Category Archives: Books

Penguins and Prejudice

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

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

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Illustration by Henry Cole, layout by Jaxe Pan.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Filed under Books, Parenthood, Public Libraries, Singapore

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:

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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:

Available from: Amazon | Amazon UK | CreateSpace

Ebook: SmashwordsNookKoboKindleKindle UK

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BNSSS Honourable Mentions

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

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

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

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

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It’s a Three-Book Day!

Three-Book Day!

Third book, Strange Mammals, not shown.

Holy crap, today is an embarrassment of riches!

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Epigram Books Collection of Best New Singaporean Short Stories

Cover design by Lydia Wong
Cover photograph by Darren Soh


Enter the book giveaway at Goodreads!

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


Contents

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

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

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

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

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

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Sweet Sassy Molassy Do I Need an Assistant

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Announcing Strange Mammals from Infinity Plus Books

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

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

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

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

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

These are very exciting times. 🙂

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Crazy May

This morning, I was talking with my children’s book editor (and colleague) Sheri Tan about how crazy this month is going to be. In terms of both deadlines and releases, it’s probably the busiest month I can remember lately.

Okay, so here are the titles coming out, all of which I’ll need to spend time promoting:

  1. Embracing the Strange: The Transformative Impact of Speculative Fiction (Math Paper Press): a chapbook hybrid-essay thingy. It can also be found digitally as part of The Alchemy of Happiness, but the chapbook promises to be a beautiful physical object that you’ll want to hold in your hands.
  2. Bo Bo and Cha Cha’s Big Day Out (Epigram Books): the second book in the BB&CC picture book series. This time, the pandas get out of the zoo and tour around Singapore, winding up in some unexpected places.
  3. LONTAR issue #1 (Math Paper Press): the first issue of a literary journal devoted to Southeast Asian speculative fiction. The journal has been gestating for a long time, and I’m so excited to see it soon emerge into the world.
  4. Nurse Molly Returns by Katherine Soh (Epigram Books): this was the first book I was assigned as literary fiction editor at Epigram Books, by a debut author. An exposé of Singapore’s healthcare system, a celebration of the nursing profession, and a charming quest to find the right man, this novel should have broad commercial appeal.
  5. Confrontation by Mohamed Latiff Mohamed (Epigram Books): the English translation of an award-winning Malay novel about the turbulent years leading up to Singapore’s merger with Malaya, told through the eyes of a  Malay kampung boy. A refreshing historical perspective, and likely one quite different from the one taught in Singaporean schools.

And here are my deadlines:

  1. Apply for the NAC Creation Grant (15 May): I’ve got everything done except for the sample for the proposed work.
  2. Write the next BB&CC book (20 May): I have a synopsis for this one, but no outline yet.
  3. Write two short stories, one of which has been commissioned (31 May): haven’t started either of these.
  4. Write two pieces of flash fiction (ASAP): also haven’t started, but both will be under 240 words, so they shouldn’t take long.

Not to mention the storytelling sessions, readings, and other speaking engagements to which I’ve committed (and which can be found in the sidebar of this blog).

And of course, I need to get all of these things done in May, because June is going to be devoted to revising my novel and nothing else dammit. I’ve started revisions, but only on the smaller things; the bigger issues have yet to be addressed, and I’ll need the whole month to work on them.

Like I told Sheri, it’s a crazy month, but a good kind of crazy. I’m doing what I love, and actually making a living at it. If I didn’t know better, it would feel like I’m cheating.

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An Extract From “Represented Spaces”

When I approached Keith Brooke (the über-awesome proprietor of Infinity Plus Books) with the idea of publishing my new ebook collection The Alchemy of Happiness, I very much had in mind to model the contents after those in PM Press’ Outspoken Authors series of perfect-bound chapbooks: a small number of fiction pieces (no more than three), followed by an essay or some other work of non-fiction, and then an interview.

