come from, or who her family might be, or what she was called, or why her skin glowed ever-so-slightly with a sparkling luminescence. Nobody saw her enter the town from the main road, or alight from a carriage, or dismount from the back of a horse. One moment she was not there, and the next she was. Although she had a laugh that filled the air with musicality, she did not speak; after some time, most came to the conclusion that she simply did not wish to. She kept her thoughts to herself, and so the townspeople collectively named her the Stargirl.

And here’s the author’s note I wrote to accompany it:

“The Stargirl and the Potter” had three sources of inspiration: 1) Pablo Neruda’s love poem “The Potter” (from the collection The Captain’s Verses), 2) Gabriel García Márquez’s short story “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings” (about a very different kind of stranger who comes to town), and 3) a former lover with a celestial nickname. Having lived in Singapore for over a decade, I’ve written about the island-nation and the wider region for quite some time, but I needed to depart from that focus with this story; it felt more “Wild West” to me, a calm tale set in a steampunk frontier (although the locale is purposefully ambiguous). It was written as a Christmas gift, and as an optimistic expression of love, which I was pleasantly surprised still existed after my divorce. It is also about acceptance, respect, and healing, and is almost gleefully free from conflict. It is a gentle story, an urban legend, a fairy tale. All of it is true, except the parts that are not.

Read the story here, and if you feel moved to nominate it for something, that’s awesome. If not, that’s cool too. I’m just glad it’s out there.

 
* Two other of my stories also appeared last year in Alluvium: The Journal of Literary Shanghai, “Bodhisattva at the Heat Death of the Universe” and “Occupy: An Exhibition“, but they were reprinted from my collections Strange Mammals and Red Dot Irreal (Revised Edition), respectively, and are therefore not eligible for awards consideration for 2018.

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The Delightfully Strange Short Fiction of Dorothy Tse

Snow and Shadow

(Note: much of this was included in my review on Goodreads, but this book is so exceptional that I wanted to give it a bit more attention here.)

One of the best parts of getting invited to moderate a panel discussion at a convention or literary festival is encountering the work of writers you might not have ordinarily come across. Such was the case with Dorothy Tse, who appeared on one of my panels at the 2017 George Town Literary Festival.

Tse writes in Chinese and reads in Cantonese, and is highly regarded for her stories in her native Hong Kong. However, those of us who read in English now have the extraordinary fortune to have Nicky Harman’s lyrical translation of Snow and Shadow, an extraordinary collection of oneiric pieces that feel at home next to the best of Angela Carter and Kelly Link.

Tse draws from a deep well of dreamlike imagery and delightfully strange premises, such as men bartering body parts for sexual favours, a father donating his head to his son when the young man’s goes missing, an apartment block where the units never stay in the same location, and a wife slowly transforming into a fish. As well, the title story is the most remarkable retelling of Snow White since Neil Gaiman’s “Snow Glass Apples.”

I LOVED this collection, and highly recommend it to anyone into surreal and strange short fiction. It was far and away my favourite book read in 2017. Check out these reviews at Words Without Borders and World Literature Today, and read Tse’s interview answers for The PEN Ten.

Dorothy Tse’s is a voice that deserves a wide and appreciative audience. However you can find this book, do so; you’ll thank me.

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My Books Available at Indie Shops

We’re barrelling headlong towards Xmas, and I just wanted to give a holiday reminder of where you can find my books (if you felt inclined to give them as gifts), with a special focus on independent bookshops, which are the heart and soul of bookselling worldwide.

USA: Quail Ridge Books* | Books Are Magic | Elliott Bay

Penang: Gerakbudaya Bookshop

Singapore: Kinokuniya** | BooksActually

 
* My titles from Infinity Plus are available for order at any bookstore in the IndieBound network, but I wanted to emphasise these three in particular, and especially Quail Ridge, which is my favourite bookshop in all of the USA.

** I recognise that Kinokuniya is a chain with stores all over the world, but the main Singaporean store on Orchard Road has been extraordinarily supportive of me and my career, and the folks who work there are so knowledgeable that it feels like an indie.

