Category Archives: Publishing

AGENTED!

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

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

You guys, I have an agent! AN AGENT!

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

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

SUPER YAY! SNOOPY DANCE!

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BB&CC Book 3 is Now Out!

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

bbcc3-signing

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

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

Here’s the synopsis:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

bbcc3-launch

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A Very Belated Update (With Pictures!)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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(Anya playing with her Yiayia.)

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

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

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

***

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

***

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

***

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

***

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

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

outpouring

***

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

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

***

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

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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 Release of LONTAR #1

LONTAR issue #1 is now available!

lontar1_cover

Issue #1 Contents
01. Etching the Lontar | Jason Erik Lundberg (Editorial)
02. Departures | Kate Osias (Fiction)
03. Love in the Time of Utopia | Zen Cho (Fiction)
04. Philippine Magic: A Course Catalogue | Paolo Chikiamco (Non-Fiction)
05. Jayawarman 9th Remembers the Dragon Archipelago | Chris Mooney-Singh (Poetry)
06. The Immortal Pharmacist | Ang Si Min (Poetry)
07. Stainless Steel Nak | Bryan Thao Worra (Poetry)
08. The Yellow River | Elka Ray Nguyen (Fiction)
09. The Gambler | Paolo Bacigalupi (Fiction Reprint)

At long last, the first issue of LONTAR is now available for sale at BooksActually and online at the BooksActually Web Store, and very soon at all Kinokuniya branches in Singapore. We’ll also be releasing the issue as a DRM-free ebook bundle (PDF/ePub/Mobi) later this month.

My thanks to all the contributors, poetry editor Kristine Ong Muslim, and publisher Kenny Leck for making the issue a reality. And thanks to the amazing art direction of design superteam Sarah and Schooling for making it so incredibly gorgeous. This is really something you’re going to want to hold in your hands and rub all over your face.

I went and picked up my copies today. I was quite excited.

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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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SWF 2013 Schedule

Earlier today, the programming was released for the 2013 Singapore Writers Festival (this year’s theme: Utopia/Dystopia), including the full list of invited authors and speakers. It looks like they haven’t yet linked up the authors with their events, but if you’re inclined you can check out my author page.

In addition to the usual suspects, I’m particularly excited to see the following folks at this year’s SWF: Dean Francis Alfar, Fatima Bhutto, G. Willow Wilson, Guo Xiaolu, Jo Fletcher, Mohsin Hamid, Paolo Chikiamco, Sjón, and Terri Windling (!).

Here’s my schedule of events:

02 Nov: Brand New Books: The Last Lesson of Mrs de Souza by Cyril Wong | Ministry of Moral Panic by Amanda Lee Koe | Best New Singaporean Short Stories edited by Jason Erik Lundberg
SMU Campus Green, Festival Pavilion, 1130am-1230pm

A psychological examination of a student-teacher relationship in the 1980s, The Last Lesson of Mrs De Souza is acclaimed poet Cyril Wong’s inaugural novel. Ministry of Moral Panic is Amanda Lee Koe’s fresh collection of short fiction that examines the improbable necessity of human connection in strikingly original prose. This launch of their latest literary offerings is moderated by author and editor Jason Erik Lundberg of Epigram Books.

Best New Singaporean Short Stories is Epigram’s biennial anthology series, with Volume One showcasing the best short fiction from Singaporean writers published in 2011 and 2012. Join Jason and five notable contributors in a discussion of their works.

(I’ll be moderating this entire session, since I edited all three books. Pressure!)

03 Nov:Alternate Realities
Singapore Art Museum, Glass Hall, 400-500pm

Life on this planet doesn’t seem to be panning out – is it time to build a new reality? Three speculative fiction writers discuss if it is easier to create stories or to live in the worlds they have created. Whose world would you like to be a part of?

Moderated by: Rajeev Patke

Featuring: Dean Francis Alfar, G Willow Wilson, Jason Erik Lundberg

(I can’t tell you how intimidated I am to be on a panel discussion with these folks.)

06 Nov:Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales Screw Us Up
Fringe 2013: Once Upon A Time
The Arts House, Living Room, 730-830pm

It usually ends with the prince and princess living happily ever after (or some variation to that end). However, life doesn’t often turn out that way. Do fairy tales skew our view of the world, and paint a picture too rose-tinted for our own good? Do they still have a role to play in our world today? Two teams of writers debate on whether fairy tales, in fact, mess with your minds, damaging you forever.

Moderated by: Carolyn Camoens

(I’m not a natural debater, but I’ll think of something to come up with.)

09 Nov: Brand New Books: The Tower by Isa Kamari | Confrontation by Mohamed Latiff Mohamed
SMU Campus Green, Festival Pavilion, 230-330pm

Join prolific authors, Cultural Medallion winner Isa Kamari and three-time Singapore Literature Prize winner Mohamed Latiff bin Mohamed, in conversation with acclaimed playwright Alfian Sa’at, for the launch of the English-language translations of their seminal works. Isa’s The Tower is a masterful allegorical tale of success and failure, translated for the first time into English by Alfian.

