Fish Eats Lion Redux on Page Turners

CNA Page Turners

I was interviewed last week by Melanie Oliveiro for her Page Turners podcast at Channel NewsAsia, and the episode has just gone live! In it, I talk about putting together Fish Eats Lion Redux, and give some attention to some of the stories within. It’s always wonderful having a discussion with Melanie, and she asked some great questions, including a few I wasn’t expecting. Fair warning: I’d downed a Red Bull not long before arriving at the Mediacorp campus, so be prepared to hear me talk at roughly nine million miles an hour!

Also, I just realised that I never posted the photos here of the two launches we did for FELR in November 2022. So here you go. (All photos below were taken by Samantha Yap for Epigram Books.)

The first launch was at the Singapore Writers Festival on 12 November. It was well-attended (with Ted Chiang and his wife in the audience) and I was glad that folks dropped by. Suffian nearly didn’t make it because of work commitments, but was able to arrive in time to read from his story. Many thanks to the SWF organisers at The Arts House for giving us a slot to promote the book.

Participants L to R: Jason Erik Lundberg, Ng Yi-Sheng, Meihan Boey, Wen-yi Lee & Suffian Hakim

The second launch was at Kinokuniya‘s main store on Orchard Road on 26 November, and was a raging success! The Crossroads area was absolutely packed, and we spent about 30 minutes afterwards signing copies! A million thanks to Gek Huay for coordinating things, and Kenny Chan for being such a constant source of support for the strange books I’m involved with, as well as everyone at Kino. It’s wonderful to have such enthusiasm for the books we produce.

Participants L to R: Inez Tan, Felicia Low-Jimenez, Jason Erik Lundberg, Cyril Wong and Victor Fernando R. Ocampo

Contributors L to R: Wen-yi Lee, Inez Tan, Felicia Low-Jimenez, Jason Erik Lundberg, Cyril Wong, Victor Fernando R. Ocampo, Wayne Rée, Ng Yi-Sheng and Daryl Qilin Yam (not pictured)

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Fish Eats Lion Redux Review and Launch Info

Fish Eats Lion Redux was given a four-star review in The Straits Times this past weekend! The article singled out several individual pieces, and had some very nice things to say about the book as a whole:

“Powerfully imaginative and artfully crafted. Like the best speculative fiction, many of the stories explore with an alternate lens of the past, present or future social commentary on how a society lives. A strong showing from some of the best, as well as some of the newest and freshest, in the business.”

The full review can be found online, though it’s behind a subscriber paywall. However, if you click the image above, you might be able to read the whole thing.

Also, as mentioned in the previous post, we will be doing a two-part launch for the book, in order to feature as many of our contributors as possible. If you can, please do come to either event (or both!) and get your copies signed by some wonderful writers of imaginative fiction. Details below:

Book Launch Part 1: Fish Eats Lion Redux
Singapore Writers Festival
12 Nov, 400-500pm
with Meihan Boey, Ng Yi-Sheng, Wen-yi Lee & Suffian Hakim
The Arts House, Living Room

Book Launch Part 2: Fish Eats Lion Redux
26 Nov, 300-430pm
with Cyril Wong, Felicia Low-Jimenez, Inez Tan & Victor Fernando R. Ocampo
Kinokuniya Singapore Main Store

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My Schedule of Events for 2022 SWF

The Singapore Writers Festival is back in person this year, and extended from two weekends to three! Here are my events; hope to see you there!

1. Book Launch: Fish Eats Lion Redux (moderator)
12 Nov, 400–500pm
with Meihan Boey, Ng Yi-Sheng, Wen-yi Lee & Suffian Hakim
The Arts House, Living Room
Free admission

Fifteen powerfully imaginative authors examine Singapore in the distant past, in the far future, and on various points along the multiverse in Fish Eats Lion Redux. Join us and celebrate the release of this anthology of speculative short stories that The Straits Times calls “a strong showing from some of the best, as well as some of the newest and freshest, in the business”. Four of our contributors will present the visions of Singapore conjured in their stories, and discuss what went into their creation.

2. Panel: Just the World I’m Looking For: The Multiverse and Fiction (moderator)
12 Nov, 630–730pm
with Victor Fernando R. Ocampo, Nuraliah Norasid & Meihan Boey
Asian Civilisations Museum, Ngee Ann Auditorium
Festival Pass

The age-old struggle between fate and chance. The dreams and fantasies we cling to as testaments to all the versions of ourselves we could have been. We’re familiar with multiverse theory in science (and Doctor Strange), but does it hold any weight in fiction about the everyday, and do we need it? Four authors discuss the logic of creating alternate timelines, the recent interest in multiverse theory among fiction writers, and whether the multiverse provides us with answers about all the “what ifs” in our lives. This is your road not taken.

3. Panel: A Warning, or a Mirror? – Living in a Dystopian World
13 Nov, 330–430pm
with Tulika Ahuja (mod), Kass Morgan, Sylvie Denis & Jon Alexander
Asian Civilisations Museum, Ngee Ann Auditorium
Festival Pass

Recording yourself doing anything. Tracking everything from calories to your partner’s whereabouts. Living life in a metaverse. Robots… everywhere ᴮˡᵃᶜᵏ ᴹᶦʳʳᵒʳ ᴬˡᵉʳᵗ ! Not gonna lie, our world’s looking a little sTrAnGe these days with these various growing impulses. As fiction blurs with reality, four speakers answer the question: are we already living in a dystopia?

4. Panel: Occupying the “If”: Embracing the Unknown
19 Nov, 1100am – 1200pm
with Barrie Sherwood (mod), Ang Shuang & Clarissa Goenawan
Asian Civilisations Museum, Discovery Room
Festival Pass

It’s time to burn all your SparkNotes and cheatsheets. There’s a life beyond agonising over the “true” meaning of the text, unleashing your frustration with unreliable narrators, and ragequitting unsolved mystery cliffhangers. We’ve brought in three writers who thrive in the unknown, and for whom aggravating ambiguity transforms into imaginative possibilities. How deep will the rabbit hole go?


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Now Available for Preorder: Fish Eats Lion Redux!

Fish Eats Lion Redux

Fish Eats Lion Redux is now at the printers, and is therefore available for preorder! If you order now directly from Epigram Books, you’ll get a 10% discount and your copy will be signed by yours truly.

I am so excited about the release of this book, y’all. It is a very worthy successor to Fish Eats Lion, which changed the speculative fiction landscape in Singapore 10 years ago, and this new anthology is set to inspire even more local writers to create their own strange stories. I sometimes can’t believe how fortunate I am to present such staggering works of the imagination to the reading public.

In November, we’ll be organising a two-part book launch: at the Singapore Writers Festival on the 12th, and at Kinokuniya Singapore’s main store on the 26th. Details are below, including the featured contributors who will be participating in each event. Mark your calendars now!

SWF FELR Launch (Part One)
🕑 12 Nov, 4–5pm
📍 The Arts House, Living Room
🗣 Meihan Boey, Ng Yi-Sheng, Wen-yi Lee & Suffian Hakim

Kino FELR Launch (Part Two)
🕑 26 Nov, 3–4:30pm
📍 Kinokuniya SIMS (Ngee Ann City)
🗣 Cyril Wong, Felicia Low-Jimenez, Inez Tan & Victor Fernando R. Ocampo

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Announcing the Guest Editor for BNSSSv6!

BNSSSv6 editors

I am very happy to announce that Gwee Li Sui will be the guest editor for Volume Six of the biennial Best New Singaporean Short Stories anthology series! (And I remain the series editor.) We’re currently reading for the volume, and it’ll be published by Epigram Books in late 2023.