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GTLF 2017 in Pictures

I had a phenomenal time at the 2017 George Town Literary Festival last month. After the insanity of the Singapore Writers Festival (over 25,000 in attendance, a 25% jump from last year!), it was wonderful to attend a more intimate festival, even if it also boasted its highest-ever attendance at 4,500 people. Both the panels I moderated were very well-attended, and I got to see existing friends and make some wonderful new ones. As well as patronise the very well maintained festival bookstore run by Gerakbudaya Bookshop. George Town is a lovely place to spend a long weekend, and the festival was run expertly well; I can’t thank all the organisers, staff and volunteers enough for making it such an enjoyable experience.

I had such a great time that I often forgot to take photos, but here are just a few.

With Jelena Dinic and Laksmi Pamuntjak after the Opening Ceremony

With Marc de Faoite and Sonny Liew in the festival bookstore

The festival bookstore run by Gerakbudaya was kind enough to stock some of my books

Lunch at a nearby hawker centre, with Sharon Bakar, Marc de Faoite, Anthony Cummins and Marco Ferrarese

With Zen Cho, Intan Paramaditha, Dorothy Tse and Felicia Yap, for “Braver Worlds: Visions of the Future/Past”

With Bernice Chauly and Edmund Wee, after Bernice’s novel Once We Were There won the inaugural Penang Monthly Book Prize

With Gerður Kristný, Zen Cho, Paul McVeigh and Arshia Sattar, for “When Immortals Walked Among Us”

Gerakbudaya Bookshop’s actual Penang store, to which I paid homage (and some money)

My final book haul: The Door by Dorothy Tse (trans. Natascha Bruce), Snow and Shadow by Dorothy Tse (trans. Nicky Harman); Bloodhoof by Gerður Kristný (trans. Rory McTurk); Taboo: Poems by Melizarani T. Selva; El Filibusterismo by José Rizal; and The Face: A Time Code by Ruth Ozeki.

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GTLF 2017 Moderator Schedule

GTLF logo

This weekend, I’ll be returning to Penang for the 2017 George Town Literary Festival, and I’m delighted to have been asked back as a moderator. And after the almost overwhelming craziness of SWF, it’ll be nice to discuss books and writing in a more intimate setting. I’ll be attending a bunch of panels and readings, as well as the award ceremony for the inaugural Penang Monthly Book Prize (for which Bernice Chauly’s novel Once We Were There, which I edited, is shortlisted), but here are the events that I’m directly involved with:
 

Panel: Braver Worlds: Visions of the Future/Past (moderator)
with Zen Cho, Intan Paramaditha, Dorothy Tse, and Felicia Yap
Bangunan UAB, Heaven (Level 2), 25 Nov, 315–415pm

Speculative, dystopian and fantastical genres have always been a challenge for some, but not for others. These four writers have defined and re-defined the genres they work in and continue to create worlds that defy our imaginations. How do they revision the future and the past? How does the writer act as an agent for the in-between of what is real, plausible and fantastical? And is this the way of writing the future?
 

Panel: When Immortals Walked Among Us (moderator)
with Arshia Sattar, Gerður Kristný, Paul McVeigh, and Zen Cho
Bangunan UAB, Heaven (Level 2), 26 Nov, 1115am–1215pm

There are many commonalities in the world’s mythologies and cosmologies. Greek legends, Norse and Celtic sagas, and Hindu epics all had gods and goddesses who were anthropomorphic and therefore resistant to Joseph Campbell’s argument – ‘that the secret cause of all suffering is mortality itself, which is the prime condition of life.’ Did the immortals deny humans the right to live uninterrupted, guilt-free lives? What is the notion of ‘god’ and its mythos in literature? We examine some of our most enduring myths, the power they still wield in our everyday lives and narratives, and how these stories have evolved from then until now.

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SWF 2017 Author Schedule

SWF logo

Tonight, the festivities for the 2017 Singapore Writers Festival will kick off, and I’m happy to have been invited as a featured author again this year. I’ll be around for most of the festival, but here are the events that I’m directly involved with.