From Mohamed Latiff, Confrontation is a brilliant dramatisation of the period of uncertainty and change in the years leading up to Singapore’s merger with Malaya. Seen through the unique perspective of the young boy Adi, this fundamental period in Singaporean history is brought to life with masterful empathy.

(I don’t technically have anything to do with this launch, but I did edit Confrontation, and I published Isa in Fish Eats Lion, so want to support the both of them here.)

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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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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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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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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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Announcing Best New Singaporean Short Stories, Volume 1

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Call for Submissions for Reprint Anthology Series

Singapore, 8/10/2012 — Epigram Books and editor Jason Erik Lundberg are excited to announce the premiere volume of Best New Singaporean Short Stories, a new biennial anthology series of Singaporean short fiction, with an expected publication date of May 2013.

“We have wanted to put together this series for a long time,” said Epigram Books publisher Edmund Wee. “It is important to collect and promote the excellent new short fiction being published by Singaporean writers, and no one else in Singapore has yet done so in this way.”

Epigram Books is now considering nominations from periodical & anthology editors and book publishers who have published English-language stories by Singaporean writers, both in Singapore and abroad. Authors must be Singaporean citizens or permanent residents.

The original appearance of the nominated stories is required to have been published in magazines, literary journals, anthologies, or collections (both in print and online) between January 2011 and December 2012; OR achieved prize placement (third place or above) in a national/international writing competition. There are no restrictions on genre or subject matter.

Submissions are open until 31 December 2012. Full submission guidelines are available here.

For further information or queries, contact:

Jason Erik Lundberg | Editor, Epigram Books
jason@epigrambooks.sg | +65-6292-4456

* * *

ABOUT THE PUBLISHER

An independent publisher based in Singapore, Epigram Books is known for putting together well-designed and thought-provoking titles. Epigram Books began as a division of the award-winning design firm Epigram but registered as a separate entity in July 2011 in order to strengthen its focus on championing local writing.

Epigram Books publishes all manner of fiction—novels, short stories, plays, children’s books and some poetry. We have published works by Singapore literary pioneers Lloyd Fernando, Goh Poh Seng, Stella Kon, Edwin Thumboo, Kirpal Singh and Robert Yeo. Other prominent authors include playwrights Tan Tarn How, Ovidia Yu, Chong Tze Chien, Jean Tay, Haresh Sharma and Lim Chor Pee; authors Lim Thean Soo, Ming Cher and Tan Kok Seng; and children’s authors Adeline Foo and SherMay Loh (winner of the international Moonbeam Children’s Award). Epigram Books is the publisher of The Diary of Amos Lee series and a series of international award-winning children’s picture books.

Epigram Books also reflects Singapore’s obsession with food by publishing both recipe books and food guides. In 2011, the Wee Editions imprint was established to support local designers, photographers and artists through a unique series of compact coffee table books. In 2012, Epigram Books began its foray into comics with the commission of graphic novels by Dave Chua and Ng Xiao Yan, drewscape, miel, Ng Hong Teng and Oh Yong Hwee, and Eisner-nominated artist Sonny Liew.

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I’ve also just announced the table of contents for the first issue of LONTAR. An exciting day for announcements today!

LONTAR

Since submissions were opened in June, I’ve been gratified at the interest LONTAR has received thus far, and am very happy to announce that the first issue is “in the can”. It will be released in March May 2013 by Math Paper Press; we had hoped to launch it by November 2012, but financial and editorial issues led to the slight delay.

This premiere issue of LONTAR showcases speculative writing from and about the Philippines, Malaysia, Cambodia, Singapore, Laos, and Vietnam. Showcased are a post-apocalyptic Manila from Kate Osias, a utopian Kuala Lumpur from Zen Cho, a haunting military excursion down the Yellow River from Elka Ray Nguyen, and a reprinted novelette about a young Laotian journalist’s place in the sensationalist future of news reporting from award-winner Paolo Bacigalupi; speculative poetry from Chris Mooney-Singh, Ang Si Min, and Bryan Thao Worra; and an unusual…

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FISH EATS LION Table of Contents

(Note: the above is still a placeholder image; the final cover art will be coming soon.)

We’re now about two months from publication and launch at the Singapore Writers Festival, so it’s about time that I announce the table of contents for Fish Eats Lion: New Singaporean Speculative Fiction!