Two of the fiction pieces, “Reality, Interrupted” and “In Jurong” were previously published (and the third, “Always a Risk,” will see print publication in March in the anthology Eastern Heathens, edited by Ng Yi-Sheng and Amanda Lee Koe). The non-fiction piece, “Embracing the Strange: The Transformative Impact of Speculative Fiction (A Hybrid-Essay)” will also see print publication in March as a standalone chapbook in Math Paper Press’ Babette’s Feast chapbook series. But I wanted the interview, titled “Represented Spaces,” to be solely exclusive to The Alchemy of Happiness, and so I have no plans to release it elsewhere, either in print or electronically.

So, to whet your appetite, below is posted just a small extract from the nearly six-thousand-word interview by author and editor Wei Fen Lee; if you dig it, you can only find the rest of it in The Alchemy of Happiness:

> A motif of fluid identity and the potential for multiplicity is prevalent throughout the three stories in The Alchemy of Happiness, from the metamorphosis of characters into different stages of life, to more mundane details like just a change in outfit choices. Why the choice of this motif, and what are your own thoughts on the construction and destruction of personal identity?

I’ve always seen identity as very fluid; we’re different people depending on whom we’re around. I act differently whether I’m with my wife, or with my daughter, or with my female friends, or with my male friends, or with my parents. It’s just something we as human beings negotiate all the time. What’s interesting to me about speculative fiction is the ability to make it more concrete, to actually literalise this concept.

> I guess that’s the power of the strange as well: we have the ability to see how far these changes can stretch.

Right. You can make things more literal so that we can actually examine them. If Gregor Samsa changes into a giant beetle, what can we find out about his family dynamics?

> In “In Jurong” especially, memory is linked to identity, and the past is constantly seen as constructing us.

The past is what makes us who we are. Even if traumatic things happened in the past, even if things were really horrible or transformative, they make us into the people that we are. So I definitely see memory as linked to identity in that way, depending on how we think of ourselves and our memories. It informs how we act and react in any given situation.

> In David Eagleman’s collection Sum, his speculations about the afterlife agree with your own stories about the afterlife not constituting a single place. Why did you choose the afterlife to write about, and what do you think of the potential to play with this concept and space of the afterlife?

It’s the biggest mystery there is, right? One of my favorite writers, Jonathan Carroll, has been very preoccupied with death and the afterlife over the last 15 years or so in his writing; I presume that as he’s grown older, he’s been thinking about it a lot, and questioning what the afterlife might be like. It’s the great unknown. What’s interesting to me is that he hasn’t formed a comprehensive view of it yet; he’s come up with many different types of afterlives, in order to explore all these “what-if?” questions. And that tactic appeals to me as a writer as well.

> Asking questions about the afterlife also begs the question, what kind of death?

Exactly. I’m a practicing Buddhist (although my practice is a bit slack at the moment), and the typical Buddhist view is that there is no afterlife. If you don’t become enlightened, then you reincarnate into a new form and you do it all over again, with your new life determined by your previous karma. There are lots of different ways to look at the cessation of life, and part of the fun of writing this stuff is being able to explore big issues like that.

> On that note, the stories in The Alchemy of Happiness seem heavily imbued with Buddhist philosophy and thought. What do you personally subscribe to, and how do you see your personal beliefs mixing with your fiction to create new beasts, so to speak?

I look at Buddhism more as a life philosophy than as a religion, and so even if I’m not meditating every day, or chanting mantras on a regular basis, I still try to keep the Four Noble Truths ingrained in my thinking, and to exemplify the core ideas of compassion, connection, and consequence in my actions.

For Red Dot Irreal, my focus was more on the strangeness of the Singaporean psyche, seen through the lens of a foreigner living in Singapore. But with The Alchemy of Happiness, I was thinking a lot more broadly, and the Buddhist mindset is definitely more prevalent. Especially in “Always a Risk,” where this weird realm deals with magic and demons, yet Buddhism still has a place there.

> So is it a conscious choice, inserting these philosophies, or does it naturally arise just because of your paradigm of the world?

I think that with my older stories, it was more of the latter, but with “Always a Risk” and especially with A Fickle and Restless Weapon, the novel that I just finished writing, it was a much more conscious choice (the title even comes from the Dhammapada). I really wanted to put Buddhism front and centre. I don’t want to be prescriptive or anything, but I deliberately made the themes and ideas much more obvious.

