The 2019 George Town Literary Festival starts this coming Thursday, and is set once again to be an engaging and important venue for the discussion of where we are and where we hope to be. I’m excited to be returning to Penang after a gap year, this time as a featured author (I was a moderator there in 2016 and 2017).
I’m also extremely flattered (and slightly befuddled) to be included in much of the press in the run-up to the festival. I was singled out as one of “10 Brilliant Minds to Selfie With at the George Town Literary Festival 2019” in Eksentrika (eep), as well as mentioned in Penang Free Sheet, The Star (Malaysia) and Nikkei Asian Review*. I’m not used to thinking of myself as a festival headliner, or as someone who is an audience draw for these types of events, so I’m filled with delighted bemusement at all the attention.
The festival bookstore this year is Books Kinokuniya Malaysia, and they should have my books for sale there (at the very least, Most Excellent and Lamentable and Diary of One Who Disappeared), but I also want to encourage people to patronise George Town’s hometown indie bookshop Gerakbudaya, both at their original location on Pitt Street (Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling), and at Hikayat on Beach Street (Lebuh Pantai).
So, if you’re in George Town from 21–24 November, I hope to see you at the following events:
1) Workshop: Worldbuilding 101: Strange New Worlds
Gerakbudaya Bookshop @ Hikayat (Beach Street), 22 Nov, 330-500pm
Speculative fiction often takes place in otherworldly settings, such as George R.R. Martin’s Westeros, the planet Ilus in the Expanse novels by James S.A. Corey, or a slightly different version of the world we know. The details that go into the imagining of a fantastical setting allow the writer to both ground a narrative in reality and challenge the notions of that reality. This workshop will give participants the skills to be able to create their own strange new worlds as the backdrops for their fiction.
The festival itself is free, but the fee for this workshop is RM75 per participant. To reserve a spot for this session, make sure to pre-register here and then make your payment at the festival.
2) Panel: Is the Screen Our Enemy?
with Tiwin Aji (mod), Dhinesha Karthigesu, Lur Alghurabi and Karoline Kan
Level 1, UAB Building, China Street Ghaut, 23 Nov, 930-1100am
Younger people are probably reading and writing as never before, but they are doing so on mobile devices and on platforms like Instagram and Tik Tok. Traditional formats and media have been challenged by the all-powerful screen, and those behind them are redefining story-telling for their corporate interests. Can we go beyond the critiques and lamentations and find a way to bring the transformative power of the word back to the next generation?
3) Panel: It’s the End of the World as We Know It
with Ann Lee (mod), Lokman Hakim and Tiffany Tsao
Ground Floor, UAB Building, China Street Ghaut, 24 Nov, 400-530pm
Sci-fi, fantasy, surrealism and speculative fiction open up endless possibilities of how we imagine our past, present and future. How do writers harness their wild imaginations to create a believable work that defies our known reality?
* In this article, I am referred to as an expatriate, but I do not view myself as such. I have very little in common with the expat community in Singapore, and prefer to call myself a migrant or immigrant instead.