Contents
01. Preface | Jason Erik Lundberg
02. The Story of the Kiss | Stephanie Ye
03. Agnes Joaquim, Bioterrorist | Ng Yi-Sheng
04. Punggol | Ben Slater
05. Welcome to the Pond | Wei Fen Lee
06. Last Supper | Jeffrey Lim
07. Rewrites | Shelly Bryant
08. Big Enough for the Entire Universe | Victor Fernando R. Ocampo
09. The Digits | Ivan Ang
10. Apocalypse Approaches | Daryl Yam
11. 010011010100010101001101010011110101001001011001 | Justin Ker
12. Dewy | Grace Chia Kraković
13. Where No Cars Go | JY Yang
14. Green Man Plus | Isa Kamari
15. Mirage | Noelle de Jesus
16. Feng Shui Train | Yuen Kit Mun
17. Last Time Kopitiam | Marc de Faoite
18. Chapter 28: Energy | The Centipede Collective
19. Waiting For the Snow | Carrick Ang
20. The Moon and the Stars | Andrew Cheah
21. The Disappearance of Lisa Zhang | Dave Chua
22. Open | Tan Ming Tuan
23. Zero Hour | Cyril Wong

Fish Eats Lion collects the best original speculative fiction—fantasy, science fiction, and the places in between—being written in Singapore today, a home-grown anthology featuring a refreshing variety of voices and perspectives. Here are tales that are recognizably science fiction and fantasy, but others that blend genres and tropes, including absurdism, police procedural, fairy tales, steampunk, pre- and post-apocalypse, political satire, and alien first contact. These twenty-two stories—from emerging writers publishing their first work to winners of the Singapore Literature Prize and the Cultural Medallion—explore the fundamental singularity of the Lion City.

This book is a celebration of the vibrant creative power underlying Singapore’s inventive prose stylists, where what is considered normal and what is strange are blended in fantastic new ways.

Anyone wanting a PDF Advance Reader Copy for the purposes of reviewing the book, please contact me at jason@booksactually.com. I want to spread the word far and wide about this anthology; it’s a book I’m damn proud to have put together, and the authors whose incredible fiction make up its 81,000 words deserve to have their voices heard.

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2012 SWF Schedule (updated)

SWF 2012 - OriginsThe schedule for the 2012 Singapore Writers Festival has just been released (here’s my SWF author page), so I can reveal the events in which I’ll be participating this year.

Brand New Books: Math Paper Press Anthology Launch
04 Nov 2012, 4:00 – 5:00 pm
Venue: ilovebooks.com Pavilion, Campus Green, Singapore Management University (Capacity: 80)
Free Admission

Three very different anthologies; three different aspects of Singapore. Balik Kampong: Stories of Connection/Disconnection with Different Parts of Singapore takes you back to the village of your imagination and memory, while Ayam Curtain is a mix of bite-sized speculative fiction which offers visions of possible and probable Singapores, from the quirky to the poignant. And in Fish Eats Lion, we have more speculative Singapore short stories; looking at the inherent strangeness of the island nation in a refreshing variety of voices and perspectives.

What I Talk About When I Talk About Music
07 Nov 2012, 6:30 – 8:00 pm
Venue: Switch by Timbre
Free Admission

Hosted by author Daren Shiau, come for an evening reading of literary pieces inspired by music . Featured writers include Alvin Pang, Jason Erik Lundberg and Grace Chia Krakovic performing their work to tracks by artists such as The Smiths, Nine Inch Nails and Radiohead.

Stories from a Shrinking Globe
11 Nov 2012, 11:30 am – 12:30 pm
Featuring: Krishna Udayasankar, Jason Erik Lundberg, Eshkol Nevo
Venue: ilovebooks.com Pavilion, Campus Green, Singapore Management University (Capacity: 80)
Moderator: Gwee Li Sui

Globalisation may have brought the world closer together, but has that really improved the lot of humankind? Come join three authors from varied backgrounds as they explore how globalisation has informed their writing. From recasting myths and local beliefs for modern readers to journeys and the role of English translations, this panel reflects on the complexities of today’s inter-connected world.

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CAS: The Teachening

Creative WritingLast week, I once again taught two writing workshops at the Creative Arts Seminar organized on the campus of the National University of Singapore by the Ministry of Education’s Gifted Education Branch, as part of the year-round Creative Arts Programme. The kids who attend are largely already streamed into GEB classes in their schools, although certainly not all; any students in Secondary Year 2 and 3, and Junior College Year 1, who show a strong interest in creative writing can apply to the program (Sec4 and JC2 students who previously attended can come back as councillors). The biggest part of the application is the creative portfolio, which should show evidence of a sense of form, precision with language, truthfulness of feeling, originality of thought and imagination, and sensitivity to the world at large.

So what you get at the CAS are students who really want to be there. As someone who has taught from Sec 1 all the way up to university, it is a welcome and rare experience to have a roomful of students who are actively excited about what you may have to say. They’re engaged and enthusiastic, they ask good questions, they take lots of notes, and they thank you afterward for teaching them. A nice change from what a teacher normally experiences, and I never take such instances for granted.