Launch: New Titles by Epigram Books (Launch Pad and Regrettable Things That Happened Yesterday [ FB event ] (moderator)
with Shelly Bryant and Jennani Durai
The Arts House, Gallery II, 05 Nov, 400-500pm

Panel: The Evolution of the Singapore Short Story
with Koh Tai Ann (mod) Clara Chow and Ovidia Yu
The Arts House, Blue Room, 10 Nov, 700-800pm

Panel: Writing Between the Genre Lines
This session is part of the Speculative Fiction focus.
with Desmond Kon Zhicheng-Mingdé (mod), Aliette De Bodard and O Thiam Chin
The Arts House, Blue Room, 11 Nov, 830-930pm

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Surreal Worlds of Southeast Asia

Worldcon-SEApanel

Photo courtesy of Patricia Mulles

On 11 August at 10:00 in the morning, I moderated a panel at Worldcon 75 in Helsinki, called “Surreal Worlds of Southeast Asia“. Joining me were Aliette de Bodard and Victor Fernando R. Ocampo, two great writers whom I admire, and we had a fascinating discussion about speculative fiction in and about Southeast Asia; they also discussed their work and I talked a bit about LONTAR (which needs your help right now).

The audience was a decent size for a 10am event, and I discovered afterward that all the copies of Red Dot Irreal and LONTAR that I brought sold out at the convention. I was very happy to see that we had spread the word, and hopefully folks will go looking for more Southeast Asian speculative writing in the future.

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BNSSSv3 Honourable Mentions

The Epigram Books Collection of Best New Singaporean Short Stories: Volume Three is now at the printers, and will be available in bookstores next month; we’ll launch the anthology at Kinokuniya in the afternoon of October 28th. In case you missed it, here is the table of contents.

As with Volumes One and Two, a list Honourable Mentions appears in the back of the book; these were stories that guest editor Cyril Wong and I thought had merit, and even though they didn’t make the anthology, they are very much still worth reading:

