Category Archives: Books

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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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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BBCC6 Mini-Whistlestop Tour on 14 Nov

If you missed the recent launch of A Curious Bundle for Bo Bo and Cha Cha at the Singapore Writers Festival, you have another chance to see me publicly launch the book and do a storytelling session from it. I’ll be conducting a mini-whistlestop tour this Saturday the 14th at Woods in the Books‘ two locations: at their flagship store in Tiong Bahru at 1130am, and then at Books Ahoy! (on level 2 of the Orchard FORUM) at 300pm.

As with the SWF launch, my daughter Anya will be along to help me out, and to voice the little baby animal in the story (which is beyond cute, so you have to come). See you there!

BBCC6 launch2 poster

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A Curious Bundle for Bo Bo and Cha Cha

BBCC6-cover

Book 6 in my panda picture book series, A Curious Bundle for Bo Bo and Cha Cha, has just arrived from the printers! It can be ordered right now online directly from Epigram Books, and will be stocked in bookstores all over Singapore within a couple of weeks.

I know I say this with every new BB&CC book, but this one is probably my favourite. Back when I thought that this would be the final one*, I decided that it would call back to the previous books in the series, so you’ll find many, many characters you’ve encountered already. It was a challenge to do this without confusing potential readers (especially the little ones), but editor Sheri Tan and I came up with a smooth way to do so that works quite well. Also, I’m quite proud with the pacing and rhythm; a lot happens, but it’s a page-turner.

So I’m very proud that this story is now a fully realised book, and that it will be available for kids everywhere very very soon. If you would like to review it for a newspaper, magazine or litblog, please contact Sophia Susanto, the Sales & Marketing Executive at Epigram Books. Again, you can sample the book here and/or order a copy right now from the Epigram Books website, and rate/review it on Goodreads.

Yay!

BBCC6 Arrived!

* A Curious Bundle for Bo Bo and Cha Cha is the last book currently under contract with Epigram Books, although my publisher has already said informally that he’d be happy to sign me up for two more.

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BNSSSv2 Honourable Mentions

The Epigram Books Collection of Best New Singaporean Short Stories: Volume Two is now at the printers, and will be available in bookstores later this month; we’ll launch the anthology at the 2015 Singapore Writers Festival on the evening of November 1st. In case you missed it, here is the table of contents.

As with Volume One, I’m happy to reveal the Honourable Mentions listed in the back of the book; congratulations to all of the authors below:

  1. Alfian Sa’at, “A Penunggu Story,” Eastern Heathens: An Anthology of Subverted Asian Folklore, ed. Amanda Lee Koe & Ng Yi-Sheng (Ethos Books, 2013).
  2. Ann Ang, “Gedong Gold,” Balik Kampung 2B: Contemplations, ed. Verena Tay (Math Paper Press, 2013).
  3. Anurak Saelaow Hao, “Left Behind,” Quarterly Literary Review Singapore 13:1 (2014), http://www.qlrs.com/story.asp?id=1070.
  4. Yu-Mei Balasingamchow, “Grandmother,” Starry Island: New Writing From Singapore, Mānoa: A Pacific Journal of International Writing 26:1 (2014).
  5. Shelly Bryant, “Enough,” Balik Kampung 2A: People and Places, ed. Verena Tay (Math Paper Press, 2013).
  6. ———, “Sila,” Quarterly Literary Review Singapore 13:2 (2014), http://www.qlrs.com/story.asp?id=1098.
  7. ———, “Tan Swee Nee, Barber,” Junoesq no. 1 (2014), http://www.junoesq.com/?p=559.
  8. Colin Cheong, “Smile, Singapore,” Singapore Noir, ed. Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan (Akashic Books, 2014).
  9. Clara Chow, “Buying a Wig,” Quarterly Literary Review Singapore 13:3 (2014), http://www.qlrs.com/story.asp?id=1115.
  10. ———, “The Golden Ball,” Junoesq no. 2 (2014), http://www.junoesq.com/?p=790.
  11. Damon Chua, “Saiful and the Pink Edward VII,” Singapore Noir, ed. Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan (Akashic Books, 2014).
  12. Dave Chua, “Bedok Reservoir,” Singapore Noir, ed. Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan (Akashic Books, 2014).
  13. ———, “The God of Cats,” From the Belly of the Cat, ed. Stephanie Ye (Math Paper Press, 2013).
  14. ———, “The Zookeeper,” Passages: Stories of Unspoken Journeys, ed. Yong Shu Hoong (Ethos Books, 2013).
  15. Ian Chung, “The Faithful Leap,” The Cadaverine Collection: New Writing From Under 30s (The Cadaverine, 2014).
  16. Tania De Rozario, “Reasons for the Rain,” The Substation Fairytales: Stories in The End, ed. Christopher Ong (The Substation, 2013).
  17. Ashwini Devare, “Batik Rain,” Batik Rain and Other Stories (Haranand Publications, 2014).
  18. Colin Goh, “Last Time,” Singapore Noir, ed. Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan (Akashic Books, 2014).
  19. Jon Gresham, “A Girl and a Guy in a Kijang in Kemang,” Eastern Heathens: An Anthology of Subverted Asian Folklore, ed. Amanda Lee Koe & Ng Yi-Sheng (Ethos Books, 2013).
  20. Han Han, “Low-Class Animals,” trans. Jeremy Tiang, Passages: Stories of Unspoken Journeys, ed. Yong Shu Hoong (Ethos Books, 2013).
  21. Philip Holden, “Penguins on the Perimeter,” Quarterly Literary Review Singapore 13:4 (2014), http://www.qlrs.com/story.asp?id=1130.
  22. Joshua Ip, “Peace is a Foot Reflexology Parlour,” Balik Kampung 2A: People and Places, ed. Verena Tay (Math Paper Press, 2013).
  23. ———, “Robotz Attacks Teh Citeh,” From the Belly of the Cat, ed. Stephanie Ye (Math Paper Press, 2013).
  24. Philip Jeyaretnam, “Strangler Fig,” Singapore Noir, ed. Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan (Akashic Books, 2014).
  25. Justin Ker, “The Forgetting Shop,” The Space Between the Raindrops (Epigram Books, 2014).
  26. Jinny Koh, “Fish Head,” The Conium Review, Nov 2014, http://coniumreview.com/blog/fish-head/.
  27. Desmond Kon Zhicheng-Mingdé, “The Draughtman’s Snow Globe,” Starry Island: New Writing From Singapore, Mānoa: A Pacific Journal of International Writing 26:1 (2014).
  28. ———, “Flying in the Face of Denouement,” Balik Kampung 2B: Contemplations, ed. Verena Tay (Math Paper Press, 2013).
  29. Lydia Kwa, “Speaking in Tongues,” Quarterly Literary Review Singapore 13:2 (2014), http://www.qlrs.com/story.asp?id=1097.
  30. Dana Lam, “Mother,” Body Boundaries: The First EtiquetteSG Anthology of Women’s Writing, ed. Tania De Rozario, Zarina Muhammad & Krishna Udayasankar (The Literary Centre, 2014).
  31. Wei Fen Lee, “Cure Us of Prayers,” Balik Kampung 2B: Contemplations, ed. Verena Tay (Math Paper Press, 2013).
  32. Amanda Lee Koe, “Mint,” Quarterly Literary Review Singapore 12:3 (2013), http://www.qlrs.com/story.asp?id=1025.
  33. ———, “Panda Cunt, Bear Gall,” Starry Island: New Writing From Singapore, Mānoa: A Pacific Journal of International Writing 26:1 (2014).
  34. Daryl Li, “A Secret Literature: The Literature of Ong Hwee Teng and the Possibilities of Disappearance,” Second Prize Winner of the 2013 Golden Point Award, English Short Story category, https://www.nac.gov.sg/docs/default-document-library/sse_2nd_lizhenhongdaryl.pdf.
  35. Li Huijia, “First Weave,” Eastern Heathens: An Anthology of Subverted Asian Folklore, ed. Amanda Lee Koe & Ng Yi-Sheng (Ethos Books, 2013).
  36. Sharon Lim, “Amy’s Story,” Balik Kampung 2A: People and Places, ed. Verena Tay (Math Paper Press, 2013).
  37. Eric Low, “Jack & Alice,” The Substation Fairytales: Stories in The End, ed. Christopher Ong (The Substation, 2013).