In addition to teaching the workshops, however, this year I was also invited to give a plenary lecture on a topic of my choice. The time slot was an hour, so I was asked to talk for about 45 minutes, and then allow 15 minutes for Q&A. Lecturing is not usually my forte, but I was still keen to take up the challenge. I knew that I wanted to talk about speculative fiction, and on the transformative effect it can have on the reader, so I decided to write a speech about four key moments in my life where speculative fiction has had a profound impact. I titled it “Embracing the Strange: The Transformative Impact of Speculative Fiction,” and it seemed to go over quite well.

What I hadn’t been told in advance, and this is probably for the best, was that my plenary speech was the very first program item during the week-long seminar; the students spent Monday morning at registration and orientation, then had lunch, then filed into the lecture theatre to listen to me. So I basically opened the entire seminar with my speech. Had I known about this prior to walking in the door, I would have likely been a nervous wreck, but as it was, I didn’t have time to worry about it, so I just got down to work and did my thing. The kids laughed, and went “Aww,” and got very quiet in all the right spots, and then gave generous and flattering applause at the end.

During the Q&A, spurred by my assertions that they should all “embrace their strange” (whatever that might mean), many of the questions were about my impressions of the divide between “high” and “low” culture, and between mainstream and speculative fiction. It was incredibly interesting to see that the students were already thinking about these issues, and also disheartening to hear that authority figures actively dissuaded them from reading genre fiction, labelling such reads as mere “airport books” (with the assumption that they are both disposable and low in literary merit). I reinforced the notion that no one has the right to tell the students what to read for pleasure, and that if they get something (whatever that may be) out of reading Michael Crichton or George RR Martin or even Stephanie Meyer, that they should continue to do so proudly.

My Sec2/3 workshop was entitled “Worldbuilding 101: Strange New Worlds” (lecture notes) and focused mostly on setting and building a fictional world. This replaced last year’s workshop, which was much more introductory and covered a lot of ground but not very deeply; this year, I wanted to just focus on one topic for these kids, and go much more in-depth, with the result that they would have a much stronger foundation for working on their own speculative work.

My JC1 workshop was entitled “Tripping the Heavy Fantastic” (lecture notes), which was a repeat from last year (albeit tweaked slightly), and focused on cross-genre fiction (slipstream/fantastika/magic realism/etc.). I had high hopes for this one, as it went over so phenomenally well last year, and although the group wasn’t quite as active with their participation, and cliques of students tended to chat during the writing exercises, it still went quite well. By the end of the three hours, they each had the beginning to a new slipstream short story, and the ones who shared displayed vivid imaginations and some quite fine writing, even in rough draft. I encouraged them all to submit their work to LONTAR once they felt it was ready for publication.

Apparently, to my delight, both of the workshops filled up extremely quickly. It’s gratifying to see so much interest in what one is offering. However, if any of the students who wanted to get into one of my workshops and was unable to is reading this, I hope you’ll at least take a look at the lecture notes linked above at Scribd; it’s not the same as being there, and listening to me explain it all, but at least it’s something.

I was also quite chuffed to be able to sell so many of my books while I was there: 50 copies of Red Dot Irreal and around 40 copies of A Field Guide to Surreal Botany. I set special discounted prices for the CAP students, and many bought both books together. Here’s hoping that they enjoy what they read in them, and that it spurs a lifelong love for speculative fiction. If anyone was unable to get your copy of either book, the best place to find them in Singapore is BooksActually.

It was a great few days, and I had a lot of fun. I wish I could do events like this much more often than just once or twice a year.

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LONTAR Now Open For Subs

In case you didn’t see the announcement on my Twitter feed or Facebook profile, LONTAR is now open for submissions! Do please read the submission guidelines carefully at the Submittable portal, and be sure to send your very best work.

There is no deadline, as this will be a quarterly journal, and we will look at submissions on a rolling basis. Be sure to give us 90 days to consider your work before querying us.

As mentioned in the previous entry, we’re hoping to launch the inaugural issue in November at the Singapore Writers Festival, so if you want your piece to be considered for our very first issue, make sure to submit it by mid-July; any later than that, and we can’t guarantee inclusion in Issue #1, even if we accept your piece.

Best of luck!

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Announcing LONTAR

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

LONTARMath Paper Press and founding editor Jason Erik Lundberg are excited to announce the establishment of LONTAR: The Journal of Southeast Asian Speculative Fiction. The mission of this quarterly literary journal is to promote and celebrate quality writing with elements of the fantastic, which is in some way connected with the cultures, traditions, mythologies, folk religions, and/or daily life in Southeast Asia. Joining Lundberg is prolific poet and fiction-writer Kristine Ong Muslim, who will assume the duties of poetry editor.