Gwee has long been a part of the Singaporean literary scene as a poet, graphic artist, lecturer and literary critic. Some of his many books include poetry collection This Floating World, nonfiction poetry guide FEAR NO POETRY! and language companion Spiaking Singlish. Gwee has also translated into Singlish works by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (The Leeter Tunku), Beatrix Potter (The Tale of Peter Labbit) and the Brothers Grimm (Grimms’ Fairy Tales in Singlish). He wrote and illustrated Singapore’s first English-language graphic novel Myth of the Stone back in 1993, which was re-released in 2013 by Epigram Books.

If you have a story that was originally published in 2021 or 2022, email me at jason[at]epigram[dot]sg by midnight SGT on 15 February 2023, so that we can consider it. We are only looking at already published short stories, released in these two years. Please do not email Gwee directly, or try to message either of us another way, as these will be deleted unread. We will finalise our decisions later on, but contact me sooner rather than later to ensure that your story gets proper consideration.

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Announcing the Contents for Fish Eats Lion Redux!

Fish Eats Lion Redux

The contracts have all been signed, so I can now officially announce the contents for my new anthology, Fish Eats Lion Redux, forthcoming from Epigram Books in October/November! (Cover design by Priscilla Wong.)

  • Stay in the Sun | Meihan Boey
  • L’Appel Du Vide | Victor Fernando R. Ocampo
  • Tiger Girls | Felicia Low-Jimenez
  • Insert Credit to Continue | Stuart Danker
  • Longkang at the End of the World | Kimberly Lium
  • Down Into the Waters | Wayne Rée
  • Road Trip | Izzy Liyana Harris
  • Blood Double | Sithuraj Ponraj
  • Blue | Cyril Wong
  • Wife, Skin, Keeper, Slick | Wen-yi Lee
  • 315 | Daryl Qilin Yam
  • Asha Hanar’s Dowry | Nuraliah Norasid
  • Multiversal Adapter | Suffian Hakim
  • The Dog Frontier | Inez Tan
  • Sejarah | Ng Yi-Sheng

I’m so excited about this book; it’s a very worthy successor to Fish Eats Lion (2012), and keeps moving speculative fiction in Singapore forward. I can’t wait for you all to read these incredible stories!



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A Story Is a Promise

This past weekend, I moderated an event called A Story Is a Promise: Short Fiction in an Age of Survival, which was streamed live on the Epigram Books Facebook page. It was a panel discussion about the role of short stories during these tumultuous times, as well as a book launch for Best New Singaporean Short Stories: Volume Five, guest edited by Balli Kaur Jaswal. Balli and I were joined by contributors Ng Yi-Sheng, Jayashree Panicker and Anittha Thanabalan, who read extracts from their stories and talked about what short fiction means to them.

If you missed the live broadcast, you can now watch the video below.

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SWF2021 events now on VOD

Both of my events for the 2021 Singapore Writers Festival are now available to watch via Video-on-Demand on SISTIC; you’ll need to buy a VOD Pass for $12 SGD, but it’ll give you access to all the panels and author events available there until 28 Nov (this coming Sunday).

Unravelling the Human Psyche in Fiction
with Carolyn Camoens (moderator), Prayaag Akbar and Clarissa Goenawan

How much of the personal is political, and vice versa? We ask writers whose imperfect protagonists and compelling character dynamics give readers a glimpse into the complexity of the human psyche, all about the tensions of writing the interior while addressing the larger forces that shape human relationships and behaviour.

Unravelling the Human Psyche in Fiction
Unravelling the Human Psyche in Fiction


Man Vs Machine (moderator)
with Becky Chambers, Aase Berg and Victor Fernando R. Ocampo

How has artificial intelligence given rise to new writing on the robot-human relationship? Can the speculative play a role in normalising otherness and shed light on what it means when contemplating a post-human existence?

Man Vs Machine
Man Vs Machine


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Official entry in the SFE

SFE entrySomething that 20-year-old me would have been freaking out about more than a little bit: if you search the online Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, you’ll now find an entry devoted to me and my work!

This is a big honour and I greatly appreciate it. In 1995, when I was still eight years from publication, I picked up the second edition of the Encyclopedia in print (a massive book) not long after it was released in the US, and it was an incredible resource that connected me to a long lineage of speculative fiction writers. All the authors that I revered and enjoyed were included, along with bibliographic data that pushed my nerdiest buttons.

It’s so cool that I now share space with those luminaries. Many thanks to John Clute and David Langford for including me in the SFE, and to Pete Young for his part in making this possible.

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Call for Submissions: FISH EATS LION REDUX

Fish Eats Lion Redux



2022 will see the ten-year anniversary of the groundbreaking publication of Fish Eats Lion: New Singaporean Speculative Fiction. This anthology was one of the catalysts that opened the door of acceptability for speculative fiction in Singapore, leading to an exponential boost that continues to this day.

To celebrate this decadal milestone, I have decided to assemble a follow-up anthology, Fish Eats Lion Redux, to be published in late 2022 by Epigram Books. Anchor contributors include Cyril Wong, Daryl Qilin Yam, Inez Tan, Meihan Boey, Ng Yi-Sheng, Nuraliah Norasid, Shelly Bryant and Victor Fernando R. Ocampo.


As with the first book, I am looking for new and innovative original short speculative fiction (which includes science fiction and fantasy, as well as any associated subgenres, such as magic realism, space opera, steampunk, post-apocalypse, etc.), in English. There also needs to be a Singaporean connection:

  • your protagonist is Singaporean (i.e. born or naturalised in Singapore),
  • your protagonist (Singaporean or otherwise) is living in Singapore at the time of your story (i.e. Singapore is the setting), OR
  • your story’s themes are inspired by life in Singapore.

As long as your narrative contains at least one of the above elements, you’re encouraged to write whatever story you choose.

And please do not feel limited to just writing about our current era; challenge yourself to write a story set in Singapore’s recent or distant past, or in the near or far future (keeping in mind how recent events, and especially the Covid-19 pandemic, will have an impact on days yet to come). Also, the fantastical/science-fictional element must be integral to your story (i.e. the story wouldn’t make any sense if you took it out). A good list of clichéd SF story premises to avoid can be found at TV Tropes.

In addition, you don’t have to write a story especially for the anthology (although I hope you’ll take up that challenge), but your submission must be previously unpublished in any form.

Remember that the book’s subtitle is More New Singaporean Speculative Fiction; if your story is not new, Singaporean, speculative or fiction, it will not be eligible.

Singaporean citizens and permanent residents will be prioritised, though submissions are open to anybody in the world.


Stories are recommended to be between 3,000 and 5,000 words, with a maximum of 7,500 words.


We are offering $50 SGD and two (2) contributor copies of the published anthology, as well as a discount on further copies.


The deadline is 15 February 2022, midnight SGT; any submissions sent afterward will not be considered. Please consult the Get Published page on Epigram Books’ website for formatting and punctuation. Send your story in DOC/DOCX format as an attachment, along with cover letter, to; submissions sent in other file formats, or as text in the body of the email, will be deleted unread.



Filed under Editing, Publishing, Singapore

Events for 2021 SWF

Singapore Writers Festival 2021I’ll be appearing once again at the Singapore Writers Festival next month (my eleventh year in a row as a featured author), and even though there will be a mix of online and in-person events, the festival will be primarily virtual, as it was last year. Which I knew was coming, but it still makes me a bit sad that for the second year in a row, the pandemic has made it impossible for me to see many of my friends in the literary scene face to face.

However, the benefit is that anyone with a Festival Pass can watch my events from anywhere in the world! I’ll be participating in two panels this year, so catch them if you can:

Unravelling the Human Psyche in Fiction (livestream)
with Carolyn Camoens (moderator), Prayaag Akbar and Clarissa Goenawan

How much of the personal is political, and vice versa? We ask writers whose imperfect protagonists and compelling character dynamics give readers a glimpse into the complexity of the human psyche, all about the tensions of writing the interior while addressing the larger forces that shape human relationships and behaviour.