  38. Susheela Menon, “Driftwood,” Life is a Roller Coaster, ed. AJ Huffman & April Salzano (Kind of a Hurricane Press, 2014).
  39. Marc Nair, “Soon,” Passages: Stories of Unspoken Journeys, ed. Yong Shu Hoong (Ethos Books, 2013).
  40. Ng Yi-Sheng, “Baby Shoes,” The Storygraph, 20 Feb 2014, http://thestorygraph.com/baby-shoes/.
  41. ———, “Lion City,” Starry Island: New Writing From Singapore, Mānoa: A Pacific Journal of International Writing 26:1 (2014).
  42. Nurul H, “Unravelled,” Body Boundaries: The First EtiquetteSG Anthology of Women’s Writing, ed. Tania De Rozario, Zarina Muhammad & Krishna Udayasankar (The Literary Centre, 2014).
  43. O Thiam Chin, “At the Suvarnabhumi Airport,” Asiatic 7:1 (2013).
  44. ———, “Swordsman,” Love, or Something Like Love (Math Paper Press, 2013).
  45. ———, “The Verdict,” Esquire (Singapore), Sep 2013.
  46. Victor Fernando R. Ocampo, “Blessed Are the Hungry,” Apex Magazine no. 62, Jul 2014.
  47. ———, “Entanglement,” LONTAR no. 2 (2014).
  48. ———, “How My Sister Leonora Brought Home a Wife,” Lakeside Circus, Feb 2014.
  49. ———, “A Secret Map of Shanghai”, Strange Horizons, Nov 2013.
  50. Wayne Rée, “The Flying Man,” Tales From a Tiny Room (Math Paper Press, 2014).
  51. ———, “Water Bombs,” Tales From a Tiny Room (Math Paper Press, 2014).
  52. Stephanie Scott, “Pulau Brani,” First Prize Winner of the Summer 2014 Writers Village “Best Writing” Award, http://www.writers-village.org/14-1-scott.php.
  53. Ben Slater, “Resort Time,” LONTAR no. 3 (2014).
  54. Dora Tan, “The Only Time I Wished I Could Read,” Junoesq no. 2 (2014), http://www.junoesq.com/?p=783.
  55. Jonathan Tan Ghee Tiong, “The City in a Pinstripe Suit,” New Asian Writing, Feb 2014, http://www.new-asian-writing.com/the-city-in-a-pinstripe-suit-by-jonathan-tan-ghee-tiong/.
  56. Paul Tan, “The Cat Auntie of Lengkok Bahru,” Quarterly Literary Review Singapore 12:2 (2013), http://www.qlrs.com/story.asp?id=1004.
  57. Tan Sihan, “The Immigrant,” Ceriph no. 6 (2013).
  58. Verena Tay, “The Building” Quarterly Literary Review Singapore 12:4 (2013), http://www.qlrs.com/story.asp?id=1046
  59. Sharlene Teo, “Molasse,” The Bohemyth, Mar 2014, http://thebohemyth.com/2014/03/05/sharlene-teo/.
  60. ———, “Volunteers,” Lakeview International Journal of Literature and Arts 1:2 (2013).
  61. Teoh Ren Jie, “Purple Lights,” Ceriph no. 6 (2013).
  62. Jeremy Tiang, “Lifeplan,” Esquire (Singapore), Jun 2013.
  63. ———, “National Day,” Ambit no. 216 (2014).
  64. ———, “Sophia’s Party,” Quarterly Literary Review Singapore 12:4 (2013), http://www.qlrs.com/story.asp?id=1047.
  65. Samantha Toh, “Handsome,” Quarterly Literary Review Singapore 13:1 (2014), http://www.qlrs.com/story.asp?id=1067.
  66. ———, “The Jump,” From the Belly of the Cat, ed. Stephanie Ye (Math Paper Press, 2013).
  67. Tiffany Tsao, “What Is Being Erased,” LONTAR no. 2 (2014).
  68. Jemimah James Wei, “George,” From the Belly of the Cat, ed. Stephanie Ye (Math Paper Press, 2013).
  69. Kane Wheatley-Holder, “Space, Time and Chicken Rice,” Quarterly Literary Review Singapore 13:4 (2014), http://www.qlrs.com/story.asp?id=1128.
  70. Cyril Wong, “Cinema,” Ten Things My Father Never Taught Me and Other Stories (Epigram Books, 2014).
  71. Woon Chet Choon, “The Bush,” Balik Kampung 2A: People and Places, ed. Verena Tay (Math Paper Press, 2013).
  72. Daryl Yam, “The Anus is the Centre of the Soul,” We Are Losing Inertia, ed. Wong Bing Hao (2014), http://issuu.com/binghao5/docs/we_are_losing_inertia_-_issuu.
  73. ———, “The Wolves, or, Have You Ever Read Tao Lin?” Quarterly Literary Review Singapore 13:4 (2014), http://www.qlrs.com/story.asp?id=1133.
  74. JY Yang, “Arachnophobia,” Body Boundaries: The First EtiquetteSG Anthology of Women’s Writing, ed. Tania De Rozario, Zarina Muhammad & Krishna Udayasankar (The Literary Centre, 2014).
  75. ———, “Mother’s Day,” LONTAR no. 3 (2014).
  76. ———, “Old Domes,” We See a Different Frontier, ed. Fabio Fernandes & Djibril al-Ayad (Futurefire.net Publishing, 2013).
  77. ———, “Storytelling for the Night Clerk,” Strange Horizons, 16 Jun 2014, http://www.strangehorizons.com/2014/20140616/storytelling-f.shtml.
  78. ———, “Tiger Baby,” From the Belly of the Cat, ed. Stephanie Ye (Math Paper Press, 2013).
  79. Stephanie Ye, “Foreign Land” Quarterly Literary Review Singapore 12:2 (2013), http://www.qlrs.com/story.asp?id=1001.
  80. Robert Yeo, “Something to Remember,” Balik Kampung 2A: People and Places, ed. Verena Tay (Math Paper Press, 2013).
  81. Zhang Ruihe, “The Calling,” Quarterly Literary Review Singapore 12:4 (2013), http://www.qlrs.com/story.asp?id=1043.
  82. Zizi Azah, “Such Great Heights,” Balik Kampung 2B: Contemplations, ed. Verena Tay (Math Paper Press, 2013).