Southeast Asia is a region that has thus far been under-represented in the more traditionally Western field of speculative fiction. Part of the reason for this in the past has been the language barrier, but this is no longer the case; with English as the lingua franca the world over, more and more people in Southeast Asia know the language fluently. And while publications such as The Apex Book of World SF and Expanded Horizons have created friendly venues for SEA writers in English, the support is largely not there for speculative writing in their own countries, because it may be deemed “frivolous” or “not pragmatic enough.” LONTAR aims to fill this need.

Unsolicited submissions of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and sequential art are welcome from both SEA and non-SEA writers. (Note: stories rejected from the anthology Fish Eats Lion should not be re-submitted for consideration at LONTAR; please send new work.) The reading period will begin on the 1st of June 2012; any pieces submitted prior to this date will be deleted unread. The first issue is planned for release and launch at this year’s Singapore Writers Festival.

Please visit the full submission guidelines at the LONTAR Submittable portal.

The editors look forward to reading your work!

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In the Weeds

In the WeedsHi all, sorry I haven’t been posting lately (I find myself saying this a lot, huh?), but I’m under deadline for several projects right now:

  • I’m conducting another BooksActually workshop tomorrow, and I just this afternoon finished preparing for it;
  • I’m writing an article for POSKOD which is due on the 30th, and I need to wrangle my research notes (taken just this past Wednesday) into a form that approximates creative nonfiction (25% finished);
  • I’m looking at the final submissions for Fish Eats Lion (only four days left to submit!), and trying to shape it all into a coherent anthology;
  • I need to read and critique the stories of my mentees in the Ceriph Mentorship Programme for when we next meet on 6 May;
  • I’m writing a story for the Eastern Heathens anthology, and have thankfully been given an extension, as it’s looking right now that it’ll be around 8-10K words long (40-50% finished);
  • I’m writing a 45-minute plenary talk for this year’s Creative Arts Seminar run by the Ministry of Education’s Gifted Education Branch at the end of May, and will pitch it later to Math Paper Press as part of the Babette’s Feast chapbook series (60% finished);
  • I’m conducting two workshops again at the CAS, and will need to change them a bit from last year, both to accomodate this year’s theme and to differentiate them enough in case students took a similar workshop from me in a previous GEB Literature Seminar; and
  • I’ve pledged to write a 500-1,000-word story for The Ayam Curtain, and I haven’t even started thinking about what I might do for this.

I also have a big announcement coming up in about a week, which will lead to more work for the rest of this year; it’s something that I’m very excited about, and it’s taking quite a lot of willpower not to just spill the beans right now, but y’all will have to wait. (I’m such a tease.) 😉

So yeah, I probably won’t be updating much here for the time being. But feel free to catch me at Facebook and Twitter, where I’m slightly more active. Hopefully, by beginning of June, I’ll be out of the weeds and able to get back on the Tower novel again; I really want to finish it by August if possible.

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Amazon Again

Now is the Spring of my continued bodily suffrage …

Books and MoneyJust when I thought I was getting better, I got slammed with a massively inconvenient and excruciatingly painful sinus infection last week. I think the worst is over, but man alive, that was the worst I’ve felt since … since my previous sinus infection when I visited my sister in New York for Christmas in 2008. It hit five days ago, and laid me low for the entire day; I only emerged from bed to beg for precious, precious pharmaceuticals from my neighborhood doctor, to forage for food in the apartment, and to occasionally pee. I don’t normally like to take antibiotics, because of the tendency to create resistant super-bacteria, but I was pleading for them this time, that’s how much pain I was in. I felt so bad that I couldn’t even stand to stare passively at the television.

Thankfully, I’m feeling much better now, although since my fever broke on Day 2, I’ve been sweating like my body has decided it just doesn’t want any water in there anymore (I can’t count how many tee shirts I’ve gone through). And yes, this past weekend when I was taking care of Anya so that Janet could participate in minimART at the Substation, I was still recovering, which made those days extra exhausting.

So that’s why I haven’t been blogging, folks. Just trying to keep the fluids inside my leaky boat of corporeality.

Anyway, to completely change the subject, I came across an incredible article from Salon today, called “Amazon’s $1 Million Secret” by Alexander Zaitchik, which dovetails quite nicely with my recent posts about Amazon here and here. Apparently, Amazon has been quietly dispensing grants of around $25,000 to independent presses, translation prizes, book festivals, and literary organizations.

Those bastards! you may scream. How dare they! This just proves once again that … wait. What? Hey, they’re giving out money gratis to worthy literary ventures. Hooray for Amazon!

Well, maybe.

Over the course of the article, Zaitchik makes a compelling case that this move by Amazon may not be just about philanthropy. It’s true that the beneficiaries of Amazon’s beneficence need the money, and such a generous infusion of cash will do them wonders. Especially the publishers, who are just scraping by right now, who have had to downsize their editorial staff, who have resorted to inferior paper because it’s cheaper, who have had to pay their authors less, who have had to cut down on the number of titles they publish each year, who have done all of these things because of the contractual bullying and strong-arm tactics of the biggest bookseller in the world …

Amazon.