   📅: Saturday, 6 Nov 2021
   🕣: 4.00–5.00pm SGT
   📍: SWF 2021 Live

Man Vs Machine (moderator) (pre-recorded)
with Becky Chambers, Aase Berg and Victor Fernando R. Ocampo

How has artificial intelligence given rise to new writing on the robot-human relationship? Can the speculative play a role in normalising otherness and shed light on what it means when contemplating a post-human existence?

   📅: Sunday, 7 Nov 2021
   🕣: 11.30am–12.30pm SGT
   📍: SWF 2021 Live

See you there!

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Favourites at the Year’s End

We are now at the end of a very long and very disruptive year, and though we have not yet come out the other side of the Covid-19 pandemic, at least that other side is now visible. The first people to take the new vaccine(s) have been vaccinated, the US election has been definitively decided, and (in Singapore, at least) restrictions are now being eased as we progress into Phase 3 of the so-called Circuit Breaker.

The end of the year is always a time of introspection and looking back, and that is especially apposite this year. The world has irrevocably changed because of the events of 2020, but I’m hopeful that 2021 will be a period of reconstruction and recovery where, even if we don’t get back to “normal”, we can return to something approaching the Before Times.

But now, to shift to something lighter. I subscribe to an email newsletter from Belletrist, a site celebrating books that might have slipped through the cracks or which are not getting a big marketing push from their publishers. Every so often, they do a quick-fire interview with an author about their favourite things, and I like this format so much that I am shamelessly pinching it for my own purposes.

1. What are your five favourite books that you read in the last year, and why?

According to Goodreads, I only read 42 books this year, which makes sense; the pandemic made it very difficult to concentrate on pleasure reading, especially since reading novels is my day job. But there were some definite gems in that list.

I came a bit late to The Memory Police by Yōko Ogawa, but it both delighted and devastated me. Its absurdist premise is tragic and its examination of loss broke my heart thoroughly.

Ken Liu’s second collection, The Hidden Girl and Other Stories, was one of the few short story collections I read this year, and it did not disappoint. Full of Ken’s fierce imagination and empathy, the book’s pieces showcase an intrinsic understanding of humanity’s direction, and very likely posthuman future.

I’ve been a fan of Zadie Smith since the first publication of White Teeth, and so the release of Intimations, a slim of-the-moment collection of personal essays written during the Covid-19 lockdown, was a wonderful surprise. Her keen thoughtfulness is on full display, and it was a pleasure to see her discuss its genesis during the 2020 Singapore Writers Festival.

I re-read Terri’s Windling’s first (and so far only) novel The Wood Wife, having forgotten much of the book’s plot since I first came across it over twenty years ago. And this was the best way to re-view it, because I fell in love with the protagonist and her new desert home, and also the rabbit girl Thumper, all over again. Terri’s always been a strong influence on my career as a writer and editor, and she’s more recently become an important and valued friend, so I’m incredibly excited that she’s now hard at work on a sequel.

And finally, I tend to not single out books that I edit for Epigram Books, because it then puts those books in competition (and all the books I edit hold a special place in my heart), but I particularly enjoyed A Good True Thai by Sunisa Manning, which was a finalist for the 2020 Epigram Books Fiction Prize. It’s a phenomenally human story amid tense student protests and epic love triangles, and it was an utter pleasure to work on.

(Okay, the rest of these answers will be much shorter. Sorry about that.)

2. What book are you especially looking forward to reading in the year ahead?

On Fragile Waves by E. Lily Yu. I adore her short fiction, and can’t wait to crack open her debut novel.

3. What is your favourite bookstore?

Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh, NC. I’m also inordinately fond of The Strand in New York City, and Kinokuniya here in Singapore.

4. What are three things you cannot do without?

My Strand messenger bag (a gift from my sister, which is now sold out, making it doubly precious), my iPhone 8 (a constant companion, to my occasional dismay), and the love of my daughter, family and friends (sappy but true).

5. What is one podcast you highly recommend?

I don’t listen regularly to podcasts these days since I now work from home, but I quite enjoy David Tennant Does a Podcast. Tennant is my Doctor (the 10th on Doctor Who), and a fantastic actor in whatever project he takes on, but he’s also a superb interviewer. His conversations, very often with other entertainers, are always enlightening.

6. What are you currently watching?

Right now: Hilda S2, Star Trek: Discovery S3, The Legend of Korra S1, Big Mouth S4, Song Exploder S2; and recently: The Crown S4, Mank!, Bumblebee, and the sublime The Queen’s Gambit. These are all on Netflix, but when Disney+ comes to Singapore in February 2021, I will watch all the things.

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Artistic Self-Doubt, and then Unexpected Encouragement

Fickle reviewed at SG UnboundBit of a long post, so please bear with me.

Part of being an artist of any kind is dealing with days where you doubt yourself and wonder whether it’s even worth continuing in your chosen field. Today was one of those days for me, a big ol’ pity party about the fact that, because A Fickle and Restless Weapon had been released during the pandemic, it hasn’t reached the number of readers I might have hoped for in the past six months or even made a dent in the cultural awareness of the reading public in Singapore or anywhere else. It’s the thing that’s creative death to any writer, that feeling of utter obscurity.

And so my brain was telling me this story again and again throughout the day, basically convincing me that my career was over and that I just didn’t matter, when two totally unexpected things happened to me.

1. I received an unprompted email from Pico Iyer. Yes, that Pico Iyer. We first met in September 2018, at the Epigram Books office, in a preliminary meeting about a book he was publishing with us, called This Could Be Home: Raffles Hotel and the City of Tomorrow (released in Singapore and the UK in 2019). We apparently hit it off, and have written to each other several times since then. His email today was concerned with the fact that his editor on the book, Eldes Tran (who also edited my three most recent books), has left for Manila, and that I was now his “Man in Epigram” on matters relating to the book and (crossing fingers) any others he might publish with us.

But among all this, he said some very kind and generous things about my own writing, which I’d shared with him some time back, as well as admiration of the fact that I can “soar into other genres and freshly reimagine the world”. It was so surprising and out of the blue, and so so appreciated. I often feel like I’m shouting into a hurricane with my work, and it did my heart so much good to see that someone whom I respect immensely and whose work I always enjoy saw something in my creative endeavours worth praising, just when I needed to hear it.

2. I received another email this evening from Jee Leong Koh announcing that A Fickle and Restless Weapon had been reviewed quite favourably at Singapore Unbound. I immediately opened the link and read with both anticipation and fear, but found that Samantha Neugebauer had done my novel the honour of a fair and thorough evaluation. The fact that she spent so much time examining and picking apart what she appreciated (including an unintended comparison to “John Hersey’s celebrated 1946 New Yorker article-turned-book, Hiroshima, where Hersey’s narrative eye swoops in on several citizens of Japan right before, during, and after the horrific dropping of the atomic bomb”), made me feel seen and respected for my art.

WARNING: the review is unapologetically packed with spoilers, so if you haven’t read the book yet and/or don’t want to be spoiled on the details, maybe give it a miss. If you have read the book or don’t give a shit about spoilers, then click on!

It’s a bit difficult to find a pull quote in a review that gives so much of the book away, but here’s a good one:

“[A Fickle and Restless Weapon] brims with larger-than-life events and heroic actions, but most impressive are the three, imperfect protagonists, trying to figure out their identities in a complex, shifting society. Lundberg’s Tinhau is a vibrant, deadly and creative world, much like our own.”

What a wonderful Xmas present, to be validated and critically encouraged twice on an especially low day. I suppose I’ll keep this writing thing up for a little while longer after all. 🙂

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Videos Galore! (update)

October was a very busy month, and thankfully I was able to do some more major promotion for A Fickle and Restless Weapon, five months after publication!