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

The Epigram Books Collection of Best New Singaporean Short Stories V2

Cover design by Lydia Wong
Cover photograph by Malvin Ng


I am very proud to announce the contents and cover design for the second volume of The Epigram Books Collection of Best New Singaporean Short Stories anthology series, to be published in October 2015 by Epigram Books, and officially launched at the Singapore Writers Festival along with LONTAR issues #4 and 5. This instalment is almost 20% bigger than its predecessor, and the number of female contributors jumped from 50% to 67%.

The Epigram Books Collection of Best New Singaporean Short Stories: Volume Two gathers twenty-four of the finest stories from Singaporean writers published in 2013 and 2014, selected from hundreds published in journals, magazines, anthologies and single-author collections. These pieces examine life in Singapore, beyond its borders to Toronto, California, Shanghai, Andhra Pradesh, Pyongchon and Paris, as well as to the distant past and the far future. Accompanying the stories are the editor’s introduction and an extensive list of honourable mentions for further reading.

Here is the table of contents:

  1. Jason Erik Lundberg | Introduction
  2. Evan Adam Ang | A Day In The Death
  3. O Thiam Chin | The Cat That Disappeared
  4. JY Yang | Patterns of a Murmuration, in Billions of Data Points
  5. Jeremy Tiang | Toronto
  6. Tania De Rozario | Certainty
  7. Samantha Toh | White Noise
  8. Yu-Mei Balasingamchow | Visiting
  9. Cheryl Julia Lee | A Red Meteor in the Margins
  10. Amanda Lee Koe | Why Do Chinese People Have Slanted Eyes?
  11. Gemma Pereira | Mama at Owen Road
  12. Andrew Cheah | Anaesthesia
  13. Kirstin Chen | Foreign and Domestic
  14. Victor Fernando R. Ocampo | I m d 1 in 10
  15. Wong Shu Yun | A Short History of the Sun
  16. Ng Yi-Sheng | The Crocodile Prince
  17. Jennani Durai | Tenali Raman Redux
  18. Jinny Koh | Off Duty
  19. Daryl Yam | A Dream in Pyongchon
  20. Stephanie Ye | Meat Bone Tea
  21. Karen Kwek | The Moral Support of Presence
  22. Sharlene Teo | Coast
  23. Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan | Reel
  24. Joshua Ip | The Man Who Turned Into a Photocopier
  25. Claire Tham | The Judge

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Bo Bo and Cha Cha and the Lost Child

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Book 5 in my panda picture book series, Bo Bo and Cha Cha and the Lost Child, has arrived from the printers and can be ordered online directly from Epigram Books; it’ll be stocked in bookstores all over Singapore within a couple of weeks.