So on the one hand you have Amazon crippling these publishers and taking away their will to live, and on the other hand you have Amazon graciously donating grants to these same publishers and giving them financial relief from the dire straits that Amazon actually caused in the first place. There are two effects here:

  1. Amazon gets to keep their prices low on books by these indie presses, and
  2. These publishers are less likely to speak out about Amazon’s general assholery because they don’t want to jeopardize their chances at getting another sweet, sweet grant from Amazon during the next donation cycle.

Sneaky? Yes. Surprising? Sadly, no.

Now, to be fair, Zaitchik isn’t definitively saying that this is what Amazon is up to, but the evidence is strongly suggestive that this is the case. And based on Amazon’s past behavior, it seems highly unlikely that they would have a sudden change of heart and honestly want to help the same people they’re already gouging with their ruthless greed.

But hey, read the whole article (it’s on the longish side, but well worth the effort) and decide for yourself.

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Why I Won’t Do Business With Amazon

Amazon Is Nigh a MonopolyIf you’ve poked around this site, you’ll find ordering information for my collection RED DOT IRREAL on the main page. Some folks have asked why the e-version is available at so many outlets (Smashwords, Studio Circle Six, Weightless Books, iBookstore, Nook Store, Goodreads, Kobo, Diesel), but not at the Amazon Kindle e-book store (even though the MOBI file is available directly from Smashwords). Amazon* is the biggest seller of e-books on the planet, so it only makes sense to have my book listed there, right? The big outlying success stories with e-books (Amanda Hocking, J.A. Konrath, Michael Prescott, etc.) were only made possible because of exposure at the Kindle Store, and because my book is a story collection (a format that is generally not popular with book buyers), it could use all the help it could in terms of exposure, right? Am I just a doubleplusmoron for deciding against selling my book there?

The answer is no. Well, at least, I hope not (although if I was a doubleplusmoron, I wouldn’t have the cognitive capacity to recognize that I was in the first place). It’s true that Amazon is the biggest game in town, and I understand this quite well. When I still lived in the States, I frequently ordered from them in addition to supporting my local indie bookstores; it’s hard to say no to their aggressively low prices and prompt deliveries. However, I now refuse to do business with them anymore, as a consumer, an author, or a publisher. Here’s why.

1. Amazon is the Wal-Mart of the Internet.

Wal-Mart gained their reputation by having the lowest prices on the products they carry, lower than anywhere else. They accomplished this by pressuring their suppliers to give them increasingly deep discounts so that they could keep prices low. An effect of this is that the manufacturers of those products, very often found in China and India, were pressured by the suppliers to also reduce costs. This in turn has led to many unfair labor practices in those countries, such as inconsistent pay periods, mandatory overtime (with no extra pay), lax safety conditions, lack of worker’s compensation, militant anti-unionism, and zero job security. Another effect is seen at the consumer level, where Wal-Mart has pushed many independent businesses into bankruptcy because they just couldn’t discount as deeply.

Wal-Mart has an online e-commerce store, but the vast majority of their sales still come from their plethora of gigantic superstores that blanket the USA. They depend on the physical presence of these storefronts to drive their sales. Amazon has no need for actual physical shops, and they never have. All of their sales come from online. Amazon is also well-known for deep-discounting the many items on their site, and their tactics are very similar to Wal-Mart’s in being able to force those prices down. Yet in terms of e-commerce, they’ve actually out-Wal-Marted Wal-Mart.

As an increasingly ethical consumer, I want to support companies with fair business practices, who treat the people who work both for them and with them in a moral and ethical way. Amazon has repeatedly shown that their bottom line is the bottom line, and while customers get to reap these low prices and become brand-loyal to Amazon, every one else up the supply chain is hurting.

2. Amazon Treats Its Own Employees Like Shit

Taking a page from its suppliers in China, Amazon treats its own factory workers as dispensable and beneath the concern of basic human rights. They have to store all the stuff that they import in giant warehouses with either little or no ventilation, and where the temperatures rise to intolerable levels inside; during summer heat waves, workers pass out so routinely that “Amazon arranged to have paramedics parked in ambulances outside, ready to treat workers.” Is this really the way to treat the people who physically store and ship the items you sell?

Amazon pushes these workers beyond their limits, then reprimands them for their “low” levels of productivity and threatenes to fire them if they don’t do better. “The consequences of not meeting work expectations were regularly on display, as employees lost their jobs and got escorted out of the warehouse.” If a worker is genuinely lazy and not pulling their weight, that’s one thing, but to systematically treat all its employees as discardable interchangeable exploitable robots is quite another. It’s horrible enough that theses practice are happening in China, but it’s abominable that they’re also taking place in the USA in the 21st Century.