  1. Yu-Mei Balasingamchow, “Fits and Starts,” adda (Aug 2016), http://www.addastories.org/fits-and-starts/
  2. Alice Bianchi-Clark, “Rosemary,” Quarterly Literary Review Singapore Vol. 14, No. 4 (Oct 2015), http://qlrs.com/story.asp?id=1215
  3. Shelly Bryant, “Case Study: Training Programme,” Quarterly Literary Review Singapore Vol. 14, No. 3 (Jul 2015), http://qlrs.com/story.asp?id=1194
  4. Charmaine Chan, “From ‘The Magic Circle’,” We Are a Website No. 2 (Oct 2015), http://www.weareawebsite.com/charmaine-chan.html
  5. Agnes Chew, “Between Us, an Infinite Distance,” Junoesq Literary Journal No. 3 (Feb 2015), http://www.junoesq.com/?p=1083
  6. Grace Chia, The Cuckoo Conundrum (The NTU Residencies Chapbooks) (Singapore: Ethos Books, 2016).
  7. Clara Chow, “Ida Abandons Ship,” Blunderbuss Magazine (6 Jan 2015), http://www.blunderbussmag.com/ida-abandons-ship
  8. Chua Yini, “The Changeling,” We R Family: An Anthology, ed. Grace Chia (Singapore: Math Paper Press, 2016), 37-53
  9. Noelle Q. de Jesus, “First Love,” Blood: Collected Stories (Singapore: Ethos Books, 2015), 193-194
  10. ———, “Polar Vortex,” Blood: Collected Stories (Singapore: Ethos Books, 2015), 195-216
  11. Melissa De Silva, “The Adventures of Bear Man,” Quarterly Literary Review Singapore Vol. 15, No. 2 (Apr 2016), http://www.qlrs.com/story.asp?id=1259
  12. Daniel Emlyn-Jones, “The Last City,” Quarterly Literary Review Singapore Vol. 14, No. 1 (Jan 2015), http://qlrs.com/story.asp?id=1155
  13. Clarissa Goenawan, “The Visit,” Esquire (Singapore) (Jun/Jul 2016), “Montblanc Fiction Writing Project,” 152-153
  14. Jon Gresham, “The Model,” Esquire (Singapore) (Apr 2016), 131
  15. Heng Siok Tian, “An Apsara in Her Lotus Pond,” The Adopted: Stories from Angkor (Singapore: Ethos Books, 2015), 55-67
  16. Balli Kaur Jaswal, “Private Places,” BooksActually’s Gold Standard 2016, ed. Julie Koh (Singapore: Math Paper Press, 2016), 165-181
  17. Joseph Ng Zhen Ye, “Looking for the Moon,” Quarterly Literary Review Singapore Vol. 14, No. 1 (Jan 2015), http://qlrs.com/story.asp?id=1153
  18. Ng Yi-Sheng, “No Other City,” LONTAR: The Journal of Southeast Asian Speculative Fiction No. 4 (Spring 2015): 51-59
  19. ———, “The Boy, the Swordfish, the Bleeding Island,” LONTAR: The Journal of Southeast Asian Speculative Fiction No. 6 (Spring 2016): 19-34
  20. O Thiam Chin, “Exes,” Quarterly Literary Review Singapore Vol. 14, No. 3 (Jul 2015), http://qlrs.com/story.asp?id=1196
  21. Victor Fernando R. Ocampo, “Brother to Space, Sister to Time,” LONTAR: The Journal of Southeast Asian Speculative Fiction No. 6 (Spring 2016): 91-116
  22. Phan Ming Yen, “Lux Aeterna,” Quarterly Literary Review Singapore Vol. 14, No. 2 (Apr 2015), http://www.qlrs.com/story.asp?id=1173
  23. ———, “The Mother,” The Adopted: Stories from Angkor (Singapore: Ethos Books, 2015), 89-99
  24. Quek Shin Yi, “Before,” Drunken Boat No. 21, “Union” folio (2015), http://www.drunkenboat.com/db21/singapore-arts/quek-shin-yi
  25. Vinita Ramani, “Junk,” Esquire (Singapore) (Sep 2015), 107
  26. Ivan Lim Sheng, “Redemption,” Esquire (Singapore) (Aug 2016), “Montblanc Fiction Writing Project,” 104-105
  27. Inez Tan, “Crawling,” Quarterly Literary Review Singapore Vol. 14, No. 4 (Oct 2015), http://www.qlrs.com/story.asp?id=1214
  28. Simon Tay, “Grandmother: A Horror Story,” Middle and First: Stories (Singapore: Landmark Books, 2016), 181-215
  29. Verena Tay, “The Building,” Spaces: People/Places (Singapore: Math Paper Press, 2016), 79-85
  30. Shaista Tayabali, “PSSU,” We Are a Website No. 3 (Feb 2016), http://www.weareawebsite.com/shaista-tayabali.html
  31. Jeremy Tiang, “Meatpacking,” Drunken Boat No. 21, “Union” folio (2015), http://www.drunkenboat.com/db21/singapore-arts/jeremy-tiang
  32. ———, “1997,” The Brooklyn Rail No. 9 (Sep 2015), http://brooklynrail.org/2015/09/fiction/1997
  33. Maximilian Wong Wei Han, “Born in the wrong time, under the wrong star, in love with the moon,” Esquire (Singapore) (Jun/Jul 2016), “Montblanc Fiction Writing Project,” 150-151
  34. Daryl Qilin Yam, “Ichi-e, or, One Soup, Three Side Dishes,” Quarterly Literary Review Singapore Vol. 15, No. 3 (Jul 2016), http://www.qlrs.com/story.asp?id=1271
  35. JY Yang, “Her Majesty’s Lamborghini and the Girl with the Fish Tank,” LONTAR: The Journal of Southeast Asian Speculative Fiction No. 6 (Spring 2016): 75-90
  36. Yeo Wei Wei, “Branch,” Quarterly Literary Review Singapore Vol. 14, No. 3 (Jul 2015), http://qlrs.com/story.asp?id=1171
  37. ———, “The Art of Being Naked,” These Foolish Things & Other Stories (Singapore: Ethos Books, 2015), 47-65
  38. Yeow Kai Chai, “Flash Point,” The Adopted: Stories from Angkor (Singapore: Ethos Books, 2015), 123-131
  39. ———, “Red Dust,” The Adopted: Stories from Angkor (Singapore: Ethos Books, 2015), 161-169
  40. Yong Shu Hoong, “Suspended Animation,” The Adopted: Stories from Angkor (Singapore: Ethos Books, 2015), 35-43

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Announcing Best New Singaporean Short Stories: Volume Three

The Epigram Books Collection of Best New Singaporean Short Stories V3

Cover design by Yong Wen Yeu


I am very proud to announce the contents and cover design for the third volume of the Best New Singaporean Short Stories anthology series, guest edited by Cyril Wong, to be published in October 2017 by Epigram Books, and launched at Kinokuniya later that month.