1. On Saturday, 24 October at 8.30pm SGT, over 50 people attended the novel’s official virtual book launch, featuring me in conversation with my very dear friend Dean Francis Alfar, hosted by Epigram Books on Zoom and livestreamed to Facebook Live. And as much as I missed having an in-person event, I was also happy that so many people who would not have been able to attend otherwise had the chance to be there (like, for example, my family in the US, and Terri Windling in the UK). It was a fun and casual and joyful hour that mostly felt like two old friends chatting, and I’m very happy with how it went. The launch recording is now available on the publisher’s Youtube channel:

2. I’ve known Sharon Bakar out of Kuala Lumpur for a while now, and in 2012 she invited me to read in KL as part of the long-running Readings@Seksan series. Because of the pandemic, the series has now gone digital as Readings@Home, and I was flattered when she and host Sumitra Selvaraj so generously allowed me to participate in the series for October. It was a pleasure to share the same online space as Golda Mowe, William Tham Wai Liang, Melizarani T. Selva and Zen Cho. Since the video was being released on Hallowe’en, the passage I decided to read is concerned with my puppeteer character Vahid, and the ghost of his best friend who makes a startling appearance (it starts at 32:16):

3. This was the ninth consecutive year that I was invited as a featured author at the Singapore Writers Festival, which is something I’m deeply grateful for and hope to never take for granted. I was on one panel this year, “Worldbuilding: The Devil’s in the Details,” moderated by Wayne Rée (who did a great job), and joined by Amie Kaufman and Meihan Boey as wonderful co-panelists. The event was streamed live to Festival Pass holders on SWF SISTIC’s microsite, and is now available on-demand until 18 Nov; after that, it goes away forever, so check it out while you can. It was a really fun discussion, and I’m glad we all had the chance to get together (albeit virtually) to explore the topic (click images to watch):

4. I was invited on fairly short notice to appear on Wayne Cheong’s Creatives Asia Podcast after meeting in person to discuss publishing and Nine Inch Nails, and eat claypot chicken rice. We talked a bit about A Fickle and Restless Weapon and its creation, but most of the conversation consisted of fanboying out over NIN and Trent Reznor, and it was super fun! It was livestreamed to Facebook and YouTube, and will also appear on Spotify, iTunes and Twitch later on.

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Virtual Book Launch for A Fickle and Restless Weapon! (updated)

A Fickle and Restless Weapon Virtual Book Launch

At long last, A Fickle and Restless Weapon is getting an official book launch! Epigram Books will be hosting the event virtually on Saturday, 24 October, 8.30–9.30pm SGT, and all are invited to attend! (Singapore time is GMT+8, so hopefully we can get people from all over the world!) I’ll be talking about the novel with my dear friend and literary comrade Dean Francis Alfar*, doing a short reading, and answering questions from the audience. The launch will take place on Zoom, and be livestreamed simultaneously on Epigram Books’ Facebook page and YouTube page.

(Update: the event will not be livestreamed on YouTube, but it will be recorded and uploaded there afterward. So do attend via either Zoom or Facebook Live.)

1. The event is totally free, but you’ll need to register at Peatix in order to get the Zoom link emailed to you. And this is important because only the folks in the audience on Zoom will have a chance to win a special prize, a giveaway set of my three most recent books: A Fickle and Restless Weapon, the related novella Diary of One Who Disappeared, and my best-of collection Most Excellent and Lamentable. I’m very happy for people to watch the stream on Facebook Live and YouTube Live, but you’ll only be eligible for the prize if you register for the Zoom link at Peatix.

2. But wait, that’s not all! 😀 To celebrate the launch, Epigram Books is offering a 25% discount on A Fickle and Restless Weapon, Diary of One Who Disappeared and Most Excellent and Lamentable from today until midnight SGT on the 24th, if you buy the book(s) directly from the publisher. You’ll need to key in the discount code JEL25 at checkout, and indicate in the appropriate field whether you would like me to autograph the book(s).

3. Lastly, I am offering something special for the folks who have already bought the novel, and would like my signature: the first 15 people to post a selfie of themselves with a copy of A Fickle and Restless Weapon on Instagram and tag @wombatfishbone (which is my IG handle) will receive a signed bookplate in the mail that you can stick in your copy! I have a very limited number of bookplates, so this offer only lasts until those 15 people have posted, so get your selfie up ASAP!

I’ll see you all on Saturday, 24 October, 8.30–9.30pm SGT to officially launch my first novel! W00t!

* Dean goes way back with this novel; he was one of my very first beta readers back in 2012, and gave me some truly encouraging feedback, as well as thoughtful critiques about character agency and resolution, which caused me to write a new coda for the ending. He has been a huge inspiration for how to live a literary life, as well as a kind and compassionate big brother, and I can’t wait to see what questions he’ll ask during the event.

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All the Fickle and Restless News Fit to Post

I just realised that I have been delinquent in updating this blog on the happenings concerning A Fickle and Restless Weapon since my previous post in June. I’ve been more regular about posting on Facebook, but some of y’all don’t follow me there. So, for posterity’s sake, here’s everything that’s happened since (with photos!):

1. On 24 June, I made a special trip to Books Kinokuniya’s Main Store to sign their entire stock of Fickle, which had just been delivered that morning. My thanks to Kenneth, Douglas and Pearline for their assistance in coordinating the signing and taking photos during the busy time of the store’s Phase 2 re-opening, as well as to Kenny Chan for putting me in touch with the right people and for his continued enthusiasm. What you see stacked here is the second half of the copies, as I realised halfway through signing that I should probably get photographic evidence. (Click to embiggen.)


2. On 26 June, I was interviewed by Doretta Tan, Epigram Books’ Marketing Executive, for the long-running Doing the Write Thing series on the Epigram Books Blog. The questions were great, and were helpful in getting me to articulate much of my reasoning behind writing the novel in the first place.

Later on, I took the same questions and recorded video answers for them, which differed slightly from the written responses. The video was uploaded to the Epigram Books YouTube channel on 12 August:

3. From 29 June – 5 July 2020, Fickle was the Epigram Books Book of the Week, and was on sale for a 20% discount (though you’ll have to pay full price now, sorry).

4. On 13 July, I was gobsmacked to discover that Fickle was a featured title on the front page of the Books Kinokuniya website, displayed right next to the 2020 International Booker Prize Longlist.

5. On 16 July, I was informed that in Epigram Books’ internal bestseller list for June 2020, Fickle debuted at #1 in Fiction and #4 in all genres released that month. For a speculative fiction novel released with very little fanfare during a global pandemic (aside from all the flailing about and jumping up and down I was doing myself), without any prizes or critical adulation attached, this was extremely heartening.

6. Also on 16 July, my essay “What’s It All About Then?” was published at Mackerel, detailing the thought processes that went into writing the novel, as well as the frustration that arose when trying to boil down what exactly it was about. Many thanks to Marc Nair and Carolyn Oei for letting me burble on in their webzine.

7. On 3 August, Fickle was featured on the Singapore Shelf at The Straits Times as one of 10 local reads to look out for in August.

8. On 6 August, I was interviewed by the English department of my alma mater, North Carolina State University, for their Wolfpack Writers series (which was then reposted at NCSU English Dept News). It was an honour to be given attention by the university department that has been such a big part of my academic and professional life, and to share a space with other such distinguished NCSU faculty and alumni as Dorianne Laux, Christopher Ruocchio and Elaine Neil Orr.

I’ve been very pleased to hear from a number of people how much they’ve enjoyed A Fickle and Restless Weapon, as well as to note how well it’s disseminating at the National Library of Singapore (it’s listed as On Loan at most branches right now). If you’ve been generous enough with your time and attention (and possibly finances) to pick up the novel and see something in it to like, I’d like to request one more kindness: please rate and review it on Goodreads and wherever you ordered it from online (if you in fact did so). Thanks in advance!