3. Amazon Hates Brick-and-Mortar Shops

This past Christmas, Amazon launched a “Price Check” app on both the iPhone and Android stores, and encouraged people to walk into their neighborhood shops, scan the prices of the items they wanted, then walk out of the store and order them on Amazon instead. This deal didn’t apply to bookstores, but almost any other independent or chain store could be targeted. This was a despicable way for Amazon to get free labor in determining prices from their competitors, and further encouraged the idea that “cheaper is better,” no matter the impact to the businesses being infiltrated by this behavior.

As part of its “Wal-Mart Attitude,” Amazon wants to be all things to all people, the virtual analog to Buy N Large. It’s true that companies will send employees to visit their competitors in order to keep updated on selection and pricing; this is a legal practice and it encourages openness in competition. However, sending your customers to get this information, with the compensation being a tiny discount on an Amazon order, leaves a terrible taste in the mouth. I get the sense that if Amazon obliterated all physical storefronts everywhere, its stockholders would not be able to stop orgasming long enough to spend their massive stacks of money.

Note that this tactic was aimed both at chain stores and at independent shops, but the indies would have been hit particularly hard by this. Indie stores provide a sense of neighborhood and local import that chains do not, and the money earned by these shops tends to stay within the community; taxes from these local stores go toward improving infrastructure, maintaining public parks, keeping public libraries open, etc. Chain stores and e-commerce sites like Amazon owe nothing to any community, and the profits earned go directly into the stockholders’ pockets. Which leads to my next point.

4. Amazon Refuses to Collect Sales Taxes

Amazon only grudgingly collects sales tax in five US states, and has fought vigorously to avoid collecting taxes in the others, even “where Amazon has a clear physical presence via distribution centers and wholly owned subsidiaries.” This gives it an unfair advantage over other brick-and-mortar and online stores, and denies that tax money to the state governments. Their logic seems to be that because they do not have a physical storefront presence, the laws that apply to physical businesses do not apply to them, especially because there is no federal sales tax. Each state must negotiate with Amazon on its own, even though Amazon may own a warehouse or distribution center in that state, or the trucks delivering Amazon’s products must drive on roads that run through that state, or their employees must rely on public services such as police or firefighters to remain safe in that state, or the customers who buy Amazon’s products pay for them from that state.

Because Amazon refuses to collect these taxes, they can keep their prices low, and continue to cement their market superiority. And when state governments do indeed pursue sales taxes from Amazon, such as in California, Amazon “threatened to cut ties with more than 10,000 California-based websites that get revenue through the Internet giant’s affiliate program if California passes a law to tax online sales.” In Texas, Amazon closed “its suburban Dallas distribution center amid a dispute with the state over millions in state sales taxes.” Instead of working with these state governments, Amazon is content to bully them into a free ride, and then cut and run if they don’t get their way.

5. Amazon Wants To Be the Only E-book Retailer Anywhere

Ever since the Kindle was launched in 2007, Amazon has hawkishly pushed e-books as the next stage in consumer literature. The argument for e-books has been around since I was in high school (when my dad first showed me an article about e-ink technology), but it wasn’t until the last couple of years when e-readers, and Kindles in particular, became affordable to much larger groups of people. Amazon now sells its Kindle and Kindle Fire at a loss, because it knows it can make back its money by providing inexpensive content wrapped in DRM through its devices. Amazon also does this to drive out the competition, essentially forming a monopoly, at which time they are free to raise prices again because no one will have anywhere else to go.

As you might imagine, book publishers aren’t too happy about this. Already, for years they’ve had to sell their books at massive discounts to be listed on Amazon’s site at all, and then, they’re being told that Amazon will be the only retailer to sell their e-books. Thankfully, EPUB became the e-book format standard rather than Amazon’s proprietary MOBI format, and pretty much any e-reader out there now can read it, including the Barnes & Noble NOOK, which seems to be the only major competition for the Kindle right now**.

Two years ago, Apple developed the iBookstore for the iPad and iPhone, and the big publishing conglomerates (often called “The Big Six”) leapt at the chance to make their titles available on such widespread and loved devices. Buy this action, Apple could take enough business away from Amazon that it would definitely impact their bottom line. So, in retaliation for this move, Amazon pulled most or all of the listed books from publisher Macmillan (including all paper editions, not just electronic) from their online store. The listings remained on the site, but the “Buy” buttons were removed.

This hit quite close to home. I’m not published by Macmillan, but many of my writer friends are (at publishers like FSG, Henry Holt, Picador, St. Martin’s Press, and Tor). They never asked to get caught up in this fight, but by delisting these books, Amazon denied them money from royalties that would have been made had the “Buy” buttons remained up during this time. Amazon purposefully took money away from my friends, and this pissed me off. Thankfully, Amazon backed off, and relisted the books, but there was nothing to stop them from doing so again.