> So how then do you prevent yourself from being prescriptive? What would constitute prescriptive?

I think if I was saying: this is the right way to believe. So as long as I can prevent myself from doing that, I hope I’m not preaching in my work.

> So just offering the view.

Exactly. Buddhism is not very prevalent in SF; it’s there, but maybe it’s based on cursory or incorrect information, used as this unconventional opposition to the Judeo-Christian tradition. There aren’t many writers using the philosophy or the core ideas of Buddhism in SF and fantasy yet, on anything more than the level of a curiosity. It’s something that’s important to me and I want to try to express that in my writing as well.

Buy The Alchemy of Happiness at the following ebook stores: SmashwordsNookKoboiTunesKindleKindle UKThe Robot Trading Co.

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Get Red Dot Irreal For Free!

Red Dot IrrealIn November and December, four new books of mine were released (I know! Four!), but because of some personal issues that arose, I wasn’t able to devote the proper time to promote them. So I’m doing a bit of catch-up now.

As you may know, my 2011 collection Red Dot Irreal, which was originally published in paperback by Math Paper Press, was re-released as an ebook by Infinity Plus Books with three new stories: “Big Chief,” “Bachy Soletanche,” and “Occupy: An Exhibition,” the last of which was especially written for this edition. It’s now available at all the major ebook stores, and DRM-free at Smashwords and The Robot Trading Co.

One thing that got buried in my previous announcement of the ebook edition was the fact that you can get it for free. Free! Here’s what you do:

  1. If you own the book already, either the paperback or the previous ebook edition that I self-published, take a photo of yourself either with your copy of the book or with your e-reader with the book on the screen, and post it on Twitter with the hashtag #RDIandMe. Once I see your photo, I’ll DM you the coupon code to download the book at Smashwords. Or;
  2. Buy the ebook of my brand new collection The Alchemy of Happiness, and you’ll find in the back of it the same coupon code to download Red Dot Irreal at Smashwords.

Of course, I’m more than grateful if you still want to buy the Red Dot Irreal ebook, as it will make my publisher happy and willing to keep working with me, but I didn’t want to penalize folks who already owned the book in another form. Plus, I want to drive eyeballs to the new collection, which I’m really quite proud of, and will discuss more in the next post.

You like free stuff don’t you? Well, now you know what to do!

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Bo Bo & Cha Cha Goodreads Giveaway Update

Bo Bo and Cha ChaThe book giveaway for A New Home For Bo Bo and Cha Cha ended a few days ago, and Goodreads’ magical random contest-deciding gnomes have chosen the ten lucky people who will receive a free copy of the book:

  • Ashima Gupta (India)
  • John Taggart (UK)
  • Fauza Sari (Indonesia)
  • Melissa Crump (Canada)
  • Zoe Brockway (California)
  • Christina Browne (UK)
  • Laura Scott (Michigan)
  • Monti McCauley (Tennessee)
  • Katelyn Lucio (California)
  • Sara Mansavage (Wisconsin)

Congratulations to all the winners! Epigram Books will be mailing out your copies this week. Once you’ve read the book (it won’t take very long), please consider rating and reviewing it on the Goodreads page!

I was astonished to discover that 924 people had entered the contest, which was far more interest than I ever could have expected, especially for a picture book that’s gotten close to zero publicity so far. Yay for cute pandas and complex emotional journeys! For the other 914 people who weren’t able to get a free copy, and for anyone else reading this, the book is available for order on Amazon, as well as in fine bookstores that sell picture books all over Singapore (Books Kinokuniya, Littered With Books, MPH Bookstores, Popular, Select Books, Times Bookshop, Woods in the Books).

I’ve also just created a Bo Bo and Cha Cha Facebook page, so feel free to “like” it and keep updated on this book and the rest of the series to come. There will be at least three more books forthcoming, which will see the two pandas in various other new experiences (Book 2: May 2013; Book 3: September 2013; Book 4: January 2014).