This is probably my favourite of the Bo Bo and Cha Cha books to date (although each new one seems to be my favourite, but never mind). Each of these books has been written with my daughter Anya in mind, to be something that she’ll enjoy and also learn from. Book 1 is about having two different homes, but feeling safe and welcome in each one. Book 2 is about some less obvious but still fun things to do in Singapore. Book 3 is about tolerance and friendship. Book 4 is about having fun with cooking. And Book 5 is about self-reliance and spatial intelligence. (Yes, this is reductive, and the books do much more besides, but if you want to ascribe lessons, here they are.)

photo 1

The other books have things that Anya can relate to, especially in terms of the female characters, but I wanted Bo Bo and Cha Cha and the Lost Child to be a bit more on the nose. It features a little Sikh girl who gets lost while visiting the zoo with her daddy (which, for any parent, is a terribly frightening prospect), but she meets the pandas, and learns how to read a map, and befriends an orangutan girl her age named Saloma (last seen in Book 3), and shows courage and resourcefulness in finding her way back to her appa. I made the little girl, named Kavi, of Indian ethnicity for two reasons: 1) the other books in the series feature a number of ethnic Chinese characters, and although Malays and South Asians appear in the background, none were featured as main characters, which was a practice that needed to change; and 2) Anya has expressed her wish that she could be Indian (even though I’ve tried explaining genetics and ancestry to her), so Kavi is the closest that she can get vicariously to this wish. I even based Kavi’s outfit in the book on one of Anya’s, modelled above.

So I’m very proud that this story is now a fully realised book, and that it will be available for kids everywhere very very soon. If you would like to review it for a newspaper, magazine or litblog, please contact Sophia Susanto, the Sales & Marketing Executive at Epigram Books. Again, you can sample the book here and/or order a copy right now from the Epigram Books website, and rate/review it on Goodreads.

Yay!

photo 2

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Books Published Since 2011

In 2010, Kenny Leck and Karen Wai took a chance on my work, and bought my very first book, Red Dot Irreal, for their bourgeoning publishing house Math Paper Press, publishing it the following year. And I just realized the other day that I’ve had new books (and new editions) come out every year since then, which is kind of remarkable. No wonder I’m so tired all the time!

Every book and version is still in print, and the links below are for where you can buy each individual edition, so you can get exactly what you want.

2011

Red Dot IrrealMath Paper Press, Oct 2011 (paperback)

2012

Fish Eats Lion: New Singaporean Speculative Fiction (editor), Math Paper Press, Nov 2012 (paperback)

Red Dot Irreal, Revised Second Edition, Infinity Plus Books, Dec 2012 (ebook)

The Alchemy of HappinessInfinity Plus Books, Dec 2012 (ebook)

A New Home For Bo Bo and Cha Cha (Illustrated by Patrick Yee), Epigram Books, Dec 2012 (paperback)

2013

Bo Bo and Cha Cha’s Big Day Out (Illustrated by Patrick Yee), Epigram Books, May 2013 (paperback)

Embracing the Strange: The Transformative Impact of Speculative FictionMath Paper Press, Sep 2013 (chapbook)

LONTAR issue #1 (editor), Math Paper Press, Sep 2013 (paperback)

Red Dot Irreal, Revised Second Edition, Infinity Plus Books, Oct 2013 (paperback)

The Alchemy of HappinessInfinity Plus Books, Oct 2013 (paperback)

Strange MammalsInfinity Plus Books, Oct 2013 (paperback & ebook)

The Epigram Books Collection of Best New Singaporean Short Stories: Volume One (editor), Epigram Books, Oct 2013 (paperback)

2014

Bo Bo and Cha Cha and the New Year Gift (Illustrated by Patrick Yee), Epigram Books, Jan 2014 (paperback)

LONTAR issue #1 (editor), Math Paper Press, Feb 2014 (ebook)

LONTAR issue #2 (editor), Math Paper Press, Apr 2014 (ebook)

Fish Eats Lion: New Singaporean Speculative Fiction (editor), Infinity Plus Books, Jun 2014 (ebook)

Bo Bo and Cha Cha Cook Up a Storm (Illustrated by Patrick Yee), Epigram Books, Oct 2014 (paperback)

Fish Eats Lion: New Singaporean Speculative Fiction (editor), Infinity Plus Books, Nov 2014 (paperback)

LONTAR issue #2 (editor), Math Paper Press, Nov 2014 (paperback)

LONTAR issue #3 (editor), Epigram Books, Nov 2014 (paperback)

2015

LONTAR issue #3 (editor), Epigram Books, Mar 2015 (ebook)

Bo Bo and Cha Cha and the Lost Child (Illustrated by Patrick Yee), Epigram Books, Apr 2015 (paperback)

LONTAR issue #4 (editor), Epigram Books, May 2015 (paperback and ebook)

The Epigram Books Collection of Best New Singaporean Short Stories: Volume Two (editor), Epigram Books, Oct 2015 (paperback)