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Filed under Books, Interviews, Public Libraries, Publishing, Reading, Singapore, Southeast Asia, Tinhau, Writing

On the Radio, and a Clarification

Yesterday morning, I was delighted to once again appear on Read with Michelle Martin—a short periodic segment in Michelle’s daily radio show on Money FM 89.3 in Singapore—to discuss A Fickle and Restless Weapon. (I previously came on as part of the promotion for Most Excellent and Lamentable, Diary of One Who Disappeared and LONTAR #10.)

Over the course of the interview, we talk about world-building, Tinhau, alternate universes, swees, Singlish, surveillance, exposition and telling details, the influence of Singaporean food and culture, and the Vertigo Tarot. And as you can see in the video, I’m wearing my Nine Inch Nails hoodie and cap, which I only bust out on special occasions.

I also realise now that I never exactly answered Michelle’s question on when I felt it was appropriate to use Singlish in the book (I talked more about the mechanics of using it instead). And the best answer I can think of is: it depends. The characters who largely use colloquial English* in the book tend to be of an older generation, though not all (one character who speaks this way is only in her twenties).

The way I thought about it while writing is that these are people who were educated locally; the ones who use what’s typically called “Standard English” (problematic as this term is) have spent significant time in the US or UK, and their speech patterns reflect this. But then again, one of my protagonists who has lived in the UK for over a decade slips back into colloquial English when talking with the aforementioned woman in her twenties. It is not a differentiation of class or race or economic status because, as has been my observational experience over 13 years in Singapore, people across the spectrum in those categories speak colloquial English at different times, and code-switch at others.

As I say in the interview, I wanted to make sure I got it as correct as possible, since this is not my natural way of expressing myself, and I depended on the kindness of my Singaporean friends and readers for helping me when I didn’t get the details right; of course, any mistakes in the book are my own.

* It’s obviously not called Singlish within my fictional country of Tinhau, since “Singlish” is a portmanteau of “Singaporean English”; nor is it called “Tinglish”, which would seem to have other connotations.

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A Quick PSA on Buying My Books

I’ve had several people contact me privately about buying a copy of A Fickle and Restless Weapon directly from me because they’d like to help me out, presumably so that I would get a larger cut of the sale. And while this is a sweet thought and I appreciate the sentiment, it’s actually better for everyone concerned (including me) if you can purchase the book through your preferred bookstore or ebook provider.

The sales show up on my royalty statement, and are a visible representation of public interest in the novel, which goes a long way towards encouraging Epigram Books to reprint after the first print run sells out, as well as to seriously consider more books from me in the future. (I’m now working on the third book in the Tinhau Sequence, called One Nine Eight Six, and it would be great to continue with the same publisher.)

Plus, you’d be supporting not only me, but the publisher and bookstores too, which have all taken a huge financial hit during the pandemic. I should add that this goes for all my books as well, whether they’re published by Epigram Books or other publishers; I like the relationship that I have with them as one of their authors, and want to make sure we all benefit from it.

So thank your dear hearts for wanting to do me a solid, but I’d much prefer you purchase the book via the buy links below. And if you do want a signed/personalised paperback copy, I recommend ordering directly from Epigram Books and including a note in the comment field; they’ll hold off delivering until I can come back in to the office and sign your book. 😊

Buy the Paperback

Epigram BooksLocal BooksHuggs-Epigram Coffee Bookshop

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Amazon [ USA | UK | Germany | India | Spain | Italy ] • Barnes & NobleApple iTunesGoogle PlayKoboScribdAngus & RobertsonE-Sentral

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Tinhau: A Cartographic Appreciation

One of the cool things about all the worldbuilding that goes into creating a fictional country is coming up with a map to go along with it. I love maps in books, regardless of whether the subject matter is fantastical, because there’s something about seeing the geography of a place that makes it all the more real in the mind.

Way back when I first started working on A Fickle and Restless Weapon in 2004, I hand-drew a map of Tinhau in my Moleskine notebook with everything I’d need to keep me grounded in the geography. Epigram Books designer Jael Ng did a phenomenal job adapting this map into its finished form, which can be found at the beginning of the published book (she also did a wonderful job on the typesetting and layout). We worked together to update the map (since the book went through eight drafts, and names changed along the way) and add significant landmarks. Both maps are displayed below.

Tinhau Map - Drawn

Tinhau Map - FINAL

A Fickle and Restless Weapon is now available to purchase as a paperback and ebook; buy links can be found here (scroll to the bottom). Buy early and buy often!

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A Fickle and Restless Weapon: Now Available

A Fickle and Restless WeaponMy brand new novel, A Fickle and Restless Weapon, is now available for sale: in paperback in Singapore, and in ebook internationally (links can be found by clicking the cover image to the right). This book has been a labour of love for more than 15 years, and I’m incredibly excited that it’s now out and ready for readers to pick it up. It is, without hyperbole, the best thing I have ever written, and I’m very proud of what I accomplished with it. I collected my author copies earlier this week, and you can see the unboxing video above (with videography by Anya).

It’s exceedingly strange to announce a book release while the world is still reeling from the Covid-19 pandemic, and protests against systemic racism and police brutality are ongoing in every state of my home country and in nations around the globe. So if you have money to spare, please donate to those causes since a lot of people are hurting right now. However, if you have a bit left over and would like to escape your current daily existence for a while, do consider ordering my novel and giving it a little love on Goodreads. It does have something to say about resistance to authoritarianism and the ubiquity of surveillance, but it’s also a helluva fun story, and just might take your mind off your troubles for a spell.

Epigram Books has some marketing and publicity lined up soon, so keep posted here, and follow me at Facebook and Instagram.


Filed under Books, Buddhism, Publishing, Reading, Southeast Asia, Tinhau, Writing

Now Available for Preorder: My New Novel!

A Fickle and Restless Weapon

My brand new (and first) novel, A Fickle and Restless Weapon (being released in June 2020), is now available for preorder from publisher Epigram Books! (Cover art by Priscilla Wong, edited by Eldes Tran.)

As mentioned in a previous post, the release of this book has been a very long time in coming, and I am so damn excited that it’ll be available in just two months! It takes place 25 years before the events of Diary of One Who Disappeared, though it is not a prequel; the novel was written first and is intended as a stand-alone work, although eagle-eyed readers will spot some easter eggs to connect both texts. If you are a book reviewer for a legitimate venue, email me ASAP so we can get a PDF review copy to you straight away.

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

“Thrilling, textured, fantastical.”
Ken Liu, multi-award-winning author of The Veiled Throne and The Hidden Girl and Other Stories

“Reminiscent of the uncanny visions of Jeff VanderMeer and Don DeLillo and buoyed by Buddhist philosophy, this narrative deepens the speculative world of Tinhau through a complex web of major to side characters. Epic, imaginative, full of twists and psychological surprises, the novel raises an intriguing mirror to contemporary, global-capitalist realities, coming alive with mind-bending magic, unexpected transgenderism, and political machinations.”
Cyril Wong, Singapore Literature Prize-winning author of This Side of Heaven

It will be a bit strange to publish the book while we’re still in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic (even if the pub date was set exactly a year ago), so we’re having to adapt our marketing and publicity strategies to this new social-distancing world we’re now living through, but I’m hoping that the book will be both a form of escape for those isolating themselves at home, as well as an insight into how authorities consolidate their power during such cataclysmic events. It’s a book I’m extremely proud of, and I can’t wait to share it with all of you.