Book 2 has been written, and Patrick Yee has already turned in preliminary sketches for it; by all accounts, it’ll be even better than Book 1, which makes sense. With A New Home For Bo Bo and Cha Cha, I had to learn how to write a picture book, since I’d never done it before; for Book 2, I was able to use that prior knowledge and experience, and the process is already going a lot smoother. Book 1 was also incredibly hurried, in both the writing and artwork, and since both Patrick and I have a bit more breathing room this time, it’ll result in a better book.

Also, after writing Book 2, it hit me that picture-book writing is also damn fun. It’s challenging in different ways than my adult prose writing, and audience feedback is much more immediate and enthusiastic. I was talking to a friend this weekend, and mentioned that after Book 3 and 4 are done, I’d like to write another picture book, or series of picture books, which is completely different, and explores some new themes. I’ll still be doing my other writing (my very grown-up novel is waiting for me to revise it), but it’s exciting to add children’s books to a regular part of my repertoire.

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2012 Books Read

Going back to 2006, I’ve had a tradition of posting the books I’ve read each year, as a way of keeping track of my reading habits and preferences, and will do so once again here. The list is provided sans commentary, although I will say that the books I’ve bothered both to pick up and to finish are ones that I consider worth reading. And I would ask that if mention of the titles below strikes your fancy, please consider picking them up through IndieBound and supporting your local independent bookstores.

Quite a good year, coming in at 110 books; it’s amazing how much you can read when you don’t work full-time! This of course doesn’t include any issues of The New Yorker or A Public Space or Ceriph or other magazines and journals that I read, or the many many kid’s books I read to Anya. Most of below books should have pages on Goodreads, so you can search for them there for more information.