The Epigram Books Collection of Best New Singaporean Short Stories: Volume Three gathers the finest Singaporean stories published in 2015 and 2016, selected from hundreds published in journals, magazines, anthologies and single-author collections. Accompanying the stories are the editor’s preface and an extensive list of honourable mentions for further reading.

Here is the table of contents:

  1. Cyril Wong | Preface
  2. Jason Erik Lundberg | Introduction
  3. Yeo Wei Wei | These Foolish Things
  4. Yeoh Jo-Ann | The Thing
  5. Jennifer Anne Champion | See It Coming
  6. Jon Gresham | Walking Backwards Up Bukit Timah Hill
  7. Ovidia Yu | Salvation Solution
  8. Andrew Cheah | A Century of Loneliness
  9. Daryl Qilin Yam | Thing Language
  10. Jason Wee | The City Beneath the City
  11. Amanda Lee Koe | Last Night I Dreamt That Harry Was In Love With Me
  12. Sam Ng | Prices
  13. Yeow Kai Chai | Dark Shades
  14. Andrew Yuen | Love in a Time of Dying
  15. Joelyn Alexandra | Junk Mail
  16. Leonora Liow | Falling Water
  17. SC Gordon | Claire
  18. Nuraliah Norasid | Madam Jamilah’s Family Portrait
  19. Jollin Tan | Better Places
  20. Noelle Q. de Jesus | In the End
  21. Su Leong | Peelings
  22. Verena Tay | The Sensualist
  23. Eva Aldea | Baba Ganoush
  24. Melissa De Silva | It Happened at Mount Pleasant
  25. O Thiam Chin | Campfire
  26. Clara Chow | Want Less
  27. Philip Holden | Library
  28. Manish Melwani | The Tigers of Bengal

Please join us for the book launch at Kinokuniya Neo SIMS (the main store on Orchard Road) on 28 October at 2:30pm. Cyril and I will be co-moderating, and the event will feature contributors Nuraliah Norasid, Clara Chow and Melissa De Silva.

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Worldcon-Bound

In about 32 hours, I will be on a plane bound for Worldcon 75 in Helsinki! The previous (and only) World Science Fiction Convention I attended was in Baltimore in 1998, nearly 20 years ago, and I haven’t been able to attend any conventions in the 10 years since moving to Singapore, so I’m very excited to throw myself into sf fandom once again. I’ve also never traveled to any of the Nordic countries, despite being one-quarter Swedish; the closest I’ve gotten is IKEA in Singapore (which ain’t the same). I’m also beside myself with anticipation at Helsinki’s autumnal weather right now, which will be a welcome break from the tropical heat and humidity of my adopted home.

I’m only participating in one programming event, which I’m moderating; here are the details:

Panel: Surreal Worlds of Southeast Asia (moderator)
with Aliette de Bodard and Victor Fernando R. Ocampo
Messukeskus Helsinki, Expo and Convention Centre, Room 204, 1000-1100am
Southeast Asia—a subregion of the world made up of 11 countries and over 620 million people—is undergoing a renaissance in speculative fiction. More and more authors from the region are spreading their strange stories to the rest of the world, aided by publications such as the long-running Philippine Speculative Fiction anthology series and LONTAR: The Journal of Southeast Asian Speculative Fiction. In this panel moderated by LONTAR‘s founding editor, Jason Erik Lundberg, two authors from Southeast Asia and its diaspora, Aliette de Bodard (France/Vietnam) and Victor Fernando R. Ocampo (Philippines), discuss their works in the context of worldwide speculative fiction in English, and the challenges that come with bringing their authentic voices to a global audience.

Otherwise, I’ll be wandering through the dealers’ room (and likely buying too many books), checking out the art show, attending panels and readings and kaffeeklatsches and the Hugo Awards ceremony, catching up with friends, and also exploring Helsinki itself. This is the first actual vacation I’ve had in years, and I’ll be taking full advantage of it.

I’m also bringing copies of Fish Eats Lion, several (though not all) issues of LONTAR, and the now out-of-print first edition of Red Dot Irreal, for sale at the Independent Authors table in the Trade Hall. Because I have to haul them myself all the way from Singapore, I won’t be bringing many copies, so they might go fast; better to snag them sooner than later.

I still have some last-minute things to take care of today and tomorrow, and then I’ll be flying to Finland! Yay Worldcon!