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Transcript of Radio Interview with Melanie Oliveiro

Most Excellent and LamentableOn 16 October 2019, I went on the air with radio host Melanie Oliveiro to discuss my “greatest hits” collection, Most Excellent and Lamentable. For whatever reason, Channel NewsAsia doesn’t archive their audio content online like other radio stations, but I was provided with the interview for personal use. Below is my transcription (only slightly cleaned up to remove the “um”s and “uh”s and repetitions in speech), for those who were not able to catch the conversation when it aired.

Singapore Today with Melanie Oliveiro
CNA938, 16 Oct 2019, 800-830pm

Melanie Oliveiro: Keeping me company for the next fifteen minutes or so is an American, who was born in New York, grew up in North Carolina, and is now an author, editor and doting dad in Singapore. I’m with Jason Erik Lundberg, who’s been calling Singapore home since 2007. Jason’s a fiction editor at local publisher Epigram Books, and Epigram Books has published his latest volume, Most Excellent and Lamentable. It’s a collection of short stories selected from Lundberg’s first three collections, and this new book also includes a brand new novelette titled “Slowly Slowly Slowly”. Let’s quickly bring on Jason Erik Lundberg so he can tell us more.

Jason, is the title of your book a reference to the title of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet?

Jason Erik Lundberg: It is actually, indeed. It’s the title of one of the stories in the book as well. It comes from the full title of Romeo and Juliet, which is: The Most Excellent and Lamentable Tragedie of Romeo and Juliet. I always liked that interesting juxtaposition between “excellent” and “lamentable”. So when I wrote that story, it introduces elements from Romeo and Juliet, but in a very different way. It’s not exactly a retelling, but it’s instead taking characters who are in that play and using them almost like archetypes to tell the very strange story that I’m telling.

MO: I’m sure that many students of Shakespeare would immediately have this resonance with the book when they come across the title.

So how did you go about choosing the stories from your previous collections? What was the criteria, and was it really like choosing your favourite child?

JEL: [laughs] A bit, yeah. So as you mentioned, I have three previous short story collections; the first one was published here in Singapore, but the other two were published by my UK publisher, Infinity Plus. The first one, Red Dot Irreal, went out of print recently, and so all three of them were hard to find here anyway. After some back and forth with Epigram Books, it was decided that we’d take a more comprehensive look at my short fiction, at this sixteen-year career in writing that I’ve had so far. So it was very much about picking the most emotionally resonant and interesting stories from those three collections, and then we included a new one as well. As you said, I’ve written a novelette specifically just for this book.

MO: So something new for your fans too.

Did you rewrite any of them? Some of the stories are labelled “author’s preferred text”.

JEL: Yeah, the two stories that bookend the collection. For the very first one, called “The Stargirl and the Potter”, the online venue that originally published it asked me to trim it down. So it was about five hundred words shorter than the version that appears in the book. [Actually, it was a thousand words shorter. —JEL] I was fine with the version that was published, but I also wanted the full one to be out there as well.

And then with the very last story in the book, called “Ikan Berbudi (Wise Fish)”, my friend Gemma Pereira, who is a wonderful writer herself, made me aware that there were some details that were problematic and some that I’d frankly gotten wrong. With her help, I was able to go through and realise that maybe the way that I was naming the characters and presenting some of the circumstances needed to change. So those two stories I revised more heavily than the other ones in the collection, which were only slightly tweaked to make them consistent throughout the book.

MO: I found your stories otherworldly; sometimes I got sucked into their surreal themes. Were you always escaping into strange worlds as a boy, which is something you still indulge in today?

JEL: [laughs] Pretty much. It all started with my love of fantastical fiction—science fiction, fantasy, things like that—when I was a boy, and it shows no signs of stopping. I think that, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve been able to change the way I approach it and the way that it influences how I look at the world. Because this is a very strange world that we live in; writing strictly realist fiction sometimes doesn’t incorporate the world that we’re really living in, especially right now. So it’s always been the mode that I gravitate towards the most and I’m very happy to keep going with it.

MO: You grew up in Raleigh, North Carolina, and that’s not near the coast, so did you look to escaping into different worlds because you maybe secretly wanted to get out of Raleigh?

JEL: I don’t think it was that. By the time I got to Raleigh, I was about twelve years old, so it wasn’t that I was really escaping that. And by the way, the coast was not too terribly far away, about an hour and a half drive—

MO: That’s a long way for Singaporeans! [laughs]

JEL: [laughs] Maybe, but for Americans, that’s nothing.

MO: Right.

JEL: That’s a day trip to the beach. [laughs] And it wasn’t always about escaping either. This is one role that fantastical writing does have, but it has always helped me to understand the world as well. When you can look at things at a slanted point of view, you can ask questions and you can think, “Okay, the narrative that I’m being given on whatever topic might be: is that actually the real thing, or is somebody trying to spin it their way?” And by literalising metaphors and doing other things with fantastical fiction that are a bit out of the ordinary, it jolts you out of just blindly assuming whatever someone says is true. You can look at things where you might not have seen them before in that way and think, “Maybe I’m not seeing the full truth of them, but I’m still seeing it from a different point of view.”

MO: Okay, that makes sense.

I enjoyed reading the first story in the book, “The Stargirl and the Potter”; it’ll appeal to the romantics in all of us. But I couldn’t get my head around “Wombat Fishbone”. Do you get people writing to you, not just asking you to explain concepts in your storylines, but also to tell you how much a story resonated with them?

JEL: I have, actually, and it’s always really, really lovely to hear, in email or in person or whatever. It’s always fantastic to be able to hear that something I’ve written actually connected with someone else. That’s one of the reasons I do this. Not so much of people asking me to explain things in my stories, although there are a few of those as well; that particular story you mentioned, “Wombat Fishbone”, is one of the stranger ones in the book. [laughs] And in it I go full-on into a surreal farce; it was a reaction to this short film that I saw during that time which was also funny and surreal. [“A Heap of Trouble” by Steve Sullivan (NSFW); probably worth a Google. —JEL]

I think the thing I really like about this type of writing is that I don’t explain things, and the strange events that happen just happen; it’s not like we can justify them or show that they’re intruding into our real world. They’re just part of the world of the story. I really like writing that makes you feel very strange. The standard label for this type of writing is “slipstream”. I like being able to affect somebody who’s reading my work and make them feel a bit off about what’s going on in the world.

MO: Once you put a book out there, it’s not yours anymore. It’s open to interpretation by anyone who picks it up.

JEL: That’s absolutely true. Though I do feel like it’s still partly mine. [laughs] But you’re right, I’m sharing it with the reader now. I don’t subscribe to the idea that once you put a piece of writing out there, it’s not yours at all anymore. It’s a conversation now with the reader who’s picked up my book, whether that conversation is a clear one, or whether it results in confusion, or whether it results in epiphany and connection. I like that this is a way that I can communicate with other people, through these squiggles on paper.

MO: You’re the first author who has told me his book is a conversation with the reader! That’s quite a concept for me to think about. And it is true.

Which short story was the hardest to complete, and do you have a reason for that?

JEL: I’m not sure, actually. They were…

MO: So they just flowed out of you.

JEL: Some of them did. Some were a little easier than others. For the title story, “Most Excellent and Lamentable”, I basically wrote the entire thing in one afternoon in a café. It was one of those gifts that, as a writer, you get very few of, where the process is so easy that it feels like you’re channelling some other kind of force. And the version that is published is nearly exactly the one that I wrote as is.

MO: Almost like stream of consciousness.

JEL: Almost, yeah. So there was very little editing to do for that story. But then there were others that required more work and thought. The story that is original to this collection, “Slowly Slowly Slowly”, is a bit longer than most of the ones in the book; it’s at novelette length, a bit longer than a standard short story. I originally thought it was going to be a novella, but some of the logical issues in the story made me realise that this was going to be shorter than that. But because I’m dealing with concepts like elder care and how we deal with degenerative diseases, things that are a bit more weighty than some of the other pieces in the book that are lighter in tone, I did feel like I needed to think through a lot of it. So it wasn’t so much that it was “difficult” to get through, but it did take more thought and I had to be very careful about how I approached the story.