2012 Books Read:

  1. The Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow by Cory Doctorow (PM Press Outspoken Authors #8)
  2. Gone Case: A Graphic Novel, Book 2 by Dave Chua & Koh Hong Teng
  3. Distrust That Particular Flavor by William Gibson
  4. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
  5. Laughter in the Dark by Vladimir Nabokov
  6. Despair by Vladimir Nabokov
  7. Quiet: The Importance of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain
  8. East, West: Stories by Salman Rushdie
  9. The Sigh by Marjane Satrapi
  10. The Thorn and the Blossom by Theodora Goss
  11. The Hall of the Singing Caryatids by Victor Pelevin
  12. Why Orwell Matters by Christopher Hitchens
  13. We Others: New and Selected Stories by Steven Millhauser
  14. The Baum Plan for Financial Independence and Other Stories by John Kessel
  15. Maps and Legends by Michael Chabon
  16. Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke
  17. Ganymede by Cherie Priest
  18. What Gives Us Our Names by Alvin Pang
  19. Bare (素颜) by Terry Lee
  20. The Law of Second Marriages by Christine Chia
  21. The World Must Weigh The Same by Carol Chan
  22. Invitation to a Beheading by Vladimir Nabokov
  23. The Fry Chronicles by Stephen Fry
  24. Stories: All-New Tales edited by Neil Gaiman & Al Sarrantonio
  25. No Enemies, No Hatred: Selected Essays and Poems by Liu Xiaobo
  26. Between Souls by Bryan Thao Worra
  27. The Complete Cosmicomics by Italo Calvino
  28. Victimology by Verena Tay
  29. Careless by Jacqueline Ong
  30. Do You Fear The Line? by Wong Shu Yun
  31. I’m Still Here by Belinda Wan
  32. Silently and Very Fast by Catherynne M. Valente
  33. City of Rain by Alvin Pang
  34. womango by Grace Chia Kraković
  35. The Kingdom of Gods by N.K. Jemisin
  36. Ajar by Grace Chia Kraković
  37. The Lake by Banana Yoshimoto
  38. Six Characters Looking For an Author by Luigi Pirandello
  39. The Ecstasy of Influence: Nonfictions, Etc. by Jonathan Lethem
  40. A Manual for Sons by Donald Barthelme
  41. The Human Soul As A Rube Goldberg Device by Kevin Brockmeier
  42. Stone Animals by Kelly Link
  43. We Bury the Landscape by Kristine Ong Muslim
  44. The Mirage by Matt Ruff
  45. The Barbizon Diaries: A Meditation on Will, Purpose, and the Value of Stories by James A. Owen
  46. Fair Coin by E.C. Myers
  47. Dark Tangos by Lewis Shiner
  48. The Enchanter by Vladimir Nabokov (re-read)
  49. Fury by Salman Rushdie (re-read)
  50. The Physiognomy by Jeffrey Ford
  51. June Fourth Elegies by Liu Xiaobo
  52. Zombie Spaceship Wasteland by Patton Oswalt
  53. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
  54. Chasing Curtained Suns: Poems by Jerrold Yam
  55. The Real Life of Sebastian Knight by Vladimir Nabokov
  56. The Pottawatomie Giant and Other Stories by Andy Duncan
  57. Memoranda by Jeffrey Ford
  58. After the Apocalypse: Stories by Maureen F. McHugh
  59. The Beyond by Jeffrey Ford
  60. Redshirts by John Scalzi
  61. Crazy Hair by Neil Gaiman & Dave McKean
  62. Return to a Sexy Island by Neil Humphreys
  63. Malinky Robot by Sonny Liew
  64.  The Beating and Other Stories by Dave Chua
  65. Circus of the Grand Design by Robert Freeman Wexler
  66. Malaysian Tales: Retold & Remixed ed. by Daphne Lee
  67. Zod Wallop by William Browning Spencer
  68. The Steampowered Globe ed. by Rosemary Lim & Maisarah Bte Abu Samah
  69. Bend Sinister by Vladimir Nabokov
  70. The Billion Shop by Stephanie Ye
  71. Sonnets From the Singlish by Joshua Ip
  72. Cordelia by Grace Chia Kraković
  73. When the Barbarians Arrive by Alvin Pang
  74. Other Things and Other Poems by Alvin Pang
  75. Titus Groan by Mervyn Peake
  76. Elektra and Wolverine: The Redeemer by Greg Rucka and Yoshitaka Amano
  77. Antwerp by Roberto Bolaño
  78. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov (re-read)
  79. This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Díaz
  80. A Place On Earth by Tracey Sullivan
  81. Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed
  82. Pantone 125 by Madeleine Lee
  83. The Pillow Book by Jee Leong Koh
  84. Parvathi Dreams About His Sex by Vinita Ramani Mohan
  85. Joseph Anton: A Memoir by Salman Rushdie
  86. The Rest of Your Life and Everything That Comes With It by O Thiam Chin
  87. Malay Sketches by Alfian Sa’at
  88. RASL: Pocket Book One by Jeff Smith
  89. Pnin by Vladimir Nabokov
  90. Clear Brightness by Boey Kim Cheng
  91. A Hologram for the King by Dave Eggers
  92. Saga, Volume 1 by Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples
  93. Drifting House by Krys Lee
  94. Longshot (Marvel Premiere Classic #14) by Ann Nocenti & Arthur Adams et al.
  95. Slog’s Dad by David Almond & Dave McKean
  96. Between Stations by Boey Kim Cheng
  97. After the Fire: New and Selected Poems by Boey Kim Cheng
  98. This Is Not A Game by Walter Jon Williams
  99. Scenegapore by Miel
  100. Monsters, Miracles & Mayonnaise by drewscape
  101. Ten Sticks and One Rice by Oh Yong Hwee and Koh Hong Teng
  102. Lobster Johnson, Vol. 1: The Iron Prometheus by Mike Mignola & Jason Armstrong et al.
  103. Blackwood by Gwenda Bond
  104. Cairo by G. Willow Wilson & M.K. Perker
  105. The Ayam Curtain ed. by J.Y. Yang and Joyce Chng
  106. Sir Edward Grey: Witchfinder, Vol. 1: In the Service of Angels by Mike Mignola & Ben Stenbeck et al.
  107. A Monsoon Feast ed. by Verena Tay
  108. Bang My Car by Ann Ang
  109. Balik Kampung ed. by Verena Tay
  110. Level Up by Gene Luen Yang & Thien Pham

Previously: 2011 Books Read, 2010 Books Read2009 Books Read2008 Books Read2007 Books Read2006 Books Read

indiebound

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Hell’s a Good Joke

Keith Brooke, the über-awesome proprietor of Infinity Plus Books (and an excellent author in his own right), asked me to write a short essay on the genesis of the main characters in my new ebook collection The Alchemy of Happiness, and it’s just been posted on the KB/I+ blog.