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POP AYE in Theatres (But Not For Long)

POP AYE, the first feature film by Singaporean auteur Kirsten Tan, is out now in theatres in Singapore for what will likely be a limited run. It has already won a Special Jury Prize in the World Cinema Dramatic Competition section at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival, and the VPRO Big Screen Award at the International Film Festival Rotterdam in the Netherlands. It’s gotten a lot of international attention; the Hollywood Reporter called it “an assured and noteworthy feature debut”.

Here’s the synopsis:

POP AYE is a road movie with an elephant set in Thailand. It tells the story of Thana, a disenchanted architect, who bumps into Popeye, his long-lost childhood elephant, on the streets of Bangkok. Dissatisfied with his current life in the city, Thana takes his elephant on a road trip across Thailand, in search of the rural farm where they grew up together.

Along the way, they meet a host of characters—a fortune-telling vagabond, a pokerfaced policeman, a crematorium monk, a lonely transsexual karaoke singer—who colour their journey, as various mishaps (sometimes absurd, sometimes poignant, sometimes both absurd and poignant at once) befall them on the road.

I saw the film on opening night last Thursday, and it blew me away. Tan’s voice as an independent filmmaker is assured and empathetic, and she coaxed incredible performances from her cast of non-professional actors (including one very expressive elephant). She did a Q&A for the night, and the discussion about her writing and development process was fascinating; it took her three years of just working on the script before filming a single scene, and she worked incredibly closely with several Thai translators to make sure that the dialogue worked in both English and Thai.

Because this is an indie film, it won’t stay in theatres here for very long, but attendance right now can help to prolog the run. If you’re in Singapore, it’s playing right now at Golden Village cinemas at Plaza Singapura and VivoCity, but I recommend seeing it at The Projector (Singapore’s only art-house theatre) if you can.

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EB Authors at Kino for World Book Day!

If I could put on my editor’s hat for a moment, four of my authors at Epigram Books, as well as your humble narrator, will be appearing this Saturday afternoon at Kinokuniya’s Singapore main store as part of their World Book Day celebrations!

At 2pm, I will be moderating a panel on “Worlds Beyond Words” with our #EBFP2015-longlisted authors: Daryl Qilin Yam, Imran Hashim and Kevin Martens Wong. All three of their first novels (Kappa Quartet, Annabelle Thong and Altered Straits) go beyond Singapore’s shores to other places (and in Kevin’s case, to parallel worlds), so the discussion should be a fascinating one.

And at 4pm, Balli Kaur Jaswal will be appearing for a meet-the-author session to promote her new novel Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows, recently published by HarperCollins UK! (And although the session will focus on the new novel, copies of Inheritance and Sugarbread will be available for sale.)

So come celebrate World Book Day with us Saturday, and get some fantastic books signed!

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A Taste of My Long-Form Fiction

My agent, Kristopher O’Higgins (Scribe Agency), is currently shopping around two pieces of my long-form fiction, and I realized recently that there’s almost no trace of them here at my website (aside from a brief mention in my bio). So I’ve decided to put up a preview of each work, just a few thousand words, to give y’all a taste, and hopefully whet your appetite for more:

A Fickle and Restless Weapon — a 130,000-word Calvino-esque psychological novel about transnational characters using varied art forms to struggle against a Southeast Asian surveillance state. With explosions.

Quek Zhou Ma (who goes under the stage name Zed), an internationally successful dramatist, arrives home in the equatorial island-nation of Tinhau after a long absence in order to attend the funeral of his older sister, who has committed suicide by train. As he deals with conflicting feelings about a homeland he hardly recognizes, and the lingering questions surrounding his sister’s death, he decides to produce a lavish spare-no-expense production in conjunction with the Ministry of Culture, but opening night is marred by a nearby bombing attributed to a local resistance group calling themselves PAKATAN.

Tara, a transplanted Indian by way of America, works for the Ministry of Culture as a graphic designer, and leads Buddhist meditation circles on the weekends, which is where she first meets Zed. With an uncanny knack for both reading and influencing the behavior of others, she has found herself uneasily associated with PAKATAN, and despite her stance on non-violence she is charged with bringing Zed over to the cause. But as the pair begin to grow closer, she has doubts about whether she can complete her task.