And again they have. Just last week, Amazon pulled more than 4,000 books from its site in order to pressure the Independent Publishers Group, one of the USA’s largest book distributors, into renegotiating their contractual terms to move things more toward Amazon’s favor. The books by the publishers distributed by IPG are now delisted from the Kindle e-book store, and the situation remains unresolved at this point. In response, the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) are now redirecting all Amazon.com links on their site, and replacing them with links to IndieBound, Powells, and B&N; I’ve had my criticisms of SFWA over the years, but I’ve been more and more impressed with them during John Scalzi’s recent tenure as President, and this action made me respect them so much that I finally, just yesterday, applied for active membership.

6. Amazon is All About Locking You Into Your Content

As I mentioned above, the default file format for Kindle e-books is MOBI, and these are designed to be read either on a Kindle device or in a Kindle app on the iPad (for example). If you buy a book in the Kindle store, you cannot read that book on a NOOK or a Samsung Galaxy Tab or a Sony Reader. That book has been restricted with Digital Rights Management (DRM), one of the most euphemistically insidious concepts to come out of the late 20th. DRM locks you into one device or one format, and it is non-transferable. Cory Doctorow, speaking at a writers festival in Melbourne, put it this way: “It’s as if every time you bought a book at Borders, you were locked into only shelving it in an IKEA bookcase. If you wanted to sell your books through the local independent bookseller down the road, your readers would have to throw away all the books they had bought and buy new copies to shelve on their new bookcases.”

DRM was ostensibly created to thwart piracy of electronic movies, books, and music, but any DRM can be (and has been) broken by a barely interested hacker with a free weekend, which means DRM has proven to be utterly useless in this regard. What it does instead is lock ordinary people into one device or format, and then punish them if they go outside of it. As Charles Stross mentions in “Cutting Their Own Throats“: “If you buy a book that you can only read on the Kindle, you’re naturally going to be reluctant to move to other ebook platforms that can’t read those locked Kindle ebooks — and even more reluctant to buy ebooks from rival stores that use incompatible DRM.”

I’ve mentioned in previous posts that I got a NOOK Simple Touch from my parents for Christmas, and I’ve really enjoyed it in the two months I’ve used it thus far; however, I’m always aware that I don’t really own the books that I’ve bought for it, I’m only licensing them. As opposed to paper books that I can display on my bookshelves, or loan to a friend, or sell to a secondhand bookshop, the books I’ve bought for the NOOK exist only on my device and in my NOOK Library; I can’t actually access these files so as to, say, transfer them to my MacBook and read them with Adobe Digital Editions, so my philosophy is to only buy books through the NOOK e-book store that I wouldn’t have normally paid for, or may have only checked out from the library. That way, if I “lose” them for whatever reason I won’t be too terribly put out. For the e-books for which I would like to keep the files, I head to Weightless Books or Smashwords.

Now, as I say, DRM is by no means exclusive to Amazon, but because they are so singularly proprietary about their formats and devices, they are perhaps one of the most perfidious perpetrators of the concept. Amazon’s ideal situation is this: an author publishes her work through Amazon (either through the Kindle Direct Publishing program or through their new publishing arm), Amazon distributes the work through their website alone, and then readers read the work on their Kindles, with Amazon becoming a one-stop shop for everything related to the bookselling process.

This doesn’t even get into the fact that Amazon can reach into any Kindle anywhere and remotely delete its content, nor does it address the stranglehold Amazon wants to have on its book data so it can dictate that third-party sites like Goodreads can only provide links to the Amazon store and no others (to which Goodreads said buh-bye to Amazon), nor does it bring up the many many companies that utilize Amazon Web Services (like Wikileaks before Cablegate) and Amazon Payments (like Kickstarter) who are beholden in their content and payment methods to Amazon’s increasingly restrictive and bureaucratically complicated terms of service.

One company should not have so much commercial power, because, to paraphrase Lord Acton (and not Shakespeare, to whom this is usually attributed), it has been absolutely corrupted by it. Amazon is the biggest bully on the block, and is able to dictate its unfair terms to the world, and so I will no longer have anything to do with them if I can possibly help it. As stated before, I’m not interested in punishing Kindle-users, and so if you would like to buy RED DOT IRREAL to read on the Kindle, you can find it in that format and in many others, DRM-free, at Smashwords.

POSTSCRIPT: An Anti-Amazon Addendum


* You may notice that I personify Amazon quite a bit in this blog post, although I am firmly against the belief that corporations have personhood. So when I refer to “Amazon” here, I’m typically talking about CEO Jeff Bezos and the company’s board of directors.

** In terms of devices, it’s hard to say that the Apple iPad is a competitor for the Kindle, as it was always intended to be a tablet first and an e-reader later, although with the recent release of the Kindle Fire and NOOK Tablet, these distinctions are slowly evaporating.

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Filed under Books, Publishing, Red Dot Irreal, Writing