MO: So no writer’s block in any of them then.

At the end of a few of the stories, you credit literary greats like Pablo Neruda and Jack Kerouac; why openly acknowledge them? Isn’t it a “talent borrows and genius steals” kind of situation?

JEL: I’ve always believed that we’re standing on the shoulders of the people who came before us. There were a number of stories in this collection that are very deliberate responses to other writers and artists. There’s a short piece in the book called “Great Responsibility”, which is a response to a couple of photographs by the photographer Nguan. [As well as the notable phrase by Stan Lee to encapsulate Spider-Man’s ethos. —JEL] I’ve been influenced by creators since I started reading. If anybody who says they’re a writer claims they have no influences, they’re lying. So I wanted to make it very explicit and open, to acknowledge these influences in the first place and to give thanks as well; if these previous writers and artists had not committed their art, I would have no story responding to it.

MO: You work in publishing at Epigram Books, and you’re an author. Are there any conflicts of interest of the creative kind? Sometimes you’ve got to put on your editor hat and edit someone else’s piece of work, but does the writer role in you say, “No, I shouldn’t touch that because it is raw and real”?

JEL: My whole position on being an editor is that I am trying to take whatever text it might be, whether a short fiction collection or a novel, and help it become the best version of itself. I’m much more of a midwife than somebody involved in the creative process itself. It’s changing word choices, it’s making the writing flow smoother; it’s questioning different parts of the text, including character consistency and whether they would behave in a certain way.

It’s also a matter of looking at the writer’s style, and really trying not to mess with that too much. There are a number of writers I’ve worked with who have a very distinctive style, and I was tempted at times to try and smoothen that out a bit, but that roughness of their style is part of what makes them who they are. It’s always a balancing act between wanting to impose my own vision on the text and staying faithful to what the writer was originally trying to create.

MO: So who edited your stories, and did you have a good relationship with that person?

JEL: Absolutely. My editor is my Epigram Books colleague and our managing editor, Eldes Tran.

MO: So she’s the boss!

JEL: Well, she’s the boss of me! [laughs] Not the head boss, which is Edmund Wee, but she’s my boss and she’s a fantastic editor. I really trusted her and enjoyed working with her on my previous book, Diary of One Who Disappeared, and appreciated seeing how she thinks and approaches a text. So it was a very smooth process working on Most Excellent and Lamentable as well. She’s someone I really enjoy hashing things out with and getting into the nitty-gritty of what makes a story good, what makes it work and what is the best thing for it.

MO: So it sounds like a good creative relationship.

I know you love your daughter very, very much. If she wants to be a full-time writer in Singapore when she gets older, what would you say to her?

JEL: Well, first of all, she just turned ten years old yesterday, so Happy Birthday, Anya! It’s very difficult to be a full-time writer in Singapore, even if you’re writing non-fiction. It can be done, but it’s hard to do, especially if you’re writing fiction. Unfortunately, the publishing ecosystem here doesn’t quite support that yet, and that’s kind of where the rest of the world is now too, even in the US and the UK, which have long traditions of supporting their writers. Unless you’re one of the top-tier consistently bestselling authors, it’s really hard to make a living it at it. So you have to do other things, like teach or edit, to support your income.

I would very much encourage her if she expressed the desire to be a full-time writer, but I would also be very realistic with her, and just let her know that these are the things to think about and be aware of when you try to have a career in writing.

MO: Jason, thank you so much for your time. That was American author and fiction editor based in Singapore, Jason Erik Lundberg. Grab his latest volume of short stories, Most Excellent and Lamentable, published by Epigram Books. It’s now out on bookstore shelves at places like Kinokuniya, Times and other great bookstores in Singapore. This is CNA938, and I am Melanie Oliveiro.


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Now Open for Freelance Editing Projects in 2020

It’s a new year (and a new decade!), and so I am happy to announce that I am now free to take on new freelance editing projects. Indeed, I’m currently in the middle of the editing process for my own novel, A Fickle and Restless Weapon, and also trying to figure out how to write One Nine Eight Six (the standalone sequel to Diary of One Who Disappeared, and the third volume of my Tinhau trifecta), but I also want to be much more active with literary freelancing this year.

(And yes, I’ve always done this concurrently with my day job at Epigram Books. As long as there’s no conflict of interest, there’s no problem.)

My rate is S$100/hour for structural editing (50% down, payable via PayNow, bank transfer or PayPal), with every 10,000 words requiring approximately 5 billable hours of labor; an editorial letter of recommendations and suggested changes is provided at the end of the project. My bibliography speaks for itself, but you can also check out my LinkedIn profile for extensive work experience and glowing testimonials.

To brag for just a moment, a number of books I edited professionally have been afforded the following accolades:

1. Singapore Literature Prize winners (Ministry of Moral Panic by Amanda Lee Koe, State of Emergency by Jeremy Tiang)

2. Singapore Literature Prize finalists (In Time, Out of Place by You Jin, The Widower by Mohamed Latiff Mohamed, It Never Rains on National Day by Jeremy Tiang, Sugarbread by Balli Kaur Jaswal, The Gatekeeper by Nuraliah Norasid, Regrettable Things That Happened Yesterday by Jennani Durai)

3. Singapore Book Award winners (Ministry of Moral Panic by Amanda Lee Koe, Now That It’s Over by O Thiam Chin, The Gatekeeper by Nuraliah Norasid, Lion City by Ng Yi-Sheng)

4. Singapore Book Award finalists (Big Mole by Ming Cher, Sugarbread by Balli Kaur Jaswal, Inheritance by Balli Kaur Jaswal, Kappa Quartet by Daryl Qilin Yam, State of Emergency by Jeremy Tiang, Once We Were There by Bernice Chauly, Lieutenant Kurosawa’s Errand Boy by Warran Kalasegaran, Gull Between Heaven and Earth by Boey Kim Cheng, The Riot Act by Sebastian Sim, Nimita’s Place by Akshita Nanda)

5. The Straits Times year’s best list (Clear Brightness by Boey Kim Cheng, A Certain Exposure by Jolene Tan, Now That It’s Over by O Thiam Chin, Sugarbread by Balli Kaur Jaswal)

6. The Business Times year’s best list (Confrontation by Mohd Latiff Mohd, Ministry of Moral Panic by Amanda Lee Koe, A Certain Exposure by Jolene Tan, Trivialities About Me and Myself by Yeng Pway Ngon, Now That It’s Over by O Thiam Chin, Sugarbread by Balli Kaur Jaswal, Kappa Quartet by Daryl Qilin Yam)

So if you’re in the market for insightful and constructive feedback on your novel, short story collection, or creative nonfiction work, grab a slot now!

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Decade in Review

So tomorrow is the last day of the decade, and I’ve been thinking about how much has changed for me in the last ten years. As you can see in the photo above, I published a hell of a lot of books: seven picture books, five anthologies, ten issues of a literary journal, one chapbook, four fiction collections, and a novella. I must once again thank Kenny Leck at Math Paper Press, Keith Brooke at Infinity Plus Books, and Edmund Wee at Epigram Books for believing in these titles enough to bring them out into the world to play nice with readers. The first of these was Red Dot Irreal in 2011, the little collection that could, and a book that I’m still very proud of.

I left my teaching job at the end of 2011, and started as Epigram Books’ first and only fiction editor in September 2012. Since then I have edited more than 50 books, many of which went on to appear on year’s best lists and win accolades of the Singapore Literature Prize and Singapore Book Awards. I’ve now been at the company for a little over seven years, and it has been the most fulfilling job of my adult working life.