Vahid Nabizadeh, Zed’s creative partner and a master puppeteer, stays in Tinhau after the end of their production. An Iranian Briton, already once removed from his native country, he finds a home in the culture and cuisine of Tinhau, and an unlikely friendship with Kelvin de Vries, an Indo-Dutch son of Tinhau’s most successful business magnate. As Vahid comes to grips with his new life, he inadvertently becomes embroiled in political and financial intrigue that threatens to unbalance the stability of the government itself.

A Fickle and Restless Weapon explores the relationships between these characters, and the ways that they deal with their disaffected identities, as well as the disruption and chaos that occurs when Tinhau is abruptly attacked by the Range, a mysterious cloud formation that appears without warning and destroys without mercy, a weapon as fickle and restless as the human mind.

***

 
The Diary of One Who Disappeared — a 30,000-word novella that takes place 25 years after the events of A Fickle and Restless Weapon, and shares the same fantastical milieu (but can be read as a standalone piece).

Peak oil, the climate crisis, and the economic collapse of the USA in the late 20th century have impacted Tinhau, one of many countries that has depended heavily on the American capitalist engine; yet Tinhau’s government not only has survived the shock, but appears to be thriving.

Lucas Lehrer is a minor functionary in the Department of Economic and Spiritual Development, headquartered at the North American Union’s capitol in New York City. He is tasked with traveling from the NAU to Tinhau via airship to liaise with officials there and extend the offer of partnership. Lucas’s immediate supervisor on the mission is his estranged wife Ailene, and he hopes that the trip will also reinvigorate their failing marriage.

After arriving at their destination, they are met with religious and cultural differences that cause negotiations to break down. Ailene announces her intention of divorce as soon as they return to NYC, and in an act of rebellion Lucas decides to request asylum to stay in Tinhau. As he begins his new job at Tinhau’s Ministry of Stability, he encounters an odd series of coincidences, in which his deep-seated desires start coming true. He also befriends an emerging Chinese-language poet named Yu-Wei, a young woman who is not what she seems, and who may not be from our universe at all.

***

 
Hope you enjoy!

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Read The Question of Red for free

I was recently asked by Gareth Richards of Gerakbudaya Bookshop in Penang to pick the three best books I read that were published in 2016. It was a real challenge narrowing it down to only three (I could have easily listed 20 or 30), but in the end I chose one graphic novel / collected comics volume (Monstress, Volume 1: Awakening by Marjorie Liu & Sana Takeda), one short fiction collection (The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories by Ken Liu), and one novel (The Question of Red by Laksmi Pamuntjak), the last of which I want to talk just a bit more about.

US edition of The Question of Red

Laksmi Pamuntjak has published collections of verse and short stories, and five editions of the Jakarta Good Food Guide. She is proficiently bilingual in both Indonesian and English, and has translated two works of Indonesian poet and essayist Goenawan Mohamad. The Question of Red was first published in Indonesian in 2012 by Gramedia Pustaka Utama, and became an instant hit. The German edition did so as well, winning the LiBeraturpreis in 2016, appearing on the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung’s Top 8 list of the best books of the Frankfurt Book Fair 2015, and being named best work of fiction from Asia, America, Latin America, and the Caribbean translated into German on the Weltempfaenger (Receivers of the World) list.

An English translation was hurriedly produced by Gramedia in 2013, but Laksmi later did a ground-up revisiting of the text, transcreating the novel in English, and this is the edition published earlier this year by AmazonCrossing in the US and by Speaking Tiger in the Indian Subcontinent.

I met Laksmi when she was a featured author at the 2015 Singapore Writers Festival, and she signed my copy of the Indonesia-only limited English edition (which may now be a collector’s item, as it’s now out of print), but urged me to find the new edition in 2016 and read it instead. Which is what I did. And no other novel I read this year came even close to what an amazing book this is. You can find the description and effusive blurbs on the author’s official book page, so I won’t rehash them here, except to say that I LOVED this novel. It took me two months to read, which is a long time for me, even for a book of this size, because I kept stopping to savour the writing and the imagery and the depth of feeling that infuses every page. I’m just in awe of how epic and heartbreaking it is, and written so beautifully. The Question of Red is an amazing work of art, tackling darkness and redemption and love, and it inspires me to get back to my own writing pronto.