It’s called “Hell’s a Good Joke“:

It all started with a sculpture.

In 1999, when I was still an unpublished newbie, I attended the World Horror Convention in Atlanta, where some of the notable writer guests included Neil Gaiman, John Shirley, Michael Bishop, Caitlín R. Kiernan, and Ramsey Campbell. At that point, I thought that I might still be a horror writer, even though my innate squeamishness for violence and terror was beginning to win the battle for my chosen subject matter, and I attended very much because of the writers there. However, on the second day of the convention, at the urging of several new friends, I made my way into the art show, and beheld the gloriously dark and whimsical sculpture work of Lisa Snellings, who was the Artist Guest-of-Honor. Her smaller pieces made me smile and her larger kinetic works (including the moving Ferris wheel that inspired the anthology Strange Attraction, edited by Edward E. Kramer) filled me with wonder, but it was her largest piece on display that literally stole the breath from my lungs.

Named “If Love’s a Fine Game, Hell’s a Good Joke,” the sculpture consisted of two life-sized harlequins, one balancing on the knees of the other; the expressions that Lisa had so painstakingly crafted on their faces were so devilish and sly that, right there on that spot, I conceived of the siblings Blue and Dane: immortals, manipulators, elementals.

Read the rest here.

Buy The Alchemy of Happiness at the following ebook stores: SmashwordsKoboiTunesKindleKindle UK

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Bo Bo & Cha Cha Giveaway on Goodreads

Epigram Books is giving away 10 copies of A New Home For Bo Bo and Cha Cha (free PDF sample) on Goodreads! For those of you who might not have easy access to the book, this is an excellent chance to get your hands on a copy. Open to residents of the USA, UK, Canada, Australia, India, China, Japan, and the ASEAN countries. The giveaway ends on 31 January, so enter to win a copy today!

Two pandas, Bo Bo and Cha Cha, have come to the Mandai Zoo! Bo Bo is excited, but Cha Cha is not. Everything here seems too strange: the other animals, the heat and the food! Cha Cha wants to leave—until a caring sloth shows her what being home really means.

The book is also available in fine bookstores all over Singapore (Books Kinokuniya, Littered With Books, MPH Bookstores, Popular, Select Books, Times Bookshop, Woods in the Books), as well as for order on Amazon.

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BooksActually: The Documentary

Colourbars Media has produced a 41-minute documentary about BooksActually, the best, coziest, quirkiest, most eclectic, most wonderful, and most important bookshop in Singapore. I was just there this afternoon, discussing upcoming Math Paper Press projects with Kenny for 2013 (including my chapbook Embracing the Strange, which is expected to be released in March, the same month as the first issue of LONTAR), and for the millionth time, I was so grateful that the store was there. I dare you to watch this video and not want to make BooksActually your second home.

And hey, I even make a brief unexpected appearance at the 22:07 mark (I didn’t even know they were filming).

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Last-Minute Christmas Ideas

I know that things have been fairly quiet here at the blog as of late. Work, both at Epigram Books and in my freelance life, got quite busy, and I also had to deal with some upheavals in my private life. But I’m back just in time to pimp my books for your holiday gift-buying! Yay?

Anyway, the last four months of 2012 have been especially fruitful in terms of my published work, and so I therefore offer a plethora of strange and delightful fiction for that special person in your life (or maybe even you). Let’s start with the most recent and work our way back.

Apologies, but this is a bit long.

Red Dot Irreal1) First off is the expanded second edition of my 2011 collection Red Dot Irreal, re-released as an ebook by Infinity Plus Books, with three new stories: “Big Chief,” “Bachy Soletanche,” and “Occupy: An Exhibition,” the last of which was especially written for this edition. The book is now available at the Kobo, Kindle*, and Kindle UK ebook stores, and DRM-free at Smashwords; it’ll be up soon for the Nook, iBookstore, and other venues, but those take a bit longer to get listed.