A Close Encounter With Bo Bo and Cha Cha (Illustrated by Patrick Yee), Epigram Books, Oct 2015 (paperback)

LONTAR issue #5 (editor), Epigram Books, Oct 2015 (paperback and ebook)

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Fiction Accolades for Epigram Books in 2014

To toot my own editing horn for a moment, 2014 was quite a year for fiction at Epigram Books. In addition to publishing works by debut authors (A Certain Exposure by Jolene Tan and The Space Between the Raindrops by Justin Ker), translations by award-winning authors (The Goddess in the Living Room by Latha and Trivialities About Me and Myself by Yeng Pway Ngon), a new short story collection by one of my favorite poets (Ten Things My Father Never Taught Me and Other Stories by Cyril Wong), and the third issue of LONTAR, we also received the following accolades:

1. The 2014 Singapore Literature Prize for English Fiction (Ministry of Moral Panic by Amanda Lee Koe);

2. 2014 Year’s Best list, The Business Times and The Straits Times (A Certain ExposureTrivialities About Me and Myself and Last Train from Tanjong Pagar by Koh Hong Teng (graphic novel)*)

3. Top 10 English Singapore Books from 1965-2014, The Business Times (Ministry of Moral Panic);

4. Longlist for the 2014 Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award (Ministry of Moral Panic);

5. Six of our titles picked as “Book of the Year” on the Singapore Poetry website** (The Epigram Books Collection of Best New Singaporean Short Stories: Volume One, Ministry of Moral Panic***, The Wayang at Eight Milestone by Gregory Nalpon, A Certain Exposure, Trivialities About Me and Myself, and Last Train from Tanjong Pagar).

We must be doing something right over here. 😀

2015 is already shaping up to be an interesting year, with Big Mole by Ming Cher (the long-awaited sequel to his smash hit Spider Boys), translations by Cultural Medallion winners You Jin and Mohamed Latiff Mohamed, LONTAR #4 and #5, and The Epigram Books Collection of Best New Singaporean Short Stories: Volume Two. I’m hoping to fill a few more slots in the second half of the year, so do keep those manuscripts coming!

 

* Tangentially related, as it is a hybrid of memoir and fiction; the editor on this book was Aditi Shivaramakrishnan.

** My chapbook Embracing the Strange also made this list, to my delight.

*** Ministry of Moral Panic was chosen four separate times for this list.

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Fish Eats Lion I+ Print Edition Now Available

Fish Eats LionIn June, the ebook edition of Fish Eats Lion was published by Infinity Plus Books with a brand new cover (one that fully took advantage of the alien-looking appearance of the lionfish). And now, just in time for Christmas, the print edition has been released! Order it at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Amazon UK, and CreateSpace. Nearly 300 pages of chewy speculative goodness from the Lion City.

(The electronic version is of course still available in the ebook stores at Smashwords, Amazon, Amazon UKAmazon CANook, Kobo, and iTunes.)

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

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

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

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

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Where You Can Find Me at the Singapore Writers Festival

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Whew!

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Where You Can Find Me in NYC

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

So here’s my schedule:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More details at the full SLF programming schedule.

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

Hope to see some friendly faces there!

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Penguins and Prejudice

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

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

tango-fact
Illustration by Henry Cole, layout by Jaxe Pan.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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AGENTED!

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

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

You guys, I have an agent! AN AGENT!

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

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

SUPER YAY! SNOOPY DANCE!

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BB&CC Book 3 is Now Out!

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

bbcc3-signing

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

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

Here’s the synopsis:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

bbcc3-launch

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A Very Belated Update (With Pictures!)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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(Anya playing with her Yiayia.)

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

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

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

***

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

***

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

***

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

***

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

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

outpouring

***

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

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

***

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

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

Examination of a Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ebook: SmashwordsNookKoboiTunesKindleKindle UK

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Interview in I-S Magazine

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

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


Tell us about your new book.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How do you spend a typical Friday or Saturday night?

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

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

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

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

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

What turns you on?

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

Describe your day job.

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

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

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

What do you do when you want a break?

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

What annoys you?

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

What makes you sick to the stomach?

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

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

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

Do you have any political or religious persuasion?

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

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

What do you live for?

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

Wax poetic about a topic of your choice.

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

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

Famous last words.

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

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Guest Blogging for Strange Mammals

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What other endorsement do you need? Obey the cuteness! #strangemammals

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BNSSS Honourable Mentions

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

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

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

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

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