Indian Subcontinent edition of The Question of Red

And I was puzzled that the novel has frankly received little attention in the American book world. It’s gotten a few reviews, but none yet in mainstream literary publications. It is unfortunately entirely possible that it has been overlooked by review venues and bookstores because of its Amazonian association (which, if true, is an incredible shame). I am no fan of Amazon myself, but I’m quite willing to put that aside in order to help shine a bigger light on this incredible novel.

The list price of the book on Amazon is $14.95, but it’s marked down to $8.67, which is already an incredible deal. However, starting now and continuing for the next three months, the book is absolutely free to read as part of the Prime Reading program in the US. Meaning that until the end of March, if you’re an Amazon Prime member, you can read the book for zero dollars (you should automatically see the “Read for Free” option).

You owe it to yourself to read this remarkable book, and with prices so low (or free), there’s really no reason not to. And once you’ve read it, do leave a review on the Amazon page. Go on, make this one of your New Year’s resolutions.

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The 2016 George Town Literary Festival

This past weekend, I flew up to Penang for the 2016 George Town Literary Festival. It was my first time in Penang, and I definitely want to go back when I actually have the time to check the place out. George Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and so many beautiful old buildings are protected, including Wisma Yeap Chor Ee (WYCE), which was the main GTLF venue. (Although this meant no air-conditioning during some very sweltering days.)

I had a wonderful time seeing some familiar faces (Marc de Faoite, Sharon Bakar, Amanda Lee Koe, Tash Aw, Darryl Whetter), as well as making new friends (James Scudamore, Tishani Doshi, Jérôme Bouchaud, Faisal Tehrani, Ismail Gareth Richards, Amir Muhammad). I was also happy to finally meet the indefatigable Bernice Chauly in person; we’ve been Facebook friends for years, and I’ll be editing her first novel for Epigram Books in 2017.

The festival theme, Hiraeth, was threaded throughout the many panels and readings over the weekend, in explorations of longing, homelands, identity, and the role of fiction. It was a privilege to hear from such thoughtful writers who’d come from all over the world to talk about their work in the context of this framework.

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Carol the Coral: My New Picture Book!

Carol the Coral cover

A couple of months ago, I was approached by Goodstuph, a brand manager and advertising agency in Singapore, about writing a new children’s picture book for a campaign they were doing with development company Keppel Land, concerning marine ecosystem conservation in Keppel Bay. As part of their “Homes in the Sea” initiative, they’ve been growing young coral in a nursery and then transplanting them to an existing coral reef at King’s Dock.

After meeting and discussing the idea, I came up with Carol the Coral, a story about a feisty young coral who discovers King’s Dock while looking for a new home, and who must contend with a grumpy clam who wants the spot that she has claimed. The book was to consist of four chapters, all of which had to be approved by the client, and after a bit of fumbling at the beginning while trying to understand what they were looking for, I sent them a plot summary for each chapter, and then got to work on breaking these down on the page level.

Once the text was written, artist Annabella Goh went to work on adapting it visually and laying out the text on each page. And she did such an amazing job enhancing the story through her whimsical art style. Carol is incredibly cute (while also quite capable of handling herself), and there were even some surprises that made me laugh out loud (such as seeing the pistol shrimp henchmen in chapter 3 really look like gangsters; one has a missing eye, and the other wears a trilby).

Chapter 1 was released at the Keppel Land Live FB page on 28 May, and each subsequent chapter every three or four days later; the final chapter went up today! Each chapter is introduced with a question to the viewer, and if you answer correctly, you’re put in the running to win to tickets to the new Pixar film, Finding Dory! (Which I’m totally taking Anya to see in the theatre.) The contest ends on 12 June 2016, 11.59pm UTC+08:00, so don’t delay!

In addition, Keppel Land will be producing a limited-edition print book that publishes the entire story. As much as I wish it would be available in bookstores along with my other books, they’re not interested in becoming a publisher, and will only be using the book for giveaways. So really, the best way for you to see it is online.

I have to say that this has been a great experience, and I’ve learned a lot from it. I had the preconceived notion that doing corporate work would be soul-deadening, but the collaboration with Anna, and the working relationship with the folks at both Keppel Land and Goodstuph, has been quite fulfilling! Also, since Bo Bo and Cha Cha is currently on hiatus, I’m especially glad to have a new picture book come out this year.

So please enjoy the adventures of Carol the Coral!

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