Now, I realize that it’s only been a year since the original print edition was published by Math Paper Press, and it may look like a bit of a dick move to release it with new content as an ebook so as to get folks buying the book again in order to read the new pieces. Therefore, to demonstrate my lack of dickishness, anyone who has already bought the print edition of Red Dot Irreal can also get the ebook for free. All you have to do is take a photo of yourself with your copy of the book (but not in a bookstore, since you could always just pick it up off the shelf and then put it back) and post it on Twitter with the hashtag #RDIandMe. Once I see your photo, I’ll DM you the coupon code to download the book (in multiple formats) at Smashwords. Pretty cool, huh?

For those of you who have not yet bought the print edition, please consider parting with three of your hard-earned dollars and buying the ebook.

The Alchemy of Happiness2) Released by Infinity Plus Books simultaneously with Red Dot Irreal is my brand new ebook collection, The Alchemy of Happiness: a triptych of stories rooted in Southeast Asian myth and legend. The book contains two previously published stories, one brand new novelette (“Always a Risk”), a hybrid-essay (“Embracing the Strange”), and an interview conducted by Wei Fen Lee (“Represented Spaces”). It’s just (like, just a couple of hours ago) been posted to Smashwords for sale, and will pop up at the other places soon.

I’m very proud of this new collection; it finally pairs “Reality, Interrupted” and “In Jurong” into the diptych that I always imagined them to be, and continues the strangeness in a tale that doesn’t so much as tie everything together as provide a satisfying resolution to the narrative as a whole.

“But wait a damn minute,” I hear you saying. (I have excellent hearing.**) “‘In Jurong’ is also in Red Dot Irreal! What the hell, man! There you go, being a dick again!”

First of all, I resent the word “again” in this context, but never mind. Yes, it’s true, the story does overlap both collections. So you know what? If you buy the ebook of The Alchemy of Happiness, you’ll find in the back of it the same coupon code I mentioned above so that you can download Red Dot Irreal for free. Happy? Jeez.

So to sum up so far, you can get Red Dot Irreal for free by either tweeting a photo of yourself with the book along with the hashtag #RDIandMe, OR if you buy the ebook of The Alchemy of Happiness. Good? Good. Okay, let’s move on.

A New Home For Bo Bo and Cha Cha3) Epigram Books, my current part-time employer, published my very first children’s picture book last month, called A New Home For Bo Bo and Cha Cha (illustrated by Patrick Yee). It’s the first book in a planned series about the adventures of a pair of pandas in their new home of Singapore (the next three books have been outlined already, and I need to get to writing them soon). I did an interview about the book last week for the Epigram Books blog.

I’ve been told that you can now find the book in all fine Singapore bookstores that carry children’s books (Kinokuniya, Popular, Times, MPH, Select Books, Woods in the Books, and Littered with Books). But for those of you outside of Singapore, you can order it at Amazon*; right now, it’s listed as temporarily out of stock, but the more folks who order, the more copies Amazon will stock, so please don’t feel the need to wait. However you get the book, please do get a copy; the more support it sees, the more likely my publisher (and boss) will be willing to see the rest of the books in the series through.

Fish Eats Lion4) My first major solo editing project, Fish Eats Lion: New Singaporean Speculative Fiction, was released last month by Math Paper Press in time for the Singapore Writers Festival. It was a tremendous experience curating the anthology and presenting it to the world. It’s available in Singapore at BooksActually and Kinokuniya, but you can now order the book online from anywhere in the world! Just head over to the BooksActually Web Store, and if you buy more than three titles (by, say, adding the print edition of Red Dot Irreal and at least one more book, like maybe Coast and/or The Ayam Curtain, to your cart), you get a 20% discount.

I’ve blabbed about the book already here at the blog, so the only other thing I want to add is that if you’re into literary speculative fiction, and are curious about how Singaporean writers experience and convey the strange, then you’re really going to want to get this book. And hey, if nothing else, at over 430 pages, you can stun a burglar with it!

The Curragh of Kildaire5) In October, I released the revised edition of my 2001 collection The Curragh of Kildaire (illustrated by Jamie Bishop), with a brand new 3,000-word afterword written especially for this edition. I realize that this is probably really of interest only to folks who are completists of my work (you know, both of you out there), but it also makes me feel good that not only are these stories getting a second life, but so is Jamie’s artwork. This one is available directly from me.