I started getting invited to festivals this decade, which was a nice validation of my writing and editing capabilities. I appeared at the Singapore Writers Festival (2012-2019), George Town Literary Festival (2016, 2017, 2019), Singapore International Festival of Arts (2018), Asian Festival of Children’s Content (2016), AWP Conference & Bookfair (2015), Singapore Literature Festival in NYC (2014), Singapore International Translation Symposium (2014), and All In! Young Writers Media Festival (2013). The fact that I continue to get asked about my opinion on a variety of issues is a good indication that I’m doing something right.

After my marriage broke down, I went through a painful and protracted divorce, which was both emotionally traumatic and financially depleting, and also resulted in having to sell my previous flat co-owned with my ex-wife and buy a new flat on my own. All of this contributed to the most stress I have ever felt in my life, and there are days still that it weighs on my mind; I recently watched the Noah Baumbach film Marriage Story, and it dredged up a lot of the pain and sadness I felt during this period. But not only did I get through it, I now have a civil and respectful relationship with my ex, and have lived in a home that feels all my own for the past three years. Things are not exactly hunky dory, but they get better every day.

Most importantly, I grew as a parent and as a person while raising my daughter, Anya. She was born in October of 2009, so she did nearly all of her growing up this past decade, and I got to see her transform from an utterly dependent yet utterly adorable tiny human into an intelligent, funny, kind, creative, remarkable girl. I have been reminded again and again through my interactions with her what is truly important in life, and how to let the little things go. I’m a far more generous and thoughtful person because of simply being around her and enjoying the world through her eyes, and it’s my forever privilege to be her daddy.

The next decade is already off to a good start: my first novel (and 25th book), A Fickle and Restless Weapon, will be released in June 2020, and I’ll likely be starting up a Patreon sometime early in the year (I previously ran one for LONTAR, but this will be focused on my new novel-in-progress, One Nine Eight Six). I also have two books coming out through the Epigram Books UK imprint next year: Diary of One Who Disappeared and Best Singaporean Short Stories 1. I’ll also endeavour to be even kinder toward others and especially myself, to establish some habits to improve my health and well-being, to make more time for dating and other social situations, to remain open to new experiences, and to guide Anya through her pre-teen and teenage years with compassion and patience. I hope y’all will be along for the ride.

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Filed under Books, Editing, Lit Festivals, Parenthood, Publishing, Singapore, Tinhau, Writing

2019 Shopping Reminder + A Note on Productivity

We’re barrelling face-first towards the holidays, and I just wanted to provide a reminder of which books of mine are available to buy for yourself and your loved ones (and even your enemies). If you can, please purchase these books directly from Epigram Books (we’re even having a Xmas Market this weekend with huge discounts!), but feel free to pick them up at your preferred bookseller.

Most Excellent and Lamentable: Selected Stories (Oct 2019)

Let Lundberg’s imagination introduce you to an unearthly stargirl, a foul-mouthed wombat, slithering immortals, a fish with premonitions, and much more.

Best New Singaporean Short Stories: Volume Four (guest editor Pooja Nansi) (Oct 2019)

“Our stories are everywhere we look, and those stories matter; they are as varied and as manifold as we are.” –Pooja Nansi, from the preface

Diary of One Who Disappeared (Apr 2019)

In 2040, Lucas Lehrer finds himself a fugitive in the Southeast Asian nation of Tinhau, and he discovers that his deep-seated desires are coming true.

Bo Bo and Cha Cha series (illustrated by Patrick Yee) (2012–2015)

This series of children’s picture books follows the adventures of two pandas and their new experiences after relocating from the bamboo forests of China to sweltering tropical Singapore. Ages 3-7.

LONTAR: The Journal of Southeast Asian Speculative Fiction (2012–2018)

A ten-issue literary journal focusing on speculative fiction from and about Southeast Asia. Contributors include Dean Francis Alfar, Paolo Bacigalupi, John Burdett, Zen Cho, Aliette de Bodard, Sabrina Huang, Eka Kurniawan, Amanda Lee Koe, Ken Liu, E.C. Myers, Ng Yi-Sheng, Victor Fernando R. Ocampo, Geoff Ryman, Christina Sng, Cyril Wong, and Bryan Thao Worra.

I also want to mention something that’s been a topic of interest recently, that of my seemingly frenetic productivity. I’ve had people coming up to me at both the Singapore Writers Festival and George Town Literary Festival, as well as friends over coffee or a meal, asking about this, mostly wondering when I have time to write so much in addition to being: the fiction editor of Epigram Books, a single dad, a frequent panelist at various events, a freelance editor, a workshop instructor, a Netflix addict, and a relentless promoter of my new work. The fact that two of my books were released this year (three, if you count BNSSSv4), and another one being released next year (two, if you count Best Singaporean Short Stories 1 in the UK only), has given the impression that I am either a master of multitasking or have borrowed Hermione Granger’s time-turner in order to get this all done.

And not to take away from all the hard work that has been done and is still ongoing, but it’s also a bit of smoke and mirrors on my part. Some background: my former agent sat on both Diary of One Who Disappeared and A Fickle and Restless Weapon for years, which is the primary reason he is no longer my agent. Both the novella and the novel were finished and publishable back in 2014, just awaiting publication.

I let my agent go at the beginning of 2018, and a week or two later pitched to my boss* at Epigram Books both a new edition of Red Dot Irreal (since it had gone out of print) and Diary. He wasn’t keen on bringing back my first collection and asked for something new instead, so I quickly selected what I felt were the best stories from my first three collections, and these (plus an uncollected story and a brand new one exclusive to the book) became Most Excellent and Lamentable. He liked the idea, and signed me for a two-book contract. So for these books, most of the work had already been done, apart from finishing “Slowly Slowly Slowly” for MEAL.

Then in mid-2019, after Diary had been out for a few months, I pitched A Fickle and Restless Weapon, since they both share a common narrative universe and timeline. It’s also my first proper novel, which is a big deal when marketing any given author. After some back and forth, I signed that contract in September. As mentioned before, the creative part of the book was done; I’m currently revising it based on comments from my editor (Eldes Tran, who also edited Diary and MEAL), but that’s a regular part of the editorial process.

It’s almost as if I had these books in a queue, ready to go at the right moment. After Fickle is released in June 2020, I have no more books in the hopper, so I’m trying (with varying levels of success) to get my next novel going now. It’s technically a sequel to Diary, though it (like all of my Tinhau books) stands alone, meaning that you can read them in any order. I’m not, in point of fact, a fast writer, so I have no idea when it’ll be done, but I would like to finish the novel in 2020 or 2021 to capitalise on the momentum of the other books.

So there we are. It’s true that I have had at least one book released each year since 2011, but after 2020 there are no more guarantees, and that’s okay. I’m more grateful than I can say that I have been able to make a life for myself that includes a day job I really love, as well as an audience for the books I write and edit. It’s something that I never take for granted. So if you’ve read a book that has my name on it anytime in the last eight years: thank you so much for helping me to live my best life, and Happy Holidays!

* I’ve also been asked if it feels weird or incestuous to have released books with the publisher I work for. But I have two points to make there:

1) I stand by all of the fiction titles I have edited for Epigram Books, and feel that they can compete with books from anywhere else in the world, so I needed to put my money where my mouth is. It would be hypocritical of me to praise our fiction and then insist that my own fiction must be published elsewhere. I am very happy that each of the books listed above proudly bears the Epigram Books logo.

2) Edmund Wee, the big boss man, believes in my writing and feels that he should be publishing it himself, rather than another publisher in Singapore (or elsewhere). He also feels that it is commercial enough to make money for both me and the company; if he didn’t, he would have passed on any of the books I’ve pitched to him (and indeed, he did so, with Red Dot Irreal). This is the same situation Toni Morrison ran into when she was an editor at Random House, so if it was good enough for her, it’s certainly good enough for me.

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Filed under Books, Tinhau