All profits from the sale of this ebook will be donated to The Jamie Bishop Scholarship Fund in Graphic Arts and The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. In light of the terrible tragic violence a few days ago in Connecticut, this second charity in particular could use all the money it can get.

Complications of the Flesh6) And last, but not least, WAY back in September, I released on Smashwords an ebook single of my story “Complications of the Flesh,” which was originally published in Bull Spec. An American drug-runner in Southeast Asia discovers the surreal consequences of going against his gangland boss.

This is also the first published work that takes place in my fictional island-nation of Tinhau, which is also the setting for my first novel, A Fickle and Restless Weapon (which I should hopefully finish revising in January). Surreal setting plus crime narrative equals awesome. Or at the very least an appreciative noise in the back of the throat.

Happy shopping! Give the gift of strange fiction!

* Careful readers of this blog will know that I don’t have much love for Amazon or for the Kindle. And when I release my own work electronically, I will still refuse to have my works listed there. However, I cannot demand that my publishers also practice this same refusal; that would be unfair to them, and would actually prove me a dick. For Epigram Books, it’s the best way to get our titles outside of Southeast Asia, and Infinity Plus makes a majority of its sales from the Kindle ebook store.

** A blatant lie. My hearing is truly terrible. It’s actually quite amazing how bad it is at this point.

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Filed under Books, Parenthood, Singapore, Southeast Asia, Writing

Fish Eats Lion Cover Art Revealed!

Fish Eats Lion

Just look at it; ain’t it a beauty? The anthology will be on sale starting 2 November, and launching at the Singapore Writers Festival on 4 November at 4:00 p.m.

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Filed under Books, Lit Festivals, Publishing, Singapore

Re-release of The Curragh of Kildaire, All Proceeds to Charity

The Curragh of KildaireI’m happy to announce that I am releasing a revised edition of my 2001 limited-edition chapbook The Curragh of Kildaire as an ebook through this website. The original edition was illustrated throughout by Jamie Bishop, and I am reproducing his interior and cover art in the ebook, with permission from Jamie’s widow Stefanie Hofer. These seven stories were written pre-Clarion (although two of them later saw publication), and even though my writing has vastly improved since then, I think it’s important to make them, and Jamie’s accompanying illos, available once again.

The price is only $1.99 USD for the ebook bundle (PDF, EPUB, and MOBI), and all profits from each sale will be donated to The Jamie Bishop Scholarship Fund in Graphic Arts and The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.

You may be asking why I’m selling this myself rather than going through Smashwords, like I did for “Complications of the Flesh” and the previous edition of Red Dot Irreal. Well, hypothetical person, it’s because of the nature of this project. Because all of the proceeds are going to charity, I’d feel a bit strange giving a cut to B&N and Apple and Kobo, etc. in addition to Smashwords. This is not a commercial product the way my short stories or collections might be.

And so I’m going to need some help. If you’re reading this, do please pimp it on Facebook and Twitter and anywhere else you can think of. I want to raise as much money as possible, but I’ll need visibility to do so. Spread the word far and wide, review the book on Goodreads, tell your friends! My thanks and appreciation in advance.

Once again, the link to buy the ebook bundle is here.

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“Complications” Now Available as Ebook

Complications of the FleshMy 4700-word story “Complications of the Flesh” is now available as an ebook on Smashwords for only 99¢. This short story first appeared in issue #7 of the science fiction and fantasy magazine Bull Spec in Spring 2012.

In the Southeast Asian island nation of Tinhau, drug-running is a hanging offense. But the life is just too good for an American washout who would be in prison or dead if not for the intercession of a gangland kingpin called Moz, and his beautiful Indian girlfriend Savita. When the American is caught in an affair with Savita, the consequences become dangerously surreal, and echo into a metaphoric realm short on answers but heavy in meaning.

Cover design is by Robert Freeman Wexler. Cover photograph is by by Bjørn Christian Tørrissen. A short afterword was written especially for the ebook.

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Filed under Books, Southeast Asia, Writing